SLSA 2011 Registration Reminder

Unfortunately, I can’t make it to SLSA this year in Ontario. However, I hope that those of you who are going remember to pay your registrations (and have a great time)!

Carol Colatrella, SLSA Executive Director, sent out the following reminder by email this morning:

PLEASE NOTE: Conference participants should note the early date of the 2011 meeting and should observe the registration deadline. Making travel arrangements in a timely way is also recommended.

Newsletter of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts
Summer 2011, Vol. 20, No.4

SLSA 2011, Kitchener-Waterloo—CONFERENCE UPDATE
25th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts
PLACE: Kitchener, Ontario
VENUES: Delta Hotel Kitchener, THEMUSEUM, Critical Media Lab (all within three short city blocks)
DATES: September 22-25, 2011
SITE COORDINATOR: Marcel O’Gorman, University of Waterloo
PROGRAM CHAIRS: Melissa Littlefield and Robert Markley, U. of Illinois; Susan Squier, Penn State University

The program committee has sent out responses to those who proposed papers or panels. Please contact Melissa Littlefield (, Susan Squier (, or Robert Markley ( with questions.

This year’s conference in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, is promising to be quite an extravaganza. In addition to our usual array of exciting panels and celebrity plenary speakers (Bernard Stiegler and Isabelle Stengers), the conference will also host an exhibition at the Critical Media Lab, following our theme of Pharmakon. The work in this show will range from bronze cast pharmaceuticals, to antique syringes filled with red dye from Bible covers, to an interactive conversation with Wittgenstein designed to be played with the left hand. Delegates will also have a chance to experience CAFKA, Kitchener’s biennial of public art, including locative interventions by the geo-art group Spurse and architectural mutations by west coast artist Reece Terris. Finally, THEMUSEUM will be hosting an exhibition of computational art, including classic work by Manfred Mohr, Alan Rath, and Peter Vogel, in addition to a major new digital installation by David Rokeby.

For additional details, including online registration and hotel booking, please visit the blog-style conference web site, which evolves as new information becomes available: .

Delta Hotel Discount Deadline: August 22, 2011
Conference Registration Deadlines/Fees:

By September 15: Faculty $190, Students $100

After September 15: Faculty $210, Students $115

At the Conference: Faculty $225, Students $125

SLSA MEMBERSHIP: Participants in the 2011 conference must be 2011 members of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website at

BOOK + ART PANELS: The SLSA Publications Committee has solicited proposals from published authors, artists, and curators who wish to discuss their RECENT work in a longer format than a regular panel presentation. The panel will consist of the author/artist/curator and two respondents/commentators. Thanks to the Publications Committee–Ron Broglio, Elizabeth Wilson, and Rob Mitchell for organizing panels that will discuss books including Susan Squier’s Poultry Science, Chicken Culture (2011); Brendon Larson’s Metaphors for Environmental Sustainability: Redefining our Relationship with Nature (2011); Rich Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy (2011); and Thierry Bardini’s Junkware (2011). Panels that involve artists and curators will be arranged in a special conference stream to be held at THEMUSEUM.

SLSA 2011 in Ontario, PHARMAKON, Call for Papers

Carol Colatrella sent out the following call for papers to the Lit-Sci email list for the 2011 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Conference in Kitchener, Ontario:


25th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts
PLACE: Kitchener, Ontario
VENUE: Delta Hotel Kitchener, THEMUSEUM, Critical Media Lab (all within three short city blocks)
DATES: September 22-25, 2011
SITE COORDINATOR: Marcel O’Gorman, University of Waterloo
PROGRAM CHAIRS: Melissa Littlefield and Robert Markley, U. of Illinois; Susan Squier, Penn State U.
SLSA MEMBERSHIP:  Participants in the 2011 conference must be 2011 members of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website

The theme for 2011 is “PHARMAKON,” that which can both kill and cure. From Socrates’ hemlock to nuclear radiation, the pharmakon offers an opportunity to explore the concept of indeterminacy as it applies to a number of research topics, including the following:
•       bioarts
•       critical media theory
•       bioethics
•       medical humanities
•       new frontiers in digital media
•       animal studies
•       environmentalism and ecological studies
•       new directions in rhetoric and writing studies
•       the history and philosophy of science
•       gender and/in science studies
PLEASE NOTE: This is an open conference where a wide range of work will be welcome. Proposed topics can represent ANY work in literature and science, history of science, philosophy of science, science and art, or science studies.

Plenary speakers for 2011 are BERNARD STIEGLER (Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation, Author of Technics and Time, etc.) and ISABELLE STENGERS (Université de Bruxelles, author of Cosmopolitics, etc.).

For panel contributions, submit a 250-word abstract with title. Pre-organized panels for consideration can contain an additional summary paragraph along with proposed session title.  Submit proposals and register at

NEW FOR 2011: Poster Presentations. Poster presentations are traditionally under the purview of scientific conferences. This year, SLSA would like to challenge the boundaries of the poster presentation as well as provide space for more scientists to get involved with the society. If you would like to present your research in the form of a poster, we will have dedicated space to do so. Presenters will have an opportunity to discuss their work informally, and they MUST attend the conference for their work to be shown.

This year’s conference will include, among other interventions, bicycle tours of contemporary public art. For 2011, we are teaming up with THEMUSEUM of Kitchener and the Contemporary Art Forum of Kitchener + Area (CAFKA). THEMUSEUM will be exhibiting a retrospective of computational art entitled Rethinking Art & Machine (RAM), and CAFKA will be holding its biennial festival of public art, which will provide a larger context for the conference. The theme for CAFKA 2011 is “survive.resist”. This collaboration is designed to place more emphasis on the “A” in SLSA. To this end, we welcome panel proposals from artists and scholars interested in public art and the theme of “survive.resist,” in addition to arts-oriented papers and panels on the theme of “PHARMAKON.”

We invite proposals from artists for an SLSA exhibition to be held in the Critical Media Lab. Proposals will be considered in the context of the conference theme of “PHARMAKON.” Please visit the Critical Media Lab web site to better understand the context for this exhibition ( Artistic proposals must include a 1-2-page description that clearly outlines the project and its relationship to  “Pharmakon,” as well as technical and space requirements. Artists must also provide up to 5 pages of images and/or a URL to a web site that clearly illustrates the proposed work and/or previous work that is relevant to the proposal. All submissions and questions should be addressed to Marcel O’Gorman ( Participating artists will have full access to all conference activities, and will not have to pay registration fees or SLSA dues. They will also be eligible for SLSA Travel Awards (see below).

BOOK + ART PANELS: The SLSA Publications Committee is soliciting proposals from published authors, artists, and curators who wish to discuss their RECENT work in a longer format than a regular panel presentation. The panel will consist of the author/artist/curator and two respondents/commentators. Please send a brief proposal or nomination, and a list of possible respondents/commentators to Ron Broglio (, who will share it with the rest of the Publications Committee (Elizabeth Wilson and Rob Mitchell).

The Cognitive Game Panel at SLSA 2008, Notes on Consciousness, Cognition, and Neuronarratives

As you may have read on my CV, I am writing my dissertation on the potentially important work being done in science fiction on minds and brains. Specifically, I will read the works of several authors through the lens of cognitive cultural studies with the goal to establish the significance of science fiction to literary studies as well as cognitive science.

I have been long interested in the human mind. I wrote a 20 page paper in my high school psychology class on consciousness after reading Roger Penrose’s book The Emperor’s New Mind. At the University of Liverpool, I took part in a study on human facial aesthetics only after receiving the researcher’s promise that I could have a copy of my MRI dicom data so that I could look at my brain in the comfort of my own home.

Until recently, I had forgotten about a panel that I attended at the 2008 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference in Charlotte, NC. Titled “The Cognitive Game,” the panelists discussed different aspects of cognition in and through literature. I remembered this panel only after browsing an old notebook about a week ago when I ran across my notes. This bit of happenstance is itself a hallmark of my mind and the way my memory works. So much seems lost to the past, but I can capture glimpses of the past through my notes. However, I honestly have very little memory of the panel even after reading through my notes. In a sense, it seems like I wasn’t really there, but I do know that the notes are mine. You may have noticed that I take copious notes in class or at conferences. Part of this is an attempt to help me remember things in the short term while maintaining my focus on what is being discussed. It is also my effort at recalling things at a later time–if I have a chance to go back and review my notes. Unfortunately, I do not always have the time to really go back through all of my notes–at least not as thoroughly as I would like.

As an exercise to help retrieve weak connections in my mind’s holographic memory, I copy my notes from “The Cognitive Game” panel below.


Saturday 10:30 panel

The Cognitive Game

Sarah Birge – “Paper Memories”

narrative identity theory

trauma disrupts narrative

loss of self without normal brain function


Richard Powers and Umberto Eco novels

how to compensate for these disruptions

Andy Clark

self as tool kit — Dennet

The Echo Maker – Powers

Capgras Syndrome

recreation of self and creation of self by others

liminal state of Mark

enforcement of stable sense of self in the face of trauma

issues of dignity and self-determination

this would be good to add to BSG paper [note: this did not happen]

The Mysterious Flame _________ – Eco

persistence of self through time

cultural memory

Yambo’s “paper memory” vs. personal memory

“notebook of his mind”

dispersion of self into cultural memory

self and certainty-> allow space for others’ narratives


Mark Clark – “Post-traumatic Experiential”

Nabokov – it is the re-reading that matters (?)

villanelle vs. narrative sense of self

Dylan Thomas – “Do not go Gently into That Good Night”

final words are a whisper

son is not finished project of the father

consider context of the words – respoken, altered meanings?

changing memory based on trauma


therapeutic endeavor


audience – reader and participant in narrator’s trauma aftermath


Pawel Frelik – “To Think or Not to Think”

begins with the novel that Sarah talked about

Richard Powers’ The Echo Maker

Antonio Damasio

Edelman and Tononi

Thomas Metzinger

D. M. Wagner


1) performance of subjectivity – PKD, terminal fictions, cyberpunk, surfaces

2) artificial intelligence – Maddox Halo, Galatea 2.2

3) cognitive processes problematized – Egan’s Oceanic, Moon – The Speed of Dark, Matt Ruff

intelligence vs. consciousness

alien narratives is one place this is engaged

morality or transcendence – imply consciousness

1) inescapably coupled – Dix and Williams, Echoes of Earth trilogy

2) possibly conflicting – Peter Watts – Blindsight

Echoes of Earth – ingrams of humanity

E.E. Smith – Lensman series

contrasts with Echoes of Earth


Blindsight – one of the most inventive novels of alien otherness in recent years

construct – “heaven”

third wave to make alien contact

“posthuman sociopaths”

Susan James – “gang of four” – multicore persona/ae

1) blindsight – brain lesions – see things without cognition

2) Chinese room – John Searle – 1980 – thought experiment

3) zombie – blindsighted zombies, consciousness is baggage that they have jettisoned, expand possibilities for the species

what about aesthetics

for humanity consciousness not landing on Earth

cruxifix glitch – vampires

downgrade humanity

reptilian ascendancy – also Power’s language



emotion and affect – importance to consciousness

subjectivity and the fragmented self

what about posthumanism and sentience

Earth: backwater, lucky for us, allowed us to survive

disability – ascendency for posthuman specialization

Suzan Jones – savage that we now don’t tolerate multipersonalities – in Blindsight, humanity accepts that – how to manage, utilize

scramblers – respond to stimuli, volition isn’t really addressed

SLSA 2009 Presentation on Wells and the Tank


Yufang’s and my wedding may not have been science fictional, but I did take care of some pre-scheduled science fiction business in Atlanta, Georgia during the week after our honeymoon. I went to the annual Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference where I presented a paper on invention/authoring of the tank. Unfortunately, the posthumans, Whiteheadians, and animal studies folk drowned out the military technologies panel–so it goes. To make up for it, I made a point of visiting the da Vinci exhibit at the High Museum of Art, which reminded me that da Vinci had imagined a armored, mobile weapons platform long before Wells’ 1903 short story, “The Land Ironclads.”

Decoding the Origins of the Tank and “The Land Ironclads”: Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton and H. G. Wells

I just sent off my presentation proposal for SLSA 2009, which as the theme “Decodings” and will be in Atlanta, Georgia in November.  Since I’ll be teaching and reading for my PhD exams, I decided to dust off a publishable paper to shorten and present at the conference (assuming it’s accepted).  In the meantime, I think I’m going to send this essay out to a journal over the Summer to see if they are interested in publishing it as it is or with minor revision.  Here’s my abstract to SLSA:

Decoding the Origins of the Tank and “The Land Ironclads”: Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton and H. G. Wells

Jason W. Ellis

The first popular, and widely cited, fictional account of the military tank is H.G. Wells’ 1903 short story, “The Land Ironclads.”  The recognized and widely circulated literary publication, the Strand Magazine published Wells’ short story in 1903–thirteen years before the British tank was unveiled to the world at Flers and Courcelette on 15 September 1916 during the First World War’s Battle of the Somme.  However, Wells was not involved in the actual development of the tank, but many historians point to Major-General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton as the single person most responsible for convincing the British military to design and commit invaluable war time resources to its development and utilization in the Great War.  Interestingly, these two persons–Wells and Swinton–developed a public debate in print and other media, which eventually led to Swinton’s libel suit against Wells, over who was most responsible for the invention of the tank.  It is the purpose of this presentation to highlight their public debate, and uncover how the public reacted to these men’s claims.  From this very public argument it will be possible to decode the meaning of such claims to invention, and the early history of Science Fiction, which was in part buttressed on imaginative futurology. 

SLSA 2008, Back in Kent

The conference was a lot of fun, and I’m glad that I got to hang out with Pawel, Michael, De Witt, Matt, Hannah, Amanda, and Cat.  I passed out a lot of SFRA bracelets, brochures, and conference announcements, so I hope to see some of you not-yet-SFRA members, but soon-to-be SFRA members next year in Atlanta.  Oh, Cat and I rocked our panel, and thanks to the audience members and their questions and discussion!

After a relatively easy eight hour drive from Charlotte to Kent today, I arrived home safely for a much needed nap before going to dinner with Yufang.  I have some work to catch up on tonight before class tomorrow, but I have plenty of notes from SLSA.  Expect a proper write-up over the next few days.

SLSA 2008, Awake in Charlotte

After an 8 hour drive, I arrived in Charlotte last night around 10pm.  The drive wasn’t too bad, but the night driving through West Virginia was terrible for two reasons:  poor road construction created a rough ride and a lot of noise, and eyes were constantly assaulted by cars with the high beams on.  

There were a lot of people in the lobby carousing and having a good time, but I don’t know if they were here for SLSA or for another nefarious purpose.  I can’t say that I’ve recognized anyone yet, but SLSA is a big conference compared to others that I have attended.

The OMNI Charlotte hotel rooms are very nice, and my view overlooking a plaza bordered by high rise buildings makes me think of Asimov’s The Caves of Steel–it makes you feel hemmed in.  

Thus far I only have one complaint–croissants.  As a Select Guest member, I received free coffee, orange juice, and a newspaper delivered to my room.  They also offer special prices on breakfast items.  I thought a croissant for $3 was a great deal, especially for a hotel, so I ordered two of them.  This morning, I discovered why they are only $3–they are smaller than the home bake Pillsbury croissants available in grocery stores.  Luckily, Yufang sent me away with small packets of Famous Amos cookies, which made up for the unfortunate state of room service breakfast.  I’ll search google maps for a near-by bakery or grocery store so I can stock up on breakfast goods.  What can I say–breakfast is an important meal for me.

SLSA 2008, On the Road Again

I’m driving down to Charlotte, North Carolina for the annual Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference.  This is the second time that I’ve presented at SLSA.  My presentation last year was on “Subversive Subjectivity in Battlestar Galactica,” and this year I’m presenting on the political efficacy of “transsexual technologies.”  There are several concurrent panels during my session’s time slot on Saturday, so I’m wondering what the turnout will be like, and what reception my paper will receive.  I’ll post about the conference, time permitting, from Charlotte.  However, I have two papers to write while I’m there in addition to attending sessions, so my updates may have to wait until I return to Kent.