Call for Papers: An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact: The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

Date and Time:            December 12, 2019, 9:00AM-6:00PM

Location:                     New York City College of Technology, 285 Jay St., A105, Brooklyn, NY

Almost 90 years ago, Analog Science Fiction and Fact began its storied history as one of the most important and influential SF magazines with the publication of its first issue under the title Astounding Stories of Super-Science. During that time, its fabled editors, award-winning writers, recognized artists, and invested readers played roles in the development of one of the longest running and renowned SF magazines, which in turn, influenced the field and adapted to change itself.

The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium will celebrate “An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.” It will feature talks, readings, and discussion panels with Analog Science Fiction and Fact’s current and past editors and writers, and paper presentations and discussion panels about its extensive history, its relationship to the SF genre, its connection to fandom, and its role within the larger SF publishing industry.

We invite proposals for 15-20 minute paper presentations that explore or strongly relate to Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Please send a 250-word abstract with title, brief professional bio, and contact information to Jason Ellis (jellis@citytech.cuny.edu) by September 30, 2019. Topics with a connection to Analog Science Fiction and Fact might include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Histories of the magazine’s editors, writers, and relationship to other SF magazines.
  • Relationship of the magazine to the ongoing development of the SF genre.
  • Tropes, themes, and concepts in the magazine.
  • Issues of identity (culture, ethnicity, race, sex, and gender) in the magazine.
  • Writers of color in the magazine.
  • Women writers in the magazine.
  • Fandom and the magazine.
  • Visual studies of cover and interior artwork.
  • Hard SF and the magazine.
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to studying the magazine.
  • STEM and the Humanities bridged in the magazine.
  • Pedagogical approaches to teaching SF and/or STEM with the magazine.

This event is free and open to the public as space permits: an RSVP will be included with the program when announced on the Science Fiction at City Tech website (https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/).

This symposium is held in partnership with Analog Science Fiction and Fact and its publisher Penny Publications. It is hosted by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

The Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction is held in celebration of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, an archival holding of over 600-linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and scholarship. It is in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Library Building, L543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201). More information about the collection and how to access it is available here: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/librarycollection/.

Presentation Videos from the Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, Nov. 27, 2018

 

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The Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium was an amazing success! Here are videos from the symposium’s presentations and discussions from Nov. 27, 2018. Watch them all on YouTube via this playlist, or watch them as embedded videos below.


9:00am-9:20am
Continental Breakfast and Opening Remarks
Location: Academic Complex A105
Justin Vazquez-Poritz, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, New York City College of Technology
Jason W. Ellis, New York City College of Technology


9:20am-10:35am
Session 1: Affect and Experimentation
Location: Academic Complex A105
Moderator: Jason W. Ellis
Leigh Gold, “The Legacy of Frankenstein: Science, Mourning, and the Ethics of Experimentation”
Lucas Kwong, “The Island Of Dr. Moreau, Fantastic Ambivalence, and the Victorian “Science Of Religion”
Robert Lestón, “Between Intervals: A Soundscape for all Us Monsters”


10:45am-12:00am
Session 2: Identity and Genre
Location: Academic Complex A105
Moderator: Jill Belli
Anastasia Klimchynskaya, “Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Fantastic: Rationalizing Wonder and the Birth of Science Fiction”
Paul Levinson, “Golem, Frankenstein, and Westworld”
Joy Sanchez-Taylor, “Genetic Engineering and non-Western Modernity in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl and Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl”


1:15pm-2:30pm
Session 3: American Culture and Media
Location: Academic Complex A105
Moderator: A. Lavelle Porter
Aaron Barlow, “‘Fraunkensteen’: What’s No Longer Scary Becomes Funny or, How American Popular Culture Appropriates Art and Expands the Commons”
Marleen S. Barr, “Trumppunk Or Science Fiction Resists the Monster Inhabiting the White House”
Sharon Packer, “Jessica Jones (Superhero), Women & Alcohol Use Disorders”


2:40pm-3:40pm
Student Round Table: “Shaping the Future: A Student Roundtable on Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower”
Location: Academic Complex A105
Moderator: A. Lavelle Porter
Panelists: Zawad Ahmed
Marvin Blain
Kartikye Ghai
Devinnesha Ryan


4:00pm-4:50pm
Frankenstein Panel: Mary Shelley’s Novel’s Influence on Scientists and Technologists
Location: Academic Complex A105
Moderator: Justin Vazquez-Poritz
Panelists:
Heidi Boisvert, Entertainment Technology Department
Robert MacDougall, Social Sciences Department
Ashwin Satyanarayana, Computer Systems Technology Department
Jeremy Seto, Biological Sciences Department


5:00pm-6:00pm
Closing and Tour of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection
Location: City Tech Library L543
Remarks by Jason W. Ellis

Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, Nov. 27: Program and Details

SF-symposium-3-poster

The Third Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction

 

200 Years of Interdisciplinarity Beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

 

Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, 9:00am-6:00pm

 

New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Academic Complex, Room A105

285 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY 11201

 

Organizing Committee: Jill Belli, Jason W. Ellis, Leigh Gold, Lucas Kwong, Robert Lestón, and A. Lavelle Porter

 

Hosted by the School of Arts and Sciences.

 

Event hashtag: #CityTechSF


 

The kind of literature that came to be known as Science Fiction (SF) owes a tremendous debt to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818). In addition to being an (if not the) inaugural work of SF, Mary Shelley builds her cautionary tale around interdisciplinary approaches to science, and she takes this innovation further by applying the humanities to question the nature of being in the world, the effects of science on society, and the ethical responsibilities of scientists. These are only some of Frankenstein’s groundbreaking insights, which as Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove observe in Trillion Year Spree (1986), “is marvellously good and inexhaustible in its interest” (20). The many dimensions of interdisciplinarity in Frankenstein and the SF that followed are the focus of the Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium.


Schedule

 

9:00am-9:20am

Continental Breakfast and Opening Remarks

Location: Academic Complex A105

Justin Vazquez-Poritz, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, New York City College of Technology

Jason W. Ellis, New York City College of Technology

 

 

9:20am-10:35am       

Session 1: Affect and Experimentation

Location: Academic Complex A105

Moderator: Jason W. Ellis

Leigh Gold, “The Legacy of Frankenstein: Science, Mourning, and the Ethics of Experimentation”

Lucas Kwong, “The Island Of Dr. Moreau, Fantastic Ambivalence, and the Victorian “Science Of Religion”

Robert Lestón, “Between Intervals: A Soundscape for all Us Monsters”

 

 

10:35am-10:45am     

Break

 

 

10:45am-12:00am     

Session 2: Identity and Genre

Location: Academic Complex A105

Moderator: Jill Belli

Anastasia Klimchynskaya, “Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Fantastic: Rationalizing Wonder and the Birth of Science Fiction”

Paul Levinson, “Golem, Frankenstein, and Westworld”

Joy Sanchez-Taylor, “Genetic Engineering and non-Western Modernity in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl and Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl

 

 

12:00am-1:15pm       

Lunch

 

 

1:15pm-2:30pm        

Session 3: American Culture and Media

Location: Academic Complex A105

Moderator: A. Lavelle Porter

Aaron Barlow, “‘Fraunkensteen’: What’s No Longer Scary Becomes Funny or, How American Popular Culture Appropriates Art and Expands the Commons”

Marleen S. Barr, “Trumppunk Or Science Fiction Resists the Monster Inhabiting the White House”

Sharon Packer, “Jessica Jones (Superhero), Women & Alcohol Use Disorders”

 

 

2:30pm-2:40pm        

Break

 

 

2:40pm-3:40pm        

Student Round Table: “Shaping the Future: A Student Roundtable on Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower

Location: Academic Complex A105

Moderator:      A. Lavelle Porter

Panelists:         Zawad Ahmed

Marvin Blain
Kartikye Ghai

Devinnesha Ryan

 

 

3:40pm-3:50pm        

Break

 

 

4:00pm-4:50pm        

Frankenstein Panel: Mary Shelley’s Novel’s Influence on Scientists and Technologists

Location: Academic Complex A105

Moderator:      Justin Vazquez-Poritz

Panelists:         Jeremy Seto

Robert MacDougall

 

 

4:50pm-5:00pm        

Break/Relocate to Library

 

 

5:00pm-6:00pm        

Closing and Tour of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection

Location: City Tech Library L543

Remarks by Jason W. Ellis

 


 

Symposium Participants & Contributors

 

 

Aaron Barlow teaches English at New York City College of Technology (CUNY).

 

Marleen S. Barr is known for her pioneering work in feminist science fiction and teaches English at the City University of New York. She has won the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction criticism. Barr is the author of Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory, Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond, Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction, and Genre Fission: A New Discourse Practice for Cultural Studies. Barr has edited many anthologies and co-edited the science fiction issue of PMLA. She is the author of the novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir. Her latest publication is When Trump Changed, the first single authored short story collection about Trump.

 

Jill Belli, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English and Co-Director of the OpenLab, the college’s open-source digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaborating. Jill teaches and researches utopian studies and science fiction, and she serves on the Steering Committee and as the web developer for the Society for Utopian Studies. She is currently working on a book about happiness and well-being in education.

 

Julie Bradford designed the symposium’s Frankenstein-themed poster. She is a BFA in Communication Design Management student at City Tech who has a strong background in illustration. When she is not distracted by cute and shiny things or busy drawing up comic adventures with her Pokemon Go buddies, she is focused on her schoolwork and catching up on her shows. While completing her BFA, she is working as a graphic design intern for City Tech’s Faculty Commons. Her online portfolio is available here: www.behance.net/
juliebradf2a85.

 

Jason W. Ellis is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech. Recently, he co-edited a special issue of New American Notes Online (NANO) on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

Leigh Dara Gold received her doctorate in German Literature in 2011 from New York University. She teaches Introduction to Poetry and English 1121 at New York City College of Technology, and Ancient Literature and Composition at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Her current research interests include science fiction’s role in the classroom, research on Ursula K. Le Guin, and connections between dance, literature, and philosophy.

 

Anastasia Klimchynskaya is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently working on a dissertation on the emergence of science fiction in the 19th century, which she situates in the context of earlier genres as well as the period’s discourses around scientific and technological novelty.  Her other intellectual interests include the mechanisms through which science fiction becomes science fact, literature as political engagement, and the cultural history of AI. She is also on the organizing committee of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference (Philcon), and a peer reviewer for the Journal of Science Fiction. 

 

Lucas Kwong is an assistant professor of English at New York City College of Technology, where he has recently served as the coordinator for the Literary Arts Festival Writing Competitions. His scholarship includes the article “Dracula’s Apologetics of Progress,” published in a 2016 issue of Victorian Literature and Culture, as well as a forthcoming article on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” for Journal of Narrative Theory. His current research project examines how late Victorian fantastic fiction reimagined the era’s fascination with religious difference. He also serves as the assistant editor for New American Notes Online (www.nanocrit.com) and City Tech Writer (openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/citytechwriter), a journal of student writing.

 

Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in NYC. His science fiction novels include The Silk Code (winner of Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel of 1999), Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002), The Pixel Eye (2003), The Plot To Save Socrates (2006), Unburning Alexandria (2013), and Chronica (2014). His stories and novels have been nominated for Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Edgar, Prometheus, and Audie Awards. His novelette “The Chronology Protection Case” was made into short movie, now on Amazon Prime. His nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), Cellphone (2004), New New Media (2009; 2nd edition, 2012), McLuhan in an Age of Social Media (2015), and Fake News in Real Context (2016), have been translated into twelve languages. He co-edited Touching the Face of the Cosmos: On the Intersection of Space Travel and Religion in 2016. He appears on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the History Channel, NPR, and numerous TV and radio programs. His 1972 LP, Twice Upon a Rhyme, was re-issued in 2010. He was President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1998-2001. He reviews television in his InfiniteRegress.tv blog, and was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Top 10 Academic Twitterers” in 2009.

 

Robert MacDougall is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at City Tech.

 

Sharon Packer, MD is a physician and psychiatrist who is in private practice and is Assistant Clinical Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. She is the author of several books that link science, psychiatry and the humanities, including Neuroscience in Science Fiction Film, Cinema’s Sinister Psychiatrists, Movies and the Modern Psyche, Superheroes & Superegos: the Minds behind the Masks; Dreams in Myth, Medicine & Movies. She edited two multi-volume books on Evil in American Popular Culture and Mental Illness in Popular Culture. She writes regular articles on “Why Psychiatrists are Physicians First” for Psychiatric Times.  

 

A. Lavelle Porter is an Assistant Professor of English at New York City College of Technology. He holds a B.A. in history from Morehouse College and a Ph.D. in English from the CUNY Graduate Center. His writing has appeared in venues such as The GC Advocate, Callaloo, The New Inquiry, Poetry Foundation, and the African American Intellectual History Society. He is currently working on a book about representations of black higher education in popular culture.

 

 

Joy Sanchez-Taylor is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College whose research specialty is science fiction and fantasy literature by authors of color. She has published articles in Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation and The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Currently, she is working on a book project titled Diverse Futures: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Writers of Color.

 

Jeremy Seto is an Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at City Tech.

 

Justin Vazquez-Poritz is the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at City Tech.

 


Special Thanks

 

Complementary magazines donated by Analog Science Fiction and Fact. For more information about the magazine and subscriptions, visit http://www.analogsf.com.

 

Complementary passes donated by The Morgan Library & Museum. Enjoy the exhibition It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200 through January 27, 2019. For more information, visit www.themorgan.org.

 

Invaluable support from Dean Justin Vazquez-Poritz and Office Assistant Iva Williams.

 

Tremendous assistance from the Faculty Commons: Director Julia Jordan, Design Intern Julie Bradford, and the rest of the team.

 

 

Call for Papers: 200 Years of Interdisciplinarity Beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Third Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction

frankenstein-frontispiece-1831

200 Years of Interdisciplinarity Beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Third Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction

Date and Time: Tuesday, November 27, 2018. 9:00am-5:00pm

Location: New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay St., Namm N119, Brooklyn, NY

“So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”

–Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1831 edition)

“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

–Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Jurassic Park (1993)

Ian Malcolm’s admonition above is as much a rebuke to the lasting echo of Victor Frankenstein’s ambition to accomplish “more, far more” as it is to park owner John Hammond’s explaining, “Our scientists have done things no one could ever do before.” Films like Jurassic Park and the kind of literature that came to be known as Science Fiction (SF) owe a tremendous debt to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818). In addition to being an (if not the) inaugural work of SF, Mary Shelley builds her cautionary tale around interdisciplinary approaches to science, and she takes this innovation further by applying the humanities to question the nature of being in the world, the effects of science on society, and the ethical responsibilities of scientists. These are only some of Frankenstein’s groundbreaking insights, which as Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove observe in Trillion Year Spree (1986), “is marvellously good and inexhaustible in its interest” (20). The many dimensions of interdisciplinarity in Frankenstein and the SF that followed are the focus of the Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium.

In this special anniversary year of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, join us for a one-day symposium discussing interdisciplinarity and SF. Continuing conversations began in the earlier symposia, we seek to investigate SF’s power as an extrapolating art form with interdisciplinarity at its core, including interdisciplinarity within STEM fields and the interdisciplinary synergy of STEM and the humanities.

We invite presentations of 15-20 minutes on SF and interdisciplinarity. Papers on or connected to Frankenstein are particularly encouraged. Possible presentation topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and interdisciplinarity (focusing on research questions or teaching approaches)
  • Explorations of interdisciplinary ideas, approaches, and themes in SF (or what disciplinary boundaries does SF bridge)
  • SF as an interdisciplinary teaching tool (or what SF have you used or want to use in your classes to achieve interdisciplinary outcomes)
  • SF’s interdisciplinary imaginative functions (or Gedankenexperiment, considering ethical issues, unintended consequences, or unexpected breakthroughs)
  • Studying SF through an interdisciplinary lens (or combining otherwise discipline-bound approaches to uncover new meanings)
  • Bridging STEM and the humanities via SF (or SF as an interdisciplinary cultural work that embraces STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics)
  • SF and identity (or how interdisciplinarity in SF reveals, supports, or explores issues of identity, culture, sex, gender, and race)
  • SF and place (or how SF’s settings are interdisciplinary, or where it is written fosters its interdisciplinarity)
  • Interdisciplinarity and archival work in SF collections (or making the City Tech Science Fiction Collection work for faculty, students, and researchers across disciplines)

Please send your abstract (no more than 250 words), brief bio, and contact information to Jason Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu) by Oct. 31, 2018.

The program will be announced by Nov. 12, 2018 on the Science Fiction at City Tech website here: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/.

Hosted by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

The Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction is held in celebration of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, an archival holding of over 600-linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and scholarship. It is located in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Library Building, L543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201). More information about the collection and how to access it is available here: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/librarycollection/.

2nd Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium Was a Great Success

With nearly 100 registered attendees and more unregistered, the 2nd Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Extrapolation, Interdisciplinarity, and Learning on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 was a great success! We were honored to have Samuel R. Delany give the event’s keynote address, and we had excellent presentations and panel discussions from scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates! Below, I’m embedding video of all of the presentations from the symposium. Visit this site for a copy of the program.

Engagement, Learning and Inspiration in SF: Use Cases for the City Tech Science Fiction Collection

I delivered this presentation at the James Madison University Pulp Studies Symposium on October 7, 2016. The video above shows my presentation’s images, and the script of my talk is included below.

The paper is about introducing new audiences to old ideas for the benefit of two different City Tech audiences: 1) frame the historical publication context of science fiction short stories for students, and 2) illuminate the deep history of technological ideas for faculty fellows in the NEH-funded “Cultural History of Digital Technology” project.

[UPDATE: The symposium was a great success! Thank you to everyone who had questions and comments during our session. I posted photos taken by colleague Caroline Hellman over at the Science Fiction at City Tech website.]

 

Engagement, Learning and Inspiration in SF: Use Cases for the City Tech Science Fiction Collection

Jason W. Ellis

 

In the first issue of Amazing Stories dated April 1926, Hugo Gernsback writes:

By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision … Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are always instructive. (Gernsback 3)

According to Gernsback, the literary genre that would become known as science fiction combines romance, scientific fact, and prophetic vision. The romance engages the reader in an interesting story. The facts instruct the reader in science and technology. The prophetic vision extrapolates from what is known into the not-yet-known and simultaneously inspires readers to realize that vision. I believe that Gernsback’s vision of SF is fundamental to arguments for SF collections at colleges with a pedagogical and community-serving commission like City Tech. Our college occupies several buildings in downtown Brooklyn and serves the educational needs of over 17,000 students. Historically a trade and vocational school, it has over time and by design developed into a senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Nevertheless, the students it serves and the fields it attempts to prepare them for are primarily focused on STEM career paths. While not all stakeholders recognize the importance that the humanities have to STEM graduates’ success and overall outlook, the administration’s support of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection signals at least one way in which the humanities—in this case via SF—is seen as supportive to the otherwise STEM-focused educational work of the college. In effect, SF and the collection serves as a source for engagement, learning, and inspiration for students who have much to gain from it as a literary genre that reveals the inextricable linkages between STEM and the humanities. While I cannot within the scope of this presentation explore all of these functions of SF, I will restrict myself to discussing how I have used the collection to support my teaching and pedagogical work at City Tech.

 

Teaching Science Fiction from a Historical Perspective

For students, my SF syllabus takes a historical approach to the genre. Following Brian Aldiss, I point to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the genre’s beginning, because its plot pivots upon on an extrapolation of science and technology. Following this novel, I have students read a chronological progression of short stories that correspond with the movements in the genre: proto-science fiction and SF’s influences, H.G. Wells and his scientific romances, Jules Verne and his Voyages extraordinaires, Hugo Gernsback’s scientifiction and the pulps, John W. Campbell, Jr. and the Golden Age, the New Wave, Feminist SF, Cyberpunk, and contemporary SF. Looking at my current syllabus, which draws on readings from the Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction and a few stories in PDF form that are not in the anthology, over half appear for the first time in magazines held in the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, including: Isaac Asimov’s “Reason,” Astounding Science Fiction, April 1941; Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations,” Astounding Science Fiction August 1954; Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies—,“ The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1959; Harlan Ellison’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” Galaxy Magazine, December 1965; Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction April 1966; James Tiptree, Jr’s “The Women Men Don’t See,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction December 1973; William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome,” Omni July 1982; and Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds,” Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine Mid-December 1983. In addition to discussing each story in its historical context and its addressing Gernsback’s tripartite definition (along with other definitions, too), I show students photos of the magazines and their contents. I relate how these magazines were a big deal that introduced readers to engaging stories, new science and technology, and inspirational ideas via the haptic and tactile experience of reading printed magazines. Furthermore, the contents of a given magazine add an anthropological context to the magazines via editorials, letters, fandom, and advertising. Finally, the magazines help situate the readings for students, because they empower me to point at the library and take the readings out of the abstract realm of anthologization.

 

NEH-sponsored “Cultural History of Digital Technology” Project

While my students’ experience of SF is enriched by the historical materiality of our readings, City Tech’s faculty, who are engaged in pedagogical planning that bridges STEM and the humanities, share some of the same needs as my students. I have learned that my STEM-focused colleagues are experts in their fields, but many do not conceptualize SF on one level as a literary genre that addresses Gernsback’s tripartite definition: romance, scientific facts, and prophetic vision, or on another level as a literary form built on interdisciplinary STEM methodologies (i.e., building assemblages of ideas and constructing extrapolations) and focused on the effects of science and technology on humanity and vice versa (e.g., Asimov’s concept of “social science fiction” or Philip K. Dick’s epistemological and ontological adventures). Professor Anne Leonhardt of Architectural Technology and director of the NEH-funded project titled, “The Cultural History of Digital Technology: Postulating a Humanities Approach to STEM,” asked me to join and contribute my humanities-focused perspective. The project’s goal is to create six interdisciplinary pedagogical modules—on maps, fractals, robotics and sociality, geotagging, topology, and finally, robotics and the workplace. We do this by inviting speakers, holding reading groups, and participating in pedagogical workshops. The student-facing modules will integrate readings, classroom lecture and demonstration, and a hands-on activity. Initially, I helped with finding readings for two modules—fractals and topology, but as I describe below, I have leveraged the City Tech Science Fiction Collection’s magazine holdings and demonstrated that humanities folks can do more than find interesting readings. Also, I will use Gernsback’s definition as a measure of each considered story’s usefulness to the module’s goals.

 

3D Printing

The first module that I contributed readings to is called “Fractals: Patterning, Fabrication, and the Materiality of Thinking.” Its purpose is to bridge students’ understanding of mathematics to the natural world by using fractal geometry—the notion that Benoit Mandelbrot introduced as the process and principle of order and structure underlying the physical world. We teach students the underlying principles of fractal geometry, help them create a workflow using open-source tools to generate a 3D printable STL, or STereoLithography model, and finally, have them print their model using one of City Tech’s powder or plastic 3D printers.

Initially, I did not consider the City Tech Science Fiction Collection’s holdings, because everything was sitting in 160 boxes stacked floor to ceiling in my office and my former colleague, Alan Lovegreen’s office. Rudy Rucker’s “As Above, So Below” (1989), a story not widely anthologized but available on the author’s website, first came to mind, because I knew that both sides of his professional work touched on this topic. Rucker, a cyberpunk SF writer and mathematician, had written this story after his own attempts at discovering what is now called a “Mandelbulb,” or a three-dimensional plot of the Mandelbrot set, the recognizable image based on a simple iterative function explored in the work of Benoit Mandelbrot. In Rucker’s story, a mathematican hacks together a program that creates a three-dimensional Mandelbrot set that breaks out of his computer screen and takes him on a trippy voyage away from life and into a crabmeat can in his pantry where he can code and enjoy energy drinks for the rest of his life—as long as no one get hungry for canned crab. While it is an interesting story and Rucker’s work on the Mandelbulb is noted in the module, his story is more romantic and possibly prophetic, but less instructive.

Shortly thereafter, Alan and I finished moving and shelving the City Tech SF Collection, and I began searching for a better story in the collection’s magazines—a story that fulfills the Gernsbackian requirements and connects to both of the module’s topics: fractals and 3D printing. One such contender was Robert Heinlein’s “Waldo,” which tended to capture the materiality-emphasis of the module better than Rucker’s much later story. Published in August 1942 in Astounding Science Fiction as by Heinlein’s pseudonym Anson MacDonald, “Waldo” features on the cover with art by Hubert Rogers and story illustration by Paul Orban. The story is where the term for a remote manipulator system is coined—a waldo. However, the story is about a man named Waldo Jones who invents remote manipulators to enable his weakened body to act on the world. With his invention, he sets out to make smaller ones and smaller ones until they were capable of manipulating microscopic neural tissue and investigate the cause of his physical handicap. The idea then is that waldoes could be used to build up matter in the same way they were used to build smaller versions of themselves. Heinlein’s story fulfills Gernsback’s requirements—romance (intrigue and revenge), scientific fact (cybernetics), and prophetic vision (what possibilities might waldoes enable), but it does not fulfill both module topics as strongly.

Eventually, I found the story that is credited as the first SF describing 3D printing in detail: Eric Frank Russell’s “Hobbyist,” in the September 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Unlike “Waldo,” “Hobbyist” is not as widely anthologized, so having access to it in its original magazine was a bonus. If you are familiar with the contemporary video game, No Man’s Sky, then you have an idea about what “Hobbyist” is generally about. Astronaut Steve Ander and his companion parrot Laura crash land on a distant world and are in need of nickel-thorium alloy for fuel, which will hopefully get them a little closer to home. While scavenging around the crash site, Ander notices unsettling patterns of repetition in the world around him and discovers a structure that houses what amounts to a collection of life forms created in a 3D printer of sorts and maintained by an omnipotent being. The narrator describes it thus:

It was done by electroponics, atom fed to atom like brick after brick to build a house. It wasn’t synthesis because that’s only assembly, and this was assembly plus growth in response to unknown laws. In each of these machines, he knew, was some key or code or cipher, some weird master-control of unimaginable complexity, determining the patterns each was building—and the patterns were infinitely variable. (Russell 56)

“Hobbyist” satisfied the Gernsbackian requirements—romance (escape the planet), scientific fact (small scale engineering, iterative and fractal growth), and prophetic vision (might this technology make us gods?) and united both module topics. Capturing “Hobbyist” with my iPhone and Scanner Pro app, I shared the story with the other NEH Fellows— the story’s text and in-story illustrations by Edd Cartier and cover art by Alejandro de Cañedo. During meetings, I related the history of the magazine and how that adds to the importance of the story as a nodal point of STEM ideas expressed through SF long before 3D printing was first innovated in the 1980s, and even before it was described in theoretical terms by Richard Feynman in his well-known December 1959 American Physical Society presentation, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.”

 

Topology

The second module that I contributed to is called “Topology: Behind Escher’s Wizardry, A Look at the Development of Modeling and Fabrication.” Unlike the earlier fractal module, the topology module would involve programming to create each student’s 3D printed model. In addition to my role as the humanist on the team, I made this a personal challenge to relearn Wolfram Mathematica, a symbolic computation program that supports a relatively easy-to-use programming language, because I wanted to demonstrate how its could satisfy all aspects of teaching, coding, and modeling. I began by creating a Mathematica workbook that demonstrated topology concepts, such as points, lines, polygons, and dimensionality, and easy-to-follow programming tutorials of topological surfaces. Additionally, I showed how Mathematica exported 3D printable STL files of the topological models students would create.

Initially, we considered Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884), but Professor Satyanand Singh, a colleague in the Mathematics department, suggested that we show a video based on Abbott’s story instead. This created an opportunity.

While performing serious play with Mathematica, I recalled Robert Heinlein’s “—And He Built a Crooked House” from the February 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Featuring cover art by Hubert Rogers and story illustrations by Charles Schneeman, the story is about an ambitious architect who designs a house in the shape of an unfolded tesseract, or a four-dimensional cube. Unfolded means to create a geometric net or the interconnected, component elements of the object. For example, a three-dimensional cube unfolds into a net composed of two-dimensional squares arranged in eleven different configurations. On the other hand, a tesseract, which is four-dimensional, unfolds into a net of connected three-dimensional cubes with 168 possible configurations! The architect’s innovative design is such an arrangement of three-dimensional cubes, which in this case, resembles the Cross of St. Peter. Unfortunately, having been built in California, there is an earthquake and the house collapses into itself forming a nondescript house-like cube. The incredulous architect and his nonplussed clients enter the domicile to investigate and become trapped within the structure’s weird, higher-dimensional geometry. It is an improbable story, but it captures the strangeness of higher dimensions and introduces topics for discussion. “—And He Built a Crooked House” fulfills Gernsback’s definition—romance (escape the counter-intuitive house-turned-maze), scientific fact (higher dimensionality), and prophetic vision (let’s use math to build innovative buildings), and it tangentially fulfills the module’s focus on topology.

The NEH project is on going, so there are opportunities to locate other stories and materials in the SF magazines held in the City Tech Science Fiction Collection. In my SF class, I hope to bring my students to the archives for special projects pre-arranged with the librarians. Professor Jill Belli is doing this now, and some of her students’ work will be features in a special session of the upcoming Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning, and Adventure in Science Fiction on November 29 at City Tech, which I hope that you all will consider presenting or attending. Thank you for listening.

Works Cited

Gernsback, Hugo. “A New Sort of Magazine.” Amazing Stories April 1926: 3.

Heinlein, Robert. “—And He Built a Crooked House. Astounding Science Fiction, February 1941, 68-83.

Russell, Eric Frank. “Hobbyist.” Astounding Science Fiction, September 1947. 33-61

 

 

CFP: Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning, and Adventure in Science Fiction (Date Updated)

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Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning, and Adventure in Science Fiction

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 9:00AM-5:00PM Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 9:00AM-5:00PM

Location: New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay St., Namm N119

“By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision … Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are always instructive.”
-Hugo Gernsback, 1926.

When the widely recognized “Father of Science Fiction,” Hugo Gernsback first coined the term that captured the essence of the genre we now call science fiction (SF), he envisioned SF as a new form of literature that inspired with prophecy, taught with scientific and technical facts, and engaged with adventure. These traits unique to SF have launched many of its readers on trajectories into the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) fields.

Join us for a one-day symposium exploring SF as a medium for engaging imagination, a means for exploring STEM/STEAM fields, and an instrument for discovering interdisciplinary connections, and also celebrating the new City Tech Science Fiction Collection held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library.

We invite presentations of 10-15 minutes on SF and how it fulfills learning, inspiration, and fun in STEAM-focused environments. Possible presentation topics include, but are not limited to:

• SF inspired STEM careers (or what SF inspired you to enter your field?)
• SF as a teaching tool (or what SF have you used or want to use in your classes?)
• SF’s imaginative functions (or Gedankenexperiment, considering ethical issues and unintended consequences, visualizing the influence of science and technology on society)
• Bridging STEM and the humanities via SF (or SF as an interdisciplinary cultural work that embraces STEAM)
• SF and place (or SF’s deep roots in Brooklyn and New York City)
• The fun and learning in archival work in SF collections (or making the City Tech Science Fiction Collection work for faculty, students, and researchers)

Please send a 100-word abstract, brief bio, and contact information to Jason Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu) by Oct. 31, 2016. Schedule will be announced Nov.15, 2016.

Organizing Committee: Jason Ellis (Chair), Aaron Barlow, Jill Belli, and Mary Nilles.

Hosted by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.