CFP for A Second New Edited Collection (Memory in Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Tales)

I am thrilled to announce that I have signed another contract with McFarland for a companion collection to Essays on Memory in Popular Culture, this one focusing just on the way memory works in post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories. The tentative title is Recovering What We’ve Lost: Essays on Memory in Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Tales. See the below for details and please consider submitting an abstract, or sharing the CFP with anyone you know who might be interested.

Summary

Upcoming collection on memory in post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories, under contract with McFarland and Company, seeks proposals for academic essays on the complex role of rhetorical and social memory in science fiction/fantasy, fandom, and online gaming. Abstracts due 1/5/15 with final essays due 6/1/15.

 

 

Details

For the upcoming collection Recovering What We’ve Lost: Essays on Memory in Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Tales, I am seeking abstracts for essays to be included in a collection designed to blend the classical rhetorical concepts of memory with more post-modern approaches to the notion of social and public memory as a lens for examining stories set in post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian settings across many media. Essays analyzing films, television shows, online games, and graphic novels are being requested along with those focusing on traditional print fiction.

 

This collection looks to directly connect two overlapping cultural trends of the early 21st century: the popularity of post-apocalyptic/dystopian speculative fiction and concerns over the ways we remember and memorialize the world around us. Fears regarding the “outsourcing” of memory in the 21st century (to smartphones and other digital devices) are echoes of past panics about loss of memory (such as Plato’s famous complaint about writing). But the current panic is as ahistorical as the previous ones in that much of recorded history relies on memory objects that foster and celebrate shared cultural memories. These might be the ballads of old heroes and monsters or the monuments commemorating great battles or simply a family Bible keeping track of the generations. The power of such memory objects is one reason that post-apocalyptic and dystopian tales resonate so strongly across the generations.

 

As genre and cultural studies scholars have argued before, the post-apocalyptic and dystopian strains of speculative fiction more often than not carry a message of hope. This optimism takes several forms such as recovery of freedom/civilization, resilience of the survivors to carry on, and successful prevention of the dystopia on the part of readers. David Brin has called this tendency the “self-preventing prophecy” and while not all tales in this category fit that mold, many do.

 

A key part of that recovery and resilience is the collective social memory of the characters within the story. At times, the history has been lost and must be reconstructed (see Canticle for Leibowitz) while other stories focus on the characters’ attempts in the immediate aftermath to preserve the cultural memory (as in the show Falling Skies). Much of the power of post-apocalyptic stories lies in the ruins of the familiar: the decaying monuments in Logan’s Run, the traces of familiar English in the dialects of Canticle, the brief mention of the “ancient” form of self-governance known as democracy in Mockingjay. Meanwhile, the power of the state, or other controlling entity, in dystopian tales very often relies on their ability to control information not only about the present, but especially about the past as well.

 

I am particularly interested in receiving abstracts for essays by and about texts from under-represented groups across the spectrum and the globe. In addition, graduate students and junior faculty are especially encouraged to submit abstracts. Anticipated themes of this collection include, but are not limited to,

  • Ancient Memory: Allusions to Shared Myths and Legends
  • Memories of Domestic Life: Hearth and Home
  • Memorials and Landmarks: Visual Symbols of Loss
  • Stolen, not Lost: Authoritarian Control over Information and Memory
  • Entertainments of the Past (Music, Novels, Theater)
  • The immediate past (such as V for Vendetta) compared to long-lost past (such as Hunger Games and Canticle)

While the underlying premise of this collection is rhetorically based, interdisciplinary approaches are most desirable. In particular, my goal is to collect perspectives that cover the intersection of contemporary interpretations and explorations of the ancient rhetorical canon of memory, narrative theory, and cultural studies. Please also keep in mind, however, that the primary audience includes both fans and academics so the approach should be accessible to interested, but not expert, readers.

 

Abstracts (250-500 words) proposing essays of 5-7,000 words each will be accepted until January 5, 2015, with completed essays due June 2015. Please send the abstracts as attached Word files to Heather Urbanski at memoryinsf_book @ icloud.com.

My finalized LonCon3 schedule (where to find me at WorldCon next week)

In case you might have missed the news, the World Science Fiction Convention begins next week in London. And I’m so excited (and not just because I’ll be debuting a new hall costume inspired by Brave’s Merida).

My official programming appearances are on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (see below) but I am also planning on attending the events on Thursday to open the academic conference.

Come and find me and we’ll chat about….well, I’m sure if you follow me on social media and are at WorldCon, we’ll have plenty of topics.

Hope to see you there!

I’ll also be in Dublin the next weekend for Shamrokon (the Dublin Eurocon 2014) and hope to have that schedule finalized soon.

 

 

Thursday, August 14

“Diversity in Speculative Fiction”: Welcome to the Academic Conference

Capital Suite 6 (Level 3), 10:30am – 11am

A chance to find out what the academic programme is and to meet (other) academics at the event before the first session. Please bring your own drinks along.

 

Diversity in Speculative Fiction Conference Reception

South Gallery 21/22, 10pm – 11:30pm

A reception primarily aimed at participants in the academic programme “Diversity in Speculative Fiction” but open to those who are interested in meeting the academics and discussing the programme with them. It is sponsored by the Science Fiction Foundation, who will be publishing selected papers drawn from the programme in the journal Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction.

 

 

Saturday, August 16

Place and Time: Capital Suite 6 (Level 3), 9:30am – 11am

Panel Title: Mediated Boundaries

Panelists: Jo Lindsay Walton, Pawel Frelik, Colin Harvey, Heather Urbanski

Three academics each give a 15 minute presentation. These are followed by a jointly held 30 minute discussion with the audience.

  • Heather Urbanski, “Narratology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Franchises”**
  • Colin B Harvey, “Tink Talks! Transmedia Memory and Neverland”
  • Pawel Frelik, “Subversive Moddernity—Fantastic Game Modification and Politics”

**I’ll be presenting the latest version of my analysis of Agents of SHIELD, Hunger Games, and Once Upon a Time as narratively disruptive franchises.

 

Sunday, August 17

Place and Time: Capital Suite 1 (Level 3), 10am – 11am

Panel Title: Working for a Living

Panelists: Martin McGrath, Donna Scott, Susan Connolly, Alison Page, Heather Urbanski

Most SF TV focuses on (and is written by!) professional/white collar/middle class individuals. But a few recent examples — such as The Walking Dead, True Blood, Orphan Black and Misfits – have included a greater focus on working class/blue collar experiences. How does this affect the stories such shows tell, the range of characters and identities they include, and how they use their fantastic elements?

 

Place and Time: Capital Suite 15 (Level 3), 1:30pm – 3pm

Panel Title: Secrecy in Science

Panelists: David L Clements, Katie Mack, Heather Urbanski, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Sunil Patel, Leah-Nani Alconcel

What role does secrecy have in science? Should drug companies be allowed to hide trial data from their competitors? Should scientists be allowed to publish papers and not the data they are based on? Is there a place for commercial confidentiality in space missions? But if everything is open, how will anybody get commercial benefit from new inventions and discoveries? And do we really want DNA sequences for super-flu, and the designs for dirty bombs and plutonium refineries to be available to all?

 

 

Monday, August 18

Place and Time: Capital Suite 13 (Level 3), 12pm – 1:30pm

Panel Title: Brave Young World

Panelists: Cory Doctorow, Gillian Redfearn, Heather Urbanski, David Farnell

How is the nature of young people’s reading changing, and how should it change the ways we write and publish? Are new forms of storytelling emerging along with new technologies?

 

 

 

My LonCon3 (2014 WorldCon) Schedule

I’m so excited about my LonCon 3 schedule. Be sure to follow @loncon3 and @AcademicLoncon3 on Twitter for even more details and updates.

 

Here’s where to find me at WorldCon this August:

Mediated Boundaries (Part of the Academic Track)

Saturday (8/16) 09:30 – 11:00

Three academics each give a 15 minute presentation. These are followed by a jointly held 30 minute discussion with the audience.

  • Heather Urbanski, “Narratology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Franchises”
  • Colin B Harvey, “Tink Talks! Transmedia Memory and Neverland”
  • Pawel Frelik, “Subversive Moddernity—Fantastic Game Modification and Politics”

 

Working for a Living

Sunday (8/17) 10:00 – 11:00

Most SF TV focuses on (and is written by!) professional/white collar/middle class individuals. But a few recent examples — such as The Walking Dead, True Blood, and Misfits – have been grounded more in working class/blue collar experiences. How does this affect the stories such shows tell, the range of characters and identities they include, and how they use their fantastic elements?

Panelists: Chris N. Brown (Moderator), Kate Keen, Martin McGrath, Donna Scott, Heather Urbanski

 

Secrecy in Science

Sunday (8/17) 13:30 – 15:00

What role does secrecy have in science? Should drug companies be allowed to hide trial data from their competitors? Should scientists be allowed to publish papers and not the data they are based on? Is there a place for commercial confidentiality in space missions? But if everything is open, how will anybody get commercial benefit from new inventions and discoveries? And do we really want DNA sequences for super-flu, and the designs for dirty bombs and plutonium refineries to be available to all?

Panelists: David L Clements (Moderator), Katie Mack, Heather Urbanski, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Sunil Patel (@ghostwritingcow on Twitter), Leah-Nani Alconcel

Where to find me at the 2014 Popular Culture/American Culture conference

For those of you attending the Popular Culture/American Culture Association conference (in Chicago from April 16-19), here is where you can find me. Hope to see you there!

 

 Thursday, April 17

Time: 1:45 pm

Science Fiction and Fantasy Area Pizza Party

Location: Lincolnshire 2

 

Time: 5:00 pm

President’s Reception/Awards

Location: 7th Floor Salon 2

 

 

Friday, April 18

Time: 6:30 pm

Session #: 3726: Narrative

Location: Lincolnshire 1

I will be chairing this session and presenting my paper “Narratology of Franchises” along with three other scholars:

  • Christopher Cerimele (Eastern Florida State College): Selling Superficiality: The Disneyfication of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Science Fiction Narratives
  • Laura Osur (Syracuse University): Defiance: An Experiment in Transmedia Storytelling
  • Courtney Neal (DePaul University): Expect the Unexpected: Inverting Character and Narrative in Once Upon a Time

 

 

Saturday, April 19

Time: 8:15 pm

Science Fiction and Fantasy Area Movie Night (Beginning of the End)

Location: Lincolnshire 2

 

 

And you will also find me wandering around the lobby and book room quite often at other times as well. I’ll have copies of the Memory in Popular Culture collection CFP to distribute as well.

Whose History? Whose Context? The Dangers of Nostalgia

Two excellent blog posts have crossed my newsfeed over the past day that bring me back to a line of thinking I wrestled with in Writing and the Digital Generation: the prevalence and dangers of nostalgia. In my chapter for Digital Generation, I tackled the laments that digital texts were in danger of replacing (to the detriment) traditional print books.

Now the question has come up in another area of my research interests: fandom.

For some background, here are links to the two posts that have generated my thinky-thoughts for today:

Smuggler’s Ponderings: History, Fandom and Masters of Science Fiction” by Ana on the Book Smugglers blog.

The Orthodox Church of Heinlein” by John Scalzi.

When I first entered SF/F fandom by attending the 2001 WorldCon on a total whim, I was enthralled by the stories I heard about the first cons, and how the “big names” I’d only read about were active participants, and even defining influences. And, to a certain extent, I still am. But as I become more engaged, I heard other stories, from those who were less vocal, less “powerful,” and I was less enthralled, and more disturbed.

The scholar and rhetorician in me then kicks in and I consider the liminal nature of fandom, and the complex history and memory involved in these communities. Such considerations led to my new project, the collection on memory in popular culture. While I want to capture the fannish sense of history and memory, I also know I need to do so in as complex a way as possible. My discussions with other fans such as Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) and posts written by Kameron Hurley (@KameronHurley) and so many others have reminded me to ask, “Whose history and whose context?”  Those questions have now become the driving force in how I will approach editing this new collection.

And I wouldn’t have known to ask them without the fandom community. Once again, I am grateful.

Comfort Books and Hugo Reading: Spring Break 2014

Even though we are expecting snow here in Fitchburg tomorrow, this is officially Spring Break for me and the rest of Fitchburg State, which means time to catch up on my reading and writing, as well as grading and class prep for the second half of the spring semester.

Like most of you, my own To Be Read pile is so long that it will never be completed but I do have an upcoming deadline that will determine my priorities this week: the March 31st nomination deadline for the 2014 Hugo Awards.

And while the John W. Campbell award is “not a Hugo,” I’m starting my reading for the nomination period with the 2014 Campbell award anthology so that I can round out my ballot. I already know that I am nominating Lissa Price (her Starters/Enders series captivated me) and I can’t wait to discover other new genre authors as well.

I’ll also be working through the other works on my recommendation post from last month over the next few weeks, as well as those other fans have shared with me, but not all of my pleasure reading will be new.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “comfort books” lately, largely because one of my enduring favorites just recently became available as an ebook: A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. I first read this romance novel, and its two sequels, when I was in seventh grade and they were the first books I read that were not aimed at my own age group. And they have stuck with me so much that I’m thrilled to have Woman of Substance with me now wherever I go.

And that reminded me of something I explained to my niece when I was unpacking my boxes this summer. There are several books that I have kept from when I was her age, I told her, and even though I don’t read these copies anymore, they remind me of my early years as a reader.

These are the books I showed her:

The Shelf of Honor: My Comfort Books

The Shelf of Honor: My Comfort Books

Included on this shelf of honor are my battered paperback copies of the Woman of Substance trilogy, two of the Little House books, several from YA-fantasy authors Lois Duncan and Robin McKinley, a novel about ballet dancers, and finally, the historical novel Summer of My German Soldier (which, by the way, is the only one of that set I was assigned to read for “English” class).

These are my comfort stories, the ones that cemented themselves into my consciousness and in many ways define my tastes for popular culture today. This makes me wonder, what are your comfort books?