Why I Think Trump Means We Are Doing Something Right

Fascinating, and optimistic, perspective on our current political season from a fellow Lehigh PhD graduate.

Reflections on Gender and Postcolonial Issues

Wait, what?  Did she just say that?

Yep.

Stick with me to the end, and perhaps you will find some solace alongside me.

I am not going to say he is good for the country, his behavior is acceptable, or his followers are understandable–or even credible.

But I do think his resurgence into the public eye in a political realm is telling, and perhaps even a good sign.

First, who is the “we,” because as I tell my students, pronouns are dangerous.

The antecedent pool for the “we” in my title is large:  teachers that have made their classrooms safe for all students, students that work every day to ensure campuses are inclusive, people that fill their newsfeeds with stories of change, progressives that politic for the good of all, and the list goes on.

Trump signals to me that “we” are making a difference, that our work over the past…

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On Bad Cons & How You Kill An Event in Advance

Mikki Kendall captures what to me seems like a threshold moment in con running.

Mikki Kendall

So, I wasn’t going to bother with a formal response about the events at ConQuest. I’ve never been, I probably won’t be going either. Not just because of the most recent hot mess, but because overwhelmingly con culture is a hot mess. And yeah, some people are trying to fix it. But as I watch people attempt to defend white women sexually harassing men of color…I feel like we’ve hit a point that demands an honest conversation about what’s really happening to cons. It’s not the aging of fandom (young fans are created every day, and I promise you they love to get together), it’s not political correctness run amok (hi, taking off your pants and rubbing against people without consent isn’t okay, neither is referring to Black people as sexy chocolate and licking your lips), it’s a fundamental belief that marginalized people don’t have a right to be treated…

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My Arisia 2016 Schedule

For those of you attending Arisia (at the Westin Boston Waterfront from January 15 through 18, 2016), here is my panel schedule. Because of other commitments, I won’t be arriving until Sunday but am looking forward to fitting in as much con as I can. Hope to see you there!

 

Sunday, January 17

Time: 4:00 pm

Panel #473: Beauty and the Best at 25

Location: Marina 2

Description: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remains the only animated feature to get a Best Picture Oscar nomination during the five-nominee era, and is one of Disney’s modern masterpieces. It’s got gorgeous songs, wonderful animation, and great acting, but also has some incredibly uncomfortable issues revolving around gender roles and abuse. How well has this Disney classic aged, how much has it influenced contemporary animation, and where does it rank amongst Disney films?

 

Time: 5:30 pm

Panel #480: Lesser Known Tropes v. Women in SF/F

Location: Faneuil

Description: We’ve had enough of the tropes of woman-as-accessory, sexual assault, and fridging. We debate what makes a Strong Female Character. But there are other tropes that crop up in stories around women characters that deserve discussion, many of which deserve to be retired. This is the panel to talk about these lesser-discussed tropes and what to do with them.

 

Time: 8:30 pm

Panel #460: The Hunger Games

Location: Burroughs

Description: With part two of Mockingjay, the big-screen adaptation of The Hunger Games has finished its run. We’ll look back on the series as a whole, evaluating it both as it relates to the books of Suzanne Collins and as a standalone set of films. How has the range of different directors and writers (as well as the casting choices, which have leaned very heavily towards whitewashing the cast) helped shape the franchise, and what affect has the series had on the state of YA filmmaking?

 


 

Monday, January 18

Time: 10:00 am

Panel #306: Inside Out: Pixar Gets Smart

Location: Marina 4

Description: Pixar’s Inside Out was a huge hit, and received rave reviews even by Pixar standards. Part of this love comes from the surprising depth of insight the movie has into what makes people in general — and young girls in particular — experience emotions, and why “negative” emotions like sadness can be absolutely vital. But beyond the insight, it was also a gloriously entertaining movie, and one that we’ll discuss and celebrate on this panel.


Time: 1:00 pm

Panel #323: I Hate the Hero

Location: Marina 1

Description: Is there a story with a protagonist that you dislike or maybe is just not likeable. I don’t mean, ‘The heavy is cooler than the hero,’ which is common. I mean you loathe the hero, to the point of rooting for the antagonist just to see them fail. What makes a hero likeable and do they have to be likeable for fans to be interested in the story?

 

Time: 2:30 pm

Panel #351: The Story Within the Story

Location: Marina 2

Description: Relatively few SFnal works give narrative the kind of central role within their heroes’ world that it often plays in our own. What works have best created stories within a story, and which are notable for the absence of a literary tradition where you might expect to find one?

More NEMLA Calls for Proposals!

With less than a week left until the September 30 deadline, here are four more, awesome panels scheduled for the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in March. These are all focused on popular culture, including comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I’m partial to myself). Check them out!

The 47th meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, March 17th to March 20th in Hartford, Connecticut, will host more than 400 sessions, including ones focused on adaptations of literature for film, and the roles of race and gender in comics.

Below are four calls for papers with links for submitting 300-word abstracts before the September 30th deadline. Members and non-members of NeMLA may submit to as many sessions as they want, although they may present on only one paper presentation panel and only one other type of session (a roundtable or a creative session).

If you have any questions, please email the organizers listed with each session.

“Ruined!” On Failed Adaptations from Page to Screen

https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/15658

Contact: Emily Lauer (lauere@sunysuffolk.edu), Derek McGrath (derek.s.mcgrath@gmail.com)

This session will explore adaptations that fail in some way. Among our goals, we would like to identify what could be productive about failed adaptations. How do such failures identify what not to do, and can an adaptation that fails to be faithful to its source material still produce a valuable, worthwhile text? We are particularly interested in proposals that look at the adaptation of older artistic and literary forms in online and/or interactive content.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe as Literature

https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/15845

Contact: Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (maryiatrop@gmail.com), Derek McGrath (derek.s.mcgrath@gmail.com)

With dynamic individual superhuman characters populating a world of complex, interwoven mythologies and origin stories, the films and television series of Marvel Comics Studios experiment with long-form transmedia storytelling. With twelve films and three television series released in less than a decade, all adhering to the same continuity and fictional universe, how can the Marvel Cinematic Universe reveal or offer fresh insight into the ways in which modern cinematic storytelling functions as literature? Approaches may include analysis of one or more films; storytelling across genre and medium; adaptations of the original Marvel Comics to film and television; and applications of various schools of literary and media theory to MCU properties.

The Monster In The House: Domestic Ideology in Superhero Narratives

https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/15842

Contact: Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (maryiatrop@gmail.com)

In worlds full of superhuman heroes, mythological imaginary creatures and battle narratives of epic scope, what is the role of the domestic? This session seeks proposals investigating the ways in which domestic spaces and domestic ideology function within superhero narratives as sites of union and/or conflict between the human, the subhuman, and the superhuman.

Race and Comics: The Politics of Representation in Sequential Art

https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/15963

Contact: Rafael Ponce-Cordero (rponcecordero@keene.edu)
This panel welcomes papers that examine the treatment of race and racial relations in comic books, whether in superhero narratives, graphic memoirs, web comics, or other forms of sequential art both inside and outside the United States. How are comics used to document and represent racialized identities? How have the medium and its surrounding fan communities adapted earlier content to speak to current topics?

Calling all writing instructors in the Northeast!

There are just ten days left to submit a proposal to the Northeast Modern Language Association Conference to be held in Hartford, CT in March 2016.

I’m chairing one panel and one roundtable focused on teaching writing and while there are some great submissions already, I’d love to hear from more of the scholar-practitioners doing the innovating in the classroom. Please consider submitting a proposal to one or both of these sessions. And if neither of these grabs your interest, take a look at the other awesome Rhetoric and Composition sessions being offered this year.

The Student as Writer: Embodiment, Mindfulness, and Disability in the Composition Classroom (Panel)

In this session, we review ways to approach the First Year Composition and other writing classrooms by focusing on the students as embodied writers, taking student-centered pedagogy to a new level. Areas of interest for papers include, but are not limited to, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and disability studies. A combination of theoretical and practical perspectives will be employed to locate the student as embodied writer within the disciplinary tradition.

Evaluating Student Writing (Roundtable)

Have you ever wondered, “How on Earth can I grade this poem? Can creativity even be quantified?” Or, “how should revision fit into the overall course grade?” In this roundtable, writing instructors from a variety of fields (rhetoric and composition; technical writing; creative writing; and more) will discuss their systems for assessing and evaluating student writing in the college classroom. Both conceptual and pragmatic concerns will be addressed for making the evaluation and feedback process an integral part of our writing pedagogy.

Sasquan, Exit Stage Left

Sharing Meg Frank’s account of her experiences this year at WorldCon because it needs to be heard and understood that harassment and intimidation can no longer be tolerated silently.

Previously Unexplored

Up until a week before Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon, I was the Events Deputy Division Head and the Co-Director of the Hugo Ceremony. Resigning was a very difficult and painful decision. I did not do so lightly. Doing so left several of my friends in the lurch, and while I don’t regret walking away, I do regret the position I put my boss Jill Eastlake, and my co-director David D’Antonio in. They were both endlessly supportive during this entire situation and have taught me a great deal about how to make Events happen for a Worldcon.

It is common knowledge at this point that Lou Antonelli wrote a letter to the Spokane PD. It is also known that he went on Sarah Hoyt’s podcast and bragged about it. While many were rightly focused on David Gerrold’s reaction, the simple fact is that he wasn’t the only person harassed and…

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Some Extended Thoughts on Fandom and Canon, a Blog Series; Post #4: Head Canon

Earlier this summer, I contributed to Adam Sternbergh’s research for an article on fandom and canon that was published in the July 27 issue of New York Magazine (see here for the article). As I have in the previous posts in this series, I’m sharing some of my perspectives that didn’t make it into the final published version. The focus for this final post is the phenomenon of fan production known as “head canon.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (the gold standard for academics, so I’ve been told), the first definition of canon is, “A rule, law, or decree of the Church; esp. a rule laid down by an ecclesiastical Council. the canon (collectively)” and reaches back to around the year 890. And in popular culture, there are few words that carry as much reverence and debate  as “canon.” When it comes to “head canon,” a key element of this fan activity is that it doesn’t change the established narrative of the “official” canon, unlike AU (alternate universe) fan fiction. It fills in the gaps, but doesn’t contradict the established storyline.

All stories have gaps. That’s the nature of narrative and this nature is counter-intuitively enhanced in long-running series. Fans want to know what is happening off-screen, between installments, before the series started, and, of course, after the stories “end.” This impulse fuels fan fiction and fan art but also the less-developed head canon. This is, as its name implies, primarily a private/personal mini story created by a fan for his or her favorite series, usually focusing on beloved characters. Social media, however, provides platforms for the sharing of these “personal” canons among fans. One of the most popular platforms for this is Tumblr, where just a quick search of the #headcanon tag can fill hours and hours of fun. It is one of those digital arenas that should come with a warning label for how much time it can absorb.

One of my favorite fandoms for active head canon focuses on Harry Potter. When I’ve looked at these before from a scholarly perspective, I found that fan interest in head canon tends to fall into three general areas for this series:

  1. Before the events of Philosopher’s Stone (split between the Founders of Hogwarts and the Marauders, Harry’s parents and their friends).
  2. During the seven books, minus the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows, particularly the summers Harry spends with the Weasleys at the Burrow.
  3. Between the end of Deathly Hallows and its Epilogue.

Another example of head canon I particularly like was shared by a fellow panelist on the Marvel Cinematic Universe session at the 2015 Arisia Convention (a Boston-area science fiction convention): the children and grandchildren of the Howling Commandos (from Captain America: The First Avenger) see themselves as family who get together frequently and can be called upon to support each other at a moment’s notice. This provides a nice gap-filler in the storyline from the mid-season finale of Agents of SHIELD‘s second season where one such descendant, who is part of the team, is killed. From my perspective, it allowed me to see that agent’s mother having an extensive support system to help her through her grief (which we glimpse briefly at the end of one episode) and also to imagine an entire network of skilled operatives looking to avenge their lost “cousin.”

Of course, head canon also comes with a downside in terms of memory when fans become so attached to one that they might lose sight of the “head” or non-official nature of it. I’ve fallen into this trap myself but haven’t let it stop me from delving into this particular form of fan production. It’s just too much fun.