If it’s January, it must be time for Arisia…

For those of you attending Arisia (at the Westin Boston Waterfront from January 13 through 16, 2017), here is my panel schedule. Hope to see you there!

And if you have any ideas for questions we can discuss during the panels I’m moderating, go ahead and share them in the comments or send them to me via Twitter (@drurbanski).
Friday, January 13

DC Movie Universe: Crisis on Infinite Screens

Time: 5:30pm – 6:45pm

Room: Adams (3W)

Tracks: Media

I am moderating this panel with Ed Fuqua, Bob Chipman, and Dan Toland as panelists.

With three movies under its belt, the DC Cinematic Universe is proving to be a creative cesspit, with bad stories, creative miscues, and a complete lack of a moral center. It’s easy to point at Zack Snyder as the problem, but with studio backing and decent box office, clearly the issue goes further. What’s gone wrong with DC on the big screen, and is there any hope to be had from future movies?

 

On Shaming, Bullying, and Public Humiliation

Time: 8:30pm – 9:45pm

Room: Marina 3 (2E)

Tracks: Fan Interest

I am participating on this panel along with Andy Hicks, Mark Oshiro, TheoNerd, and Inanna Arthen.

SF/F fans are no stranger to bullying — many of us who were picked on for being different at a young age found refuge and escape in the other worldliness of fantastical books, movies, and newer media. The internet age of un-moderated twitter, 4chan, and Gawker has made bullying and harassment easier. The behavior surrounding GamerGate has practically normalized it. What can this teach us about forms of public humiliation and bullying, and what we can do to push back against it?

 

Saturday, January 14

Another Look at the Bad Old Days

Time: 7pm – 8:15pm

Room: Hale (3W)

Tracks: Literature

I am participating on this panel along with Jonathan Woodward, James Hailer, Sarah Lynn Weintraub, and John G. McDaid.

A lot of SF has aged very badly. A lot of it bore appalling elements even for its time. There’s some usual suspects, but let’s look at the older works of SF with awful elements as a whole. Is there anything worth looking for in those stories? Who deserves to make problematic fave among the problematic horde? Are there lessons that are relevant to modern readers and authors to be found among the stories that make us wince?

 

Musicals as Fantasy

Time: 8:30pm – 9:45pm

Room: Bulfinch (3W)

Tracks: Fan Interest

Types: Panel

I am participating on this panel along with Chris Brathwaite, Brian Liberge, Victoria Queeno, and Jesi Pershing

Musical Theater is an art form that has a very passionate and committed fan culture. Many musicals have a lot in common with classical fantasy, both in concept and in form. So why aren’t musicals celebrated in the same spheres as Science Fiction and Fantasy literature or media? This panel will challenge the status quo as we entertain and explore arguments for and against including musicals under the umbrella of our love for all things SF/F genre!

 

Sunday, January 15

Beyond Physics: Many Sciences of Science Fiction

Time: 7pm – 8:15pm

Room: Burroughs (3E)

Tracks: Literature

I am participating on this panel along with Andrea Hairston (moderator), Heather Urbanski, Walt Williams, Dr. Pamela Gay, Dash

While a lot of speculative fiction is still very focused on physics, speculation can come from any field of study including anthropology, computer science, psychology, and history. A discussion of some of the more unusual ways that science fiction has chosen to examine the human condition.

 

Star Wars, 2017 Edition: Rogue One and More

Time: 8:30pm – 9:45pm

Room: Marina 2 (2E)

Tracks: Media

Types: Panel

I am moderating this panel with Mario Di Giacomo, Frank Wu, Kevin Cafferty, and Mink Rose as panelists.

Our annual discussion of all things Star Wars will focus on December’s *Rogue One*, but we’ll also spend some time looking at *The Force Awakens* now that the hype has settled down, and talk about future releases in the franchise.

 

Monday, January 16

Routing Around Cognitive Biases

Time: 10am – 11:15am

Room: Alcott (3W)

Tracks: Science

I am moderating this panel with Ruthanna Emrys, David G. Shaw, Stephen R Balzac, and Andrea Hairston as panelists.

Most of us have a friend who always plays the same lottery numbers, refuses to travel by airplane “because they’re not safe,” and thinks music was better when they were a kid. Your friend – indeed, most people – suffers from multiple cognitive biases. How do you make people aware of the flaws in their thinking so that they have the critical tools to avoid such biases in the future? What about the more difficult task of identifying your own biases?

 

Fan Etiquette: How Not to Be *That* Fan

Time: 2:30pm – 3:45pm

Room: Bulfinch (3W)

Tracks: Fan Interest

 

I am moderating this panel with Mark Oshiro, Eric Zuckerman, Justine Graykin, and William Frank as panelists.

Have you ever been embarrassed by your fellow fans when meeting actors, musicians, and other people of note? How can you control your emotions and come across as a fan, not a stalker? Even at movies, some fans are yelling at the screen distracting other viewers from enjoying the film. This panel would give some insight as to what is the best way to present yourself and your fandom in a favorable light.

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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?

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.

Where to find me at Arisia 2015…

Better late than never…if you are attending Arisia 2015 this weekend, here is my panel schedule. I’m excited to talk about each of these and hope you are as well. See you there?

Friday, January 16

Panel #379: Fairy Tales on Film and TV

Location: Marina 1

Track: Media

Day/Time: Fri 10:00 PM

Description: Between Once Upon a Time and Grimm on television, and movies like Maleficent and Frozen, it’s a good time for fans of entertainment based on fairy tales. What makes these works so effective at translating these classics into other media? Why aren’t we seeing more works based on fairy tales and folklore from other cultures? What other works are coming up that deserve to be highlighted?

I am moderating this panel, which will also feature Monica Castillo, George Claxton, James Macdonald, David Olsen, and Hanna Lee Rubin Abramowitz (H-chan).

 

 

Saturday, January 17

Panel #355: Marvel Cinematic (and TV) Universe, 2015

Location: Marina 1

Track: Media

Day/Time: Sat 7:00 PM

Description: In 2014, we saw Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: The Winter Soldier deal with global corruption, while Guardians of the Galaxy took on Thanos and Ronan. As this panel takes place, we’ll have Agent Carter on TV, with a Netflix Daredevil show hitting in May. We’ll talk about where this increasingly complex and connected universe goes from here, and how things are looking after the last year.

I will be participating on this panel, moderated by Shira Lipkin, along with Elektra Hammond, Ed Fuqua, Kevin Cafferty, and Gillian Daniels.

 

 

Sunday, January 18

Panel #1176: TV Writing: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror/Genre

Location: Alcott

Track: Writing

Day/Time: Sun 1:00 PM

Description: We often talk about what we like and don’t like about particular TV shows, but it’s not easy to tell some genre tales right on the screen. Our panelists discuss the challenges of telling supernatural tales for TV and film, what the limitations of the medium mean for telling those stories, and common pitfalls of writing for TV/films.

I will be participating on this panel, moderated by Thomas Vitale, along with Steve Sawicki, Randee Dawn Kestenbaum (Randee Dawn), and Chris Denmead (Dr. Chris).

 

 

Panel #572: Outlander: Scotland, Romance, and Time Travel

Location: Marina 3

Track: Media

Day/Time: Sun 4:00 PM

Description: Outlander has been a huge hit for Starz. How well has Diana Gabaldon’s series translated to the small screen? Does it reflect the tone that fans expected? Is it really aimed at viewers not familiar with the plot? Does the amount of sexual violence in a female-centric fantasy differentiate it or make it indistinguishable from material like A Game of Thrones? Join us for a fun, spoiler-filled discussion!

I am moderating this panel, which will also feature Gayle Blake, Forest Handford, Trisha Wooldridge, and Anna Erishkigal.

 

Panel #1100: Fear Is the Mind-Killer: Dune at Fifty

Location: Marina 2

Track: Literature

Day/Time: Sun 7:00 PM

Description: In 1965, Frank Herbert’s Dune, which went on to win the 1966 Hugo award, was published. Arriving in the wake of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring a few years earlier, Dune was perhaps the first SF novel to explore ecology on a grand scale. It has spawned several sequels, been adapted into multiple filmed adaptations, and inspired countless works of music in several genres. Come celebrate the 50th anniversary of this seminal work.

I will be participating on this panel, moderated by Ken Schneyer, along with Max Gladstone, Karl G Heinemann, and John Chu.

 

 

 

Panel #562: Topical, Typical, and Trope-ical

Location: Marina 2

Track: Literature

Day/Time/: Sun 8:30 PM

Description: Essays are devoted to analyzing them and TVTropes curates them. “Tropes” usually refer to the motifs we’re used to consuming in fiction, like the Casanova, the Action Girl, the Trickster, or the Hero’s Journey. What families and variations of archetypes add to the grand, literary tradition, and what are the stale, even harmful stereotypes readers could do without?

I will be participating on this panel, moderated by Adam Lipkin, along with Gordon Linzner, Israel Peskowitz, and James Macdonald.

 

Oh, and the Merida costume and Jedi robe will be making appearances this con as well…

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Calls for Proposals for new edited collection on memory in popular culture

Exciting news!

I am currently seeking proposals for an upcoming collection, Essays on Memory in Popular Culture, under contract with McFarland.

The key assumption of this collection is that, contrary to the conventional wisdom that memory is no longer important, this rhetorical canon has been transformed and complicated rather than subsumed, as recent scholarship into such areas as digital media, fandom studies, and memory objects demonstrates. This collection, therefore, seeks essays and participant reflections that document and examine this rhetorical principle in all its complexity.

Submissions are being solicited that examine cultural memory within the following categories:

  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre texts
  • Fandom activities (including fan fiction and cosplay)
  • Online Gaming
  • Digital collaboration and media

In addition to traditional academic essays (approximately 5,000 words each), there will also be a section for player and participant reflections (approximately 1,000 words) that briefly describe the experience of fan memory from a non-academic perspective.

I will be distributing these CFPs during Arisia this weekend (January 17-20, 2014) and you can also follow these links for more information:

Proposals should be submitted to memoryinsf_book @i cloud.com by May 1, 2014.

Where to find me at Arisia 2014 (January 17-20)

For those of you attending Arisia (at the Westin Boston Waterfront from January 17 through 20, 2014), here is my panel schedule. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, January 18

Time: 7:00 pm

Panel #: 458: Why Do So Many YA Franchises Bomb Onscreen?

Location: Paine

Description: For every Twilight, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games, there seem to be dozens of perfectly successful books that fizzle on screen: The Host, The Golden Compass, The Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson, etc. Why do some of these hit books translate so well, and others never gain any traction? Is it about the quality of the film, the marketing, or just a fickle audience?

 

Sunday, January 19

Time: 10:00 am

Panel #: 267: Once Upon a Time (I’ll be moderating this panel)

Location: Paine

Description: It’s campy, it’s cheesy, and it’s not exactly the first show any of us admit to watching. However, it’s not only entering its third season as a hit, but it’s launching a spin-off, and it seems to bring in big-name guest stars every week. Come discuss your favorite ways the show has updated classic characters, your favorite moments, and your concerns about both Once Upon a Time and spin-off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

Time: 1:00 pm

Panel #: 128: Fan Speak: The Language of Fandom

Location: Independence

Description: What communications styles, methods, and vocabulary seem unique to fandom? Hyperbole seems to be used more than in mainstream speech. Also, literary and media references are more common. Interrupting conversation isn’t seen as rude. How did these patterns develop and why? Have they changed?

Time: 2:30 pm

Panel #: 471: Star Wars: What’s Next

Location: Paine

Description: JJ Abrams is taking over the Star Wars franchise under the auspices of Disney. Other than lens flares, what does this mean for the series? On the TV front, Clone Wars has ended, and rumors of a live-action series continue to spread. We’ll talk about the state of the franchise on all fronts during this panel

Time: 4:00 pm

Panel #: 512: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Location: Paine

Description: Now that the second movie in the trilogy is out, how do people feel about the way the movies are going? Is it still toeing the line between being faithful to the books and accessible to the newcomers? Did the change from Gary Ross to Francis Lawrence as director work? Is Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss still a great heroine? We’ll share our thoughts on the movie, as well as speculation for the final film, in this lively panel.

Time: 5:30 pm

Panel #: 262: Marvel Cinematic (and TV) Universe

Location: Burroughs

Description: The last year has given us new entries in the Iron Man and Thor franchises on the big screen, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe moves forward, how are things looking? Are the stories still fresh? Does the TV show have long-term potential? Are we worried about Guardians of the Galaxy?

Time: 7:00 pm

Panel #: 429: Found Families in Speculative Fiction

Location: Faneuil

Description: A lot of fans find a home/family in fandom. Found families are also a common theme in specific, both written and in TV shows such as Farscape and Star Trek. What narrative and thematic purposes can found families serve? How does this trope resonate with other themes present in speculative fiction?

 

 

Monday, January 20

Time: 1:00 pm

Panel #: 462: SF/F as an Ongoing Conversation

Location: Alcott

Description: John Scalzi’s Redshirts is only the most recent work of SF/F that responds directly to tropes, themes or claims in another work of SF/F. Sometimes parodies, sometimes commentaries, sometimes angry rebuttals, our genre has a long tradition of dialectic, perhaps enabled by how small a group we are. How does this dialectic function, what are some of its major landmarks, and what are the pivotal points in the conversation right now?