Off to WorldCon I go…

Where to find me at MidAmeriConII (WorldCon) in Kansas City

I’ve got a great schedule of programming this week at MidAmeriConII (the 2016 World Science Fiction Convention). I hope to see you there!

 

Panel title: The Interstices of Historical and Fanfiction

Day/Time: Wednesday Aug 17 at 07:00 PM to 08:00 PM

Location: Kansas City Convention Center – 2204
Historical fiction is a work of literature, comic, film, or television program set in the past. Fanfiction is a work of fiction produced by fans for fans, using famous people or source texts as their inspiration. Frequently the worlds overlap. Let’s discuss the overlaps, benefits, and pitfalls of working in these genres. The overlaps include writing fanfiction about historical fiction, setting fanfiction in an alternative universe by placing the narrative in a different historical era, fanworks about real-life historical figures (Historical RPF), or historical fanworks — any fanwork set in the past.

With Lyda Morehouse; Ms Sumana Harihareswara; Teresa Nielsen Hayden

 

Panel title: Joyful Disruption: Narratology and the SF/F Franchise (Solo presentation)

Day/Time: Thursday Aug 18 at 09:00 AM to 10:00 AM

Location: Kansas City Convention Center – 2201

Despite familiar complaints about the lack of creativity, interlocking franchise stories like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars saga rely on complex narrative functions that I weave together into a cohesive theory involving disruption among layers of narrative; the role of canon, and other forms of cultural memory; and textual boundaries. My overall goal is to identify what it is about these franchise stories that creates “built-in” loyal audiences in the first place. In other words, I’m working to answer the question, what are the narrative features of these franchises that keep bringing audiences back time and again?

 

Panel title: Science Fiction at Universities: Creating the Canon

Day/Time:Thursday Aug 18   06:00 PM to 07:00 PM

Location: Kansas City Convention Center – 2204

Different universities including Dundee, Liverpool and the local Kansas City University run science fiction courses. The reading material they cite as foundational varies considerably, with some including very few women, PoC or otherwise diverse SF while others start from a basis that SF began with Mary Shelley and includes works such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915) and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s, We (1921). What influence do university courses have on canon formation and what responsibilities do they have in representing and encouraging awareness of the diversity of material that is published?

With Dr. Paul Booth; Ms. Lynne M. Thomas; Gary Wolfe

 

Panel title: I Don’t Believe in Science

Day/Time: Sunday Aug 21   01:00 PM to 02:00 PM

Location: Kansas City Convention Center – 2204

All too often we hear about people who “Don’t Believe in Science”, but science isn’t about belief.  A discussion about why talking about science in terms of belief does science, and faith, a disservice.

Moderating this discussion with panelists Renée Sieber, Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, Carl Fink, and Benjamin C. Kinney.

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.

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.

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.