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.

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.

Some Extended Thoughts on Fandom and Canon, a Blog Series; Post #3: Canon’s Dark Side

Earlier this summer, I contributed to Adam Sternbergh’s research for a New York Magazine article on fandom and canon that was published in the July 27 issue (see here for the article). As I wrote in the previous two posts, I am sharing some of my perspectives that didn’t make it into the final published version via a series of weekly blog posts. Today’s focus is the dark side of canon used as an exclusionary tactic and gatekeeping mechanism to separate out “real” fans from the rest of us.

One thing that became clear for me while doing the research for The Science Fiction Reboot is that fans do not always wield the power of canon with an accompanying level of responsibility (or even common decency in some cases). Canon has been employed in much less joyful ways, particularly with long-running stories such as those in the comics universes and Star Trek. All one has to do is Google “Star Trek in Name Only” or “fake geek girls” to see this dark side in action (though I would add significant content warnings to those searches for abuse of all kinds, especially misogynistic).

One particular manifestation of this dark side (pun intended) that I encounter anytime I talk about Star Wars is those who declare that the prequels “do not exist” (as if they somehow live in a parallel universe where the movies were not made and released), which has also led to the social media meme/trend where “real” fan-parents pledge to only show their children Episodes IV-VI, “as it should be.” I covered my personal frustration with this attitude in the Afterword of The Science Fiction Reboot but, the TL;DR of my take on the prequels versus original trilogy “debate” would be that it was never going to be possible for anyone, let alone a mere mortal like George Lucas, to recapture the magic fans associate with those original three movies for those who saw them between 1977 and 1999. What can be indisputably observed, however, is the magical effect the prequel trilogy and related television series (Clone Wars and now Rebels) has on the children born after 2000, who encounter all six episodes. The magic lives.

There are also those who have expressed similar indignation at the canon “trim” to the Star Wars universe currently in process at Lucasfilm/Disney Studios. Some fans who enjoyed the extended universe (primarily the novel series that continued the story post-Return of the Jedi) are quite distressed that the events and characters in those stories will not be part of the ongoing canon. And they have been quite vocal, even vulgar, about it online.

To use the cliche, it seems we are either damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Not all changes to canon in reboots work for all fans. And when we write it that directly, it seems so obvious. Yet, there are those who seem to believe that their self-proclaimed status in a particular fandom endows them with the authority to pass judgment over what is “allowed” in canon and what is not. Such “authority” also seems to include deciding who may identify as a fan and who may not. I’m not talking about criticism or critique; I mean outright rejection of a text’s existence as part of the canon. I have said to my students several times over various genre courses that when you reject a text, whether it is a reboot or a sequel or even just a story arc you didn’t like, you are also rejecting the fans of that text at the same time.

That is not the fandom community I want to be a part of. Rather, I can illustrate what fandom community can be with a brief story about the first time I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron on its opening weekend this past May. I was attending the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in Toronto and so went to a screening with a few fellow scholars. During our dinner after the movie, I spent most of my time answering questions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe for these three friends who were much more well-versed in the comics canon than I can ever hope to be. It could have become a competition at that point, and at other times in fan spaces it has, but we didn’t let it go there.

The competing levels of canon, and differing experiences with these stories, don’t have to be barriers to community or gates keeping the “unworthy” out of the realm. I’ve heard several times at conventions that the great thing about fandom is that when someone learns you haven’t read/watched/played a particular genre favorite, the response is not judgment or disdain but, in the vernacular, a “squee” of “Oh my God, you have to see/read/play it! Let me see if I have a copy with me I can lend you.” I’ve experienced both the dark and the light side of fandom and have seen canon employed for both good and evil (as it were).
Next up in the blog series on fandom and canon: the phenomenon known as “head canon.”

Hugo Award Eligible Work: Better Late Than Never

We are more than a month into Hugo Award nominating season and I have begun collecting recommendations for eligible works that I want to check out before the deadline of March 31, 2014.

And I suppose it is high time that I also posted details on my own Hugo-eligible book: The Science Fiction Reboot (eligible for Best Related Work).

The Science Fiction Reboot page here includes links and details about the analysis and conclusions I come to in the book about reboots such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, V, and even Star Wars. But here are a few you might be interested in visiting:

I am particularly proud of this book because of the way I was able to blend my academic training with my fandom. I was introduced to narrative theory in the fall 2000 semester, during the first required course of my Master of Arts in Writing program, and most definitely didn’t get it. But, as I grew as a scholar, I came to not only understand the theory, but also its inherent power for explaining my fannish experiences. This book, like my other publications, is so strongly rooted in fandom because it is based on several ideas I just couldn’t get out of my head until I wrote them down. So write them down I did.

But there are many more categories in the Hugos and here are just a few of the works/authors I am considering nominating (with related links):

** I’m not the only one recommending Lissa for this award, by the way. Harlan Ellison is urging us to do so as well. See this link to his boards for the original location of this blurb: “I urge any of you who have the Vote to suggest an excellent new writer named LISSA PRICE who wrote STARTERS for Random House YA last year for the upcoming bestowment of the John W. Campbell Award — Most Promising New Writer. A very good read, a sparkling choice for the JWC newcomer trophy. Go viral with this hurrah, if you like, and tell’m SFWA Grand Master Harlan Ellison sent’cha!”

And here are a few resources that list many other eligible works:

So my question is: What else am I missing? What else should be on my ballot?

You have until the end of March to leave a comment here with suggestions.

Happy reading/viewing!

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?

New article on reboots in Argentus 13

I have an article in the latest issue (#13) of Steve Silver’s zine, Argentus. In “When is a Prequel also a Reboot?” I extend the analysis of the viewing order of the Star Wars saga I started in The Science Fiction Reboot to include the fan-generated idea of the “machete version,” which tells the “story” starting  with A New Hope (IV) moves on to Empire (V) before jumping back to I through III and then finishing off with Jedi (VI).