LoneStarCon 3 (a.k.a.The 71st World Science Fiction Convention) will be held in San Antonio, Texas from August 29 ‐ September 2, 2013.
Guests of Honor: Ellen Datlow, James Gunn, Willie Siros, Norman Spinrad, Darrell K. Sweet, Leslie Fish, and Joe R. Lansdale
The academic track of the 2013 WorldCon is soliciting papers on all topics related to the science fiction and fantasy genres. We especially encourage papers related to the work of the guests of honor (listed above). Work on Steampunk, Old West/frontier themes, and Spanish language sf is also appreciated. Science fiction has long benefitted from works of criticism and scholarship from those outside the academy, a tradition that GoH Dr. James Gunn helped encourage. Paper proposals from both academics and non‐academics (fans) are welcome.
Paper proposals must include a 300-500 word abstract and appropriate bibliography. Proposals are due by December 31 2012, and participants will be notified by February 1, 2013 if their paper is accepted. All participants must be members of the convention. They will deliver a 15 minute reading of their paper as part of a panel, followed by a Q&A. Attendees may present only one paper at WorldCon, so please, no multiple submissions. All submissions (and any questions) should be sent to the head of the academic track, Karen Burnham (academic[at]texas.lonestarcon3[dot]org)
In only two weeks from today, I will be off to Chicago for Chicon 7 - The 70th World Science Fiction Convention. To say that I am looking forward to it is an understatement. I am totally excited! Being my third time attending, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to navigate the con. At the top of my list of things-to-do this year is attend lots of author readings and try and stay awake past 9:00pm so that I can go to the parties. I'm also happy to be a panelist this year. At Anticipations (Montreal) and Renovations (Reno) I delivered academic papers, but didn't want to go that route this year (which is good, seeing as there is no academic track as far as I can tell). While it is still possible that it might change (especially in terms of my fellow panelists), here is my draft panel schedule:
Thursday 3:00 - 4:30 The Alien as Metaphor
Movie aliens aren't real aliens; they're humans in disguise. What do movie and TV aliens tell us about us? Is it surprising that during the Cold War the enemy aliens were often from Mars... the "Red Planet?" Do the aliens of "Avatar" tell us something about how we exploit primitive cultures? Is "Paul" a variation of the "fan as Slan?" We have met the aliens and they are us.
Panelists: Daniel M.Kimmel, Eric Hayden, Jason Schachat, John G. Hemry/Jack Campbell, Me! (moderator)
Thursday 4:30 - 6:00 Should SF Be More Optimistic?
When authors talked about the slow pace of technological innovation, the technologists turned around and criticized science fiction for its lack of vision in recent years, saying SF authors spend too much time on dystopian visions like The Road, The Walking Dead, and the I, Robot film. What happened to the optimistic future of Star Trek? Are writers spending too much effort on worst-case scenarios instead of what might be accomplished? Is any of this the fault of readers, publishers, or media companies?
Panelists: Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Me!, Katy Stauber, Lynda Williams ORU (moderator), Niall Harrison
Sunday 9:00 - 10:30 Fat People in Space
Based on our genre, there aren\'t any. Why not?
Panelists: Farah Mendlesohn (moderator), Julia S. Mandala, Me!, Petrea Mitchell
Sunday 3:00 - 4:30 Innerspace vs. Outerspace
Are the stars, or even the solar system, in humanity's future? Recent progress in genetics, neuroscience, computing, and nanotechnology has far outstripped progress in space exploration or travel. The problems that press on people and society the most - health care, aging, mental health, energy supplies, a damaged environment - have more to do with managing our planet than venturing into space. Should science fiction spend more time on the topics of inner space than outer space?
Panelists: Bill Higgins (moderator), Edward M. Lerner, Me!, Tad Daley
Overall, I am happy with the topics, but I wish that I had better time slots. I guess as a newbie to the SF community, I'm off to as good of a start as anyone, so I'm certainly not complaining. I do find the gender break down of the panelists interesting. For instance, there aren't any men listed on the "Fat People in Space" panel, and there are no women panelists on the "Alien as Metaphor" panel (except for me of course, but I'm listed as moderator). Gender parity is definitely something I will be paying closer attention to this year.
I hope that I will be able to reconnect with all of the cool people I met at previous cons, as well as get to know a whole lot more. I'm ready Chicago!
Good-bye academia, hello fandom! I know, I know. I technically left academia nearly a year ago at the completion of my PhD, but like in any massive breakup, there has been baggage. I have been working through my issues with my graduate education by writing on this blog. Overall, writing about my experience in grad school has been cathartic and has let me connect with others in similar positions. If anything, my disenfranchisement with academia has only deepened over time and I am entirely confident that I made the right decision to leave.
Still, the shadow of academe has loomed large over me this past year. Most of the people with whom I spend time I met in grad school and our conversations inevitably turn towards departmental politics and frustrations over our employment prospects. I have been waiting for the decisive break when I stop looking back and begin to move forward into a venture of my own design. I am happy to announce that Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, in Reno (Aug. 17-21) was the break I was waiting for all this time.
I was uncertain as to what to expect of this WorldCon. My only other experience of intensive fandom was in 2009, when I attended WorldCon in Montreal. As I mentioned before, I was overwhelmed with people and panels during that trip and my presentation was less than stellar. Going into Renovation this year I set myself three goals: to talk to as many people as I could, present an engaging paper (leaving time for meaningful discussion), and to pitch my non-fiction book idea. On all accounts, I met with greater success than I could ever have imagined. I talked with writers and fans until I was literally exhausted. My paper presentation was awesome (Laura J. Mixon attended! More on that to come in another post) and we had a productive discussion about race in SF. My book idea was met with enthusiasm and sincere interest. To put in bluntly: I received more positive feedback during the 5 days of the con than I did in the entire 6+ years of my graduate education.
Part of the reason for the difference in response is obviously due to the fact that everyone at WorldCon loves SF/F, while I only met one or two individuals in academia who had a passing interest in the genre. As I noted before, SF is still a marginalized field of academic study. It just felt good to be surrounded by people who love SF as much as I do. Even when our specific interests diverged (because there are many different sub-genres in SF/F), the tone of conversation was one of sharing favourite authors and books instead of the never-ending academic competition of “who is better read.” I left Reno with a long list of books to read and a buoyed sense of self-esteem.
I am also acutely aware of the problems that exist within fandom. It is not a fairy-tale realm where everyone gets along and all of the world’s problems are solved. Sexism and racism are still issues that need addressing in SF/F fandom. Women writers, especially those who openly write feminist or queer SF, are still overshadowed by their male (heterosexual) peers. The marginalized presence and participation of people of colour at SF conventions is a site of great anxiety that is in desperate need of open conversation (one that is particularly pressing in my Canadian eyes). With these limitations in mind, I nevertheless feel that fandom is currently ready for significant change. As the generational split in fandom becomes more obvious (between the 50+s who have been attending cons since the 1960s/70s and the latest group of 20- and 30-somethings who bring with them the comic and gaming culture of the 1980s/90s), I believe that the conversations around the limits of fandom have the opportunity to evoke a real shift in the SF/F demographic.
Whereas I felt that I had limited impact on the same biases present in academia, I feel that I can perhaps create generative change within fandom. Someone had mentioned to me that it was a shame that I left academia as they need strong feminist women there, but I believe that the SF/F community needs them too. Instead of staying in academia and talking with a handful of colleagues who already agree with my politics, going into fandom introduces me to new people whose socio-political ideas are different from my own. While conversations around race, gender, ability, and sexuality, may not flow as easily as they would in a graduate classroom, the majority of the people I met at WorldCon are open to discussing (or, perhaps more accurately, debating) new ideas. The old fannish want to see fandom continue – and that means fandom must change to become more inclusive.
While I still don’t know with any certainty where I will be in terms of my career in the near future, I know that I want it to be within the SF community. Fandom offers me the opportunity to continue my research into SF and provides me with an eager and engaged audience for it. I can already map out some of the arguments that need to take place and I look forward to discovering new areas of contention (because that is where work needs to take place). I don’t want my life to be boring and safe. I want to live on my own terms and I want to be a positive and productive force in the world. SF, by its very nature as a speculative genre, coincides with my philosophy: to look ahead, to challenge and, hopefully, to change the future. So: Hello fandom. My name is Kathryn Allan, I’m a Feminist, and I’m just getting started …
An excerpt from the Conclusion of my thesis that explains why I want to study representations of disability in SF:
In addition to advocating for more attention to be devoted to reading race in SF, I feel that addressing issues of disability and the suffering body as depicted in SF narratives (feminist or otherwise) is also pressing. As the pace of advancements in prosthetic and other computerized assisted-living technologies quickens, we, as a culture, find ourselves faced with new possibilities for disabled bodies and embodiments. As I have always been interested in disability studies, it is a regret that I did not better engage with theories of disability and the technologically enabled body in this thesis. My own experience with chronic illness and pain has deepened my interest in this line of inquiry, but I also believe that there is a need within the SF community itself to engage with more images of disability.
During my participation at The 67th World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in August 2009, I attended a panel discussion of disability in SF: the room was absolutely packed with people, most of whom identified as disabled. Throughout the hour, people shared their stories of identifying with specific disabled (or bodily limited) characters and insightfully critiqued the technologies imagined within these SF scenarios. I found the communal desire to discuss disability, as it is represented in SF, overwhelming. I would encourage academics working in the field of SF criticism to pay closer attention to the representation of disability in SF narratives (particularly in terms of reimagining the possibility of transcendence from the suffering body), as the SF community has demonstrated its eagerness to engage with the material and it offers a rich site of investigation into questions of embodiment and identity.
Two years ago, I was able to attend the World Science Conference (WorldCon) in Montreal. It was my first experience being part of a SF gathering and I was completely overwhelmed. My time in academia was quite lonely as SF scholars are few and far between, so it was truly exciting to be amongst people who like SF as much as I do. I only wish I had made contact with more individuals one-on-one, but I kind of floated through the five days in a SF-culture-shock induced daze.
It also didn’t help that I was in the middle of my “angry with the PhD” phase and ended up doing a not-so-great job presenting my academic-track paper (to all 6 people who were in the room, my belated apologies). Still, I had a blast and I knew that I wanted to do more SF conferences when health, time, and money allowed.
This year, I am going to Reno for Renovation, the 69th WorldCon in August. My partner and I have been planning on attending for over a year now, so when my paper was accepted in Renovation’s Academic Track (Speculative Frontiers: Reading, Seeing, Being, Going), I booked the hotel and started thinking costumes. This time around, I intend to mingle up a storm!
Here is the abstract for my paper:
Technology as Cure? Virtuality, Proxies, and the Vulnerable Human Body
While technology is often considered a “silver bullet” for the multitude of deformities and ailments of the vulnerable human body, feminist post-cyberpunk fiction, as exemplified by Tricia Sullivan’s Maul (2003) and Laura Mixon’s Proxies (1999), cautions against technophilia and “technology as cure.” Sullivan and Mixon position the idea of a virtual “body-free universe” as one that both parallels and conflicts with the reality of the lived bodies that populate and enable it. Drawing on posthumanist and feminist theories, this paper interrogates the relationship between the body and technology, expressing anxieties about physical boundary dissolution and psychic disruption. While technology is often used to disavow the inherent vulnerability of the body, the resulting forms of embodiment are frequently monstrous. This paper focuses on the ways in which gendered, raced, and disabled bodies are simultaneously enhanced and exploited through virtual reality and telepresence technologies. Ultimately, I argue that these texts insist on recognizing the vulnerability of the flesh as a defining trait of what constitutes human being.