Kathryn Allan's Blog

In addition to running Academic Editing Canada, I'm an Independent Scholar of disability studies and science fiction (specializing in cyberpunk and feminist SF). I'm the proud co-editor (with Djibril al-Ayad) of Accessing the Future, a disability-themed SF anthology; editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure; and the inaugural recipient of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship. My PhD thesis is awesome: Bleeding Chrome: Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post-Cyberpunk SF [pdf].

CFP: Digital Science Fiction

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 14:41

While I don't have time to submit an article for this special issue, given the wide range of media engagement with science fiction (and science fictional themes) these days, I certainly think it's worth sharing:

 

CFP: “Digital Science Fiction”

Science Fiction Studies special issue  

(Guest Editor: Paweł Frelik)

In the last few decades, digital technologies have dramatically reconfigured not only the circumstances of media production and dissemination, but also cultural genres and conventions expressed in them. Science fiction has not been immune to these changes, but their impact extends far beyond mere enhancement of sound or vision. In older media, such as science fiction film and television, special effects and non-linear editing have affected aesthetics as well as story-telling strategies and stories themselves. New sf media have emerged, too, most readily exemplified by video games.

While similar technologies have long been a thematic staple of sf, the actual arrival of digitality has proven somewhat problematic. Science fiction emerged as a predominantly narrative discourse and much of its cultural relevance has so far been ascribed to its capacity to address contemporary issues and anxieties through stories— but stories that are, ideally, plot- and psychology-driven, formally sophisticated, and conceptually complex. However, the centrality of traditionally-understood narrative in science fiction stands in direct opposition to the character of digital technology, which, as Andrew Darley noted, “endorses form over content, the ephemeral and superficial over permanence and depth, and the image itself over the image as referent.” This incompatibility has resulted in frequent denunciations of sf media forms that de-privilege narrative in favor of visuality or simulation.

Science Fiction Studies seeks articles for a special issue devoted to “Digital Science Fiction.” Both in-depth analyses of individual authors or texts and more general, theoretical discussions are invited. We are specifically interested in submissions focused on videogames and virtual environments; digital art, graphics, and illustration; electronic music; music videos; and apps, software, and cybertexts.

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

  • critical and theoretical tools and approaches to digital science fiction;
  • digital technologies and their impact on definitions of science fiction;
  • digitality and sf’s thematic preoccupations – limitation, extension, revision?
  • visuality and simulation as new modes of meaning-creation;
  • the politics of digital science fiction;
  • digitality and the transformation of sf narrative;
  • materiality of digital technologies in science fiction;
  • digital transmedia texts.

Abstracts of 500 words should be submitted by 15 February 2014 to Paweł Frelik (<pawel[dot]frelik[at]umcs[dot]edu[dot]pl). Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by 1 March 2014. Full drafts (5,000 to 7,000 words) will be due by 31 August 2014. The issue is provisionally scheduled for November 2015.

Feminist Science Fiction for the Win!

Friday, 15 November 2013 20:28

Last year, I took to saying that 2013 would be my “debut year” as an independent scholar. After transitioning away from academia, establishing Academic Editing Canada, delivering conference papers, writing articles, and editing a book, I felt that I was finally starting to see my new (portfolio) career path solidify ahead of me. I could not have predicted, however, just how exciting this year would turn out. The publication of my collection, Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, this past August was a big deal for me—I’m still in wonder that I made that I made a book happen. I haven’t yet come across any published reviews of Disability in Science Fiction, but positive appraisals have begun reaching me by word of mouth, so I can’t be any happier about that whole project. With the edited collection alone, 2013 was shaping up to a significant year in my professional life.

Until two weeks ago, I had no idea that I would be achieving another major milestone: on November 8, I was named the first ever Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow. I cannot express how deeply honoured I am to have received this award. The fellowship is a $3000 grant to perform research at the University of Oregon’s Knight Library Special Collections and Archive, which houses an amazing treasure trove feminist SF papers. The title of my proposed project is "'The Other Lives'--Locating Dis/Ability in Utopian Feminist SF" (which I will blog about more soon). It isn’t the money that I am excited about here (although it is certainly extremely helpful), but that other people think that my scholarly work is important and has an impact on the field of feminist SF studies. I still cannot quite believe my good fortune.

This past weekend (Nov. 8-9), I attended the Sally Miller Gearhart “Worlds Beyond World” Utopian Feminist Science Fiction symposium (held as part of the celebration of the U of O’s The Center for the Study of Women in Society’s 40th anniversary celebration). Even if the I wasn’t chosen as the inaugural Le Guin Feminist SF fellow (which was officially announced before Le Guin’s keynote reading and interview), I still would have made the trek to beautiful Eugene. An event like this one doesn’t come along too often these days. In attendance were many of the feminist SF writers I’ve long admired: Vonda N. McIntyre, Sally Miller Gearhart, Molly Gloss, Kate Wilhelm, Suzy McKee Charnas, L. Timmel Duchamp, Hiromi Goto, Andrea Hairston, Larissa Lai, and, of course, Ursula K. Le Guin. In addition, there were many wonderful feminist SF scholars in attendance. I was pleased to meet (or reconnect with) Margaret McBride, Alexis Lothian, Joan Haran, Liz Henry, and Grace Dillon, along with all of the keen and dedicated grad students too numerous to individually name here. It was a real treat to inhabit a space that was full of intelligent and passionate talk about feminism, science fiction, and fandom.

In a word, I found this weekend overwhelming. In the best possible way. In an if-I-think-about-it-too-long-I-start-crying kind of way. Because graduate school was damn difficult and painful. Because the past three years have been full of hard decisions and sometimes unbearable loneliness. During the panel I was on (focused on current feminist SF research), I said that attending this symposium felt like “I was coming home.” It has been a very long time since I last felt such ease at being part of something larger than myself. I’ve enjoyed my time at fan conventions, and I certainly have a fondness for academic conferences like ICFA, but none of those gatherings have been as welcoming, stimulating, and just plain right as the feminist SF symposium. Over the past few years, I have often felt too fannish for the academics and too academic for the fans. At the Worlds Beyond World symposium, however, I didn’t feel that I had too much or not enough of some intangible quality to belong. I wasn’t the only feminist in the room (far from it). I didn’t have to defend being an independent scholar (in fact, people wanted to know more). It was a celebration of everything I love about science fiction, feminist and otherwise.

There were so many amazing and surprising experiences I had during the symposium that it is going to take me a few weeks to process everything. I definitely want to share more of my thoughts, so I will write more posts as soon as I can about what I learned at the symposium, about my fellowship, and my current/upcoming research activities. Things are good!

Links to Share

Friday, 01 November 2013 19:51

My edited collection, Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, has been out for a couple of months now. It is available in print and ebook from most booksellers worldwide. I have occasionally checked the internet for mentions of the book and my other published writing, and, to my absolute delight, there are people out there who are interested in my work! There have been no reviews of Disability in Science Fiction yet, but I though I'd post a roundup of some sites that have featured the book or my other recent writing in some notable & awesome way.

I want to thank all the individuals out there who have helped spread the word about Disability in Science Fiction through tweets, blogs, and word of mouth. Each signal boost is appreciated!

Working the Freelance Life

Tuesday, 29 October 2013 14:48

Two weeks ago, long time tweep, historian, and fellow Canadian Merle Massie (@merlemassie) asked me: “Do you recommend your editing/writing life to others? Twitter provides a mix of positive and draining notes.” My first response, in all honesty, was “no.” But that was because I’m feeling overworked, tired, and not at my best. I hesitated. There are so many different kinds of life situations and career paths, and, as a rule, I do not give blank statements on what people should do with their lives. For the most part, I really love what I do day to day. I thoroughly enjoy editing other people’s writing and independent scholarship is pretty darn fun. The truest answer I can give is “it depends.” A wholly unsatisfying response, I know. Instead of tweeting Merle all day long with my work/life reflections, I decided to write this blog post.

The biggest con of a freelancing editing/writing life is uncertainty. Of all the challenges involved in a freelancing life, uncertainty is at the top of my list. I would prefer to have a set amount of hours to work each week and know that those hours will remain in place for the foreseeable future. This is often not the case with freelancing. Some weeks I might only have 5 hours of paid work, while other weeks I put in over 30 hours. In terms of money then, that means my monthly earnings can vary greatly. There are many strategies to avoid long gaps between client work, but when you are just starting out, you will need to plan for inevitable lean periods. You can definitely make a good living doing freelance editing and writing, but you must be willing to accept a certain amount of uncertainty in work hours and income. The longer you are freelancing, the better you will become, hopefully, at networking and advertising, but it really isn’t a job you can just pick up and be immediately successful.

Being a Canadian makes a freelancing editing/writing life a lot easier (since we have government funded health care), but you are still entering a marketplace flooded with other people trying to grab the same customers as you. To be a successful freelancer, you will need to spend time developing a business plan, have a professional internet profile (i.e., personal website, etc.), and learn the art of networking. I actually think of myself as more of an entrepreneur than as a freelancer editor. When I can, I go to local business networking events and do what I can to positively get my name—and services—out there (in the community, on the internet).

The biggest pro of my portfolio career (academic editing, coaching, and scholarship) is that my schedule is flexible. Since I have some chronic pain issues that need managing to avoid debilitating flare ups, being in control of how much I work and when I work is essential to being as happy and productive as I can be. Take this month for example: at the beginning of October, I had several client projects on the go and was putting in full days of editing and coaching. And then I was glutened badly. I was out sick for a week…and then I came down with the flu. It totally sucked being unwell for two weeks but I didn’t “miss” any work because I was able to reschedule and reorganize my client commitments. The weeks I was ill, I made a point not to look for immediate work. I still checked email but simply scheduled any incoming work for the following weeks when I knew that I would (most likely) be well enough to work again. Having that kind of flexibility and ownership over my time is worth any uncertainty around workload and income.

So, to Merle and anyone else interested in pursuing a similar editing/writing life, I recommend spending time figuring out your top work priorities. How do you feel about uncertainty in income? How much money a month do you need to make to support yourself (and your family)? Do you have health issues that need managing? Do you like working by yourself? I have a partner who works full time, we have no dependents (just a spoiled cat), and we’re in a city that is quite affordable to live in. I chose my current career path because it made sense to me. I often tell people that my PhD has enabled me to make an excellent “part-time” career for myself. And for now, the writing/coaching/scholar life is the best fit for me.

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