WorldCon Newbie

Tuesday, 14 June 2011 14:23

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.

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