Displaying items by tag: SF
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:25

World SF Cinema and Television - CFP

Another tempting CFP. Going to ICFA last month reminded me how much I enjoy critically viewing SF-film, particularly non-Anglophone/American SF film. I took a lot of (non-Anglophone) film courses during undergrad and seriously considered pursuing media/film studies in graduate school (instead of English Literature). The deadline isn't until the fall, so I have time to put together something worthwhile. CFP follows:


Science Fiction Film and Television (http://liverpool.metapress.com/content/121631/) is seeking articles for a special issue in on world sf cinema and television.

Although excluding the US from discussions of world cinema and television creates a problematic opposition(ality), we are seeking critical work on sf from other national/transnational, and especially non-Anglophone, contexts, both historical and contemporary.

We are particularly, but not exclusively, interested in work which introduces and/or offers fresh insights into specific national cinemas/televisions, or which reconceptualises sf by relativising US/First Cinema variants as culturally-specific approaches rather than generic norms, or which addresses the following:

·           globalisation

·           transnationalism

·           imperialism, neo-imperialism, post-imperialism

·           colonialism, decolonisation, neo-colonialism, post-colonialism

·           sf from the Third World/Developing World/Global South

·           indigenous, Fourth World and Fourth Cinema sf

·           the subaltern

·           nationhood, national identity, regional identity

·           race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality

·           global networks, informational black holes

·           borders, borderlands

·           homelands, migrations, diasporas

·           national, international or transnational contexts of production, distribution or consumption

·           specific production cycles

Submissions should be made via our website at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/lup-sfftv.


Any queries should be directed to the editors, Mark Bould (mark.bould[at]gmail.com) and Sherryl Vint (sherryl.vint[at]gmail.com).


The deadline for submission to this special issue is September 1 2013.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
Call for Papers
The 2013 Joint Eaton/SFRA Conference
Science Fiction Media
April 10-14, 2013
Riverside Marriott Hotel
Riverside, California
This conference—cosponsored by the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy (UC Riverside) and the Science Fiction Research Association—will examine science fiction in multiple media. The past several decades have witnessed an explosion in SF texts across the media landscape, from film and TV to comics and digital games. We are interested in papers that explore SF as a multimedia phenomenon, whether focusing on popular mass media, such as Hollywood blockbusters, or on niche and subcultural forms of expression, such as MUDs and vidding. We invite paper and panel proposals that focus on all forms of SF, including prose fiction, and that address (but are not limited to) the following topics:
  • Mainstream Hollywood vs. Global SF Cinema
  • SF Comics and Manga
  • SF Anime and Animation
  • SF on the Internet and the World Wide Web
  • Multimedia “dispersed” SF narratives
  • Fandom, Cosplay, Mashups, and Remixing
  • Broadcast and Cable SF Television
  • SF Videogames
  • World’s Fairs, Theme Parks, and other “Material” SF Media
  • Short-form SF film
  • Afrofuturism
  • SF and/in Music
  • SF Idiom and Imagery in Advertising
  • Webisodes and TV Games
  • SF Art and Illustration
The conference will also feature the fourth Science Fiction Studies Symposium on the topic of “SF Media(tions),” with speakers Mark Bould, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., and Vivian Sobchack. Keynote speakers and special guests will be announced as they are confirmed; see the conference website at http://eatonconference.ucr.edu/ for periodic updates.
Conference sessions will be held at the newly remodeled and centrally located Riverside Marriott Hotel, with rooms at a reduced conference rate ($109). For more about the hotel, see their website at: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/ hotel-information/travel/ralmc-riverside-marriott.
A block of rooms will also be available at a discount ($139) at the historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa two blocks from the Marriott: http://missioninn.com.
Rooms in both hotels are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Abstracts of 500 words (for papers of 20-minutes in length) should be submitted by September 14, 2012. We also welcome panel proposals gathering three papers on a cohesive topic. Send electronic submissions to conference co-chair Melissa Conway at Melissa.Conway@ucr.edu with the subject heading: EATON/SFRA CONFERENCE PROPOSAL. Please include a brief bio with your abstract and indicate whether your presentation would require A/V. Participants will be informed by December 1 if their proposals have been accepted.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog

Last week I attended my first ICFA – it was an amazing conference and I’m still processing all of the information force-downloaded into my brain. I met dozens of interesting and brilliant scholars and writers, as well as received a deep validation of my own career choices. Last week also marks, roughly, the first year anniversary of Academic Editing Canada. I’m not sure exactly, because I never bothered to celebrate the date of my sole proprietorship’s launch last March. As anyone who has been following my blog knows, I left graduate school in the fall of 2010 feeling defeated and suffering from depression and chronic pain. So when I launched AEC in at the start of 2011, I had only the barest glimmer of hope. I could imagine the possibility of success, but only in the way that I can kind of imagine what being an astronaut or billionaire must be like.

Needless to say, I was not prepared for actually succeeding on my own, but here I am, with enough client work to keep me employed and support my independent scholarship (i.e. free up time to research/write and provide resources to attend SF cons). I’m absolutely gobsmacked at what I’ve accomplished. It’s not that I’m rolling in cash (far from it), nor am I racking up prestigious publications (so far). Yet I am happy – I have the academic job I always wanted!

From the completion of my PhD, it took me over 6 months to separate out what I liked about academia and drew me there in the first place from all of the stuff that I detested and could no longer endure. Once I worked out the basics of what I loved doing, I started shaping my career plans around them (creating, what is commonly called, a portfolio career). This is how I have ended up working as a copy editor (primarily for academic texts), dissertation coach, and independent scholar. Just as PhDs looking for non-academic careers need to articulate their “transferable skills,” I began thinking about how I could transfer or recreate the kinds of work I enjoyed performing in academia. Here’s what I did:

I moved my love of teaching and working with students one-on-one in the classroom into copy editing (where I assist people in improving their communication) and into dissertation coaching (where I get to practice mentorship). Basically, I have replaced “students” with “clients,” which, admittedly, is not really much of a stretch these days. I am engaged with people looking to improve their knowledge and skill base, but now I choose with whom I work and I never have to give or defend a C grade ever again. Down the line, I might want to pursue more active teaching avenues, such as working as a corporate trainer, and so I am already networking to keep that possibility open.

Working as an academic copy editor and coach also allows me the space to work with scholarly ideas and get paid at the same time. While a portion of my day-to-day work deals with subject matter outside of my immediate interest, I frequently get to edit challenging and thought provoking texts. In the year that I’ve been copy editing, I have not once been bored by the material I am hired to make better. I have learned about everything from pain management for recovering addicts to the intricacies of the Indo-Pak war of 1965. In terms of dissertation coaching, every client brings with them a unique set of knowledges and challenges. I’ve helped PhD students with all-things thesis, from developing writing schedules to reviewing what it means to “critically read” articles. The variety of work I encounter is fantastic … and it’s only becoming more interesting as time goes on.

And the best pay-off from doing this fun, engaging, and fulfilling work? It allows me the flexibility and opportunity to pursue my science fiction research. When I’m not doing client work, I turn my attention to reading SF, watching SF, writing about SF, and going to SF-centered events. Yep. It’s pretty freaking amazing. Being an Independent Scholar is way more awesome than I first thought. My worries about not being taken seriously by “real” academics? Gone. Going to ICFA confirmed to me that, in the field of SF studies anyways, my contributions to scholarship are valued and desired. I am now even more determined to put my head down and research/write my heart out.

I should add that I am able to maintain my portfolio career (copy editor/coach/scholar) because I am in a unique and privileged position. While I am certainly far from wealthy, I earn more than I did as a graduate student (which was practically nothing), I live in Canada where my healthcare is covered by the state, and I have a supportive partner (both in terms of financial and emotional support) and no dependents (only one little cat). We decided together, long ago, that we would work jobs that we love, even if it meant a materialistic minimal lifestyle. We rent. We have a hand-me-down vehicle. We don’t go on costly vacations or buy things we don’t need. But we work at jobs of our own creation and on our own terms.

All in all, I’m happy with my career success to date. The pay might not be the same, but I wouldn’t trade the freedom I have – to choose my work, clients, hours, research direction – for a tenure track position, even if one was magically dropped on my lap. What makes me really excited is knowing that I’m only at the start of my new career. There are so many opportunities, both known and unknown, ahead of me and I can’t wait to take them as they come. It’s a revelation (and a welcome one): I dared to quit the university and I’m doing okay. Actually, no. Scratch that. I’m doing great.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog

Sometimes, good things take time and you never know what the future holds. That pretty much sums up my experience with M.J. Locke’s Up Against It (2011). Not taking time now, I want state right away that Locke’s book is not a slow book – in fact, the reader is immediately thrown into the distant future world of the asteroid colony Phocaea. Locke’s world-building is detailed, but not overwhelming, as she manages to balance the unknown with the familiar. Up Against It is hard SF – and it is marketed as such – but it also contains many elements of the lesser appreciated and read (in the popular genre market) feminist SF. The central character, Jane Navio, is a strong, three-dimensional figure; she isn’t perfect, but she tries to do right by herself and by the community she serves. From the novel’s outset, there is a dance between the old and the new, what should be kept and what can be lost. A most fitting theme for both science fiction as a genre and for the place of the writer and critic within it.

I probably would never have read Up Against It if I had not met Locke herself at the last WorldCon in Reno, where she kindly gave me a signed copy. You see, I didn’t know that M. J. Locke existed. I only knew of Laura J. Mixon, writer of such great feminist SF books like Glass Houses (1992), Proxies (1998), and Burning the Ice (2002). Proxies was one of the four texts that analyzed in my dissertation and I was presenting on it at WorldCon where Laura surprised me by attending my talk (a new PhD’s worst/best nightmare scenario). I was apprehensive at having her there at first – since I was critically reading her use of gender and race – but her presence in the room was distinctly positive, leading to one of the best discussions I’ve had about the representation of race in SF at any con. When she told me that she had a new book out, I was excited. I truly enjoyed Laura’s earlier work and wanted to get my hands on this latest novel (as it had been nine years since the Burning the Ice). Laura kindly gifted me a hard cover copy and I promised to read it right away (I didn’t, but I’ll come back to that).

When I read the promo line on the cover, George R. R. Martin proclaiming, “Fans of hard SF will eat this up and shout for more,” my first reaction, in all honesty, was one of disappointment. After a few unfortunate encounters with hard SF that was overly masculine and pedantic, I don’t normally read the subgenre and even avoid it. I like SF that questions and challenges the “whys” and “ifs” of technology, not the SF that describes worm holes and lasers in mind-numbing accurate detail. Putting aside my prejudice – this was a book by the writer of Proxies after all! – I began reading and by the time I was done the first twenty-pages, I recognized the feminist SF writer that I admired from her earlier works. Laura J. Mixon wasn’t entirely transformed into this strange new hard SF writer, M. J. Locke, she was presenting herself differently. I am totally fine with that choice.

On her website, Feral Sapient, Locke writes about her decision to change her byline and the effect it had on some of her long-time readers (read the essay, “Hidden Bouquet”). She worried that readers would feel that: “by choosing a gender-neutral byline, I prioritized my own success [as a writer] over my commitment to my fellow women in SFF and science.” She then goes on to say that: “We face a headwind, we women in technology and science. I tried to meet it head-on, on my first go-round. I got knocked back on my heels. Hard. This time I decided to try a different tack. Quite literally, I’m tacking against that headwind. It’s a gamble. We’ll have to see.” As a fan of the work of Laura J. Mixon, I was a bit sad to see her distance herself from that byline. But as a fellow feminist and human being who has also faced challenging times and reinvented myself, I can empathize with Locke and, in fact, applaud her for defining herself as she sees fit. She dared to step away from the comfort of the familiar and make herself anew in an uncertain future.

And this is very much the journey that plays out in Up Against It. I am not comparing the writer with the character, as those kinds of assessments are misleading and inaccurate, but I cannot help but read the same kinds of human stresses and gambles being played out in the novel. This is the feminist heart of Up Against It. Yes, there are impressive nanotechnologies, asteroid mines, space scooters, and AIs, but those technological elements do not rule the narrative. Instead, it is the struggles of the people within this future society that capture the reader’s attention. When Jane Navio faces the ethical dilemma of how to deal with an emergent life form – the feral sapient – I too wondered, “What would I do? What do I value as life?” Locke provides no easy answers or solutions, but offers us ways in which we can cope with life-alter(nat)ing change. We can, like Jane, return to our communities and redefine our place within them, or we can, like the feral sapient, emerge brand new and unfettered by what has gone before.

I realize that, for a book review, I haven’t really talked that much about the actual book. Well, it’s because I’m still thinking over the narrative and working out its successes and frustrations. I read Up Against It over 8 long months. I was slow, not because I found the book lacking in anyway, but because its very existence came into my awareness during my own transformative moment of leaving academia and becoming an independent scholar. When I went to WorldCon last year, I was scared. I felt like an outsider. And suddenly, I connected with one of the writers whose novels helped me get through some of my darkest times. Accepting M. J. Locke meant accepting that everything that had come before is indeed passed and gone. That people change. That I change. Science fiction is about the present world and where it may lead us. Up Against It reminds the reader, “This too shall pass.” Yes, it’s a gamble. We’ll have to see.

[Update! M.J. Locke responds with "Writers Write" (via her blog, Feral Sapient)]

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog

While my reading list is heavily science fiction these days, I haven’t always read exclusively in the genre. I have posted before about my relatively small home SF/F library – if I have a book on my shelf, it’s because I really, really, love it. As I am about to embark on a SF-only research and reading binge for the foreseeable future, I thought it would be fun to write up a quick post about my non-SF favourite reads. Looking at the list of titles now, I can already see that I had an interest in stories about other worlds and other times. Transitioning into SF was a natural progression of my reading tastes. Here are some of my all-time favourite novels:

The Master and Margarita (1966) by Mikhail Bulgakov

In my undergrad days, I took a few Russian Literature courses – reading Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita was among one of my first transcendent reading experiences. Not only does he perform a crushing satire of Stalin’s regime, but his use of magic realism, historical revision, and grotesque and enigmatic characters, still captures my imagination today even though it’s been nearly a decade since I last read it. A novel I will return to throughout my life.

Doctor Zhivago (1958) by Boris Pasternak

The divided heart of poet. The Russian Revolution. That damn Lara. I’m not usually one for reading romances, but Pasternak’s story of love, morality, faith, art, and the human spirit will tear at the heartstrings of even the most hardened of us. Plus, there’s a really great film adaptation to watch once you’re done reading the book.

Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys

A minimalist novel – there is a story that Rhys felt that only one or two words were superfluous in the entire text – that made me say, “yes, I am a feminist and I want to read more books like this” (I was about 18, 19). Inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Rhys tells the story of Antoinette Cosway, a “Creole heiress” in 1830s Jamaica. A favourite novel to use in undergrad classes about postcolonialism and feminism, I highly recommend Wide Sargasso Sea to anyone who enjoys reading (feminist) revisions of classic texts.

The Passion (1987) by Jeanette Winterson

Admission: I own every Winterson book, except her latest two. As an undergrad, I was kinda Winterson crazy. And that’s okay. I ended up writing my Master’s thesis on her work. While my love affair with her has dimmed substantially over the past decade, I still love The Passion. The narrative is somewhere between fairy-tale, historical revision, and magic realism, but really it is Winterson’s ability to express the turmoil of unrequited love that makes this book a winner for me. If you like The Passion, try Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry (1989) as a follow up.

Wild Geese (1925) by Martha Ostenso

An early Canadian masterpiece of modern realist fiction – it has all the dreariness and weight of Wuthering Heights, but set in the wild prairies and with a kickass heroine (Judith Gare). Never have I hated a character so thoroughly and purely as much as the tyrant father, Caleb Gare (that bastard!). Wild Geese is a truly remarkable – and readable – piece of Canadian literature. If you can find it, read it.

You Just Can’t Win (1926/reprint 1988, 2000) by Jack Black

A truly wonderful and rich autobiography of Jack Black, a yegg (criminal) scratching out survival in the hobo underworld in early America. A narrative of a forgotten part of American history, filled with real life characters who have names like Salt Chunk Mary and Foot-and-a-half George, make this the best damn autobiography I have ever read. Seriously. Someone needs to make a movie of You Just Can’t Win. I have sworn that if no one else will do it in the next 5 years, I will start writing the screen play adaptation myself.

There are other favs on my list, but these 6 titles are definitely at the top of the pile. I am not one for re-reading novels, but I have read all of these at least twice and intend to go back to them in the future. Happy reading everyone!

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog

After several recent conversations with the science fiction uninitiated, I thought it would be a good idea to delve into my dissertation again and share an edited except – this time, I want to address the question: “what is feminist SF and how is it different from the ‘regular’ SF?” The following discussion has been taken from the "Introduction" to Bleeding Chrome: Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post-Cyberpunk SF (2010).

Feminist SF – from the feminist utopias of the 1970s to the feminist dystopias of the 1980s – has a long-established relationship of pushing corporeal-technological relationships beyond “man uses machine” into territories wherein technology is both socially productive and regulating. The body is often a site of critical engagement with established feminist SF writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Marge Piercy, Pat Cadigan, and James Triptree Jr., (as well as in my own research, which focuses on the latest generation of feminist SF writers, such as Larissa Lai, Nalo Hopkinson, Tricia Sullivan, and Laura Mixon).

In their introduction to Reload, Austin and Booth explain that “Women’s science fiction came into its own in the 1960s and 1970s. Science fiction was a form in which women writers could tease out the implications of second-wave feminism, with a particular focus on manipulating cultural structures and hierarchies” (4). Feminist SF became an identifiable subgenre that afforded women writers the space to explore not only ideas of second-wave feminism, but also to imagine new concepts of gendered and racialized identity. Referring to the wave of feminist science fiction (which was often utopian) of the 1970s, Jenny Wolmark contends that:

Despite their ambiguous and sometimes embattled position within a genre that still appears to have a preponderance of white male authors and readers, these narratives have not only been able to make significant inroads into the dominant representations of gender, but they have also stretched the limits and definitions of the genre. (“Postmodern Romances” 231)

Indeed, the contribution of women writers from James Triptree Jr. (who challenged gendered identity in the 1960s and 1970s male-dominated world of SF) through Ursula Le Guin and Monique Wittig (writing the feminist utopias of the 1970s) to Octavia Butler and Marge Piercy (bringing feminist SF into the SF mainstream throughout the 1980s and 1990s) have left an indelible mark on SF for both writers and readers.

In all its evocations, feminist SF opened up a space for those who may have felt previously excluded from the hard SF of the “foundational fathers” such as Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne. Wolmark also points out that feminist SF continued to evolve from its original inception: “A shift in emphasis, however, can be discerned in feminist SF written from the 1980s on, as it confronts the questions of gendered subjectivity more explicitly within the context of the masculinist hegemony of technology” (“Postmodern Romances” 232). By focusing on issues of technology, feminist SF began to pose difficult questions about what it means “to be human” and sketch out the cultural limitations of gendered bodies. For example, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (published in 1976) presents a scathing commentary on the forced medicalization of racialized women without sustained attention to the role of technology. Two decades later, however, her novel, He, She, and It (1991), specifically investigates issues of technologized embodiment and gender through the figure of a cyborg.

In much feminist SF, the primary site of boundary-crossing is gender, with technology being the prime motivator. Wolmark goes on to argue that “feminist science fiction crosses the boundaries of both gender and genre in two ways: firstly, by drawing on the narrative fantasies of popular romance fiction to offer fantasies of female pleasure and power, and secondly by using the ‘hard science’ metaphor of the cyborg to redefine definitions of female subjectivity” (230). While many feminist SF novels do not contain literal cyborgs – the half-machine, half-flesh beings immortalized in the Terminator and RoboCop movies – they do bring to life a reworking of the cliché through other alternative embodiments, such as clones, virtual reality avatars, and proxy-bodies. By introducing new forms of embodiment beyond the female cyborg, feminist SF (and, in particular, feminist post-cyberpunk) addresses the notions of female pleasure and power and the ways in which they diverge, corporeally and psychically, from traditional masculine oriented SF.

Booth and Flanagan underscore the centrality of gender in feminist SF, noting that “feminist science fiction, like feminist theory, pays special attention to the cultural construction of gender, the gendering of the Cartesian divide between mind and body, the maintenance of social and sexual hierarchies under patriarchy, and multiple challenges to notions of unified, stable subjectivity” (3). Feminist SF is not merely a rejection of patriarchal hierarchies, but a deep exploration of how those gendered power constructions have influenced our cultural and personal conceptions of corporeality and identity. Baccolini notes that feminist SF writers over the past forty years have contributed to the questioning of

masculinist discourses of traditional science fiction. Their novels have contributed to the breakdown of certainties and universalist assumptions about gendered identities: Themes such as the representation of women and their bodies, reproduction and sexuality, and language and its relation to identity, have all been tackled, explored, and reappropriated by these writers in dialectical engagement with tradition. (16)

In addition to Baccolini’s observations of feminist SF’s contributions, Wolmark contends that it “explores the possibilities for alternative and non-hierarchal definitions of gender and identity within which the difference of aliens and others can be accommodated rather than repressed” (Aliens and Others 2). Perhaps out of all the various facets of feminist SF, its ability to delve into and articulate the experiences of aliens and human others is paramount in its revisioning of what it means to be gendered and to embody difference.

Speaking of the alien, feminist SF does approach often terrifying others with a critical eye towards our own human constructions of gendered and racial difference. Booth and Flanagan propose that:

Science fiction has long used the figure of the alien to invoke anxieties about cultural differences such as man/woman, white/black, upper class/lower class; however, much science fiction invokes these anxieties precisely to bolster these differences, rather than break them down. Women’s science fiction, in contrast, uses the figure of the alien to expose the ways in which racial and gendered boundaries are constructed and the ways in which those boundaries maintain hierarchies of domination and power (indeed to expose the very anxiety over boundary collapse itself as xenophobic and sexist). (6)

The alien in feminist SF, then, is not simply they-who-are-not-us, but a reflection of what-we-are and what-we-could-be. Octavia Butler is perhaps most well known for her innovative explorations of the alien in her Lilith’s Brood and Seed to Harvest trilogies. In Butler’s narratives, she displaces the human with the alien, allowing neither the privilege of claiming moral or ontological superiority. By incorporating such a postcolonial approach, feminist SF makes scathing cultural commentary on our own unspoken definitions of who gets defined as human. Not to be left out of commenting on any aspect of feminist SF, Wolmark addresses the potential for feminist SF to make acute postcolonial critiques: “There is also a spatial dimension to the indeterminate futures that are imagined in feminist SF, for such futures are at once multiple and collective, global and inescapably postcolonial” (“Time and Identity” 169). Alongside an inherent concern with gendered bodies, the feminist SF of today challenges the reader to consider the current and future fates of racialized others and those whose bodies alternatively marked by class, disability, and sexual otherness.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
Thursday, 08 December 2011 13:29

Science Fiction in the Hammer!

Do you live in the Hamilton area and love science fiction? Are you tired of only having “that one friend” who knows what the heck you are talking about when you complain about the Hugo selection process or why you think John Scalzi isn’t as funny as people say? Maybe you just really like science fiction and want to connect with other people who like reading the same stuff you do. While the internet is the great meeting place of geeks and nerds of all stripes, getting in some face time with actual people in meatspace helps keep us sane (and not so lonely!).

I want to start a local science fiction discussion group. We can read books together or we can just gather at a local bar once a month to discuss all things science fiction (and fantasy too). While my background is academic, the group’s conversations don’t have to be about the deeper meaning of time and space. They can be, of course, but we can also talk about AIs, the latest steampunk novel, who you love/hate to read …

Ideally, I want to create a gathering of local SF fans – you can be an old hand at the con circuit or someone new to the genre who wants to learn more about SF and fandom – in a fun, casual atmosphere where we can nerd out together with pride. The only prerequisites are that you are of legal age, non-judgmental and open-minded, and love all things SF.

Please help me get the word out – tell your friends, co-workers, and internet peeps that an SF club is emerging in the Hammer and to contact me. Once I have enough people to justify using the word “group” (because I don’t want to be sitting in a pub somewhere by myself, staring into the abyss) I will set up an accessible place and time to meet (hopefully starting in the New Year).

So if you love science fiction (and the occasional fantasy novel) and want to connect with other fans in Hamilton, please contact me at kathryn@academiceditingcanada.ca – leave me your name, preferred email address, and your ideal time to meet.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog

Mothering Monsters: Technology, Reproduction, and the Maternal Body in
Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber

Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl (2002) and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber (2000) explore the ways that reproductive technologies have the capacity to reshape human being in unexpected and frightening ways. Drawing on corporeal feminism (of Margrit Shildrick and Elizabeth Grosz, most notably), I interrogate the ways in which Lai and Hopkinson explore issues of monstrosity, maternity, and reproduction in posthuman worlds. Cloning meets reincarnation in Salt Fish Girl, as Lai traces the journey of durian-odoured Miranda from adolescence to motherhood. I examine the ways reproductive technologies, like cloning, intersect with environmental pollution and hybrid diseases to create a threatening maternal body that has no need for men. Lai reflects that “now we step out of moist earth, out of DNA new and old, an imprint of what has gone before, but also a variation. [...] By our strangeness we write our bodies into the future” (SFG, 259). Miranda’s struggles with corporeal indeterminacy and “seepage” are reflected, I argue, in Midnight Robber’s Tan-Tan. Like Lai, Hopkinson exposes the particular vulnerability and monstrosity inherent in maternity as Tan-Tan struggles with self-actualization and non-normative embodiment. Straddling the worlds of technology (Toussaint) and unadulterated nature (New Half-Way Tree), Tan-Tan becomes a contested site of the posthuman mother – her child is directly connected to the Grande Anansi Nanotech Interface: “[His] little bodystring will sing to Nanny tune, doux-doux. [He] will be a weave in she flesh” (MR, 328). Reading these two texts as exemplars of feminist post-cyberpunk SF, I ultimately propose that Lai and Hopkinson situate the monstrous maternal body as both vulnerable and technologically adaptable. Salt Fish Girl and Midnight Robber articulate the dangers inherent in adopting any new technology, but remain optimistic that the maternal body will continue to replicate on its own terms and in unforeseen ways.


Proposed Bibliography

Anatol, Giselle Liza. “Maternal Discourses in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber.” African  American Review. 40.1 (Spring 2006). 1-14. Print.

Barr, Marleen, Ed. Future Females, The Next Generation: New Voices and Velocities in  Feminist Science Fiction Criticism. Lanham: Rowman and  Littlefield Publishers, 2000.  13-34. Print.

- - - . “’We’re at the start of a new ball game and that’s why we’re all real nervous’: Or, Cloning – Technological Cognition Reflects Estrangement from Women.” Learning From Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia. Ed. Patrick Parrinder. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. 193-207. Print.

Braidotti, Rosi. “Cyberteratologies: Female Monsters Negotiate the Other’s Participation in Humanity’s Far Future.” Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium. Ed. Marleen Barr. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. 146-172. Print.

Doane, Mary Ann. “Technophilia: Technology, Representation, and the Feminine.” Cybersexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Ed. Jenny Wolmark. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999. 20-33. Print.

Graham, Elaine. Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens, and Others in Popular Culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Print.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1999. Print.

Hopkinson, Nalo. Midnight Robber. New York: Warner Books, 2000. Print.

Lai, Larissa. Salt Fish Girl. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2008. Print.

Lee, Tara. “Mutant Bodies in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl: Challenging the Alliance Between Science and Capital.” West Coast Line 38.2 (Fall 2004): 1-11. Print.

Morris, Robyn. “’What Does it Mean to be Human?’: Racing Monsters, Clones and Replicants.” Foundation (Summer 2004): 81-96. Print.

Rogan, Alcena Madeline Davis. “Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson Revisit the Reproduction of Mothering.” Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory. Ed. Marleen S. Barr. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2008. 75-99. Print.

Shildrick, Margrit. Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self London: SAGE Publications, 2002. Print.

Vint, Sherryl. Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Print.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
Thursday, 01 September 2011 16:36

My Personal SF/F Collection

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asked by a number of people for book recommendations. Seeing as that I studied feminist post-cyberpunk and tend to enjoy texts that deal with issues related to technology and the (raced, dis/abled, gendered, sexed) body, most of the books I own reflect those themes. I should note that even though I love reading, I am not a bibliophile in the least. For someone with a literature PhD, I am definitely an aberration from the norm. There is only *one* bookcase in my house! I lend out/give away my books once I am done reading them - of all the books I have ever owned, I have retained less than 5%. Part of the reason for my relatively low-book ownership is that I have a family history of hoarding and I intend not to go down that road. Additionally, I have always believed that books should be read and shared. It has never made sense to me to hold on to books just for the sake of looking at them. I also use the public library since I can’t afford to a buy everything I want to read. The books that I own and hold on to, then, are the stories that I truly love or find engaging in some lasting way.

The below list contains my SF/F-related titles only (I’ll leave my other favourite non-SF books for a future post). If you see a book on the list that you want to learn more about, leave a comment and I’ll write up a review!


SF/F Books on my shelf that I’ve read (and recommend):

Feed. M. T. Anderson

Weaving the Web. Tim Berners-Lee (2000)

Kindred. Octavia Butler (1979)

Lilith’s Brood series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, & Imago). Octavia Butler (1987/2000)

Seed to Harvest series (Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, & Patternmaster). Octavia Butler (1976/2007)

Synners. Pat Cadigan (1991)

Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep. Philip K. Dick (1968)

The House of the Scorpion. Nancy Farmer (2002)

Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture. Eds. Mary Flanagan & Austin Booth (2002)

Burning Chrome. William Gibson (1986)

Count Zero. William Gibson (1986)

Neuromancer. William Gibson (1984)

Mona Lisa Overdrive. William Gibson (1988)

Virtual Light. William Gibson (1994)

The Haraway Reader. Donna Haraway (2004)

Skin Folk. Nalo Hopkinson (2001)

Brown Girl in the Ring. Nalo Hopkinson (1998)

Midnight Robber. Nalo Hopkinson (2000)

So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial SF & F. Eds. Nalo Hopkinson & Uppinder Mehan (2004)

Beggars in Spain. Nancy Kress (1993)

Salt Fish Girl. Larissa Lai (2002)

When Fox is a Thousand. Larissa Lai (2004)

A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine L’Engle (1962)

The Dispossessed. Ursual Le Guin (1974)

Earthsea series (The Wizard of Earthsea, The Farthest Shore, The Tombs of Atuan, Tales from Earthsea, & The Other Wind).Ursual Le Guin (1968-2001)

The Left Hand of Darkness. Ursula Le Guin (1969)

Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology. Eds. James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel (2007)

Storming the Reality Studio. Ed. Larry McCaffery (1991)

Red Spider, White Web. Misha (1990)

47. Walter Mosley (2005)

Woman on the Edge of Time. Marge Piercy (1976)

He, She And It. Marge Piercy (1991)

Glass Houses. Laura J. Mixon (1992)

Proxies. Laura J. Mixon (1998)

The Female Man. Joanna Russ (1975

WWW series (Wake, Watch, Wonder). Robert J. Sawyer (2009-2011)

Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson (1992)

Dreaming in Smoke. Tricia Sullivan (1998)

Maul. Tricia Sullivan (2003)

Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative. Priscilla Wald (2008)

Uglies. Scott Westerfeld (2006)


SF/F Books on my shelf that I still need to read:

The Wind Up Girl. Pablo Bacigalupi (2009)

Nova. Samuel Delany (1968)

Spook Country. William Gibson (2007)

The New Moon’s Arms. Nalo Hopkinson (2007)

Up Against It. M.J. Locke (2011) *currently reading*

Fractions (The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal). Ken Macleod (1995/2008)

The City & The City. China Mieville (2009)

Running with the Pack. Ed. Ekatrina Sedia (2010)

Far Horizons. Ed. Robert Silverberg (2005)

Revolution World. Katy Stauber (2011)

Mechanique. Genevieve Valentine (2011)

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
Friday, 26 August 2011 17:10

Good-Bye Academia, Hello Fandom!

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 …

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
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