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July 09, 2006

SFS - Special Issue on The Animal

Science Fictions Studies invites proposals for a special issue on The Animal, exploring the variety of ways that science fiction may be analysed from the perspective of animal studies. Animals are among the oldest metaphors through which humanity has defined itself. We welcome both papers that deal with representations of animals and the metaphorical use of the category of speciesism to enforce social boundaries and establish a humanist subject, and also papers that consider our changing material relationships with animals as they are mediated by changing technologies. Science fiction's long history of engaging with themes of alterity and of narrating the social consequences of technological change point to the many fruitful intersections of the genre with animal studies research.

Proposals might consider, but are not limited to, some of the following conjunctions of animal studies and science fiction:

o Manufactured animals as commodities, workers, or tools within the sf world, including manufactured 'lab tool' animals such as Oncomouse

o Animal-like aliens as companions, family members, pets or comrades of humans

o Animal-like aliens as competition or threat, invading force, vermin, or predator of humans

o Representations of humans as animals from the point of view of alien species

o Challenges to the species boundary through human/animal hybrids

o Darwinian stories especially those dealing with non-human primates including proto-human species

o Animals and nature seen as resource for human projects including scientific experimentation

o Stories of animal cognition, including uplift stories or those in which animals naturally evolve to a point beyond humans

o New technological relationships with animals and their implications (factory farming, gene splicing, xenotransplantation, pharming, etc.)

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words by September 30, 2006 to:

Sherryl Vint
Department of English
St. Francis Xavier University
P.O. Box 5000
Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5
FAX (902) 867-5400
svint AT stfx.ca

Posted by ChrissieMains at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

Arthur Hlavaty reports on ICFA 2006

Once again I have attended the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, in the company of my spouse, Bernadette Bosky, and my cohusband, Kevin Maroney. Once again I enjoyed it and am trying, two months later, to reconstruct the experience. (Thanks as usual to Bernadette for allowing me to use her notes.)

This year's theme was the visual arts. I am an old-fashioned linear-literate sort who prefers the written word, and as usual I mostly attended sessions in that area, but I did learn a few things about comics, movies, and games. For instance, the first paper I heard, by Robin Woods, dealt with maps and how online games, such as World of Warcraft, can feed the human desire to understand by mapping.


Thursday, the first full day of the conference, began with a panel entitled "Drawing Down the Word: Prose and Pictures Speaking Together with One Voice." These days, we hear a certain amount of viewing with alarm the possibility that movies, television, and online visuals will return us to an oral culture like the one I am glad humanity has evolved out of, the sort Walter J. Ong described in Orality and Literacy. This session made clear, however, that comics and graphic novels are not that sort of thing, but rather a combination of visual and textual communication. Bernadette and the other panelists discussed forerunners, such as emblem books, curiosity books, and illustrated fairy tales.

The next session considered some of the ways graphic fiction is looking at the world. David Higgins talked about how the DC universe mirrored the crisis of 9/11 and its sequelae, while Doug Davis discussed In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman's rich and moving examination of the same event. Kevin had to follow these two with his very first conference paper, and he gave us a good one. "Capes, Types, and Prototypes" used theories of definition to consider why the Amber books are not considered textual Superhero Comics.

There are many problems with the sort of essentialist approach--"genus and differentia"--that Aristotle suggested. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance, claimed that the word game cannot be defined in that fashion, instead requiring us to find examples that we agree are "games" and discuss their "family resemblances." I believe that the game problem has been solved by Bernard Suits, in his delightful and undeservedly forgotten book, The Grasshopper: Games are activities in which the participants agree to forgo certain direct approaches to their goals for the purpose of play. But even if that is the case, family resemblance can be a useful approach.

There is another implement as well. George Lakoff believes that human language cannot refer to anything beyond the material world because there is nothing beyond the material world. He supports this denial by adapting the ingenious literary theory that universals are constructed from prototypes, a useful approach to many definitional issues that fortunately does not require acceptance of Lakoff's assumptions. The prototypes for superhero comics include Superman and Batman. Batman is not "super," in the sense of having special powers, but he resembles others of the superhero family in such traits as secret identity and costume. Kevin used the question to open a general discussion of how genre can be defined.

After the Guest of Honor Slide Show, there was a panel on the crisis in comics. Comics seem to moving through the life cycle of an art form to become a Fabulous Invalid, like the Theatre and the Novel, with continuing predictions of demise and continuing accomplishment. Thence to an enjoyable session on images of teaching in children's literature. Amie Rose Rotruck discussed stories of the doll as teacher, and Zina Peterson compared the schooling of wizards in Earthsea and at Hogwarts.


Usually, the ICFA is adventure two steps removed: discussion of stories of heroic quests. The first paper I saw on Friday, however, was more direct: a first-person account by Neil Easterbrook of his valiant slog through the tangled prose of Frederic Jameson. Like a good first-person narrator, Easterbrook told the tale without expressing awareness of his own heroism, indicating the difficulties without melodramatizing them and claiming to have brought back a moderate number of gems from his perilous voyage.

Jean Lorrah followed with one of the things I most seek in critical writing: a model that finds a common element in a lot of seemingly different works and makes me wonder why I didn't think of it. She suggests a developing sort of archetypal tale: the intimate adventure, in which two protagonists who may not care for each other are forced to struggle together, trust one another, and become intimate, at least psychologically: Don Quixote, Enemy Mine, any number of "buddy movies." (This is of course one of the dynamics driving slash and the equally lewd but less pleasant imaginings of the Fredric Werthams of this world, but that's only one aspect and rarely the most interesting one.)

Scholar Guest of Honor Thomas Inge, who modestly reported that he became a professor because he lacked the skill to make it as a cartoonist, enlivened lunch with a lecture on one of the great subverting influences of my formative years, Harvey Kurtzmann's original Mad. Inge noted that one way Mad gained credibility was by openly satirizing Kurtzmann's other publications. The day also featured a panel on defining the fantastic/mimetic boundary in visual arts (Irma Hirsjarvi had particularly interesting things to say and pictures to show), a discussion of photography in Lois Lowry's children's books, and a fanfic panel in which I learned a new term: darkfiction, which is like hurt/comfort, only without the comfort.


Saturday began with a session I think of as distinctively ICFA: scientific and literary looks at the same topic, in this case sleepwalking. Then Bernadette presented her paper: a copiously illustrated look at "Fantastic Fat Bodies in Comic Strips and Books." She pointed out that since the 1940s fat bodies have been, for the most part, either stigmatized or ignored, but more recently, with inputs from feminism, postmodernism, and foreign cultures, we are getting more variety. The afternoon featured a panel on Guest Writer Kathleen Ann Goonan, which made me more bitterly regret the reader's block that keeps me only halfway through her quartet of nanotech novels, and one of Jeri Zulli's typically thorough and absorbing discussions of the fantastic in respectable lit, in this case Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

As is becoming traditional, we sat at the same table with Peter Straub for the banquet. The awards ceremony was decorous, as they all have been lately, but I had to suppress an inappropriate snicker at one point. I'm a pink-diaper baby who grew up hearing Wobbly songs, and here they were telling me that the Crawford Award went to Twentieth-Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill.

Book purchasing is always a major feature of an ICFA for me, and this time I picked up and enjoyed two books directly connected with the conference: Soundings, the first collection of Gary Wolfe's Locus reviews (since nominated for a Hugo, which it deserves), and Polder, a festschrift for John and Judith Clute, edited by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James and chock full of highly readable reminiscences, literary discussion, and fiction.

Next year's conference looks like fun: Representing the Other: Gender and Sexuality in the Fantastic, with GoH Geoff Ryman and Guest Writer Melissa Scott, March 14-18, 2007, same bat-channel.

Posted by ChrissieMains at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

IAFA International Scholarship Award

Dale Knickerbocker, Division Head for International Fantastic Literatures, would like to announce a new award sponsored by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.

The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts Announces its

1st Annual Award for the Best Non-English Language Scholarly Essay on the Fantastic

We define the fantastic to include science fiction, folklore, and related genres in literature, drama, film, art and graphic design, and related disciplines.

Prize: $250 U.S. and one year’s free membership in the IAFA to be awarded at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in March 2007

Winning essay to be published online at the IAFA website

Deadline for consideration: November 30, 2006

Essays may be unpublished scholarship submitted by the author, or already published work nominated either by the author or another scholar (in which case the author’s permission should be obtained before submission). An abstract in English must accompany all submissions. Submissions may be made electronically (preferred) in MS Word, Word Perfect, or RTF format, or by mail.

Please direct all inquiries and submissions to:

Dale Knickerbocker
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858

knickerbockerd AT ecu.edu
Fax: 252-328-6233

The following is a list of those who have volunteered to serve as judges:

David Dickens, Professor of German, Washington and Lee University (up through 19th c)
Viveke Rutzou Petersen, Associate Professor of Women´s Studies, Drake University (women and fantasy)
Elizabeth Borchardt, Professor of German, University of Minnesota at Morris (19th-20th cc, film)

Amy J. Ransom, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Anna Maria College, Paxton MA (Quebecois)
Stephanie Perrais, ABD Penn State University (19th-Early 20th centuries)
Helen Pilinovsky, ABD Columbia University (Fairy Tales, Folklore)
Charlene Gill, Texas State University, (comics/graphic)
Alfred Fralin, Professor of Romance Languages (French, Spanish, Italian), Washington and Lee (20th c.)

Antonia Levi, Associate Professor of Japanese History, Portland State (manga, anime)
Miri Nakamura, ABD Stanford (19th c.)
Hiroko Chiba, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, DePauw University (20th c.)
Sarah E. Thompson, PhD, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, (visual arts)

Northern Europe
Edward James, Professor of History, University College, Dublin Ireland (medieval, SF)
Irma Hirsjarvi, ABD, Jyväskylä University (Finnish, general Scandinavian)
K.A. Laity, Assistant Professor of English, University of Houston (Medieval, Folklore, Fairy Tale-Finnish)
Stefan Ekman, ABD, (Swedish, general Scandinavian)

Andrea Bell, Professor of Spanish, Hamline University (Latin American SF, esp. Venezuela)
Yolanda Molina-Gavila´n, Associate Professor of Spanish, Eckerd College (Peninsular and Latin American SF)
Rafael Montes, Assistant Professor of Spanish, St. Thomas University (Latin American SF, esp. Mexico)
Juan Carlos Toledano, Assitant Professor of Hispanic Studies, Lewis and Clark College (Latin American SF, esp. Cuba)
Sharon Sieber, Professor of Spanish, Idaho State University, (Latin American fantasy, esp. Argentina)
Robin McAllister, Professor of Spanish, Sacred Heart University (Latin American fantasy, esp. Argentina, Southern Cone)
Dale Knickerbocker, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, East Carolina University (Peninsular fantasy & SF)
Pablo Brescia, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, University of South Florida (Latin American fantasy)
Maria Aline Ferreira, Associate Professor, University of Aveiro, Portugal (Portuguese, Spanish, Italian fantasy)

Posted by ChrissieMains at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)