#107 = Volume 36, Part 1 = March
NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE
A Ghost in the Rigging. In Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos (1985), ten people are stranded on an uninhabited island at a moment of crisis. War has erupted between Peru and Ecuador and seems likely to spread, and a deadly bacterium has rendered human females infertile. This scenario marks the end of the human race as we know it and the beginning of a new breed of sea lion-like humans that will come to populate the planet a million years in the future. Within the novel, and consistent with the Biblical myth of the Flood, humankind has grown wicked and greedy, but it is not a wrathful God that metes out justice. Instead, Mother Nature ensures that natural selection will ploddingly correct what the novel’s omniscient narrator refers to as a gross evolutionary mistake, the big brains of human beings: “Can it be doubted that our three kilogram brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?” (9).
Vonnegut’s narrator never explicitly mentions yet nonetheless echoes the thesis of the Hungarian-born British writer Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) in The Ghost in the Machine: The Urge to Self-Destruction (1967), in which Koestler argues that “Evolution has been compared to a labyrinth of blind alleys, and there is nothing very strange or improbable in the assumption that man’s native equipment, though superior to that of any other living species, nevertheless contains some built-in error or deficiency which predisposes him toward self-destruction” (xi).
While Vonnegut’s and Koestler’s hypotheses seem fatalistic, a competing current of admiration for humanity saves Galápagos and The Ghost in the Machine from total pessimism. Both works suggest that humanity is Janus-faced, with an arrogant and abusive but also a compassionate and creative side. Vonnegut chose as his epigraph a powerful quotation from Anne Frank’s Diary: “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” Koestler, who dedicated The Act of Creation (1964) to the study of insight and inspiration, spends as much time on human creative potential as on self-destructive impulses: “The creativity and pathology of the human mind are, after all, two sides of the same medal coined in the evolutionary mint” (xi).
Despite their common assertion that human brains are flawed, Vonnegut and Koestler resist a mechanistic world-view. Vonnegut’s rejection of machine-driven technology and Koestler’s rejection of behaviorist psychology both call for a shift from mechanical to mindful behavior, emphasizing a need for moral development. Each advocates taking responsibility for actions and embracing free will. Koestler theorized, after Paul McLean, that modern humans’ brains could be divided in two, the old and new. Evolution had merely “superimposed a new superior structure on an old one, with partly overlapping functions and without providing the new with a clear-cut hierarchic control over the old—thus inviting confusion and conflict” (281-82). He goes on to explain that the old brain is responsible for drives of hunger, sex, and fight-and-flight; the new brain makes possible advanced cognition as it relates to logic, reason, and abstract thought.
In Vonnegut’s novel, Adolf von Kleist, the incompetent captain of the boat that runs ashore on Santa Rosalia, and Mary Hepburn, a beloved high school biology teacher from Illium, New York, serve as the Adam and Eve for a future, more sea-worthy species: their story allows Vonnegut to explore various pathologies of the human brain. With no possibility of escaping Santa Rosalia and no access to materials from which to craft tools, von Kleist grows increasingly dissatisfied. On their island, unlike on many in the Galápagos, fresh water is available in ample quantities, but this is for von Kleist both a blessing and a curse, for once freed from the shackles of civilization, he becomes (in a phrase echoing Thoreau) “quietly desperate” (296). He cannot appreciate the simple perfection of the spring; by defect of his big brain, he wants to control, or even worse, “improve” upon it: “If the Captain had any decent tools, crowbars and picks and shovels and so on, he surely would have found a way, in the name of science and progress, to clog the spring, or to cause it to vomit the entire contents of the crater in only a week or two” (297).
According to Koestler, the development of the first tools caused man’s instinct and intellect to fall out of step: “The invention of weapons and tools was an intellectual creation, the combined achievement of brain and hand—of the marvelous powers of the neo-cortex to co-ordinate the manipulative skill of the fingers with the perfected eye, both with memory and planning” (307). Yet while the creation of tools was a feat of the new brain, the motivation for their creation often originated in the old brain. Vonnegut, by stressing von Kleist’s frustrated impulse to “improve” the flow of the spring, implicitly connects his character’s misguided behavior with mankind’s urge to develop and use the means of mass destruction. In a chapter that describes the release of the bomb that sparks the war between Peru and Ecuador, Vonnegut writes in ironic admiration: “No single human being could claim credit for that rocket, which was going to work so perfectly. It was the collective achievement of all who had ever put their big brains to work on the problem of how to capture and compress the diffuse violence of which nature was capable, and drop it in relatively small packages on their enemies” (207). To borrow Koestler’s phrase, the schizophysiology of the human brain allows the human intellect to develop weapons that indulge aggressive tendencies: the old brain lacks “the necessary equipment, the inhibitory mechanisms, to deal with man’s newly acquired powers” (307).
Santa Rosalia’s Eve, Mary Hepburn, exhibits her own pathologies. She has recently lost her job and been widowed: Roy, her late husband, on his death bed implored her to take the Galápagos cruise, but by the time she arrives in Guayaquil, she is on the verge of suicide: “Mary had ... taught that the human brain was the most admirable survival device yet produced by evolution. But now her own big brain was urging her to take a polyethylene garment bag around a red evening dress in her closet there in Guayaquil, and to wrap it around her head, thus depriving her cells of oxygen” (26). An argument ensues between Hepburn’s old, emotion-driven brain, which prompts her to take her life, and her reason-driven brain, which urges her to calm down. Hepburn, who has for decades encouraged her students to appreciate the evolutionary wonder of the human brain, now reconsiders that position:
“You are my enemy,” she whispered. “Why would I want to carry such a terrible enemy inside of me?” .... “Given a choice between a brain like you and the antlers of an Irish elk,” she told her own central nervous system, “I’d take the antlers of the Irish elk” (26).
The Irish elk or Giant Deer (megaloceros giganteus) was one of the largest deer species that ever lived. The larger and stronger the antlers, the more successful the male deer was in producing offspring. Following the laws of natural selection, these offspring inherited genes for large antlers. Eventually, the unwieldy antlers restricted the movement of males through forested regions: the elk could not carry on the normal business of life and became extinct. Mary Hepburn comes to think of the tortured and mixed signals of her own brain as the equivalent of those maladaptative antlers.
In The Ghost in the Machine, Koestler draws the same comparison between the human brain and the antlers of the Irish elk:
When one contemplates the streak of insanity running through human history, it appears highly probable that homo sapiens is a biological freak, the result of some remarkable mistake in the evolutionary process.... When a biologist talks of evolutionary mistakes, he means something ... tangible and precise: some obvious deviation from Nature’s own standards of engineering efficiency, a construction fault which deprives an organ of its survival value—like the monstrous antlers of the Irish elk. (267-68)
Although she manages to avoid suicide, Hepburn cannot quiet her big brain, which eventually convinces her to use von Kleist’s sperm to engineer the next generation of human beings through artificial insemination. As a scientist, she has been trained to believe “that there was no harm, and possibly a lot of good, in people’s playing with all sorts of ideas in their heads, no matter how supposedly impossible or impractical or downright crazy they seemed to be” (290). This critique of scientists as naive, amoral children, so familiar in Vonnegut’s work (Schatt 61), is a recurrent theme in Koestler’s as well. As he states in his preface, “in the course of the last century science has become so dizzy with its own successes that it has forgotten to ask the pertinent questions—or refused to ask them under the pretext that they are meaningless, and in any case not the scientist’s concern” (xii).
One of the most devastating consequences of any evolutionary shrinking of the human brain in Vonnegut’s novel is a loss of free will. Throughout his oeuvre, Vonnegut makes it clear that human beings are unique because of their free will, and in Galápagos, he does this in his discussion of one of the islands’ most iconic species, the blue-footed booby. In her biology lesson on the exotic bird, Hepburn asks her students to analyze its mating ritual:
And that brings us back to the really deep mystery of the blue-footed boobies’ courtship dance, which seems to have absolutely no connection with the elements of booby survival, with nesting or fish. What does it have to do with then? Dare we call it “religion”? Or, if we lack that sort of courage, might we at least call it “art”? (115)
Vonnegut dares not call it either. By the end of the chapter, it is coolly explained that “the birds are large molecules with bright blue feet and have no choice in the matter. By their very nature, they have to dance exactly like that” (116). The human observer may find spiritual inspiration in the dance or appreciate its aesthetic beauty, but the boobies themselves do not and (because of their smaller brains) cannot do the same. By contrast, the narrator implies that human beings, at least before they evolved into sea-lions, did have choices:
Human beings used to be molecules which could do many, many sorts of dances, or decline to dance at all—as they pleased. My mother could do the waltz, the tango, the rumba, the Charleston, the Lindy hop, the jitterbug, the Watusi, and the twist. Father refused to do any dances, as was his privilege. (116)
This critical distinction between human free will versus the biological determinism that defines animal behavior also lies at the heart of Koestler’s book, especially its critique of Gilbert Ryle, the philosopher with behaviorist leanings who coined the phrase “ghost in the machine” in his book The Concept of Mind (1949), which critiques Cartesian dualism. According to Descartes, the human body can be thought of as a machine but becomes a person when infused with an immaterial soul; but in Ryle’s view, Descartes is mistaken in assuming that there is a mental world distinct from the physical world. Ryle sees no hidden entity called “the mind” inside a mechanical apparatus called “the body”; he refers to this illusion as “the dogma of the ghost in the machine” (15-16). In his own rejection of Ryle’s hypothesis, Koestler points out its potentially dangerous consequences:
Regardless of the verbal acrobatics of Behaviourists and their allies, the fundamental problems of mind and matter, of free will versus determinism are still very much with us, and have acquired a new urgency—not as a subject of philosophical debate, but because of their direct bearing on political ethics and private morals, on criminal justice, psychiatry, and our whole outlook on life. By the very act of denying the existence of the ghost in the machine—of mind dependent on, but also responsible for, the actions of the body—we incur the risk of turning it into a very nasty, malevolent ghost. (202)
In Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Vonnegut emphasizes the same sense of moral responsibility by rejecting the Tralfamadorian philosophy of indifference: the atrocities of Dresden and Vietnam were not beyond the control of human free will (Schatt 86, 93). In Galápagos, he implies that the events of the novel might be prevented if human beings would wake up and modify their behavior.
Vonnegut and Koestler diverge drastically in their suggestions for achieving a brighter future, however. In a bizarre final chapter, Koestler suggests that humans must rely on breakthroughs in psychopharmacology to help them reconcile their primitive (emotional) and more highly evolved (intellectual) brains (Koestler 273): only when the brain achieves the proper chemical balance can willful acts of self-transcendence potentially replace impulses toward self-destruction. As Koestler, who took his life in 1983 with an overdose of barbiturates, explains:
What we expect from it [psychopharmacology], however, is not eternal life, nor the transformation of base metal into gold, but the transformation of homo maniacus into homo sapiens. When man decides to take his fate into his own hands, that possibility will be within reach. (339)
This idea has roots in existentialism, but, as William Menaker suggested in a 1969 review of The Ghost in the Machine, to promote the idea of pharmaceuticals as a panacea is precisely the kind of reductionism for which Koestler criticizes the behaviorists (337). To Menaker, the book’s logic unravels in its last chapter: “To assume that man cannot evolve effective institutions, but rather must resort to a pill to correct his brain function as Koestler suggests, would, it seems to me, throw out his increasing capacity for love, empathy and cooperation” (337). Ultimately, Vonnegut, who attempted suicide with sleeping pills and alcohol in 1984, the year before Galápagos was published, does not disregard man’s capacity for empathy and cooperation. He does not necessarily hope for more effective human institutions, but in accordance with the humanist philosophy that drives his work, he does suggest that it is possible for people to be reasonable and moral. Near the conclusion of the novel, the narrator reveals that his mother’s favorite quotation from Anne Frank serves as “the epigraph of this book” (281). In the end, it serves as Vonnegut’s apologia for Galápagos as well.—Corinne Andersen, Peace College
Koestler, Arthur. The Ghost in the Machine: The Urge to Self-Destruction: A Psychological and Evolutionary Study of Modern Man’s Predicament. New York: Macmillan, 1967.
Menaker, William. Rev. of Arthur Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine. Quarterly Review of Biology 44.3 (1969): 336-37.
Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1949.
Schatt, Stanley. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Boston: Twayne, 1976.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Galápagos. New York: Dial, 1985.
Ancient Mailer. The death of Norman Mailer (1923-2007) had the same impact on the literary world as Kurt Vonnegut’s passing in 2006, delineating the end of an era. Mailer wrote massive, important books that most writers only dream of achieving. While his work consisted mostly of commercial fiction, journalism, memoir, cultural criticism, and a few crime thrillers, Mailer also contributed to the genre of speculative fiction with Ancient Evenings (1983). Published by Little, Brown, this 844-page volume covering 3,000 years of Pharaonic Egypt was a ten-year project that baffled many critics and loyal readers because it was unlike anything else that he ever wrote. It is a richly dense tome in the first person by a soul that moves from life to life, reincarnating from the world of spirit to antediluvian earth. The novel seduces readers with “a consciousness different from any hitherto met in fiction,” wrote Benjamin DeMott in The New York Times on April 10, 1983:
A soul or body entombed is struggling to burst free, desperate not alone for light and air but for prayer and story—promised comforters that have been treacherously withheld or stolen. Dwelling within this consciousness we relive the “experience” of an Egyptian body undergoing burial preparations, sense the soul’s overwhelming yearnings, within an unquiet grave, for healing that no physical treatment can provide. All is strange, dark, intense, mysteriously coherent.
Gods and mythical creatures in this novel are as real as the homicidal rednecks in Mailer’s 1984 Random House mystery, Tough Guys Don’t Dance. A later novel, The Gospel According to the Son (Random House, 1997), could also be considered a contribution to fantastic fiction: narrated by Jesus Christ, it reveals an alternate series of events from that found in Biblical texts.
Mailer was one of famed sf-agent Scott Meredith’s leading clients, and together they changed the landscape of contemporary publishing. Sf writers—indeed, all writers—have been affected by Mailer’s and Meredith’s legacy. With Mailer’s 1964 Dial Press novel, The American Dream, Meredith sent out multiple submissions of the manuscript with a due date for offers: Mailer owed a great deal of money to the IRS and needed a substantial advance or he would have gone to prison for tax evasion. This auctioning of a manuscript was unheard of in New York publishing, which had been a low-key gentleman’s business in which agents and writers submitted to one company at a time, waiting for a decision before sending their books elsewhere. The experiment could have backfired on Meredith, who was no gentleman when it came to promoting his writers, but his bold move initiated what is now a common practice when a perceived hot property becomes available.
Whether he was publishing a major World War II novel at the age of 25 (The Naked and the Dead, 1948), co-founding The Village Voice (1955), running for mayor of New York City (1969), or directing the film version of his own novel, Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1985; film 1987), Mailer set examples for others to follow. No one will fill Mailer’s mighty boots, just as no writer can be the next Vonnegut.—Michael Hemmingson, San Diego
A Correction and Two Additions. I was too late to correct “fictional” to “mythical” in the Chocky “disclaimer” quoted in my penultimate paragraph of “John Wyndham’s Chocky: The First Covert Alternate World?” (SFS 35.2 [July 2008]: 352-55). Likewise I wish to insert “who married someone else in January 1927” after mention of “Dorothy Joan Parkes” in my third paragraph, and, at the end of my fourth paragraph, this sentence: “This dovetails with the late 1926 or early 1927 date in JBH’s important time-schism love story ‘Random Quest’ (1961), when another preferable alternate world without World War I shears off from that of the story’s readers.”—David Ketterer, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Liverpool
Lem’s Stalin Opera. In October 2008, an operatic satire by Stanislaw Lem was rediscovered decades after being lost. The author concealed the subversive document so completely that he himself, forgetting its hiding place, could not find it for some fifty years. Placed inside the pages of an uncompleted noir detective story, itself tied up in a folder labeled “Botched Crime Story,” the satire was written during the later 1940s when Lem was a student. Stalin (“as always superhumanly intelligent and inhumanly smiling”) is a character. For further details, see the English translation by Marcin Wawrzynczak on <http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,5803635,Stanislaw_Lem_s_Unpublished_Works_Discovered.html>. Wawrzynczak reports that Lem read the satire only to his close friends, including his future wife, Barbara, who recalls that “He enacted all the characters himself, and he was best in the woman’s role. He performed the piece for as long as Stalin lived—he obviously needed this kind of abreaction.” Said Lem’s former secretary, “I always knew that every one of Lem’s pieces has a second bottom—even a botched crime story can hide an opera about Stalin!”—Carol McGuirk, SFS
Decoding Alien Messages. According to a story published on October 15, 2008, by Richard Alleyne that appeared in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper <Telegraph.co.uk>, a researcher at Leeds Metropolitan University has been developing a program to identify and translate alien languages: “[John] Elliot believes that even an alien language will have recognizable patterns that could help reveal the alien’s intelligence level. Previous research has shown that it is possible to determine if a signal carries a language instead of an image or music. Elliot has advanced this research by devising a way to pick out what could be words and sentences.”—Rob Latham, SFS
NEH Institute for School Teachers: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Real and the Imagined Middle Ages. From July 13-August 13, 2009, Robin Anne Reid (English) and Judy Ann Ford (History) will co-direct a Humanities Institute for School Teachers at Texas A&M University-Commerce, with visiting scholars to include Douglas Anderson, David Bratman, Janet Brennan Croft, Edith Crowe, Verlyn Flieger, Jason Fisher, Edward James, Kristine Larsen, Charles W. Nelson, Faye Ringel, Deborah Sabo, Amy Sturgis, C.W. Sullivan III, Elizabeth Whittingham, and Ralph C. Wood. See the website <http://community. livejournal.com/lotr_middleages/profile> for further information; or contact the co-director, Robin Reid: <Robin_Reid@tamu-commerce.edu.>—Robin Reid, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Debut Issue: Bradbury Review. Edited through the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, a newly established archive at Indiana University, the journal is published by the Kent State University Press. The recently published first issue considers Bradbury’s translation into other media. This inaugural issue also features two previously unpublished screenplays, reviews of Bradbury’s work in radio, and an extensive bibliography of adaptations of Bradbury into other media. Although the journal will consider submissions on any topic related to Bradbury, welcoming diverse approaches to this influential American author, two special issues are planned, with one to appear in 2009 on Bradbury and Halloween and an issue in 2010 devoted to Fahrenheit 451. Proposed articles should be submitted at least a year in advance of these publication dates. Address all correspondence to the editor, William F. Touponce <firstname.lastname@example.org>; submissions should be made electronically.—William F. Touponce, Editor, The Ray Bradbury Review
Call for Book Proposals. I’m writing on behalf of Guide Dog Books, the new nonfiction syndicate of my fiction publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press. Guide Dog Books recently released its first publication, Matthew Warner’s Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing and Appreciating the Genre; and early next year they will release my book, Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction. Guide Dog Books is actively seeking manuscripts on a range of topics and angles of incidence, especially in the realm of creative and popular nonfiction, but also literary criticism, cultural theory, and film studies. Ideally, manuscripts will in some way engage with popular culture and the speculative genres. If anyone is shopping a manuscript, do visit <www.guidedogbooks.com>. I’ve worked with the editors at Raw Dog Screaming Press for several years and they are a great group. Feel free to email me with any questions at <email@example.com>.—D. Harlan Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, The Dream People.
Special Issue of Neo-Victorian Studies: “Steampunk, Science, and (Neo)Victorian Technologies.” Neo-Victorian Studies invites papers and/or abstracts for a special issue, to appear in 2009, about neo-Victorianism’s engagement with new/old technologies, especially as articulated through the genre of Steampunk. As a lifestyle, aesthetic, and literary movement, Steampunk can be both the act of modifying your laptop to look like a Victorian artifact and the act of (re-)imagining a London in which Charles Babbage’s analytical engine was realized. Steampunk includes applications of nineteenth-century aesthetics to contemporary objects; speculative extensions of technologies that actually existed; and the anachronistic importation of contemporary science into fictionalized pasts and projected futures. In all cases, the genre blurs boundaries between centuries and technologies—between “those” Victorians and “us” neo-Victorians. This special issue will explore why particular scientific and technological developments are revisited at particular historical moments, tracing Steampunk’s importance to neo-Victorianism as well as its wider cultural implications. The deadline for submission of completed papers is June 1, 2009.
Possible topics include: Steampunk and the importation/transformation of Victorian aesthetics; changing narrative technologies in Victorian/neo-Victorian fiction; markets and economics of the Steampunk universe; Steampunk and the myths of the Industrial Revolution; intersections among cyberpunk, Steampunk, and old/new/lost world empire(s); gender constructions in Steampunk; mad geniuses (scientists, inventors, doctors, engineers); Steampunk pasts and futures (e.g. The Difference Engine versus The Diamond Age); real and imagined difference engines; scientific (im)practicalities of Steampunk contraptions; and visual Steampunk vs. narrative Steampunk (e.g., graphic novels or movies versus novels).
Articles and/or creative pieces (6000-8000 words) should be submitted by email to the guest editors Rachel A. Bowser <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Brian Croxall <email@example.com>, with a further copy to the General Editor, Marie-Luise Kohlke <firstname.lastname@example.org>. For further information, including submission guidelines, consult the journal website at <http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/>.—Brian Croxall, Guest Editor, Neo-Victorian Studies
Call for Articles: Special Issue of Utopian Studies: Law and Utopia. Utopias are prescriptive, normative alternatives to already existing societies. Thomas More, himself a lawyer, envisioned a society free from lawyers and with few positive laws, and that trope has since made frequent appearances in utopias and dystopias. But like all societies, utopias depend on rules and rule-making—they are societies of laws.
Law itself is a utopian expression, an attempt to shape a particular vision of society. Such visions enact conflicts among competing views of rights, duties, punishment, redemption, distribution, and nearly every other aspect of human life. Zoning laws describe someone’s desired organization of space and industry. Constitutions write into being a normative alternative to the society that exists before the constitution takes effect. Positive law presents a normatively different belief system from natural law, carrying implications for societal organization.
In fiction and film, utopian and dystopian expression addresses fundamental jurisprudential issues of good and evil, economics, criminality, state power, and more. Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale (1985) dramatizes, for example, conflicts over reproductive rights; Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) juxtaposes anarchist, capitalist, and socialist societies. The films Soylent Green (1973) and Zardoz (1974) imagine wholly alternative legal structures and their consequences.
For this special issue, we invite papers on any aspect of law and utopia. Complete drafts are due by May 31, 2009. For further guidelines, see <http://www.utoronto.ca/utopia/journal/guidelines.html>. All submissions should be sent to Utopian Studies, Department of English, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508; e-mail: <email@example.com>. Inquiries about the special issue should be sent to the Guest Editor, Peter Sands <firstname.lastname@example.org>.—Peter Sands, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Special Issue: Transformative Works and Cultures (Spring/Summer 2010).We invite submissions for a special issue on the CW television series Supernatural. Potential topics include textual and cultural analyses of the series and its fandom (including real-person fan fiction); studies of the series’ transmedia properties, such as the Rising Son comics and the official Web site’s “Hunter’s Blog”; and studies of the relationship between the show’s producers and actors and online fandom. Submission deadline is May 1, 2009; the Guest Editor is Catherine Tosenberger.
TWC is an international peer-reviewed online journal that promotes dialogue between the academic and fan communities. The first issue (September 2008) is available at <http://journal.transformativeworks.org>. We encourage innovative work that situates popular media, fan communities, and transformative works within contemporary culture through approaches including feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, political economy, ethnography, reception theory, literary criticism, film studies, and media studies. See <http://journal. transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/about/submissions> for further information.—Dr. Karen Hellekson, Coeditor, TWC
CFP: Society for Utopian Studies. The theme for the 34th Annual Meeting of the Society for Utopian Studies will be “Utopian Theory/Utopian Practice.” The meeting will be held at the Blockade Runner Hotel, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, from October 29-November 1, 2009. The Society invites abstracts for a paper (between 15-20 minutes), a panel (usually of 3 papers), an informal panel on a topic (e.g., three presenters, or a presenter and two or three respondents), or a presentation or performance of creative work on any topic related to utopia.
How do we understand the relationship between theory and practice in a field where the practice might seem improbable and the theory “merely theoretical”? How utopian can theory be if it cannot be put into practice? How utopian can practice be if it continually strays from theory? We also welcome papers on other aspects of the utopian tradition, from the earliest utopian visions to the utopian speculations of the twenty-first century, including art, architecture, urban and rural planning, literary utopias, dystopian writings, utopian political activism, theories of utopian spaces and ontologies, music, new media, and intentional communities. Please send a 100-250 word abstract by May 10, 2009 to: Claire P. Curtis, Department of Political Science, 66 George St.. College of Charleston, Charleston SC 29424; or e-mail submissions to <email@example.com> (please put “sus submission” in the subject line). For information about registration, travel, or accommodations, please contact the Conference Coordinator, Peter Stillman, at <stillman@Vassar.edu>.—Claire P. Curtis, College of Charleston
David Mitchell Conference, September 3-4, 2009, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. This conference will bring together scholars working on the contemporary British writer David Mitchell to consolidate and advance critical work currently underway. David Mitchell is a successful mainstream British writer, author of four novels, with a fifth forthcoming. He is popular with literary prize committees and the reading public alike, and in addition to being shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Mitchell’s third novel, Cloud Atlas (2004), was also nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Mitchell stands as one of a number of mainstream writers whose work engages in the question of genre boundaries, not least those between science fiction and the mainstream. Papers on this and other topics will be presented at the conference; the plenary address will be given by David Mitchell. See the conference website <http:// www.gylphi.co.uk/mitchell/> for further information.—Sarah Dillon, University of St Andrews
SFS Available on JSTOR. Most issues of Science Fiction Studies are now fully searchable on JSTOR, a not-for-profit digital archive founded during the 1950s to convert scholarly journals into electronic form. Except for the most recent three years of issues, which will remain available only in print form, the full text of articles, reviews, and notes published in SFS will become available to those with access to libraries that subscribe to JSTOR. Recent issues that have sold out will, as always, be made available on the SFS website and when the three-year window has passed will then be archived in JSTOR.—Carol McGuirk, SFS
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