Science Fiction Studies

#97 = Volume 32, Part 3 = November 2005


NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE
     
Embodied Settings in Frankenstein. In “Locating the Thing: The Antarctic as Alien Space in John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” (SFS 32.2:225-39), Elizabeth Leane has many interesting and persuasive things to say about the ways in which Campbell’s shape-shifting monster can be said to embody the Antarctic’s physical and metaphorical qualities. But she does not take account of the importance of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a precursor for this kind of location embodiment. She mentions only De Villa Sloan’s confusion of the Arctic setting of Frankenstein with the Antarctic setting of “Who Goes There?” (228) and, in a related endnote, Mary Shelley’s own confusion of the two polar regions (236 n4).               

In a section of Frankenstein’s Creation: The Book, the Monster, and Human Reality (U of Victoria 1979) entitled “The Sublime Setting” (67-77), I note that “It is the sublime settings—the region around Mont Blanc and the Arctic wastelands—which predominate among the book’s scenic effects” (68) and go on to discuss the concept of the natural sublime as expounded by Thomas Burnet and Edmund Burke. The qualities of Burke’s sublime— terror, fear, horror, wonder, and power—are most obviously manifested in Mary Shelley’s descriptions of mountains, ice, and raging seas; and it is from the Alpine environment especially that Mary Shelley’s monster gains the same qualities: “The monster is almost a projection of the sensations inspired by the book’s Alpine setting, the same setting that so affected Thomas Burnet and many of the other testifiers to mountain glory. The monster is at least as much a creation of the mountain setting as of Frankenstein’s more constrained laboratory” (70). “If the Alps and their Arctic analogue appear to be the monster’s natural habitat, that is surely because his being is bound up with the awe and terror provoked by such environments” (73) I submit that, in making his alien an embodiment or projection of the Antarctic setting, Campbell was most heavily influenced by Frankenstein. I would argue correspondingly that the natural sublime is at least as important in “Who Goes There?” as Yi-Fu Tuan’s notion of “alien space” and Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject.                

In Sherryl Vint’s not unrelated “Becoming Other: Animals, Kinship, and Butler’s Clay’s Ark” (SFS 32.2: 281-300), surely some mention should be made of the religious concept of the soul and its presumed absence in animals, if only to dismiss such speculative metaphysic?—David Ketterer, University of Liverpool
         
Utopia/Dystopia Research Fellowships. During the academic years 2005/2006 and 2006/2007, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton, which fosters research through a weekly seminar, conferences, and workshops, will focus on utopia/dystopia. Scholars from all disciplines are invited to examine from an historical perspective the social, political, economic, and cultural location of dystopias and utopias. In a long list of suggested topics, the two most likely to be of interest to sf scholars are “Technological and Scientific Futures” and “Cinematic and Fictional Dreamworlds.” For full details on suggested areas of research, see the Times Literary Supplement (July 29, 2005, an unsigned boxed advertisement on p. 30 that I have worked from to provide this notice here).

The Center will offer a limited number of research fellowships for one or two semesters, running from September to January and from February to June. These are for younger scholars who have finished their dissertations by the application deadline as well as for senior scholars with established reputations. Fellows are expected to live in Princeton. Funds are limited, so candidates who wish to come for a full year should apply to other grant-giving institutions as well as the Center. Inquiries should be addressed to the Manager, Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Department of History, 129 Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1017. Applications may be made online at <http://dav.princeton.edu/program/e14/fellowships.html>; please note that faxed applications will not be considered. The deadline for applications and letters of recommendation for Fellowships for 2006/2007 is December 1, 2005. Scholars who would like to offer a paper to one of the weekly Seminars are asked to send a brief description of their proposal and a current curriculum vitae to the Director.—CM
  
Interaction at the World Science Fiction Convention.
SFS editors Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. and Joan Gordon made their way to “Interaction,” the annual world sf convention, held this year in Glasgow, Scotland. The convention program’s typography was haunted by the spirit of Glasgow’s famous Arts and Crafts architect, Charles Rennie MacIntosh, but the event was held in the very contemporary SECC, Glasgow’s exhibition center. The main building looks like a particularly attractive airplane hanger, and its large auditorium looks like, and is affectionately called, the Armadillo. Relatively warm and dry weather enhanced the August 4-8 convention.   

WorldCon is many things to many people. For me, it was an opportunity to talk to some of my favorite writers, to bond with some of my reviewers whom I seldom get to see in person, to look over the sf publishing scene in the dealers’ room, and to attend panels and paper sessions. This WorldCon was more thoughtful than many, almost as stimulating as the WorldCon held in Melbourne, Australia in 1999. There was an academic track with scholarly papers, and many of the panels were outstanding.   

Among the writers I enjoyed speaking to were Ken MacLeod, Geoff Ryman, China Miéville, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Joe Haldeman: there is an intangible element of writing, present in the daily voice of the authors, that permeates their text and is a pleasure to run into for a few minutes of real time. Many other writers attended, including Brian Aldiss, Susanna Clarke, John Clute, Greer Gilman, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Elizabeth Hand, Ian McDonald, Justina Robertson, and Robert Silverberg, to name a few I saw in panels and elsewhere.                

There were several well attended sessions on queer sf, unfortunately held in very small rooms. This is a subject that, perhaps surprisingly for the organizers, is of growing significance for fans as well as critics. There were also a number of sessions on colonialism and post-colonialism. The highlights of the con for me were all at panels. At a panel on aging with Brian Aldiss, Elizabeth Hand, Geoff Ryman, and Tanya Huff, all of whom use mature characters, Aldiss had some particularly moving remarks on the serenity and joy of old age. A more contentious panel on the “Third World in Space” evolved into a discussion of what the research and the expenditures of space exploration have to offer developing countries. A panel on the aesthetics of fantasy was for me the best of the conference. Michael Swanwick spoke of the immersive quality of a waking dream that is a goal of fantasy writing; he advocated paring back the purple language that can accompany that quality. Susanna Clarke described how language allows one to weave unlike threads together and spoke of her use of nineteenth-century British novel forms in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004). Greer Gilman spoke in highly metaphorical terms of how words’ histories “upwell” through reading. China Miéville stressed the sense of language as a thing itself, not as a transparent window, but said also that fantasy demands a kind of clarity of language that provides an illusion of realism. I participated in a panel on the sf fan’s introduction to literary criticism. Although I moderated this panel, it was made successful by the excellent contributions of its members (Andrew Butler, Colin Greenland, and Graham Joyce) and by the thoughtful questions and contributions of the audience. There was universal condemnation of obfuscation and lauding of clear, jargon-free language, with an equally universal interest in seeing the work of criticism as exploring and elucidating literature.                 

The culminating event was the Hugo Awards ceremony. Kim Newman and Paul McAuley were the masters of ceremonies. They developed a witty conceit throughout the evening that the Hugo was named not after Hugo Gernsback but after Victor Hugo, giving the history of sf a French twist. In a very strong field (including Ian McDonald’s River of Gods, Iain Banks’s The Algebraist, Charles Stross’s Iron Sunrise, and China Miéville’s Iron Council), Susanna Clarke’s fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell won the Hugo for best novel of 2004. Rather thrillingly for the academic crowd, the winner for best sf-related book of 2004 was The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, and containing chapters on Marxist theory and sf by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. and on feminist theory and sf by Veronica Hollinger; both are editors of SFS.—JG
  
SFRA 2005. The highly successful meeting of the Science Fiction Research Association, held in Las Vegas from June 23-26, 2005, was attended by all the SFS editors. There were vehement discussions, readings of fine new work by sf authors, thoughtful panel presentations, and an expertly catered and convivial Awards Banquet hosted by SFRA President Dave Mead. Conference organizers Dave Mead and Peter Lowentrout ensured that the conference ran smoothly, with speedy resolution of the usual small glitches such as finding a larger room for panels that turned out to be heavily attended. There was a wide variety of panels, from those discussing the teaching of sf in classes for English-language learners (with papers by Joyce Zongrone, Kimberly Caldwell, and Paula Pierre) to those discussing filmed and televised sf. A panel on Star Trek with papers by Susan A. George, Michael Johnson, and Lincoln Geraghty adjourned to Quark’s Bar at the Hilton Hotel’s “The Star Trek Experience.” Paul Brians offered a multimedia presentation on Star Wars, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired a panel with papers by Antonia Levy, Stacie L. Hanes, Lori L. Rowlett, and Philip Kaveny.                

Four strong panels were devoted to the work of the conference’s distinguished (and hardworking) special guest, Ursula K. Le Guin, who contributed to several panel discussions and readings, patiently signed a mountain of books long after her scheduled session was over, and generally added luster to the gathering. At a thought-provoking panel on the Tiptree Award, Le Guin suggested that it might now be time to designate the Tiptree as a prize for a woman writer rather than more generally recognizing work by any writer, male or female, that advances an awareness of women’s issues in the great tradition of James Tiptree, Jr. This suggestion prompted a lively debate and left me pondering whether Alice Sheldon would, if writing today, still be tactically and artistically compelled to be cloaked by a male persona. (I decided that she would, but couldn’t work out why I was so sure.)                

Among the other guest authors in attendance were John Barnes, Kij Johnson, Tim Powers, Steven Brust, and Elizabeth Bear; their readings and contributions to panels were likewise a highlight of the meeting. Given the setting of the conference in Las Vegas, the two sessions on sf and gaming were apposite; and there were excellent papers on individual authors including William Gibson, C.J. Cherryh, Joanna Russ, Jules Verne, Neil Gaiman, John Harrison, Molly Gloss, Garth Nix, H.P Lovecraft, and Tim Powers. The panel that got me thinking hardest was on Philip K. Dick—the panelists were Robert O’ Connor, Sherryl Vint, and Eyal Tamir.                

The Pilgrim, Pioneer, and Clareson Award winners for this year—Gérard Klein, Lisa Yaszek, and Muriel Becker, respectively—were congratulated in SFS 32.2 (377-78); their acceptance speeches at the Awards Banquet all were gracious and thoughtful, but I was especially touched by Muriel Becker’s, which recalled earlier days and earlier SFRA meetings.                

The conference venue was the Imperial Palace Hotel, whose smoky, low-ceilinged first-floor casino resembles a neon cave. To enter the hotel is to embrace the era of Elvis, and the King was on hand in more than spirit. I counted two Elvises in as many days: one Casino “Dealertainer” and a happy bridegroom on his way to a themed wedding at the in-house Wedding Chapel. Las Vegas brings the experience of cognitive dissonance to a whole new level, and the sensation is quite pleasant.—CM   
   
SFRA 2006 at White Plains.
From June 22-25, 2006, SFRA’s 37th Annual Conference will meet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, NY. The co-chairs are Oscar De Los Santos and Tom Morrissey. Norman Spinrad, Nancy  Kress, Nalo Hopkinson, R. Garcia y Robinson, William Sleator, and Joan Slonczewski will be attending as honored guests. The theme is “When Genres Collide.” Sf readers are well aware of the cross-pollination between sf and other genres, including fantasy and dark fantasy. Even in hard sf, readers often encounter variations of “ghosts” and “gods.” With the rise of slipstream fiction and detective novels that hover on the cusp of mainstream fiction even as they move into cyberpunk territory, the boundaries between sf and other genres have become blurred.                

Papers are invited that consider the interplay between science fiction and the natural, physical, and social sciences (cloning, global warming, resource management, gender, race, and species relations, for example) as well as between sf and other literary genres. Possible paper topics might also include authors who blur boundaries in their stories (e.g., Norman Spinrad, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Bruce Sterling), fresh readings of such classic sf writers as Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, and papers on writers who move between science fiction and fantasy (e.g., Nancy Kress, Nalo Hopkinson, R. Garcia y Robertson, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, Octavia Butler, Connie Willis, and Brian W. Aldiss). Finally, we invite papers on sf for young adults. Contemporary writers are now reaching a techno-savvy generation raised on a steady diet of global crises. William Sleator, M.T. Anderson, Garth Nix, Isobelle Carmody, Neal Shusterman, and others have successfully jumped generic boundaries while never losing sight of young people’s fascination with whimsy and horror.               

Paper (or panel) proposals of 150-200 words should be sent to: <sfra2006@yahoo.com>. The deadline is April 15, 2006. Proposals postmarked or e-mailed after April 15 will be considered only if the program is not yet full. Papers that address the conference theme and the work of the guest authors will be considered for inclusion in a volume titled When Genres Collide: SFRA 2006, to be published within a year of the conference by Fine Tooth Press. For fuller details and updates, see <www.sfra.org/>.—Oscar De Los Santos and Tom Morrissey, Co-Chairs
  
SF at ICFA. To add to the general call printed in SFS 32.2 (380-81), the Science Fiction Literature & Theory Division of the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts would like to invite readers of SFS to propose sf paper topics and panel proposals for the 27th annual meeting. The theme for 2006 is “Drawn by the Fantastic: Comics, Graphic Novels, Art and Literature.” The SF Division focuses on all aspects of science fiction literature, history, and theory. Archival, historical, critical, and theoretical approaches are equally welcome. Deadline for submissions of sf proposals is November 30, 2005. Electronic submissions are welcome. The conference dates are March 15-19, 2006; the venue is the Wyndham Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hotel, Dania, Florida.                

Given the conference theme, the Division is especially interested in paper proposals on graphic novels, illustrations and cover art, painting, sculpture, comics, cartoons, and cinematic works. As always, proposals for individual papers and for academic sessions and panels on any aspect of the fantastic in any media are likewise welcome. Science fiction proposals must be sent to Robin Anne Reid, Department of Literature and Languages, Texas A&M-Commerce, Commerce TX 75429 <Robin_Reid@tamu-commerce.edu>. Full details for all Divisions are available on the conference website: <http://www.iafa.org/>.—Robin Reid, Texas A&M, Commerce
      
Miéville Wins Clarke Award. The 2005 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been won by China Miéville for Iron Council (Macmillan). Miéville, who previously won the Award in 2001 for Perdido Street Station, is only the second author (after  Pat Cadigan) to win the Clarke Award twice. The other short-listed novels were  River of Gods by Ian McDonald, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Market Forces by Richard Morgan, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and The System of the World by last year’s winner, Neal Stephenson. The judges were Mark Bould, Carol Ann Kerry Green, Dave Palmer, and Justina Robson.—Paul Kincaid, Administrator, Arthur C. Clarke Award
  
Prometheus Award to Neal Stephenson. At its annual WorldCon award ceremony held on August 5 in Glasgow, the Libertarian Futurist Society presented its annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel to Neal Stephenson for The System of the World (William Morrow) and the award for Best Classic Fiction (the “Hall of Fame” award) to A.E. van Vogt’s The Weapon Shops of Isher (1951). Author L. Neil Smith and artist Scott Bieser shared a Special Award. The Prometheus Awards honor outstanding science fiction/fantasy that explores the possibilities of a free future, champions human rights (including personal and economic liberty), dramatizes the perennial conflict between individuals and coercive governments, or critiques the tragic consequences of abuse of power, especially by the State.—Chris Hibbert, President, Libertarian Futurist Society

Heinlein Centennial Conference, Kansas City, Mo. This has been announced in Locus (July 25, 2005: 12) and there is a website with further details at <http://www.HeinleinCentennial.com>. The initial press release promises four tracks, each to be priced differently, with registration for the “convention track” to begin at $75 (for registrations paid before December 31, 2005), gradually increasing to $150 on the day of the meeting. It is not clear from the website whether the “convention track” includes academic sessions, but the other registration options and fees should be listed soon. The conference organizers are William H. Patterson, James Gifford, Allan Koslow, and Peter Scott. The not-for-profit event has no connection with the Heinlein Society, with whom apparently there has been some friction. The conference date is July 7, 2007, the hundredth anniversary of Heinlein’s birth; Kansas City, Missouri was chosen because it is Heinlein’s birth-place (as well as being the setting of some of the best scenes in The Puppet Masters [1951]). The conference hotels will be the Hyatt Regency Crown Center and the Westin Crown Center.                

As yet there has been no formal call for academic sessions or papers, and any deadlines are likely to have passed by the time our readers have received SFS’s March issue, so those interested in participating should continue to check <http://www.HeinleinCentennial.com>for further details.—CM
   
Correction. In Everett Bleiler’s review of Francis Stevens’s “The Nightmare” and Other Tales, edited by Gary Hoppenstand (SFS 32.2: 367-68), due to an editorial error, the publication date for H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror, which should have read 2000, was changed to 1927, the date of the first, incomplete edition. We regret any appearance of carelessness that might be unjustly assigned to such a reliable reviewer as Mr. Bleiler.—JG


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