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Image by Dan Alcade under a CC BY-NC-ND license.
We were really thrilled to be able to host "Activism & Resistance," the 5th annual conference of the London Science Fiction Research Community (LSFRC), which ran from 9-11 September 2021. Prof. Grace Dillon (Portland State University) delivered a wonderful keynote on the subject of “Moozhig-aendum-itchigaewin: Indigenous Futurisms and Climate Justice.” You can watch Grace's inspiring keynote below, which was chaired by Birkbeck's very own Dr Katie Stone (Research Associate, Department of English, Theatre & Creative Writing, Birkbeck). The talk considers how indigenous science fictions can help us decolonise the geological period known as the Anthropocene, by drawing on a rich set of indigenous practices that advocate dignity and humility in not giving up in the face of more than 500 years of colonial violence. Speaker bios: Grace L. Dillon is an American academic and author. She is an Anishinaabe Professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program, in the School of Gender, Race, and Nations, at Portland State University. Similar to the concept of Afrofuturism, Dillon is best known for coining the term Indigenous Futurism, which is a movement consisting of art, literature and other forms of media which express Indigenous perspectives of the past, present and future in the context of science fiction and related sub-genres. Dillon is the editor of Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, which is the first anthology of Indigenous science fiction short stories, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2012. The anthology includes works from Gerald Vizenor, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sherman Alexie, William Sanders and Stephen Graham Jones. Previously, Dillon has edited Hive of Dreams: Contemporary Science Fiction from the Pacific Northwest, which was published in 2003 by Oregon State University Press. Dr Katie Stone is Research Associate in the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London. Katie's PhD, titled "Children are the Future: Utopianism and Childhood in Science Fiction and its Criticism," was successfully completed in Spring 2021. Her most recent publication, "Hungry for Utopia: An Antiwork Reading of Bram Stoker's Dracula," was published in the journal Utopian Studies in 2021. Image by Ted McGrath under a CC BY-NC-SA...read more
Brown Girl Like Me: Reading and Q&A with Jaspreet Kaur When: Friday 1st October 2021, 18:30 — 20:00 (BST) Venue: Online (booking required) Jaspreet Kaur will be at Birkbeck for the start of Autumn Term, reading from her new memoir/manifesto Brown Girl Like Me. Brown Girl Like Me is an inspiring memoir-manifesto challenging existing portrayals of young South Asian women in the UK; providing a millennial perspective on how brown women navigate and balance the intersectionality of their identities in the new political climate. This book asks and answers urgent questions about the current state of the world for young British Asian women through interviews with brown women across the country. Brown Girl Like Me aims to empower, support and equip brown women with the confidence and tools to navigate the difficulties that come with an intersectional identity, unpacking key issues such as the home, the media, the workplace, education, mental health, culture, confidence and the body. Find out more about the book here. Jaspreet will be joined by Ben Pimlott, Birkbeck Writer in Residence. The event is a joint Birkbeck Politics and English event chaired by Ben Worthy (Centre for British Political Life) and Caroline Edwards (Centre for Contemporary Literature). You can watch the previous ‘In conversation event’ with Jaspreet Kaur from 26 Feb 2021 here. Click here to book your free online place....read more
From ‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ to ‘Sunscape’ by Inês Rebelo Having organised ‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ as part of Birkbeck Arts Weeks 2021, I wanted to write with a follow-up to the project. We received meaningful contributions of 11 participants across borders from Australia to Colombia, including Poland, Portugal and the UK. These combined cross 16 time zones and two hemispheres. Collectively, each submitted image comes from artists, close family, computer programmers, gardeners, lecturers, lawyers and policy advisors. Each one with their unique experiences offered unexpected additions to ‘Sunscape’, enhancing it and shaping it in its own way. And yet, we wouldn’t be able to tell who contributed what, by looking at each image alone. Although this chapter is closed, with each and every participant receiving ‘Sunscape’ on the 21st June, solstice day of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere, I envision the project to continue in the future. It could be open to other calls for participation across frontiers, or it can morph – transform itself into something else altogether, a new chapter. Floating paintings ‘Sunscape’ emerged as ‘floating paintings’ moving up and sideways at various times by the computer screensaver. They acquire different sizes and positions, potentially generated ad infinitum but most likely simply during a very long cycle. We are in outer space. It’s black, it’s the expanse of the universe. We are space-framed but unbound in time, with the aid of the computer . There are photographs of landscapes in different scales , some fogged by distant memory of Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris, others sunburned by overlayers of hot gradients and one surprising moving image (!) repeated over three moments. It looks glossy, but it is a critic to our manipulations of light and nature to keep a socioeconomical model that is destroying our planet. Meanwhile, there is a real sunset remembering us that Sun existed before us, and it will exist after us. Warmly, patterns of light and shadows appear too, characteristic of real Sun imprints. Shadow-sun I saw the Sun in a vase when reading about mother Nature’s cycles and a mind map in hopeful blue intertwined with Spanish texts, including portmanteau words. Modern houses and sewage systems deprive us of the joy of seeing our personal excrement return to the earth and become an agent of growth. We poo into a ceramic bowl, and our production is flushed away. Not only do we never see it again, most of us have no idea where it goes and what happens to it. The closest substitute we can have to this cycle in an urban setting is compost. There is definitely joy in saving our food scraps and peels and putting them in a bin and adding bits and pieces of dead leaves and plant clippings, then closing it up for a few months and, at the end of that period, opening the bin to find a dark, crumbly matter inside that bears little resemblance to what we remember throwing in, except for a few pieces of eggshell and an avocado store or thirty. ríos / rivers este-lares / compound made-up word blending 'stellar' and 'place' or 'home' aguas / waters sub solares / sub solar The Sun too, lights in a cycle, by the way. Solar radiation levels fluctuate in cycles, going...read more
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash 5 June 2021, online At Writers Rebel, we believe it's time to write new stories, and find new ways of telling them. But how to begin? Well, we believe it's important that writers get together, to exchange ideas and experiences, to learn from one another. To that end, we've organised The Word for World is Forest – a full day of masterclasses and writing workshops with four acclaimed writers. Each will give a unique and compelling vision of alternatives to conventional narratives. In his masterclass, novelist and CCL member Toby Litt will offer alternatives to the dominant screenwriting model of the Hero's Journey, while Laline Paull, acclaimed author of The Bees, will explore the radical empathy of writing from the non-human mind. Mythology, water, and rebellion are the starting-points for writer Charlotte Du Cann, from the ground-breaking Dark Mountain Project. And award-winning poet Dom Bury will dig deep into how our bodies and emotions can feed into verse. All this is taking place online, on June 5th 2021. You can book here...read more
Artwork by Thomas Johnson. 9-11 September 2021, online Keynote Speakers: Grace Dillon, Radha D'Souza Guest Creators: Jeannette Ng, Rivers Solomon, Neon Yang In an age when Me Too, Black Lives Matter, Decolonise the Curriculum, Refugees Welcome, and movements for global solidarity with oppressed populations have become part of mainstream discourse, it is vital to re-examine the relationship between activism, resistance and the mass imagination vis-a-vis science fiction. As a genre dedicated to imagining alternatives, science fiction is an inherently radical space which allows for diverse explorations of dissent. It is, also, a space that has been rightfully critiqued for its historic inequities favouring white cishet men (as recently addressed by Jeanette Ng during the 2019 Hugo Awards among others). There needs to be reckoning with how precarious bodies engage in activism and resistance in the context of their material realities and restrictions. Therefore, we must deny universalising a single experience as “radical enough” and instead acknowledge how communities in the margins – queer, trans, disabled, neurodivergent, BIPOC, immigrants and refugees, religious minorities, indigenous populations, casualised workers, the homeless and unemployed – have specific ways of subverting and undermining the system, as well as specific stakes and reasons to do so. It is imperative to not only revisit how science fiction has been a space for activism and resistance, but also resist and challenge the genre’s shortcomings. For our 2021 conference, the LSFRC welcomes submissions that explore the theme of “Activism and Resistance.” We recognise the urgency of this theme and the broad ways in which it can be interpreted and applied. We welcome contributions that explore SF as the site of activism and resistance, critical reflections of activism and resistance against SF’s tradition so far, and broader contributions on the topics of activism and resistance. We are especially keen to welcome practitioners, activists, change-makers and dissidents who are working to create a more equitable world. We do not adhere to strict reading of the term SF; instead, we encourage a widening of the genre to highlight and uplift different voices and perspectives. We invite proposals for papers, panels, workshops, protest and disruption sessions, performances, installations, and creative responses to the theme, and we would like to actively encourage alternative and innovative forms of presentation and engagement. We are aware that academic conferences often have barriers to access and if you have any specific concerns, please do reach out, especially as the online format carries its own challenges (and benefits). We hope we can alleviate some of these concerns with the reassurance that paying for registration is completely optional. Please email proposals (300 words + 50 word author bios) and/or enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30th June. For this conference, we are organising a track on gaming, SF and activism + resistance. If you would like to be considered for this track, please indicate this in your proposal. Possible topics include: Depictions and history of protest in SF Anti-capitalism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-imperialism and decolonisation, and other anti-establishment politics in SF Utopia, dystopia, ustopia Politics of the margins in SF – queerness, disability, race and ethnicity, nationality, religious minorities and caste, immigrants and refugees Reproductive justice in SF Depictions of class, class warfare and social reproduction Climate justice in SF Futurisms from specific...read more
Invited Lecture by Dr Daniel Hartley (Durham University) 26 May 2021, 6-7.30pm BST online (booking required) We will be joined by Dr Daniel Hartley (Durham University) for a research lecture and discussion. Titled “From Aesthetic Education to Anti-Imperial Literacy: On the Early Marx, Raymond Williams, and Decolonizing the University,” Dr Hartley’s talk will begin with a close reading of key passages from Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts, identifying a logic of aesthetic education that also informed Marx’s early theory of revolution, traces of which can still be found in the Grundrisse and Capital. In particular, it holds that for Marx the unfolding and / or redistribution of objective wealth is a necessary but insufficient condition for communism; it must be accompanied by a process of mass education that develops the subjective capacities necessary for the non-alienated appropriation and enjoyment of new objects. The second part of the talk then turns to a little-studied presidential address to the Classical Association given by Raymond Williams in 1984, entitled “Writing, Speech and the ‘Classical.’” This address develops a theory of anti-imperial literacy that will be read as a nuanced and detailed example of the process of aesthetic education implicit in Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts. The talk will then conclude with some brief reflections on the ways in which Marxist, cultural materialist frameworks might contribute to contemporary debates on decolonizing the university, whilst provisionally connecting those debates to a somewhat alternative historical and theoretical trajectory. This talk has developed out of two of Dr Hartley's recent publications – "The aesthetics of non-objectivity: From the worker’s two bodies to cultural revolution" in the Italian Journal of Aesthetics (2021) and "Anti-Imperial Literacy, the Humanities, and Universality in Raymond Williams’s Late Work" in Raymond Williams at 100, ed. Paul Stasi (2021). Speaker Bio: Dr Daniel Hartley is Assistant Professor in World Literatures in English at Durham University. His research focuses on literary style, ‘world literature’ and the historical sociology of modernity. Daniel’s first book, The Politics of Style: Towards a Marxist Poetics (Brill: 2017), developed a systematic theory of literary style through an immanent critique of the work of Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton and Fredric Jameson. Daniel has since continued to refine his thinking on style in articles for Poetics Today, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory, and Textual Practice. You can visit our CCL YouTube channel to watch the recording of Dr Hartley's guest lecture and Q&A or preview below. Featured image by UCL Occupation under a CC BY-SA...read more
We're delighted to share some good news about recent Bikrbeck alumni from our MFA Theatre Directing, directed by Rob Swain, Professor of Theatre Practice. Lyndsey Turner, who graduated in 2007, is directing Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood at the Oilver Theatre in the National Theatre. The Covid-secure live performances will run from 16 June – 24 July 2021. Lyndsey was the first woman to win the Olivier award for Best Director and is an associate director of the National Theatre. Info here: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/under-milk-wood Atri Banerjee, who graduated in 2018 and won The Stage Debut award for Directing in 2019, is directing a new production of Harm at the Bush Theatre. This new play by Bruntwood Prize award winner Phoebe Eclair-Powell (WINK, Fury) and starring Kelly Gough (Broadchurch, Marcella), is a thrilling and razor-sharp twisted comedy on the corrosive effects of social media and isolation. Running from 17 May – 26 June 2021, Harm is made possible thanks to the support of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. Info here: https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/harm/ Diane Page, who is a graduate of Birkecbk's BA Theatre Studies and completed the MFA Theatre Directing in 2019, is co-directing Out West with the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre's Artistic Director, Rachel O'Riordan. Out West comprises the world premiere of three new short plays by three of the UK’s leading playwrights – Tanika Gupta, Simon Stephens and Roy Williams and runs from 18 June – 24 July 2021. All rooted in West London, the plays explore race, identity and our sense of place and purpose, presented together as a triple bill. Info here: https://lyric.co.uk/shows/out-west/ Jonathan O'Boyle, who graduated in 2013 and won awards for his production of the musical The Last Five Years, is directing the musical this September as it transfers to West End, having been presented at Southwark Playhouse in 2019. It will run at the Vaudeville Theatre from 23 September 2021 for a limited season. The production at Southwark Playhouse was nominated for eight Offie Awards and won two for Best Director and Best Musical Production. Oli Higginson was nominated for a Stage Debut Award for his performance as Jamie. Info here: https://britishtheatre.com/the-last-five-years-transfers-vaudeville-theatre-23-september-2021/ Congratulations to all of our Birkbeck alumni and we hope that the new productions run smoothly amid Covid restrictions! For more information about Birkbeck's MFA Theatre Directing, please visit the programme's homepage. For more information about the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, please visit the centre's...read more
‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ Digital practitioner Inês Rebelo (Birkbeck) invites you to contribute to a new digital piece on our nearest star – the Sun. Where: online, submissions by email When: 12 May until 4 June 2021 ‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ uses sound and drawing to evoke an encounter with our closest star. Capturing the Sun’s unheard voice from NASA’s recordings, these otherworldly tunes affect drawings over-layered in time. They remind us of our vital connection with the Sun and become alerts for climate emergency. As part of Birkbeck’s Arts Weeks 2021, ‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ invites you to contribute to a new digital piece in the making titled ‘Sunscape’. This new piece takes the form of a collective screensaver where participants submit images to reflect on what we can do to slow down climate-warming caused by humans. 1 – Sun Look at the Sun (not with a naked eye!) Look at the Sun: it’s vital. Its gravity holds our planetary system together. Its energy brings heat, warmth, life in blooming crops, allows us to see in colours of rainbow and can burn to ashes, silently and invisibly. This much we know today: we know we can see the sun – in detail. But, can we hear the Sun? Are we really listening? Listen now. 2 – Emergency 2020 was not only Covid-19 year, it was also, yet again, one of the hottest years on record. Solar radiation levels fluctuate in cycles of eleven years each, going up and down, but the observed warming of past decades is too large to be caused by solar activity alone. Indeed, global scientific consensus recognises that climate change (including rising temperatures and other events) is real and human activities that release polluting gases from burning coal, oil or gas are the main cause. Much like glass walls of a greenhouse, gases in Earth’s atmosphere let the sunlight in but also prevent the Sun’s heat from escaping. As humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide for the most part, our planet heats up to dangerous levels, energetically unbalanced. If this pattern continues unchanged and average global temperatures increase above 1.5°C, the consequences are dangerously unpredictable. Thank you for listening. 3 – Screensaver Due to the way it is named – screensaver – it is common to believe this techy sounding thing might save energy on a screen. After all, a screen needs energy to emit light. That is how it produces graphics of all sorts. But in fact, a screensaver doesn’t save any energy at all. Alas, like many other things shouting around, big and small, a screensaver is not to be taken at face value. A screensaver is a small program that can run in our computers, paradoxically triggered by our inactivity – it starts when we are have not used our machine for some time. When triggered, a screensaver fades out the current screen view and replaces it with new visuals, pictures or even text, often sequenced in an animated fashion with more or less sophisticated transition effects. These are a fascinating facet of our saturated (over)use of screen time. Can you get your screensaver to come up? If not, read on. 4 – Participate Let’s make ‘Sunscape’ a screensaver of our own. Let’s make tech together, for...read more
Writing, Rights and Literature (Arts Weeks 2021) When: 18 May 2021, 18:00-19:15 BST Venue: Online (online booking required) Book your place Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of Birmingham) and Julia Bell (Birkbeck) join Agnes Woolley to discuss the need for literary communities, political truth telling, and the relationship between writing and rights. What is the relationship between writing and rights? Join Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge and Birkbeck’s Julia Bell to debate the burning issue of how literature can register – but also shape a wider and more creative recognition of what ‘rights’ implies. Chaired by Dr Agnes Woolley (Birkbeck, Director of MA Migration Literatures and Cultures). Lyndsey Stonebridge’s polemical new book Writing and Righting (OUP, 2020) looks at the connection between literature and human rights, making the case for the moral and political value of literature in rightless times. In conversation with Julia Bell, Lyndsey will discuss the need for literary communities and political truth telling at a time when the language of rights is devalued. Lyndsey Stonebridge is Interdisciplinary Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham. Her recent books include the prizewinning Placeless People: Rights, Writing, and Refugees (OUP, 2018), and The Judicial Imagination: Writing after Nuremberg (EUP, 2011). Lyndsey is currently collaborating on a creative and interdisciplinary project with refugees and host communities in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, Refugee Hosts. A regular broadcaster and media commentator, she has written for The New Statesman, Prospect, and The New Humanist. Julia Bell is a writer and Reader in Creative Writing at Birkbeck. Her creative work includes poetry, lyric essays, short stories and novels. Her most recent book is Radical Attention: An Essay on the Battle for our Attention in the Age of Distraction (Peninsula Press, 2020). How to join this event This event takes place online. You will receive an email one hour before the start of the event with a link to join. The email will come from email@example.com – please check your junk/spam inbox if you have not received the email one hour before the start of the event. Find out more about Arts Weeks 2021 and book more events. To find out more about our MA Migration Literatures and Cultures that Dr Agnes Woolley directs, please click here. Photo by Seven Shooter on...read more
Interactive Narrative Workshop with Dr Alan Trotter & Dr Mark Blacklock (Arts Weeks 2021) Starts: 13 May 2021, 19:30 Finishes: 20 May 2021, 20:30 Venue: Online Book your place What is interactive digital narrative and what tools are available to writers? As part of Arts Weeks 2021, Birkbeck is running a series of two hands-on workshops, run by Dr Alan Trotter, author of Muscle (Faber, 2019) and All This Rotting, a digital story for phones, and Dr Mark Blacklock, Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck and the author of the novels Hinton (Granta, 2020) and I'm Jack (Granta, 2015). The workshops are suitable for beginners and will guide participants through first encounters with freely available software tools such as Twine, Twitter Bots Done Quick, and Telescopic Text, while also introducing the history and theory of digital narrative. These workshops are generously supported by the Experimental Collaborative Humanities Network. Places limited to 20 on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendees must be available for both workshops: 13 May 19.30 20 May 19.30 Booking one ticket gives you access to both workshops. The 20 May workshop features feedback on draft piece made by participants. Dr Alan Trotter wrote the novel Muscle (Faber, 2019). He studied Philosophy and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh as an undergraduate; he has a Creative Writing MLitt (distinction) and a PhD in English Literature, both from the University of Glasgow. His PhD included creative and critical writing (the dissertation was on what it called 'Body Texts': work in print and electronic literature, that makes unusual use of its form): it was supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council funding throughout, as well as with an AHRC-supported placement at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. His short fiction has been published by Somesuch Stories, Under the Influence, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 3. He has also published a digital story for phones called All This Rotting with Editions at Play (a collaboration between Google Play and the publisher Visual Editions). He has worked for publishers including Penguin, Vintage, Granta, and currently works at Canongate Books, and is writing two novellas. Dr Mark Blacklock is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a novelist. His most recent novel, Hinton (Granta, 2020), was longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize, and described in The Guardian as ‘a singular literary achievement.’ His first novel, I’m Jack, a fictionalised autobiography of Wearside Jack, was published by Granta in 2015 and optioned for a film that was never made. Mark’s monograph, The Emergence of the Fourth Dimension, a literary and cultural history of higher-dimensioned space, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. The essay ‘Weirding the Void: Higher Spatial Form in Weird Fiction’ was shortlisted for the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pioneer Award the same year. Find out more about Arts Weeks 2021 and book more events....read more