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SF & Extraction: LSFRC 6th annual conference 8-9 October 2022, Online Keynote speakers & Guest creators TBC. We're delighted to be supporting the 6th annual conference of the London Science Fiction Research Community, which returns in October 2022 as an international, two-day online event. Situating Extraction As Earth burns, capital continues to plunder more and more material with which to fuel its own destructive growth. ‘Extraction’ entails the removal – usually forcible – and conversion of the human and inhuman into marketable materials. In so doing, nature as such becomes implicated in human politics across a variety of tangled, exploitative confluences. Extraction is an imperialist, (neo)colonialist practice that has been wreaking havoc on life for over five hundred years, as resources and people are extracted from the Global South and profit accumulated in the Global North. It undergirds capitalism’s model of success-through-progress, occupying and controlling the horizons of past history, present conditions and future possibility. Extraction, then, insists that alternative ways of being-in-the-world do not matter, excluding, exploiting and destroying lives in order to keep the engines of eternal growth burning brightly. For the past two centuries, extraction has built a world petroculture, a global energy system that has caused disastrous damage to the planet’s climate and circumscribed social and cultural imaginaries. It is imperative that we find ways to conceive of futures free of extractive hegemony and the technofix solutions it proposes to the problems it causes. Sf builds new worlds, sometimes from the same components that constitute our present reality, sometimes with alternative ingredients and values toward more just and equitable ways of being. Its origins as a genre are colonialist and imperial, and its close affinity for the dominant technoculture remains ongoing. In spite of this – or, rather, precisely because of this – sf is uniquely effective as a mode of imagining capable of destabilising the binaristic divisions (nature/culture, first nature/second nature, centre/periphery) that underscore extractive thinking and practice. Sf has often been a genre of technical and personal mastery, but is increasingly a space for vulnerability, inclusion and change, of finding ways out of the historical nightmare that is being differentially forced upon us. The SF + Extraction Conference For our 2022 conference, the LSFRC welcomes submissions that explore the theme of Science Fiction + Extraction. We invite proposals for papers, panels, workshops, performances, and creative responses to the theme, and we would like to actively encourage alternative and innovative forms of presentation and engagement. It is our view that the theme of Extraction is urgent and at the same time broad and receptive to diverse interpretations. We welcome contributions that think with, through and about extraction in all its forms – as extraction of human and nonhuman subjects; appropriation of knowledge and indigenous practices; instrumentalisation of landscapes beneath, upon and beyond the Earth; parasitism; pollution as colonialism; the accumulative schematisation of linear temporal frames; forcefully extracted emotional labour; legacies of trauma and more – and its relationship with sf both as an extractive form of fiction and as a corrective/counter to extraction. From asteroid mining to dream harvesting, we want to engage with sf texts and ways of thinking across all media that explores, unravels and seeks to push beyond extraction’s mastery of the past, present and future. Please email proposals (300...read more
Migration & Documentality: Collaborative Thinking and Social Justice A collaborative and interactive panel talk on issues of contemporary migration, documentality and social justice. Wed, 22 Jun 2022, 20:00 BST (free event, booking required) Goodenough College, Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2AB This panel discussion features Dr Henghameh Saroukhani (Saint Mary’s University, Canada) and Dr Agnes Woolley (Birkbeck, University of London) who will be discussing their current collaborative work on migrant life, documentality and genre-bending writing. Their conversation will examine the radical journalistic prose of the Iranian-Kurdish writer Behrouz Boochani who wrote about his imprisonment on Manus Island entirely on WhatsApp alongside the neglected archival material required to fully understand the morbid injustices associated with the recent Windrush scandal. They will discuss the nature of collaborative thinking, embodied research practices and the ethics of writing about illegalized and 'undocumented' lives. This talk encourages feedback and sharing from audience members so as to facilitate a space of intellectual affinity, solidarity and alliance. Supported by the Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities, the Centre for Research on Race & Law (Birkbeck), and The Decolonial Group (GoodEnough). Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com. Click here to book your free place at this event. Featured image from Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time (Dir. Behrouz Boochani,...read more
4 July 2022, 6pm, The Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 0PN Attendance is free, but booking is required. This talk will introduce scholarship on speculative fiction and futuristic narratives in Turkey and give a historical and literary survey of the tradition of entangled futurities and speculative worldbuilding in contemporary Turkish Literature. Discussion of the selected primary texts will illustrate the intellectual and academic interest in contemporary Turkey and the common concerns and themes portrayed in Turkish literature. Dr Emrah Atasoy is the author of the monograph Epistemological Warfare and Hope in Critical Dystopia (2021) and several articles and book chapters on speculative fiction, futuristic narratives, Turkish speculative fiction, ecocriticism, twentieth-century literature, and comparative literature. He is currently a visiting postdoctoral scholar at the Faculty of English, University of Oxford, as a recipient of the TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) 2019 International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Grant. Please click here to book your place. Featured image taken by Emrah Atasoy....read more
Changing the Voices of Science Fiction: The Progressive Fantastic in Germany Wednesday 22 June 2022, 6-7.30pm, Birkbeck, University of London (attendance is free, but booking required) German science fiction has traditionally been a conservative genre, its main authors to this day mostly white, cis, hetero males of middle age. Until recently, diversity of genders, non-heteronormative sexuality, race or varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, or representations of other marginalized groups (age, (dis)ability, etc.) has been sorely missing. But there has been a concerted effort by a younger, more diverse group of writers to change the approach to fantastic literature as a whole. Under the umbrella of the "progressive fantastic," they have called for the inclusion of other identities in speculative fiction, the strengthening of own-voices, and a keen-eyed reexamination of traditions and structures in fantastic texts. In this talk, I want to present the key features of this "progressive fantastic" by looking at exemplary texts of recent German SF production: Judith and Christian Vogts groundbreaking work in writing in a non-heteronormative language and presenting intersectionally diverse communities in Wasteland (2019) and Ace in Space (2020); James Sullivan’s investigation of belonging and self-positioning via Afrofuturist estrangement in Die Stadt der Symbionten (2019), Lena Richter’s subtle emphasis on (dis)abled and neurodivergent characters in her short stories "Feuer" (2020) and "3,78 Lifepoints" (2021), and Theresa Hannig’s reinvigoration of the hopeful narrative strategies of utopia as a genre in Pantopia (2022). Dr Lars Schmeink is currently Leverhulme Professor of German Studies at the University of Leeds, visiting from his position as Research Fellow at the Europa-Universität Flensburg, where he just applied for funding for a larger research project on science fiction as a form of science communication. Before coming to Leeds, he concluded his work as principal investigator of the federally funded "Science Fiction" subproject for the "FutureWork" network, an interdisciplinary research group working on the development of work and society. In 2010, he inaugurated the first German academic organization dealing with research into the fantastic, the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung, and served as its president for ten years. He is the author of Biopunk Dystopias (2016), and the co-editor of Cyberpunk and Visual Culture (2018), The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture (2020), Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture (2022) and New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (2022). Click here to book your free place. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A RECORDING OF THE LECTURE. Featured image by BroneArtUlm under a CC BY...read more
Thursday 19 May 2022, 7.30pm, 43 Gordon Square Join us for this special event as part of Birkbeck Arts Week 2022 (free to attend, booking required). Writers Rebel was formed in late 2019 by a group of writers who felt they could no longer ignore the Climate and Ecological Emergency, but had to make it central to their writing and their political lives. Writers Rebel, as part of Extinction Rebellion, has since then drawn national attention to the climate disinformation spread by lobbyists based on Tufton Street. Many fellow authors, including Zadie Smith, Ben Okri and Margaret Atwood, have joined the campaign. For this event, Birkbeck welcomes three of these writers – Chloe Aridjis, Monique Roffey and Toby Litt – to talk about writing, hope, activism and climate. Monique Roffey is an award winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and a memoir. Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch, (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Book of the Year Award, 2020, and was nominated for eight major awards. The film rights were sold to Dorothy Street Pictures and will be developed by Film Four. Her other Caribbean novels, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and House of Ashes, have been nominated for major awards too (Costa, Orange, Encore etc). Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. Her work has been translated into several languages. She is a co-founder of Writers Rebel within Extinction Rebellion. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Writers Centre. Chloe Aridjis is the author of three novels, Book of Clouds, which won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France, Asunder, set in London's National Gallery, and Sea Monsters, which was awarded the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Chloe has written for various art journals and was guest curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014 and the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writers Award for 2020. Chloe is a member of Writers Rebel, a group of writers who focus on addressing the climate emergency and biodiversity loss. A collection of her essays and short fiction, Dialogue with a Somnambulist: Stories, Essays and a Portrait Gallery, was published last autumn. Toby Litt has published novels, short story collections and comics. His most recent book is Patience, a novel. He runs the Creative Writing MFA at Birkbeck College, and blogs at www.tobylitt.com. He is a member of English Pen and the editor of the Writers Rebel website. He is currently publishing his next book, A Writer’s Diary, in daily entries on Substack. When he is not writing, he likes sitting doing nothing. Click here to book your free place. Featured image by by Markus Spiske on...read more
"Fifth Cinema": Theorising Refugee-Led Filmmaking, with Raminder Kaur and Mariagiulia Grassilli When: 15 October 2021, 18:00 — 21:00 BST Venue: Online (please book your place here) CCL member Dr Agnes Woolley will be hosting a screening of Les Sauteurs [Those Who Jump] (2016), directed by Abou Bakar Sidibé, Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner, followed by discussion with Raminder Kaur and Mariagiulia Grassilli on 15 October 2021. Raminder Kaur and Mariagiulia Gassilli describe ‘Fifth Cinema’ as: ‘a mobile, unstable, instantaneous, fragmented, displaced and hybrid bricolage. A “smart cinema”, owing to the prevalence of digital technologies, it exists in dispersed pockets. It is the expression of new creative modes’. In this discussion, we will unpack the idea of Fifth Cinema in relation to recent refugee filmmaking, asking what conceptual frames help us think through image making in the context of statelessness. We will explore the production contexts for these films and consider their role in resisting punitive bordering practices. Raminder Kaur is professor of Anthropology and Cultural Studies in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex. She is the author of Kudankulam: The Story of an Indo-Russian Nuclear Power Plant (2020); Atomic Mumbai: Living with the Radiance of a Thousand Suns (2013); and Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism (2003/5). She is also co-author of Adventure Comics and Youth Cultures in India (with Saif Eqbal, 2018), Diaspora and Hybridity (with Virinder Kalra and John Hutnyk, 2005); and co-editor of several other books. Aside from her academic writing, she is a scriptwriter, theatre producer and filmmaker. Mariagiulia Grassilli is Research Associate at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex and Director of Human Rights Nights in Italy. She works as a professional in Cinema and Human Rights, curating festivals and film production for raising awareness, creating empowerment and capacity building in Europe and Africa. Founding member of Human Rights Film Network – an international network of more than 40 human rights festival in the world. Her research focuses on migration, cinema, representations of diversity, cultural participation. Her publications include writings on Anthropology and Cinema (Journal of Visual Anthropology, vol. 20, 2007), Migrant Cinema (Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 34, 2009) and Human Rights Film Festivals (Film Festival Yearbook 4, St Andrews University, 2012). This is an online event: the link to the live discussion will be sent out on the day, and the film – Les Sauteurs (Abou Bakar Sidibé, Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner, 2016) – will be made available on the BIMI Screening Room for 24 hours before the event. Please book your place...read more
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. You can watch a recording of the event below or visit our YouTube channel....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