Call For Papers: Waste: A Symposium
Apr10

Call For Papers: Waste: A Symposium

CFP: Waste: A Symposium, Papers on Disposability, Decay, and Depletion Birkbeck, University of London, 21 September 2017 A one-day event to be held at Birkbeck College, University of London, on 21 September 2017.   Confirmed keynote speakers: Professor Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London) Dr Leo Mellor (University of Cambridge) Dr Rachele Dini (UCL / University of Cambridge) This one-day interdisciplinary event will make visible the untold story of waste by exploring its representations, both material and metaphorical, within contemporary culture. Through an investigation of waste’s presence (or lack thereof) within modern life, this conference will disrupt the entrenched value judgements surrounding objects, places and people otherwise deemed redundant. By exploring how we create, classify and treat waste material this discussion will simultaneously review and challenge the ethics of human waste(-ing); the marginalisation of populations rendered disposable within a globalised socio-economic framework. Calling on related discourses from the arts, social sciences, medical humanities and beyond, this symposium will bring together a diverse mix of academics, artists and industry experts to share insights on a (waste) matter that impacts and implicates us all. The event will be free to attend, with lunch and refreshments provided on the day and a drinks reception for attendees and speakers in the evening.   Call for papers (deadline 1 May 2017): Proposals are invited for twenty minute papers which will be presented in panels of three. Abstracts of up to 500 words should be submitted to: wasteconference2017.mailbox@bbk.ac.uk by the 1st of May 2017. Please also include a short bio (no more than 150 words), contact details, and any institutional or industry affiliation. Possible paper topics include (but are not limited to) the following: Pollution and toxicity (e.g. physical / metaphorical, environmental, social) Junk, dirt and rubbish (e.g. the abject, hygiene, creation of) Decomposition and decay (e.g. illness, corpses, physical ‘wasting’) The temporality of waste (e.g. ‘wasting time’, ageing and depletion) The geography of waste (e.g. LULUs, derelict spaces, wastelands) Literatures of waste (e.g. fiction about waste, recycling, printing) Human waste / Wasted humans (e.g. bodily matter, biopolitics of disposability) Petrocultures and industrial waste (e.g. extraction, environmental damage of) Economies of waste (e.g. commodification, the cost of waste, disposal industries) Following the conference, there will be the opportunity to submit papers for a Special Collection in the journal Open Library of Humanities (8,000 words, peer reviewed) and Alluvium Journal (2,000 words, non-peer reviewed).     Featured image by Alan Levine under a CC BY...

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Caroline Edwards on Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford in conversation with Adam Roberts, 3 April 2017
Apr05

Caroline Edwards on Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford in conversation with Adam Roberts, 3 April 2017

This review by the CCL's Dr Caroline Edwards originally appeared on the Birkbeck Department of English and Humanities staff blog (click here to view the original post). A recent author event at Waterstones Piccadilly (Europe’s largest bookshop apparently) surpassed my expectations for the kinds of awkward conversations you often experience at meet-the-author readings. The first reason for this was obvious: the moderator of the conversation was Adam Roberts who is not only a renowned science fiction (SF) author and academic professor but also – and I speak from direct experience here (Roberts has participated in several events at Birkbeck’s Centre for Contemporary Literature) – a gifted comedian when it comes to live performances and always entertaining in person. The second reason was a fact of which I was unaware: that Spufford and Robinson appeared to be friends and exuded an easy camaraderie as well as an unlikely set of shared interests. I say unlikely because, on paper at least, the two authors appear very different. Spufford’s Golden Hill (2016) is published with Faber & Faber, well known for its high literary credentials having introduced writers like T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden and Sylvia Plath to readers. Robinson’s New York 2140 (2016) is published with Orbit, a publisher that specialises in science fiction and fantasy titles, known for publishing SF heavyweights such as Iain M. Banks, Ken Macleod and Charles Stross, as well as acclaimed fantasy authors such as Trudi Canavan and Laurell K. Hamilton. Furthermore, Spufford’s new novel is a work of historical fiction set in mid-eighteenth-century Manhattan when the city was a settlement of just 7,000 British and Dutch traders. Although Robinson’s novel is set in the same city it takes place some 400 years in the future in a speculative twenty-second-century New York, as the metropolis sinks beneath the rising sea levels caused by global warming. What took place during this conversation was, to my mind at least, a fascinating insight into some of contemporary literature’s most pertinent questions concerning genre, setting, historical representation, and our ideas about lived time, or temporality. Roberts invited the two authors to consider their respective novelistic genres – the historical novel and science fiction – and to what extent each form invites the reader’s participation in worldbuilding. Both Spufford and Robinson agreed that the empirical world of the reader can be rendered less certain and more provisional through these two very different novelistic genres. Of course this is a well-known fact about science fiction – that the speculative futures it imagines serve as a mirror for the reader’s (and the author’s) present, inviting a critical reflection upon the kinds of...

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Alluvium Special Issue on Contemporary Speculative Fiction
Mar16

Alluvium Special Issue on Contemporary Speculative Fiction

Our very own Alluvium Journal has just published Vol. 6, No. 1 – a special issue on "Contemporary Speculative Fiction," edited by Dr Mark P. Williams. The issue opens with Mark P. William's "Editorial Introduction" which considers the usefulness of speculative fiction as a generic and conceptual category for thinking about narrative's political and aesthetic work in imagining worlds that are rich in alterity. As Williams writes: "The term Speculative Fiction is, I believe, a usefully fuzzy term for designating a whole range of possible ways of making narrative. In part it seems imprecise because it moves away somewhat from the distinctions between Science Fiction and Fantasy that defined the establishment of the study of Science Fiction, and there are times when the clarity and precision of separation are extremely useful. But I think the relative imprecision. Or rather, the flexibility, of the term can also enable a higher level grasp of what we are dealing with: fictions which, above all, negate the present conditions of social expectation and the limitations of what can be expected to make sense. Speculative Fiction, in its breadth, says that we can make sense of the stories of wildly unlike events which do not seem to bear direct relation to our present times and concerns, and that those meanings can be powerful, significant and valuable to us."  The issue then proceeds with Cathryn Merla-Watson's article “The Altermundos of Latin@futurism,” which gives a virtuoso survey of the richness of Latin@futurism. She details how the aesthetic and theoretical history of Latin@futurism draws together intersections with Science Fiction and the Gothic, while articulating its distinctness as a field and its sheer cultural breadth and diversity. Sébastien Doubinsky explores Jordan Krall’s use of 9/11 as a setting for Speculative Fiction in “Jordan Krall's Speculative Fiction.” In this article, Doubinsky links Krall’s engagement with post-9/11 America with various avant-garde and speculative pre-texts – from William Burroughs and J. G. Ballard to Zamyatin and Bulgakov – examining the ways this distinctly politicised aesthetic of representation functions. This is followed by Martyn Colebrook’s article “Martin MacInnes and Celtic SF,” which examines MacInnes’ Celtic speculative fiction. Colebrook situates MacInnes’ text in light of his precursors in both the Tartan Noir subgenre and more broadly in Scottish fiction and science fiction, particularly the work of Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh and Alasdair Gray to formulate a clear set of confluences with this distinctly Scottish tradition. Finally, the special issue concludes with Williams' own essay “Speculative Resistance in Lost Girls.” Here he considers Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls in order to examine the intersections between that polemical text and Moore’s narrative poem celebrating gay love and...

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A Scanner Darkly
Feb24

A Scanner Darkly

The CCL's very own Dr Caroline Edwards was invited to participate in a panel discussion and screening of Richard Linklater's 2006 film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's classic novel, A Scanner Darkly (1977). The event was organised by the Vasari Research Centre for Art & Technology as part of their Digital Animation Series running in 2016-17. Linklater's film is a great example to consider with regards to digital animation: the film was shot in live action and then animated in post-production using a technique known as interpolated rotoscoping (watch the video below to learn more about this process).      The film screening was introduced with a 45 minute panel discussion chaired by Dr Joel McKim (Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies, Birkbeck) and Caroline was joined by Dr James Burton (Lecturer in Cultural Studies & Cultural History, Goldsmiths), who has published a book on Dick, titled The Philosophy of Science Fiction: Henri Bergson and the Fabulations of Philip K. Dick (Bloomsbury, 2015). Topics discussed included Dick's autobiographical experiences with hallucinogenics, the context of 1970s Californian counterculture, messianism and Dick's late religious tract, Exegesis, and the question of genre with regards to what kind of science fiction A Scanner Darkly might be understood to be pioneering. A podcast of the panel discussion is available below. Click on the SoundCloud file to listen to the discussion (it begins in medias res, shortly after the event had been introduced at the Birkbeck Cinema).     Featured image by Duncan Creamer under a CC BY-NC-ND...

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CFP: Station Eleven and Twenty-First-Century Writing
Aug26

CFP: Station Eleven and Twenty-First-Century Writing

Featured image by Nathan Burton. Reproduced with the artist's permission.   Our very own open access publisher, the Open Library of Humanities (based at Birkbeck, but internationally supported) has just posted a Call for Articles that may be of interest to colleagues working in twenty-first-century literary studies. Here's the call, taken from their page here. Since its publication in 2014, Canadian author Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven has attracted enthusiastic critical responses. This post-apocalyptic novel won an Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction in 2015 and was shortlisted for many other awards, including the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. In this OLH Special Collection, we seek to explore Station Eleven’s position within twenty-first-century writing. Station Eleven intersects with various debates in contemporary literary studies, opening up questions about genre, politics, national literary traditions, literary form and intermediality, popular culture and prize culture. The novel partakes in what James Berger describes as the “pervasive post-apocalyptic sensibility in recent American culture”. This sensibility is no longer the sole province of science fiction, as canonical literary authors like Cormac McCarthy and Jim Crace have written novels imagining post-catastrophic futures. Indeed Veronica Hollinger speaks of the “'disappearance’ of science fiction as a separate generic enterprise” in the contemporary and Mandel herself, Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction notwithstanding, identifies her novel as literary fiction rather than science fiction. How might Station Eleven help us to frame issues of genre in twenty-first-century writing, in particular the debate between “literary fiction” and “genre fiction”, and how are these issues entangled with the production of cultural capital through literary prizes? Biblical apocalyptic narratives, as Lois Parkinson Zamora underlines, “developed in response to political and moral crises”. To what do we owe the contemporary surge of post-apocalyptic narratives and is Station Eleven radical or conservative in the way it imagines a hopeful future after global capitalism? The post-apocalyptic world of Station Eleven is post-national. Similarly, the reception and publication history of the novel raises questions about the importance and legitimacy of national literary traditions and awards in the age of transnationalism. Station Eleven was written by a Canadian, published first in America and was nominated for and won awards aimed at American, Canadian, and Women's Fiction. So is the novel American Literature? Canadian Literature? A new kind of Trans- or even Post-National fiction? And if it is post-national, does the text feature "the eclecticism and borderlessness in language and structure" that Aitor Ibarrola-Armendariz claims is "typical of the best postnational fiction"? Finally, the narrative’s apocalyptic erasure of borders leads us to interrogate artistic and cultural borders....

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