The stuff what I done in 2018

texas_chainsaw_massacre_1_lc_03Another exhausting year of too much admin and too much teaching with too many brand new modules. But on the bright side I did get to teach Dead Slow Ahead to first years on my new Spectacle, Action, Narrative module, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (for the first time in about a decade) to second years on my new Film Genre module. (On the even brighter side, the TTCSM Blu-ray does not offend my sensibilities the way the too-clean DVD did, because it is so clean it is like watching an entirely new film rather than a scrubbed-up version of a masterpiece you lived with for decades on ropey who-knows-what-generation VHS. I have a plan to do more with TTCSM next year.)

hqdefaultI continue to be part of the supervisory team on a couple of PhDs, but the real PGR successes this year were my Master by Research students: Luke Williams on Animals and Objects in Contemporary Feature-Length American Digital Animation (Merit), and Sam Gerrett on Reconceptualising Violence: Objective Violence and the Neo-liberal Subject (Distinction). I also examined Pablo Gómez Muñoz rather brilliant PhD thesis A Better World? Cosmopolitan Struggles in Twenty-First Century Science Fiction Cinema at the Universidad de Zaragoza.

The big news looking forward is that a lunch with China and Rosie made me face up to the fact that the kind of substantial research leave necessary to write my next book is never going to come my way unless I can move to a better institution, so I should just get on with doing the book. So part of our summer vacation was spent writing a book proposal for the first timejXbqpYmo_400x400 since I can’t remember when (2013?). Verso responded by pointing out I’d actually proposed two different but closely related books, and by asking whether I’d be interested in doing them both. So next year I will be writing the shorter The Anthropocene Unconscious while also finalising the outline for the second, longer book (which in my head I am calling Climate Parapraxes, but that is not quite right), which will be written in 2020. There is also a crazy-ass  plan for a quick and dirty side project in between, and two later spin-offs: one will definitely be an edited collection/ journal issue, and the other probably will be since I don’t think I’m smart enought to write it all myself.

Publications-wise, it’s been an odd year. The only things I’ve published have been informal academic work or contributions to non-academic venues:

‘Monsters vs. Empire’ in Evil Empire: A Reckoning with Power (Boston Review) (2018), 114–128

Bould Monsters Empire‘Monster Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Mark Bould, Liv Bugge, Surekha Davies, Margrit Shildrick and Jeffrey A. Weinstock, edited by Donna McCormack’, Somatechnics 8.2, the ‘Promises of Monsters’ special issue (2018), 248–268

‘Cultural Heritage, Future Vision’, contribution to the ‘Decolonizing Science Fiction’ special issue of The Postcolonial Studies Association Newsletter 21 (2018), 23–24

‘An Interview with Mark Bould’, Big Echo: Critical Science Fiction 7 (2018), which I couldn’t persuade them to let me call ‘Too Long, Don’t Read’

32996507But I have managed to write or finalise – mostly finalise already written pieces, tbh – the following, all of which are in various states of forthcomingness:

‘The Anthropocene Unconscious of African Second Contact Narratives: District 9, Rosewater, Lagoon’ in Karolina Lebek, ed., Fantastic Materials: Things and the Non-Real’ (Routledge 2019)

‘Speculative Fiction’ in Joshua L. Miller, ed., The Cambridge Companion to 21st Century American Fiction (Cambridge UP 2019)

‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene’ in Jack Fennell, ed., A Companion to Science Fiction (Peter Lang 2019)

‘Space/Race: Recovering John M. Faucette’ in Isiah Lavender III and Lisa Yaszek, eds, Afrofuturism Through Time and Space (Ohio State UP 2019)

‘Science Fiction and Cult Cinema’ in Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton, eds, The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema (Routledge 2019)

‘Afrofuturism in the New Wave Era’ in Eric Carl Link and Gerry Canavan, eds, The Cambridge History of Science Fiction (Cambridge UP 2018)

Review of Bradley Schauer, Escape Velocity: American Science Fiction Film, 1950–1982 for Science Fiction Studies

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That’s Dan H-F in the corner, looking sad, but not about my review, which was so nice it made him cry, the big baby.

Review of Dan Hassler-Forest, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Politics: Transmedia World-Building Beyond Capitalism for Science Fiction Film and Television

Editing
Despite standing down as editors of Science Fiction Film and Television at the end of last year, Sherryl Vint and I returned more or less immediately as guest-editors of issue 11.2, the ‘Women in d586ce6d944c8695e029b0699c75d559Science Fiction Media: Celebrating Mary Shelley’ special issue.

Rhys Williams and I finally finally finally put M John Harrison: Critical Essays to bed – just waiting for the last of the jacket blurbs to come in and it should go to press in January (seems like a mere 4 1/2 years since the conference!).

And Global Frankensteins (edited by Carol Margaret Davison and Marie Mulvey-Roberts) and Ian Campbell’s Arabic Science Fiction joined Ritch Calvin’s Feminist Science Fiction and Feminist Epistemology (2016) as the second and third volumes in Studies in Global Science Fiction, the monograph series I am fortunate to edit with Anindit Banerjee and Rachel Haywood Ferreira.

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I’ve been a little less jet-setty this year but I went various place to wave my arms around in front of powerpoint:

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Mark, jetsetting and gesticulating

Keynotes
‘The Great Clomping Foot of Nerdism Stamping on the Human Face—Forever: World-Building and Contradiction’, Worlding SF, University of Graz, Austria, 6–8 December 2018

‘Daily Life in the War Machine: Neoliberalism and Climate Change in The Purge’, Pathologies and Dysfunctions of Democracy in the Media Context II: The New Dystopian Imaginary of the 21st Century, from Orwell to the Black Mirror, from Big Brother to Big Data, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal, 12–14 November 2018

‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene Unconscious’, Current Research in Speculative Fiction, University of Liverpool, 29 June 2018

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Mark, keynoting

Invited research presentations
‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene’, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, 7 June 2018

Conference papers
‘It’s the Climate, Stupid: the Anthropocene Unconscious of Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake’, Gravity Assist: Speculative Change in Literature, Film and Art, University of Split, Croatia, 14–15 September 2018

I was also allowed out in public to hang out with Mike Hodges for the weekend at the Cinema Rediscovered festival at the Watershed in Bristol in July, and to introduce with him an incredibly rare midnight screening of the never-released director’s cut of Terminal Man (which is very judiciously a fraction shorter and even better than the released version). And back in March, John Timberlake invited me to be part of a panel at London Review Bookshop discussing Landscape and the Science Fiction Imaginary, which is also the title of his new book.

I put in my second of three years as a jury member for The Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Lifetime Achievement Award for Critical Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which this year went to Carl Freedman.

And I gave a long interview for the Open University’s course materials on Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, which none of you will ever see (unless you sign up for the course).

Oh, and I turned 50. Which was nice.

Did Jane Austen just call him a dick?

414KCRS5ZYL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_He had, in fact, though now his sisters were doing all they could for him, by calling him “poor Richard,” been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle him to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.

Persuasion Book 1, Chapter 6

The stuff what I done in 2017

While it was happening, this mostly felt like another year lost to the day job – launching a new BA and helping launch a new MA while the previous new BA was only entering its third year – so loads of new modules to design and teach alongside a tidal wave of related admin. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, to see how long this post turned out to be.

16729548_1350898058315138_6294972275530792296_nEditing
The big news, I guess, was the decision to stand down as an editor of Science Fiction Film and Television, which Sherryl Vint and I launched a decade ago. We have now ascended to the giddy heights of editors emerita/us, while leaving all the hard work of actual editing to Gerry Canavan, Dan Hassler-Forest and another to be announced soon. (Though Sherryl and I return almost immediately as guest-editors for 11.2, the ‘Celebrating Mary Shelley’ issue.)

The other big news is that Rhys Williams and I finally finished editing M John Harrison: Critical Essays, which should be out from Gylphi soon(ish). This is the second collection to come from the conference we organised at Warwick back in 2014; the first was SF Now (Paradoxa 26), which somehow we turned around in three months rather than three years.

I also joined the advisory board of Comparative Literature and Culture.

Writing
I wrote one journal article this year, and quite freakily it came out just four months later:

‘From world sf (via, if we must, World Sf) to world-sf: an introduction’, Fantastika 2 (2017)

I published three essays in edited collections

‘Between the Sleep and the Dream of Reason: Dystopian Science Fiction Cinema’ in Rainer Rother and Annika Schaeffer, eds, Future Imperfect: Science Fiction Film (Bertz/Fischer Verlag 2017), 42–63

‘Pulp SF and its Others, 1918–39’ in Roger Luckhurst, ed., Science Fiction: A Literary History (British Library 2017), 100–128

‘Afrocyberpunk Cinema: The Postcolony Finds Its Own Use for Things’ in Graham J Murphy and Lars Schmeink, eds, Cyberpunk and Visual Culture (Routledge 2017), 213–234

And I wrote two other essays, the first of which came out within a month of submitting a hastily concocted first draft, and involved what was without doubt the most astonishingly brilliant experience of being edited I have ever had (goddammit, that sounds sarcastic; they really were incredible to work with). I am also extremely grateful to the editors of the second piece, who tolerated six months of delays as the day job (and not unrelated health issues) got in the way.

‘Dulltopia’ in Junot Díaz, ed, Global Dystopias (Boston Review) (2017), 191–206

‘Space/Race: Recovering John M. Faucette’ in Isiah Lavender III and Lisa Yaszek, eds, Afrofuturism Through Time and Space (Ohio State UP)—forthcoming

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I published one review essay, six reviews and an introduction to a novel

‘Max Sexton and Malcolm Cook, Adapting Science Fiction to TV: Small Screen, Expanded Universe, Steven Gil, Science Wars through the Stargate: Explorations of Science and Society in Stargate SG-1 and Douglas and Shea T. Brode, eds, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Original Cast Adventures’, Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies 12.3 (2017), 315–19

‘Brian Willems, Shooting the Moon’, Science Fiction Film and Television 10.3 (2017), 418–421

‘African Science Fiction’ on Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry’s ‘African SF’ Special Issue, The Los Angeles Review of Books (2 October 2017)

‘David S. Roh, Betsy Huang and Greta A. Niu, eds, Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media’, Extrapolation 58.1 (2017), 95–99

Contributor to ‘Best SF Films of 2016’ (reviews of Evolution, He Never Died and Mænd & høns/Men & Chicken), Vector 285 (2017), 11–18

‘Introduction’ to HG Wells, The Time Machine (Pan Macmillan, 2017), vii–xv

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In memoriam, I wrote a piece about Mark Fisher and an entry for a collection Mike Levy was to have edited and which Farah Mendlesohn brilliantly took on in his stead:

Verschränkung. Contribution to ‘In Memoriam: Mark Fisher’, Los Angeles Review of Books (2017)

Entry on Arrival for Mike Levy and Farah Mendlesohn, eds, Aliens in Popular Culture (Greenwood)—forthcoming

Banging on
There was an absurd world tour of keynotes, plenaries and other invited research presentations

‘Making Habitable Worlds in the Late Anthropocene’, The Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability, University of Warwick, 20 November 2017

‘Art/Science at the Edge’ closing plenary discussion with Susanne Winterling, chaired by Bodhisatva Chattopadhyay, Synchronizing the World: Historic Times, Globalized Times, Anthropogenic Times, Universitetet i Oslo, Norway, 12–14 June 2017

‘This is the Worst of All Possible Worlds’, Dystopia Now, Birkbeck, 26 May 2017

‘The Anthropocene Unconscious of African Second Contact Narratives: District 9, Rosewater, Lagoon’, Inventions of the Text seminar series, University of Durham, 10 May 2017

‘Staying with Wahala: Making Time in the Anthropocene’, Africa of the Past, Africa of the Future: The Dynamics of Time in Africanist Scholarship and Art, SOAS, University of London, 5–6 May 2017

‘Figuring History in Robots of Brixton and Crumbs’, The Distorted Mirror: Reflections of Time and Space in Speculative Media, Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies/Universität Bayreuth, Germany 29–30 April 2017

‘Afrofuturism Archive Anthropocene’, Cornell University, 17 April 2017

‘Making Afrofuturism, Salvaging History’, University of California, Riverside, 10 April 2017

and some public talks

Selected and introduced Arthur Robison’s The Informer for Southwest Silents, The Lansdown, Bristol, 18 October 2017

Introduced Robert Zemeckis’s Contact for Electric Shadows in the Cathedral, Bristol Cathedral, 4 October 2017

Selected and introduced Jacques Feyder’s Visages d’enfants for Southwest Silents, The Lansdown, Bristol, 15 March 2017

and the media non-appearance

Like almost everyone I know in the UK (except Caroline Edwards), I spent a couple of hours being interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s We Are the Martians, 6–8 March 2017, but did not actually appear on any of the programmes (though some of my words did, albeit from the mouths of presenters). I even came to the rescue when the producer had only an hour or so in which to find a (literal) hole in the ground in Arizona to record an echo-y cave effect while reconstructing John Carter’s first astral visit to Mars/Barsoom. But still my fucking words are only fucking good enough to fucking air if fucking said by someone fucking else they are actually fucking paying for their fucking labour with my fucking licence fee.

I also examined one PhD, Thomas Connolly’s Bio/Techno/Homo: A Critical History of the Human in Anglo-American Science Fiction (Maynooth University, Eire 2017), and served my first year as a jury member on two awards:

The Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Lifetime Achievement Award for Critical Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which went to Tom Moylan

The International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts’ David G Hartwell Emerging Scholar Award, which went to Grant Dempsey

 

The things you learn while researching something entirely unrelated #1

anna-karenina-ekaterina-pozdniakovaand so anyway it turns out that the Anna Karenina Principle, which never having read Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies I had not even heard of until today, does not – as it should – mean:

sooner or later you are bound to throw yourself under a train

I cannot believe the contortions Jared Diamond puts the opening of Tolstoy’s novel

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

through to make it means what he wants it to mean. But kudos, I guess, for coming up with a forced literary allusion rather than naming it after himself, because as Principles go, it is far from being a Diamond one.

See also: the Principle of Fragility of Good Things (which is not something I just made up).

 

Sometimes misreading book covers or spines pleases me unduly

20881485The Abominable Dan Simmons

After Dark, My Sweet Jim Thompson

Archaeologies of the Future Fredric Jameson

The Burden Agatha Christie

The Deep Peter Benchley

Demand the Impossible Tom Moylan (though I have long settled for the smart and lovely Tom Moylan)

Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault

Drown Junot Díaz (sorry, Junot!)61ktLfUzqOL

The Ecstatic Victor LaValle

Everything Belongs to the Future Laurie Penny

Farewell, My Lovely Raymond Chandler

Fifty Degrees Below Kim Stanley Robinson

The Gradual Christopher Priest

The Hollow Agatha Christie

The Hollow Man Dan Simmons

51saFZsE6RL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Human Stain Philip Roth (although he undoubtedly prefers to contemplate The Professor of Desire Philip Roth)

Leather Maiden Joe R. Lansdale (sorry, Joe, but it’s how I picture you now whenever I hear your name)

Mr Britling Sees It Through H.G. Wells

Occupy Noam Chomsky

The Peripheral William Gibson (remember when he was absolutely central?)

The Queen’s Fool Philippa Gregory

Search and Destroy Tom Clancystone

Serenade James M. Cain

Signatures of the Visible Fredric Jameson

Sixty Days and Counting Kim Stanley Robinson

Stone Adam Roberts (sorry, Adam, but at least I’m not advocating people Splinter Adam Roberts, like you’re a log, or Salt Adam Roberts like you’re some kind of slug – and of course I always really think of you as The Thing Itself)WeCanBuildYou(1stEd)

Terrorist John Updike

Together We Kill Mickey Spillane

The Transparency of Evil Jean Baudrillard (bestselling sequel to The OHP of Evil Jean Baudrillard)

We Can Build You Philip K. Dick