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

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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

Guess who just spent an hour submitting a couple of reader’s reports and trying to get ‘paid’ for one of them?

A couple of days ago Steve Shaviro posted on FaceBook about the burden of doing peer review as an academic with a clear sense of responsibility and commitment to the development of the field in which he works (and he is brilliant at it – I have called on him sooooooooo many times over the years). Reading articles, book manuscripts, proposals for books and series, marshalling your thoughts, thinking about what is good and what doesn’t work, thinking of potential solutions to problems – and then writing it down carefully enough that the author is not heart-broken by your comments –  is massively time-consuming and mentally exhausting. But is what we do. It is part of our vocation, and sometimes we are even paid some token amount for our labour.

But there are things that make the whole process even more of a burden. Such as:

When the journal sends you a review form to complete but then uses a site like ManuscriptCentral which disaggregates the form into separate boxes into which you have to cut-and-paste the answers rather than just submit the form. It took a couple of times for me to stop being diligent about this. Now I just type a single character in each box and submit the form. Cos fuck ’em – I mean the publishers, not the editors or authors –  they’re already getting my labour for free. Academic publishers will find every way they can not to pay for the labour of academics.

When the publisher will only pay you in so many dollars worth of their books. This means you are selling them your labour at not merely way below minimum wage but also at effectively no cost to them. And you have to spend time scouring their minimally navigable catalogues for a handful of books that are of interest – or would make good gifts, or that you can give to a student or donate to a library or a charity shop – that add up roughly to the amount they are willing to ‘pay’.

I always order the books even if there is nothing I want, cos fuck ’em, they’re not getting my labour without at least the pretence of paying for it. And I always go a little over, cos fuck ’em, I’m certainly not going below what they’ve offered to ‘pay’.

Guess who just spent an hour submitting a couple of reader’s reports and trying to get ‘paid’ for one of them?

And guess who is turning into an angry voice in the local paper?