Another 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.)
I 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 time 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:
‘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’
But 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
Review of Dan Hassler-Forest, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Politics: Transmedia World-Building Beyond Capitalism for Science Fiction Film and Television
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 Science 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.
I’ve been a little less jet-setty this year but I went various place to wave my arms around in front of powerpoint:
‘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
Invited research presentations
‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene’, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, 7 June 2018
‘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.