|Vanished giants of Western AustraliaA look at some recent new fossil discoveries.||From the Kimberley to the remote Nullarbor, Western Australia is home to some of the world's best fossil sites. In this talk we will look at some of the most important fossil finds, and highlight some of the largest creatures known to have inhabited our state.||John Long|
|Rape in the Fourteenth Century||Emma will act as your guide as you travel back in time to fourteenth-century England. She will give a presentation on rape and the law during this period of history. There will be a general introduction to the era, followed by a more academic analysis of representations of rape in medieval legal records.||Emma Hawkes|
|Viggos and Orlis and SeansOh My: The Power of the Name in RPS||In this paper Ill be using Judith Butlers work in order to talk about how people, and particularly celebrities, are embedded within language and interpellated as subjects. A powerful example of this process is the use of our names. I will discuss how the power of the name is used in Real Person Slash (RPS) to do two thingsto mobilise an already well-known personality; and to rework this personality in whatever way the author sees fit.|
Then, using Sidonie Smith's analysis of the photo as both a moment-in-time, and a captured narrative, I will demonstrate that the photos (bodies) of celebrities are used in an analogous way in RPS.
|What Tiptree didn't tell us: the 'quiet revolution' in (feminist) sf."||Abstract: Over the last three decades, feminist science sf has come to be recognised as a highly productive space for the feminist imaginary, functioning as a 'dream laboratory' in which feminist theories of gender, sexuality and social change can be explored. One of the ways in which this fascinating subgenre has been promoted and celebrated is through the James Tiptree Jr awards for 'gender-bending' SF. The various Tiptree award winners and short-listed texts provide a fascinating case study for examining the working through of feminist ideas, cultures and theories in sf over the last decade. Of particular note is the actual process of judging itself, which gives rise every year to a unique process of self-reflection on the notion of 'gender bending' - and by implication - feminist, sf. |
In recent years, this process of self-definition has seen led to numerous debates - even laments - over the 'state' of feminist sf. This paper argues that what is often taken to be a lessening or dilution of overt feminist impulses in sf might take on a different perspective if we consider recent texts through the lens of ecofeminist theory and practice. Wheras earlier feminist texts focused primarily on gender as the axis of difference, in ecofeminist sf, gender forms just one strand of a more holistic investigation of human/alien/nature relations. Rather than trying to fit sf texts into a restrictive taxonomy of feminisms, we might do well to take a lesson from Tiptree his/herself and investigate more closely the feminist potential of challenges to dominant understandings of the human, nature, and science that SF provides.
|Laymans guide to Special Relativity||This paper will be a 'laymans guide to special relativity', giving an explanation of exactly why any form of faster than light travel is the same as time travel. Everyone's got a vague idea that it's something to do with relativity, but it's always glossed over - all the warp drive and wormhole stories ignore the fact that they'd also have people posting lottery results backwards in time. It doesn't take any evil maths to explain, just a bit of thinking. We'll look at these issues, along with deriving 'E=mc^2' from first principles.||Andrew Williams|
|The Tiptree Carnival: Time plus or minus infinity||While a focus on gender has yielded a mother lode of critical appreciation of James Tiptree Jr.'s short work, it has proved a limited tool with which to understand her novels. The major themes of the short stories have been identified as sex, violence and death, but gender alone is not the key to Tiptrees longer pieces. In fact, gender forms but one thread of a grand politico-cultural burlesque in the novels. They are literary circuses, carnival at its best, offering inversions, subversions, linguistic play and grotesque bodies, all filled with this pathos of change and renewal, with the sense of the gay relativity of prevailing truths and authorities. Up the Walls of the World is essential carnival. In it, Tiptree refuses to cede authority to government, physics, time, even death, but she finds ways to honour humanity, diversity, complexity, and old jokes. This paper is about learning to read beyond feminism to a warm, comprehensive, poly-gendered irony.||Tess Williams|
|Son of Strangelove: S.D.I., Star Wars, and other science fiction|
|Science fiction tropes have sometimes been used to 'sell' military hardware, military service and wars. This paper examines the role of American science fiction writers and film-makers in promoting the Strategic Defence Initiative, and the relationship between the two different Star Wars. The paper is an extract from my thesis The Weapon Shop, on the often symbiotic (but occasionally antagonistic) relationship between American science fiction and the US military.||Stephen Dedman|
|From Prehistory to Infinity and Beyond: A 4000 year timeline of Science Fiction and Fantasy||This paper will examine the history and evolution of Sci-fi and Fantasy: from its earliest days tied into ancient mythology, to its modern day presentation in blockbuster films and interactive media. It will track the development of certain styles and genre clichés as well as sub genres such as Cyberpunk, Science Fantasy, Geogra-fiction and the like. The discussion will attempt to analyse the patterns of what has come before in an attempt to better understand the history and modern articulation of the genres involved.|
I will suggest that in recent history, literature has been split into the popular and the literary and that this has had certain connotations for the sci-fi and fantasy genres, particularly with regards to the media in which they are presented. Using this understanding I hope to examine what it is that makes good sci-fi or fantasy and how this influences what and more importantly how we read the genre.
Finally, against the background of what has come before, I will examine present day sci-fi and fantasy and suggest how we can fit this into an understanding of the development of the genre. Particular attention will be paid to the media of interactive literature such as gaming.
Whilst the general overview will cover all sorts of literature from all ages particular attention will be paid to the following themes:
The history of Sci-fi.
The Transition from myth to fantasy.
The rise of the sci-fi Short Story and Fantasy Novel.
The Sci-fi/Fantasy genre in Modern Film.
Adaptations of the genres and their origins.
The evolution of interactive media.
In the illustration of these themes, works of historical and modern importance will be drawn on, particularly those well known sources that have helped pave the way for the future, and those progressive texts that challenge the way we think about the genre and literature itself.
|Looking Backwards: Fantasy, Medievalism and Nostalgia.||I argue that much of the fantasy genre is constitutively nostalgic in that the pervasive influence of the medieval romancein the setting, in stock character types and plot motifshas created a strain of the genre that is determinedly backward looking. Yet this has not meant the genre has remained static, unaffected by the modern world. Rather, fantasy takes those generic characteristics inherited from the romance and reworks them into estranged, often disavowed responses to the anxieties of the present day. In its use of archetypal images from the past (for example, The Princess, the Hero of Humble Origins and Poor Literacy) fantasy takes those archetypes from their earlier socio-historical contexts and uses them to perform markedly different cultural work in the present. Whilst I acknowledge that many fantasy authors do provide a powerful critique of late capitalism and its power relations, I find that fantasys medievalism often lends itself to a marginalisation of female, queered and racially Othered subjectivities. I analyse the work of David & Leigh Eddings and Raymond Feist, arguing that both construct secondary worlds in which the sovereignty of the white heterosexual male subject is powerfully reinstated, eliding the inequities and injustices that such sovereignty has caused in the past. The unproblematic nostalgic desire for white male hegemony clearly emerges as a conservative response to the social movements of the 1960s and 70scivil rights, feminism and gay liberationand represents an estranged, fictionalised attempt to erase the changes those movements have caused. Yet, even in its apparent absence, the spectre of the present and its multiple subjectivities looms over fantasys medieval setting, upsetting the singular narrative of sexuality, race and gendered hierarchies that nostalgic texts such as Fiests and Eddings attempt to create.||Michael McAvan|
|Witch Lore of Early Times||Perhaps the most famous depiction of witches in early western literature is that of the witches in Shakespeares Macbeth. A concurrent piece by Ben Jonson called The Masque of Queens also contained witches, twelve of them, based on the historical depiction of witches from early Greek writers as well as from elements of Scottish and English witch lore. Witches were the epitome of chaos, a fearful thing in Jacobean times. The News from Scotland, published in 1591, tells how King James and his new wife were placed in mortal danger from witches while making the voyage from Denmark in 1590. Witch trials, rampant and violent in the Continent, spread to the British Isles and America. Witchcraft was a hot topic. From Shakespeares and Jonsons plays and their spinoffs, as well as from their sources, the legendary characteristics and powers of witches can be identified. The witches of antiquity and of early 17th century England were horrific. Appearance, living conditions, worship practices, powers, tools, chants, and dances of early times will be illustrated with the use of slides by classic illustrators.||Sally Taylor|
|The Experienced Far Future of Cordwainer Smith.||Cordwainer Smiths entire genre output can be held in one anthology and one novel, but nearly four decades after his death his unique view of the far future provokes interest disproportionately greater than his contemporaries. Smith was one of a number of pseudonyms used by one of the more enigmatic figures of the 20th century, Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger (1913-1966). Linebarger was a childhood prodigy, OSS and CIA operative, Asian studies academic, advisor to the Kennedy administration and psychological warfare expert. He went through great pains to separate his literary career from his other jobs but perhaps his experiences, personal and professional, bleed through into his science fiction. Linebarger had lived on three continents before he was ten and as an adult could speak five languages. Just as he understood differences in language and culture between nations he understood the difference between the language and culture of a far future and today. While many writers project todays world into the future in their science fiction Smiths future culture is as alien to us as our world would be to a medieval peasant. Strange words and customs exist without explanation but make sense within the context of his universe. Yet I increasingly find disguised in Cordwainer Smiths worlds hidden references to the world of P.M.A. Linebarger. Some of these connections are already well known but I would like to expand upon them and include unpublished works I have obtained. |
Secondly I would like to briefly talk about the work being done to track down material by Linebarger/Smith and the renewed interest in his legacy.
|An Engineer's Wet Dream: How to Survive the Destruction of the Universe with Stephen Baxter's Space||Stephen Baxter's novel Space is a wet dream for engineers. It speculates on how to live on Luna; slamming comets into planets; sailing on the wind of a dying sun; constructing an interstellar gateway system and so on. These large scale engineering projects are but larger versions of Earth's own attempts to manipulate the conditions for life: dams, mass irrigation schemes, mining and so on. Yet these dreams have often led to environmental destruction and to deteriorated conditions for people in the Third World. Historically, the engineer's fantasy of manipulation has not really been borne out. Baxter's Space can be read as an historical working-out of these ethical problems that are facing the engineer today. The problems are already there in the novel itself: the women characters often question the magnificent thoughts of the heroic male history-makers, asking if it is right to destroy a billion year old planetary surface or render extinct the only native life on the moon. But Baxter's argument to counter these minor voices is single-minded and unique. He suggests that the universe is already engineered, that all around us lies the evidence of long dead civilisations. Such a claim is not just an esoteric claim about aliens and the nature of the universe. It has far-reaching implications for what we do with planet Earth today. It stands as an answer to the ethical problems of the engineer, that also introduces a whole new set of more philosophical questions: if the universe is causal, that is explicable by science, then do we have the right to alter it? Can consequences ever be foreseen? Under what conditions do we have a right to irrevocably alter or destroy parts of the universe? These are the kinds of questions brought up not only by Baxter, but by the problematic role of the engineer in the world today.||Darren Jorgensen|