On Space Opera: The Heart of Genre, Forgotten by Scholars

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A few years ago, I taught an upper division literature course on American space opera. There were a couple reasons I chose that angle over many other possible science fiction topics I could have taught:
  1. It gave me an excuse to teach Ann Leckie, Tobias S. Buckell, and Star Wars.
  2. The course was marked as "American literature," so I had to stick with U.S.-American writers. I snuck some other stuff in, though.
  3. It was a subject that I particularly loved (but, as I discovered, which scholars had largely ignored up to that point).
It's that last piece I will talk about here. Read More

Five Faves: SF/F/M Movies or Shows I Love Because of My Grandma

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A little over a year ago, we lost my grandmother, Merle Crawford. She was a quirky and jovial lady. The kind of person who could meet anyone at a grocery store and turn a chance encounter into a meeting between old friends. You can read a bit more about her life in the obituary I wrote for her in the Mountain Democrat, the local newspaper for Placerville, California. One thing that I often mention about my grandmother is the impact she had on me as a geek. While I certainly watched a lot of genre programming as a kid,[1. Let's be real. A lot of programming for kids is genre TV by default. G.I. Joe and TMNT are both SF/F. Dinosaurs is fantasy. Winnie the Pooh is fantasy. Most Disney films are fantasy. DuckTales is SF/F. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and The Secret World of Alex Mac and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are SF/F. A lot of programming for kids also falls under the mystery umbrella. I just don't think I ever thought about genre when I was a kid. Looking back? It almost seems inevitable that kids born in the 80s and 90s would turn out to be unintentional SF/F nerds in the 2010s.] there are two things that led to my passion for SF/F (and related genres):
  1. My mother giving me VHS tapes of Star Wars. The ones with Leonard Maltin's interviews with George Lucas at the front.
  2. My grandmother's insistence that I watch certain programs.
So to celebrate the massive influence my grandmother had on my life in a very specific way, here's a list of 5 SF/F/M (for mystery) movies and TV shows I love because of my grandma: Read More

Thoughts on Wikis, Responsibility, and Cultural Shifts

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I'm currently re-reading Robert E. Cumming's introductory chapter from Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom, entitled "What Was a Wiki, and Why Do I Care? A Short and Usable History of Wikis." This is one of the readings for my class on digital rhetoric, and it serves as a handy introduction to the invention of wikis, the reactions to them in the "ancient times," and some of the key concerns about their impact on knowledge production. Basically, it's some nerd shhhhh. That said, it has got me thinking a lot about the role of wikis in our culture and, more importantly, just how much has changed since I was a kid. While there are still people running about saying you should never use wikis, for the most part, even academics have softened on them. A lot of you probably remember when that wasn't the case. Hell, remember when that wasn't the case for me as a teacher. Mind you, I was never the type to outright fail a student for using Wikipedia, but I did strip away points. Read More

Five Faves: Snakes!

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I'm a fan of snakes. Most of you already know this because I don't exactly keep it secret. Snakes are just...cool. They don't behave like other animals, come in a wide range of sizes and colors (and shapes, even if all snakes are tubular). And like a lot of snake people, I have my favorites. Some favorites are snakes I actually keep. Some favorites are snakes I will probably never keep. But they all have one thing in common:  I think they are pretty darn awesome. With that in mind, here are my five favorite snake species! Read More

Worldcon 2019 (Dublin): An Accounting of Events with a Side of Bacon!

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I am on my way home from Dublin OR have already arrived. Like science fiction, my future is fundamentally about the present. Naturally, that means Worldcon has ended along with my sadly short vacation in Dublin, Ireland, a quaint little city... Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Dublin is really cool, y'all. And since "recaps of adventures" are a thing in the science fiction community, I'm here to, well, recap my adventures. This one will be a long one, y'all. So here...we...go! The Dublin Worldcon was a bit like a dream. I pre-supported (or whatever it’s called) fairly early in the game AND bought an upgrade for my badge at the Worldcon in Finland (2017). I really wanted to go to a Worldcon in Dublin. More importantly, I wanted to support strong bids for non-U.S. Worldcons because, well, I actually take the “world” part of the name literally, and I don’t think you can have a “Worldcon” that doesn’t make an attempt to occur in various parts of the world. Read More

Worldcon 2019 (Dublin): My Schedule and Other Shenanigans

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Well well. It's been a long time since I've posted here. I have been a busy bee, from moving to the northwest corner of Minnesota to a new job to writing a textbook to partly semi-producing a podcast. Yup. Busy. And that means I've neglected this blog along with a lot of other things.. Sadface. Speaking of podcasts:  The Skiffy and Fanty Show is once more a Hugo Award finalist. Ballots are submitted, so we'll find out if we're winners in about 2 weeks. Wish us luck! And since I am part of that show, I'll be at Worldcon in Dublin. As the title of this post suggests, that's what I'm here to talk about today. As it turns out, I'm on programming at Worldcon, which means some of you might have the opportunity to hear me babble about a variety of topics. With that in mind, here's my schedule for the event:
  • The use of SF in higher education 17 Aug 2019, Saturday 15:00 - 15:50, Wicklow Room-2 (CCD) Professors from different disciplines discuss the possible uses of speculative fiction as a tool for teaching. From humanities to sciences via legal studies, how have academics used SFF in the classroom in the past, and how can we dream of speculative fiction – and the technology it posits! – being used in future? Panelists:  Mary Anne Mohanraj (M), Nora E. Derrington, David DeGraff, Dr. Shaun Duke, Corry L. Lee Ph.D. (corry.lee@gmail.com)
  • Literary Beer: Dr Shaun Duke 17 Aug 2019, Saturday 17:00 - 17:50, Liffey-A (Fan Bar) (CCD) Basically, you can come talk to me while having a beer, water, or air. For 50 minutes. So please come say hello. Please!
  • Academics and acolytes: learning in SFF worlds 18 Aug 2019, Sunday 12:30 - 13:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin) Whether they’re apprenticed to an assassin, a grunt in basic training, downloading knowledge from an online academy, or learning spells from wizardly professors, characters often need to gain skills and qualifications of some kind. How and when they do this is an important element of worldbuilding and there are endless options. What does it tell us about the Discworld that wizards attend university and witches are apprentices? How does Starfleet Academy differ from the Imperial Academy? From Hogwarts to Brakebills to the Oha Coven, how does magical instruction differ? Panelists:  Dr. Shaun Duke (M), Karen Simpson Nikakis, Prof. Kenneth Schneyer, Ali Baker
  • Fan podcasts 18 Aug 2019, Sunday 15:30 - 16:20, Odeon 5 (Point Square Dublin) Podcasts have become a popular way to talk about and hear about our fannish favourites, share the latest theories and plot developments, and find new things to love. Our panelists discuss the challenges and delights of podcasting, and help you find new podcasts to check out. Panelists:  Heather Rose Jones (M), Alexandra Rowland, Dr. Shaun Duke, Jonathan Strahan, Jen Zink
I'll also be in attendance for the Hugo rehearsals and the Hugo Awards proper. I don't expect to do much more than clapping for the latter event, but you never know! Beyond these events (please come!), I'll also be hard at work on various other podcast activities throughout the convention AND some Dublin shenanigans around those days. Speaking of podcast activities:  if you're a creative type with a nifty project to talk about OR a fan with a cool blog, podcast, or other super fan thing to plug, get in touch at skiffyandfanty[at]gmail[dot]com OR via Twitter DM @SkiffyandFanty. We're interested in interviewing folks! Anywho. That's all for now. Hopefully, I can get back into this blogging thing again...soon.

Compliments Matter (or, Tell Someone You Value Their Work)

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In the past two months, I've twice met the same former student in my gym. Each time, we have a wonderful conversation about what he's reading, his newfound love of writing, his dreams for the future, and so on. Each time, he reminds me just how much one of my classes influenced him to be a voracious reader and a deeper thinker. These are the kinds of interactions that truly make a week of exhaustion worth it. And they're a reminder of just how important compliments can be. Read More

I’m a Millennial, and I’m Not Interested in the Lie Anymore

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In a recent article on Millennials and their perceived lack of effort in the job market, Brett Cenkus argues that our generation is not so much lazy as disinterested in the way things used to be. Abusive job environments, low pay, low stimulation -- these are all reasons he cites for this change in perspective. It's an interesting article, though I think Cenkus is a bit optimistic about how employers can change this dynamic. Why? Read More