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

Graduate Studies, Taxes, and the Gift of 2017 (Updated)

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2017:  the gift that keeps on giving. Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve the Republican budget for 2018 and beyond. There are all manner of terrible things in this bill, and you would do well to read about them and call your Senators in hopes we can shut this thing down before it screws a lot of people over. Today, I'd like to talk about the one feature of this bill that, if it passes the Senate, will end my graduate studies for good:  the proposal to tax tuition waivers as income. Read More

Adventures in Teaching: The Aliens That We Are, or Roleplaying the World

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Let's talk aliens, ethics, and mock United Nations debates, shall we? Since 2011, I have run an experimental debate session with my students at least once per year. In this debate, they are asked to roleplay as one of two alien species (or as members of an Intergalactic United Nations security council) who have been in a multi-century conflict reminiscent of the current Israel-Palestine conflict -- albeit, in a reductive and allegorical sense. One group wishes to be recognized as a planet (i.e., member state) in the IUN, while the other does not. A panel of students ultimately decides whether planethood (i.e., becoming a member state) will be granted; this decision is based on the strength of the presented arguments. If you're curious about the scenario, I've provided the full slideshow below: Read More

Mastodon and My Happy “Project”

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I just joined Mastodon. I'm also on the wandering.shop "instance," too. Yup, you can follow me in two places. So what the heck is Mastodon? It's sort of like Twitter, but it allows people to create their own "instances" (or sub-communities) with their own guidelines, etc., effectively making it an answer to the hellhole of infinity that is Twitter. From what I can tell, a lot of creative types, especially from marginalized communities, have joined to escape Twitter's endlessly disappointing reaction to rampant abuse and bigotry on its platform. Whether they're leaving permanently or just taking more of their energy elsewhere, the vibe seems pretty clear:  it's kind of a joyful zone. Read More

A Gallery of Puerto Rican Lizards

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As you may recall, I went to Puerto Rico earlier this year for NASFiC. This was a big deal for me. I've never been to the Caribbean, let alone to a Spanish-speaking country; it also preceded the horrible devastation that befell the island not long ago (please donate to the Hispanic Federation if you can). Yup. Caribbean SF scholar. Never been to the Caribbean...until 2017. Go figure. Read More

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), or Thor and the Amazing Technicolor Marvelverse

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Earlier today, I had the pleasure of seeing the third installment in Marvel's Thor series. Directed by Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows fame, Thor: Ragnarok has almost everyone head over heels with delight. And they've got good reason to be. Ragnarok is hilarious. From its absurd settings, colorful cast of characters, and heart-wrenching ending, this film is sure to please fans of the MCU and nab a few naysayers along the way. Read More

On Impostor Syndrome

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Pretty much every writer I know has had or continues to suffer from the infamous "impostor syndrome." Authors, academics, bloggers, etc. If they do some kind of writing, they've likely had a moment of pure doubt about their abilities, their place in the "field," their right to success, and so on. Part of what makes it such a pernicious "bug" is the way it can crush your ability to produce anything. Some people give up. Others feel like anything they do isn't worthwhile. Still others constantly doubt their abilities at every turn, no matter how minor. I'd guess that a lot of "writer's block" are just forms of impostor syndrome. Read More