The Eaton Conference: My Weekend Begins

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In case you don’t follow me on Twitter or don’t know me personally, I thought I should let you all know that I will be in Riverside, California (near Los Angeles) for an academic conference this weekend (and won’t return until Tuesday).  This isn’t just any old conference though.  Eaton is a science fiction (and, I imagine, fantastic literature) conference where writers, academics, and those who flirt with both sides of the aisle come together to share research (which I will be doing in my scary mailman voice), chat (which I won’t be doing, because I’m afraid of some of the authors who will be there, since I sort of idolize them), and otherwise discuss the wonderful thing that is SF, specfic, fantasy, and whatever other names you want to call such things.

What will I be presenting?  A paper entitled “The Interstellar Initiative:  Space and Identity in
Caribbean Expatriate Science Fiction.”  Who am I talking about?  Tobias S. Buckell and Nalo Hopkinson.  Which books?  Ragamuffin by Buckell and Midnight Robber by Hopkinson (Crystal Rain and Sly Mongoose will be mentioned, though).  I’ll also reference various theorists and writers in reference to such wonderful topics as the Frontier vs. the Final Frontier, issues of identity in postcolonial spaces, empire, colonialism, and a few random things thrown in because I think they’re amusing.

I may have posted the abstract on my blog before, but I’m going to give it to you all again for the heck of it.  Here goes:

Caribbean speculative fiction has historically been primarily occupied with the fantastic—magical realism, folklore, and fantasy—with traditional elements of science fiction—advanced technology, space travel, etc.—mostly left to developed and developing nations, such as the United States, India, China, and some nations of the Latin American mainland. Careful study will show that this has little to do with disinterest on the part of Caribbeans in matters of technology or space; in fact, a great number of Caribbean governments have played a part in the ratification of a number of United Nations amendments related to the space industry. There are exceptions, most notably in Cuba, which has a strong science fiction community that has gone largely unnoticed by Western mainstream audiences. 

Yet the Caribbean has found a strong voice in the science fiction works of Tobias S. Buckell and Nalo Hopkinson, both Caribbean-born writers who have secured their places in a now rising multicultural shift in Western science fiction—a movement split between the increased mainstream interest in “World SF” and the inclusion of non-Western settings and characters within mainstream SF itself. What is most striking about the inclusion of Caribbean views within Western SF is that many of the authors are expatriates, and this is particularly relevant when discussing the works of Buckell and Hopkinson. Both authors have imagined futures in which the Caribbean not only has a presence in space, but is also an active participant in the colonization of other planets. These futures reflect a modern Caribbean consciousness in which identity is complicated by the postcolonial situation, the problematic nature of expatriation, and the fracturing (or merging/creolization) of cultures; this reflection, however, is relayed through a space-oriented setting where Caribbean characters and cultures have coalesced and established themselves outside of the traditional postcolonial situation, and outer space itself becomes an object through which postcolonialism and its predecessor are combated or rendered mute, thus allowing for the formation of an identity that is not predicated upon an un-chosen past. 

In this paper I will analyze and discuss how Tobias S. Buckell’s trilogy of science fiction novels and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robbers, along with some of her short stories, present outer space as an answer to the issue of “space” and cultural ownership within the Caribbean context. These writers, I will argue, imagine futures in which outer space is both an answer to the postcolonial situation in the Caribbean and a “space,” in the general sense, that is part liberatory and part identity-forming.

All of this means you can expect to see a few things from me in the next few days:

  1. Blog posts about my experiences at Eaton.
  2. Links to special Eaton editions of The Skiffy and Fanty Show, which will largely be unedited and sort of discussion-oriented.  Whether we’ll bring anyone else into the show is up to the limits of technology at this point.  We’ll see.
  3. Pictures (because I have things that I think are worth showing, though you likely will find them dull).
You also might see some blog posts unrelated to Eaton or posts related to discussions I had at Eaton and my extended thoughts on whatever occurred.  It’s all up in the air at this point.
So that’s that.  Day One will show up tomorrow at some point.  Look forward to it.  It will be crazy!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

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