The first day of the actual Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference proved to be one of the best of the entire event, not least because of my presentation at 2:30 PM. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The day began innocently enough. Luckily for me, I roomed with a particularly interesting fellow named Randall, who is actually a neuroscientist. The sad thing about being an English major is that you don’t get much opportunity to chill with folks outside of your department. Some part of this is because people in other departments look down on us English folks; the other part is because English people are generally terrified of scientists due to the fact that they have giant ninja stars that shoot out of their hands and hit random passersby. Okay, so that’s a load of crap. I have no idea why English types don’t hang out with science types. You’ll have to figure that out on your own.
First things first, I presented a paper on a panel about Battlestar Galactica. Specifically, the panel was concerned with posthuman identity and revolution within the BSG, which fit my paper (“Otherism: The Dissection of Humanity and the Negation of the Human in Battlestar Galactica”) quite well. The most interesting thing about this panel was how each of my fellow presenters had a paper that interacted with the others, including my own. Each of us had something interesting to say about hybridity, the Other, reactionary politics, and so on, and this made for a very connected and, I think, powerful panel.
If you’ve ever attended an academic conference (three total for me now), you’ll know that panels which end up with a hodgepodge of ideas tend to end up with equally as hodgepodged questions from the audience–sometimes presenters get no questions at all. This wasn’t a problem for my panel. I presented last (and was the only one to use PowerPoint), and when all was done, the questions came flying in. Quite a few were directed at me, and some were directed to all of us, since we all were dealing with similar issues. Of all the conferences I have attended and presented at, this is by far the best response I have ever received. Some panels end up with rather lackluster discussion, but we actually had a rather robust discussion amongst ourselves and the audience.
When all was said and done, the panel went astonishingly well. I even had someone comment at the end that I looked comfortable up at the podium (I was terrified, but it’s nice to know that I look pretty good up there and that self-deprecating humor still works among academics). I was extraordinarily pleased and I hope that I will end up in a similar situation in the future.
Now enough about me. A brief recap of everything else I managed to see and do, followed by a quick reading list:
–I attended an interesting panel that was, unfortunately, mislabeled as “Celebrating Diversity in Science Fiction.” Yes, it was clear that the papers represented the interesting diversity of ideas within science fiction, but none of them were explicitly about diversity, so much as interesting analyses of shows like the original Twilight Zone, and other work like John Ringo’s controversial military science fiction, Pratchett’s Discworld series, and a fellow named Bixby who wrote some children’s novels some time ago. The Discworld paper was the most interesting; it discussed the nature of belief within Pratchett’s world and absolutely made me want to read his work (the presenter of that paper ended up being one of my conference buddies, of which everyone needs at least one).
–Zombies were a big hit this year (as compared to all the other years that I didn’t attend…). I saw a rather informative panel that gave some historical perspective on zombies. You don’t hear much about the origins of zombie myths and literature in modern culture these days; it’s a welcome reprieve from what has since become the popular conception of the zombie.
–The Night Trials by Joan Crawford
–John Ringo’s Posleen War series
–The Vanishing Village by Hazel Townson (?)
–“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby
–The Plan (Battlestar Galactica)
–How We Became Posthuman by Katherine Hayles
–Homi Bhabha on subjectivity
–Foucault on subjectivity
–Judith Butler on the psyche as a remainder
–Bruce Clark on cybernetic humans
–Brian Willems’ discussion of Heidegger’s theories about death
There you have it!