How does one describe the Current Research in Speculative Fiction conference? Zombies and Aliens and Witches, oh my! A day of graduate students introducing their various fields of research into science fiction, fantasy, and horror is like visiting an academic theme park. Have you ever wondered how Martian economics works? How environmental catastrophes lead to a rewriting of history? How the masculine imagery of the technological is turning the human into the feminine? What about the connected history of vampires and zombies over the last 150 years as expressions of our own phobias? Have you ever genuinely considered how we structure the language of sf to build a world in our minds? Science fiction, fantasy and horror is all around us, has always been with us, but we rarely seem to give it a proper academic forum for expression.
And of course there are the plenary speakers to spice the mix. Dr. Peter Wright of Edge Hill University gave a talk on cinematic enunciations of literary cognitive estrangement… i.e. how to we take the written word – or sometimes, what is not written – and translate it into an effective audio/visual medium. Two-time Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Pat Cadigan then regaled us with her thoughts about science fiction and the future (and just so everyone can rest easy, there will neither be an ‘imperial Earth’ ruling over the Solar System anytime soon, nor will there be an apocalypse).
But the best part of this day is the meeting of new academics and the exchange of ideas. ‘Can I facebook stalk you?’ is not sinister, but a desire to know more about your research and what you are publishing. Every year I leave with new ideas and new sources for my research, and every year I am more proud to have worked on the conference. Even when I am no longer a postgrad, I look forward to being able to come back and listen to the papers from up and coming researchers. We love what we do, and we love talking to others who share that passion for investigating what has long been pushed to the margins of academia.