Beyond Borders: Virtual Realities and the Future of Conferencing

Image from the 2020 LSFRC conference programme, © Sinjin Li

I’ve been involved in so many online activities since the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 that I’ve lost count. There have been supervisions and meetings and hangouts, trainings and gaming sessions and seminars. Screenings, symposia, and workshops. And of course teaching.

There have also been conferences, continuing unabated across a huge variety of formats and platforms. Tomorrow I’ll be logging into Blackboard Collaborate to attend the 2nd International e-Conference on Translation, which has a focus on linguistic minorities and will have both live and prerecorded presentations. Last week I took part in the CHEP Learning and Teaching Festival (of a similar format) and the Intermedial Eighteenth Century conference, which was mostly asynchronous on forums and Vimeo. Before that came the Pratchett Project and the London Science Fiction Research Community, all synchronous on Blackboard Collaborate (but with some sessions recorded for posterity). And way back in June I presented at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies, where all talks were prerecorded, and delegates got together on the day for discussion and questions via Zoom.

I’m also a (guilty?) contributor to this surfeit of stuff online, organising a Mobilities symposium on MS Teams over the summer. This November I’m hoping to coordinate a series of online events for the UK’s annual Being Human festival.

Online conferences were already a hot topic of conversation in academia. We’ve begun to seriously consider the environmental impact of international conferences, not to mention the fact that such events are increasingly a privilege reserved for those with a stable income and institutional travel budgets. But COVID-19 has shifted these conversations into high gear. I guess the question on most people’s minds is whether the virtual realm is the future of conferencing. And if so, what works best?

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‘Hail, Mary, the Mother of Science Fiction’: Popular Fictionalisations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in Film and Television, 1935-2018

I’m very excited to announce a new special issue of Science Fiction Film and Television, focusing on Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and women in science fiction! I’ve got an article in this special issue on Shelley’s fictionalised appearances in popular film and television, including Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Frankenstein Unbound (1990), Highlander (TV; 1992–1998) and Frankenstein, MD (2014).

Mary Shelley in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

This week, I finally got a peek at the Spring syllabus for an undergraduate course I’m co-teaching. Sadly my students won’t be watching Blade Runner or reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? this year. I will be teaching a session on ‘the death of the book’, though, and science fiction plays an increasingly important part in this discussion. Several years ago, … Read more

Fantasies of Contemporary Culture (in Review)

A massive ‘Thank You’ to everyone who attended Monday’s Fantasies of Contemporary Culture symposium at Cardiff University, either in person or on Twitter. I enjoyed the day (and all the papers) immensely, and feel very honoured to have been a part of it. I’ve compiled some of the images, tweets, and Facebook posts into a (very long) … Read more

Fantasies of Contemporary Culture (CFP)

In addition to all the wonderful conferences I’m hoping to attend in 2016, I happen to be co-organising a symposium of my own, on the role fantasies play in the construction of contemporary reality. Whatever your background, discipline, or career phase, we want your abstracts (and we just want to meet you). Have a look at the … Read more