Salvaging Utopia: Lessons for (and from) the Left in Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017), The Deep (2019), and Sorrowland (2021)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how writing can make a difference in the world, and even more so about what academic writing has to do with it. Though barely a start, some of my own reflections and research on this topic are now available in the form of this Open Access (i.e. free) article on activism, Rivers Solomon, and the utopian work of salvage. The article is part of a special issue on ‘Post-Utopia in Speculative Fiction’, available through the MDPI Journal Humanities, which examines various histories and ways forward for utopia in contemporary SF/F.

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‘Embodying Contagion’ Roundtable (14 July 2021)

Are you interested in the politics of contagious bodies and their representation in contemporary culture? Join us for a free roundtable discussion on Wednesday, 14 July 2021, from 4:00-5:30pm BST.

Bringing scholars from cultural and media studies into conversation with scholars from the medical humanities and social sciences, this roundtable event aims to give readers a fuller picture of the viropolitics of contagious bodies in contemporary global culture. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions and share your own perspective on the topic.

You can register for this free online event through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/embodying-contagion-roundtable-and-book-launch-tickets-158699064173 

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Monster Theory 2.0: Remix, the Digital Humanities, and the Limits of Transgression

‘Is remix a monster, and digital humanities the means through which it is destined to bring down the old-fashioned, exclusionary, and hierarchical modes of humanities past?’

This is the question I ask at the beginning of my chapter in the new Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, and xtine burrough, and the answer is not as simple as it may seem. There are lots of great chapters in the book, divided into sections on ‘Epistemology and Theory’, ‘Accessibility and Pedagogy’, ‘Modularity and Ontology’, and ‘Aurality and Visuality’. My own chapter, on ‘Remix, the Digital Humanities, and the Limits of Transgression’, uses the metaphor of Frankenstein and his creature to suggest that the transgressive potential of remix and the digital humanities lies less in the form of these disciplines, and more in their practice: How they are allowed to intersect, evolve, and escape their traditional (anti)humanist foundations.

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Posthumanist Transmedia: David Blandy’s The World After (2019)

Cover of Transmedia Cultures published 2021This week my author copy of Transmedia Cultures arrived! It contains a series of “fresh” approaches to transmedia, “revealing the ever-increasing levels of entanglement they have within our real lives and with those we experience in other more imaginative or creative ones, bringing into focus exactly what is at stake in the «worlds» we choose to call our own”

My own contribution is a short chapter that frames David Blandy’s The World After (2019) and/as posthumanist transmedia. It follows on from an artist talk and a workshop I did with Blandy last year.

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Embodying Contagion Now in Paperback and Open Access

Embodying Contagion: The Viropolitics of Horror and Desire in Contemporary Discourse is now available to own in paperback, and to read for free in Gold Open Access!

From Outbreak to The Walking Dead, apocalyptic narratives of infection, contagion and global pandemic are an inescapable part of twenty-first-century popular culture. Yet these fears and fantasies are too virulent to be simply quarantined within fictional texts. The vocabulary and metaphors of outbreak narratives have permeated how news media, policymakers and the general public view the real world and the people within it. In an age where fact and fiction seem increasingly difficult to separate, contagious bodies (and the discourses that contain them) continually blur established boundaries between real and unreal, legitimacy and frivolity, science and the supernatural. Where previous scholarly work has examined the spread of epidemic realities in horror fiction, the essays in this collection also consider how epidemic fantasies and fears influence reality. Initiating dialogue between scholarship from cultural and media studies, and scholarship from the medical humanities and social sciences, this collection gives readers a fuller picture of the viropolitics of contagious bodies in contemporary global culture.

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Gothic Remixed Now in Paperback

At long last my first book, Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture, is available in paperback from Bloomsbury!

The bestselling genre of Frankenfiction sees classic literature turned into commercial narratives invaded by zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other fantastical monsters. Too engaged with tradition for some and not traditional enough for others, these ‘monster mashups’ are often criticized as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture. These hybrid creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation.

Featuring 23 black-and-white illustrations, this book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. Taking a multimedia approach, case studies range from novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, to television programmes such as Penny Dreadful, to popular visual artworks like Kevin J. Weir’s Flux Machine GIFs. In Gothic Remixed, I use these monstrous works to show how the thrill of transgression has been contained within safe and familiar formats, resulting in the mashups that dominate Western popular culture.

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Ask the Expert ‘Tea Talks’ Episode 6: Monsters and the Posthuman

They're there for their afternoon tea mug featured in video
The mug featured in said episode.

The University of Southampton has just launched a new series of Ask The Expert videos, called ‘Tea Talks’. These 20-to-30-minute videos feature Belinda Milestone, Teaching Fellow in the university’s Academic Centre for International Studies, as she interviews staff from WSA about their lives, careers, teaching, areas of specialism—and, of course, favourite cups of tea.

In the most recent episode I talk to Belinda about remix, monsters, and the posthuman over a cup of Chinese white tea:

You can watch the entire first season (six interviews) on YouTube. It includes discussions about festivals, advertising, luxury, fashion and sustainability, and more. Season two will hopefully be on the way very soon.

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Materials from Human Worlds Festival 2020

Image by 愚木混株

The Human Worlds Festival is the University of Southampton’s annual celebration of Humanities. This year, we explored Sylvia Wynter’s proposition that “humanness is no longer a noun. Being human is a praxis”. Together we explored different ways of examining and practicing our humanness. We also shared examples of how this praxis can change the world for the better.

The 2020 Human Worlds Festival might be over, but if you missed the event itself you can still enjoy many of the featured talks and workshops over on the festival YouTube channel.

From the ‘Being Human as Praxis’ programme of events, you can find links to the recordings for ‘Posthuman Laughter’, ‘Being Human from Aristotle to Deleuze’, and the ‘Computer Generated Novel Workshop’ below. The computer-generated novel produced through this workshop has also now been submitted to NaNoGenMo (link here; novel and code available for download at the bottom of the page). The novel is appropriately entitled The Year 2020: Now Oil the Joints of My Hand at That Moment That There is No Love.

Last but not least, you can find a recording of the ‘Speculative Futures of the Arts and Humanities, in Practice’ Roundtable as part of Hands-on-Humanities Day.

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The Monster Mash: Remix Horror from the Magic Lantern to the Small Screen (13 April 2021)

A few weeks ago I posted about the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies spring 2021 lineup of classes. This week I’m excited to share more information about my own contribution to this series. Join me and Miskatonic London on Zoom, 13 April (7pm UK time, tickets £8) to talk about remix and appropriative horror, from magic lantern to monster mash to meme. At the event we’ll also be celebrating the paperback launch of Gothic Remixed. 

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Gothic Remixed Coming to Paperback

2021 hasn’t had a great start. But there’s been at least a little bit of good news in the form of a book update.

After selling out before publication in 2020, and then coming back on print-on-demand at an inflated hardcover rate, Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture will finally be coming to paperback. It’s currently available for preorder—due out on 25 March 2021, and retailing at £28.99 ($39.95 in the US).

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