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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Back in May I wrote that I was working on the final manuscript for an edited collection called Embodying Contagion, co-edited with Sandra Becker and Sara Polak. Now, I am excited to announce that the collection is available for preorder with University of Wales Press, and will be coming to a bookstore or library near you in April 2021. The book will be released in paperback (retailing at £45), but most importantly it will also be coming out in Open Access, thanks to a generous grant from the Dutch NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities.
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?