Southern California Science Fictional Thinking in Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas

Boom California

UCR Arts Block-28

Tyler Stallings

History is written in retrospect. Patterns are sought among seemingly unrelated events at the time of their occurrence. There is never just one historical narrative. Historians make choices about what events to represent and from which perspective, often to the disadvantage of people on the losing end—for example, the colonized or enslaved. Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas provides a space-time continuum for reimagining the past from the perspective of the “alienated” and the “other,” from the peoples marginalized by the powerful. The exhibition includes over thirty contemporary artists who explore interactions of science fiction and the visual arts in Latin America, the U.S., and the intergalactic beyond; collectively laying out a provocative view of arts in the Americas told in the present but with an eye toward future, alternate Americas.

Mundos Alternos is an 11,000-square-foot exhibition, with an accompanying book of the same title…

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Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity

Manteau: Seriously? Bust? – What kind of things’ve you dialed so far? You been a giant metal spring, yet? A super-disco dancer? A boomerang? Now it’s bust because you’ve got ovaries? Every few dials, this happens, Baroness.
(Miéville & Santolouco, Dial H #3, 2012)

In this academic article, Christina Scholz explores trans* identity within comic books. Christina Scholz teaches at Graz University, and has research interests which include Weird fiction, M. John Harrison and China Miéville. You can visit Christina’s blog for links to more academic writing, fiction, and reviews (and other things!)

Abstract: Gender is a discursive and performative construct, and mass media such as comic books play a role in how it is constructed. Problems arise from discrepancies between prescriptive models of gender and individuals’ actual lived experience. Now, in the era of the reboot, comic book writers have the opportunity to change the identity politics inherent within well-known series, reaching a wide audience through iconic figures, and contributing to changing cisnormative perceptions of gender. Comic books are particularly crucially placed in this regard, since superheroes, as established metaphors of otherness, may in some sense already be ‘queer’ figures. However, although important and exciting steps have been taken toward better representation of trans* identities within superhero comics, we still have a long way to go. Drawing in particular on the theory of Judith Butler and Antke Engel, as well as lived experience, this article explores the past and present representation of trans* identities in comic books, and looks with hope toward the future.

Continue reading “Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity”

From the BSFA Review: Lagos_2060

Lagos_2060 curated by Ayodele Arigbadu (DADA books, 2013)

Reviewed by Polina Levontin

Lagos_2060

Writing about present day Lagos, Rem Koolhaas warns that already ‘the city itself has mutated into something’ quite unrecognizable to Westerners who think of cities in terms of European or North American models.  ‘What will the city be like in 2060?’  This was the question posed to 8 Nigerian science fiction writers during a workshop that yielded an anthology: Lagos_2060. The resulting eight stories, three of which are written by women, represent a diverse range of imaginaries all set in Lagos, the year 2060.  These stories engage with science and governance, city infrastructure and climate change, co-evolution of technology and social norms, urbanization and the future of global capitalism. Yet these scholarly themes emerge from stories that are first and foremost exciting, often romance-filled adventures.  There are man-eating frogs and time-travel inducing herbs, girls with luminous tattoos and zero-gravity bedrooms, albeit in separate stories…

Individual writers approached the remit to imagine the future of one of the world’s greatest cities each with their own genre pallette and a remix of intellectual priorities.  But what these stories share is a sense of dynamic liveliness that can only be a feature of a work in progress, their various literary forms reflective of the chaotic process by which the city itself is shaped. Their gift is the recklessness of trying out new things. These are pioneering works, regardless of how one decides to date science fiction in Nigeria.

What interested me in particular were the discourses on science.  The first story of the anthology, ‘Amphibian Attack’ by Afolabi Muheez Ashiru presents the dangers of leaving the sciences in the hands of the private sector.  The private company ‘Bright Life Group’ is so efficient in curing diseases and supplying energy that it has to use science also to undo the progress, secretly engineering catastrophes, so that it can keep itself profitable and powerful by fixing its own ‘accidents’.   The discourse in the second story ‘Animals on the Run’ by Okey Egboluche is that of conflict between technological progress on one hand and society and environment on the other.  The value of robotics in particular is questioned because it reduces employment in conditions where large numbers of people need jobs.  Robotics is critiqued on an intimately personal scale in another story in the collection, ‘Metal Feet’ by Temitayo Olofinlua.

Technological advances such as land reclamation to expand Lagos are questioned as risky and as a violation of ‘natural order.’  In ‘Mango Republic’ by Terh Agbedeh scientific rationalism is instituted in Lagos, making it ‘the most beautiful prison in the world ever conceived by man’ (p. 197).  But even supreme scientific achievements are shown to be powerless against the forces of nature unhinged by climate change. Floods and rising sea levels threaten Lagos, while environmental destruction elsewhere in Nigeria swells the city’s population beyond capacity. In ‘Mango Republic’ the discourse of science is survivalist – science is our last hope to adapt to a perilous future.  Yet, exemplifying the complexity of the narratives in Lagos_2060, other stories demonstrate the political danger of seemingly desirable scientific solutions.  On the extreme opposite spectrum from ‘Amphibian Attack’, scientific knowledge becomes highly guarded government property in ‘Cold Fusion’.  A new way to produce cheap renewable electricity reinforces the government’s control over the people of Lagos and stirs political ambitions to secede from the rest of Nigeria.   Science promising energy independence actually does enable the politicians who rule Lagos to secede from Nigeria in another story – ‘Coming Home’ by Rayo Falade.

The collection is full of ideas pertinent not only to the future of Lagos but the future of humanity in general. The writers don’t envision Lagos in isolation but as an integral part of the global economic and natural system. Their visions and hopes for Lagos, their individual philosophies and fears are expressed with humor and showmanship. Their ability to ask urgent questions about the direction we are heading is made invaluable by their skills to entertain.

Sputnik Award: The Final

By Jo Lindsay Walton.

Some time in early 2016, I and a few others decided to set up an award for speculative fiction, the Sputnik Awards. The idea was to do things a little differently, and to spark thinking about what literary awards can and should be. Or, um, shouldn’t be. Because we are so very scrupulous in our awarding, we are only now ready … almost ready! … to announce the winner. So without any further ado, here is some further ado, giving the story so far:

And the winner is …

Elsewhere:

Trivia:

The Sputnik Award 2016 was primarily a popular award (voted for by about 200 fans, mostly courtesy of File 770’s signal boost) with just a tincture of a juried award (I chose the shortlist, mostly guided by the shortlists of other then-major awards).

The name Sputnik, by the way, came courtesy of Ian Sales, although he had something a bit different in mind and is blameless in this affair. The notion that the Sputniks could do this genre-jump for its final showdown, from dungeoncrawl to duel, came from Zali Krishna and Christina Scholz. Christina happens to be published here this week: check out her article, “Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity.”

CfP: Economics and SF

Our next themed issue, scheduled for late 2018, will address economics in science fiction and fantasy. How do economic themes appear in SFF? What can SFF writers learn from economists, and vice-versa? Can SFF help us to develop alternatives to capitalism? The full CfP can be read here. Please submit abstracts of 200-400 words to vector.submissions@gmail.com by 31 March 2018. In the meanwhile, informal queries very welcome. Some resources from Jo’s blog that you may find inspiring or helpful: a list of suggested topics and ideas, a list of suggested secondary reading, and the Economic SFF database.

 

“Not everything I write is covered in bees”: Adrian Tchaikovsky interviewed by Ian Whates

Wasp - Transparent Background

The BSFA holds regular events in London, usually on the last Wednesday of the month, at the Artillery Arms near Old Street. These events are free, and open to members and non-members alike. Keep an eye on the BSFA website for news of future events. In February 2017, Ian Whates caught up with SF and fantasy novelist Adrian Tchaikovsky. Andrew Wallace chronicles the encounter …

Adrian Tchaikovsky is known for his ten-volume epic fantasy series, Shadows of the Apt, whose clashing civilisations are based around insect species. More recently, Adrian has been lauded for his science fiction, with his novel Children of Time winning the 2016 Clarke Award. Children of Time starts from the premise of a nano-virus sent across the stars to seed life on a distant world. Unexpectedly, it is the spiders and ants – species meant to play mere bit parts in the glorious epic of mammalian expansion – who get sped towards sentience, and the kind of richly detailed space-faring society that great SF does so well.

So the question we all want to ask Adrian Tchaikovsky is: what’s with the bugs?

Continue reading ““Not everything I write is covered in bees”: Adrian Tchaikovsky interviewed by Ian Whates”