Visions of the Future – Conference Review

This post and the next feature reviews of recent sci-fi conferences attended by Snail on the Slope contributing member Eric R. Laursen (University of Utah) – namely, April’s Global Science Fiction Cinema conference in Iowa and July’s Science Fiction Research Association conference in Detroit. For pictures, useful links, and more, read on!

Visions of the Future: Global Science Fiction Cinema Conference was held in Iowa City at the U of Iowa April 12-14 (http://dsph.uiowa.edu/conferences/uigsfc/wp/).  Panel titles ranged in topic from “Empire and the State” to “Biopolitics and Bioethics” to “Cyborgs, Affect, and Sexuality.”  Scholars delivered papers (and tantalizing clips!) on films from cultures around the world, including Bollywood, North Korea, and of course Japanese Anime.

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Two keynotes were delivered, one on April 12 by Katherine Hayles entitled “Theorizing the Global Influence of Digital Media through the Technogenetic Spiral.”  Hayles is the author of How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics, which won the Rene Wellek Prize for the Best Book in Literary Theory for 1998-99, and Writing Machines, which won the Suzanne Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Her latest book, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis, appeared in Spring 2012 from the University of Chicago Press.

On April 13 Thomas Lamarre delivered a second keynote entitled “Humans and Machines–Media Interface after the Cyborg.”  Thomas Lamarre is a James McGill Professor in East Asian Studies and Communications Studies at McGill University. He is the author of books dealing with the history of media, thought, and material culture, with projects ranging from the communication networks of 9th century Japan (Uncovering Heian Japan), to silent cinema and the global imaginary (Shadows on the Screen) and animation technologies (The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation), the latter which won an Honorable Mention for the 2011 Katherine Singer Kovács Book Award.

Lamarre’s keynote was followed by a live taping of an NPR and PBS program WorldCanvass dedicated to science fiction.  Participants included Istvan Cicery Ronay, Jr., Rob Latham, film-maker Alex Rivera and six of the panelists presenting at the conference. You can listen to the broadcast here:  http://www.prx.org/pieces/77806

Each evening there was a screening of a science fiction film.  The first two nights participants viewed the Japanese film Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence (2004, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0347246/) & the German Transfer (2010, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1270120).  On the final day of the conference, after the last panel participants viewed a showing of world science fiction shorts.  This was followed by a banquet, after which participants raced through a torrential Iowa rainstorm to see Sleep Dealer (2008), a Sundance movie that was filmed in the U.S. and Mexico, which was followed by a Q & A with the film’s director Alex Rivera (http://www.sleepdealer.com/).  The picture below is a still from Sleep Dealer taken from the conference program.

ImageOrganizers of the conference were Jennifer Feeley (Dept of Asian and Slavic Languages) and Sarah Ann Wells (Dept of Spanish), both faculty members at the University of Iowa.

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