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Science Fiction Across Media: Alternative Histories, Alien Futures

Digital workshop poster

Together with Ursula Heise (whom I’d invited as a guest professor to Umeå University for a few months in 2011 and 2012), I arranged an international workshop exploring the complex representation of natural and technological ecologies in science fiction in and across its varied media, in HUMlab in April 2012. Science fiction is becoming a mainstream and increasingly popular genre in fiction and film, as demonstrated by recent novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Michel Houellebecq, Junot Diaz and William Gibson as well as the global success of James Cameron’s Avatar. Yet science fiction is more than simple entertainment. The workshop considered science fiction as multi-medial explorations of alternative histories and alternative futures and invites scholars across the humanities to present their ongoing work on science fiction either in the form of full-length 20-minute papers, or as shorter papers on work in progress or mini-presentations on crucial concepts or ideas (8 minutes). The workshop took place in HUMlab, Umeå University’s digital humanities laboratory, and emphasized informal, yet critical discussion of papers and presentations.

From my own presentation, “Does the Empire Recycle”, on waste and recycling in the Star Wars movies.

Here is a list of the sessions and papers. Note that the keynotes were recorded and can be seen online:

Keynotes:

Session 1 – Domesticating the future

  • Cynthia J. Miller, Emerson College: “Domesticating Space: Science Fiction Serials Come Home”
  • Ekaterina Kalemeneva, European University Institute at St. Petersburg: “City under the dome: from scientific fiction to the reality?”
  • Ingrid Wållgren, Lund University: “Freeze, wait, reanimate: An exploration of science fiction and science facts”

Session 2 – Don’t worry, it’s just the end of the world; and other dystopian futures

  • Camilla Ulleland Hoel, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: “The end of the world as defining moment of ethical action”
  • Andreas Nyström, Karlstad University: “Echoes of civilization’s past”
  • Asa Ekengren San Andres, “Neo-Luddism in the United States: Thinkers, Movements and Pop-Culture Against Technology”

Session 3 – Exploring future social orders

  • Mike Frangos, Umeå University: “The future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet”
  • Anna Åberg, Royal Institute of Technology: “Witnessing Our Energy Future”
  • Fredrik Andersson, Association of Swedish Higher Education: “Cyberbroke? – Dystopian and Utopian Visions of the Future Economy in Popular Culture”
  • Martin Hultman, Umeå University: “Terminator and Governator: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the question of ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ identities”

Session 4 – Other than human

  • 
Joe Trotta, University of Gothenburg: “Do linguists dream of electric sheep? A look at alien languages, future Englishes and linguists in Speculative Fiction”
  • Adam Dodd, University of Oslo: “The virtual reality of the UFO”
  • Henriette Cederlöf, Södertörn University: “The Strugatsky brothers’ unacknowledged meetings with the posthuman”

Session 5 – Future ecologies

  • Dolly Jørgensen, Umeå University: “What have whales done for me lately? Ecosystem services in science fiction”
  • Alexa Weik von Mossner, Rachel Carson Center: “Science Fiction and the Future of Ecological Citizenship”
  • Tony Thorström, Uppsala University: “Digitalised bodies and new technologies: reconfigurations of human ‘nature’ in the wake of the information revolution”
  • 
Finn Arne Jørgensen, Umeå University: “Does the Empire recycle? Waste and scrap recycling in the Star Wars movies”

So, what do you think ?