Thursday, March 28, 2013

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts occurred last week in Orlando. Neil Gaiman was the guest of honor, Kij Johnson (author of FOX WOMAN) was the author guest, and Constance Penley, who writes on popular culture, science, and feminist issues, was guest scholar. I read a paper on Robert Louis Stevenson’s horror story “Thrawn Janet.” Also, I appeared on a panel about Redefining the Undead, which of course spent a lot of time on zombies but also considered the between-life-and-death status of many other beings, including some entities and issues that are already a reality in today’s world, such as people whose hearts have stopped and “returned to life.” And what about patients who receive organs from dead donors? Speaking of zombies, they popped up frequently throughout the conference. There was even a session on undead romance in YA fiction.

Some highlights: Neil Gaiman gave a luncheon speech on genre. He proposed an interesting test to determine the genre of a work of fiction: Does the plot exist to take the reader through a series of set-pieces without which readers would feel cheated of what they expect from that kind of story? If so, those set-pieces determine what genre the story belongs to. Later in the weekend Gaiman read from a forthcoming novel, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. Constance Penley’s luncheon speech described a project she participated in under the auspices of MOCA (the Museum of Creative Arts), a collaborative artist-student-fan contribution to the TV series MELROSE PLACE. The team created a secondary character and crafted subplot story lines for their character. Penley is the author of NASA/TREK, an analysis of NASA as a popular culture entity juxtaposed against STAR TREK fandom, with particular emphasis on slash fiction; it’s amazing to see how she draws all those threads together. She has also written on feminist pornography. I’ve ordered a book on that subject edited by her. Judging from the lively text of NASA/TREK, it should be fascinating, although I wish she wouldn’t use the derogatory term “porn” indiscriminately for all sexually explicit fiction.

Another highlight for me was a panel on comics, which discussed fiction and poetry about superheroes but also, which I found more interesting, the crossover process from novels and TV series to graphic novels based on them and how those spinoff products are marketed.

The food at the two luncheons and the awards banquet was excellent this year. I was especially pleasantly surprised by a lunch with a curry theme, which struck me as pretty daring. I love Indian food, but the organizers couldn’t count on its being a hit with everyone. My plane was scheduled to leave at 3:05 on Sunday, already a later departure than I really liked. Then bad weather hit the Midwest, with a cascade effect that delayed all the Sunday afternoon Orlando flights. I ended up getting into our airport about 9 p.m., therefore not arriving home until near 10. While waiting for our plane’s departure, we experienced the excitement of watching, through the big airport windows, a violent wind and rain storm with tornado warning rage through Orlando. It passed quickly and didn’t seem to do any local damage, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

On the bright side, as usual I came home with lots of books, most of them free.

Margaret L Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. Here's a great blog post I just discovered about the conference and zombies:

    Of Nerds and Zombies