Category Archives: Odd Calls for Papers

Call for papers on Literature & the Copyfight, for Congress 2012

Call for papers: Literature & the Copyfight, Congress 2012.

Critical scholarship is urgently needed to intervene on the question of copyright: once a staple stimulus for literary and cultural production that now tends more to stifle it. … This session invites papers on the relationship between literature, copyright, and the copyfight.

The deadline for submissions is 15 Nov. 2011 (see link for contact info). Thanks to ACCUTE and SDH for joint hosting.

[Instead of posting the complete call for papers here, I’m practicing not duplicating content.]

Science fiction means business

The US-based Creative Science Foundation is hosting its second annual workshop in the UK this summer. According to the call for papers:

This workshop will explore the use of science fiction as a means to motivate and direct research into new technologies and consumer products. It does this by creating science fiction stories grounded in current science and engineering research that are written for the explicit purpose of acting as prototypes for people to explore a wide variety of futures. […] In this way fictional prototypes provide a powerful interdisciplinary tool to enhance the traditional practices of research, design and market research.

The relationship between fiction and fact here is familiar enough to science fiction. In popular and fan discourses, this relationship tends to be mystified in terms of “uncanny prediction”: recent popular magazine articles detail “6 eerily specific inventions predicted by science fiction” and “11 astounding sci-fi predictions that came true.” In criticism and research, we find demystifications that investigate the material conditions linking science fiction to fact, extrapolation to production. Mark Fisher has helpfully coined the term “SF capital” to describe how science fiction works as a literary laboratory for real-world R&D, a resource for what Henry Jenkins calls “the military-entertainment complex” (75). A generation before Fisher, Marshall McLuhan — who was ambivalent about science fiction, and sometimes criticized for writing it -– had a firm, proleptic grasp on the idea of SF capital, which he well understood in his dual capacities as maverick scholar and corporate consultant:

Big Business has learned to tap the s-f writer. (124)

What’s striking in the CSF is perhaps the boldness of business’ courtship of SF: how frankly SF capital is being recognized and instituted, in a peculiarly Utilitarian program to enlist SF production specifically for “consumer products” and “market research.” The CSF is, in a way, simply spelling out the terms of a long-standing if somewhat asymmetrical partnership. SF’s command of both a popular market and a certain counter-cultural cachet has positioned it, since its inception (in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), as more commodity than culture, hence its exile to the peripheries of legitimate “Literature,” according to a cultural-economic history provocatively explained by Samuel R. Delany (195). But is its future to be increasingly channeled into and defined by the speculations and futures we associate more with high finance and global capital than with cultural commentary and social progress?

Putting the question this way, of course, oversimplifies the numerous trajectories, formations, allegiances, and even definitions of science fiction; this is perhaps more an issue of science fiction studies, of the genre’s role in and relation to research: will a program like that of the CSF represent a route for delivering SF out of its encampment on the fringes of literary studies, towards more interdisciplinary and more broad-based social engagements, or will it merely transport it from one camp to another?

Works Cited
Creative Science Foundation. Intel Labs, Hillsboro, 2011.
Delany, Samuel R. and Carl Freedman. “A Conversation with Samuel R. Delany about Sex, Gender, Race, Writing — and Science Fiction.” Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory. Ed. Marleen S. Barr. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2008. 191-235.
Fisher, Mark. “SF Capital.” Transmat: Resources in Transcendent Materialism (2001).
Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York UP, 2006.
Kessler, Sarah. “11 Astounding Sci-Fi Predictions That Came True.” Mashable 25 Sept. 2011.
McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. New York: Bantam, 1967.
Murdock, Colin. “6 eerily specific inventions predicted by science fiction.” Cracked 19 Nov. 2010.

Call for papers on the copyfight (ACCUTE 2011)

As advertised at the ACCUTE website (scroll down, scroll way way down), I’m organizing a special session for next year’s ACCUTE conference, during Congress at the U of New Brunswick.

The Copyfight: The Politics of Intellectual Property and Literary Production

Conceived as a critical public intervention in the fast- changing regimes of intellectual property (IP) regulation, this session seeks to bring questions of copyright and its regulation to bear on contemporary literary and cultural studies. The “copyfight” over digital intellectual property regulation, in particular, pits states and corporations against citizens, who are criminalized en masse as ever-stricter IP regulations (such as Bill C-32 and ACTA) that purport to control digital consumption also increasingly control the modes of cultural production. Between enclosures of the “cultural commons” and resistances to these enclosures, literary and cultural production has become politicized in its very forms. Possible topics for this session include:

  • Representations and critiques of intellectual property in literature
  • Case studies of IP regulation and/or litigation by literary properties or estates
  • Analyses of appropriation-based literary and cultural modes, forms, and texts
  • Histories of copyright and IP regulation: its definitions, institutions, transformations
  • IP issues in the university: e.g. Access Copyright, e-readers, DRM, Open Access, plagiarism
  • The political economy of adaptation: fan fiction, parodic use, commentary
  • Whither creative license? Copyright’s controls, confiscations, and censorships of cultural production

Following the instructions on this website for member-organized sessions, send your 700 word proposal (or 8-10 page double-spaced paper), a 100 word abstract, a 50 word biographical statement, and the submitter information form, to mccutcheon[at]athabascau[dot]ca by 15 November 2010.

Note: You must be a current ACCUTE member to submit to this session.

Another strange Call for Papers

“Spanking and Poetry”?

I thought grad conference calls-for-papers in the Humanities are all about “interrogating boundaries,” “crossing borders,” or “re/thinking (punct)uation.” This one just sounds improbably kinky. I tip my hat.

What a strange Call For Papers

From the MLA 2009 conference list of special-session calls for papers:

MMLA in Free Fall: The Unbearable Hollowness of MLA Conventions. Conceptual vacuity, lessness of theory, urge for back-to-basics in MLA papers and the dying culture of capital. Abstracts by 10 Mar.

I’m all for institutional critique, but what are junior scholars and those as-yet unacquainted with the annual MLA convention to make of a call for papers like this? (And what are we to make of the MLA conference timing? Every year, it’s held between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Who thought there’s just not enough air travel at that time of year?)