Dublin Up

There are lots of great things going on at Worldcon in Dublin and there’s

‘Francis Bacon’s Alien

Format: Paper
H. R. Giger, designer of the alien in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, has said in various places that he was inspired by a painting: ‘Bacon did a crucifixion in 1945, and there is a kind of beast in it that has a head that is only a mouth.’ The three-canvas painting is Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which probably dates from 1944 but was worked on for a number of years and depicts three grotesque figures on a luminous orange background. Normally the three figures would include St John, the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene, but elsewhere the Irish-born Protestant Bacon identified them with the Eumenides or Furies, female figures of vengeance. The canvasses have caused debate among Bacon scholars, because they do not include the cross and therefore the potential for salvation. Does the painting represent despair and horror, or salvation through suffering? By looking at this painting and other crucifixions by Bacon, in relation to Alien, I raise the possibility of a backwards infection of reading Bacon’s work as science fiction, through his ongoing engagement with the grotesque, his ‘invisible rooms’ frames within his canvasses, and his use of surreal juxtapositions.

part of: Different visions of Ireland18 Aug 2019, Sunday 11:30 – 12:20, Odeon 6 (Academic) (Point Square Dublin)

1. Dr Andrew M. Butler – ‘“We are meat, we are potential carcasses”: Francis Bacon’s Alien
2. Dr Richard Howard – ‘Comfort Plus Excitement: Bob Shaw and David Hardy’
3. Val Nolan – ‘Narration and Recurrence in Neil Jordan’s Shade

Unknown and/or forgotten artists

Format: Panel
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 13:30 – 14:20, Odeon 2 (Point Square Dublin)

Some artists enjoy commercial success, while many others stay in the shadows. Why does this happen? Panellists discuss artists who have been forgotten or haven’t received the attention they deserve.

Phil Foglio (Studio Foglio, LLC), Pat Robinson , Sue Mason, Dr Andrew M Butler (Canterbury Christ Church University) (M)

Get us out of the Twilight Zone: the work of Jordan Peele

Format: Panel
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 13:30 – 14:20, Stratocaster BC (Point Square Dublin)

With two extraordinary films and a reimagined Twilight Zone under his belt, Jordan Peele has made a huge impact as a weird/horror visionary over the last few years. This panel will discuss Peele’s work: what it says, how it works, and why it matters.

Catriona Ward, Dr Andrew M Butler (Canterbury Christ Church University) , Chris M. Barkley (M), Dr Wanda Kurtçu (California State University, Hayward).

History is Bunk

“Riding the New Wave,” in Gerry Canavan and Eric Carl Link, The Cambridge History of Science Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

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In Gardner Dozois’s history of SF after the Golden Age, there is a moment when he complains that “although it was easy enough even then to prove that the New Wave as such did not exist, the public insisted on reacting as if it did exist.” If this opinion were entirely true, the next few pages of this book would be blank – so I will assert that there is indeed such a thing as the New Wave, perhaps even several New Waves. The temptation is to assume a linear history to the genre, such as the parodic one offered by Barry Malzberg: “the primitive twenties, wondrous and colorful thirties, systematized and optimistic forties, quiet and despairing fifties, fragmented and chaotic sixties, expressionless seventies . . . ” This straw history claims that Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell created an optimistic genre that celebrated engineering and technology, in which characterization and style played a distant fourth or fifth place to ideas, the sense of wonder, and action. John Clute refers to this as “Agenda” or as “First” SF, which is “born to advocate and enthuse and teach”; “the result was an SF universe written in the shape of Man. Women and other aliens had visiting rights only.”

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Spinning Plates: Season of the Witch

So, a month since I updated my to do list, with a bloody busy ten days.

I’m leaving out lectures (four a week on average this term) and if I’m circumspect about details, it’s just because I’m superstitious that way.

  • Notes on bad taste and comedy – tonight
  • Paper on A Scanner Darkly – 30 September
  • notes on The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • Clarke conference CFP
  • Paper for Lisbon – mid-November
  • turn Wyndham paper into article – 1 December 2016
  • books proposal for Sekrit TTTTTTTT project – asap
  • revise bounced book manuscript – asap
  • three book reviews
  • turn War of the Worlds, The War in the Air and A Scanner Darkly papers into articles
  • Chapter on Star Wars – 22 February 2016
  • continue beer research

The Spinning Plates – Redux

It’s been a while since I updated my to do list. As we start the new academic year, I thought it might be worth dusting it off — not so much showing off as reminding myself that I have things to do and giving you insight as to what we academics do with our ridiculously short working weeks.

Not that you wanted to know.

You’re welcome.

I’m leaving out lectures (four a week on average this term) and if I’m circumspect about details, it’s just because I’m superstitious that way.

  • Notes on bad taste and comedy – tonight
  • Paper on A Scanner Darkly – 30 September
  • abstract on Star Wars – 1 October
  • notes on The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • Paper for Lisbon – mid-November
  • books proposal for Sekrit TTTTTTTT project – asap
  • revise bounced book manuscript – asap
  • three book reviews
  • turn War of the Worlds and The War in the Air papers into articles
  • continue beer research

I note, having read a PhD thesis, I have an idea for an article I will hide from and, having thought a bit about Chuck Tingle, I will move right along.

What I Did on My Holidays

For about a month now I’ve been told that I can put my feet up now.

Yes, the teaching is over, but then there’s the marking to be done and then there’s all the bits and pieces that got lost in transit because essays can be handed in all kinds of places now and every time you think it’s over there’s another one beneath.

And then there’s internal boards and external boards and reviews and overviews and forward planning and archiving and interviews and supervising …

… there’s the catching up with work and thus …

… well, I want to do something but I can only find two days in the next fortnight where I can do this.

There’s the research.

There’s a pile of reading to be done (remembers something else) and before the end of July I need to write four pieces:

  • conference paper on Ex_Machina
  • writing up of the conference paper on Quest for Love
  • conference paper on the 2005 film adaptation of The War of the Worlds (probably not the one you are thinking of)
  • chapter on Star Trek movies

That’s in order of how much prep I’ve already done, but on the other hand that’s about eight films to rewatch and mull over for the last one.

I can probably hide from Quest for Love, but I applied for QR funding for that one and — well other bits of research got in the way to use that do I feel duty bound to finish before the end of the academic year.

And meanwhile I’ve been given some money to employ a research assistant on the beer stuff and I really have to visit an archive with him before he can go much further. And there’s only two days I can do that in the next fortnight. And of course there’s things I need to read to know where to send him next.

Watch the plates.

Watch them spin.