"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" - O.W.

Current Study

Current Projects:
Science Fiction exhibition at The Science Museum in London.

Book Out Now:
Sideways in Time: Alternate History and Counterfactual Narratives (Liverpool University Press, 2019). Co-edited Collection.

Book Forthcoming:

Current Sub-Studies

Areas of Interest:
> literature, trauma, and ethics
> science fiction and alternate history
> 20th and 21st century literature
> history and literature of science
> comics and graphic novels
> science communication

21 June 2011

Current Research in Speculative Fiction [CRSF] 2011


That pretty much sums my reaction to the conference. It couldn't really have gone a great deal better. Everyone I spoke to seemed to enjoy themselves whilst also finding the papers informative and thought provoking. Certainly, the papers and discussions I saw were of a very high standard.

My official list of thanks can be seen on the official CRSF blog and whilst I remain immensely grateful to all of those people, I won't duplicate the list here. I shall, however, add a personal thanks for my girlfriend Anna who not only did all the usual stuff of being my editor and practice audience for my paper, but also manned the front desk when none of the other CRSF team members were available, and did the majority of the tidying up that got us out of the building on time, without her the whole process might not have gone quite as smoothly as it did!

The pre-conference and post-conference socials also went well with a strong attendance of both conference delegates and members of the public turning out at Waterstone's to hear Adam Roberts talk about Crime and Science Fiction (with relation to his next-but-one novel) on the Friday night. It was an interesting discussion that ended up resembling a round-table more than anything else, a happy accident as a round-table was something we wanted to include in CRSF but were unable to fit into the schedule. Talking to non-conference attendees (ie. people from my book club) afterwards they seemed to find it just as interesting and engaging as everyone else which is positive. After the conference a large group of us went for a meal in The Quarter and, barring a hiccup with the bill, had a greatly enjoyable and tasty meal.

This is, however, my personal blog and so I must now turn to my personal experience of the conference. My role in the organisation of the conference was relatively simple. I came up with the decision to organise the conference and we got to work putting it together. Most of the hard work of dealing with bookings and bureaucracy was done by Chris Pak whilst I acted as the conference "face" and point of contact for the various delegates, this meant I was perhaps heaped with more praise than I was deserving of - the conference wouldn't have happened without all Chris's hardwork, nor would it have been quite as slick without the advise, experience, and know-how of [Dr.] A.P. Canavan and Clare Parody.

My involvement was pure enjoyment. I got to open and close the conference, as well as introduce Prof. Adam Roberts's keynote lecture (Chris introduced Andy Sawyer's). I chaired a panel on Science in Science Fiction which included a brilliant paper on Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard by Erica Moore and a thought-provoking paper on Singularity Theory by Hallvard Haug. Chairing the panel was actually the part of the day I was most nervous about, it being my first experience of such a responsibility, and I was relieved to have two great papers and speakers which triggered an extended discussion session which needed little, if any, prompting from me.

The only other task of note I had to perform was giving my own paper. Haphazardly written in the week leading up to the conference it was titled "Alternate Histories and the Paratextual Instinct" and essentially used paratexts to examine the positioning of alternate history in the literary canon (is it science fiction, historical fiction, a literary technique or a genre in its own right?) and came to the conclusion that the situation as stands is confusing and requires a lot more attention and research (hence my thesis). Given that I only finished the paper on the Tuesday before the conference, my practice time was significantly truncated and delivering my paper in the first session of the day (a move intended to remove pressure from me for the rest of the day) meant I didn't have time to read it over at the last minute. As a result of these factors my delivery was somewhat more disjointed and generally sloppy than I would have preferred; a fact highlighted by verbal slip of referring historian Niall Ferguson as Niall Harrison, a slip which Adam Roberts promptly tweeted to the tweeterverse... *sigh*

I wasn't 100% happy with my paper, I feel my argument could have been more slick, but as I've already indicated I only had myself to blame for this problem as I didn't manage my time leading up to the conference properly. My next conference paper is Brighton's "The Second World War: Popular Culture and Popular Memory", I don't intend to make the same mistake and so will be cracking on with this paper asap.

So, on the whole CRSF was great. I certainly enjoyed myself and came out of the day feeling really positive about the whole thing (if utterly exhausted). Roll on CRSF 2012 I say....

Official Conference Photo

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