"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

19 July 2011

Brighton Conference 2011: The Second World War: Popular Culture and Cultural Memory

The eye-catching oddity of Brighton's Royal Pavilion
Last week I gave my third paper in three months at the largest and most intimidating of my three conferences: The Second World War: Popular Culture and Popular Memory at Brighton University.

This was my first trip to Brighton and I was looking forward to the experience. Luckily I was able to get some cheap trains and stay with a cousin when down there else I fear I would  have been priced out of the whole venture. My biggest regret about the whole thing was that I wasn't able to spend a bit more time pottering around the city, what I saw of Brighton was an interesting, quirky place with a lot of character - of course it was also (on the whole) prohibitively expensive for an impoverished student such as myself, used to the cheaper thrills that Liverpool has to offer.

The conference itself ran for three days and covered a wide range of topics, mainly concerning the history and literature of the Second World War. I saw some truly fascinating papers and left with a good few sheets of hastily scribbled notes with names, dates and titles to look up now that I'm back in the solitude of Liverpool PG life. I also left having met some great people. I went to the conference not really knowing anyone (although with the slight advantage of having met or e-mailed a couple of people once or twice before) but I was delighted with how everyone opened up to each other and chatted happily not just about the conference but about all the associated small talk you'd expect. I was genuinely worried I'd get through the whole conference without really getting to know anybody and instead ended up as part of a group of people who came from different disciplines, different generations, different universities, and had a really good time sampling Brighton's ale and the conference's wine in their company.

My own paper ("Branching Paths: Nazi Victories in Alternate Second World Wars") went reasonably well, although I was conscious beforehand that it was the weakest of the three papers I've delivered this year. This was probably because although it is the final paper in a series of three, it was the first abstract to be drawn up and when it came to writing it I found myself constrained by that abstract and forced into writing something which didn't really work as a 20 minute paper as well as I'd like. That said, the reception of the paper was wonderful with several people approaching me afterwards to tell me that they'd found it interesting and informative, and that it raised questions they'd not considered before. Most of the questions asked were by historians who were simply interested in the ideas or texts, although I did get a couple of literature questions as well.

On the whole the conference was a resounding success and I'd like to thank all of the conference organisers for their hard work, and particularly thank whichever of them made the decision to accept my paper - I am immensely grateful for the opportunity. I'd also like to thank everyone I met at the conference for making me feel at ease and for listening to me talk about science fiction and alternate history.


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