And happy first day of September to everyone! My favorite time of year is just around the corner. How can I tell? I am told that Starbucks is offering pumpkin spice lattes again. * fist pump of triumph* Fall is coming soon, my friends - we can, quite literally, taste it!
I have a couple links to share:
* From Damien G. Walter: "Today is Support Our 'Zines Day!: How to Support Our 'Zines."
* From Brainplucker: "10 Sensational Sense of Wonder Covers from Vintage Science Magazines."
* From Unique Scoop: "101 Shirts for Scientists, Science Geeks, and Nerds."
* On the latest episode of The Sofanauts podcast, I am one of three guests in a roundtable discussion on "the week in science fiction news" along with Lawrence Santoro and Damien G. Walter. You can stream or download this episode here.
And in other news...
* Thanks to those of you who have taken part in my fall science fiction/fantasy television poll. It's still open, if you haven't voted and would like to do so.
* I've settled my schedule for which next upper-division seminars I'll be offering soon at Belmont.
In the spring, I'll be teaching "The American and the Frontier."
By exploring key romantic images of the ideal American across time [such as Explorer, Pioneer, Highwayman/Cowboy, Policeman (of home and/or of the world), Spy, and Astronaut] in rhetoric, fiction, film, and music, this course will consider if the frontier really is a key ingredient to American identity and, if so, what it means, who it includes and excludes, how it is a limited and problematic image, and what “the frontier” might be in the twenty-first century.
In the summer, I'll be teaching a brand new course: "100 Years of Fiction About One-Sex Worlds."
What would a world of only women look like? A world of only men? This course will begin with one of the first known depictions of an all-woman, self-sufficient world, Mizora (1880) by utopian feminist Mary E. Bradley Lane, and from there explore a number of key utopian, dystopian, and speculative works depicting the development of single-sex societies, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic social critique Herland (1915) to Philip Wylie's dark satire The Disappearance (1951) and beyond to consider why authors repeatedly have revisited this unique thought experiment. The class will analyze these works in their historical contexts and mine them for valuable insights into changing attitudes about and understandings of gender and sexuality, power and authority, individualism and community -- and, ultimately, what it means to be human. The class will also compare and contrast the assumptions behind and arguments in works such as Lois McMaster Bujold's optimistic tale of the scientifically advanced, devoutly religious males of Ethan of Athos (1986) and Sheri Tepper's cautionary tale of a post-apocalyptic gated community of females in The Gate to Women's Country (1988). In so doing, the students will gain a greater appreciation for how these works speak to each other, and how the tradition of speculative fiction allows authors to use fantasic premises to discuss concrete social and political issues of immediate relevance to the author and his/her world.
The upper-division seminar I'm currently teaching is "History and the Gothic Imagination."
The Gothic literary tradition began in the mid-eighteenth century in Europe and lives on in various forms across the globe through contemporary fiction, poetry, art, music, film, and television. Mad scientists, blasted heaths, abandoned ruins, elusive ghosts, charming vampires, and even little green men people its stories. With ingredients such as a highly developed sense of atmosphere, extreme emotions including fear and awe, and emphases on the mysterious and the paranormal, Gothic works tend to express anxieties about social, political, religious, and economic issues of the time, as well as rejection of prevailing modes of thought and behavior. Using classic texts and the latest multimedia sources, this course will investigate the fascinating and subversive Gothic imagination (from the haunted castles of Horace Walpole to the threatening aliens of H.P. Lovecraft, from Frankenstein to Doctor Who), identify the historical conditions that have inspired it, consider how it has developed across time and place and medium, and explore how it has left its indelible imprint on the modern genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
While thinking for this class about some moments in popular culture that were not framed as Gothic, but that clearly reflect the Gothic imagination, I thought of a classic music video that was all the rage back when I was an undergraduate. Do you remember Richard Marx's "Hazard"? I recall extended debates about who, in fact, killed Mary. If you ignore the unfortunate mullet of doom, I think the video still holds up extremely well...
Watch it HERE! You know you want to watch it now!
Ah, taste that Gen-X nostalgia. It's almost as sweet as a pumpkin spice latte.
Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.
- William Wordsworth, September