Archive for China Mieville

Reading list and schedule for my graduate class on Weird and New Weird Fiction

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27 July 2020 by Ben

In case anyone is interested, here is the mostly finalized reading list and schedule for ENGL 5529-002, on Weird and New Weird Fiction, which starts up in a few weeks. Some small things might change, but this is the gist of it.

I chose not to do a chronological survey. Rather, I have organized the readings around methods, genre, and themes (for lack of a better word). The primary texts are very roughly chronologically organized, but in some cases I thought the approach I ended up with made for a better overall flow to a course that caters to young scholars with their own research plans. This organization, I think, will also make for some more interesting comparisons across historical moments in the development of the weird than would a strictly chronological approach.

I deeply regret leaving certain things off the syllabus, especially Anna Kavan’s Ice (which is not generally considered a weird book, even if it is weird) and Steph Swainston’s The Year of Our War, which did not really fit into the course as well as I would have liked and I left off to make room for Yamashita and some of the other stuff towards the end. Even if some of this stuff is not, strictly speaking, weird, it nonetheless will provide a larger context for weird fiction through its international scope. Or so I hope.

Thanks to my Twitter crew for advice on some grad-course-related issues.

ENGL 5529-002 Preliminary Reading List and Schedule

My Eaton/SFRA 2013 Paper: Media Theory and Genre

Posted in Conferences, Here at the End of All Things, papers, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13 April 2013 by Ben

Here is my paper for the 2013 Eaton/SFRA conference, as part of the panel on “Mediation and Transmedia” with Scott Selisker (“Transmedia Automatism: Cinematic Motion in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl“) and Veronica Hollinger (“The Dis/enchantments of the Mediated Real”).

Media Theory and Genre

This paper is sort of chasing a certain claim, a double inversion of Arthur C. Clarke, although I cannot address it in any depth here: “Any insufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.”

So, this boringly-titled talk opens a discussion of genre as media and genre’s relation to other media. By “genre,” I mean at the start something fairly non-controversial, I hope: a set of texts, however blurry the boundaries around that set, the conventions of which take on meaning within the set and without historicity. By “media,” I follow McLuhan who more or less understands a medium as a thing, in the broadest possible sense. At times the term “technics,” which here is closely aligned with media but takes on Stiegler’s definition as “organized inorganic matter,” will supplement or replace “media.”

There are a number of strands of thought here that I hope to weave together. First, I am interested in theorizing fantasy as a genre, especially in relation with science fiction and horror, although the latter will not be present here. I am not interested in defining fantasy with regard to dragons or magic or elves and, likewise I am not interested in SF insofar as it involves technology or aliens, nor horror insofar as it involves vampires or transformation. We all “know” fantasy, SF, and horror when we see them, even if we continue to argue about many specific cases and definitive boundaries. Rather than ask “what is fantasy?” I wish to ask “what does, or perhaps better can, it do?” I shall draw shortly on a talk China Mieville gave in 2009 to help articulate this theorization.

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