From the category archives:

Conferences

Conferences I Enjoy

by Dr Davis on August 2, 2017

Two of the conferences I particularly enjoy are going to be accepting submissions for presentations soon or are already doing so.

Southwest Texas Popular Culture Association will be accepting papers starting August 15 till October 22. The conference is in Albuquerque, NM in February.

Popular Culture Association is accepting papers until October 1. The subject areas define different opportunities. The conference is in Indianapolis, IN at the end of March.

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C/C End of the World Scenarios

by Dr Davis on May 10, 2016

Kathryn Hall, ORU
Graduating senior, English

c/c two civilizations in Alas, Babylon Frank and The Time Ships Baxter

Shades of apocalypse…
American literature mass end of world experience
Age-old question (really?)

One civ traveled back to beginning of time
Other is in the 50s

Both have countries that send nuclear bombs: Russians, German
AB = hydrogen
TS = atomic
Explains bombs. Hydrogen are stronger and can cause blindness.

No safe level of radioactivity.

By both areas there are water.
AB Fish are constant meal source. “If the river were hot, we’d all be hot”
TS Both take cover in body of water. “could do nothing but cower in the water”


Despite terror, both societies flourish.
AB local librarian “requires a holocaust to make her own life worth living”
Randy marries Lib.
Dr. Dan cannot hide his joy when first baby is born.
TS people begin new relationships, practicing polygamy, children are born

Success of these worlds
Neither Randy nor Time Travelers want to leave their homes.

AB town could get along fine, but power would be good
TS regret leaving New London, as if old already

“We get shock proofed. … Standing on the brink of war has been our normal posture.”
“believed in an innate wisdom of humanity… to put a stop to it all”

from ORU 2015

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Shift from Utopia to Dystopia

by Dr Davis on May 6, 2016

Kelsey Boles, ORU
Senior psych major, graduating in 2 weeks
Paper is overview, doesn’t focus on one book in particular

Darkening Future: Shift from Utopia to Dystopia

Birth of sf, very first stories:
Jules Verne adventure story, outlandish adventures
Tomorrow Land at Disney World
Robot butler to clean your house
Man has conquered universe. Machines help people.

Now:
Grit and rubble.
Exploration of universe is escape from destroyed planet.
Some reason Earth destroyed, usually our fault.
Machines are destroyed or have rebelled against us.

Hope in bold Utopic 20th C, American path (not British)
Pre WWI and II, enamored with idea of utopia. Man getting better. Tech would fix problems.

Pulp sf around this time.
Formulaic fun stories
Adventure, futuristic
“sense of wonder” pervading belief that sf was great thing
Bradbury, Clarke got start writing for pulp magazines
Set in space and called it sf.
Pop pulp mags continued into 50s, because of intro of paperback books and changes in taste.

60s hope started to crash


Laser Age late 60s to early 80s
Challenged Utopian ideas
“false utopia involves giving up some aspect of humanity”
Blade Runner, Clockwork Orange,

Dystopian prompt
Dystopia strips freedom from people or has them born after these freedoms are gone.
Oncoming apocalypse “blame… shoulders of humanity for having driven the world to this point of apocalypse”
Planet of the Apes
Explored worst-case-scenario ramifications of actions through fiction
Make Room, Make Room “for your sakes, I hope this is a work of fiction”

Science as downfall: overpop, nuclear war, etc.
Have spent years trying to come up with ways to fix the problem.

Modern sf
Science causes the apocalypse
Terminator, Matrix, I, Robot, The Flame Alphabet

Modern Dystopias
2005-2015 young readers = dystopia
Hunger Games, The Giver, Divergent

Wall-E is for 5 yo. All humans off planet, too fat. Robots took over.
Children of next generation will grow up being told humanity is ruining everything.

Main characters of modern adventures are merely hoping to survive.

Scaffolding hope
“open framework which each decade’s writers can fill with their own themes”
“Perhaps some writer will capture the imaginations, force humanity to examine themselves and come up with solutions.”
Same stories (sf) that showed disaster… can be used to retell.

Dystopian never positive, always prod to something bigger and better.

If we can’t imagine a world where we created disaster, shouldn’t we try harder.

from ORU, 2015

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Morals and Ethics

by Dr Davis on May 5, 2016

Steve (I apologize for not having the last name)
HS ethics teacher

Define:
Morals/ethics

Not the same meaning. Difference between the two.

Morals
Draws box
Boundaries of what we consider to be good and to be evil
What defines good and bad?
If using good as descriptor, how do I describe it?
Some people, whatever God says. If goes against what God says, defines bad morals.

Ethics
Says here’s an action (helping old lady across street, punching stranger in face)
Asks how do I determine, what is my thought process, to decide what box the action goes into?

No one uses just one ethical system to determine action.

Does this action match Scripture?
Nowhere in Scriptures does it say whether you can wear blue shirts for presentation or on a Saturday.

There are actions that don’t really matter.
Wearing a blue or green shirt is a moral action. Don’t need ethical system for that.

Does this action do the most good?
Does this action do the least harm?
Does this action act in my own self-interest?

Different ethical systems to employ at different times.

Descriptive versus Normative Ethics

Normative:
“should”
What we think should happen. How we think the world should work. If everything was working correctly, this is how world works.

Series of Unfortunate Events is horribly depressing. Kids never get a break. We think they should.

Descriptive:
“what is”

Sometimes this is a misnomer.
Implies there is ethics, if we say descriptive ethics. But sometimes things aren’t ethical.

Bribery required in some countries. People don’t see as bad or good. Just business.

Sometimes what should happen and what does happen don’t equal each other. That’s an ethical dilemma.

Talking about ethical systems in play in sf systems
Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Ender’s game

Deontological and teleological ethics

when setting ethical standards, can look at act itself. (deontological)

divine command theory = deontological
action is what determines whether something is good or bad

consequences/motives = teleological
Doesn’t matter what the act is, (father steals loaf of bread) trying to feed children. Consequences matter. So give this guy a pass.
Motives in the right place.

All of the ethical systems in science fiction work on teleological model.
Absolutism versus relativity…
Generally you hear from many religious cultures absolutism.
Then you bring up situations that make people think. What if I murder Hitler? What if I murder Stalin?
Murdering is wrong, but… make a detour around relativity and say consequences outweighs the wrong thing of murder.

SF connections:
Star Wars Jedi knights
Star Trek Prime Directive
Battlestar Galactica
Stargate Atlantis
Ender’s Game

ORU 2015 notes

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Thinking about Morals, Ethics

by Dr Davis on May 4, 2016

This conference presentation really got me thinking. I made some notes on ideas related to me, my work, and the talk.

What is my ethical system?

Bible. As I think of it. Not necessarily my main determination.
What do I think of all the time? What is making my choices?

In self-defense or defense of another, killing okay.

Should I be considering motives/motivations for all my actions?
Going to class is ethical.
Skipping class for conference is ethical—if information planned to cover is done.

So ethics for class: Have I done my job? What is my job? What will help my job?

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Science Fiction and Faith

by Dr Davis on May 3, 2016

Joseph Otterstrom, Northeastern State U
“Limitation of the Finite Mind: Why SF still embraces Faith”

family watched Battlestar Galactica all the way through
daughter watched end where Pres. Adama lives out life in peace and said, “I don’t get it.”

This is a problem within sff and comm
Many times our sff shows delve into faith (irrational/illogical thought) and we lose our audiences.
But it’s a continual pattern.

Eureka… most serialized of dramas.
Christmas episode ends with maybe there is a santa claus

B5 Sheridan coming back to life…

Clear example and interesting twist on these tropes
Xfiles
Lost
Battlestar Galactica

Look at it through Campbell’s functional def of mythology

Battlestar Galactica polytheistic v monotheistic religion is subdued to faith

Irrational/unknowable but can still experience

The Alien Messiah … creature/character/person suddenly comes forth and saves us all
Starman, Luke Skywalker, Terminator movies
This awakens the sense of awe and reminds us that the impossible is possible.

Not the messianic figure found in each…
How we as an audience connect to the opposite of the messianic figure. The person who undergoes the journey of faith.

Not just AI, but Artificial conscious
Further validation of moral argument

Current state of AI and AC
Intro to AC depictions
Context: conversation on science and spirituality
Models (deptictions in science, sf and theo)
Examples of AC in sotries/movies
3 laws of robotics
intro to moral argument (Lewis)

Kurzweil 2006 The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
Chappie, human consciousness downloaded into robot
Our Final Invention: AI and the End of the Human Era, Barrat 2015
Musk and Hawking–dangerous
“Robots Can’t Dance” Carstensen
“Why SF helps engineering”

From ORU, 2015

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Tolkien and Sanderson

by Dr Davis on May 1, 2016

Sarah Garelik, Univ of South Dakota
Meta-fantasy at Play: Tolkien’s ‘Secondary World’ and Sanderson’s Fantasy-Religion in Steelheart

Critics began to see the value of examining cultural assumptions through fiction…

In fantasy “man becomes a sub-creator” Tolkien
Invention of adjective… incantation…
(really long quote—hundreds of words)
rare that lit crit is so eloquent

sff authors are creators of new worlds and we are creators of texts when we read them (typical reader-response theory)

must be a basis for understanding
truths that transfer over may be ideas (gender, class) or simple concepts (food, horse)

Sanderson posits additional layer
Additional world beyond the created world. World in periphery of audience’s perception.
Magic alchemy and religion of survivors (hero of ages is another level)

Steelheart heroes against the epics (villain superheros)
Has one weakness
David as child saw Steelheart wounded in bank robbery.
Theme = power corrupts
Calamity = random red ball giving random powers to random people
Epics had lack of conscience. Why did they kill? Because amazing power twisted?


since 1939 even idea of fantastic has become commonplace
explosion of popularity of sff
more and more accustomed to their tropes
readers are seeking escape from those conventions


You catastrophe in Steelheart = Epics and humans can co-exist.
Power shared is freed of corrupting influence.

Increasing interest by popular culture in sff

from ORU, 2015

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Female Cyborg

by Dr Davis on April 30, 2016

Nicole Atkings
Uni of Saskatchewan, ug in honors English
Living Dolls: Explicating the Female Cyborg

Focusing on cyberpunk fiction, not technically 1980s.

female characters in servitude
ship who sang = pilot, navigation, housekeeping, learn to sing to entertain

Wind-up Girl “the scientists gave her … doglike urge to obey” (Bacigalupi)
“her body performs just as it was designed” (Bacigalupi)
domestication of female sexuality

“woman as machine… already … some deformity… “ (Donawerth)
“crabbed claws… clubbed feet” (McCaffrey)

literalizing union of rational man and feminine machine—Donawerth

“Delphi… machinery of men’s desires” (Donawerth)
Tiptree breaks the fourth wall. Delphi’s experience with her own.

stereotype of women obsessed with romantic love
“The Real Girl”
longing is primarily focused on proper romantic love (Lewitt)

The Matrix
Oracle does not tell her she is the one.
Her role is to fall in love with the one.
Can’t even discover the one.


limitless options
but “cyberpunk is fairly intractable as far as the rep of gender relations is concerned” (Cadora)

From ORU, 2015

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Slonczewski’s Religion

by Dr Davis on April 27, 2016

Andrew Lang, ORU
A Door into Progressive Theology: Creative and Destructive Expressions of Faith in Joan Slonczewski’s The Highest Frontier

Slonczewski =
Evolutionary biologist, Quaker, feminist, hard science fiction author

2-time Campbell Award Winner
A Door Into Ocean 1987
Advanced race on water world. Moon around alien planet. Genetically engineered planet and themselves, so all female.
The Highest Frontier 2012
I reviewed and she prompted me with questions.

On her blog:
“argues the cold equations:
No energy source on Earth, even wind or solar, will save our planet. In the long run, no power source is sustainable…
Democracy as we know it is finished… We’ll be tossing a coin—perhaps the only thing left a coin is good for. … we send our children to die. … planet that’s dying is their future. …“The Cold Equations,” with a twist—spaceship Earth is in the hands of [a] girl.”

She challenged us to reverse the roles… a female pilot and a male stowaway.

Not much talk about religion aspects.

That is the question she asked me to look at when she asked me to review it.
The religion is very stereotypical.
Centrist: politically conservative, literalists… First Firmament Church
p. 16 “Your last day on Earth, before heading up to college at the firmament.” Firmament, the Centrist word for hollow…”

Unity: politically liberal, theologically liberal (First Church Reconciled)
“brilliant ball of light drew attention to the podium. There stood a priest… Roman-Anglican Church. ‘Chaplain Clarence Flynn’- Father Clare.” P. 82 (This is the character I think is related to the author. She sees herself as Father Clare.)

“God the Father and Mother… bless the undertakings of all us humans here in orbit around our precious Earth… creatures of time. We begin at our beginning and place ourselves in Your loving care unto the end.” P. 83

president… even better than his spouse, the chaplain. p. 84

Notes from ORU 2015

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Dustbowl Redux

by Dr Davis on April 24, 2016

Jeffrey Lamp, ORU
The Dustbowl Redux: An Ecotheological Reading of “Interstellar”

2014 film Interstellar
epic adventure, focuses on mission to save humanity from ecological disaster by traveling through a wormhole to find a new world for humanity
plausibility of film, father-daughter, and other discussions

ecological crisis
compare movie to Bible descriptions of Israel’s land abuse

what the movie portrays is a lesson not learned
read ecotheologically, it’s a prophetic call
what constitutes home for human beings?
What does it mean to dwell in a different place? Relationship of humanity to Earth.

Film begins: interviews, elderly woman who talks about father, “My dad was a farmer, like everyone else. Of course he didn’t start out that way.”
Shown with documentary interviews from an actual dustbowl set of interviews
Anthropomorphically caused ecology

Something so cataclysmic has happened on Earth that scientific advancements have been re-written in history.

Notes from 2015 ORU.

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