Just returned from the 2004 International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts where I gave my frequently advertised paper on The Ring. Like George, I had a refreshing and rewarding weekend, one that will hopefully provide me with the spark to produce some new material for articles and my book project.
The weekend started just a little inauspiciously when my flight out of Atlanta was cancelled due to the failure of a sensor on the wing. I won’t trash the airline in public for now because they gave me two round-trip tickets anywhere the airline flies for postponing my trip for one day. The delay also gave me the chance to catch up with one of my colleagues from Tech who was also going to the conference. Would have been nice to get one extra day by the pool (and the pool bar), but now I’ve got airfare to two more conferences.
I finally arrived late on Thursday afternoon, which gave me a chance to catch a panel entitled “Topics and Issues in Televised Science Fiction.” J.P. Telotte’s paper on Disney television shows from the 1950s was very cool. Telotte primarily discussed an educational Disney show in which scientists would come on to discuss aspects related to space travel. Other panelists discussed the racial allegories in cable sci-fi shows such as AlienNation. I was too tired from the plane trip to take very many notes, hence the scattered thoughts.
I spent most of the day Friday revising my paper. It wasn’t quite done when I left Atlanta, and working on the plane seemed like a bad idea, plus I wanted to read William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, which seemed like a rather apt airplane read (so far so good). So I spend most of the morning and afternoon in the bar (no coffee shops within walking distance) and by the pool finishing my paper. Meanwhile, my panel chair (a friend from a previous ICFA) was nervously trying to track the rest of the panel so that he could give us a proper introduction. No sign of them anywhere.
Which led to me having an entire panel to myself. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I really liked it. Sure, I would have enjoyed hearing two other papers on The Ring, and I would have enjoyed learning more about the politics of adaptation. But it was actually a wonderful opportunity to work through my project with a sympathetic audience concentrating on a single paper. I don’t mean to sound too self-absorbed here, but I do feel like I learned a lot about addressing audiences through this experience. I also learned from the range of questions and comments that I received, and ultimately I was very satisfied with the paper.
With the paper done, I was able to sit back and enjoy the rest of the conference. A former colleague gave an interesting paper on the ways in which cyborg films (specifically Impostor, which I haven’t yet seen) imagine the role of memory in defining the human. Her ultimate goal is to consider the ways in which many of these films are thinking how perceptions of Alzheimer’s Disease effect these questions.
The paper that will likely most inform the future direction of my work was Becky DiBiasio’s “Silent Film and the Fantastic: The International Language of Visual Narratives,” which focused on films by DeMille, Méliès, and Murnau. In the paper, DiBiasio mentioned DeMille’s Male and Female, which features a loose time-travel premise, one more akin to a dream or vision than physical time travel. Looking at this film, along with some other early films might open the early cinema chapter that I’m trying to develop in my book.
I also learned about Guillermo del Toro’s interesting 2001 film, The Devil’s Backbone. Other than that, the conference was very friendly. Good times.