Diverse folk diversely they demed;
As many heddes as manye wittes there been.
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Squires Tale

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Weekend's Reading

I read some interesting pieces this weekend. The LA Times had 'Beyond "Game of Thrones": Exploring diversity in speculative fiction'; the Guardian had a review of Australian SFF last week, and N/ K. Jemisin's guest of honour speech from Continuum 9 in Melbourne. I'm annoyed that I missed hearing the last of these, being in London not Australia at the moment. 
The Guardian piece doesn't sit immediately obviously with the others, although it does talk about how the SFF market is a little more open to Australian - as opposed to British or US authors - than it used to be, which is one kind of diversity. It mainly caught my eye because there has been quite a lot of discussion on the IAFA listserv this weekend about how to decide an author's nationality and if it matters for academic work. My take on the issue is that unless the argument you're making - or question you're asking - is directly to do with nationality, then it's probably either irrelevant or not the best category to be using. And it is central to the argument/question, then you should think - and write - carefully about the ideological implications of using 'nation' as a category are, and about where the labels attached to an authors come from. Who decided that x person - who might be born in one country, raised in another, and having their work published globally - is of y nationality? 
Jonathan Strahan, who runs the Coode Street podcast (nominated for a Hugo this year), is quoted in The Guardian article suggesting that Australian SFF is characters who are "alienated from landscapes – they see themselves and the places they come from as being outside the mainstream of events" and the impact of the colonial experience. This is the kind of argument that does make sense out of using nation as a way to group authors together so that you can compare work. The tendency towards alienation from the landscape has been part of non-indigenous Australian culture since colonisation. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Tales After Tolkien Society

It’s now almost a month since the Kalamazoo IMC, and an update on what were a couple of excellent ‘Tales After Tolkien’ sessions is long overdue. Thank you to everyone who was involved – giving papers, presiding, and turning up to be part of great discussion with the audience during question time! The panels went so well participants were keen to do it all again next year, so we’ve formed the ‘Tales After Tolkien Society’ to sponsor two (proposed) sessions and a round table. I sent off the proposal tot conference committee last week, so fingers crossed it all goes ahead as planned.

The sessions this year were focused around fantasy - with a little bit of science fiction thrown in - but the Society expands on that and is interested in medievalism in all kinds of popular genre fiction: fantasy, sci-fi, horror, westerns, romance, YA, children's, historical writing, crime and cross-genre work as well. The proposed sessions for next year's Kalamazoo will include speculative and non-speculative genres, so watch this space for full details.

See our website www.talesaftertolkien.org  for our mission statement – we have sights set on more than Kalamazoo 2014! The website exists through the efforts and generosity of Associate Professor Carol L. Robinson from Kent State University Trumbull, who was one our presiders and first suggested a society. There’ll be plenty of cross-posting between TAT and here, but if you’re interested in being a member and on our mailing list please contact me on Helen.young@sydney.edu.au