Upcoming talk: Dinosaurs, Kids, and the Future in the Jurassic Park Franchise

I’m giving a talk on my campus soon, the next in what is becoming a series of talks on the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies. All of these presentations are part of a larger book project I am slowly but surely developing. I always enjoy giving these Brown Bag presentations, and I’m looking forward to this one, which basically grew out of my initial response to the short film “Battle at Big Rock.” Plus, preparing for this talk gave me an excuse to watch all the movies again over break!

Brown Bag Presentation Flyer - Christy 2019-1

SFFTV Special Issue CFP: Creature Features & the Environment

Creature Features & the Environment
A special issue of Science Fiction Film & Television
Edited by Bridgitte Barclay and Christy Tidwell

Creature Features & the Environment, a special issue of Science Fiction Film and Television (SFFTV), seeks essays that engage with creature features as a specific subset of environmental science fiction. Popularized in the mid-20th century as sf/horror, creature features are films with creatures of various sorts attacking, whether awakened from dormancy by radiation, discovered in distant locales, or accidentally created in labs.

Poster for Frogs (1972). Shows a frog with a human hand in its mouth. Text: A terrifying story of times to come when Nature strikes back!

Frogs (1972)

While some creature features, like George McCowan’s Frogs (1972), may be intentionally commenting on environmental issues, many are simply ripe for environmental readings. In fact, many creature features mushroomed from midcentury atomic fears but played more on the science-gone-awry aspects than on environmental devastation or human-nonhuman relationships. Analyzing these films with an ecocritical focus may unearth fears of science damaging the natural world, of the natural world as something we do not fully understand, or of the natural world seeking justice for environmental damage.

Additionally, the campiness of many creature features is useful to ecocritical readings and offers alternatives to solemn environmental discourse. Creature features, in fact, illustrate “bad environmentalism,” Nicole Seymour’s term for irreverent texts that provide an alternative to stereotypically sanctimonious environmental narratives. Drawing on Stacy Alaimo’s claim that “if we cannot laugh, we will not desire the revolution” (Exposed 3), Bridgitte Barclay argues in Gender and Environment in Science Fiction that creature features can be “pleasurably resistant texts” for delving into environmental issues with laughter and playful scares (“Female Beasties” 5). After all, while the science, horror, and environmental crises of some creature features may have real-world resonance, one of the stylistic components of the genre is also a great deal of fun – radioactive mollusks, jet-propelled turtles, colossal bunnies, and justice-seeking frog armies. Imagining how creature features can be framed as ecomedia therefore offers us new ways of reckoning with the Anthropocene – as well as the Capitalocene, Plantationocene, and/or Chthulucene.

We seek proposals for articles examining the relationship between creature features and the environment. Proposals engaging with global texts (outside the U.S. and U.K.) and with film and television from outside blockbuster cinema are especially welcome.

Proposed articles may consider the following questions (among others):

  • What do creature features contribute to conversations about environmental science fiction as a subgenre?
  • What do creature features contribute to conversations about climate change, nonhumans, and/or the Anthropocene?
  • What do creature features contribute to conversations about ecomedia?
  • How do viewers engage with creature features?
  • What social, political, or personal effects might creature features have?
  • How are the texts intentionally or unintentionally campy, and how does that campiness engage with or contribute to environmental discourse?
  • How does the cultural context of creature feature films impact their engagement with environmental issues?
  • How do creature features function as science fiction and as ecohorror?

Please send proposals of approximately 250 words and a brief bio to the special issue editors, Bridgitte Barclay (bbarclay@aurora.edu) and Christy Tidwell (christy.tidwell@gmail.com), by February 17, 2020. Notifications of accepted proposals will be sent in early March, and drafts of selected articles will be due by September 1, 2020.

If you have any questions about the fit of a topic for the special issue, please feel free to contact the special issue editors.

CFP (ASLE 2019) – Prehistoric Creatures and Anthropocene Fears: The Past Comes Back to Bite Us

Conference: ASLE (the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) – Paradise on Fire
Dates of Conference: June 26-30, 2019
Location: University of California, Davis
Deadline for Submissions: December 15, 2018 at 11:59 pm (EST) via Submittable

Horror and science fiction have long featured the return of the prehistoric, the monstrous past coming back to intrude upon the present and thereby shape the future. Jurassic Park is perhaps the most obvious instance of this return of the prehistoric (thanks to human meddling), but the prehistoric also rises up from the depths of the oceans, is triggered by radiation, or is revealed by the events of climate change.

jurassic park

In “How Death Became Natural” (1960), Loren Eiseley describes the human relationship to the geologic and evolutionary past, writing that “we are linked forever to lost beaches whose sands have long since hardened into stone” (164), and speculative narratives about returning prehistoric creatures emphasize this link, bringing the past into our present and possibly into our future. However, Eiseley also writes that there is “[o]ne thing alone life does not appear to do; it never brings back the past” (165). What then does our speculative, fictionalized insistence on bringing back the past say about our present concerns?

Mega Shark

This roundtable seeks to explore the significance of such prehistoric returns during the Anthropocene. How are modern, Anthropocenic fears reflected in such prehistoric creatures? What does the return of the prehistoric indicate about our contemporary anxieties about extinction or about the role of the human in the global ecosystem? And, finally, how does this return – typically figured as a threat – potentially shape our steps into the future?

Please submit 300-word proposals for roundtable presentations to Submittable no later than December 15th, 2018. Please send any questions to Christy Tidwell (christy.tidwell@gmail.com).

Gender + Environment in Science Fiction (revised CFP with extended deadline)

Building on our previously posted CFP, we are inviting contributions focusing not only on non-print SF media and expanding our project to include any form of science fiction. We believe this will lead to a stronger and more inclusive examination of gender and environment within the genre.

CFP: Gender & Environment in Science Fiction (edited collection)

There are many important studies of gender in science fiction and a growing number of studies of environmental science fiction, but more work is needed to bring these fields together. We wish to fill this gap and invite contributions exploring the intersections of gender and environment in science fiction.

The central question of this project is as follows: How do gender and environment intersect and/or influence each other in or across science fiction texts and media? Projects might also address the following questions: How do varying media forms influence representations of gender and environment in science fiction? How might examining gender and environment together influence ideas about or definitions of science fiction as a genre? How do the language and/or imagery of science fiction contribute to our conceptions of gender and environment?

We have previously solicited essays focusing primarily on non-print science fiction, but we are now interested in expanding the project’s scope to include print science fiction as well. At this point, therefore, we invite abstracts addressing the intersections of gender and environment in any science fiction text or media.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words and a brief CV to Christy Tidwell (christy.tidwell@gmail.com) and/or Bridgitte Barclay (bbarclay@aurora.edu) by October 1, 2016. We have been strongly encouraged by the editor of the Ecocritical Theory and Practice series, published by Rowman & Littlefield’s imprint Lexington Books, to submit a proposal. For those asked to contribute, we anticipate completed essays of approximately 15-18 pages will be due by April 1, 2017.

SLSA 2015: Houston

I’m in Houston this week for this year’s SLSA conference (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts). I’m presenting twice this year. First, I’m taking part in a roundtable on the work of Joan Slonczewski. I’ll be focusing on her novel A Door Into Ocean, both in terms of feminist science and feminist science fiction as well as in terms of its pedagogical value. The second is a panel on life and extinction, where I’ll be discussing ideas about de-extinction in Jurassic ParkJurassic World, and other recent creature features (primarily Syfy Channel movies and productions from The Asylum). Joan Slonczewski herself will be part of the roundtable on her work, so I’m quite nervous about it, but I feel pretty good about the other, if only because I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about the Jurassic Park films, de-extinction, and horror/science fiction films in general.

So if you’re at SLSA this year, come check out my panels! If you’re not, I hope to write more about them after the conference is over.

On Joanna Russ & The Female Man

I’m reading On Joanna Russ, edited by Farah Mendlesohn, right now and I get to re-read The Female Man by Joanna Russ later today (both for an article I’m working on), and this is one of those times when I feel extremely lucky. I love Joanna Russ’s work and the fact that I get to revisit it and write about it as part of my job makes me very happy.

Mostly, I love her anger. The Female Man is just brimming with it, but what makes it so wonderful is that it’s angry while also funny and inspiring and so, so, so smart. Russ identifies the sexisms – both large and small – that she and her contemporaries lived with and she destroys them by showing how ridiculous they are and by imagining a world where they don’t exist.

Even Whileaway, the future utopian world that Russ creates in The Female Man, includes anger. Not only does the existence of such a world, in which women are free to live fully human lives and are not constrained by gender roles, prompt such angry or frustrated questions as “Why we can’t live more like this now?” and “Why are we still living with so much oppression and sexism?”, there’s also anger expressed by Russ’s characters who live and have grown up in that utopia. The bitterness of those questions are not in these characters, though. Just natural, human anger expressed at other humans – because in Russ’s work, even utopia isn’t perfect. That’s what makes it interesting.

I’ve taught The Female Man before and I wrote about it in my dissertation, so I’ve read it several times and I always love it. Not everyone does, though. I taught it only one semester (paired with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland) and my students disliked it so much that I haven’t tried going back to it since. I think their dislike was a combination of confusion and defensiveness. They got confused because the plot involves a lot of jumping around between times, places, and voices, and there are many cultural references they aren’t necessarily familiar with. This made its meaning hard for them to parse and they resented having to work so hard for it. In addition, I was not teaching a classroom full of feminists; I was teaching average college students in Texas who were taking a literature course to meet their general education requirements. They are not automatically on board with Russ’s feminist politics, and her anger, therefore, felt like an attack on them (for some, not all). Where I identify with Russ’s anger and am empowered and emboldened by it, they feel the need to protect themselves from it, I believe. I still hope for an opportunity to teach the book to a class that will appreciate it and gain something from it, but I’m not sure where I’ll find that.

I’ll end with a few quotes from the book that I love and an encouragement to read it if you haven’t already. It’s not to everyone’s taste – clearly – but it is brilliant and it has such important things to say about gender, sexism, resistance, and hope. And, sadly, although some cultural referents are dated, the ideas and arguments of The Female Man are still relevant today.

“This is the underside of my world.

Of course you don’t want me to be stupid, bless you! you only want to make sure you’re intelligent. You don’t want me to commit suicide; you only want me to be gratefully aware of my dependency. You don’t want me to despise myself; you only want the flattering deference to you that you consider a spontaneous tribute to your natural qualities. You don’t want me to lose my soul; you only want what everybody wants, things to go your way; you want a devoted helpmeet, a self-sacrificing mother, a hot chick, a darling daughter, women to look at, women to laugh at, women to come for comfort, women to wash your floors and buy your groceries and cook your food and keep your children out of your hair, to work when you need the money and stay home when you don’t, women to be enemies when you want a good fight, women who are sexy when you want a good lay, women who don’t complain, women who don’t nag or push, women who don’t hate you really, women who know their job and above all—women who lose. On top of it all, you sincerely require me to be happy; you are naively puzzled that I should be wretched and so full of venom in this the best of all possible worlds. Whatever can be the matter with me? But the mode is more than a little outworn.

As my mother once said: the boys throw stones at the frogs in jest.

But the frogs die in earnest.”

“If you scream, people say you’re melodramatic; if you submit, you’re masochistic; if you call names, you’re a bitch. Hit him and he’ll kill you. The best thing is to suffer mutely and yearn for a rescuer, but suppose a rescuer doesn’t come?”

“Remember: I didn’t and don’t want to be a ‘feminine’ version or a diluted version or a special version or a subsidiary version or an ancillary version, or an adapted version of the heroes I admire. I want to be the heroes themselves.

What future is there for a female child who aspires to being Humphrey Bogart?”

female man cover 1 female man cover 2