The Power of Science Fiction

By Donna McCormack

Speculative and science fiction are filled with monsters. The latter range from delightful though intimidating seapersons from Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Arms, in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and in the amazing collection edited by Nisi Shawl New Suns to more uncertain monstrous manifestations in Hiromi Goto’s Hopeful Monsters, sessing in NK Jemisin’s trilogy and the delightfully sensuous vampiric Gilda from Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories. Many members of the Monster Network are fascinated by monsters and have a long-standing engagement with and passions for SF. So, we decided to do a podcast on it. 

We were due to meet in my kitchen in London prior to giving a keynote at a monster event at Roehampton University. Some couldn’t make the meeting because bodies and schedules get in the way, while others bumped into each unexpectedly and then as we came together in this kitchen we agreed we’d go ahead with the plan to talk about SF. Despite the cosy setting, the house kept interrupting the conversation as the electricity had short-circuited and we were awaiting an electrician, which resulted in the smoke alarm’s constant, slow beep… beep… beep… Sometimes a house wants to have its own say even if we maybe cannot adequately account for its form of communication. 

Ingvil Hellstrand has been working on and enjoying SF for more years than she wants me to reveal! Line Henriksen has been working with creepy pastas – digital SF – in her PhD which she is currently transforming into what is sure to be an amazingly disturbing and exciting monograph. And, me, I have lived and worked with ghosts, the border between the sensible and insensible, for as long as I can remember. I am fascinated by that which comes back to haunt us, especially through viscera. We wanted to talk about what we enjoy, what brings us pleasure, as well as that which disturbs us, makes us question what we assumed we knew as accepted knowledge, and that which helps us learn over and over again. 

If many imagine that SF is about the future, we never got round to talking about the future, mainly because one of the Monster Network members rang the door bell, interrupting our attempt to step into the future, to articulate what the future might mean to and in SF. We made no attempt to resume our discussion, but instead leave that open to listeners or to anyone who may want to enter into dialogue with us in the future on the future. 

We do talk about the past, about the role of the past in SF and questioned this assumption that because something looks more technologically advanced than today’s society that it must therefore be in the future. Indeed, we talked about how these re-imaginings help us rethink the past, rethink how time itself moves, and therefore what the present might be and become. We delved into time, discussing temporality and the issues around linearity and undoing such understandings, without lapsing into a hierarchy of any time. We also grapple with the apocalypse with mentions of what some of us see as exciting X-Men and also more recent reincarnations of the apocalypse, such as Rebecca Roanhorse’s duology (or will she publish a third one!?), which reinforces questions we might want to ask about whose apocalypse, which histories and who will survive what. 

Most of all, we discussed a broad range of texts, a field of research, that could be defined as SF because we all are in many ways immersed in the genre as it grows, changes and as older texts emerge as central to our thinking forcing us to rethink our canons.  

The Monster Network has been and continues to work on how to reimagine methods of analysing texts, including the textual of our existing worlds, and SF is one way in which we enjoy and critically engage such thinking. We hope you’ll enjoy the podcast! 

 

 

Monster Talks 6: The Power of Speculative Fiction

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The monstrous and the wondrous often co-exist in speculative fiction and science fiction  – related genres and storytelling practices that allow for imagining otherwise. Working with the speculative, then, raises questions of what and how to imagine, and how things can be told, and from which location or position. What happens if stories are told from a non-human perspective, or from a different timeline? What kinds of monsters are invoked, and what is their significance? Whose world is at stake in the apocalypse? How might speculative and science fiction differ as the mainstream is increasingly challenged and exciting writing emerges from Black, Indigenous and people of colour authors? In this podcast we discuss the power of speculative and science fiction, and what it offers to our thinking. In conversation: Dr Donna McCormack (University of Surrey), Dr Line Henriksen (IT University of Copenhagen), Dr Ingvil Hellstrand (University of Stavanger) and the Unruly Fire Alarm, all members of the Monster Network.

Monster Talks is a podcast series that explores the figure of the monster and the concept of the monstrous as important thinking tools for addressing dynamics of power, inclusion and exclusion, discrimination and violence. The podcast is made possible by the support of Nordic Culture Point and produced by The Monster Network in collaboration with Network for Gender Studies at UiS. All episodes are available from the podcast’s website at UiS.

Artwork by Joanne Teresa Taylor, NettOp, University of Stavanger.

 

 

Part 2. Digital magic: A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook

By Cancan Wang and Line Henriksen

About a year ago at a casual lunch, we started talking about magic. We were both fascinated by the dissemination of ‘magical memes’ that spread curses and luck on the internet, and wondered why these digital spells flourish, and what they might indicate about the role of magic in a digital context. Recently we came across The Cyber Spellbook: MagicK in the Virtual World (2002) by Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight. Sitting separately in front of our computers during the Danish Corona virus quarantine, we thought this might be a good time to talk about – and write a short text on – magic. After all, one might need a spell for good luck (preferably a digital one to maintain social distancing) in the time of a global disease outbreak. This text is an excerpt from our online conversation  – mediated by Zoom – around the text on the cover of The Cyber Spellbook, as well as its Amazon reviews. This digitally mediated conversation ended up touching on issues such as spellcasting, conjuring, and temporality in a digital sphere. In case you’re looking for more in-depth engagements with the topic of magic and technology, see the works of e.g. Briana Pegado, Nazila Kivi and Simone Natale + Diana Pasulka.

This is part 2 of 1. Find the first post here.

ACT II

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Figure 3. A screenshot of the reviews of the book

Wang: Should we try the seven exciting customer reviews?

Henriksen: Let’s do it! Continue reading “Part 2. Digital magic: A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook”

Part 1: Digital Magic. A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook.

By Cancan Wang and Line Henriksen

About a year ago at a casual lunch, we started talking about magic. We were both fascinated by the dissemination of ‘magical memes’ that spread curses and luck on the internet, and wondered why these digital spells flourish, and what they might indicate about the role of magic in a digital context. Recently we came across The Cyber Spellbook: MagicK in the Virtual World (2002) by Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight. Sitting separately in front of our computers during the Danish Corona virus quarantine, we thought this might be a good time to talk about – and write a short text on – magic. After all, one might need a spell for good luck (preferably a digital one to maintain social distancing) in the time of a global disease outbreak. This text is an excerpt from our online conversation  – mediated by Zoom – around the text on the cover of The Cyber Spellbook, as well as its Amazon reviews. This digitally mediated conversation ended up touching on issues such as spellcasting, conjuring, and temporality in a digital sphere. In case you’re looking for more in-depth engagements with the topic of magic and technology, see the works of e.g. Briana Pegado, Nazila Kivi and Simone Natale + Diana Pasulka.

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Figure 1. The book page of The Cyber Spellbook: Magick in the Virtual World, by Patricia Telesco on Amazon

ACT I

Wang: So let’s look at the cyber spellbook. It is a book that came out in 2002, which is about 18 years ago. I actually don’t know how long this concept of digital witchcraft or cyber spellbook has existed. Cuz it seems like if the book came out then, maybe these concepts have been there for some time. Don’t you think so?

Henriksen: I’ll do a quick google for ’digital witchcraft’.

W: And I will try ’digital spellbook’. Let’s just see. Continue reading “Part 1: Digital Magic. A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook.”

Monster Talks 5: It’s Not the End of the World

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What does it mean for the world to end? Does it end in the same way for all? And might it have already ended for some? During the summer and autumn of 2019 the art collective SUPERFLEX flooded Cisternerne, an exhibition space for contemporary art in the abandoned underground water reservoirs of Copenhagen, and invited visitors into a dark, post-apocalyptic world. The title of the exhibition was It’s not the End of the World, and in this podcast-episode Line Henriksen from the Monster Network met with independent artist Katja Aglert, PhD candidate Ida Hillerup Hansen and postdoctoral researcher Marietta Radomska in the cold dark depths of Copenhagen to discuss the (non)ending of the world.

About the researchers and artists of this episode:

Katja Aglert is an independent artist whose practice is transdisciplinary in nature, and includes both individual and collaborative projects. She is an executive board member of The Seed Box, an international environmental humanities collaboratory headquartered at Linköping University. She teaches regularly at Umeå Art Academy, and Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts, and Design.

Ida Hillerup Hansen is a PhD candidate at the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University in Budapest and currently a visiting researcher at Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University. Their research explores embodied experience of loss through a lens of contemporary grief discourse and feminist poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theories of mourning.

Marietta Radomska, PhD, is a Postdoc at the Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University, and Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki. Her current research focuses on ecologies of death in the context of contemporary art. She is the author of the monograph Uncontainable Life: A Biophilosophy of Bioart (2016), and has published in Australian Feminist Studies, Somatechnics, Angelaki, and Women, Gender & Research, among others. Queer Death Studies Network website: https://queerdeathstudies.net/ |The Posthumanities Hub website: https://posthumanities.net/

Monster Talks is a podcast series that explores the figure of the monster and the concept of the monstrous as important thinking tools for addressing dynamics of power, inclusion and exclusion, discrimination and violence. The podcast is made possible by the support of Nordic Culture Point and produced by The Monster Network in collaboration with Network for Gender Studies at UiS. All episodes are available from the podcast’s website at UiS.

Artwork by Joanne Teresa Taylor, NettOp, University of Stavanger.

Monster Writing Month 3

Cookbook: How to create a writing monster

As seen on this blog

by Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

Making writing monsters is easier than you think, and an ideal family activity to have fun with over the holiday break. Living with them is another story (this might be a life-long ethical exercise in living with something that you do not fully control). Follow these easy recipes and have your own monsters ready in a fraction of the time it takes to order them online:

1

Collage Monster

Ethos Lab 1
Photo by Marie Blønd for ETHOS Lab.

You will need: 

For 1 collage monster: 

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • A text
  • Hope
  • Scissors
  • Vulnerability
  • Tears
  • Agony
  • Glue
  • Colleagues (can be substituted by friends, family, total strangers, or 7 dogs)
  • A time-keeper with a timer

Aim:

To recreate your own text using other people’s sentences.

Method: 

  1. Cut sentences from your text. If you have 9 colleagues, you’ll need 9 sentences. If you have 5 total strangers, you will need 5 sentences. If you have 7 dogs, you will need around 133 sentences and the ability to work with chewed up material. Important: you do not need to use all your text! When you have the sentences you need, put the remaining text aside.
  2. Round one: 
  • Share a sentence with one of your colleagues. Choose something that you think they’ll like.
  • Receive one sentence from one of your colleagues.
  • Take 5 minutes to glue the sentence you receive onto a piece of paper. You can modify it in any way you want: delete or rearrange words, add words with your pen, write a new sentence using the words you were given, etc. Just keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text.
  • The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.
  1. Round two: 
  • Share a sentence with one of your colleagues (not the same as before). Choose something that you think they’ll like.
  • Receive one sentence from one of your colleagues (not the same as before).
  • Take 10 minutes to glue the sentence you receive onto your paper. You can modify it in any way you want: delete or rearrange words, add words with your pen, write a new sentence using the words you were given, etc. Keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text.
  • The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.
  1. Repeat the rounds until everybody have received a sentence from everybody else.
  2. Final round: take 10 – 20 minutes to reorganize and polish your text in any way you please. Add sentences, glitter or/and drawings. Keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text. The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.

Finished! You have now created your very own collage monster in no time, with very little effort, and eternal damnation to follow. Bask in your own accomplishments with lightning, a good thunderstorm and some hubris before the consequences catch you unawares.

2

hello text

Programme
Photo by Marie Blønd for ETHOS Lab. Artwork by Mia Makila.

You will need:  Continue reading “Monster Writing Month 3”