Category Archives: Conferences

PopCAANZ 2017

The call for abstracts for the 2017 iteration of the annual conference for the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ) is closing soon.

If you have an interest in popular culture, presentations are called for in areas as varied as Life Writing, Toys and Games, Disability, Gothic and Horror, Comics, Science and more. There really is something for everybody–and shapeshifters have popped up in Gothic, TV, Comics and Film areas.

This year’s conference will be held in Wellington in late June, and 150-word abstracts are being accepted up until March 31, so get writing!

Popcaanz

Advertisements

London Calling: Pop Culture versus High Culture

There has been much excitement in the world of the authors of this humble blog lately – we were  briefly reunited. Dr Roslyn upped and buggered off to the Mother Country a couple of years back, and so all our work has been done online (as opposed to our previous model, which was largely online, but every now and then I’d ring her up and announce, “I can’t write! This isn’t working! I’m too distracted!” and invite myself to her place for a working sleepover, sans kids).

So when I got an email asking me if I’d consider submitting an abstract for a conference in Oxford, the answer was a resounding yes. Oxford! OXFORD! You know, where Lyra and Pan were? Where Tolkien and Lewis studied? Where Alice is set and Harry was shot? That’s only a couple of hours away from where Roslyn is currently living, in a country I’ve always wanted to visit but had never quite made it? That one?

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

So, yes, I submitted the abstract. And they accepted it. So off I set for the 13th Inter-Disciplinary Net Monsters and the Monstrous Conference: Monstrous Hungers.

But what to present? Well, with the Wolf Girls getting the band back together, it had to be something wolfy. And since my Day Job is working with students with disabilities (mainly mental health disorders), and Job #2 is training high school teachers how to deal with and engage adolescents, I opted to go with Martin Millar’s Wolf Girl trilogy: about an anxious, depressed, cutting, homeless addict who also happens to be a teenage werewolf.

Millar's trilogy curse of wolf KALIX.indd

The itinerary was pretty much skewed to popular, rather than high, culture. We started with a trip to Wimbledon. I am not a believer in “Bucket Lists,” but when I was treated for cancer at the ripe old age of 31, a family decision was made that some things on the “we can do that in retirement” list needed to be moved to the “do it if the opportunity arises” list, and we set off to visit the Australian Open and the Great Ocean Road once my treatment was completed. After that taste of Grand Slam action, I thought I’d like to complete my own Slam (as a spectator) – Wimbledon, the US in New York (hey, it’s New York! – also on the must-see-but-never-been list) and if you’re going to go to three of them, you might as well go to the fourth, even if it is on clay. Plus, Paris. But up until going to visit someone who actually lived in the suburb of Wimbledon, I was still on Step 1.

So I was introduced to the wonders of The Queue, and then the even more wondrous idea that slightly used tickets get handed back in and you can buy a cheap second-hand ticket and actually get onto Centre Court to watch Finals. I still cannot believe that this actually happened.

Continuing the Wimbledon theme, we headed into Wimbledon Common where Roslyn assured me I would find no actual Wombles.

I know a Womble when I see one

I know a Womble when I see one

wombles on commmon

Or three …

Continuing the low culture theme, we then set out on a quest to locate Sun Hill.

If the guys were hanging around out the front, that would be even better ...

If the guys were hanging around out the front, that would be even better …

We knew that the studio and Sun Hill set was in Wimbledon. We found out the address (we are researchers, after all). And then we kept seeing police cars as we trudged through the drizzle of an out-of-the-way industrial estate.

This was a good sign ...

A good sign?

I was ready to give up but Roslyn (as usual) had done more research than me, and was therefore more confident of an outcome. And we turned the corner and there it was … Sun Hill station. There was much gasping and carrying on from me, and I was there hyperventilating long enough for a security guard to come and advise us we “couldn’t be on site” but to take as many photos as we needed on the way out.

sun hill

Embarrassingly happy

We also had a trip to the London Eye (which did NOT act as an aerial for Doctor Who, on that occasion), walked all over London including around Westminster Abbey (where David Tennant was NOT playing a conniving politician, on this occasion), took a  Beatles-esque photo on Abbey Road and –another highlight–checked out Mamma Mia in Covent Garden.

Doctors 9 and 10 hung out hereMamma Miaabbey roadBut there was one very big, high culture moment … Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe. Not gonna lie, there was a teary moment when that idea hit home.

Globe

Bear in mind, I’m a recovering English teacher

And on to Oxford. The conference was held in Mansfield College and the meals were served in a Harry Potter-esque chapel.

mansfield collegeseats

The conference was fascinating and intense and as we’ve already established in Oxford. And afterwards a few of us managed to have our final dinner and drink at The Turf, where former Australian PM Bob Hawke broke the world skolling record and former US President Bill Clinton allegedly did not inhale.

I can't down a yard glass at all, let alone in that time frame

I can’t down a yard glass at all, let alone in that time frame

Ros joined me the day after the conference for some literary nerd Oxford adventures. We checked out Blackwell’s bookshop (where they were celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland), and went to the Eagle and Child (where Tolkien and Lewis hung out), and also the Marks of Genius exhibition at the Bodleian Library which blew my tiny little mind by having things on display like Tolkien’s hand-drawn cover for the Hobbit; a 13-year-old Jane Austen’s novel, dedicated to her sister, Cassandra; the original hand-written draft of The Wind in the Willows; and two excised pages of Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which Frankenstein and Clerval roam around Oxford.

Free exhibition, people.

IMG_0971

If you look closely, you can see my mind *actually* being blown

This trip had it all:  sport and Shakespeare, ABBA and Abbey Road, Wimbledon and Wombles, werewolves and woodentops, sandstone and Shelley. It was the best of pop music, pop culture, literature and drama. Anytime London calls, I reckon I’ll go.


Giles, Stiles, and trips to Sydney … GANZA Mark II

Last time I blogged about the GANZA conference, it took me a very long time to get around to doing it. So pick your collective self up off the floor, dear readers, because this time around I’m getting around to it a scant few days after the 2nd biennial conference, themed “Gothic Spaces: Boundaries, Mergence and Liminalities.”

The conference opened with a plenary session from Professor John Stephens about the Gothic in Children’s literature, which I throroughly enjoyed. Professor Stephens introduced us to the picture book of Cinderella Skeleton, who is my kind of princess. Not content with losing her slipper, in this version the would-be princess loses her entire foot.

cinderella skeletonThe next session I attended included papers from Anna Jackson (continuing the tradition of sitting in awe as you’re in the same room as people you’ve cited), Samuel Finegan, Erin Mercer and Elizabeth Kinder. The topics ranged from ideas about memory and privacy, to incest and rape, to the use of candles and simulacra to mimic urban legends, to the “armed bastards” of Life on Mars and Ashes to AshesThis little snapshot kind of gives you a feel for GANZA: postgrads, early career researchers and experts in the field mingle, and the content covered is broad ranging. Over the course of two days, we discussed the Gothic as it appeared in TV, film, literature, fashion, food, architecture, geography, medicine, disability and more.

My paper this time around was inspired by a conversation with my teenaged daughter, who has finally overcome her resistance to reading/watching “anything Mum works on” because her friends are all into Buffy, The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf. In fact, at any given point in time she’s usually more up-to-date than I am, since I tend to binge-watch when I have a looming deadline. Anyway, at some point she came home and in that shocked tone that teenagers use when a parent is right, asked “how I knew” that something I’d said would happen, would happen. I replied: “Because I’m Giles; the watcher from the margins. The teacher” to which she retorted: “and Stiles.” And of course, she was right: Stiles IS the Watcher of Teen Wolf; the token human, the guy who needs to be protected but who has the knowledge and research skills to develop the plans. Only he’s not an adult British tweed wearing bloke with a massive distrust of computers, so how do they keep him in the margins? By adding a series of illnesses and disabilities, of course. As the wolves are managing and embracing their “condition” of lycanthropy, Stiles is shown repeatedly to be weak, sick, incurably human. Or as he puts it, because he’s every bit as into pop culture as we are: he’s always Robin to Scott-the-teen-alpha’s Batman.

Day 2 saw the second plenary, this time from Professor Paul Giles. It focussed on the “Antipodean Gothic;” happily, something that felt more homely than unhomely to me (Roslyn and I both did our PhDs under the supervision of Professor Gerry Turcotte. If you type “Australian Gothic” into Google, the first two entries that pop up were both authored by him). This was followed by more fantastic panel sessions.

After the conference’s close and packing away the conference rooms, we headed off to the Hero of Waterloo in the Rocks for a Gothic trivia night and ghost tour. Unfortunately those of us who were actually carrying everything needed for said quiz hopped into a cab with Sydney’s worst taxi driver, who told us he had never heard of the Hero of Waterloo (Sydney’s oldest pub and a stop on the famous Rocks ghost tour) and didn’t know of Fort Street (!) when we helpfully gave him the street address instead. He then asked us (from Auckland, Newcastle and Nowra) for directions. What ensued was a whacky and needlessly long and expensive trek through Sydney with directions coming from a passenger’s iPhone that was on 1% battery. When I realised that nothing in the cab worked – not the GPS, not the clock, and I’m willing to bet that there was something odd with the meter, given that the ride home was about half the price–we began to speculate that perhaps we had slipped into some kind of fantastic wormhole ourselves. Finally we pulled up just past the pub in a screech of brakes, to be greeted by a lot of anxious quiz-goers who were wondering if they had gone to the wrong place.

81 lower fort street

There were some pretty big hints as to its location.

There were some pretty big hints as to its location.

Anyway, all that drama aside, we had a lovely quiz which was very tight and involved quite minimal smartphone-based cheating. We then headed into the depths of hell rather warm basement and cellar and were treated to a quick history of how publicans past used to drug likely souls, shove them down a trapdoor and then push them out a tunnel and onto a boat while they were still out to it. Our host had one of those lively lilting Irish accents that helps you suspend disbelief–I would have cheerfully listened to him recite the Periodic Table of Elements, I think. The tunnel and trapdoor have long since been “made safe” but there are still shackles in the sandstone that used to be used as a kind of holding bay on busy nights. There’s also apparently a ghost, the late wife of a former publication who shoved her down the trapdoor during an argument and snapped her neck in the process. So be careful about those petty arguments with your spouse, people, especially if shanghai-ing strangers is an entry in your significant other’s CV.

Sadly, we didn’t see any ghosts, but that could be because I didn’t think through my wardrobe choices and turned up wearing my favourite Ghostbusters T-shirt. Sorry, guys.


Calling all Pop Culture Types …

PopCAANZ, the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand, is holding its annual conference at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Hobart, Tasmania (June 18-20).This year, the conference coincides with the Dark Mofo exhibition at MONA.

The Call for Papers is out now. I’m particularly keen to hear from people who are interested in presenting on representations of Disability in Popular Culture, but you’ll also find panels on TV, Film, Manga, Toys, Fashion, Food and the Gothic, to name just some of the strands.


Twitter controversies and fan-cademics

“Fans take a much more active and personal role in the viewing experience now. They don’t just watch a show and forget about it until it’s time to watch the next episode. They dissect it and re-shape it into elaborate fan fiction, creative videos, and intricate art work. They want to be heard and even treated as participants in the creative process.”
Angela Harvey, staff writer, Teen Wolf

I gave my paper on Doctor Who and Disability at the Eaton Science Fiction Research Association conference a couple of weeks back. I’m not sure how effective my recollections will be, given that I was rather jetlagged when I gave the paper, and am again somewhat jetlagged as I attempt to write this. But I’m sure my brain will land in Sydney sometime soon.

From what I can recall, the paper went quite well. It was a mixed panel ie a panel on controversies in three different Sci-fi texts, of which Doctor Who was one. There were a number of Doctor Who aficionados in the room, however, if the discussion afterwards was anything to go by (it went 40 minutes into the scheduled lunchbreak!), ranging from interested fans to people who clearly knew every episode inside and out and even one guy who’d written an entire book on the show. And there was an attendee who’s working on representations of disability in Star Trek, so we kind of greeted each other like long-lost sisters because each of us “got” what is sometimes hard to explain to others.

The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, but I was questioned on my methodology–specifically, I was asked why the hateful tweets of trolls mattered or were worthy of examination. My initial slightly glib response was, “Well, because they matter to Stephen Moffat” (who had deleted his Twitter account in response to hate messages). But another delegate argued that it is a really interesting space in which to work, looking at online fan responses and the social media zeitgeist. In fact, it’s been the topic of a couple of books, including one to which I contributed, Fanpires: Audience Consumption of the Modern Vampire.

I agree with the second delegate whole heartedly, as it happens. In an age of increasing direct interaction between show runners and fans, there is enormous opportunity for the audience to help shape the text. Equally, it is a fraught process where disgruntled keyboard warriors can lay into showrunners who have not privileged a favoured “ship” or who have strayed away from canonical points of reference. I cited as a further example of the Twitter-disappearance-phenomenon that of Teen Wolf show runner, Jeff Davis.

(Yes, I’m working on a piece on Teen Wolf. Attempting to Twitter-stalk Jeff “The Gift” Davis therefore counts as research, just at the moment).

All of this led me to believe that the insights from Teen Wolf staff writer Angela Harvey were rather apropos.


Of Monster Mashups and Werewolves of the (NSW) West …

Last month, I was supposed to write a blog post about a conference we both attended the month before. In fact, I was *really* supposed to write it the month before last. I distinctly remember telling Roslyn I had plenty of time, because the association whose conference it was hadn’t even blogged about it yet. You’ll notice that Dr Maria Beville’s blog post is now not only in existence, but begins with the line, “It’s been a week since the first GANZA conference in Auckland …”

So … *ahem* it’s been a almost two months since the first GANZA conference in Auckland. With a theme of Gothic Antipodes, there were lots of papers on films and books from Australia and NZ, some of which I now really want to track down. Misha Kavka’s paper on The Strength of Water has had me thinking about the contested concept of Maori Gothic ever since, and feeling as though I need to see the film. Ken Gelder’s Keynote address also had me wondering when I can schedule an international vampire movie marathon of Thirst, Daybreakers and Perfect Creature.  Catherine Noske’s paper on Bereft had me heading to online bookstores. I spoke about werewolves and vampires of the YA variety, but this time, ones created by Aussie author Catherine Jinks, who locates her vampeens in her obviously Sydney locales, and her wild were-boys in western NSW. And there was someone named Roslyn Weaver who examined the literary monster mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters. Sadly, she is yet to locate a copy of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer, which, with a title like that, definitely has the potential to become my very favourite book of all time. Overall, it was a very stimulating conference and I’m still a little overawed by interacting with professors whose work I quoted in my PhD!

In between papers, we were treated to fabulous food including an amazing conference dinner, and charmingly Gothic touches at lunches and coffee breaks, like gingerbread ghosts and witches. A brisk powerwalk around Auckland led to charming chocolate store, which reminded us about the ladies who pushed away the dessert trolley on the Titanic. Inspired, we bought up big. Sadly, those we were bringing home for family became a casualty of a hot day’s travel back to Oz. Sorry, kids. DSC00468 DSC00466 destroyed chox


Whovian Women and the Disappearance of Stephen Moffat

I wrote a post on this topic yesterday,  and it disappeared into cyberspace leaving only the title, which seems rather apropos. So bear with me as I attempt to recreate my brilliance *sigh*.

Right, so I spent part of yesterday trying to come up with an abstract for a conference in the States next year. This conference is on sci-fi in and across media, and I’m more of a fantasy girl, so this requires a fair bit of thought on my part. I do, however, enjoy a bit of telefantasy — The X-Files, Buffy, Dr Who. And I started thinking about two of the more recent and unusual Dr Who “companions” in a bit more detail after watching the introduction of new companion and “souffle-girl” Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman)  this weekend.

A hyphenated Coleman as the Doctor’s companion! That’s almost me, right?

Oswin (left) and Idris (below) share many characteristics with the Doctor– his manic speech patterns, genius intellect, and social oddities (Oswin, for example, greets people by commenting on their facial characteristics, and tells the Doctor that his chin “could take your eye out”; Idris bites him by and then explains that biting is just like kissing, only there’s a winner). In other contexts, these traits could be interpreted as being symptoms of autism spectrum disorder or even mental illness. In the Whoniverse, however, these are just signs that the characters are like the Doctor: just a little bit alien.

*(SPOILERS, as River Song would say in that lovely sing-song way of hers)*

Oswin, it transpires, has been unwittingly turned into a Dalek because of her superior intellect. Idris is a humanoid manifestation of the Doctor’s time machine, the TARDIS. She appears in a 6th Season episode written by Neil Gaiman. When the title had been released and the Internet fandom went into meltdown trying to work out who the Doctor’s Wife might be, Gaiman and show runner Stephen Moffat began a bit of a Twitter tease as to her identity, letting slip that it was an old character with a new face. When I went to confirm the original tweets, however, this is what I found.

It seems that about eight hours before I went looking for his Tweets, Stephen Moffat has deleted his Twitter account after a new wave of Twitter rage, alleging misogyny in his characterisation. It apparently arose from an old interview, wherein he was explaining the viewpoint of a character from a TV show, not his own and not a Dr Who character, either. Twitter rage seems to be all the rage at the moment, with a couple of high profile cases in Australia over the last fortnight. At the time I was looking, the Doctor Who fandom was split between those who thought Moffat was a misogynist who should never write again, and those who thought he was a genius of the highest order.

I fundamentally don’t “get” Twitter rage. Fans have unprecedented access to shows, show-runners, writers, actors and so on, and to behave in such a way as to have that access denied seems to me to make very little sense. (If you’d like to abuse me for holding this view, you can find me @KMcMahonColeman).

Obviously, I still need to refine my ideas, but at the moment I’m looking at 2 hybridised, mechanised female characters who share elements of difference with the Othered, alien Doctor. In their cases, however, the differences are (SPOILERS, SWEETIE) ultimately fatal as neither survives–or at least, not in non-mechanical form. And it seems there’s also ground to cover in terms of how the development of characters such as these led to a(nother) social media mini-crisis.  I think there’s something there. But please, don’t pinch my ideas — it’s taken me so long to get this far, and the deadline’s imminent. 🙂