ReligionProf Podcast with Roger Sneed

ReligionProf Podcast with Roger Sneed January 22, 2020

On the episode of the ReligionProf Podcast that was released today, I talk with Roger Sneed about his current project literally digging into archives of notes, clippings, drafts, and other materials belonging to Octavia Butler. From there we explore comparisons between Butler’s vision and that of Star Trek, sci-fi as prophecy, and much else.

Since it is so directly related, I want to share here this call for papers from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts:

We invite manuscript submissions about the speculative fiction archive for a special issue of JFA, anticipated in Fall 2020. You may have seen our previous call for papers for the ICFA panel that will take place on this same subject.

Special Issue of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts: Expanding the Archive

In 2019, the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own (AO3) won a Hugo award. This repository of nearly 5 million original works, representing over 30 thousand fandoms, stands out in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy awards not only because of the sheer number of authors it represents, but also because it is the first Hugo win for unpublished fanfiction and many of the authors are young women. This victory draws attention to what is “archived” and, by extension, what is valued. AO3’s Hugo win is not the year’s only example of the expanding canon of Speculative Fiction. The documentary film Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, produced by Tananarive Due, directed by Xavier Burgin, and based on Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman’s book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present (2011), begins with the assertion that “black history is black horror” and tracks how the genre can engage with questions of race and power. Similarly, Dr. Ebony Thomas’s The Dark Fantastic considers Black female characters in recent fantasy books and film, and explores how these characters mirror racist violence in the real world. Each of these examples makes a case for expanding the idea of the canon (and what we value enough to archive) to include different types of characters and voices.

In terms of physical archives, a recent open letter on the Reading While White blog called out the lack of context and white-washing of the University of Minnesota’s Children’s Literature Research Collection’s exhibit and corresponding book The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, demonstrating that even professional archives are not neutral—especially once their materials are extracted and exhibited for public consumption. In the wake of this controversy, curators of archives, whether in libraries, classrooms, or their own scholarly work, must address how curated materials and their surrounding context represent choices that speak to the curator’s values and priorities.

While projects such as the Eaton Journal of Archival Research in Science Fiction discuss the methods and content of speculative fiction archival research, in this special issue we are interested in the metacognitive work of questioning the archive. Kenneth Kidd’s 2011 article “The Child, the Scholar, and the Children’s Literature Archive” did some of this work in the context of children’s literature, considering the perceived childishness of collecting children’s books and how materials gain different cultural capital when archived and studied. Kidd writes, “By preserving children’s materials, and conferring upon them special (primarily historical but also affective) value, the archive asserts the research value of children’s literature within the broader culture of academic and university research” (9). A very similar thing could be said of science fiction and fantasy archives, where the mere act of archiving claims value for the genre and its objects, but also makes claims about the genre and its cultural capital.

When archives hold the power to exclude and include, to value and affirm both people and genre, then how do we as scholars decide what belongs and how do we think through the consequences of those choices for ourselves, our students, and our field? We encourage submissions that answer these questions and otherwise critically examine the archive, broadly defined.

Submissions may consider but are not limited to the following topics in relation to archives:

Accessibility
Materialism
The worth/value estimation of collecting
Teaching courses in the archives
Archival pedagogy- constructing the archives for our courses/ asking students to construct their own archives
Controversies and canon
Digital collections
Internet as archive
Fan spaces
Race and representation
Award winners as archive

Please submit all inquiries and essays of 5,000-9,000 words (20-30 pages) to Emily Midkiff (midki003@umn.edu) or Sara Austin (austins4@miamioh.edu) by Feb 1, 2020. Since the refereeing process is anonymous, the author’s name should not appear anywhere on the text file itself, including the notes. An abstract of 100-150 words should be included with each submission. Please ensure that all citations and the Works Cited entries are in current MLA style. For complete guidelines, please refer to the JFA Style Sheet for Articles

See also:

CFP: Special Issue of the Journal of Fandom Studies on Archives and Special Collections

Call for papers: Communities: Speculative, Real, Imagined

Sci-Fi Culture

Finally, see as well the special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures edited by Frauke Uhlenbruch and Sonja Ammann that explores ancient literature as fan fiction.


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  • Judgeforyourself37

    They look like grinning idjits because they conned some folks into payinng money to hear them prattle on.

    • What a bizarre comment, from someone who knows they didn’t pay anything to listen to the podcast, if indeed they listened. The photo is from when we bumped into one another at a conference.