Monthly Archives: July 2013

A couple of interesting links

First off, I have become aware of the Medieval Science Fiction project, supported by the Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies at King;s College London.  Their Twitter account is here, and they had a session at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds (the day after ‘Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space’ – had I but known!). There’s a write up here. They are doing much the same as we are for the Greco-Roman period, and I shall follow their work with interest.

The other link is the first part of Cara Sheldrake’s write up of the conference. I look forward to future installments.

Edit: And I want to add this CFP for a conference on Lois McMaster Bujold.


Rounding off the conference

In July 2010, I happened to mention to my friend Farah Mendlesohn that I’d always wanted to run a conference on Classics and Science Fiction. It was, after all, my own specialist research area. “Would you like to run that as the next SF Foundation conference?” she asked. I didn’t wait long before replying.

Three weekends ago, that conference took place. There are things I would do differently – for a start I’d have made sure my own book was out in time. But considering how often I feared that the conference might not happen at all, or that it would fall far short of my hopes for it, I can only feel that the final result was a great success. We had a really high level of quality in the papers, and were able to have multiple streams. We had about as many people as the venue could comfortable accommodate. And all through the weekend I saw people from widely divergent disciplines have conversations, make contacts, forge friendships. That was why I ran this conference in the first place, and I am very pleased.

I thank everyone who came, but in particular I thank Andy Sawyer, Fiona Hobden and Shana Worthen. Without them the conference would not have happened.

On the Monday, I finished off the conference with a few words about where we might go with the topics and ideas discussed at the conference.  Here, I’d like to develop that brief discussion.

First of all, if you want to know what you missed at the conference, either through not being there, or being in another stream, Liz Bourke has an epic thirteen-part write-up of the conference. Liz Gloyn has also written up the conference, whilst Cara Sheldrake has written a brief response, which hopefully will be the first in a series. As already noted here, I’ve Storified the Tweets from the conference. Edward James will be writing the conference up for Science Fiction Studies, Liz Bourke will write it up for Strange Horizons, and I shall be doing the same for Foundation.  Please let me know if there are any write-ups I’ve missed.

What next?  Well, I shall keep updating this blog with relevant material, and hopefully making this site a resource for people interested in this subject.  In that light, I would like to bring to your attention the list of links to the right.

A couple of theoretical pieces got mentioned in Nick Lowe’s plenary lecture.  One is a blog post I wrote several years ago (and which I shall be revising for my forthcoming book): ‘The “T” stands for Tiberius: models and methodologies of classical reception in science fiction’. The other, rather more advanced, is Brett Rogers’ and Ben Stevens’ article from Classical Receptions Journal in 2012: “Classical receptions in science fiction”.

There are a few other online pieces I’d like to link to.  A couple are directly related to the conference.  Jarrid Looney (now newly Doctored) spoke via a not-wholly reliable Skype link on  “‘There is both the god in man, which reaches for fire and stars, and that black dark streak which steals the fire to make chains’: The Dual Identity of Prometheus in Modern Media Culture”.  Some of the ideas are discussed by him in a post on “Prometheus” on The Classics Closet (which has also recently featured a post on True Blood). Liz Gloyn spoke on “‘By a Wall that faced the South’: Crossing the Border in Classically-influenced Fantasy”. She’s previously written about one of her case studies, Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist, in an article called “’It Had, Indeed, More Than Its Share of Pleasant Things’: Classical Allusion and Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist.

There are some other pieces I’d like to draw your attention to. In a subsequent issue of Classical Receptions Journal (Vol. 4, no. 2, 2012, pp. 209-223), Sarah Annes Brown writes on “Science fiction and classical reception in contemporary women’s writing”. The complete article is only available to subscribers, but you can read the abstract.

Clarke-award winning sf writer Chris Beckett has written a short piece, “The Egret and the Gander”, which is, as Daniel Franklin observes, is a reception of the Achilles/Hector story, though unconsciously, as Chris only realized this when it was pointed out.

And finally, though not touching on SF, this is an interesting post on Classical Reception, which certainly touches on what we do.

So, where next? There are plenty of relevant calls for papers out. I’ve already mentioned Broadcasting Greece, which closes today. There’s also the call for Penny Goodman’s Commemorating Augustus conference, which closes on 1 December. I also encourage everyone to consider submitting a proposal to the Academic Track for Loncon 3, the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, which takes place in London. The call for papers closes on 31 December. Again, please let me know of anything I’ve missed.

And there are always journals to submit to. I’ll mention here particularly Foundation. I also recommend joining the Science Fiction Foundation.

There is a lot of upcoming activity relevant to our interests. There is a conference on Translating Myth at the University of Essex in September, though it seems disappointingly short of direct engagements with sff. In books, there are collections coming out, one of last year’s Paris-Rouen conference, and two collections edited by Brett Rogers and Ben Stevens, Classical Traditions in Science Fiction and Classical Traditions in Modern Fantasy. Meanwhile, I am working on a collection of my previously-published and unpublished case studies, whilst Bob Cape is alos working on a monograph. And Jennifer Ann Rea is writing a book on the reception of Virgil in science fiction.

And what of our own publication plans? Well, we definitely have them. There are a number of different options on the table, and we’ll be sorting out exactly how we pursue this over the next few weeks. We shan’t be able to publish all the papers in a single volume, but there are other options we’re exploring. Watch this space.

I also got a definite impression that there was a groundswell of opinion in favour of doing all this again, perhaps in a couple of years. Well, again, watch this space. I can’t say what at the moment, but things are happening.

Broadcasting Greece CFP

[I’m working on a proper post-conference round-up post, but that might not be done by Friday, so I should bring this call for papers to your attention.]
Broadcasting Greece: Engagements with Ancient Greece on British Radio and Television
Call for Papers
Broadcasting Greece is the first multi-authored collection of essays on the topic of ancient Greece on radio and television in the almost full century from the birth of public service broadcasting in Britain. The editors of this volume, which is under consideration by Edinburgh University Press, invite proposals for essays to complement a number of commissioned pieces.
The book seeks to investigate hitherto uncharted territory in its discussions of how radio and television programmes have engaged with the literary, historical and archaeological remains of ancient Greece in a wide yet interconnected range of programming formats, including material broadcast for schools and university students, documentaries, television fiction and presentations of theatre works.
In addition to recent television offerings by scholar-presenters such as Bettany Hughes and Michael Scott, there is of course a rich range of programming within living memory, and much more still extant and un-investigated in audio/audiovisual archives. The volume will also bring into discussion programming from even earlier decades of broadcasting, written and presented by notable figures such as Louis MacNeice, Gilbert Murray and Mortimer Wheeler, in order to relate programmes within living memory to their historical production contexts. Attention will also be paid to the symbiotic relationship that radio and television programming have had with print media such as books, educational curricula, newspaper publicity and, increasingly in the last two decades, with internet platforms (and, in this regard, see Archaeology at the BBC, a BBC Four Collection of archival footage:  
An interdisciplinary group of scholars will examine and discuss how radio and television have thus been used to construct political, social and cultural narratives of Greece through distinctive aural and visual languages, and to what broadcasting purpose (e.g. information, education and entertainment). The volume will therefore serve to elucidate the impact that this cultural activity in the dominant, domestic forms of mass media has had on public engagement with and perceptions of ancient Greece in Britain over the decades under discussion.   
Proposals are invited for essays which explore topics such as:
·       children’s and educational broadcasting (such as BBC and ITV Schools programmes and The Open University’s use of television for courses on ancient Greece);
·       documentaries and other information programmes on historical and archaeological topics (the BBC’s long-running Chronicle series, for example);
·       original radio and television drama (such as Louis MacNeice’s WWII feature programmes for radio);
·       works of fantasy and science fiction, from Xena to Doctor Who;
·       and the small corpus of theatre and studio productions of Greek drama.
Potential contributors may wish to consider how individual works, authors, genres, ideas or historical moments have been translated to these mass media (poetic forms on radio, for example, or the television adaptation of Plato’s Symposium in Jonathan Miller’s 1965 BBC The Drinking Party), to examine the contribution to broadcasting of significant figures who used mass media to facilitate public engagement with ideas of and from ancient Greece (for example, Gilbert Murray via radio) or to investigate the evidence for how listeners and viewers engaged with these programmes in order to chart the ways in which broadcasting channels, often in tandem with other cultural activity, contributed to perceptions of ancient Greece in the public imagination.
Essay proposals of around 600 words, outlining the planned subject, scope, method and sources, should be sent with a brief biographical statement to the editors, Dr Amanda Wrigley ( and Dr Fiona Hobden ( by Friday 19 July 2013, with a view to first drafts of essays being submitted in spring 2014.