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.