Monthly Archives: August 2013

This week’s interesting things

First of all, there’s still a few hours to submit proposals to the three calls for papers mentioned in the last post here.

Liz Gloyn at Classically Inclined writes about Coalescent by Stephen Baxter. I have some issues with the details of the presentation of Late and Post-Roman Britain in Baxter’s novel, but the parts that depict the attempt to maintain normality in the fact of catastrophe are excellent. Liz is reading Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia at the moment, and I hope that will get a blog post as well.

Christina Phillips’ Tainted “dabbles a wee bit in the paranormal”. The cover suggests that I’m not the target audience for this novel, but it is relevant to out interests, and so should be noticed.

The ever reliable Juliette Harrison at Pop Classics writes about The Song of Achilles by Madeline-Miller. Especially worth reading here is her rant about how Song of Achilles is not sold as a fantasy novel, despite obviously being such. She also has one of her regular posts about a Xena episode.

Charlotte’s Library writes about Earth Girl by Janet Edwards with a link to another review. This is a book about archaeologists from the future investigating the remains of the twentieth century; not directly in our target area, but I think of interest.

In movie news, Dwayne Johnson has Tweeted some shots from his forthcoming movie Hercules. This looks like standard Greek mythological fantasy, of the sort that has dominated movie versions of the ancient world for the past decade.

An exception to that will be the forthcoming Pompeii, the first trailer of which has just been released. Now, this isn’t fantasy – but note how they have cast Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones‘ Jon Snow), and visually coded the movie to look like fantasy (in the same way that parts of Titanic are visually coded to look like SF). Time also has an article on why all plans for a movie featuring one of the best classically-inspired superheroines, Wonder Woman, have been stillborn. Personally I think it is because conventional Hollywood wisdom remains that female-led action movies don’t sell.

io9, meanwhile, wonders why fantasy movies fail at the box office (except when they don’t). This touches on a few movies in which we’re interested (primarily the Percy Jackson series). My view is that one could easily write the same article about bromance comedies, or Stallone movies, or any other genre. These movies tank because the Hollywood system is inimical to the production of good movies, and we should be more surprised that anything good emerges at all, rather than that so much of the product is awful.

There’s a Doctor Who conference next week. I’m afraid it’s too late to register (though you might try contacting the organizers), and I shan’t, unfortunately, be there. But it’s worth noting that on Tuesday there will be a session on “Myth, Hope, and Heroes”, including Amanda Potter speaking on “Who’s Monsters? Classical monsters rewritten in Doctor Who episodes ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ and ‘The God Complex'”. And on Wednesday James Walters gives a talk on “The Burden of Time: The Doctor as Sisyphean Hero”.

Finally, one of the issues that confrints classicists getting interested in science fiction is the definition of the subject. Two very interesting articles have recently been republished, one by Paul Kincaid, and one by John Rieder. I recommend reading them both. More than once.

As ever, let me know of anything else relevant you spot.


A post of multiple subjects

I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog for a while.  But things have been happening, and here is a collection of them.

First up, some calls for papers, all of which close on 31 August.

Monstrous Antiquities is a conference on Archaeology and the Uncanny in popular culture. This looks like being great, and is right in the area of our interests. I shall certainly be going.

I shall also be going to the the 2014 Classical Association conference. This is a general Classics conference, but in the past has been receptive to papers in the sf/Classics area. The same is true of AMPRAW, the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in the Reception of the Ancient World.

Petra Schrackmann, who spoke at the conference, sends me the following:

“The German-based Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung/Association for Research in the Fantastic, founded in Hamburg in 2010, aims to connect researchers of the fantastic from many different fields. It is a bit like the Science Fiction Foundation; there is a Journal for Research of the Fantastic and an annual conference. Unfortunately, the essays in the journal are almost exclusively in German, but there are always English panels at the annual conference, so it might be interesting for attendees of the Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space conference.

“Each GfF conference is focused on a specific topic – this year, the conference is in Wetzlar, Germany (end of September), and the topic is ‘Writing Worlds – Models of World and Space in the Fantastic’ – but there usually is an open track for papers that focus on different aspects of the fantastic, so the program is always very diverse. Since I heard many times at the Liverpool conference that there are so few opportunities where the Classics and fantasy/science fiction can be combined, I thought that the Association for Research in the Fantastic might be of interest to you.

“Next year, the conference will probably take place in Klagenfurt, Austria. There’s no Call for Papers yet, but I guess it will be available in early October, and the deadline for abstracts will most likely be at the end of 2013.”

Last month I went to see the latest restoration of the 1963 Cleopatra.  Along with spotting that Rex Harrison never shows his bare legs through the movie, I realised that there is a fantastic element in the movie.  This comes when Pamela Brown’s High Priestess conjures up for Cleopatra a vision in  the fire of the murder of Caesar.  This sort of accurate prophecy is an element of the fantastic that can often been found in ancient world tales where all other traces have been removed.  In retellings of the Trojan War that strip out the gods, such as David Gemmell’s Troy novels of Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze, still retain the prophetic power of Cassandra – and in Robert Grave’s I, Claudius, the Sibyl foresees the rediscovery of Claudius’ manuscript in 1900 years.  I think Juliette Harrisson has written on this.

Work on an article related to our topic turned up this syllabus for a course on sf and mythology.

Mary Beard wrote an article to accompany her television programme on the emperor Caligula. I mention this here because of her reference to the Judge Dredd story that featured Judge Cal.  (Sadly that didn’t make it into the programme itself.)

Leeds City Museum has been running a series of lunch time talks, that have been uploaded in audio form to the web.  Two are of interest to us.  Owen Hodkinson talked about “His Greek Materials: Philip Pullman’s Use of Classical Mythology”, whilst Regine May spoke on Becoming an Animal: Apuleius’ Golden Ass and Disney’s Brave.  Regine’s paper is accompanied by a pdf.

In the blogs, Cara Sheldrake has posted parts 2 and 3 of her write-up of the conference. On Pop Classics, Juliette Harrisson reviews Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (with spoilers).  I haven’t seen this movie yet, but plan to, and will write it up here when I do.  And at The Classics Closet there’s an article on Batman creator Bob Kane, making a (slightly tenuous, in my view, I’m afraid) connection between Batman and Odysseus. 

Finally, can I justify including the new Lynx Apollo ads, set in space? No? Probably for the best.  Let me know in a comment here or by e-mail of anything else you spot that’s relevant.