I. Purpose and Objectives

The Science Fiction Research Cluster (SFRC) would bring together students and faculty interested in science fiction (sf), providing a transdisciplinary context to discuss and compare methodologies, pedagogies, and writing strategies appropriate to the study and teaching of sf. In a spirit of collaboration, the SFRC aims to create dialogue and foster cooperation among scholars studying sf at UCSC, as well as to initiate and maintain contacts with scholars, writers, and artists in the sf community at large. The primary goals of the SFRC for this coming year are to create an ongoing discussion and reading group in sf theory and practice, to invite speakers from both UCSC and beyond, and to forge links with other groups and organizations devoted to the study of sf.

II. Interests

As a genre, sf’s critical tradition dates back to communities of fans, writers, and editors in early twentieth-century U.S. America. Inspired by this tradition, early academic scholars of sf focused primarily on sf as a literary or paraliterary genre, although they were often willing – in the interests of canon-formation – to look beyond sf genre texts in search of (largely Euro-American) progenitors. More recent sf scholars, however, have turned their attention to a wider array of cultural expressions – movies, TV, video games, comics, animation, theatre, performance and graphic art, fandom, but also music, religion, philosophy, popular science, UFOlogy, online community building, even politics – as well as to a more diverse set of cultural contexts: Europe and U.S. America, yes, but also the other Americas, Japan, Australia, China, etc. Committed to both older and newer traditions of sf criticism, the SFRC seeks to create transdisciplinary, international dialogue on sf, its icons, and its relationships with technoscience, colonialism, and capitalism.

The SFRC brings together a wide array of interests: cyberpunk, the “New Wave”, feminist sf, cyberculture, fan and Otaku culture, afrofuturism and “Chicanafuturism,” cyborgs, robotics and automata, prosthetics, metahistory, ’pataphysics, utopia, Messianism, Decadence, humanism, posthumanism, transhumanism, ecofeminism, speciesism, sex, race, gender, class, information technology, artificial intelligence and artificial life, philosophy of science, nonhuman agency and anthropocentrism. Relevant methodologies include critical theory, media studies, science studies, American studies, postcolonial theory, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxist theory, feminist theory, queer/trans theory, critical race theory and anthropological theory. Theorizing sf both as a genre and as a mode, a discourse, even a way of life, the SFRC combines these interests and methodologies to investigate phenomena vital to the contemporary contexts of transnational capitalism, neocolonialism and imperialism, technoscientific hegemony, and the globalizing popular cultures of (post)modernity.

III. Goals

One of the main goals of the SFRC is to organize an ongoing reading and discussion group. The purpose of these bi-weekly meetings is to facilitate conversation among graduate students and faculty at UCSC, to provide a forum for sharing and discussing our work, to discuss selected readings, and to offer a more intimate setting for workshops with invited scholars. Facilitating an SFRC listserve and creating a web page to feature work by SFRC members are two other facets of this project.

In addition, the SFRC proposes a speaking series devoted to sf. Creating links between scholars working on sf both at UCSC and beyond is the primary purpose of this speaking series. The SFRC will invite two speakers – one Fall quarter, one Winter quarter – to present papers at cluster-sponsored colloquia and to meet with the cluster in a workshop setting. A tentative list of invitees includes N. Katherine Hayles (UCLA), Fredric Jameson (Duke), Samuel R. Delany (U-Mass. at Amherst), Larry McCaffrey (SDSU), George Slusser (UC, Riverside), Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. (Depauw), and Nalo Hopkinson.

Finally, the SFRC will actively pursue links with other organizations devoted to sf. Building relationships with associations both in the U.S. and abroad is key to the success of scholars working in sf studies, at present a marginal field in U.S. academia. The form these affiliations will take depends on opportunity and funding. Possible affiliates include the Science Fiction Research Association, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and UC-Riverside’s J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Utopian Literature.