TRANSNATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION FILM AND MEDIA
Like the Western, noir, and musical, the science fiction film occupies a well-defined niche of cinema and media studies, complete with its own catalogue of specialized theory and criticism (Calvin 2014). Science fiction is also a category of film that has come to embody an era and its conditions. As Jim Kitses observed in the introduction to The Western Reader (1998), “an era of radical capitalism with its relentless global commodification, downsized status of the individual, and increasingly technological, mediated world of experience, has solidly positioned science fiction and neo-noir as the post-modern genres of choice, with their hybrid, the formidable “tech-noir” (Terminator, Blade Runner, Alien), logically the post-modern genre par excellence” (16).
Perhaps on account of this positioning of science fiction film and especially its noir correlate, the study of science fiction film (see for example Cornea 2007; Kuhn 1990, 1999; Sobchack 1997; Telotte 1995, 2001) has rivaled the study of its prose form and has dominated studies of what Paweł Frelik (2016) recently called the “ocularies of science fiction,” that is, the genre’s visual megatext. While scholars and critics alike have turned their attention to issues such as literal and metaphorical space (Kuhn 1999), the problems of technology (Telotte 1995), the politics of alternative futures (Booker 2006), and even race (Nama 2008) in monograph-length works, research on science fiction films focuses overwhelmingly on American, and to a lesser extent European, films—their histories, contexts, audiences, and politics.
Meeting the wider turn in cinema and media studies head on, a handful of essays and a new collection (Feeley and Wells 2015) have begun to conceive of science fiction film as a transnational genre, a global or world phenomenon. Challenging the idea that science fiction is a decidedly Western or even a particularly American film genre, this panel seeks papers that ask what the study of science fiction film and related (audio)visual media can add to the increasingly complex and interrelated discussions of transnational film production, circulation, and reception; of transnational film as a category; and of competing categories (e.g. “world,” “global”) for understanding film and (audio)visual media as they move across national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries.
In other words, what does it mean to think of science fiction film transnationally? Is there such a thing as (the) transitional science fiction film? What are its histories, forms, politics, audiences, etc.? Although emphasizing film as the medium of study and conceiving of science fiction in broad terms as a visual megatext—a set of generically interrelated and recognizable visual tropes (see Broderick 1995 for an early discussion of megatext as frame for science fiction narratives)—the panel also hopes to encourage the exploration of media beyond film, to consider, for example, science fiction television, comics, and video games in conversation with discourses on film, science fiction, and the transnational, world, or global.
Papers might consider, but are certainly not limited to, the following guiding topics:
- Transnational SF and global crises/catastrophes, especially environmental and geopolitical
- Adaptations of texts across national, cultural, linguistic, and medium boundaries, especially with consideration of shifting political, aesthetic, and generic concerns
- e.g. Snowpiercer (2013), from Jacques Lob’s French Le Transperceniege graphic novel to Bong Joon-ho’s English-language, global-cast South Korean dystopian film, in which the only survivors are a black boy and a Korean woman.
- Transnational science fiction films and audiences, and the circulation of science fiction film out of, into, and outside the U.S. and Europe
- Transnational blockbusters and global audiences
- e.g. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens as global phenomenon/text
- Transnational (or world or global) SF film production and distribution (e.g. art/indie vs. blockbuster)
- The (in)stability of “science fiction” as a genre across national, cultural, linguistic, and medium boundaries
- Popular subgenres of transnational science fiction media
- Troubling the terms “world,” “global,” and “transnational” as they relate to “science fiction” (itself slippery) film and other media
- Transnational science fiction beyond film: television, comics, video games
- e.g. the “kaiju” and “mecha” genres of Japanese manga as transnationally and transmedially circulated subgenres of SF; the manga boom in 1990s America and the subsequent, related anime boom on U.S. television; massive popularity, aesthetics, and generic concerns of SF games
Proposals should include a 250-300 word abstract and a brief bio. Please send all materials to Sean A. Guynes at email@example.com by August 10, 2016. Decisions will be made by August 15 and the panel proposal will be submitted by August 31.
If you are interested in being a respondent, please notify me and include a brief bio and a CV (keep in mind the new SCMS policy that now limits members to one role at the conference).
Booker, M. Keith. Alternate Americas: Science Fiction Film and American Culture. Praeger, 2006.
Broderick, Damien. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. Routledge, 1995.
Calvin, Ritch. “Science Fiction Film Theory and Criticism.” Cinema and Media Studies, edited by Krin Gabbard, May 2014. Oxford Index, http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0088. Oxford Bibliographies.
Cornea, Christine. Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality. Rutgers UP, 2007.
Feeley, Jennifer L., and Sarah Ann Wells, editors. Simultaneity Worlds: Global Science Fiction Cinema. U of Minnesota P, 2015.
Frelik, Paweł. “Gazing (Back) in Wonder: Visual Megatext and Forgotten Ocularies of Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, Jul. 2016, pp. 226-236.
Kitses, Jim. “Introduction: Post-Modernism and the Western.” 1998. The Western Reader, edited by Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman, 2nd ed., Limelight, 1999, pp. 15-33.
Kuhn, Annette. Alien Zones: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema. Verso, 1990.
—. Alien Zones II: The Space of Science Fiction Cinema. Verso, 1999.
Nama, Adilifu. Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film. U of Texas P, 2008.
Sobchack, Vivian. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. Rutgers UP, 1997.
Telotte, J.P. Replications: A Robotic History of the Science Fiction Film. U of Illinois P, 1995.
—. Science Fiction Film. Cambridge UP, 2001. Genres in American Cinema.
Featured Image Credit: Pumzi. Directed by Wanuri Kahiu, Focus Features, 2009.