Lectures, discussions and paper presentations, by geeky students, researchers and academics. Come discuss everything from philosophy in Terry Pratchett to LGBTQ subtext in genre TV, and from the trope of the silent Asian female assassin in comics, to gender performance in Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's going to be amazing.
9.00am - 9.45am
Archaeological Exploration of Fantasy Worlds - with H. Grünefeld
An archaeological look at Middle Earth, Westeros, and elsewhere. Presenting the historical background, notable artefacts, and promising excavation sites for enterprising archaeologists and other interested parties. A few test pits sunk into the world-building soil to see what comes up.
10.00am - 11.15am
'I Love You... Bro': LGBTQ subtext in genre TV, from Star Trek to Supernatural - with Jenny Alexander
Despite the emergence, since Willow came out on Buffy in 2000, of overt LGBT representation in sci-fi and fantasy television, “hidden”, hinted at, same-sex romance, in the subtext of genre shows, continues to be significant. BBC’s Merlin, the CW’s Supernatural, MTV’s Teen Wolf and ABC’s Once Upon a Time have all recently made use of it. In a very different era from the 1960s, when the Captain of the Enterprise and his Vulcan First Officer inspired Kirk/ Spock fan fiction, is there a progressive place for queer subtext, or is it, today, an exploitative marketing tactic (popularly known in fan culture discussion as “queer-baiting”)? Come and find out. (max 100 words - this is 108)
Gender Trouble in Avatar: Gender as Performative in Avatar: The Last Airbender - with Lauren McPhee
Here, we explore the ways that gender is written on the animated body using theories of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Nickelodeon cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender. This presentation looks in three chapters at: drag, performativity and gender subversion in The Warriors of Kyoshi; performance and unstable identities in The Ember Island Players; and melancholic gender identity in the characters Katara and Azula. Overall, a fun look at gender, identity and some of our favourite characters.
11.45am - 1.00pm
Deadly Little Bodies: The Silent Asian Female Assassins in Contemporary Comics - with Kelly Kanayama
From Cheshire to Lady Shiva, the East Asian female assassin is a common character type in contemporary comics. Although their fighting abilities are often presented as a sign of empowerment, in practice depictions of these characters often combine Orientalist portrayals of female Asian identity with stereotypes regarding Asian culture. This trend gives rise to a particularly problematic character subtype: the East Asian female assassin who lacks the power of speech.
We Come In Peace: Immigration In Post-Cold War Science Fiction Film - with Samantha Kountz
Using Homi Bhaba’s “The Other Question”, Rick Altman’s methods in reading genre, and structuralism to examine how mainstream post-Cold War science fiction films such as Star Wars: Episodes I-III, Men In Black, District 9, Alien Nation, The Coneheads, Man of Steel, and Elysium depict aliens in terms of race, class, gender, and citizenship, there is a clear reflection of contemporary anti-immigrant sentiment. The conclusion can be made that these films’ persistent imagining of worlds in which aliens are forced to completely assimilate culturally and physically is symbolic of a subconscious desire for this enforcement as a “resolution”.
1.30pm - 2.45pm
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Philosophy (Or, how Granny Weatherwax Out-Nietzsches Nietzsche) - with Christina Richards and Meg John Barker
Philosophers love long words – ideally ones only understood by people who have been spending too much time in small rooms with the curtains drawn, instead of getting out in the healthy fresh air. We’re not that kind though – we’re the kind who, when trapped in a room full of mirrors will look down and say: ‘This one’. It is, after all, important to know what’s really real. Nonetheless there is some interesting stuff to be found in the philosophy of roundworld and this session draws on both universes to lead an interactive discussion about how each philosophy informs the other.
Christian Theology and Culture in Terry Pratchett's "Small Gods" - with the Rev'd Phil Bettinson
Small Gods follows the story of Brutha, the only believer in the city, as he comes to terms with the fact that his God, normally seen as a mighty Bull, has come to him in the shape of a tortoise. The tortoise, better known as the Great God Om, learns a lot about what it means to be a God as he struggles with his new limited form and is reminded of his origins. Brutha's journey through the book helps both him, and Om, grow in understanding of one another. The story has many obvious parallels with the Christian Faith. The book offers criticisms, and interesting approaches to the faith, and theology. Here, we'll explore these differences, and to see what kind of interaction there is between the cultural view shown in book and a modern understanding of Christian theology.
3.15pm - 4.30pm
Fallen Gods and Malignant Devils: Marvel's Early Modern Magical and Martial Antecedents
Over on the Comics Fandom track, Dr. Briony Frost discusses Loki, Thor, fallen gods, and military-magical power. This paper will consider the relationship between nature and science, and heroes and villains, through Loki’s increasingly industrialized magic, and the more heavily militarised "hero" figures of Thor and Tony Stark.
6.45pm - 8.30pm
Self-Identity in YA Dystopian Fiction: How Terrible Worlds are a Force for Good in Ours - with Rowan Williams-Fletcher
This paper discusses, with a focus on three dystopian texts, how the emerging self-identity of YA protagonists intertwines with the class, gender and race-based identities of YA readers, to create a growing potential for political engagement. Fiction and reality blur in novelised worlds of diametrically opposed social classes, glorified masculinity, and devastating narratives of privilege and injustice. Through the work of Suzanne Collins, Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman, I will argue that dystopian fiction is the ideal genre of literature for young adults, as they negotiate their own unjust and often terrifying world.
My Little Pony: Audience, Identity and Animation - with Ewan Kirkland
The unprecedented success of the rebooted 'My Little Pony' series amongst adult male fans raises questions concerning the relationship between screen audiences and particular forms of popular culture. This paper critically examines MLPFIM’s status as a show for young girls, in terms of animation historical, trends within the mainstream culture industry, and the format of the series itself. It is argued that despite its unexpected fandom, MLPFIM maintains the series' traditional appeal to the franchise’s original demographic of young female viewers.
Reading a million self-published books: Visualising trends in what's written: a pilot study - with Matthew Pocock
Last year publishers took over a million novels to market with many more being self-published. Nobody could read enough of this to know what people are writing about. How can academics and publishers who need to keep up, keep up? In scientific fields, the 'data deluge' is addressed by using software to summarise and index the knowledge externally from the researcher. My research focus is on emerging trends in science fiction. I am going to present a pilot study of 100 self-published sci-fi stories, exploring ways that we can navigate these documents and trends computationally, before reading the texts.
Fandom Academia: Marvel Cinematic Universe, AO3 survey, and Slash Fiction - with the Fanfic track
11.45-13.00, County B
Serialisation, Conspiracy and the Arc of History in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Dr Joseph Oldham; Slash Fiction: A Primer - 101 Ways To Subvert A Subtext by Ashton Spacey; and AO3 Surveyed: The Demographics of Fanfiction by Lulu (Centrumlumina). Chaired by Tony Keen. Talks from Tony Keen, Joseph Oldham, Ashton Spacey, Lulu (Centrumlumina)
On Sunday, we'll be presenting academic papers from the Video Games Culture track.
Male, Pale, and Stale: Character Creation in Gaming - with Helen Gould
White male protagonists are highly over-represented in an industry where anything can be created: aliens, elves, trolls, orcs, giant cuttlefish monsters that fire molten metal. A paper called "The Virtual Census", published in 2009 in New Media & Society, found that male characters make up 85.2% of characters in games, with white characters at 80%. Needless to say, these statistics do not accurately represent gamers as a community. Here, I'll discuss the ways in which character creation is a good alternative, and how it can have a positive effect on players who don't fit the usual hero mould - as well as tackling some of the problems with it.
‘Ideal’ Control Methods and Antisimulation - with Joseph Gavin
Control schemes are not all designed to be the same. Instead, there are differing ‘ideal’ control schemes. While the usual two ‘ideals’ of control methods are the ‘arcade’ and the ‘simulation’, I’ll argue for the existence of a third, which I’ll call ‘antisimulation’. Arcade works through simplicity, ease, and empowerment, and simulation works through accuracy and specificity. Antisimulation works through over-specificity and incoherence. I’ll be building on my ‘Blogs of the Round Table’ entry for ‘The Right Touch’, ‘Intentionally Bad Controls, Anti-Simulation, and QWOP’, taking into account more research since, and also Peter Shafer’s response to that piece, ‘Control Schemes as Expression’.
Narrative Nobodies: the death of the characterful protagonist in videogames - with Ben Meredith
In this talk I explain why, given the unique way in which we interact with videogames, the classic 'hero/heroine' of other mediums is pointless and even outright unhelpful towards the creation of meaningful gaming narratives.
3.15 - 4.30
Environmental Narrative and the Silent Story - with Thryn Henderson
Games as art is a heavily debated topic, where reviews and criticisms of the form are showing an increasing appreciation for a game with a well-crafted narrative to carry the gameplay along. Games writing is an expanding field, but a new challenge for many traditional writers, requiring new forms of narrative. Environmental narrative is the increasingly popular method of using visual and gameplay elements themselves to immerse you in the game world and provide an understanding of its history and events. Here, I'll discuss the ways in which gameplay and narrative combine to create a convincing atmosphere.
Actions, Choices, and Immersion: what can philosophers tell us? - with John Brasington
Are your actions in games, yours? Do we share the desires of our characters, have them, or emulate them? Do we think of ourselves as our characters, our avatars, or are we only sympathetic to them? The answers to these questions are different for every game, but with about five minutes of philosophy we can build a framework to understand and answer these questions. All
you need is a knowledge of language and the patience to ask what words actually mean, and then we can talk about whether we act in games, whether we make choices, and why we can become immersed in them.
Objection! What makes for a good adventure game puzzle, anyway? - with Seb Atay
"Use spork on rafflesia"; "use spork on necrotising bacteria"; "combine spork and antique silverware"; "give spork to tree". We know what it feels like when an adventure game puzzle goes wrong, but what does it feel like when a puzzle goes right? The ideal of the adventure game puzzle is one that the player should solve by insight alone, and this has historically informed the design and development of the genre. However, this ideal dissolves on contact with the player's experience, because some trial and error will always be required. We argue that fair puzzles help resolve this problem, and that furthermore fairness is instrumental in creating good puzzles. To that end, we provide a schema for assessing whether or not a given puzzle is fair.