Academic Programme

State of the Art: Swancon 2008 is collaborating with Curtin University of Technology to deliver the best academic programme ever delivered at an Australian SF convention. State of the Art: Science Fiction Histories is a two-day academic conference, on 22-23 March 2008, that is contained within the broader programme of Swancon itself.

In his recent history of the genre, Roger Luckhurst argues that the marginalisation of Science Fiction (SF) from the literary establishment helped readers and writers to identify its conventions. Fandom blossomed from this liminal space, its culture providing a unique history of the relations between texts and their readers. While fans were the first historians of SF, other communities have since established their own versions of the genre. The rise of national SF in countries such as Brazil and the old Soviet Union, China and Japan de-centre its Anglo-American bias. Feminist and queer writers work to unravel its phallocentrism and heterosexism.

Histories of black and Aboriginalist fiction point out the political uses of the form. The genre has itself been shaped by its reception by these communities. In Anglo-American SF, the genre's intimacy with fandom has transformed the way its fiction (and history) has been written. It is with a view to thinking through such developments that this symposium seeks work on what SF has been to different audiences at different times, on rewriting generic history to arrive at a better understanding of the state of the art today.

The schedule of papers presented is listed below. Please note that this schedule remains subject to change.


9:30am Ian Nichols, Possible Worlds, Alternate Worlds, Alternate History, Impossible Worlds
10:00am Emanuel Blake, The Magician and His Shadow: Poul Anderson and Science Fiction's Fantasies
10:30am Robert Savage, The Paleoanthropology of the Future
11:00am Helen Merrick, More than a metaphor: the science in women’s SF
11:30am Tess Williams, Shared metaphors of change: It's Science, Jim, but maybe not as we know it.
12:00pm Ken MacLeod, Does (and should) SF Teach Us About Science?
1:00pm (break for lunch)
2:00pm Sylvia Kelso, Out Of Egypt: The Palimpsest Of Speculative And Other Fiction(S) In Carole Mcdonnell’s Wind Follower
3:00pm Kandace Horton, The Racial 'Other' in Science Fiction
3:30pm Grant Stone, Proto-Fandom in Western Australia - fandom before Swancon 1
4:00pm Cathy Cupitt, Nothing but Net: When Cultures Collide
4:30pm Brita Hansen, Stargate SG1: Two True Pairings
5:00pm Academic panel discussion, tbd.


9:30am Caroline Finlander, On the Historiographic in the Fantastic
10:00am Dianne De Belis, The Enigmas of Reality: Magical Realism and the Stories of Margo Lanagan
10:30am Laurie Ormond, Gender, Violence and Initiation in Australian Genre Fantasy
11:00am Ian Buchanan, Ideology and Utopia in Fredric Jameson
11:30am Darren Jorgensen, Quantifying Space Opera
12:00pm Mark Bould, Writing SF Histories
1:00pm (break for lunch)
2:00pm Andrew Milner, Locating SF; It's Time and Relative Dimensions in Space
3:00pm Stephen Dedman, Old Man’s Wars: The Strange Career of Captain America
3:30pm Ray A. Younis, On Science, Technology and the Question of Nihilism
4:00pm Andrew Macrae, Language and the end of history: the use of non-standard language in post-apocalyptic SF
4:30pm Tess Burton, Text as Memorial and Reader as Historian: Memory and History in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun
5:00pm Plenary Session: SF Histories