Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Utopias Conference, Day One

Yesterday began a crazy eight days (it's Aussiecon 4 soon, yay!) with the first day of Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe, the fourth Australian conference on utopia, dystopia and science fiction, held at the Monash University Conference Centre in the Melbourne CBD (on Collins Street).

The conference opened with a keynote address by Kate Rigby (Monash University), then concurrent sessions of papers ran throughout the day (with breaks for lunch and afternoon tea). The final keynote was a Q&A with Deborah Bird Rose and Marshall Bell, an indigenous painter.

My wife presented a paper written by a friend of ours, who unfortunately could not make it to the conference. The paper, titled "'Our World is Ending, But Life Must Go On...': Post-Apocalyptic Dystopias in Contemporary Children's Films," examined the recent films 9 and Wall-E, and Evie presented wonderfully.

Following Evie, there was a really fascinating paper titled "Virtual Catastrophe: Games, Play and Environmental Disaster in Online Games and Cyberpunk Fiction," which opened with a hilarious trailer for EpicWin, and proceeded to discuss calls for environmental activism in recent online games, such as Evoke.

The highlight of the day was talking to John Clute and Kim Stanley Robinson about Gene Wolfe during the afternoon tea break. Both John and Stan (as they introduced themselves) have written on Wolfe, with John publishing a selection of Wolfe-related essays in Strokes (1988) and Stan writing the introduction to The Very Best of Gene Wolfe (2009). We had a great chat about The Book of the Long Sun and I told them about my honours research on the book. We also talked about Wolfe's unique writing style and the kind of interpretative debates that surround it, as well as Wolfe's unwillingness to confirm or deny interpretative theories (such as John's own theory of the Autarch as Severian's mother - if you don't know about this, read Strokes!). All in all, a fantastic day indeed!

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