The third day of the Utopias conference, Changing the Climate, was a great end to a great conference. I was thrown in the deep end when I was asked to chair a session immediately after the opening keynote, but it went quite smoothly and wasn't as difficult as I anticipated (I had never chaired before). There were a couple of fantastic papers presented in the session I chaired, including one by David Blencowe, a PhD candidate from Monash University, who discussed the representation of utopia and revolution in Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch in his paper "Catastophic Intentions: Benjamin and Bloch on the Nature of Revolution."
After lunch there was a launch for the two latest volumes of the Ralahine Utopian Studies series, with a speech by one of the series editors, Tom Moylan. The latest volume of the series, titled Tenses of Imagination: Raymond Williams on Science Fiction, Utopia and Dystopia, was edited by Andrew Milner, co-convener of the Utopias conference.
I attended a couple of very interesting papers in the afternoon, both on Christianity, utopianism and ecology, including one entitled, "Of Bodies and Souls: Ecology and Orthodox Christianity," which was particularly insightful, as the presenter looked at recent statements from the Eastern Orthodox Church that call harm to the environment a 'sin' and unpacked the theology that underlies such statements.
In a session chaired by Kim Stanley Robinson, John Clute gave a perfect keynote address to close the conference. His paper was titled "Truth is Consequence," and he discussed the failure of "fantastika" (sf/fantasy/horror) to predict the problems we are now facing with climate change. Peter Nicholls, co-author of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, joined us for John's keynote and the end-of-conference drinks, so my wife and I got to express our appreciation of both John and Peter's work on the encyclopedia, which has helped us with every sf essay we've written.
During the end-of-conference drinks I got another chance to chat to Kim Stanley Robinson, who is just a really nice guy, and when you get him talking about Gene Wolfe, he sounds just like any other Wolfe fan. He told me about his experiences writing the introduction to The Very Best of Gene Wolfe and how it was the fruition of 35 years reading Wolfe's work. I had also given him a copy of my list of uncollected Wolfe short stories (since we had discussed his short fiction a few days earlier) which he really liked, expressing a hope that they could be put back into print in one form or another (to which I wholeheartedly agreed).
So that was the end of the Utopias conference! The next day? Aussiecon 4! (Which I still haven't had a chance to blog about!) Right now, I have to finish cutting down that paper I'll be presenting on Monday...