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Reminder about an upcoming CSSF talk! Nöel Sturgeon will give this year's Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture, "Avatar and Activism: Ecological Indians, Disabling Militarism, and Science Fiction Imaginaries."

Nöel is Theodore Sturgeon's daughter and trustee of his literary estate; Professor of Critical Cultures, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University; and a juror for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

When:
Monday, March 5
7:00pm - 8:00pm

Where:
Malott Room in the University of Kansas Student Union
Lawrence, Kansas

The Gunn Lecture, endowed by Dr. Richard W. Gunn, James Gunn's brother, has featured several science-fiction scholars. Although it has also sponsored speakers on Shakespeare and Ralph Ellison, it has brought a distinguished group of science-fiction experts to the campus beginning with scholar Fredric Jameson, William A. Lane Professor at Duke University, and continuing with Bill Brown, Edgar Carson Waller Professor at the University of Chicago, and China Miéville, British author of what has become known as “the New Weird.” Michael Chabon, prize-winning science-fiction and mainstream author and editor, also recently presented a Humanities lecture at KU.

Spread the word!

Chris

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
theoneinblue
Mar. 5th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
OH! So wish I could be there for that lecture!
steve98052
Mar. 17th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
The problem with the premise of the lecture (or what I guess it to be based on the title) is that the film just wasn't all that good. Walking out of the theater, I think the usual reaction was, "Wow, those 3D effects were cool!" The film may have been aiming for a reaction that also included, "Wow, putting industry and military in charge of a sensitive natural environment is a bad idea," but the execution of that message was a bit too ham-handed. (And after seeing Hugo, I'm not even all that impressed with Avatar's artistic use of 3D, however impressive the technology was.)
mckitterick
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
Well, first she critically analyzed the film, film-maker, and "ecological Indian" narrative, so it wasn't a rah-rah-Avatar! talk ;-) In fact, a lot of the discussion was about what SF could say about the topics Avatar brings up in much better ways.

I am looking forward to Hugo if it uses 3D that much better!
steve98052
Mar. 17th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)

I like the idea of a discussion of how the science fiction could have been done better. The movie was a technological achievement, but the noble savage thing was silly, and the military-industrial aspect was ham-handed.

In more sophisticated story-telling hands, we could have had a culture on the planet that was less technologically developed, and looked (to the naive observer) like the noble savage image that the film presented, while having its own flaws that were quite obvious once one took a deeper look. (For example, the few surviving hunter-gatherer cultures in the modern world have no war, because they lack the numbers and organization to assemble an army, but murder is commonplace in all of them.)

More sophistication might have given us a conflict between people like King Leopold II, who advocate just seizing the resources, extremists like the Earth Liberation Front who violently advocate leaving the entire planet a nature preserve, and middle-ground diplomats who look for something that the locals want want in trade for their wealth.

The film's idea that the locals don't want anything humans have to offer is silly. Even if they don't want human technology (which seems implausible, since they'd almost certainly want technology that could supplement their self-defense even if they weren't interested in offensive weaponry), they'd likely be interested in cultural exchange. After all, since the film is intent on presenting them as noble savages, they'd certainly be interested in the arts.

Think of the intrigue of a main character who was the personification of the diplomatic faction. On the one hand he could be on a quest to find what the locals wanted enough to trade away their anti-gravity rocks. On the other hand he could be arguing against other human factions. He'd have to hold off the militarists who insist that seizing the resources was the only option, because the locals refuse to trade. He'd butt heads with the preservation extremists, who also argue that the locals don't want trade, trying to convince them that the resource is so valuable that the militarists will seize it if the humans failed to trade for it. And he'd be plagued with self-doubt too, not sure whether his assertions that the locals actually could be persuaded to trade.

Then, at the trade breakthrough moment, some comic relief: "We'll give you this audio gear and ten hours of Bach for two anti-kilograms of anti-gravity rocks."

"No way. But give us a projection television and a complete set of The Simpsons and we'll think about it.


I definitely think Hugo used 3D better than Avatar. Cameron made the 3D look amazing, but he didn't really put it to much artistic use. Scorsese had amazing sets for Hugo, as wonderful as the ones he had for Gangs of New York (but put to use for a better film), and he works the camera through those sets in a way that adds a lot to the visual wonder of the film – and the story is wonderful too.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )