Monthly Archives: March 2011

Hilarity Ensues: What Does ICFA Stand For?

This is just too good to pass up.

After attending the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts last week, I started following a bunch of friendly new people on Twitter–not necessarily because I had met them, but because they tweeted with the #icfa hashtag. But a couple of the Twitter profiles were identified with names but not images, leaving me to wonder, “Did I meet or see this person at the conference?”

Naturally, I turned to Google Images, searching for a couple of names to try to match faces with names. Then, for fun, I tried a Google search for ICFA.

And holy smokes–look what I found:

  1. The International Committee for Future Accelerators
  2. The International Cemetery and Funeral Association (which at some point added another C for Cremation)
  3. The International Custody and Fund Administration
  4. The International Cage Fighting Alliance
  5. The Insulating Concrete Form Association
  6. The International Carp Fishing Association
  7. The International Casual Furnishings Association
  8. Institut de Consulaire de Formation en Alternance
  9. The International Conference on Functional Acrylates
  10. The International Children’s Football Academy

Note that 9 out of 11 (counting my conference) use the I as International, though only #8 isn’t in English (though #10 is based in the Netherlands). Also notice how the final A is used: usually as Association, but also as Administration, and (my favorite) as Alliance.

But even more intriguing is the visual rhetoric of the logos used by all these different organizations. I mean, of the following, how many of the following images are obviously attached to one of the above organizations (or would be without the words in the image)? Generic icon-creation is intriguing from a visual rhetoric perspective: is it better to be safe, yet bland?

Which leads to the pressing question of authenticity. That is, which is the real ICFA, and which is the . . .

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ICFA 2011: Fans and Friendliness

So in my mind, I thought I would write multiple thoughtful posts about my 3 and a half days at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts–but instead, I’m going to settle for a brief snapshot of the awesomeness. (For someone who blogged much more successfully, see Heather Osborne’s site; Karen Hellekson also has a post up on the conference–anyone else?)

Favorite Papers and/or Panels

  • 14. Harry Potter Panel: a lovely conversation with other Harry Potter fans, hosted creatively by 4 USF graduate students (none from the English dept!) who each represented a different Hogwarts house and proposed new Hogwarts “classes” for the audience, including a class on queer theory, on mothering/female identity/hospitality, non-human magic users, and feminist role models/fan creations. (I butchered those descriptions, by the way; their course descriptions were far cleverer.) A bonus: dressing up in their house colors!
  • 17. Remixes, Roleplaying, and Real-World Skills: Audience Interaction with and Response to Digital Media: I successfully gave my paper on videogame remixes and humor in instrumental music as seen at OverClocked ReMix, while Heather Osborne presented some results from an intriguing survey of gamers about how they perform gender in-game. Most intriguing to me was her finding that players whose avatars performed gender differently than the player would sometimes be challenged in positive ways when they found themselves doing something in-game that made them feel uncomfortable, since they were trying to make their character as internally consistent as possible.
  • 32. Indigenous Futures on Film: I was honored to see the short film Pumzi, which I guess I could describe as an SF eco-feminist vision of a post-apocalyptic African dystopia–but that doesn’t do justice to the beauty, quiet, tension, and tone of the film. Seriously, it’s about time I learned more about non-Western SF.
  • 43. Mix it up: Literary, Historical, and Fannish Remixes and Mash-Ups: Perhaps my favorite panel. An informal conversation between fan fiction author and scholar Barbara Lucas, lawyer Lisa Macklem, folklorist Sarah Carpenter, and fiction author Candas Jane Dorsey. Very quickly it became evident that Dorsey, as an author, wasn’t a fan of people remixing plot and characters from other works, while practically everyone else thought this was a valid and important way for fans to respond to the stuff they love. Sure, it was occasionally tense, but we all did a good job of being civil and hashing out some tough ideas at the most practical level.
  • 57. Words and Music: Okay, this one was actually my favorite panel. Four folks who were specialists in both writing and music, all giving us a mix of their informal thoughts and mini-performances. Little do they know that they’re on my dissertation radar and will be getting emails from me before long….
  • 65. Mirth, Mischief, and Mystical Melodies: Music Fans and Communities:  See Heather’s post about this fun (if under-attended), informal conversation I was honored to moderate.

Best Experiences

  • Two fun chats with USF colleague Jessica Eberhard–once with Karen Hellekson (about online publishing, among other things) and once with Mads Haahr (about gaming environments and multidisciplinarity, among other things).
  • Finding out that Isabella Van Elferen has written about both 1) music in Lost and 2) musical rhetoric, making her my new favorite person ever (but in a non-creepy way).
  • I’m shy. I hide it pretty well, but it’s tiring for me to meet new people. But despite that hold-up, I had so many friendly conversations with folks that I can’t even start to list them all. That’s the main thing I’ll remember about ICFA this year: that I’ll look forward to returning not just for the scholarly conversations (and the free books!) but also for the friendly-talk and smiles.
  • Discovering that despite a generally low-tech atmosphere (I was usually the only one tapping notes into a computer; 90% of papers were just papers without PowerPoint or supplement of any kind), there was a friendly, helpful series of tweets using the #icfa hashtag.
  • Speaking of tech: finding that my netbook’s battery is indeed sufficient for notetaking, with some proper battery-saving measures taken. Evernote, I love you. (My low-paper conference experience was inspired by this post over at ProfHacker.)

Books that it Turns Out I Absolutely Need to Read

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Dracula Wordle

I’ve been reading Dracula lately, inspired by 1) the list of top free books for the Kindle on Amazon, and 2) seeing Nosferatu for the first time a few weeks back.

It’s a good read, if creepier than I expected for an 1897 novel, but I can’t get past one thing: the number of times Stoker uses the word whilst. I know it’s technically correct (these days archaic in the U.S. but fine in the U.K., says Grammar Girl)–especially for Stoker’s day–but it leaps out at me every time.

So I figured I’d create a Wordle to see just how often it shows up, pasting in the entire text of the novel:

Wordle: Dracula

(Click the image to see the full thing.)

There at the very top, mocking the rest of the words, is that dirty little whilst. Though I don’t have a count, it looks to have shown up about as often as other crucial Dracula words like death, opened (as in, “opened the crypt,” “opened the coffin,” “opened his mouth to reveal fangs”), and strange–and it may even be more prevalent than dark, though it’s hard to say.

So while I admit that I hoped/expected to see it show up as large as the giant-est words in the image, I’m still satisfied that it’s in the novel a bit ridiculously often [shakes head in exasperation]. (And what’s up with those big words in the center of the Wordle cloud? Isn’t the may and must duality intriguing? As if there’s a fundamental tension in the novel between what people can do and what they should do?) (And have I ever used italics as often as in this post?)

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