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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