Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity

baroness-resin-detail

My article “Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity” is now the first online publication on the rebooted Vector Torque Control. It’s also my academic coming-out as non-binary.

Abstract:

Gender is a discursive and performative construct, and mass media such as comic books play a role in how it is constructed. Problems arise from discrepancies between prescriptive models of gender and individuals’ actual lived experience. Now, in the era of the reboot, comic book writers have the opportunity to change the identity politics inherent within well-known series, reaching a wide audience through iconic figures, and contributing to changing cisnormative perceptions of gender. Comic books are particularly crucially placed in this regard, since superheroes, as established metaphors of otherness, may in some sense already be ‘queer’ figures. However, although important and exciting steps have been taken toward better representation of trans* identities within superhero comics, we still have a long way to go. Drawing in particular on the theory of Judith Butler and Antke Engel, as well as lived experience, this article explores the past and present representation of trans* identities in comic books, and looks with hope toward the future.

[Bonus link for people who are looking for a great mix of upbeat LGBT+ comics: I recommend the SFF comics anthology Beyond.]

 

 

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Quantum Fiction! – M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy and Weird Theory

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One of my favourite papers I’ve ever written has now been published in Textual Practice, and it’s Open Access, too!

Abstract:

China Miéville states that since the concepts of Hauntology and Weird are diametrically opposed, only one of them can be attributed to any literary phenomenon at a time. However, those categories are connected by the sublime, a quantum state that can collapse into either awe or horror. I will discuss the exception to this rigorous division, namely the Kefahuchi Tract, the central mystery in M. John Harrison’s Empty Space trilogy. Many instances of Tract activity follow the conventions of a classic haunting. Still, the Tract is characterised as essentially Weird. I will present several ways of reading the Tract. Firstly, stressing the ‘science’ in science fiction, as a black hole without an event horizon, affecting all of reality and preserving old data. Secondly, as a literary phenomenon, a psychological journey. Both approaches are equally valid since the Tract is presented as a quantum phenomenon. It exists in an entangled intermediate state, and only the reader’s interpretation creates one fixed meaning. Moreover, recurring markers in the texts point towards each narrative’s being embedded in an overarching theme that connects most of Harrison’s fiction, which is the notion of secondary-world fantasy literature as escapism – presented in a way that is clearly anti-escapist.

Keywords: Weird fictionscience fictionquantum fictionuncannyhauntologyM. John Harrison.

 

Living Algorithms

BioMech_Eye_by_kirkh

“The three contemporary science fiction novels discussed here mirror the development of our stance towards artificial intelligence. In Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, which employs a polarised world-view reminiscent of Cold War politics, the AI is demonized to such an extent that speaking about it and speaking about the devil become indistinguishable. In Stone Adam Roberts depicts uprising nanobots as terrorists from a human perspective but as freedom fighters from that of the awakened AI. Finally, M. John Harrison’s take on the topic in his Empty Space trilogy is the most complex one, reminding us that we too are living, self-replicating, self-conscious code. Based on that, self-aware technology is simply another culture to interact with.”

I have a new article up in Infinite Earths: “Living Algorithms: The Move towards Anti-Anthropocentrism in Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, Adam Roberts’ Stone, and M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy”. The illustration above is “BioMech Eye” by Bruno (kirkh on deviantart).

Reading Finnegans Wake… and Mondegreens.

A while ago my friend Michael hosted my paper on reading Finnegans Wake on his blog. I would have put it up on here, but I thought that it was rather long and didn’t really fit the overall theme of what this blog has become. However, I’m still getting feedback on this piece from all directions, so for completeness’ sake, here’s the link to it.

More Weird Politics

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My essay “Sympathy for the Shoggoth” is now up on Infinite Earths! It’s based on a talk I gave at last year’s Weird Council Conference at Birkbeck and now features a lot of additional material as well as awesome illustrations by John Coulthart, Abigail Larson, K.L. Turner, and Nicholas Kole. (Thank you for letting me use them!)

Teaser illustration above: “Shoggoth” by K.L. Turner.