Joey Eschrich

Building a space elevator starts with a lunar elevator by 2020

December 10, 2014 in Links

Gizmag’s Eric Mack reports on Liftport, a Kickstarter-funded project to create an elevator connecting the Moon to the Earth.

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Review: Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future

December 8, 2014 in Press

Barnes & Noble Review

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Interview: Haylee Bolinger, Hieroglyph Illustrator

November 24, 2014 in Hieroglyph

Earlier this fall, I sat down with Haylee Bolinger, who illustrated most of the stories in our anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, to discuss her work on Hieroglyph and other projects. You can learn more about Haylee, see examples of her work, and contact her at her website, https://hayleebolinger.com.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Joey Eschrich, Project Hieroglyph: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Haylee Bolinger: I’m originally from a small town in Wyoming, and I earned my BFA at the University of Wyoming in 2010. I moved to Arizona to get my MFA in Sculpture from Arizona State University. That was quite an adjustment because before coming to ASU I had never lived in a town of more than 30,000 people, so that transition was…interesting. Now I live and work in Los Angeles.

JE: How do you think your upbringing in a small rural community has shaped your work?

HB: A lot of my work incorporates sexual themes, and I wonder if that’s related to being just oblivious to subcultures, sexual or otherwise, and then suddenly becoming aware of the incredible diversity of people, first through the Internet, and then again when I started grad school in Arizona. Wyoming can feel small, closed-off, even isolated sometimes – although I met a lot of really open-minded, cool people there, and I’m always thankful that my parents are supportive of who I am and what I’m doing.

JE: What are you hoping to accomplish when you address sexuality in your work? Are you trying to provoke a certain kind of response?

HB: When I’m working with controversial themes like sexuality, I’m trying to present them in a way that feels comfortable for everyone. I guess I’m trying to make the topic of sexuality a little bit more approachable for people from all backgrounds, and I think growing up in a conservative community in Wyoming is part of that.

One way of making sexuality more comfortable is to address it to an object or product that is desirable, or well-designed, then alter that object in a way that is a bit more overtly risqué or sexual.

JE: A number of your sculpture pieces involve taking consumer objects and morphing them in a way that brings out something in the way they look or feel that connects to sexual allure. Why do you think you’re drawn to that kind of approach?

HB: A lot of the objects I choose are knick-knacks that might have decorated people’s homes in the 1970s and 80s. Once upon a time they were incredibly desirable objects, but now you can find them at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. They lost their allure somewhere along the way.

 

  • An untitled small sculpture by Haylee Bolinger

 

I alter these objects in a way that’s kind of juicy and voluptuous, but often really silly too. And that’s because I remember seeing these exact objects and playing with them as a kid and thinking that they were funny things to have in your house. Like why do you need an ornate steel basket to hold hard candy – and now I think, why were those specific one’s clearly so popular? I like the concept that the object was once desirable, before I ever came along and did anything to it. I capitalize on these well-designed objects by making either drastic or minimal alterations, to give them a new alluring personality. It’s kind of like dressing up your grandma in too youthful clothing; it’s a little awkward and funny.

JE: Are there other themes or ideas that you return to again and again in your work?

"Peeping Don," by Haylee Bolinger, for the "Momentum: Women Art Technology" exhibition

“Peeping Don,” by Haylee Bolinger, for the “Momentum: Women Art Technology” exhibition

HB: I really like working with technology. To be honest, I’m not entirely tech-savvy, so usually I need a collaborator. But when I find that help and work with technology, it’s usually something that responds to the body. Recently I made a piece, “Peeping Don,” for the “Momentum: Women Art Technology” exhibit at the Night Gallery (in Tempe, AZ). The technology in that piece enables it to respond as if it’s alive, like it has a personality, but it really it only has one response and it only does it because of movement nearby. But it does give the impression that you had violated its space: if you get too close, it hides, like an animal – maybe a sea urchin. Something very simple can create the sense of a personality or a relationship with the viewer.

I’m getting more interested in pieces that actively provoke a response. You can’t always know how people are relating to the work intellectually or emotionally, but they do relate to the physicality of it. Maybe someone just walks by, no paying much attention to the artwork, but when it moves, it’s difficult to find a person that does not actively engage. “What is this thing? What’s it doing?” I actually had a few people scream. I don’t think it’s a scary piece, but they were just so surprised that they let out a little scream when it suddenly moved.

JE: I think as humans we’re always ready to give inanimate objects personality. Like you said, the piece only does one thing, but even so we want to imbue it with a selfhood.

HB: I think that’s very true, and it’s nothing new, even for things that don’t move. In my family, each person has a different chair that they always sit in. And there’s some identity built into that chair because that person sat in it all the time and maybe the left leg is a little shorter, I don’t know, something weird like that, or it has a special design that appeals to them, or expresses something about them.

I’m a lot younger than my siblings, so growing up I spent a lot of time by myself coming up with these alternate realities where each object in the room had its own life and did stuff when we weren’t around. I think people really love objects and so the idea that they have personalities of their own is really natural.

JE: Why did you get involved in Project Hieroglyph? What piqued your interest?

HB: I’m not a science fiction buff but I do read science fiction books and watch movies. And I didn’t know if I could do it. But I wanted to try. I bring my own crazy things to life in drawings and sculptures, and I wanted to see if I could rise to the challenge of doing it for someone else.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I thought that I would read the stories, and the images would just be there. And I wanted to do things that were really original – I didn’t want to draw something that looked like the images that you expect to see in science fiction.

JE: What was your process in creating the illustrations for Hieroglyph?

HB: I would usually start by reading through a whole story in one sitting, and while I was reading I would make visual notes and sketches in the margins, write a few notes, and highlight some of the really descriptive lines. And some stories were harder than others because they were so visual, with so much information and so many good scenes to choose from.

David Brin’s “Transition Generation” is so visual that it could almost be a graphic novel. He is so descriptive and puts so many images in your head. In some of the other stories, the descriptions of the technology were a little less vivid.

JE: I know you spent a lot of time on illustrations for Neal Stephenson’s Tall Tower. And the sheer size, the verticality is such a challenge there. If you want to capture the enormity of it, you lose the opportunity to flesh out the details.

Illustration for Neal Stephenson's "Atmosphaera Incognita," by Haylee Bolinger

Illustration for Neal Stephenson’s “Atmosphaera Incognita,” by Haylee Bolinger

HB: You can’t mix the size and the detail in the same image, for sure. And I tried to zoom in, but once you’re zoomed in enough, you’re looking at such a small segment of the overall building. And even when I tried to stress how huge it is, I often had these moments where I said, “You know what? It’s still a lot bigger than it looks here.” I tried to draw a farm scene inside the tower in one of my sketches. It’s so huge, there has to be a farm in there somewhere, right? And finally I gave up on zooming in, and said, okay, I’m just going to draw it from outer space and really get the full impact. I really did get hung up there going through lots of different ideas.

One surprise was how often my spontaneous sketches ended up working much better than more ambitious color paintings. Things that were much less rehearsed ended up sticking.

JE: One thing I’ve noticed about your illustrations is how organic they look. This is really evident with the Tower – there’s a danger of it being very sterile and monumental, but the sensibility you bring to it is rounder, softer, almost messier. When we think of technology we often think angular, tight, efficient, but there is a gooeyness to many of your illustrations. Were you conscious of using that aesthetic?

HB: I felt guilty about that! After I had completed most of the drawings, I said, “Maybe I should go back and try some science fiction drawings.” So I went back and looked at them and I felt a little guilty because I just kind of went for it with my own style and I do like those gooey edges.

But I guess if it works and it makes sort of a distinctive impact, then good. I do like illustrations from other people working in science fiction that are very concrete and precise, but that doesn’t come naturally to me.

JE: What was your favorite story to illustrate?

HB: I really enjoyed Gregory Benford’s “The Man Who Sold the Stars.” There were so many options for illustrating that one, and I did get hung up on all of the choices for a while. I didn’t want it to look like the Star Trek version of space exploration. But those images are part of my visual memory bank, and it’s hard to think around them.

I loved the human drama of the story: that the main character was this guy that rose to the top from humble beginnings and then became rich, and maybe a little corrupt, and had to leave Earth, and ended up finding his way to another distant planet when he was 120 or something.

My reaction was, “Yes! I want to do that.” But then again, when he arrives at the new planet, there are all of these horrifying things everywhere. But he describes it as very beautiful. My reaction was, “How do you know that giant butterfly isn’t going to suck your eyeballs out?”

JE: They land in this giant, gross swamp but they seem to love it.

HB: I would be terrified. But they just laid down on lawn chairs or something and just said, “Okay, let’s hang out.” Maybe when you’re 120 it doesn’t matter, but….

I also really liked the relationship between the protagonist and his wife – she is so powerful and self-assured.

JE: It strikes me that you’re drawn in your work to things you find funny, where there is a sort of intentional or unintentional silliness, whether it’s a person or an object. So in Benford’s story, you have this guy lounging on a lawn chair deep in space at the end of his life, but he’s also this intense, intimidating venture capitalist baron. There’s something kind of silly there.

HB: I agree. With Benford, I didn’t put much thought into it at the time, but I can see that aspect of it, looking back now.

JE: It’s a serious story but it has these absurdist touches. There’s a resolute realism to the way that Benford writes, but also a bombastic quality to the story that verges on the absurd, in a charming way.

So what was the most challenging story? Was there one besides the Tall Tower that gave you a lot of trouble?

HB: I did a lot of research for Brenda Cooper’s “Elephant Angels,” mostly visual research into elephants – for example, I don’t see the back of an elephant that often. It was tough because I tried to do the illustrations in color and I ended up Photoshopping it into black and white and then working on the image digitally. In your mind’s eye, an elephant is grey, right? But they’re not. They’re a million different colors and to do the coloring properly would have drawn too much attention away from the drones.

Another one that was tricky is the drone camouflaged as a fly for Lee Konstantinou’s “Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA.” He doesn’t describe the drones in detail so I had to make something up. I hope he didn’t imagine them as little quadcopters!

 

  • Illustration for Lee Konstantinou's "Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA"

 

JE: That’s one of my favorite images. I love the fusion of the technological and the organic.

Illustration for for Lee Konstantinou's "Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA"

Illustration for for Lee Konstantinou’s “Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA”

HB: I had a lot of fun with Lee’s story because of the Wyoming setting. The premise felt so true to me: rebels in Wyoming doing something weird and quietly subversive. The state has a whole rebel outsider history that most people don’t know about. And I was really familiar with the area where some scenes took place, so I tried to put some rock formations that I was familiar with in the background of the illustration with Appledrone’s RV.

JE: As you think about your own work and your aesthetic, what story or artwork has inspired you most?

HB: I recently read a biography of Andy Warhol and that was really fascinating and bizarre. Part of me was saying, “I want to be just like Andy Warhol,” and the other part saying, “I don’t want to be anything like Andy Warhol.”

While I was at the University of Wyoming, there was this amazing artist, Kaarina Kaikkonen, in residence at the university’s art museum, and she spent the whole summer making this massive sunrise out of coats [Editor’s note: The exhibition is titled “And It Was Empty,” and it was on display in 2007. You can learn a little more here.] She made it out of vintage coats that were going to be thrown away, and I don’t know why, but I was fascinated by it.

When she talked about a previous installation, “The Journey Home, 1995. Hanko Beach,” she told us a story about a boat accident that took place in her home country, Finland. The water was so cold that people were drowning others unintentionally, just to survive. And a few men did survive, but they were having trouble living with themselves because they had drowned people just to stay afloat in this icy water. A lot of her work deals with gender inequality and loss; I guess this piece stood out for me because she seemed conflicted about its meaning. Her work, and the way she talked about it, was a real insight into the layers of meaning that one artwork can embody.

And I think meeting her was part of it. Maybe if I just read about her work, I would have been less influenced by the magnitude of the installation, and the sincerity of her content. Since I met her and she shared an honest part of herself and her work, it’s become one of those things I won’t forget. I try to remember that when I’m somewhere showing my work and people want to talk with me and ask questions. If I talk to them, maybe the experience will mean more to them, and my work will become something that they will remember.

 

A few more images from Haylee Bolinger – you can see more of her work at her website.

  • "Missionary Possible," by Haylee Bolinger
Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

The Untapped Potential of Science Fiction

November 15, 2014 in Press

Time

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Interview: Sherryl Vint on Science Fiction and Biopolitics

November 12, 2014 in Hieroglyph

Earlier this fall I sat down with Sherryl Vint, a professor in the Department of English and the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies program at the University of California, Riverside. Sherryl is an editor for the journals Science Fiction Studies and Science Fiction Film and Television and is the author of several books, including Bodies of Tomorrow (2007) and Animal Alterity (2010). This interview is the fourth in our series of deep dives with creative thinkers from a variety of different backgrounds. You can read the other entries here.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Joey Eschrich, Project Hieroglyph: Can you start by telling me a little about what you’ve been working on recently?

Sherryl Vint: My newest book examines the ways that science fiction and actual contemporary science are merging, with a particular focus on biopolitics. Industrial agriculture conglomerates are actively and pervasively modifying species, and advances in genomics, personalized medicine, and synthetic biology are bringing complex science fictional ideas about life, nature, and the body to life. We’re really seeing science fiction and contemporary scientific practice overlapping in unexpected and complicated ways.

JE: Can you talk a little more about the relationship you see between science fiction, on one hand, and actual scientific discovery, on the other?

SV: My interest in connections between science and science fiction dates back to the early stages of my scholarly life. I didn’t actually grow up reading science fiction; I wasn’t a fan who then translated that passion into my scholarly career when I stepped into an English department, which is how the story goes for a lot of people who study and teach about science fiction for a living. I ended up being pointed towards science fiction in graduate school, and discovered in the genre a really very sophisticated treatment of exactly the same questions about biopolitics that thinkers like Michel Foucault were raising in their theoretical treatises.

I’ve written a few essays on this relationship between science and science fiction, and I edited this big anthology called The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. This is one of the reasons I’ve championed scholars who link science fiction and issues of science, technology and society (STS): a lot of the legal and ethical conundrums related to emerging technologies and their social implications are things that science fiction has thought of long before the technologies were actually feasible.

And I don’t mean to say, “Oh, science fiction predicted these things,” like an oracle or seer. I mean that science fiction authors have asked those questions about the influence that various technologies would have on how we think about and structure important things like families or personhood or identity. There’s an amazing lineage of thinking in sophisticated ways about those social implications in science fiction, even if the authors didn’t actually get the technical bits right, which often they did not.

I think one of the really exciting things is that some science fiction now is really up-to-date on both scientific research and its social, ethical, and legal implications. I recently worked on a paper about the television series Orphan Black, which replays typical anxieties and cloning and human identity, but is also really deeply engaged with sophisticated questions about patent law and corporate control of one’s biology and personalized stem cell lines and the privatization of medicine.

JE: One of the things that I’ve been doing during these interviews with people from different fields is asking them about the terminology that they use. When you use the term biopolitics, what do you mean by that?

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

SV: When I use the term, I’m really influenced by the French critical theorist Michel Foucault and his writing. Biopolitics describes the ways that biological life becomes an object of governance, of political importance and interest. Recently I’ve been using more of Foucault’s later work, when he starts to also think about how governmental and political power begins, in the late 18th and 19th centuries, to begin to operate at what he calls the “level of the population.” He sees a shift from thinking about the individual as the basic unit of governance to the population as a whole becoming an entity that governmental power can measure and have various impacts on. This means thinking about ways that governance has to do with calibrating and influencing certain kinds of statistical norms around birth rates, death rates, unemployment and economic growth, standards of living, and so forth. Instead of thinking of government as a multitude of interactions between the government on one hand, and an individual or a family on the other, people in power begin to think of a single relationship between the government and a large population that can be utilized, manipulated, tweaked, and harnessed.

The way this falls out—and this is the focus of a lot of the recent work I’ve done—is around which kinds of lives are fostered by societies, and which kind of lives are neglected. Who is enabled and supported in having a healthy and fulfilling life? Who is allowed to struggle and suffer? What sorts of illnesses could frequently be prevented if resources had been channeled in one way rather than another?

To provide a couple more concrete examples: Where does potentially dangerous industrial or nuclear waste get stored? Which communities is it near? Which communities is it far, far away from? Or how are medicines and drugs distributed? And how does this reflect the needs of patients, versus the needs of pharmaceutical companies and their profitability? How are those decisions made? How are those different interests calibrated?

The example I’ve been using in my classes right now is World War Z, the recent zombie apocalypse movie starring Brad Pitt. One of the reasons I find it such a useful example is because it has this really blunt bio-political framing, “if you’re human you count and if you’re a zombie you don’t.” In the film, once someone crosses that boundary from human to zombie, they become a member of an undifferentiated horde; we no longer care about what happens to them. The film also distinguishes among humans, though. Some human lives count more than others: Brad Pitt’s character is airlifted out of an urban zombie massacre because he has the skills the government wants. But if he doesn’t meet expectations and play his role, there is always the threat that he and his family will be kicked back off of the boat with the beleaguered masses. This is a situation where the governments of the world aren’t actually killing people, but they are fostering certain lives, and not fostering others.

Then I bring the conversation towards the notion that in our reality, certain homo sapiens aren’t counted and treated equally as humans (think about our treatment of people in poverty or, in recent history, people with HIV/AIDS), which is one of the things that zombie fiction allows us to work through and think about critically. That’s biopolitics.

JE: The other term that I’m interested in hearing about how you use or how you define is speculative imagination.

SV: I use that term to refer to one of the origins of the kind of thinking, writing, and creative expression that we sometimes call science fiction, but also as a broader umbrella that doesn’t get too bound up into whether or not the science is accurate. Scholarship on science fiction can easily get bogged down in these really unproductive exchanges like, “Well, is this really science fiction or is it science truth? How much of the science is real, and what if the science used in this fiction was considered ‘real’ or reputable at the time and now it’s not?” Questions about the validity of the science in science fiction as a way to rule things “in” or “out” of the genre—and those conversations aren’t usually very helpful.

On another note, I’m also interested in ways that speculation and speculative imagination play such a significant role in the economy right now. There are obvious kinds of science fictional modes going on in the way you seek and obtain venture capital funding, for example. Business plans can be as science fictional as novels, depending on the product: think of social media companies like Snapchat and WhatsApp whose future profitability is almost entirely conceptual. As a person seeking venture capital, you write a speculative narrative about all of the value your company is going to produce based on the glorious IP it has, but nothing concrete exists yet. But then the company and the IP does become materialized as money, as economic activity in the stock market and other markets based on how compelling your narratives are. Monetary value may be based more on the quality of the story than on the quality of the product. I’m interested in these amorphous boundaries between material value and what I’m thinking of as speculative value.

JE: So both this idea of speculative imagination and this biopolitical framework are important parts of this new project that you’re working on. How do those apply to these real world areas of practice like medicine and pharmaceuticals and agribusiness?

SV: One of the ways that I apply this framework is precisely the same way that Neal Stephenson sketched out when he wrote his essay “Innovation Starvation.” Fictional visions of the future actually do apply to “real life” simply because imagining transformed realities is a part of how research happens, right? It’s imagining places where we might go. There’s a strong body of scholarship on this in terms of how we can imagine social transformation, looking at utopian writing—both fictional and non-fictional—and actual utopian communities. But I think it’s equally true in terms of imagining technological transformation.

ReGenesisThese exchanges between fiction and reality in the world of biopolitics are also prevalent in the media. There is an interesting Canadian television series called ReGenesis, which is about a fictional tri-border security agency that coordinates among the U.S. and Canada and Mexico. This agency is supposed to manage epidemics and contagions, so it’s kind of a love child of the Department of Homeland Security and the CDC, but acting across all of North America. Part of my interest in studying the show was how it represented biological security threats as becoming conflated with national security issues. But it was also funded by the Ontario Genomics Institute, which is part of the Canadian government. And they always had these little educational pieces that ran for five minutes or so at the end of each episode, as well as a website with fact sheets and resources you could download.

There was a public-engagement-with-science element to this, teaching people about real and fictional dangers and debunking unfounded fears. But it also had a dimension of paving the way for the public to accept certain kinds of technological and security agendas that the government wanted to put into place, using these factual materials that of course tacitly supported the government’s point of view on these critical issues.

Whether I’m thinking about biopolitics or the relationship between science fiction and science, I’ve always, in all my work, been interested in borders: how they get constructed and what interesting things are happening at the boundaries of a supposedly really clear distinction, like between male and female, between gay and straight, between natural and unnatural, human and non-human. But when you actually get to the border, it’s all muddled.

Animal Alterity Cover

Animal Alterity book cover

JE: I want to ask you just really briefly about another one of your books, Animal Alterity. Why is thinking critically about the future in terms of the relationship between people and animals important?

SV: Well, that book came out of research and writing on posthumanism that I was doing at the end of Bodies of Tomorrow, my dissertation-turned-book, thinking about alternative human embodiment and whether subjectivity persists across boundaries. For example, are you the same “self” after your consciousness is uploaded into a robot body?

Why I think it’s critical for the future has a lot to do with questions around environmentalism and species extinction and practices of intensified agriculture: so things like CAFOs (Confined Agricultural Feeding Operations) as opposed to cattle actually grazing on grass. I do think there’s something worth paying attention to regarding this capitalist, agribusiness tendency to turn animals and plants into machines for profit. But even if you don’t personally care about the well-being of those animals and plants in and of themselves, the environmental and social consequences of those practices are also putting human survival in jeopardy.

JE: How do you get your students to get their heads around why you’re looking at this nexus of the human and animal?

SV: Actually, they respond surprisingly well to that—it’s not a hard sell for them. Getting them to acknowledge that racism still persists, for example, can often be a harder sell.

A great story for teaching this is Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The People of Sand and Slag,” which is about body-modified post-humans living in a future where climate change and environmental pollution got so bad that instead of trying to repair the planet, it proved easier to change our biology to be able to thrive in that radically damaged environment. In this future all other species are extinct, and the story is about an encounter these post-human people have with a dog they find who has somehow survived. For a while, they are really charmed by this anachronistic thing, and they try to take care of it, but they don’t know how to. Eventually they get bored of how fragile the dog is, and they eat it. The story plays on the reader’s sympathies for the dog, and counterposes them with the post-human characters’ chilling lack of sympathy. [Editor’s note: You can read the story for free at Paolo Bacigalupi’s website.]

It’s a useful story for getting my students to see how distancing ourselves from other species and refusing to face the fact that we are another kind of animal produces certain kinds of attitudes: and that in itself can be frightening, especially when it’s laid bare, like it is in the story.

Most of students know they don’t want to be like the radical post-humans in the story (even though it would be cool to be able to breathe sulfur and surf on an oil-slicked ocean), but they discover that they actually find most frightening about this rendition of posthumanism is its lack of affect, its idealization of detachment and disembodiment. So I get students to think through how our relationship to other species also defines who we are as humans, and reflects our values and priorities.

JE: What are you hoping that students get out of the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies program [at the University of California, Riverside]? What are you hoping that students coming out of it will be able to do?

SV: It’s precisely the sort of things we’ve been talking about throughout this conversation. Our students gain literacy in critical frameworks for thinking about the impact that science and technology have on daily life. They gain a wider sense of the history of some of these conversations both in science fiction and in the history of science, because it is an interdisciplinary program.

So we have people in the program teaching science fiction, alongside courses on the history of science. We have people doing ethnographies of scientific cultures, focusing on specific disciplines and sub-fields. We have anthropologists, people doing various kinds of projects focused on the history of science, technology, and innovation in their social, cultural, and political contexts.

Science has become a hugely hegemonic influence on daily life, and the practice of science and the public understanding of it are always developing in dialogue with speculative and creative thinking about science. Our program gives students tools for understanding that ecosystem and making their own contributions and interventions into it.

JE: You’re one of the editors for Science Fiction Studies, one of the leading academic journals in the field. How did you get involved with the journal?

SV: I was lucky—they invited me! I had previously been an editor for an older journal on science fiction, fantasy, and speculative culture, Extrapolation, which dates back to 1959 and was the first academic journal to address those topics. The other journal I co-edit, Science Fiction Film and Television, decided that what the field really needed was a journal on media science fiction, particularly film and television. We’ve even published about digital games. We do this because a lot of the “important” and most visible texts and conversations in science fiction were happening not in print, but in visual media, and the existing journals of the field tended to publish only scholarship on literature. Of course, there are a number of great film studies journals out there, but they often look down on science fiction, and consider it less serious than other genres of film and television.

JE: What story has been most inspiring to you in your thinking about science, fiction, and society?

Donna Haraway

Donna Haraway

SV: If I think about the thing that I come back to the most often in terms of framing questions and influence on my work, it’s not actually fiction at all. It’s Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” I first read it when I was in grad school, and it was this model for me for how you think about boundaries and border cases: zombies, trans-humanists, all these liminal spaces we’ve been talking about.

It’s not as though cyborgs themselves are the thing that I’m obsessed with studying. It’s Haraway’s intellectual mode, her attention to the intersections between organic bodies, technology, fiction and research, public response, and an ethical commitment. All of those things remain important to the work that I do. So that essay continues to be a model for the kind of scholar I’ve tried to be.

Haraway says that cyborgs are creatures of social reality and science fiction. For her, the cyborg is neither male nor female, neither human nor machine: it’s both mixed together, crossing and confusing the boundaries that separate the two in our thinking and language and fiction. She writes that “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an illusion”—the domains are interwoven, and indissociable. That blending and blurring has been central to my thinking since I started working in this field.

 

Special thanks to Elizabeth Garbee for editorial assistance and expert co-editing!

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Podcast: Hieroglyph Editor Kathryn Cramer on New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy

November 6, 2014 in Hieroglyph

Earlier this week, co-editor Kathryn Cramer discussed Project Hieroglyph and the Hieroglyph anthology on the New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy podcast with host Rob Wolf.

Listen to the full podcast (which is about 29 minutes long) below, or visit New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy to learn more, find additional resources related to the conversation, and download the podcast as an MP3 file.

 

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Hieroglyph in Seattle: Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson and Ed Finn

October 30, 2014 in Hieroglyph

On October 26, Hieroglyph contributors Cory Doctorow and Neal Stephenson and co-editor Ed Finn appeared at Town Hall Seattle, in an event titled “Reigniting Society’s Ambition with Science Fiction.” Check out the full event video:

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Los Angeles Review of Books Reviews Hieroglyph

October 28, 2014 in Hieroglyph

Los Angeles Review of Books LogoLast week the Los Angeles Review of Books published an in-depth, thoughtful, and lengthy review of Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future by Matthew Snyder, a lecturer in the University Writing Program at the University of California, Riverside. It’s a great read; we strongly recommend that you check it out!

A couple of our favorite passages:

A common and curious refrain found inside Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future is that several characters, in various short stories, say thusly, “We can’t go back. The genie is out of the bottle.” Whether it’s found in Neal Stephenson’s “Atmosphera Incognita,” in Robert’s epiphany on the last page of Karl Schroeder’s “Degrees of Freedom,” or in Kathleen Ann Goonan’s “Girl in Wave: Wave in Girl,” we are repeatedly told that “once the incalculable power of creativity was released, and evenly distributed, it was like an atomic reaction: we could not put the genie back in the bottle.” And certainly, it would be reckless to imagine a future of primitivism Derrick Jensen naively suggests. Yet, this collection certainly warrants that symbol of the genie, and deservedly marks a major break in how SF currently uploads stories about itself, as well as the worlds that exist outside this increasingly important genre of ideas. This new anthology justly deserves to be ranked alongside the very best collections published within SF: Terry Carr’s Universe, Damon Knight’s Orbit or Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions. Only time will tell if Hieroglyph transcends the stately influence that Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions has maintained over readers and writers alike.

Certainly, there is the science fiction that explores the perverse and assertive affects technology might create for all of us; but there is also the science fiction of how we wish to treat each other. There is fascination and cleverness in the former; but let’s not forget that there is democracy of the everyday, of the sublime, that can only be found in the latter. So here’s hoping for Hieroglyph, Part Two: The “Soft-Love” Edition.

Read the full review at the Los Angeles Review of Books, and check out other reviews of the Hieroglyph anthology at The Wall Street JournalSFGate.comand Pacific Standard

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Saving Spaceship Earth

October 22, 2014 in Press

LA Review of Books

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.

Fiction Writers Help Scientists Push Known Boundaries

October 19, 2014 in Press

New York Times International Edition

Author
Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He earned his bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies in 2008 and his master's degree in Gender Studies in 2011, both from ASU.