Wednesday, June 20, 2018

UK writer Megan Hunter's cli-fi novel ''The End We Start From'' Has won ''Editor's Choice Prize for Fiction'':

UK writer Megan Hunter's cli-fi novel ''The End We Start From'' Has won ''Editor's Choice Prize for Fiction'':

I strongly encourage you to add this cli-fi masterpiece to your personal bookshelf or library collection --- you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s Michelle Anne Schingler’s review:

https://www.forewordreviews.com/articles/article/megan-hunters-the-end-we-start-from-wins-editors-choice-prize-for-fiction/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/articles/article/megan-hunters-the-end-we-start-from-wins-editors-choice-prize-for-fiction/

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Climate activist James Hansen wings 'Asian Nobel Prize' from Tang Foundation in Taiwan with a new book in the wings

Climate activist James Hansen wings 'Asian Nobel Prize' from Tang Foundation in Taiwan

by staff writer and agencies

Taipei, Taiwan (June 18, 2018) -- Every two years the Tang Prizes in four categories are announced in Taiwan, where the Taiwanese philanthropist Samuel Yin has created what some pundits have dubbed the "Asian Nobels."

This year, in June, it was announced that American climate activist and astro-physicist James Hansen won the $500,000 prize for his  lifetime work with sustainability issues. He was fly to Taipei in September to accept the prize in person at an awards ceremony and give lectures a several colleges around the country.

The Tang Prize comes to Hansen at a good time, as he is preparing to publish a new book titled "Sophie's Planet," a series of heartfelt letters to his 19-year grand-daughter Sophie Kivlehan who will be starting her sophomore year at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in September.

The book will be published by Bloomsbury Press in early January 2019, and with Hansen's Tang Prize under his belt now and resulting in global publicity for his work as a climate activist, the book is sure to become a bestseller worldwide. This is a book for our climate-anxious times, our cli-fi novel times, our ''End of the World if we don't do something soon about runaway climate change times.''

So who is Sophie Kivlehan and why is Hansen's new book, 300 pages long, addressed to her?

In a longform profile of Sophie in The Weather.Com site, reporter Joe McCarthy headlined his story: "Sophie Kivlehan Doesn't Want to Freak You Out."

"Sophie Kivlehan [will be a sophomore the fall of 2018] at Dickinson College in Carlisle where she studies biochemistry and molecular biology," McCarthy wrote, adding:

''She's a diligent student, introverted and ethical (like many of her peers). She plays cello for the Dickinson College Orchestra. She plans on attending med school and after that hopes to become an obstetrician, focusing on fertility. And for the past three years Kivlehan has been a plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing the U.S. government of actions and inaction that furthers climate change, something few on campus know. Oh, and her grandfather is James Hansen, the former NASA director who is about as famous as a climatologist can be.''

''Kivlehan’s lawsuit has the features of a secret mission. She’s separated it from her academic and personal life. Keeps documents pertaining to the lawsuit in an unassuming Dickinson binder. Doesn’t speak loudly about the case. And when it’s all over, 'Whether it ends one way or the other,' she says with a dramatic air, 'I would like to retire from this life.'"

If that’s true, then why take part in the court case? McCarthy asks.

“Climate change is very simple,” Kivlehan tells him. “You don’t put dirty things in the air. That’s bad.”
McCarthy notes: "Despite being the granddaughter of a man known as the “grandfather of climate change” and despite the raft of science she’s studying, Kivlehan’s opinions on the environment don’t get bogged down in scientific minutia. She knows the science, but when she talks about climate change, it’s clear-eyed and straightforward, if tinged with the certainty of youth."

“It’s easy to zoom out and see, when you’re young, to zoom out and see that it’s very simple. Climate change is very simple,” Kivlehan tells him.

“The sky is blue. Climate change is real.”

To learn more about Sophie and the book of letters to her that her famous grandfather will publish next January, read Joe McCarthy's profile in full here.

SEE ALSO
 http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/sophies-choice-in-sophies-planet-a-series-of-letters-by-grandfather-james-hansen/ 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

China's film directors ramping up ‘cli-fi’ movies for climate-anxious audiences

China's film directors ramping up ‘cli-fi’ movies for climate-anxious audiences

by staff writer and agencies

TAIWAN/UK/CHINA -- In a recent news article on the British NGO non-profit website "China Dialogue," Beijing correspondent Mr. Da-min Tang wrote a story in English and Chinese headlined "Is China Getting the 'Cli-Fi' It Needs?" His answer was not yet, but hopefully soon. Read on.
''If seeing is believing, Chinese filmmakers have a role in bringing home the reality of climate change," Tang opined.
''As China has emerged as a global power playing an active role in international affairs,'' Tang noted, ''its filmmakers been ignoring a subject where China is emerging as a leader on the global stage, that is, on climate change.''
While it's hard to know if there are many Chinese fans of “cli-fi” movies -- those rare films that take climate change as their subject matter, there have been growing references to China in Hollywood films with climate themes.
Tang mentioned, as one example, the 2017 cli-fi blockbuster ''Geostorm,'' which did well at the Chinese box office but nevertheless had poor reviews.
Tang also cited one of the best known Hollywood cli-fi movies so far, ''2012,'' which had plot elements that involved China more prominently. As the China Dialogue bilingual website put it: "As huge floods threaten humanity’s future, China’s factories come to the rescue, working day and night to produce high-tech floating arks before the waters rise."

Historically, Tang added, "climate change has not lent itself easily to films outside of documentaries, or effects-driven disaster movies like 'The Day After Tomorrow,' meaning there are few cli-fi examples in [Communist Red] China's film industry. And it isn't hard to understand why China’s climate leadership [has failed so far] to make it into the scripts of American films."
"If Chinese filmmakers are failing to acknowledge China’s role, how then can Hollywood be expected to?" Tang asked.
In Tang's opinion, expressed in his online article in both English and Chinese, Chinese cinema has done even less than Hollywood to reflect Communist Red China's important international role in tackling climate change.
"In fact, 18 years into this century, there has not been one notable film that deals with the topic, although there are quite a few good films that look at the human and environmental costs of China’s rapid development," he said.
Here is where Tang hits the nail on the head: "Given the rich tradition of cinematic realism in China, there is a great opportunity to tell the story of China’s rise through the exploration of subject matter that is much closer to reality [and] an obvious area is climate action, for which China is making global headlines, with its surge of renewable power and electric vehicle revolution.''
China produced a cli-fi movie back in 1990, Tang noted. It was titled "Disappearing Atmosphere," and it more or less ''looked like a children's movie, complete with talking cats, dogs and horses.'' But the story-line was an adult one, Tang insisted.
The synopsis of the 1990 movie tells it all: ''When thieves unwittingly release a gas that destroys the ozone layer, animals help a young boy find the source of the problem. A dog sacrifices itself to eliminate the harmful gas. Ultimately, scientists, children and animals work together to save the planet.''
That's China, that's ''cli-fi.''
The end credits at the conclusion of the movie in theaters, Tang noted, included "a long and dull list of pollution statistics, with a clear message: we might have been saved from disaster this time, but China must face up to ongoing environmental degradation.''
"In the 95 minutes of he film, two species became extinct and 2,000 hectares of forest disappeared.” Tang added.
And here's the money graf: "The movie featured crude special effects and some of the plot arrangements are debatable, but it carried a strong moral message. And in 1990 there was no rapidly expanding solar power sector to discuss, the Communist Chinese 'Ministry of Environmental Protection' wouldn’t be established for another 18 years, and Chinese coal consumption wouldn’t plateau for another 23 years."
So where are all the cli-fi movies in China?
"A modern Chinese cli-fi film would help people understand the urgency of this threat to all humanity, and prompt them to take a look at the impacts of their own lifestyles," Tang shared, adding his last sentence as a wake-up call
"As for how to make that into a gripping story -- well, that’s up to China’s movie makers," Tang wrote.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Edited Volume: Empirical Ecocriticism

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Wojciech Malecki, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson & Alexa Weik von Mossner
contact email: 
Call for Papers
Edited Volume: Empirical Ecocriticism
There is a growing consensus across disciplines that narratives are of central importance to our relationships with other humans and nonhumans as well as the broader environment. However, until recently ecocritics have largely relied upon speculation to assess the critical question of the influence of environmental narratives on their audiences. This is due in part to the lack of interdisciplinary cooperation between humanists and social scientists in assessing how environmental narratives across various mediums contribute to our understanding of the world around us and our place in it. So as to better understand this critical question, we are organizing an edited collection dedicated to empirical ecocriticism. We hope that it will begin to address this lacuna, ask valuable empirical, theoretical, and methodological questions, and encourage both ecocritics and environmental social scientists to conduct similar research in the future.

In our definition, empirical ecocriticism is the empirically-grounded study of environmental narrative – in literature, film, television, etc. – and its influence on various audiences. Though we are open to different definitions of what would constitute empirical ecocriticism, we define this field as a fruitful commingling of existing fields of study, such as traditional ecocriticism, the empirical study of literature and art, environmental communication, and environmental psychology. For us, empirical ecocriticism is 1) Empirically grounded. 2) Open to qualitative and exploratory methodologies. 3) Focused on the effects of narrative strategies and techniques, with the kind of depth and nuance that have brought to their research for decades. 4) Features writing that is more engaging than the typical social science paper, since we hope to find an audience among both environmental humanists and social scientists. 5) Open to critical engagement with competing definitions of “empirical” data. For examples of what might constitute empirical ecocriticism, see the following articles:

  • Wojciech Małecki, Bogusław Pawłowski, and Piotr Sorokowski, “Literary fiction influences attitudes toward animal welfare,” PLoS ONE 11.1212 (2016)  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168695
  • Wojciech Małecki, Bogusław Pawłowski, Marcin Cieński, and Piotr Sorokowski, “Can Fiction Make Us Kinder to Other Species? The Impact of Fiction on pro-Animal Attitudes and Behavior.” Poetics 66 (February 2018): 54–63.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2018.02.004
  • Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, “The Influence of Climate Fiction: An Empirical Survey of Readers,” forthcoming in Environmental Humanities 10.2(e-mail for pre-publication copy)

Interested scholars might also consult two recent works that deal with similar questions about the influence of environmental narrative:

  • Scott Slovic and Paul Slovic, Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion, and Meaning in a World of Data (Oregon State University Press, 2015)
  • Alexa Weik von Mossner, Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative (Ohio State University Press, 2017)

We encourage interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations, and are open to various methodologies – qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, historical, mixed, etc. We hope to include work that focuses on the incredible diversity of environmental media in existence today, including but not limited to poetry, short stories, novels, children’s literature, comic books, film, television, cartoons, video games, music, sound art, visual art, dance, and theatre. We also hope to include studies with a range of geographical diversity, speaking to the existence and significance of forms of environmental literature, art, and popular culture that have sometimes been overlooked by Anglophone ecocriticism.

We intend for this book to establish the direction of this field of study for other scholars to follow. It will contain an introduction co-authored by the editors (Wojciech Małecki, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, and Alexa Weik von Mossner); a section that explains the various methodological approaches to empirical ecocriticism; a series of case studies; and two responses, written by senior scholars of ecocriticism. For this call, we are primarily looking for abstracts that describe potential case studies.
If you would like to contribute an essay, please e-mail an abstract of 500 words by September 15, 2018 to Wojciech Małecki (wojciech.malecki@uwr.edu.pl), Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (schneider-mayerson@yale-nus.edu.sg) and Alexa Weik von Mossner (Alexa.WeikvonMossner@aau.at), with “Empirical Ecocriticism Abstract” as the subject. Abstracts should be accompanied by academic CVs. Notification of acceptance will be given by the end of September. Completed essays (written in English) will be expected by June 30, 2019.

Chris Taylor on what comes next.....DEAR 22nd Century ''Anno Donaldo'' A.D.

NOTE FOR 2018 READERS: This is the first in a series of letters to mark a little-known chronological milestone. According to UN data, average life expectancy at birth in 10 countries now exceeds 82 years — meaning babies born in 2018 will likely live to see the 22nd century.
What will the world look like at the other end of these kids' lives, in that not-so-far-off year of 2101? We can glimpse it in today's scientific discoveries, Silicon Valley visions, and even science fiction. But in these letters to the next century, a kind of internet time capsule, we also recognize that our hopes and fears ultimately shape what the future becomes. 

Dear 22nd Century, 
Greetings from America, halfway through 2018. If that location in space and time instantly sends a shiver down your spine, then bravo — it probably means you were paying attention in history class. (Are there still such things as history classes? Lordy, I hope there are.)
Scrolling through the media of our year, I often find myself wondering what you'll make of us. We must look like we've lost our minds: obsessed with a vain man who loves nothing more than being talked about, spreading his self-promoting fantasies even as we laugh at them, filling our articles and memes and feeds with pictures of the same old smarmy face that makes our blood boil. Then doing it again. 
Where does this roller coaster ride end? (Seriously, if you have time travel yet, please reply on this point.) Currently, even in this presidency's quieter moments, we have no earthly clue. How do you remember him? In my more charitable moments, I can imagine the possibility that President Trump is remembered in your time as a wild-card peacemaker whose approach to North Korea somehow worked and defused one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints. 
More likely, I imagine you are more outraged than we are at the children ripped from their parents at the border, the ridiculous trade wars, the failure to denounce Neo-Nazis, the constant, casual disregard for democracy.
Or maybe you don't remember him at all, despite my irritating older generation doing its level best to remind you until our dying breaths.

Here's the disturbing thing about writing to a future more than eight decades hence. First of all, many of my contemporaries would call me optimistic for thinking there are any humans still left in 2101 to receive this message. But if you do exist, and you're doing fine despite it all, it follows that Trump was not the world-ending threat we feared. From a safe distance, if we're lucky, we may seem like nervous alarmists.
As great as that prospect sounds to us (ah, the bliss of a world that doesn't have to think about Trump!), and as much as I would love to have my first letter to you concern our hopes for a high-tech future of equal opportunity amidst gleaming spires -- some kind of real-life Wakanda, a dream city that is apparently closer to reality than we think -- we have to talk about this elephant in the room first.
My modest utopian hope, then, is that you remember our time as a cautionary tale. Oh [insert your most popular deity here], those Trump-era [insert your most popular curse word here]! How could they even come close to electing the least competent leader of what [was/is] the most powerful country on Earth, and at the worst possible time?
Science-denying just when climate change started to bite, tyrant-loving just when democracy needed a boost, race-baiting at a time of growing diversity, truth-shredding back when social media was too dumb to stop amplifying lies -- all these traits in an egomaniacal septuagenarian game show host? And 63 million of us gave him the power to fire off nuclear weapons at will? What were we thinking?
(What indeed. Let me be the first to answer what I think will become a common question: hey old-timer, what did you do during the 2016 election? To which I'll reply: I didn’t do it! It wasn’t me! I sounded the alarm about him winning a year before the election, and I have the receipts!)

It feels odd, aiming to be remembered as a relic from an age that will live in infamy. It isn’t what we would have asked for. But the alternatives are worse.
One very dire scenario is that America in 2101 is a Trumpocracy, a banana republic presided over by a hopelessly corrupt government passed down from generation to generation; a monarchy in all but name. In this future, thanks to Betsy DeVos and her successors, the education system has been dismantled. History is whatever Dear Leader Barron Trump the Second says it is in his daily tweetstorm, and 2018 is remembered merely as Year Two.
Call this the Idiocracy scenario, if you know that old movie. (If not, fire it up immediately on your favorite neural search engine. And let us hope you still enjoy it as parody, rather than a prediction.) 
Personally, I don’t buy any future scenario that relies purely on diminishing intelligence. There's a trend of year-on-year growth in our average IQ scores. It's called the Flynn effect, it appears to be constant, and it would be tough to reverse, even for a committed kakistocrat like DeVos. Consider: clear majorities of Americans, both in 2016 and 2018, oppose Trump. The gaslighting is constant, but it is not working. 
We may have been temporarily blind-sided in 2016 — partly by old media eager for Trump ratings, partly by a new media landscape where not enough people knew which news websites they could trust. But we're smarter and better informed than one flukey electoral college victory makes us appear, and to change that would require government censorship of media beyond the dreams of Trump. 

We may get that in a second scenario that sees a darker future based on Trump's fundamentalist following. Let's say Vice President Mike Pence takes over and is able to keep this white evangelical base fired up. But he adds to that the style of a folksy preacher, a televangelist, and he's better at soothing the fears of a nation that doesn't like to be embarrassed in front of other countries.
America could be so grateful for that — the gift of not having to pay attention, the feeling of having an adult at the wheel — it might not notice itself slipping into a theocracy, slowly banishing alternate points of view under the banner of God. (Here is where DeVos' mania for religious homeschooling could come in handy.) 
And at that point we're basically in the timeline foreseen by the 20th century's foremost future historian, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. In 1953, Heinlein described a folksy, racist, populist TV preacher winning the White House with a minority of the popular vote — in the election of 2012. (What's four years' difference at that many decades' distance, right?) This president then "needed stormtroopers" and so "revived the Ku Klux Klan in all but name." America's economy stagnated, and elections soon became a thing of the past. 
"The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed," Heinlein warned. His theocracy's control was so complete that the Resistance didn't overturn it ... until the 22nd century. 
The title of Heinlein's book? Revolt in 2100. 

Trouble is, the Trump family can’t go eight minutes without tripping itself up, let alone eight decades. Pence may be more subtle, but he too has made a lot of unforced errors. My guess is that sheer incompetence, that inability to reach out beyond their base, will turf them out of power much sooner than later. 
And that leads us to the scenario where you've forgotten the lesson.
Let's say the system works. We remove the bull from the china shop before he can do too much damage. The courts overturn his cruel whims towards immigrant families; The Congress we elect this November subpoenas his tax returns, investigates the hell out of every quid pro quo arrangement with a foreign government, and lays the groundwork for impeachment. Or maybe we have to work a little harder, but with a steadfast coalition of the majority, we finally get rid of him via the ballot box in 2020. 
From your perspective, it doesn't really matter which year we oust him. Either way, for you, it’s ancient history. With the benefit of hindsight, he becomes more of a joke — or for the conspiracy-minded, a martyr. Perhaps that wholeStormy Daniels affair will make for a heck of a Hollywood historial comedy one day, if Hollywood is still a thing. 
The worst of all possible timelines will come if nothing changes about the system that allowed Trump to rise in the first place. Because if the danger doesn’t seem real to you, it will eventually happen again. 
History tends to work in cycles, and next time we might not be so lucky. The next charismatic populist demagogue to successfully exploit the electoral system, to command global media attention with shocking statements, may not be as old as Trump, or as batshit incompetent. 

Today, with Trump tearing up international agreements left and right, the possibility of his future irrelevance is hard to fathom. We take it for granted that the world will long remember his blundering decisions — pardoning political allies, maybe even pardoning himself; making shady and still unclear deals with foreign powers; endangering a hard-won deal that prevented nuclear proliferation; planning to quit a crucial climate change club that contains literally every other country on the planet. That all of this could seriously affect the lives of future generations seems self-evident. 
By the dawn of your century, our experts project sea levels will rise anywhere from 0.6 to 6.6 feet and displace or drown millions, while extreme weather across the globe will ravage untold millions more. The greenhouse gases we emit, the carbon dioxide that Trump is happy for the world to emit in ever greater amounts, you will pay for. As I wrote this, scientists revealed the ice of Antarctica is melting twice as fast as we previously thought, and the previous rate was already alarming. Has any generation in history seen more clearly the disaster that was about to unfold for another?
Yet for all his bluster, Trump may be just a blip — even when it comes to the climate. As you can see in the chart above, we're still in the early days of 21st century carbon dioxide emissions. So much depends on what happens in November 2020, which will see not just the next presidential election, but the U.S. potentially leaving the Paris Climate Accord. While Trump announced the exit in 2017, it will take four years to officially untie the knot. 
Depending largely on his 2020 opponent, we could rejoin the Paris Agreement a couple of months after it expires. And you may know the name Trump about as well as today’s kids know the name of another (relatively less) corrupt president, Warren G. Harding — who is about as far in our past as you are in our future. Heck, some of them don’t even recall what George W. Bush did. (That’s a whole other letter.)
Now, future irrelevance would be the most fitting fate for an ego-driven buffoon who is only happy when he’s being talked about. But it would also mean we haven’t done enough to break the cycle of corruption and idiocy/

I’m far from the only one wondering about Trump’s long-term meaning to future generations. Last month we learned about Trumpmore, a science/art project in Finland. It’s currently raising money to carve Trump’s face into a 115-foot-high Arctic iceberg. “Let’s build the biggest ice monument ever to test if climate change is real,” reads the intentionally ironic statement on the project’s website. “Will it melt, or last a thousand years?”
You know better than I whether this was actually constructed and how long it survived. I suppose if by some miracle it didn’t melt, if our settled science of CO2 and climate change has missed some key long-term factor, having a thousand-year Trump ice sculpture in the Arctic would be a small price to pay for a more stable world.

But, spoiler alert: It’s going to melt. You’re probably not able to book an arctic vacation and snap a holographic selfie with it, sorry. We can predict the climate of the 22nd century with far more confidence than we can predict how many more wheels will come off the presidency next week. (Not even the most foolhardy forecaster would take that commission.)
And that leads me to wonder what longer-lasting public monuments we should leave to remind you of this guy and all the ills he intended (whether or not he was ever punished for them.) Obviously Trump’s own suggestion that he be placed on Mount Rushmore -- likely a joke, but who knows? — is a non-starter. But maybe there’s something to the idea of a smaller-scale statue, one that the public is allowed to deface as it sees fit.

I’m reminded of the protege of media expert Marshall McLuhan, a guy who once suggested that atomic warheads should be placed in town squares around the world as a constant reminder to humanity of its common enemy, the thing that might destroy it. (Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan, I’m sure.) 
Should we place statues of Trump in every town, as a warning? Here, world, remember what happens when enough of us are fooled by a charismatic grifter. Remember what happens when we prize outsider status and bomb-throwing comments, and forget things like temperament and intelligence.
Not to draw a direct comparison here — do you still have a thing called Godwin’s law? — but I remember the first time I saw the waxwork of a certain German dictator in Madame Tussaud’s in London. It had been placed at the entrance to the dungeon inside a perspex case. Which was necessary, I discovered, because every other tourist wanted to spit on him. 

This was a key childhood memory; I knew the basics about that period of history, but this was the first time I’d seen the emotional legacy; the unbridled, universal disgust, especially on the faces of those old enough to have fought him. Whatever that man represented, I understood, that’s what we don’t want to be.
In a country currently removing monuments to a hated Confederate past, however, a statue might send the wrong message. What would tell a more unambiguous story, I wondered? Then it hit me.
A fire. 

Raging, destructive, orange, consumed by its own short-term desire for oxygen, and in the long run, something that forces nature to fight back.
As it happens, former FBI director James Comey compared Trump to a fire at the end of his book, A Higher Loyalty. “Yes, the current president will do significant damage in the short term,” he writes:
“Important norms and traditions will be damaged by the flames. But forest fires, as painful as they can be, bring growth. They spur growth that was impossible before the fire, when old trees crowded out new plants on the forest floor. In the midst of this fire, I already see new life — young people engaged as never before, and the media, the courts, academics, nonprofits and all other parts of civil society finding reason to bloom. The fire also offers an opportunity to rebalance power among the three branches of our government, closer to the model the founders intended. There is reason to believe this fire will leave the presidency weaker and Congress and the courts stronger, just as the forest fire of Watergate did. There is a lot of good in that.”
Surely fire is the appropriate metaphor, then. We need some sort of fire-based monument to make sure 22nd century Americans stay engaged with politics, too. Something that will remind us: no more Watergates, especially not the stupid version. 
I’m not suggesting anything like the John F. Kennedy eternal flame in Arlington National Cemetery, but its polar opposite. Something far more appropriate to the subject. Something that will remind us of what is probably the most-used GIF of the Trump age.

shoptalk at ica


SHOPTALK: 

OVERHEARD AT ICA



This May 2-18 some 3,500 ''scholars'' 
descended on Prague for the 
International Communications Association Conference. 
In between the thousands of
 wide-ranging media- and comm-savvy 
presentations and amid a surprising 
heat wave and limited AC, 
peripatetic ''academics'' found themselves musing 
over potential career changes and rapidly 
diminishing reception provisions. 
Read on for communicators’ comments 
on everything ranging from shoes 
to #altac to casual sexism at ICA.

1. Person 1: “I went to a really great talk like 15 minutes ago.”
Person 2: “Oh? What about?”
Person 1: “I honestly can’t remember.”

2. Person 1: “You really have to be out there now. You can’t just 
publish, you have to be a public intellectual. You need social media.”
Person 2: “I tried academic Twitter in 2014. It didn’t work.”

3. “They are stopping people at the door of the Annenberg party. 
I think we have to prove affiliation this year because 
they are running out of food.”

4. Person 1: “Sometimes I’m not sure about academia.”
Person 2: “Florida State University has an amazing circus program.”

5. “The best cure for too much Czech beer is Scotch.”

6. Person 1: “I haven’t seen anything yet at ICA that fulfills 
my hope of a real-time American Chopper meme.”
Person 2: “After this weekend my blood is like 50% Pilsner, 
so if you come to my talk tomorrow I think I can deliver.”

7. Person 1: “I’m fine. I took a three-hour nap last night.”
Person 2: “Isn’t that just called ‘going to bed’?”

8. “I mean, I read [journal name redacted] because I’m the 
editor and I have to, but I wouldn’t read it otherwise.”

9. Male senior scholar [to young female colleagues]: “You’d have 
done well with [famous scholar]. He really liked to have 
women in his class. 
He especially liked when they were young and feisty, 
like yourselves.”

10. “You go to these big discipline-wide conferences 
early in your career so that you can never have to do it again.”

11. “Look how nice and not-at-all-cut-throat colleagues 
can be when you get out of the US.”

12. Person 1: “I just feel like a 
larger-than-I’m-comfortable-with-portion of this 
conference wants to work for Google.”
Person 2: “How can you tell?
Person 1: “By their shoes.”

This article was commissioned by Mary Zaborskis. icon
Featured image: Henri Adolphe Laissement, Cardinals in the Antechamber of the Vatican (1895). Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Margaret Atwood's Tips for Authors

Margaret Atwood's Tips for Cli-Fi Authors

Posted by Arthur Gutch 
June 14, 2018 

Margaret Atwood began her literary life as a poet, but it's as a novelist who wrote fiction with strong social commentary that she's become world-famous. Her book The Handmaid's Tale was made into a movie in 1990 and is currently in its second season as a hit series on Hulu. Atwood is a traditionalist when it comes to writing, but has always been kind enough to give advice to budding authors who are trying to break into the business. Margaret_Atwood_Writing_Tips

Don't Listen to the Critics
Atwood says that she's had multiple critics, from early teachers to modern professional book critics, who claimed they couldn't see any talent in her. She advises authors to listen to their own voice and keep writing, improving rather than giving up.

Start However You Can
When Atwood began writing, there wasn't much competition, especially for poets in Canada in the 1960's. Audiences were small and it was hard to get published, but if you were any good you were bound to get discovered. The key was to keep on writing and publishing until someone took note. Now there are multiple ways to be published, from traditional publishing houses to self-publishing online. Writing is writing, and she advises authors to get published in whatever way works for them.

According to Margaret Atwood, what you read is as important as what you write. It's key for authors to read in their own genre, to find out where the niches are going and what important changes are happening in that world. 

Keep the Pitfalls in Mind
According to Atwood, "writing is a gambler’s profession. There is no guarantee of anything. You can put in a lot of time, a lot of effort, invest a great deal of emotional energy, and nothing may come out of it. There are no guarantees. So, unless one is fairly committed and willing to make that investment, don’t do it." Everyone's got a chance, but there is no sure path to success. All you can do is to keep working and putting your work in front of the readers.

The Best Story Ideas are Questions
Atwood states that story ideas come from all over, but that her best ones always begin in the form of questions. For instance, The Handmaid's Tale began as a couple of questions: "If you were going to take over the United States, how would you do it?" and "How would you get women back in the home, now that they're not there all the time anymore? How will you make them go back if they don't want to?" Ask yourself some outrageous "what if" questions to find some truly great plot ideas.

Keep the Faith and may the Force be with You!