Just a question that I probably should have asked before, but is anyone else from this class keeping their blogs? Mine existed before the class so I’ll definitely be keeping it; I just thought it might be a good way to keep in touch for those who aren’t on Facebook, etc.
Turned in my final portfolio in senior seminar today. What does that mean to you? Well…no more reading my homework on my blog, for one thing!
The project was a learning experience, and not just in terms of the research I did. I had an Alfred Hitchcock moment with it on Monday. By that, I don’t mean that I was a master of suspense. Rather, I’m referring to Hitchcock’s propensity to just throw a scene or even an entire project away when it’s clearly not working. After all, why waste precious time and other resources on something that’s just not going to be any good no matter what you do?
So I did it to my own project. It was a multi-genre project, and it ended up looking nothing like the proposal I’d written. I did the formal paper part about participatory fandom. For the second genre, I was going to do a small fanzine, and for the third, I was going to do a photo essay of sorts if I had time.
Nothing came together the way I hoped or planned. So I was faced with a deadline an the prospect of turning in something I wasn’t happy with. I couldn’t do it. So I was up until 3:00 this morning creating something completely different — something I’m much happier with. I feel it does a much better job of what I intended to do — demystifying participatory fandom — than a fanzine would any way. And I should have known that even the smallest zine couldn’t be done in a month or so, at least not one that lives up to my standards.
So, I’ve learned to let go (to a point) and be okay with it.
Originally posted on Auxiliary Memory:
What started as a review of American Science Fiction: The Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, has put me on a quest to organize my memories of the great science fiction books, decade by decade, and year by year. Back in the mid-90s I created The Classics of Science Fiction website. Then I wrote The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of the 20th Century about the science fiction books that people who don’t read science fiction might know. I’m preoccupied with how people remember science fiction, well at least the literary form. Recently I wrote The Defining Science Fiction Books of the 1960s which is getting more hits than usual for my blog, so that makes me think other people are like me – looking back, trying to remember all their favorite science fiction books from childhood.
For those science fiction fans who really love reading about the great books of science fiction, I highly recommend reading Anatomy of Wonder edited by Neil Barron, now in it’s 5th edition. It’s a very expensive book, designed for library reference, so it’s cheaper to get used copies of the older editions. Go to the Amazon link I provided with the title and click on Look Inside to see what it’s like. Neil Barron and his contributors are doing what I’m doing here, but exhaustively, scholarly, and providing a summary description for each book. If you really love science fiction and want to read about the best books from the past, this book is for you. You can get used copies of older editions for less than $5 at Abebooks.com. Editions were 1976, 1981, 1987, 1995, 2004. Aim for the latest edition you can afford. I hope a 6th edition comes out soon.
Senior Seminar is winding down, and now we’re on to the assignment in which we read non-Western literature. The work we agreed on, Persepolis, is a graphic novel…although yesterday, we struggled with the fact that this is not an accurate category for the simple fact that the book is autobiographical. Is it a memoir? Is it a novel for the simple fact that it can’t all be true and the people and events have gone through the filter of the author’s own perception.
Through the discussion, I mentioned that graphic texts work like storyboards for me, so I am inclined to think of this text in terms of film and not literature. If Persepolis was a film, I thought to myself, I’d know exactly what to call it. I immediately thought of documentary film, because even in that genre, we still struggle with the question of, “What is ‘Truth’?” As I mentioned in previous posts, the closest to “truth” a filmmaker can get is to set up a camera and just let it start rolling, let whatever transpires unfold in front of it without interference. However, even that goes through the filter of the filmmaker’s perception. Someone has to decide where to set up the camera. Someone has to decide what direction to point the camera. Someone has to set up the shot. These are all decisions made for the viewer, but we still accept it as truth enough to be considered “documentary.” Furthermore, documentaries come in all sorts of flavors — advocacy, propaganda, educational, cinema verite, etc. Some of these even allow for reenactments to be played out by actors, and yet we don’t not consider them to be documentaries. In documentary, we accept that the story is sometimes going to be told through a specific lens, that one point of view can be privileged over another. It doesn’t make it “wrong,” it just means that it’s one way of looking at the subject.
Another way we could make a film about someone’s life is to produce a biopic. In comparison to a documentary, we accept that there will be a certain manipulation of the “truth” in a biopic for the sake of dramatic/narrative value. Take Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, for example. The film gets much of Wood’s life right, but there are obvious exaggerations and embellishments. For example, I haven’t found any evidence that Bela Lugosi used to swear a lot…but Martin Landau’s portrayal of him in Burton’s film sure was funny when he dropped all those f-bombs. That this film about Wood’s life was made after the fact is not what separates a biopic from a documentary; rather, it’s because of all the creative and dramatic license that was taken with it for the sake of telling a good story. This does not make it a complete work of fiction, just a fictionalized account of someone’s life story.
Some biographies, on the other hand, are actual documentaries. Most of the biographies you see on the Biography Channel, for example, would count as documentaries — interviews, photos, and other “evidence” from those who were actually involved contribute to the telling of the person’s story.
Persepolis, in fact, has been made into a film, so I turned to its IMDB.com page to see if that provided any clarity. It’s categorized under “animation,” “biography,” and “drama.” It wasn’t as helpful as I thought it would be. I have not seen the film, but I get a distinct “biopic” feeling from the site because the words were “animation” and “drama” were used.
Where has this left me? It’s left me a lot less certain of how I’d categorize a film adaptation of this book. I was ready to accept Persepolis as a literary documentary because we are getting the story from the source. Does the fact that it’s drawn make it less credible? Not to me…but perhaps it does to IMDB? Or has the story been embellished enough by its author that it now crosses over into “literary biopic” status, despite the fact that it’s the author’s own story she’s embellishing.
I doubt I’ll be any closer to these answers when I’ve finished the book.
Much like the other discussions we’ve been having about our futures, the preparation of my resume has sent me oscillating between a clear sense of direction and tears.Dr. Tange suggested a skills-based resume because I have 25 years of experience in the work force, just very little of it directly relevant to teaching. It sounds good — after all, I’ve got some “mad skillz” — but somehow, when I see it all distilled down to a single sheet of paper, I feel woefully inadequate.
Am I alone here? I would like to know what some of my classmates think. Heck, I’d like to hear what anyone who’s been in this situation thinks.
Awesome post for any sci-fi lover to read!
Originally posted on Auxiliary Memory:
In 1963, when I was 12, science fiction began imprinting on my brain, so that science fiction from the 1950s is how I define the genre. All science fiction novels I’ve read in the succeeding fifty years are measured against those stories I first discovered in my early teens. That’s why I so completely understand the statement, “the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12.” Younger generations of science fiction fans have since imprinted on science fiction via television shows like Star Trek, or movies like Star Wars, and even later forms of the genre that I don’t even understand like comics and video games. Science fiction is very hard to pigeon-hole because its so radically different from generation to generation. For me, science fiction is defined by certain books I first read in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and most of those were first published in the 1950s. I discovered 1950s science fiction in libraries, as cheap paperbacks on wire racks, in dusty used bookstores, and most of all by joining the Science Fiction Book Club which often promoted the classic books from the 1950s.
Sad to say, many modern science fiction fans don’t know about the science fiction I point to when I think science fiction. That time is so far in the past that the Library of America has even published American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, a two-volume boxed set, edited by Gary K. Wolfe. The collection is almost an academic preservation of old, mostly forgotten, science fiction novels.
In Senior Seminar, we’ve been devoting more time to the big question of “What do I do next?”
Despite some jitters, I think my plan is still solid. I am trying to make myself valuable to two departments (English and Communications, Media, and Theater Arts) with the ultimate goal of teaching writing in the Electronic Media and Film Studies discipline. I will take media studies electives as I pursue my written communication degree. At some point, I really need to address that question of the PhD. Everyone keeps telling me that I have time, that I don’t have to answer that question now. It’s hard to leave it at that for now, though. I finally have concrete goals in terms of what I want to do for the rest of my life. I almost can’t not try to answer that question now.
I thought this decision-making thing was supposed to get easier.