Director's Report

The Speculative Fiction and Cultures of Science program has navigated this past most science-fictional of years as we have come through the pandemic and look forward to returning to a campus this Fall. During the pandemic we remained active in online events, launching the SF& series in collaboration with the Center for Ideas and Society and UCR Extension. During the 2020-2021 academic year, we held conversations about Climate Change with Kim Stanley Robinson and Gerry Canavan, and about Economics and Inequality with Hugh C. O’Connell and Malka Older. The SF& series will return this Fall with more online events and, circumstances permitting, will host a live event at the Palm Desert Campus in January 2022 featuring the work of our fabulous graduate students.

 The program welcomes two new members to our community, Dr. Weihsin Gui and Dr. andré carrington, both Associate Professor of English. Dr. Gui is a long-time member of the UCR English Department whose research has recently included speculative fiction and comic books, especially work by Malaysian and Singaporean writers and artists. Author of the book Speculative Blackness, Dr. carrington has recently joined UCR from Drexel University and his work focuses on the intersections of Black culture and science fiction. For more information about him, please see the interview with him here.

The SFCS students met actively through the summer of 2020 to cultivate a sense of community despite the social distancing measures required for health: we held a regular joint writing session to ensure we all continued to make progress on our research, and hosted conversations about books, including Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s Becoming Human (2020) and Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring (1998).

Speaking of Professor Hopkinson, we are saddened that she is leaving UCR to start a new position at the University of British Columbia in Canada in their School of Creative Writing. Her contributions to this program are enormous and it is with regret that we wish her well in her new position. At the same time, however, it is wonderful news for the field overall that among her duties at UBC will be to help establish a center for the Black Speculative Imagination. This project aligns with the initiative we have jointly undertaken in the SFCS program here at UCR, and we look forward to many more wonderful years of collaboration across programs.

As we continue to prepare for the return to campus in Fall, we look forward to welcoming our incoming cohort of graduate students, whose research will continue the program’s focus on diverse cultures of speculation. The student profiles section of our website provides details about the range of transformative, politically engaged, and field-defining projects our graduate students are pursuing as part of this program.

We also look forward in the 2021-2022 academic year to further developing our minor program for undergraduate students, and to working on ways to integrate the program across academic levels. The last year has taught us all what a powerful paradigm sf provides for understanding and critiquing our contemporary world and the challenges it gives us. In the spirit of the utopian studies discourse which anchors work in sf, we are excited to contribute this year not to a return to “normal”—which always left too many people out of its status quo—but to building something better to take the place of this old and inadequate normal.

—Sherryl Vint, Director
August 20, 2021