SFCS Director’s Update
I’m pleased to return this academic year as director of the graduate designated emphasis in Speculative Fiction and Cultures of Science (SFCS). More than a credential, the DE in SFCS is part of a research and scholarly interest cluster that represents unique strengths faculty, staff, students, and community members at UCR have cultivated over the years. The fanzines in the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy drew me to UC Riverside back when I was conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, and I’m pleased to be part of the faculty today. Let’s offer some grateful applause to Dr. Sherryl Vint for her awesome leadership of the SFCS programs and her continued support as chair of the Department of English.
The past two years have brought us research and scholarly guidance from some wonderful new colleagues. Two of these new experts are Professor Jalondra Davis, Assistant Professor of English, and Phoenix Alexander, Ph.D., our Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian. Professor Davis, who earned a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UCR with a Designated Emphasis in Science Fiction, previously taught at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State L.A., is a MerWomanist author and public intellectual, and you can learn more about her ongoing work through her publications and podcast. Phoenix Alexander was previously Science Fiction Collections Librarian at the University of Liverpool. He holds a Ph.D. from Yale in English and African American Studies and is also a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Recently, in Spring 2023, SFCS students and faculty took a guided tour of Special Collections and reconnected in person.
We’ve learned a great deal about connecting virtually over the past couple years. As part of our “Science Fiction and…” series co-sponsored with the UCR Palm Desert Center, we welcomed poet Margaret Rhee and weird fiction author Craig Gidney, and we hosted a roundtable featuring SFCS graduate students. SFCS also co-sponsored some hybrid events in the Unarchiving Blackness Mellon Sawyer Seminar (stay tuned for video from these events). Some of the resources we’re now able to explore digitally include the Jay Kay Klein photographs collection, featuring photos from World Science Fiction conventions and other material from decades of fandom.
Learning from fantasy and science fiction at the undergraduate and graduate levels is always exciting. In addition to ENGL 248, the graduate Seminar in Science Fiction, in Winter 2024, look out for: Black Study Prof. Vorris Nunley’s BLKS 123: Reclaiming the Dark, Philosophy Prof. Eric Schwitzgebel’s PHIL 134: Philosophy of Mind, Media & Cultural Studies Prof. Gloria Kim’s MCS 134: Imagining Extreme Environments and MCS 146F: Elemental Media, Prof. Tim Labor’s MCS 003: VR Game Production, and Dance and Black Study Prof. Sage Ni’Ja Whitson’s DNCE 244: Dark Matter(s) in Black Performativities. Remember that undergraduate courses count toward the graduate designated emphasis when you enroll concurrently for grad credits under the course number 292 in the appropriate department, with consent of the instructor and director.
Congratulations to SFCS students have defended their dissertations and earned doctorates. Doctoral students who ~recently completed the DE requirements include Brandy Lewis, Leslie Fernandez, Nicole Furtado, and Samarth Singal, in English, and Yilun Fan and Yu Heng Ko, in Comparative Literature. Among our faculty, Sherryl Vint published (with Jonathan Alexander), Programming the Future: Politics, Resistance, and Utopia in Contemporary Speculative TV, and John Jennings won the Hugo Award (with Damian Duffy) for the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Librarian Phoenix Alexander became editor-in-chief of Vector, journal of the British Science Fiction Association. We’re also proud to report that SFCS students have presented at conferences including: Candyman and the Whole Damn Swarm, an online conference on Black horror hosted by the University of Sheffield with a companion exhibit at UCR Arts, the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (ASAP13), and the Comics Studies Society.
In the coming months, we are collaborating with Cal State L.A. on EagleCon 2023, a conference on speculative fiction across media that brings fantasy, science fiction, and comics creators, TV and film art directors, production designers, and VFX artists, scholars, and fans together. We are also programming a May 2024 conference at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, on Octavia E. Butler’s writings and impact. In the near future, we’ll seek your input to plan events focused on young adult fiction and gaming! You can also keep in touch via our Discord channel (Speculative Fiction UCR), created by some of our own grad students. It’s great to be here. See you in the future!
andré carrington, Director