Non Fiction Friday – Stage the Future!

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For those who don’t know, I’m doing my PhD on Science Fiction and Theatre. When I mention it, I get one of 2 responses. One is often “Oh… I see. Are you going to write an SF novel?” to “Oh my gosh! Fantastic! I’ve always wanted to see SF in theatres!”. I have received more of the latter (although I am going to write an SF novel, but primarily my interest is on the theatrical side), and so am very privileged to be celebrating the combination of the two with Christos Callow Jr. for our conference Stage the Future.

There has been little written on the subject, it has to be said. We have Science Fiction and the Theatre by Ralph Willingham, although with some good mentions of cognitive estrangement, has an apologetic tone and casts certain stereotypes over SF and subsequently, its staging. We also have Staging the Impossible, which does set out to mention the possibilities of staging SF, but in its wake cataloguing a list of defeats. I will be reviewing the two in earnest, do not worry! However, there is a line in the latter that speaks to me(originally from Julius Kargalitski’s essay The Fantastic in Cinema and Theatre):

Consequently, for Kagarlitski, cinema is “an ideal instrument of the fantastic” (11), for it  “excludes any possibility of interference”–in effect offering viewers the sense that “what has been put on film, has, as it were, already happened” (11).

Kagarlitski implies that it is difficult for a theatrical production to “project” such a sense of historicity and thus validate the content of drama. Given this viewpoint, audiences expect less from a production of science fiction in a theater.(Murphy, 198)

There’s something very misleading in this. He mentions in the article that theatre is a conditional art, generating power from the present moment (p10/11). In our “Information Age”, are we not in fact living this SFnal life now? Donna Harraway described us of being Cyborgs in her Manifesto in 1985. We have our information, our footprint, our history in the cloud as it were, our younger generations have their baby photos as purely digital. We are all connected via a grid that, whilst enabling accessibility, erodes our privacy and interaction with the wholly physical world. We are 3D printing human organs, for crying out loud! Is SF then not about exploring our conditional present? Exactly what was being said to dissuade us from staging it in the first place?

Whether you agree or disagree with me, we would love to hear your takes on the subject. Proposals for papers and performance (we couldn’t do one without the other) are welcome with the deadline being Feb 2014. The conference will be held at RHUL, University of London on the 26th April 2014 with our excellent keynote speakers Jen Gunnels and Nick Lowe. You can see our CFP here.

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We look forward to seeing you there!

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