The History Of The Future Visions From The Past
This was the title of the 20th Conference of the International Association of Media and History, held at Leicester University 16-20th July 2003. As you can imagine from the title, the session had a great deal of SF-related material and was thoroughly enjoyable and informative (Trek Convention-like aspects of the conference were kept to a minimum). The conference included over 100 papers, included an appearance by Gerry Anderson, and concluded with dinner at the National Space Museum in Leicester.
Mike Froggatt went, neglected to present a paper, but did not claim any money back from tax-payers for the experience. He will therefore not stand for any kind of nonsense about wasting government money on frivolous nonsense.
Amongst many interesting SF-related things:
- A discussion of Irish SF cinema, which apparently revolves mainly around short pastiches. We had Father Dougal blowing up mind-controlling aliens and 'Eireville' (yes - it is an Irish-language 'Alphaville' parody) in which a detective arrives in a city where time is permanently stuck at 19:16 and everyone must talk in the past tense. He eventually discovers the disembodied brain of one of those involved in the Easter Rising controls the city. It's very funny, but has a disconcerting lack of either naked people in plastic boxes or booming disembodied voices.
- British academics nearly coming to blows during a debate on George Orwell?, while Americans and continentals looked on in rather bemused silence, obviously not quite realising his significance in the British self-image.
- Unexplained footage of a Dalek bellowing 'BOLLOCKS' at Michael Aspel.
- A screening of 'High Treason', a 1929 British SF film in which war almost breaks out after a shadow cabel of arms-dealers engineer a boot-legging incident between European and American power-blocs. It's up to the World Peace Council to prevent the slide towards disaster.... Stirring stuff, with some absolutely gorgeous 'Metropolis'-like model work.
- A long discussion of Star Trek, involving the word 'diagenic' several times. I have no idea what this means. It isn't a real word. Maybe they meant 'diagenetic'? NB 'diagenetic' - "The process of chemical and physical change in deposited sediment during its conversion to rock"; also, 'digenic' - relating to two genes. Nope, pretty sure they didn't mean either of those - from the context I got the idea that it meant something entirely fictious, generated from within the narrative as opposed to something external ie. the original Trek intro is entirely 'diagenic' whereas the latest series employs numerous 'non-diagenic' elements in its intro. I may well have misheard.MF
- A screening of Peter Watkin's 1971 film 'Punishment Park' made in 1971, in which a group of discontents in an increasingly totalitarian US are interrogated and then run the gauntlet of the open California desert, pursued by vicious, intolerant law enforcement officials. It sounds like numerous crap 1970s SF movies, with the difference the English director employed no professional actors, instead seeking to employ amateurs with political views similar to the characters they played. So red-neck, middle-class, moral-majority police officers really let rip on black dissidents, hippies and pacifists. Incredibly intense and chilling - if you ever get a chance to see it, do. The film is discussed here and appears to now be avaliable on DVD, in which case I recommend an OUSFG screening: http://www.thegline.com/dvd-of-the-week/2003/03-07-2003.htm
- A screening of 'Solaris' alongside a lesser-known Russian SF film of the 1960s, 'Planet of Storms'. Curtains and Swan Lake in space!
- A Dalek interrupting the launch of a book on propaganda and mass persuasion and pursuing numerous startled British academics around the British Space Museum. Again, I think the Europeans and Americans were rather bemused by this....