My annual trip to the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Associations (SWTX PCA)conference is coming up February 7-12, and we’re returning to Albuquerque this year after a detour to San Antonio, TX last year to join with the national association. Last year, I was blessed to see people I don’t normally see at SWTX (many of whom I only see every other year at the Whedon Studies Association conference), but I did miss Albuquerque! Dear, sweet, quirky Albuquerque with your always-warmer-than-Nebraska-in-February-but-never-as-warm-as-I-expect-with-your-high-altitude weather, your Noodle Bar & Brazilian Grill & awesome Mexican food (yum!), and name that I haven’t learned how to spell accurately on the first attempt in the last five years.
It’s an exciting year, both for me and for the conference as a whole. I’ll be presenting a paper that’s been brewing for a while: “(Hu)Man and Machine: The Regressive Gender Politics of Artificial Intelligence in SyFy’s Eureka.” Eureka is a funny show; it tries to be both a almost-utopic community, using the tried-and-true sci-fi approach to commenting on traditional social injustice of “it’s so not an issue we don’t even have to talk about it” (at least in relation to race and gender). But then along come the always endearing and usually slightly crazy AIs… (Spoiler!) Why, oh why, Eureka, do your AIs who are personified as female go off the rails in stereotypically “crazy lady” or “crazy wife” or “crazy mother” ways? Sensing a theme, yet?
For the conference itself, the Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) area, of which I am an area co-chair, has a whopping seventeen panels to our credit this year on topics ranging from general Science Fiction & Fantasy to Supernatural to The Works of Joss Whedon to SFF Literature to Game of Thrones. And speaking of George R.R. Martin’s epic novel series turned into hit HBO drama, the conference and the SFF area are hosting a special presentation by David Peterson, the linguist who created the Dothraki language for the television series. Mr. Peterson’s talk will be Friday night, February 10, 7:00-9:30pm at the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency. Tickets will be $10 at the door, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society of New Mexico (OR: www.cancer.org).