Interesting questions

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These questions were posed by the Journal of Popular Romance Studies (I like them!):

Why does the paranormal, in its myriad representations, resonate so strongly with pop culture consumers, particularly in its juxtaposition with romance? 

 What can the paranormal romance teach us about contemporary understandings of gender, sexuality, race, the body, hybridity, genre, and the market?

How do paranormal settings, characterizations, attributes, etc. facilitate interrogations and re-imaginings of gender, sexuality, and/or intimacy?

How are paranormal characterizations informed by existing cultural narratives about race, ethnicity, and national identity?

How do paranormal romances use characters’ non-human or not-fully-human status to represent beyond-normative bodies, sex and/or violence?

What assumptions or anxieties play out in contentions over the generic boundaries of paranormal romance and its relationship to other (sub-)genres?

How does the generic hybridity of paranormal romance affect dynamics within texts, between texts and readers, and/or in the marketing of texts?

Who are the consumers of paranormal romance? How do blogs and online communities of paranormal romance writers and fans reflect and shape the genre?

http://jprstudies.org/submissions/special-issue-call-for-papers/

More urban change questions

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More interesting questions about humans and cities and nature…

“What is the relationship between humans and nature? How does this question play out in the specific micro-environments of cities?” (p.71)

Ref: Nicholas Low, Brendan Gleeson, Ray Green and Darko Radovic (2005) The Green city: Sustainable homes, sustainable suburbs. Routledge, Abingdon and New York; and UNSW Press, Sydney

urban change questions

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These questions are posed in the context of sustainable urban development, but I think them both interesting and relevant to fictional concerns (perhaps especially those of urban fantasy and fiction more generally?):

“Ultimately,” write, “the green city will reflect a rather different future for work. On this topic there are some very large questions: can a future of cities competing against one another in world markets be reconciled with a benign future for the environment? What are the limits of competition and how can they be enforced? Does economic growth itself have limits? How can growth be steered into environmentally benign forms of production? What forms of governance are required to regulate world markets in order to guarantee social security and environmental conservation? How do culture, place and climate influence work patterns, and consequently the physical accommodation of work?” (p.132)

Ref: Nicholas Low, Brendan Gleeson, Ray Green and Darko Radovic (2005) The Green city: Sustainable homes, sustainable suburbs. Routledge, Abingdon and New York; and UNSW Press, Sydney

Mapping Suburban Fiction – Long

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I’ve just been reading an interesting article by Christian Long on the (general) absence of travel between work and the suburbs in suburban fiction – and what might be read into this absence.

Long begins by aligning two quotes in a way I find quite powerful: “Suburbanization, probably more than any other single factor, hid the poor from view … Suburbanization nourished the solipsism of the middle class, which looked around its new environment and concluded, short-sightedly, that it was alone in America.” (Barbara Ehrenreich, quoted p.193)
Then you make a map of the book, and everything changes.” (Franco Moretti, quoted p.193)

Long then goes on to write: “…the suburbs are more than cookie-cutter tract houses and depersonalizing offices; they also are the roads and rails on which suburbanites ride. In spite of the practical importance of commuting, of all the routine segments of everyday suburban life, moments of transit seem most prone to disappearance from fictional narratives and their critical engagements. The critical history of suburban literature more often than not defines suburb/suburbia/suburban/suburbanite/suburbanization in terms of houses, workplaces, and the discursive regimes that order them, drawing a line between the urban world of work and the suburban world of ‘home.’” (pp.193-194)

Long proposes that we might “redirect examination of suburban fiction outside and beyond the bounds of houses and workplaces. By ignoring representations of in-between moments like commuting to get to the easy pickings of the ranch house or copy room, we risk ignoring an important factor of suburban life—that is, all the time and space spent coming and going.” (p.194)

“[Sinclair Lewis’s] George Babbitt’s attention to the space within which he commutes models an active engagement with his environment—an engagement that pays attention to the economic inequality embodied within the built landscape. In contrast, representative post-war suburban fictions like The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and The Corrections narratively and formally normalize a disconnection from the spaces between home and work, between the suburbs and the city. In these narratives—which represent the standard suburban narrative of American culture—the protagonist shuttles between the conflicts of suburban life—at home and at work—with as little interference from the built environment as possible.” (p.194)

“While suburban literature thickly describes domestic-house space and office-work space, maps of Babbitt, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, and The Corrections reveal that between the house and office lies a nearly-blank, unrepresented space. Such empty space on the map represents a blind spot in the suburban imaginary: inequality. Recognizing the space between suburb and city—both narratively and as a critical reading strategy—makes it possible to understand the history of suburban discourses and to challenge the inevitability of the current sprawling, stratified suburban way of life in America.” (p.195)

“…this separation of home and work also generates a blindness to the in-between spaces through which suburbanites travel—highways, bridges, streets, sidewalks, trains, trolleys, and even subways—and a similar blindness to the price non-suburbanites pay for the convenience of that infrastructure. Deconstructing the home-work binary allows us to understand and highlight that price, to uncover the hidden structures of exploitation and inequality which the conventional account of postwar suburbia glides over.” (pp.194-195)

Reading this, I was wondering how urban fantasy deals with this space between suburb and city (if, indeed, it does)…?

Note: Long also points us to the following work: “The best book-length analysis of suburban fiction I have found—Catherine
Jurca’s White Diaspora: The Suburbs and the Twentieth-Century American Novel—uses a metaphor of movement.” (p.194)

Reference: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Christian Long (2013) ‘Mapping Suburban Fiction’ Journal of Language, Literature and Culture 6(3)Dec, 193-213 DOI 10.1179/2051285613Z.00000000019

Abstract: “In spite of the practical importance of commuting to everyday suburban life, moments of commuting are rare in American fiction. While the experience of commuting offers chances for reflection and self-knowledge for the suburbanite’s psyche, that time for introspection comes at the cost of ignoring the built environment. The separation of home and work that the often-elided moments of commuting perpetuate generates a blindness to the suburban built environment and infrastructure. This article redirects an examination of suburban fiction outside and beyond the bounds of houses and workplaces by paying attention to scenes of commuting. Placing the space between home and work at the centre of the analysis allows us to understand and highlight the price of the suburban way of life, and to uncover the hidden structures of exploitation and inequality which a conventional account of post-war suburbia glides over.”

Quotes referenced more fully as: Barbara Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (New York: Harper
Perennial, 1989), 42.

and: Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (London: Verso, 2005), 36.

The future of cities – Batty

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In a recent editorial, Michael Batty states that “Suddenly, ‘cities’ have become the hottest topic on the planet.” (p.191). (The ‘Suddenly’ caught my eye – in surprise – but he qualifies this marker in terms of recent government activity.)

“Some of this interest [in the city] is undoubtedly due to the fact that we recently passed the point when, according to official statistics, more than 50% of the world’s population are now deemed to be living in some sort of city; in short, the point where more than 50% of global population is urbanised (UN, 2008), although it is arguable that this point was actually passed some time ago at the end of the last century. Definitional matters aside, it appears that by the end of this century most of the world’s population will be urbanised and, to all intents and purposes, will be living in ‘cities’ (Batty, 2011). But a stronger force for elevating cities to the point where they become the focus of interest is that the largest cities—world cities if you like—now appear to be acting more like city-states, driving economic development and  acting on a global stage that cuts across the nation-state in ways that are confusing, liberating,  and confounding.

Yet the most powerful force in this revival of interest in cities is undoubtedly the transition from a world based on energy to one based on information: from an industrial to a postindustrial world where the majority of pursuits are information based and where many previous occupations involving agriculture and manufacturing will be entirely automated. Most of our cities still reflect the built environment shells that were appropriate to a previous era, one wedded to the internal combustion engine, to an industrial base that in many places contained over half the workforce, and to patterns of living that tended to reinforce localities rather than more distant places. However, what takes place in our cities is now very different from the economic and social activities that defined them at the end of the 19th century. Most manufacturing employment has disappeared from more developed countries and, in any case, there has been a progressive loss of jobs due to automation in the manufacturing industries that have moved offshore in the last fifty years. Agriculture is now highly automated and it is very likely that it will be completely so by the end of this century; what will remain in terms of traditional farming lifestyles will be in small but persistent pockets of deep rural poverty amidst a much wider sea of cities where occupations will be essentially urban.” (p.191)

One of the major reasons why big cities have come back onto the agenda is because they are now regarded as the places where the future will be defined. In an increasingly competitive global world, cities are seen as the hot spots in terms of business, economic vibrancy, wealth and of course, as they have always been, the sources of economic and political power.” (p.192)

“…until quite recently, our love affair with the city was highly muted despite a longstanding recognition that cities were the keystones to the economy. In fact most of the 20th century was a reaction against the idea of the industrial city which was seen as an evil, polluted, sprawling place, out of control. Our planning then, and even now, was very much to contain the city by green belts, to disperse its functions to new towns, to regenerate activity at a regional rather than urban level.” (p.192)

“There is, however, one clear message in thinking about future cities: it is that such analysis and study should concentrate on the multiple repercussions over time and space that now characterise change in the contemporary city.” (p.194)

I can’t help wondering where urban fantasy fits in this picture.

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Michael Batty (2013) Editorial Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, volume 40, pages 191 – 194

Planning the Night-time City

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I’m interested in the experience of nighttime and nightscapes (especially urban ones). In that vein, Anne Vogelpohl’s review of Marion Roberts’ and Adam Eldridge’s Planning the Night-time City (London: Routledge, 2009) caught my eye.

Vogelpohl writes: “An expansion of the night-time economy, an increasing everydayness of late-night work and leisure activities, tourism and changing household-structures—these are major driving forces behind the ‘night-time city’ according to Marion Roberts and Adam Eldridge.” (p.2203) “In order to develop possible relationships [between town planning’s and urban design’s skills in England and Wales], the authors set out by unfolding the various aspects of night life in the public realm from lighting to work habits to narratives on the night….” (p.2203)

“Roberts and Eldridge are very considerate of regarding the heterogeneous, contested and contradictory character of a city’s night….” (p.2203) “The tensions between fear and pleasure, between criminality and prosperity or between individual responsibility and economic or political pre-conditions are maintained. On the other hand, a research question and potential main findings get lost in this diversity.” (p.2203)

Vogelpohl takes exception to the absence of both apparent research question and the lack of sufficient Planning history and theory in a book with Planning in its title, but I wonder if it might be useful to me! (She concludes: “While leaving questions open, the book also shows that there are many answers to be searched for in an ‘urban studies of nights’.” (p.2205)

Again, and as with urban studies in general, I wonder how such studies might inform work on Urban Fantasy….

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Anne Vogelpohl (2011) Book review: Planning the Night-time City. Urban Studies 48(10): 2203-2205

The final ever Sookie Stackhouse novel

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What? The final ever Sookie Stackhouse novel???

I’m just saying… although it might give me a chance to catch up if I know there’s an endpoint to work with. They’d be worth a bit of academic consideration, I thinkDead Ever After

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

Dead Ever After (book 13) [to be released May 7th]

Deadlocked (book 12)

The Sookie Stackhouse Companion (contains the novella “Small Town Wedding” featuring Sookie, Sam and Quinn)

Dead Reckoning (book 11)

Dead in the Family (book 10)

Dead and Gone (book 9)

From Dead To Worse (book 8)

All Together Dead (book 7)

Definitely Dead (book 6)

Dead as a Doornail (book 5)

Dead to the World (book 4)

Club Dead (book 3)

Living Dead in Dallas (book 2)

Dead Until Dark (book 1)