Have you ever wondered what occult movies really are, or thought about the role of creeps in mass entertainment?
Do you stay up at night thinking about the musical legacy of The Grateful Dead?
If so, you may want to check out some of the many programs presented during the 44th Annual American Southwest/Folk Culture Association Convention in Albuquerque Wednesday through Saturday. More than 70 topics will be covered, from film director Alfred Hitchcock to “Star Trek” to Wonder Woman to zombie culture.
The conference is open to the public at a cost of $125 for the four days. But don’t show up expecting to see people dressed like the Green Lantern or the Scarlet Witch.
We are an academic association,” said Tammy Burnett, conference coordinator and treasurer of the organization. She said 700 to 800 people—independent researchers, college/university professors, graduate and undergraduate students—attend the conference for a mind-blowing approach to music, film, novels, comics, television, and genres such as fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and suspense.
Noir and games
Burnett is a professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Honors Program and teaches a course there, Sitcoms and Social Change, which delves into such TV series as “I Love Lucy” (1951-57), “The Brady Bunch” (1969-1974) and “The Girls”. Golds” (1985-1992).
“The course looks at gender, race, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status and family structure on television,” she said.
This gives you an idea of the nature of the programs at this week’s conference. Participants engage in roundtable discussions on topics such as “Crawls in Popular Culture” and “What Does a Slasher Movie Mean,” and present papers titled “Welcome Home, Mr. Billy”: Christmas Movies in the Post-War Era and “Star Trek and American Culture” variable.”
“It’s a good conference because it’s a great mix of established scholars and a good opportunity for new scholars to get their feet wet,” said David Sweetin, assistant professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University. He is one of the team members of ENMU teachers and students who will attend the conference.
“It’s an opportunity to put different interests into conversations with each other,” Sweetin said.
Just because he is studious in nature does not mean that the conference is boring.
Wednesday’s movie noir night presents the 1949 classic The Third Man, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten; Thursday evening is game night. And on Friday, the episode “Mystery Science Theater 3000” airs eccentric director Ed Wood’s “Bride of the Monster,” starring Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson.
And who can resist a session titled “Drums in the Deep: Wild Imagination and Imagination”?
Sweeten, moderator for the “Drums in the Deep” session, said the title refers to the horrific sounds heard by the Fellowship of Heroes in J.R.R. Tolkien’s foundational fantasy work “The Lord of the Rings.”
“The sense of approaching distant danger heightens the threat even before the Rouge (demon beast) appears,” Sweetin said.
The “Drums in the Deep” session, which features presentations by ENMU graduate students Fabian Cisneros, Christina Musetti, Cody Wilhelm and Audra Bagwell, and ENMU undergraduate Sierra Beverly, was derived from a Sweeten class taught at the university.
Science fiction and fantasy plays a vital role in ENMU’s curriculum because of Jack Williamson (1908-2006), a prominent writer in those genres who was a professor at the university and donated a large collection of science fiction and fantasy to the school.
“We create opportunities for our students to interact with this group,” said Sweeten. “We’re trying to keep (Williamson’s) legacy going as best we can.”
Sweeten said the theme of the “Drums in the Deep” conference session was how brutal elements affect narrative in fiction.
He said, “Narrative driving fantasy tends to have a monstrous component—either literal or metaphorical monsters”.
In Wilhelm’s paper about the wife-killing Bluebeard character in folklore, the patriarchal force is a greater monster than the murderous husband. The monster in Bagwell’s paper, based on Peter Beagle’s fantasy novel “The Last Unicorn,” is the dominance of marginalized groups.
Mosetty is a native of San Antonio, Texas, taking online classes at ENMU and working on a horror novel that will be her master’s thesis. Her conference paper was inspired by Rebecca Roanhorse’s 2020 New Mexico science fiction and fantasy novel Black Sun.
One thing about Black Sun that appealed to Musetti was that the novel’s setting was inspired by the civilizations of pre-Columbian America, rather than the typical European fantasy worlds of knights, elves, and dragons. Another thing she appreciated was the distinctive Roanhorse characters.
“I would argue in my paper that ‘Black Sun’ is a novel where the characters are deeply affected by the stories surrounding their identities and cultures,” she said. “What makes (the characters) monstrous are the stories told about them.”
Sweeten will join colleagues in the ENMU Department of Languages and Literature, Micah Donohue and Ben Fuqua for a conference session titled “Adaptation of Fantasy and the Fantasy of Adaptation.”
“It’s about the different forms of fictional work in film and television,” Sweetin said. He looks at the Amazon Prime Video adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novel series. He said that fans stop adapting being true to the books.
“The Wheel of Time books and series are an accurate retelling of the Arthurian tales,” he said. “The tales of King Arthur and his knights are told over and over again, but always changed. It’s not about being true to what you adapt to, it’s about being true to the heart of what you adapt to.”
if you go
What: 44th Congress of the American Southwestern/Popular Culture Association.
when: Wednesday, February 22nd, through Saturday, February 25th. For the full schedule, go to southpca.org, click on Conference, then on Conference Programs and then Program 2023 Final.
where: Albuquerque Marriott, 2101 Northeast Louisiana.
it costs: The general public can pay a $125 registration fee covering the entire conference at the hotel.
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