Thursday, 25 March 2010

On not being Nikki Stafford

I was lucky enough to meet Nikki in Arkadelphia nearly two years ago. She gave an immensely entertaining and thought-inducing after dinner speech (standing next to the left-over buffet, without a microphone and with utterly compelling energy) and we were staying in the same, beautiful, guest house. At night we and some of the other keynotes would sit and chat. I’d drink lots of beer (that I’d had to drive a 2-hour round trip to get because Arkadelphia is in a dry county – an academic conference in a dry county??), while Nikki didn’t. She would scream like a little girl at the creepie crawlies (they WERE quite big) and the conversations would swirl and eddy in the way that they do. The Arkansas heat and humidity was intense; the conversations lovely and the whole experience delightful.

Since then, I have not finished the book I was so proudly telling everyone would be finished by Christmas (2008!!) and have managed a couple of articles. Nikki has produced hundreds of blogs of exceptional insight, knowledge, wit and perspicuity, has been on radio, TV, in the papers, has written, what, at least one, maybe two books, edited scores more and still had time to offer me help with some of my work.

The reason for writing this is that we are giving a paper at the forthcoming Whedon conference in Florida. We are still not entirely sure what it will be (Nikki, come ON!!) but it will address in some fashion hierarchies of value – Lit over film over TV; period TV drama over contemporary; hour-long plays over series; ‘realism’ over fantasy etc. – which inevitably includes the value placed on a blog, versus a conference paper; a popular book versus an academic one.

I know exactly where I’d place Nikki in a straight race for most significance in a hierarchy of value of her work and mine.

Gothic Transformations

Some of my colleagues are organising a conference to commemorate Bram Stoker and, more widely, to engage in the notion of ‘Gothic transformations’
If any of you are interested in the Gothic, then this’ll be a great conference – it’s located in Scarborough (where the University of Hull has one of its campuses) which is a beautiful sea-side town with spectacular cliffs, two gorgeous bays, and was home to Edith Sitwell as well as currently being Alan Ayckbourne’s residence with his Stephen Joseph Theatre being one of the best theatres outside London. And the conference is also going to have events in Whitby: scene, of course, of Dracula’s arrival in England.

By the time of the conference I’ll have long left Scarborough (where I’ve lived for 16 years) and will no longer work for the University of Hull (I’m off to Kingston in London) so I am not advertising this with any personal gain in mind – but it looks like it’ll be a fabulous event. Interestingly, also in Kingston will be Fred Botting, king of the Gothic so I guess he’ll be there. I certainly hope to be...

It’s two years away – start saving up and we can meet in Blighty!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

On writing the wrong thing

So, there's marking to be done - obviously; and I am in the midst of the longest period of inacativity on my Joss Whedon book; there'a an article on Lyotard to be researched and written; just heard that David Lavery's Finale book is a go, so there'll be that too, as well as the Firefly article for Rhonda Wilcox; and then the small matter of my paper with the astonishing Nikki Stafford at the forthcoming Whedon conference

And I'm starting a blog instead...

Some may call it displacement activity; others may not give a hoot. I'm not sure where I stand on that one. But at least it gets me writing and makes my inactivity a public shame, thus forcing me to get my middle-aged over-sized backside in gear.

Although public shame with no public is either not shame, or is a version of self-induced self-loathing of such theologically complex structure that I cannot quite comprehend. So, no readers will lead to no shame? Or worse shame - the shame of not writing the right thing AND the shame of the wrong thing not being read. No-one told me this blogging lark was so vertiginous.

Here's hoping for some answers. or at least some questions. Or something.