Call for Student Applications for SCI FI LA Conference



Friday, October 28-Saturday, October 29, 2016

Presented by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, USC Dornsife College, and the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, this exciting conference explores the symbiotic relationship between Los Angeles and the vibrant literary and cinematic genres of science fiction.  Organized by critic David L. Ulin and historian William Deverell, Science Fiction Los Angeles will, by way of lively panels, film screenings, and readings, explore just how Los Angeles has played such a critical role in the imagined worlds and landscapes of American science fiction writing and film.  

From a film-screening kickoff on Friday, October 28th at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Linwood Dunn Theater, the conference moves to a full-day investigation of the topic on Saturday, October 29th at the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study in Doheny Memorial Library at USC. 


Science fiction is part of the cultural heritage of Los Angeles. From the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, whose members, including Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein, began meeting at Clifton's Cafeteria in the 1930s, to the dystopian visions of the film Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Southern California's particular blend of high and pop culture has made the place an incubator for the scientific imaginary. On October 28 and 29, we will honor this heritage with a two-day conference exploring the lively, curious, and critical role that Los Angeles had played in the development of science fiction landscapes. 


Sponsored by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, USC Dornsife College, and the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, the conference begins with a Friday night screening of the 2013 film HER at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. We will open the evening with introductions provided by Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, on the architectural settings and moods of L.A. science fiction films, and by Her production designer, K.K. Barrett. 

On Saturday, we move to USC Harman Academy for Polymathic Study located on the second floor of Doheny Memorial Library for a series of lively panels and discussions on the implications of Los Angeles's science fiction heritage.  Featured authors include Steve Erickson, Mark Frauenfelder, Margaret Wappler, and M.G. Lord, and panels will cover such themes as artificial intelligence and visions of the future, the sustained influence of the late Octavia Butler, and the ways in which Ray Bradbury’s life in Los Angeles influenced his writing. 


We are inviting applications for twenty young scholars (both undergraduate and graduate) to attend and contribute to this workshop/conference.  Applicants need not be subject matter experts - we are looking for a diverse mix of creative and intellectually curious scholars in their respective disciplines, who will energetically embrace this unique and challenging opportunity. Participants will be expected to attend all conference programming – both the film screening and the all-day conference the following day – and to actively contribute to the proceedings, as well as read and watch a modest amount of assigned materials in advance.  Tickets and transportation to the film screening will be provided. 

To apply, please send a résumé and your answer to the following question in 1 to 2 double-spaced, type-written pages (500 word maximum):

 If you had to select one word to describe science fiction’s impact or import, what word would you choose?  Promise, apocalypse, morality, futurism,   utopia, dystopia, prescience, reaction, revolution?  Maybe something altogether different?  Pick a one-word title and craft an essay that uses specific examples to illustrate why this word matches your vision of science fiction.

Applications are due Friday, October 14th. Please send all materials to Karin Huebner, Academic Director of Programs, USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study at  Selected participants will be notified by Friday, October 21st.


Friday, October 28th 

7:00 pm    Introductions by Christopher Hawthorne, architectural critic for the LA TIMES

7:30 pm    Film screening of HER at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood

Saturday, October 29th

9:00 am     Opening remarks from William Deverell and David L. Ulin

9:30 am     Artificial Intelligence, Science Fiction, and the Future

Peter Westwick in conversation with Tracy Fullerton, David Frauenfelder, and Shrikanth Narayanan

11:00 am    Interlude: Witness and Celebrate: Ray Bradbury’s Los Angeles

A video presentation by Jonathan Eller on (and from) Ray Bradbury’s office, recreated in Indianapolis

                        12:00 pm   Lunch

1:00 pm     Philip K. Dick in Southern California

Scott Timberg in conversation with Steve Erickson on the famed writer Philip K. Dick 

2:15 pm     Octavia Butler

Madeleine Brand in conversation with Lynell George and Ayana Jamieson

3:15 pm     Los Angeles: The Capital of Science Fiction

David L. Ulin discusses LA’s role in science fiction with MG Lord, Margaret Wappler, and Kristin Miller

5:00 pm    Closing remarks offered by William Deverell and David L. Ulin, followed by a reception for all