Monash Utopias 4 Conference/WorldCon 2010 (AussieCon 4) Review

Most of what was great about this week in Australia was personal stuff — seeing (however briefly) old friends, spending time, meeting new cool people, and of course having a brief bit of time outside of Korea, because it was about the time when I was needing a break. Also, Melbourne has some really good beer, and I highly recommend the Belgian Beer Cafe Eureka, which is down near Dockside. It was amazing. (More about that latter place in posts yet to come.)

Most of what was good about the conference and convention had to do with regular conference/con stuff: chatting briefly with people like Alastair Reynolds and Peter Watts and Kim Stanley Robinson, learning how to moderate a panel on the fly, and of course being in a place where people get it about how SF matters. Also, it was really very midblowing to me to be walking around and seeing people being so nice. Not just respectful, not just polite, but actually nice. People say Canada’s like that, so maybe it was just the contrast with Korea that got me, but people seemed to really go out of their way to strike up conversations and always seemed to be happy to offer help, advice, or a friendly smile.

Most of what was meh or annoying was to do with things that are either a matter of cultural difference (such as the scarcity of free wifi connections in Melbourne) or planning (like the scarcity of water bottles for the first few days of the con) or stuff nobody could control, like the crazy weather. I wasn’t really ready for winter, but Melbourne’s winter apparently was ready for me. With a vengeance.

As for my own papers and panels:

  • The paper at Monash’s Utopias 4 conference (on The Host) was alright, but I had to lop off the very end, and because I was just speaking (not reading) I got stuck once for a few seconds, trying to remember the specific word I wanted to use. It was okay, but I wasn’t overall too happy with how I did.

  • The paper at WorldCon (on using SF in Korean classrooms) was quite successful. The audience seemed quite interested in what I was talking about, I got a lot of questions, and I felt good afterward.

  • The panels: well, it’s a lesson in know your place, I guess. I don’t think I’ll sign up for panels too much anymore till I am in a position where people are, you know, there to hear what I have to say. It’s good to know when to step aside and let the panel be what it will be — for example, a soapbox for one person — but it’s much harder to know how much to step in and talk yourself in such a context. Meanwhile, I had wildly different experiences moderating panels: one, I felt, I actually was moderating, while the other I barely got two words in edgewise. But I can see now why a lot of people are less interested in panels, and more interested in the drunken conversations at the parties or bars.

All in all, it was worth it to come to Melbourne, to come to both the Monash convention and the WorldCon that followed it. I have a renewed curiosity about the work of Kim Stanley Robinson (who was a Guest of Honor at both events) and I’ve got a pile of Aussie SF books to add to my shelf.

Of course, the weekend of the Con was also the weekend I found out I’ll likely be looking for a new job this fall (unless by some magic I manage to publish 1.5 papers in the next four months), but since I don’t know what else to say about that, I’ll just close this post out.

2 thoughts on “Monash Utopias 4 Conference/WorldCon 2010 (AussieCon 4) Review

  1. I’m really sorry to hear about the publishing requirement. The university has some idiotic rules about “eligible journals” that makes it difficult (though not impossible – but barely) for foreigners to publish the required number of journals. The key is that Korean academic journals typically have less lead times (3-4 months) than US journals. I can only speak for economics, but it should be simiar for English literature. Select a Korean academic journal on English literature (which is approved by the university and the department as an “A” class journal – this is important!) find which is published most often (journals tend to be published bimonthly, quarterly and semi-annually), and send in some of the papers you have presented (modified to publish in a written format). They should take English submissions (though they may not like it); but the university may offer translation services. (They offer them for Korean to English, so they should offer them for English to Korean as well – but our administrators are not exactly known for flexibility).

    If we ever get together, we’ll have to commiserate together on all these idiotic publication rules (which are a combination of stupid rules made by the Ministry of Education, and the rules made by the University’s academic committee – who no longer write papers, if they ever did; and the university administration – who never wrote papers).

  2. Junsok,

    Hm… well, we’ll see. I’m not sure how interested I am in submitting what I think are top-quality papers to journals where they will not be read more widely; and the journals aren’t even really on the list for my department, and so on. But honestly, the main problem is that the Faculty Evaluation Committee’s decision is put off till “late December” 2011. I don’t blame my department, but this would mean me holding on till late December to find out whether I’ll have a job in March. This is clearly not good for anyone with the ability to plan ahead (and thus most skilled instructors will not find it amenable) but it’s much worse for anyone with a visa at stake. Then again, maybe it’s just the kick in the ass I need to make a move. One student just told me, after a year away, with while I’m just as good a teacher as I was, I’m less joyful in it, less passionate by some small but noticeable degree.

    There are other reasons why I think it’s maybe a good idea to make a move, despite how much I actually really like my colleagues and the teaching I’ve been doing till now. (Some of them administrative, some of them projected changes, and some institutional.) The big question for me right now is whether I’d prefer to take a six month break from teaching and focus on writing, or get a job straight away. We’ll see, I guess… if I do get a job, I think I’ll try get something less demanding, so I have more time for writing my fiction. Would love a job with similar teaching but no publication requirements — or where my fiction publications would count.

    It has, at least, gotten me thinking about whether I want to do a PhD at this point, or focus on the fiction. Neither course of action being not so great in terms of return on investment… hm.

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