Abstracts and Handouts

Atwood sample book covers juxtaposed. Image rights not established.

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Session One

  • Start: 8.30 am LA, 11.30 NYC, 4.30 pm LON, 5.30 Berlin
    • Brett Rogers, “The Promethean, the Protean, and the [?] in Science Fiction”


In this talk, I introduce Ludvig Holberg’s 1751 Latin speculative fiction novel The Underground Journey of Niels Klim and argue that both its genre and the language it was written in allowed Holberg to critique contemporary European societies in a way that reached a wider audience while reducing his risk of censorship. Holberg’s choice of Latin went against the grain both for his time and within his own body of work, showing the intentional nature of his genre and linguistic choices. I give examples from the text illustrating his adaptation both of classical genres broadly (Herodotus-style ethnography) and specific ancient works (lampooning scholasticism through Aristophanes) and suggest how Holberg’s use of ancient sources might have supported his purposes of critique alongside entertainment

  • Tony Keen, “Doctor Who and the Argonauts—katabasis for Tom Baker (again)”


The Doctor Who story Underworld is, as the story itself tells us, a reworking of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. But it adds to this an element of katabasis, a trip to, well, the Underworld. A literal katabasis is not found in the most familiar versions of the Jason myth, but Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor had made several journeys ‘down below’, in such stories as The Talons of Weng-Chi’ang and The Invisible Enemy.

  • Bethany “Bet Hucks ““White Flight”: the myth of Icarus (both its presence and lack of it) and flight in Afrofuturism”
  • End: 9.45 am LA, 12.45 pm NYC, 5.45 LON, 6.45 Berlin
  • 15 minute comfort break

Session Two

  • Start: 10 am LA, 1 pm NYC, 6 LON, 7 Berlin
    • Toph Marshall, “Hercules in the 24th Century: Some Overlooked Visual Evidence”

CONTENT WARNING: sexual content and child abuse

  • The episode “Raising Gazorpazorp” of Rick and Morty’s first season is a reception piece of the Minotaur myth that plays with both sex and plot roles in a way that humanizes the minotaur figure and makes a monster out of his human father.
  • Primary evidence for this paper is the episode itself; an analysis of both the plot and subplot serve to drive the main idea of the paper.
  • The main plot follows the minotaur figure from birth to his adulthood, highlighting the very human traumas he experiences at the hand of his not-ready-to-be-a-father-14-year-old-father who makes mistakes at nearly every turn.
  • The subplot explores the sex segregated society of the other genetic home planet of this half-human minotaur figure. What the audience learns about both sexes only serves to alienate the minotaur figure from them, and highlight his humanity.
  • The entire episode raises important deep questions like: how human are the monsters we face? And how monstrous are the humans?

The Star Trek Original Series episode Elaan of Troyius first aired in December 1968, at the conclusion of a climactic year of civil strife. I argue that the episode reconfigures Helen of Troy in a way that engages with these social and political currents, by casting a non-white actor in the role of Elaan and racializing Helen’s beauty and power in contemporary terms. This updated mythical narrative of taming the feminine Other poses a challenge to Star Trek‘s purportedly optimistic racial politics, in part by contrasting Elaan with Uhura.

Video of Episode on DailyMotion

For decades Margaret Atwood has retold and reinterpreted both Greek and Hebrew Biblical myths in both her works of science fiction and fantasy. More recently, the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale  (2017-) has reinterpreted Atwood’s 1980s dystopian novel for a new generation. This talk focuses on the series’ evocation of the relationship between Penelope and her enslaved maids as a larger metaphor for abusive power relationships between matrons in a patriarchal, oppressive society and the enslaved women of their household. It also draws connections between Atwood’s Penelopiad and the social science fiction of the Handmaid’s Tale, focusing on the common symbols of weaving and textile production. 

If people are up for viewing a highly traumatic non-sexual scene of fear and torture, this video will provide some additional context to the talk, but is unnecessary, as I’ll provide a brief clip during the talk.

  • End: 11.15 am LA, 2.15 pm NYC, 7.15 LON, 8.15 Berlin
  • 15 minute comfort break

Session Three

  • Start: 11.30 am LA, 2.30 pm NYC, 7.30 LON, 8.30 Berlin
  • Marian Makins, ““Pan Is Dead, Long Live Pan: A Mutant Myth in Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal


Dan Simmons’ Ilium (2003) and Olympus (2005) are a sprawling pair of science fiction novels based in large part upon Homer and the myths of the Trojan War. Drawing on Isidore’s criteria for monstrosity in the Etymologies, which reach back to Cicero and Varro, I read the Olympian gods (and the classicist protagonist) in Simmons’ dyads as monsters. I discuss how the futuristic worlds of science fiction can help us think about humanity and post-humanity and, perhaps, implications for how we might approach the gods of ancient myth.


Quria’s association with Medusa in Destiny 2 is a complex reception of the classical myth, in which Medusa’s violation and transformation by Poseidon and Athena mirror Quria’s defeat, transformation, and repurposing by Oryx and Savathûn.

  • Amy Pistone, “Argos Panoptes: Classical Keys to Unlocking Westworld”

End: 1 pm LA, 4 NYC, 9 LON, 10 Berlin

Images of Dan Simmons’ book covers. Image rights not established. Source.