“Spoiling Veena” and “Souk of Dreams” in Academia

The other day, I discovered on Google an odd concatenation of my name with a 2018 academic conference in Vienna. I hadn’t been to any such conference, so I was curious.

With a deeper dive, I found that Simon Whybrew at the University of Graz was presenting a paper on transgender in Science Fiction, and had used my story “Spoiling Veena” in the analysis.

I was surprised and thrilled. Here’s the abstract of the paper as published in the program for the 45th Austrian Association for American Studies Conference.

“Disappearing into the Future? Reclaiming Transgender Experiences in Contemporary US Science Fiction”
Simon Whybrew (University of Graz)

Science fiction (sf) has long been fascinated with transgender phenomena. Nevertheless, the genre’s authors have been reluctant to acknowledge humanity’s inherent transness. Rather, sf stories have largely viewed trans potentialities exclusively through the lens of medical and technological advancement. Thus, trans identities have often been transposed onto alien societies or dissolved into futuristic, cisnormative fantasies of perfect gender transformation. As a result, transgender histories, identities, and becoming have largely been absent from these texts. Instead, the focus has been on the promise of temporary, cisnormative gender mobility.

The recent publication of four anthologies of sf short stories by trans authors provides a significant challenge to this legacy of trans erasure. In this paper, I will explore how the authors of these stories employ the genre’s conventions to subvert its normative tendencies and write trans identities into the future. To do this, I will compare John Varley’s 1992 novel “Steel Beach” with K.M. Szpara’s “Nothing is Pixels Here” and Keyan Bowes’ “Spoiling Veena.”

It made me remember the time I found another academic reference to another of my stories – this time, “The Souk of Dreams.” John Patrick Pazdziora (University of St. Andrews) presented a paper “Enchanted Conversations: The Reverse Adaptation of Fairy Tales in Online Culture” at a conference in Ghent in January 2010. Here’s the quote:

“The hopeful tales read more like short fantasies than fairy tales. ‘The Souk of Dreams’ by Keyan Bowes, for instance, is a touching romance about a gay couple who rediscover their faith in love and human goodness. However, the setting of the tale—a fantasy market in the desert—is described much like a sci-fi convention with real extraterrestrials. Any moorings to mythic versions of fairy tales have been cast off. Hope is discovered in reinventing according to a new medium—speculative fiction. Reverse adaptations are primarily to rebuke and tear down the alleged deceptions of childhood.”

I am glad these stories are reaching beyond their usual audiences into the wonderful world of academe.

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