Paweł Frelik is Associate Professor and the Leader of Speculative Texts and Media Research Group at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw. His teaching and research interests include science fiction, video games, fantastic visualities, digital media, and transmedia storytelling. He has published widely in these fields, serves on the boards of Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation, and Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, and is the co-editor of the New Dimensions in Science Fiction book series at the University of Wales Press. In 2013-2014, he was President of the Science Fiction Research Association, the first in the organization’s history from outside North America. He is also Science Fiction Division Head of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and the Chair of the Science Fiction and Technoscience Book Prize at the University of California, Riverside. In 2017, he was the first non-Anglophone recipient of the Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service presented for outstanding service activities: promotion of SF teaching and study, editing, reviewing, editorial writing, publishing, organizing meetings, mentoring, and leadership in SF/fantasy organizations.
Paweł Frelik will be giving the keynote lecture on Thursday July 9th.
Takeshi Was Here: Viral Revelations, Globalized Power, and Cyberpunk Myopia
The cyberpunk renaissance has registered in both academic publishing and popular discourse. The persistence of neon-laden aesthetics as well as the centrality of data platforms to contemporary life have made the mode seem particularly relevant to the current historical moment. And yet, despite a regular recurrence of not only computer but also biological viruses in cyberpunk fiction, the COVID-19 pandemic has, once again, revealed the genre’s political myopia and naivety. The year 2020 is much more like Hunger Games than Snow Crash. The nightmare is not the loss of privacy in the omnidirectional flows of data. It is the platforms’ enablement of conservative politics and its attendant epiphenomena: institutional racism, colonialism, and sexism. Occasioned by medical cordons and distancing regulations, the authoritarian measures in, among others, the United States, Hungary, Poland, or China combined with the rise of neo-fascist populism fueled by Russian money and disinformation make it abundantly clear that cyberpunk’s corporatism has been yet another neoliberal fantasy that disregards the resurgence of state power and the mainstreamization of right-wing politics. That turn has only been explored by a small handful of texts, the most prominent among which is Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (but also his other fiction). The keynote will revisit the three novels, triangulating them with our pandemic politics and cyberpunk’s corporate tropes.