[-empyre-] What is robot poetics? How/why should we teach it?

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Tue May 9 05:52:24 AEST 2017

Margaret, the upcoming publication of Peter Valente's science fiction
novella *Partheogenesis* may shed additional light on the subject of the
bending of sexual identities. This novella will be published together with
another novella of his *Plague In the Imperial City*.


On Mon, May 8, 2017 at 2:56 PM, Margaret J Rhee <mrhee at uoregon.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Sean, Susan, and all,
> Im so moved at how you've centered play within queer science fictions, and
> this incredible class!! that includes Butler, Ahmed, to Le Guin, alongside
> cultural texts! I feel the possibilities of gender, and queer expressions
> of intimacy really speak to one another especially within the science
> fictional worlds of robots, and your pedagogy really framed in an exciting
> cross genre way. I love how you provided strong theoretical grounding for
> the students, to then begin to understand gender/sexual expressions within
> SF robot worlds. The framing with _The Rocky Horror Picture Show_ and
> Futurama is exciting, and how you taught them about bodies, marking,
> through the intimacies between robots, humans, Amphibiosan, etc.! It makes
> me think to learn about SF, really also requires learning about
> queer/gender theory...
> It reminds me also of your own exquisite fairy tales, which also queers
> the genre in such interesting ways, and I'm looking forward to your
> forthcoming collection, "Thank You for Listening" from Mindmade Books. I
> want to learn more, and like Susan, excited about your pedagogical
> pairings, and discussion of queer SF and fairytales. Thank you again for
> your pedagogy, and SF queer worlding.
> warmly,
> Margaret
> On 2017-05-04 17:07, Pessin, Sean E wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Hello everyone!
>> Thank you all so much for the recommendations and ideas that have been
>> shared here. While I have been trying to figure out how to participate
>> in this discussion, I have been delighted in these various approaches
>> to considering the robopoetic. There is much here already to consider
>> and this thread will sustain me for some time.
>> I taught _Radio Heart_ in a special topics class on Queer Theory and
>> Science Fictions that is supposed to be a kind of culminating class.
>> Students in this class are supposed to be given materials and then
>> they are supposed to develop and finish projects on their own. To
>> facilitate this, the class emphasized the kinds of play that queer
>> theorists and science fiction writers perform. To that end, my
>> inclusion of _Radio Heart_ exposed students to queer experimental
>> science fiction poetry, as I am also inclined to read the book as
>> exploring its central relationship in a queer way.
>> The method of the class was to provide incremental exposure to a lot
>> of material that is supposed to disorient the students so that they
>> may reorient, or to give them opportunities to turn from one way of
>> thinking and to another, to borrow Sara Ahmed’s framework in _Queer
>> Phenomenology_. We started with Lucian’s _True History_, and then
>> worked through classics like Judith Butler’s _Gender Trouble_ and
>> Ursula LeGuin’s _The Left Hand of Darkness_, setting the stage, so to
>> speak, for all manner of gender play and science fiction imaginings
>> that students could then use to explore in their own
>> critical/creative/hybrid projects through sustained play.
>> Once my students opened up to considering the possibilities of gender
>> expression, and how those possibilities were present in science
>> fiction texts, as a class we then asked how bodies may perform or
>> manifest those expressions in textual forms. We covered as part of one
>> of our conversations _The Rocky Horror Picture Show_, an episode of
>> the television show _Futurama_, “Proposition Infinity,” and, of
>> course, _Radio Heart_ in our session closest to Valentine’s Day. It
>> was no coincidence—using the holiday as a backdrop, we took on as our
>> conversation’s starting point, what to make of constructed lovers?
>> Their desires? The expression of these desires? and of their lovers
>> and creators: Who made them and for whom?
>> We looked at _The Rocky Horror Picture Show_, when Dr. Frank N. Furter
>> defends the aesthetics he demonstrates in his creation, Rocky, to
>> Janet: “I didn’t make him for you!”; when the robot Bender Rodriguez
>> defends his robosexual relationship with Amy Wong _Futurama_: “After
>> all, our love isn't any different than yours, except it's hotter,
>> 'cause I'm involved;” and at the moments when in _Radio Heart_’s
>> “Beam, Robot” the speaker considers the robot lover’s constructedness:
>> “you’re all made so uniquely…” “who programmed you?”
>> Further questions raised by this paring came from the students: What
>> kinds of play inform the perspectives of these works on the
>> constructed lover? Why is it that the creators of these beings are
>> incapable of “keeping” them? (Rocky escapes Frank N. Furter’s bed and
>> seduces Janet, Amy returns to her fonfon ru (a kind of non-legally
>> binding marriage) Kif, when Bender doesn’t want to be monogamous, and,
>> by the title, we expect the robot lover and the speaker of _Radio
>> Heart_ may not continue on together, and by the description of the
>> lovers’ encounters, we know that the speaker did not construct the
>> robot lover). The constructions here are articulating the limits of
>> this body (of work), about the desires of the creator being in
>> conflict with the desires of the construct.
>> And: How is it that in these examples the couples are raced? What is
>> the effect of this? _Radio Heart_ explores the human/robot pairing,
>> and “Traced,” as Susan pointed out, addresses the preprogramming of
>> race; Amy is human, Kif is Amphibiosan, and Bender is a robot; and
>> after all, Frank. N. Furter is an alien: “just a sweet Transvestite,
>> from Transsexual, Transylvania,” while his Rocky seems all too human
>> despite being construct.
>> What was most interesting to my students about these texts was the way
>> that the construct stood in for or replaced bodies on which clear
>> expectations were otherwise marked, bodies that many of them
>> recognized as their own. For me, what was interesting about this
>> recognition was that while there are many anxieties about machines
>> replacing people playing out in the news, my students were reading
>> them as metaphors for themselves.
>> Because of this, I am interested in previously mentioned speculation
>> about the _Radio Heart_ speaker projecting onto the robot what the
>> relationship is.
>> Best,
>> —Sean
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.
> Visiting Assistant Professor
> Women's and Gender Studies
> University of Oregon
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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