Friday, 22 March 2013

Our Inaugural Departmental Field Trip: The New Art of Making Books

On 20 March 2013 departmental directors Dr Dan Smith (UAL) and Dr Adam Stock (Newcastle University) went on the Department’s first field trip to talk about the DTC and to perform a live experiment at the New Art of Making Books (NAOMB) conference at Winchester School of Art.

The event had a packed schedule that touched on a wide variety of areas at the intersections of art, making books, and publishing. A highlight for us both was hearing the passion with which David Pearson spoke about his design work. Pearson is an independent designer who worked with Penguin books to produce the Penguin Great Ideas series. The covers are elegant, witty and tactile. As Pearson suggested, once these have been picked up it’s difficult to put them down. Dr Charlotte Knox-Williams gave an eloquent paper in which she used Deleuze’s The Fold to question and pick apart virtuality and the digital. Her talk was accompanied by an inventive looped film that provided an interesting counterpoint to her explication without ever being too distracting.

These days it’s usual for conferences to be live-blogged, but this was the first such event I’ve been to that was ‘live-zine’d’ by the Ladies of the Press, a pink-wigged performance duo who produced a zine that responded to speakers in real time, leading to an individualised Xeroxed publication at the end of the day.

Our presentation consisted of a short spiel introducing the department and its aims, followed by a first reading and performance of a new story written by Adam, called Posts From the Underground, with projected artwork by Dan and improvised music. Posts From the Underground is a short science fiction story set on the metro system in an unnamed East European capital city. The narrative is stitched together from a series of fragments in the form of postcards written and sent from this underground network. Dan drew a picture for each of the eight fragments, which were shown in order as Adam read the narrative. Dan led the improvised music, using an ipad, an iphone, and a loop pedal. Adam contributed at times using a sampler and a contact mic.

NAOMB was the first time we had tried improvising together. They say that practice makes perfect and we went in entirely unrehearsed. But although it was a little nerve-wracking, it was a fun and memorable experience. We had good feedback from audience members such as this:

and therefore concluded that the experiment was a success. We hope to publish the story as a series of eight postcards in the near future.

Welcome to the Department of Things to Come!

The Department of Things to Come is a research group formed to study the intersections of visual culture and text in science fiction. In addition to our focus on the presence of science fiction in modern and contemporary art and the presence of art within science fiction texts and publications, the DTC is also aiming to experiment with new forms of publication that can provide new means of connecting critical writing, creative writing and visual culture in science fiction.

We are interested in finding innovative ways to work together to produce publications that, like the SF magazines of the past, bring together creative and critical work in both writing and art. In so doing the DTC will investigate new research methods, focusing on collaborative and genuinely cross-disciplinary work in order to generate new forms, new knowledge and new intersections between science fiction and visuality.


The DTC will instigate collaborative projects, bringing together theorists and practitioners from different fields and practices ranging from literary criticism to art theory, and from creative practice in both art and design to both computer science and the digital humanities. We aim to test the limits of disciplinary and technological boundaries, while establishing strong links across universities, galleries, museums and publishing. In so doing, we will form a network of creative partnerships to facilitate researchers to produce collective work, including co-authored critical and creative outputs.

This blog will be a space for news about our activities, contributors and research.