KU News: Fantastic fiction writer Kij Johnson can go home again

Today's News from the University of Kansas

0
55

From the Office of Public Affairs | http://www.news.ku.edu

Headlines

Fantastic fiction writer Kij Johnson can go home again
LAWRENCE — After decades of acclaimed writing about exotic realms, Kij Johnson returns in her new short story collection to her Iowa childhood — though it ranges over such wild territory as the inner thoughts of a living sphinx, a horde of tiny velociraptors and a giant squirrel phantasm. “The Privilege of The Happy Ending” (Small Beer Press) is scheduled for release Oct. 24, and the University of Kansas professor of English will be a guest of honor at the World Fantasy Convention Oct. 26-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Hall Center for the Humanities announces 2023-24 Speaker Series
LAWRENCE – The Hall Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series at the University of Kansas for the 2023-24 academic year includes notable poets, authors, philosophers and historians. The next event will be a presentation and reading by A.E. Stallings, the Oxford Professor of Poetry, at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Hall Center.

Communication studies scholar Diana Carlin publishes new book on America’s first ladies
LAWRENCE — Diana Carlin, professor emerita of communication studies at the University of Kansas, is co-author of “U.S. First Ladies: Making History and Leaving Legacies,” which delves into the influence of first ladies on American society, public policy, politics, diplomacy and life within the White House. The book includes a foreword by Jill Biden. Carlin, also a current instructor with Jayhawk Global’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, will give a course titled Presidential Debates: Why We Watch and Why They Matter, which begins Oct. 17.

KU Department of Design student projects receive awards from AIGA-Kansas City
LAWRENCE — Four 2023 University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design graduates won American Institute of Graphic Arts-Kansas City awards for projects completed during their final year as students. The awardees, including alumni from Overland Park, Shawnee and Wichita, were recognized at the 2023 AIGA Kansas City Design Awards & Celebration on Sept. 28.

Full stories below.

————————————————————————

Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Fantastic fiction writer Kij Johnson can go home again
LAWRENCE — After decades of acclaimed writing about exotic realms, Kij Johnson returns in her new short story collection to her Iowa childhood — though it ranges over such wild territory as the inner thoughts of a living sphinx, a horde of tiny velociraptors and a giant squirrel phantasm.
“Until the last three or four years, I would have said I don’t want to ever write about Iowa because it was boring. And yet here I am starting to write about Iowa. I can’t help it,” said the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning author and University of Kansas professor of English, who will be a guest of honor at the World Fantasy Convention Oct. 26-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.
“It was a long process for me,” Johnson said. “I was tending to write stories that are set in places like medieval Japan or Russia or Washington state. Always places that seemed more interesting and glamorous than Iowa.”
Johnson said attentive readers have noticed certain motifs – particularly the use of animal characters — in her speculative fiction that spring from her largely rural upbringing. They continue in her new collection, “The Privilege of The Happy Ending” (Small Beer Press).
“I was so interested in animals, and they seemed more comprehensible to me than people,” Johnson said. “I always felt that if you could just read an animal well enough, you could understand how it was thinking. And that’s sort of what I was thinking about people, too: If I could just read people well enough! But people were way harder.
“Then I would pretend to be animals because I didn’t like being the kid I was, and it’s obviously much cooler to be a horse or a dog. I did a lot of thinking about what it’d be like to be a dog or cat. … So that’s why animals.”
In the titular story, Johnson gives her protagonist, 6-year-old Ada, a telepathic chicken as her companion in a Dark Ages wasteland overrun by flesh-eating creatures.
“It was actually a scary story to write,” Johnson said. “It was a response to the Syrian diaspora across Europe starting in 2016, during which more than 3,000 children went missing … because their parents got sick or died or were arrested. And some of those children vanished.
“It was so hard to think about these unaccompanied children, without family, and the story came from me thinking about that. I found I couldn’t leave her unaccompanied, because a 6-year-old just has no chance. That’s heartbreaking to think about, so I gave her a talking chicken sidekick. But that, in itself, is kind of heartbreaking — that she would have had no chance if I had not made up a talking chicken to help. She’s one of the many people in that situation who would have died.”
Johnson said there are parts of herself in young Ada, the mother hen and the narrator of the story whose preoccupation is: “What is going on? What else is happening? What is not described? And so the story ends up being called ‘The Privilege of the Happy Ending’ because while I was writing it, I realized that most of the time writers treat our characters very badly. We talk about ‘murder your darlings,’ and we joke about how that means our protagonist boyfriend has to die and things like that.
“The narrator explicitly states at one point that we kill to make a point and we move on. We injure people as though they are not real, because of course they’re not. But you, the reader, don’t know that for sure; reading a story is the same action as reading a news item. When we perpetrate these acts of violence in our stories, you are taking it on faith that we are not describing real suffering. And after all, it’s talking chickens. Chances are excellent that there is not actually a 6-year-old girl named Ada threatened by velociraptors in the 13th century. But it does make you say, ‘What about all the other scared little girls? What about all the refugee children? What about the children who were exposed on hillsides, the children who were abandoned like Hansel and Gretel?’”
Meditations on history and myth – and the murky difference between them – also feature in Johnson’s writing and recur in the “Happy Ending” collection. In “Ratatoskr,” for instance, the titular squirrel of Norse legend comes to Iowa. Johnson said that story sprung from thinking about the notion of cultural appropriation and its propriety in fiction.
“What are the parameters?” she said. “What are my new guidelines for how I engage with things that are not my own experience? I started thinking about, ‘What rights do I have to stories? Does it give me the right to tell this story if I’m the only person who will tell this story?’
“And while I was thinking about that, all of a sudden, I started to think about my own experiences. And, say, maybe I do have things that I can say about my own experiences … about being Norwegian American … about growing up in Iowa; that I can say about being all the things I was when I was 6 and 8 and 10. I didn’t expect that, and I found it really interesting. It got me moving in directions I never would have anticipated.”
-30-
————————————————————————
The official university Twitter account has changed to @UnivOfKansas.
Refollow @KUNews for KU News Service stories, discoveries and experts.


————————————————————————

Contact: Dan Oetting, Hall Center for the Humanities, [email protected], @KUHallCenter
Hall Center for the Humanities announces 2023-24 Speaker Series

LAWRENCE – The Hall Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series at the University of Kansas features humanities scholars and creative writers with ideas that shape the world and illuminate the intersections of human experience.

“These speakers bring us new worlds of thought and experience,” said Giselle Anatol, interim director of the Hall Center. “Their ideas make our minds more expansive; they invite us to go farther, dig deeper. That’s something wonderful to be a part of.”

Tracey Lien, a KU alumna who grew up in Australia, began the series Oct. 5 with a talk about her award-winning debut novel, a mystery set in a Sydney suburb home to Vietnamese immigrant families. The presentation is available via Crowdcast.

Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. For further information about these events and other Hall Center programming, subscribe to Hall Center social media channels and visit its website.

Upcoming speakers

A.E. Stallings
“This Afterlife: Selected Poems”
7 p.m. Oct. 11
Hall Center Conference Hall (and online via Crowdcast)

A.E. Stallings, elected this year to one of poetry’s most prominent posts, the Oxford Professor of Poetry, will recite from her collection and discuss her work as a poet and translator.

Meet KU’s Authors: Geoff Harkness
“DVS Mindz: The Twenty-Year Saga of the Greatest Rap Group to Almost Make It Outta Kansas”
6:30 p.m. Nov. 2
Lawrence Public Library

KU alumnus Geoff Harkness will discuss the rise and dissolution of Topeka rap group DVS Mindz. This talk is part of Meet KU’s Authors, an ongoing partnership with Lawrence Public Library, providing audiences an opportunity to hear researchers associated with KU discuss their work.

Susan Wolf
“Meaning in Life and Why It Matters”
7 p.m. Nov. 9
Hall Center Conference Hall (and online via Crowdcast)

Philosophy professor Susan Wolf will discuss how meaning is derived from acting out of love for what we love.

Nicole Fleetwood
“Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration”
7 p.m. Dec. 6
Lied Center Pavilion (and online via Crowdcast)

Nicole Fleetwood’s presentation will elaborate on the visual culture of U.S. prisons and how those in a carceral state assert their humanity in the face of a system that dehumanizes them.

Lewis Gordon
“From Kitchens and Pubs to the World: Philosophy for Humanity Today and Beyond”
7 p.m. Feb. 22, 2024
Hall Center Conference Hall (and online via Crowdcast)

Gordon will address the importance of everyday philosophy and how, as we face challenges to humanity in the 21st century, we live lives committed to equality, justice and freedom.

Humanities Book Club: Ada Ferrer
“Cuba: An American History”
4 p.m. Feb. 29, 2024
Hall Center Conference Hall

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Ada Ferrer will explore the history of Cuba and its deeply intertwined relations with the United States in conversation with an interdisciplinary panel of KU faculty.

KU Common Book Speaker: N.K. Jemisin
7 p.m. April 25, 2024
Kansas Union, Woodruff Auditorium (and online via Crowdcast)

Science fiction author N.K. Jemisin, three-time Hugo Award winner, will discuss her work and the significance of KU’s 2023-24 Common Book, Octavia E. Butler’s “Parable of the Sower.” In addition to the Hall Center, the Common Book is sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, History of Black Writing, KU Common Book Program, Department of English and Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Speaker Series is the oldest continuing program of its kind at KU. Previous speakers have included authors Jesmyn Ward and Neil Gaiman, actor and author Alan Alda, poets Natalie Diaz and Terrance Hayes and sociologist Matthew Desmond.

-30-
————————————————————————
Subscribe to KU Today, the campus newsletter,
for additional news about the University of Kansas.

http://www.news.ku.edu
————————————————————————

Contact: Valerie Hawley, Jayhawk Global, [email protected]
Communication studies scholar Diana Carlin publishes new book on America’s first ladies
LAWRENCE — Diana Carlin, professor emerita of communication studies at the University of Kansas, has published a pioneering textbook shedding light on the transformative legacies of America’s first ladies.
“U.S. First Ladies: Making History and Leaving Legacies,” published by Cognella, is a 320-page volume that delves into the profound influence of first ladies on American society, public policy, politics, diplomacy and life within the White House. Carlin’s co-authors are Anita McBride, chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush, and Nancy Kegan Smith, former director of the Presidential Materials Division at the National Archives and Records Administration. All three authors are members of the First Ladies Association for Research and Education (FLARE). Current First Lady Jill Biden wrote the foreword.
In fall 2022, Carlin engaged KU honors students and Dole Student Ambassadors in focus groups, providing them with a preliminary version of the textbook for testing. The students’ valuable insights led to significant enhancements in the final edition. Moreover, students from institutions including American University, St. Louis University and Keuka College offered their input.
“When I taught about first ladies before co-authoring this book, I had to piece together materials from various sources. The textbook and the forthcoming trade book go beyond mere biographies,” Carlin said. “They illuminate how the position has evolved since Martha Washington first assumed it in 1789. They emphasize that each first lady brought her unique background and interests to the role, often shaped and influenced by her husband’s views and society’s evolving attitudes towards women’s involvement in politics. My co-authors and I are profoundly grateful to the students at KU and other institutions whose invaluable input enriched the book’s content.”
Carlin’s scholarly work encompasses book chapters dedicated to figures such as Martha Washington, Lady Bird Johnson, Julia Grant, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. She has also written an article titled “Sesame Street, the White House, and First Ladies” for the White House Quarterly. Carlin was among the first scholars to found FLARE in 2021, which collaborates with partner institutions to provide both online and in-person programming centered around U.S. first ladies. Carlin orchestrated a four-part series on first ladies in collaboration with the Dole Institute of Politics in spring 2023.
Carlin is also former dean of KU’s graduate school and international programs and a current instructor with Jayhawk Global’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She will give a course titled Presidential Debates: Why We Watch and Why They Matter, also offering a glimpse into the upcoming 2024 primary and potential general election debate seasons. The course will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7 at Brewster Place Event Center in Topeka. Learn more and enroll through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute registration system.

-30-
————————————————————————
Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack
————————————————————————

Contact: Dan Rolf, School of Architecture & Design, 785-864-3027, [email protected], @ArcD_KU
KU Department of Design student projects receive awards from AIGA-Kansas City
LAWRENCE — Four 2023 University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design graduates won American Institute of Graphic Arts-Kansas City awards for projects completed during their final year as students. The awardees, all alumni of the KU Department of Design’s visual communication design program, were recognized at the 2023 AIGA Kansas City Design Awards & Celebration on Sept. 28 at Corrigan Station in Kansas City, Missouri.
Tim Do, Wichita, was awarded a Juror’s Choice Award for Peach Typeface, a sans serif typeface inspired by hand-painted signage, and a Student Design Award for “Are You Satisfied with Your Work?,” a risograph-printed accordion book.
Isaac De La Rosa, Round Rock, Texas; Annie Myers, Shawnee, and Christian Toth, Overland Park, received a Juror’s Choice Award for their 2023 KU Design Week brand system, which included identity design, copy writing, website, social media campaign, printed posters and apparel.
The students were mentored by the following KU visual communication design faculty: Peach Typeface, Andrea Herstowski; “Are You Satisfied with Your Work?,” Jeremy Shellhorn; KU Design Week, Tim Hossler and Sam Meier.
-30-
————————————————————————

KU News Service
1450 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence KS 66045
Phone: 785-864-3256
Fax: 785-864-3339
[email protected]
http://www.news.ku.edu

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]

Today’s News is a free service from the Office of Public Affairs

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here