When Archaeology Meets Fiction

I spent today at the Writing Remains conference at Bristol University. It was in the lovely Clifton Hill House, had some great speakers, and came with a free lunch and a wine reception. It was well worth getting up at the crack of dawn for.

I also made a lot of new friends. For example:

Anna from Germany who is part of an international project on science and fiction, her specialism being archaeology. I’m going to feed her a whole pile of science fiction recommendations.

James from Cambridge who gave a great paper on Jack London’s Before Adam and is a champion of Neanderthal rights.

Katy whose paper was titled “Yummy Mummies” and who explained how early mummy tales mainly featured a female mummy and some sort of erotic attachment by the archaeologist. Apparently there was a whole thing about mummy unwrapping as a form of strip tease. Needless to say, this was all related to ideas of the manly Westerners overcoming the mysterious, feminine East.

Joan who is doing a PhD about the pioneering woman SF writer, Jane Webb Loudon. Loudon’s novel, The Mummy!, written when she was 17 and published three years later in 1827, engages directly with the themes of Frankenstein and has some great scientific ideas about the 22nd century. S.J. Chambers has an essay about the book in Clarkesworld (which Joan mentioned).

Kerry who gave a paper about Lovercraft’s story “Under the Pyramids” (which he ghost-wrote for Houdini and stars the great escapologist). He’s doing a PhD on archaeology in weird fiction.

Shari from Melbourne who introduced us to the sad story of the Inca children who not only gave their lives for their community, but had to walk vast distances and climb a volcano to get to the place where they would be sacrificed.

Ellie who gave a paper on Bram Stoker’s novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars, which involves a mummy, some Golden Dawn type magic and a whole of lot Egyptmania-in-London material. She’s just finished a PhD studying with Roger Luckhurst

All of this was organized by the fabulous Josie Gill whose Literary Archaeology project I may have mentioned before.

By this point all of you are doubtless very jealous, especially those of you based in Bristol whom I shamefully neglected to tell about this because I didn’t get the program until earlier this week and been crazy busy, but sorry anyway (especially to you, Alistair). However, on the way back to Temple Meads Anna mentioned that she would be back in Bristol in April for the annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science. It looks fairly cheap to attend, and Anna tells em that they are interested in science fiction as well as non-fiction writing about science. I’ll know more once Anna gets home to Oldenburg and we have exchanged a few emails.