April 27th, 2005


This Day in History, 1865: Sultana Explosion

The worst steamship disaster in the history of the United States occurred on this date. The Sultana, carrying approximately 2,300 passengers, the majority being freed Union POWs, exploded while en route to Cairo, IL. Neither the cause of the explosion nor the final count of the dead (estimated at between 1,450 and 2,000) was ever determined. Today, the Sultana disaster remains the worst of its kind. This disaster did not receive the press attention one would expect, due to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the end of the Civil War.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sultana_%28steamboat%29

Seeing Hitchhiker's

In the midst of seeing everyone jumping on the Serenity bandwagon...

gnomi and I have just secured two tickets to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at 3:10 PM at the Boston Common Theatre on Friday, April 29th. We have just enough time to see the movie before dealing with the beginning of shabbat and the last two yom tov days of Passover.

Anyone interested in joining us? We won't have a lot of time to socialize, but we're happy to meet anyone at the theater.

The Anthropology of Science Fiction

Last year, a bunch of Harvard graduate students asked me to run a science fiction workshop for them and for members of an Anthropology course on science fiction. This year, the professor who teaches that course, Paulette Curtis, asked me to do the workshop again, and I'll be running it for them next Tuesday evening.

When I heard about Paulette's course, called "Humans, Aliens & Future Home Worlds: An Anthropologist Looks at Science Fiction," I was fascinated by it, but sadly, I had no time to sit in on the class. This year, however, I asked Paulette if I could visit her class today, and she said yes.

It felt like old home week, even though the class was held in the Psychology building, which I rarely visited as an undergraduate. (Also, although Paulette was the year behind me in college, we never knew each other.) She lectured on Star Wars and science fiction fandom, and a lot of it was delightfully familiar. She had some excellent theories on why Star Wars is universally appealing, and then she spoke on fandom as a subculture. It's amusing to think of myself as being part of a subculture worthy of anthropological study, but Paulette makes an excellent argument for it.

(It's also amusing to look at one of the textbooks, SCIENCE FICTION CULTURE by Camille Bacon-Smith, and to see that she interviewed people I know, like Jalibait, who is somewhere else on LiveJournal if I remember correctly.)

A description of the course can be found at http://my.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?course=fas-anth1685, and the syllabus for the course from a few years ago can be found at http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu:80/~anth121/syllabus/ if anyone's interested.

(Of course, the real reason for this post is to shout out to mystful, who will be in the workshop and who I got to meet for the first time in real life today.)