Loncon 3, diversity, speculative fiction

Diversity in Speculative FictionLoncon 3, 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. Thursday 14 to Monday 18 August 2014. London, UK.

Weird Spheres, Bursting Bodies and Peculiar Tools: Disability, Masculinity and the Monstrous in the Dead Space Series.
Diane Carr, IOE, University of London

The focus of this talk is the representation of disability in Dead Space, a survival horror game. The analysis draws on disability studies literature, film theory and digital games research in order to analyze the endangered, gendered body of the protagonist Isaac Clarke. Williams’ 1991 essay on gender and ‘body genres’ is used in combination with an essay by Snyder and Mitchell (2010), in which the authors insert disability into Williams’ schema. If the fantasies at the heart of horror texts involve a form of cultural problem solving (Williams, 1991) then one of the problems being worried about and worked over in DS is that of an able yet unstable masculinity. Despite his prosthetic skin, Isaac frequently bursts, leaks, gushes, splits and goes to pieces. Meanwhile, a sinister invitation to “Make us whole” runs through the DS series. The DS games combine references to rebirth and ‘convergence events’ with images of monstrosity. The fantasy structures within DS suggest the presence of two temporal templates – that of ‘too soon’ (associated by Williams with generic horror and sexual difference) and ‘too late’ – linked by Williams with melodrama, loss and the primal scene. Bringing together the theoretical tools used by Williams, Snyder and Mitchell makes it possible to argue that DS combines various strategies in its efforts to generate unease and anxiety in the player. Psychoanalytic concerns of sexual difference and questions of origin are mixed with culturally prevalent discourses of disability, to create a frightening game-world where bodily control is under threat, and male agency is at stake.

Dead Space (2008) EA Redwood Shores, Electronic Arts.
Snyder, S. L. and Mitchell, D. T. (2010). Body Genres: An Anatomy of Disability in Film. The Problem Body: Projecting Disability on Film, 179-204.
Williams, L. (1991). Film bodies: Gender, genre, and excess. Film quarterly, 44(4), 2-13.

Acknowledgements: This research is undertaken with the support of the AHRC.

Conference websites

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