Cinematic Extraterrestrials: Call for Papers

Alien romance in fantasy art

Alien romance in fantasy art



2008 Film & History Conference

“Film & Science: Fictions, Documentaries, and Beyond,” October 30-November 2, 2008, Chicago, Illinois,

Second-Round Deadline: September 1, 2008

Area: Cinematic Extraterrestrials

As film made its way into 20th-century popular culture, depictions of extraterrestrial aliens became more prolific and specialized, eventually becoming fixed in the imagination as cultural archetypes, while varying significantly in physical, emotional and intellectual attributes. But is there any pattern to this variety? Does the cinematic alien represent a new cultural archetype of any kind? Or does it merely evoke older archetypes? Are extraterrestrials, for example, the xenophobic hallucinations of a technologically advanced Western Hemisphere striving to decode the subaltern voices of those who have been displaced, or do extraterrestrials represent that advancement itself?

More questions emerge. What new cinematic techniques accompanied the depiction of the 20th-century alien extraterrestrial? How did contemporary scientific methods shape these film narratives? How, for example, did studies in artificial intelligence or developments in special effects affect the character potential of the extraterrestrial? Also, in what ways might films within this genre use the characters of extraterrestrial aliens to challenge assumptions about the attitudes, perspectives, and values of scientists and Science Fiction filmmakers, who seem to stand objectively apart from the world?

Paper topics may treat specific cinematic extraterrestrials in the context of social, scientific, and/or intellectual history, as well as religious studies, sociolinguistics, and astrobiology. Although the most popular images of cinematic extraterrestrials are of primary concern here, unheralded depictions of cinematic extraterrestrials may provide valuable insights. Historical and contemporary analogs to cinematic extraterrestrials may also be considered.

Please send your 300-word proposal by September 1, 2008, to the area chair:

Jim Webb, Chair, Cinematic Extraterrestrials Area

P. O. Box 3536

Chino Valley, AZ 86323


Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal.

This area, comprising multiple panels, is a part of the 2008 biennial Film & History Conference, sponsored by The Center for the Study of Film and History. Speakers will include founder John O’Connor and editor Peter C. Rollins (in a ceremony to celebrate the transfer to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh); Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of Visions of the Apocalypse, Disaster and Memory, and Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood; Sidney Perkowitz, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University and author of Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, & the End of the World. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

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