By Adam Bicksler
Robert Latham is a tenured professor of English at UC Riverside. He is also an editor and contributor to the journal Science Fiction Studies. Latham is a major player in the formation of the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies PhD concentration within the UC Riverside English department.
In October, Latham saw a labor-of-love come to fruition with the publication of The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction, a behemoth of an anthology that he edited for two years. Latham is also one of the editors for 2010’s The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction and the author of 2002’s Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, and the Culture of Consumption.
As Latham is very busy and constantly working on several projects at a time, Beyond editor Adam Bicksler was lucky enough to get a brief interview.
Hi, Rob. First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for our journal.
What first piqued your interest in the genre of science fiction?
I was a teenager and I didn’t like the world I lived in. So SF provided a refuge and an alternative.
How did you first come to be an editor?
I was asked to edit reviews for two scholarly newsletters in the mid-1980s. I edit line-by-line, to improve a piece for clarity and concision.
What was the most rewarding aspect of working on The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction?
Being finished with it! Also, planning its initial conception. The editing process itself was a nightmare!
From my experience, the genre of speculative fiction often deals with aspects of society that are swept under the rug. Would you agree?
It sort of depends on what you mean by this. Speculative fiction often focuses on the fault lines in society, exposing rifts that may result in dystopian or utopian futures.
From your experience as an author, editor and professor, do you feel that there is a theme that has endured throughout the history of science fiction?
How science and technology have changed, are changing, and will change society and the world seems to me perhaps the most enduring theme.
In your professional opinion, where is the genre headed?
Since the 1980s, the genre has diversified into a number of niches: hard SF, military SF, fantasy, steampunk, etc. This fragmentation and diversification are only likely to continue.
Once again, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule.
Some brief information regarding the SFTS PhD designated emphasis as taken from UCR’s SFTS Mission Statement: “The SFTS program explores the intersections linking science fiction studies, science and technology studies (STS), and technoculture studies. Consistent with other STS programs around the country and internationally, this program examines the histories and cultures of science, technology, and medicine to understand the role that culture has always played in the production of science and the reciprocal way that changes in science and technology have shaped culture. The program also uniquely emphasizes the role of popular culture and the genre of science fiction in particular in mediating public understandings of science, serving as an imaginative testing ground for technological innovation, and articulating hopes and anxieties regarding technocultural change. Drawing on faculty from across CHASS, the SFTS program enables students to develop a critical understanding of the cultures of science and their dialectical exchanges with contemporary popular culture.”
A list of Professor Latham’s works and contributions can be found HERE.
Information for UCR’s Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies (SFTS) can be found HERE.