A Field Guide to the Academics

At Archipelacon you will find a specific track for academic programming. This track is open to all convention members, and consists of programme items that are just as much about SF as everything else at the con. However, they do have a slightly different format and traditions attached to them, compared to regular convention fare.

 Field guides are often designed to help users distinguish animals and plants that may be similar in appearance but are not necessarily closely related.” (Wikipedia)*

Archipelacon offers you a wonderful opportunity to see academics in their natural habitat. In order to help you identify them and to make sure you do not accidentally spook these rare and sensitive creatures, here are a few easy pointers about their usual behaviour:

1) Academics don’t do panels.

Well, they do, but the things that are called panels are not actually panels. Each panel has three speakers who do not introduce themselves, nor do they begin by telling the audience why they think they have been chosen for the panel or by offering their own definition of epic fantasy.

Instead, each speaker is introduced by the chairperson and holds the floor for 20 minutes straight. During this time, it is very bad form to interrupt them for any reason less than an apocalypse. On the other hand, if speakers overrun their 20 minutes, the chair will shoot them with a laser pistol.

Once the speaker has used their 20 minutes, there is 10 minutes for questions and comments from the audience. Permission to speak is given by the chairperson. Do not speak unless you are given permission, or you will be shot with a laser pistol.

The chairperson will then introduce the next speaker etc.

2) Academics are not SF fans.

Well, they are, but they have to pretend they aren’t. Anyone caught squeeing about their research topic in public will be shot with a laser pistol. Instead, they must use critique­—a language developed by academic critters that often makes everyone else go “Que?”. This does not mean, however, that what academics say is meaningless, just that it may sound like it is.

Because they speak critique rather than squee, academics are also happy to respond to critique. During the question time they may find the entire basis of their presentation undermined by others’ comments, but that does not make them attempt to kill the questioner with a laser pistol. Therefore:

3) Academic discussions are always serious and polite.

Except when they aren’t. That depends on who has already been shot with a laser pistol.

When asking questions or making comments it is a good idea to be brief, mostly because academics are a somnolent species and will easily go to sleep if you go on for too long.

Some people say there is no such thing as a stupid question. Thus all con members should feel free and confident in asking questions at the academic sessions. However, one exception to this rule exists: you should not ask stupid questions.**

Thus the academic panels are safe environments for all con members.  However, be aware that the academics’ habit of sinking their teeth in their topics may expose you to splatterings of serious thought.***

* Wikipedia can never be used as a legitimate source in an academic context.
** ‘Stupid question’ noun stu·pid ques·tion \ˈkwes-chən, ˈkwesh-\ : a sentence, phrase, or word that does not actually ask for information, but is instead used to parade the questioner’s own knowledge, or asking for information that was presented during the talk but which the questioner did not hear because they came in late, or is used to point out that the speaker should not be doing research on topic “x” but on Hannu Rajaniemi, because Hannu Rajaniemi is inherently more interesting.
***Some experts say they have seen an academic with a sense of humour, but it may have been a lone genetic freak with no chance for reproduction.