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The Dare: A Historical Reenactment


As part of the Frankenstein Bicentennial celebration, on October 28-29th, 2016, a group of authors and scholars will retreat to the experimental town of Arcosanti to stage a modern reenactment of "The Dare" - the famous writing competition that spawned several great works of Gothic literature. Science fiction authors Tobias Buckell, Brenda Cooper, Nancy Kress, Nnedi Okorafor, and Vandana Singh and playwright Emily Mendelsohn will join ASU's Matt Bell, Joey Esrich, Dehlia Hannah and Cynthia Selin to respond to the sceptre of climate change through literary and scholarly writing.

Two centuries ago, during the infamous “year without a summer” of 1816, unseasonal cold and rain formed a practical constraint and a source of inspiration for a group of English writer’s vacationing on the banks of Lake Geneva. Kept inside by the ominous environmental conditions, the Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, John Polidori and Claire Clairemont passed their days at Byron’s residence, the Villa Diodati, where they devised a competition to write the best horror story, a contest would be remembered as "The Dare." Outcomes of this historic event include Mary Shelly's novel Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), John Polidori's short story The Vampyre (1819) and Lord Byron's poem Darkness (1816).

Today we again confront and increasingly chaotic weather and the disruption of seasonal patterns and climate dependent socio-economic conditions as a consequence of rising global mean temperature. The 2016 writing retreat will engage participants in a scientific and literary articulation of a A Year Without a Winter, a plausible scenario of climate change that offers an atmosphere of fascination and horror. Mirroring the two-year incubation period of Shelly's novel, in 2018 fiction writings will be published alongside scholarly essays in a genre-crossing volume by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City.

A Year Without a Winter is a transdisciplinary research and exhibition project led by Dehlia Hannah and Cynthia Selin. The forthcoming volume will be produced and edited in collaboration with the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Joey Esrich and by science fiction author Brenda Cooper.

The retreat will begin with a scientific session on the ASU campus. The opening session will introduce participants to cultural and environmetal features of the historical context of the original Dare and frame the contemporary scenario of A Year Without a Winter through talks by geochemist Ariel Anbar, Romanticist Mark Lussier, biogeochemist Hilairy Hartnet and environmental historian Paul Hirt.

Later Event: November 17
Fictions and Policy