socolowThe Olympics and geopolitics have gone hand-in-hand since the modern Games emerged in 1896. Michael J. Socolow’s new book examines one of the most controversial Olympiads of all time through the lens of emerging technology and an American rowing team that defied the odds to win gold.

The Berlin Olympics, August 14, 1936. German rowers, dominant at the Games, line up against America’s top eight-oared crew. Hundreds of millions of listeners worldwide wait by their radios. Leni Riefenstahl prepares her cameramen. Grantland Rice looks past the 75,000 spectators crowding the riverbank. Above it all, the Nazi leadership, flush with the propaganda triumph the Olympics have given their New Germany, await a crowning victory they can broadcast to the world.

The Berlin Games matched cutting-edge communication technology with compelling sports narrative to draw the blueprint for all future sports broadcasting. A global audience—the largest cohort of humanity ever assembled—enjoyed the spectacle via radio. This still-novel medium offered a “liveness,” a thrilling immediacy no other technology had ever matched. Michael J. Socolow’s account moves from the era’s technological innovations to the human drama of how the race changed the lives of nine young men. As he shows, the origins of global sports broadcasting can be found in this single, forgotten contest. In those origins we see the ways the presentation, consumption, and uses of sport changed forever.

Today’s post is by Gerry Canavan, author of the new UIP book Octavia E. Butler. Canavan is an assistant professor of twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature at Marquette University, specializing in science fiction. He blogs at and tweets at @gerrycanavan.

canavanAs with similarly uncanny precognitions of Donald Trump’s unbelievable ascension to the presidency—a throwaway joke on The Simpsons in 2000, the terrible reign of the Trump-inspired bully Biff Tannen in the evil version of 1985 in Back to the Future Part II, the uncanny similarities between the Trump election and the fascist President Gentle in David Foster Wallace’s 1996 Infinite Jest—many were incredibly disturbed earlier this summer to recall the now eerily familiar slogan of the odious and dictatorial President Jarrett in Octavia Butler’s dystopian Parable of the Talents (1998): MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. Jarrett rolls into power on a wave of Christian ethno-nationalism, inspiring roving vigilante lynch mobs of genocidal supporters before, eventually, introducing formal concentration camps. Set in the 2020s and 2030s in a collapsing and crashed America, the Parables books (tracing Lauren Olamina’s development of a twenty-first century religion that has the power to inspire and console in the face of disaster) have always seemed incredibly and disturbingly prescient—and in the wake of November 8, 2016 they now seem downright spooky, the actual and accurate history of the future. “I have read,” writes Taylor Franklin Bankole, the character who eventually becomes Lauren’s husband, “that the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as ‘the Apocalypse’ or more commonly, more bitterly, ‘the Pox’ lasted from 2015 through 2030—a decade and a half of chaos.” Well, here we go.

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Civic Labors . . . is intended to prompt further discussion about engaged scholarship and teaching. The essays will help readers to think further about the theory and practices of engagement and scholar-activism, asking what publics ought to be addressed and how best to shape this engagement. The contributors drive home the point that, regardless of the scale or type on involvement, power and engagement are entwined. These stories provide hope and an impetus for scholars and teachers to engage creatively in ongoing struggles that Shelton Stromquist sees as connected, at once local and transnational: “How do we build and sustain a vital movement for social justice and equality capable of contesting for power and remodeling our workplaces, or communities and indeed our countries into the humane and just world to which we aspire?” Or as David Montgomery urges, “carry it on!”
—from Civic Labors

Working class studies often attracts scholars who spend their careers, and not a small amount of their non-work lives, at the crossroads of writing, teaching, and living the struggle. The essays in this new collection examine the challenges and opportunities for engaged scholarship in the United States and abroad. A diverse roster of contributors discuss how participation in current labor and social struggles guides their campus and community organizing, public history initiatives, teaching, mentoring, and other activities. They also explore the role of research and scholarship in social change, while acknowledging that intellectual labor complements but never replaces collective action and movement building.

Octavia Butler accomplished many near-impossibles. She succeeded as a woman in science fiction. She succeeded as an African American woman in science fiction. She also broke out of the genre’s restraints to earn attention in the American literary sphere. It isn’t easy to win a MacArthur grant, for that matter, and some would say publishing a book that people read and talk about is rare enough.

canavanThough we’re excited about every book we publish, we’re Excited 2.0 about Gerry Canavan‘s new entry in our Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. Octavia E. Butler melds critical analysis and Canavan’s fascinating finds from the Butler archives at The Huntington to produce a truly eye-opening consideration of the way Butler’s life influenced her ideas, molded her works, and spurred her choices. Octavia E. Butler is also a landmark for the series. As you can see, the UIP Art Department’s stunning redesign of the series not only draws the eye, it pays tribute to the fantastic cover art that has graced SF books since the 1930s.

The post below offers a group of quotes out of Octavia E. Butler. Typically we do that to give readers a sample of a book. But we’re also Butler fans. We want to spread the word–on her achievement, her works, and her worthiness as a subject for in-depth study. Inspired? Interested? We encourage you to borrow a passage from Canavan or a quote from Butler herself and put it out there. Our Twitter feed will post more of the same. Enjoy.

Excerpts from Octavia E. Butler, the new Modern Masters of Science Fiction book by Gerry Canavan:

“If we humans are, as Lauren believes, and as I believe, a part of Earth in significant ways, then perhaps we can’t, or shouldn’t, leave and go to another world. The system of Earth is self-regulating, but not for any particular species, in the same way that the human body has its own metabolic logic. Perhaps the Acorn community represents the most logical way to halt the damage we’re doing to the Earth and to ourselves as humans.” —Octavia Butler

“Lost Races” also mentions the other side of Butler’s critique of race and SF, what she long saw as black people’s lack of interest in the future. She did not blame African Americans for this lack of interest; their lack of inclusion, and the dire lack of writers speaking to their concerns, explained the case. Butler recounts that at times she herself has been very frustrated with SF, both as a future-oriented literary practice that could not move beyond its antiquated assumptions and with regard to fandom circles, where she had often felt like an unwanted outsider. She noted also, with sadness, that the serious problems facing black people sometimes precluded their interest in imagining other worlds, ventriloquizing within the essay the sorts of words that were often hurled at her when she was young: “How can you waste your time with anything that unreal?”

Frequently her heroes turn sour, or become suspect, or seem to cross unthinkable lines of ethics and integrity in the name of survival. Just as frequently as they fight back, her characters choose not to resist their invaders, but to aid them—or fall in love with them, or merge entirely with them. In biological terms, her most frequent metaphor is not individualistic competition but mutual interdependence: symbiosis. We need the Other to live (whether we like it or not).

“I don’t write utopian science fiction,” Butler said, “because I don’t believe imperfect humans can form a perfect society.” But this tells only half the story: Butler longed to write utopian fiction, “fix-the-world scenarios,” and was stymied despite her “need to write them” by, she said, the sad “fact that I don’t believe in them—don’t believe humanity is fixable.” The Oankali stories laid out the terms of this lack of belief—Butler believed the notion of the “human contradiction” she laid out in those books was basically the correct diagnosis, and returned to it repeatedly in interviews and in her personal journals over the course of her life.

In Butler’s novels power acts as it always does, rapaciously inflicting itself upon those without; it is the task of the powerless to turn the tables, or else survive in the gaps. Nearly every story in her oeuvre considers the inevitable struggle for dominance that occurs when two “alien” forms of life, with different capabilities, and different needs, encounter each other for the first time.

“When I was in my teens, a group of us used to talk about our hopes and dreams, and someone would always ask, ‘If you could do anything you wanted to do, no holds barred, what would you do?’ I’d answer that I wanted to live forever and breed people—which didn’t go over all that well with my friends. In a sense, that desire is what drives Doro in Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind. At least I made him a bad guy!” —Octavia Butler





chanWinner of the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, Survivors follows the saga of Cambodian refugees striving to distance themselves from a series of cataclysmic events in their homeland. Sucheng Chan tracks not only the Cambodians’ fight for life lives but also their battle for self-definition in new American surroundings.

Drawing on interviews with more than fifty community leaders, a hundred government officials, and staff members in volunteer agencies, Chan begins with the Cambodians’ experiences under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, following them through escape to refugee camps in Thailand and finally to the United States, where they try to build new lives in the wake of massive trauma. Their struggle becomes primarily economic as they continue to negotiate new cultures and deal with rapidly changing gender and intergenerational relations within their own families. Poverty, crime, and racial discrimination all have an impact on their experiences in America, and each is examined in depth.

rimlerUIP author Walter Rimler has won the Timothy White Award for Outstanding Musical Biography in the pop music field for his book The Man That Got Away: The Life and Songs of Harold Arlen. Given by the by the ASCAP Foundation and the Virgil Thomson Foundation, the Timothy White Award has in the past gone to artists like Buddy Guy and Dave Van Ronk as well as a long list of stellar writers.

Rimler’s book traces the life and nigh-unparalleled songbook of the man who gave a grateful world “Over the Rainbow,” “Stormy Weather,” and “One for My Baby,” yet never quite overcame a lack of attention even in his own lifetime. This despite the fact George Gershwin called him “the best of us” and that Irving Berlin agreed. Are you kidding? Paul McCartney sent him a fan letter and became his publisher, while Bob Dylan wrote of his fascination with Arlen’s “bittersweet, lonely world.” Walter Rimler drew on interviews with friends and associates of Arlen and on newly available archives to write an intimate and acclaimed portrait of a genius whose work is a pillar of the Great American Songbook.

On November 8, 1810, the first recorded load of Illinois coal reached the market in New Orleans. The event may sound ordinary, but it represented a significant pivot in state history. Coal would go on to become an important business, particularly over the next 100-plus years, drawing immigrants of all kinds, helping to build towns, and diversifying the economy. Mines also provided battlegrounds for disputes between laborers and ownership and, as grimly, between factions of striking white workers and black strikebreakers, particularly at Virden and not long after at Pana; and during the 1922 Herrin Massacre.

Though the state’s shorthand history always mentions that outsiders moved to Illinois in search of farmland, the coal deposits underneath that farmland had actually attracted attention from the French in the late 1600s.

Bluffs near Murphysbcoal mineoro provided that first New Orleans-bound flatboat of coal. Early on, St. Clair County, fortuitously within carting distance of St. Louis, was a center for coal mining. By 1840, nineteen Illinois counties had coal mines, with strip mining a particularly popular (i.e. cheap, low-tech) method of extraction in counties—Fulton, Vermilion, Perry, and St. Clair among them—lucky enough to have seams of surface coal. The industry powered the expansion of Danville, Decatur, Peoria, and dozens of other towns and cities downstate. Meanwhile, the large Chicago and Wilmington Coal Company near Braidwood sent much of its annual haul of 230,000 tons of coal, much of it mined by Scottish and English immigrants, to keep the lights on in Chicago.

Coal mining became a harder dollar as mining efforts exhausted the coal nearest the surface. Though Illinois still boasts the third-largest reserves in the United States, much of the 200 billion tons of coal either sits under towns or cannot be extracted in any profitable way. Illinois coal also tends to have a high sulfur content that makes it too “dirty” for modern environmental laws.

QiuHow do we lift the silicon heel from the lives of the exploited workers who make our gadgets? Jack Linchuan Qiu‘s insightful and enraging new book Goodbye iSlave delves into one of the most important, and willfully overlooked, moral issues of our time.

Qiu welcomes you into a brave new world of capitalism propelled by high tech, guarded by enterprising authority, and carried forward by millions of laborers being robbed of their souls. Gathered into mammoth factory complexes and terrified into obedience, these workers feed the world’s addiction to iPhones and other commodities, a generation of iSlaves trapped in a global economic system that relies upon and studiously ignores their oppression.

Focusing on the alliance between Apple and the notorious Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, Qiu examines how corporations and governments everywhere collude to build systems of domination, exploitation, and alienation. His interviews, news analysis, and first-hand observation show the circumstances faced by Foxconn workers—circumstances with vivid parallels in the Atlantic slave trade. Ironically, the fanatic consumption of digital media also creates compulsive free labor that constitutes a form of bondage for the user. Arguing as a digital abolitionist, Qiu draws inspiration from transborder activist groups and incidents of grassroots resistance to make a passionate plea aimed at uniting—and liberating—the forgotten workers who make our twenty-first-century lives possible.

parry-giles fullShawn J. Parry-Giles is a professor of communication and director of the Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership at the University of Maryland. Her UIP book Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics basically predicted a huge chunk of the 2016 campaign season. Our Q&A with Parry-Giles delved into the persistent critique of Clinton’s so-called authenticity:

Q: How do you define “authenticity” and its role in the political process?

Shawn J. Parry-Giles: The assumption of many involved in politics is that the political image is contrived. The process often begins with political leaders and candidates trying to put forth their own political image. Opponents and the news media often assume the responsibility of interrogating the candidate’s image in order to identify the candidate’s true self. The goal is to try to identify contradictions in the candidate’s image to discern the fake from the real. Evidence of such contradictions can become a means by which to discredit a political leader and his or her candidacy. It can expose those who are perceived to be political opportunists rather than leaders seeking to promote the well-being of constituents. Questions of authenticity thus are often associated with trying to identify the “real” or “genuine” person and their true political beliefs.

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