Get to Know Bruce Clarke

Bruce Clarke — From Doo-Wop to Cyberpunk
DALLAS (SMU) — As “Bruno” in the quirky ’50s-style rock group Sha Na Na, Bruce Clarke waxed about the blue moon in pompadoured greaser garb. Now, as a bespectacled Texas Tech English professor and author, he sings the praises of the intersection of science and literature via his lecture “The Ecology of Neuromancer: Cyberpunk, Cyberspace, and High Orbit in Planetary Context.”
Clarke’s talk, on Thursday, Nov. 1, will be free and open to the public at SMU’s DeGolyer Library. His visit is part of the Scott-Hawkins Lecture Series sponsored by the Department of English in Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences.
The event will feature a 6 p.m. reception in the Texana Room, followed by a 6:30 p.m. reading and discussion in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room. To RSVP, click here, and for a SMU visitor parking map, here.
Clarke’s inspiration for the discussion is William Gibson’s 1984 science fiction novel, Neuromancer, about a has-been computer hacker hired to pull off the ultimate hack. The groundbreaking work launched the cyberpunk “high-tech low-life” genre into the literary mainstream.
SMU English professor Dennis Foster says Clarke will discuss how 30 years ago, Neuromancer introduced the idea of a world located not in the natural world but in a self-made cyber world, known as Gaia. “So what happens to the idea of ecology — the study of the relation of humans to their home/world — when that world is no longer separable from human makers? Will Gaia take revenge? Tune in Nov. 1 to find out.”
“The reach between literature and science is the longest kind of reach in academia,” Clarke says in this short video about his career transformation, which has resulted in his published works Allegories of Writing (1995), Dora Marsden and Early Modernism (1996), Energy Forms (2001) and Posthuman Metamorphosis (2008).
Science and fiction are concepts that have captivated Clarke since his days at Columbia University, where he returned to graduate after his worldwind four-year-stint in Sha Na Na. The punkster pop band grew out of Columbia’s longtime a capella group the Kingsmen, which changed its name in 1969 to avoid confusion with the Pacific Northwest band of “Louie, Louie” fame. Three months later Sha Na Na captured the attention of a concert producer who thought the band was so counter to the hippie counterculture as to be cool. This led to their being catapulted into fame after opening for Jimi Hendrix during the Woodstock Festival.
The group set off a Fifties nostalgia fashion and culture craze that led to the Broadway musical “Grease” (1971) and movie (1978) as well as such TV series as “Happy Days” (1974-1984) and their own “Sha Na Na” variety show (1977–1981).
Clarke’s literary aim, he says, is for all of us to “rethink the position of humanity” when it comes to science. The Texas Tech Horn Professor has been president of the Society for Literature and Science and is interim chair of the English Department in the College of Arts & Sciences. He also is editor of Intertexts: A Journal of Comparative and Theoretical Reflection, published by TTU Press.
For more details about the event, click here or call 214-768-2945.

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