Conference to explore ‘Avengers’, ‘Buffy’ writer’s works

by Life Editor Tyler Hargett

The eighth biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses, an event centered on the works of director, writer and producer Joss Whedon, will come to UNA next year.

The Whedon Studies Association, an international academic association that studies the TV, film and comic book works of Whedon and his collaborators, will host the conference June 21-24.

Whedon is famous for directing the films “Marvel’s The Avengers” and its sequel “Age of Ultron,” as well as creating the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly.”

The main part of the event is the reading of proposals on any aspect of the “Whedonverses,” a compilation of the worlds of Whedon and his associates’ works that are famous for their recurring themes and actors.

The fandoms, literary context, political or activist endeavors of Whedon may also work as topics.

Each work must show a familiarity with other published works in the Whedon field. The readings of the papers should be no longer than 20 minutes, and the conference encourages self-organized panels with three presenters.

Cynthia Burkhead, English Department chair, said she is not only a fan but also a scholar of Whedon’s work.

“Much of my research and scholarship has focused on his work,” she said.

Burkhead is the current president of the Whedon Studies Association and one of the program chairs who reviews submitted works. She has been a member of the association since 2006 and originally tried to get UNA as the host for the 2012 conference.

Different colleges around the world have hosted the conference, including California State University, the University of British Columbia and Kingston University London.

Kathryn Wardell, assistant professor of English, is assisting with general planning for the conference, and is also responsible for helping out with registration and sustainability issues.

Another long-time Whedon fan, she attended the last Slayage conference in London in 2016.

“(The conference is) a unique event because everyone is united by a passionate engagement with the world of Whedon and his collaborators, and that united passion creates great excitement,” she said.

Besides the presentations, the conference will also host daily keynote speakers and a banquet that features a live performance of the score of “Once More with Feeling,” a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode.

“There is nothing quite like seeing 200 academics singing songs in unison about fighting demons,” Burkhead said.

Freshman Colton Talley said he thinks the conference would be a cool event for the campus to have.

“(Whedon has) done some pretty great things,” he said. “I think there definitely should be something like (a conference) out there for him. It’s for the fans, and he’s got them worldwide apparently.”

Talley said having a literary conference rather than a simple fan convention is the right thing to have because of Whedon being a great writer.

Wardell said she believes everyone at UNA would benefit from attending the conference.

“The quality of the papers presented and the diversity of ideas expressed at Slayage are really impressive, and I believe that any members of the UNA community who attend will find the experience both fun and thought-provoking,” Wardell said.

Burkhead said attending is also a great way to meet people from other parts of the U.S. and across the globe.

Those interested in submitting a proposal can do so through the conference website by Jan. 8, 2018. Decisions on which works to feature will take place by March 5.

For questions regarding proposals, contact Rhonda Wilcox at [email protected].

For more information on the conference, contact Cynthia Burkhead at 256-765-4790 or [email protected].