Proposals are invited for an interdisciplinary symposium at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, to explore representations of creatures of the sky and air, within the context of popular culture. The one-day conference is on Saturday 30 June 2018.

Keynote Lecture: Dr Chris Pallant, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Taking place in the drawing room of Horace Walpole’s Gothic mansion in Strawberry Hill, this symposium will discuss the sky as space, as well as the creatures associated with it, whether monstrous or mundane, in popular culture. The sky is a privileged locale in popular genres, from science fiction, horror and dystopian film; in animation as well as live action; to natural history programming on television.

Sometimes the sky is linked to the archaic, in myth and with prehistoric airborne creatures; at other times it is the site for our projections of the future, extra-terrestrial or otherwise. In both cases, our representations invariably mediate social and cultural anxieties that are current, even if projected into the distant past or far future. In documentary and natural history, the earth’s flying creatures are seen to be imperilled by global warming and the anthropocene. In popular genres of cinema and in animation, airborne creatures provide opportunities for bravura displays of spectacle.

We therefore welcome submission of abstracts on any related topic in film, media and cultural studies. Submissions from perspectives on popular genre cinema, transnational screen media, animation, fandom and audiences will be particularly encouraged. The symposium organisers will compile selected papers with a view to publishing an edited collection, following interest from an academic publisher.

The conference day will close with a book launch for the first publication from our conference series: Beasts of the Deep: Sea Creatures and Popular Culture (2018) John Libbey Publishing.

Topics for presentations might address, but are not limited to:

  • Science fiction cinema and history: from 1950s Cold War paranoia to post-9/11 alien invasions (Sánchez-Escalonilla, 2010)
  • UFO spotting and found footage films: UFOs in media and their related conspiracies
  • Ecocritical approaches to global warming in popular culture
  • Telefantasy: cult television from Star Trek and The X-Files to Game of Thrones
  • Dragons, wyverns and harpies: sky-borne monsters in popular culture
  • Celestial horrors: H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick and science fiction
  • Fears of nuclear annihilation in film and television: The War Game (1965), Threads (1984), Testament (1983), Zardoz (1974)
  • First contact in cinema: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Arrival (2016), etc
  • The sky and space in rock music: The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ and ‘Hey Mr Spaceman’; Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone from the Sun’, ‘Up from the Skies’
  • Afrofuturism: from Sun Ra and John Coltrane to Drexciya, Janelle Monaé and Flying Lotus
  • Flying, floating and airborne creatures in animation
  • The sky as the site of ‘animetism’ and ‘open compositing’ in anime (Lamarre, 2009)
  • Bats, vampires and Gothic skies
  • Digital games and floating space
  • The sky in PSB: Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts, etc

Submit an Abstract

Submit a maximum 500-word abstract by Friday 13 April 2018 to:

Dr Jon Hackett and Dr Seán Harrington at

For directions to St Mary’s and further information on our ‘Beasts’ conference series, please see our website: