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Blog: The Road To Tuebingen

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I spent last week in Tuebingen in Germany at a WINTER SCHOOL called "De/Recontextualizing Characters: Media Convergence and Pre-/Meta-Narrative Character Circulation". I am happy to report that I now understand ALL of the words in that title, which is something of a TRIUMPH for me, personally and mentally!

Getting there was a thrill-ride of TERROR. The night before I set off all the signs were that my travel hopes were DOOMED to failure. Everyone expected a DELUGE of snow overnight, so when I got out of bed at 4:40am I was almost disappointed to find there wasn't any. The news had said that loads of trains would be cancelled, which they very much WERE, so I ended up having to go to Liverpool Street on the (still working) Central Line and then hang around the station while, as per usual, nobody told us anything and nobody seemed particularly fussed. In the end I got on the first Stansted Express outta town and the driver was FANTASTIC, keeping everyone informed and also Being Light-Hearted about it all whilst also recognising that people were a bit stressed. He was GRATE!

My flight set off about 20 minutes late, which would have been fine except that I had a connecting flight at Hanover airport with very little time to spare. Two blokes just ahead of me leaving the plane asked where they should go to get a flight to Stuttgart, so I ended up following them, with the three of us LEGGING IT for MILES across to the other side of the airport. I arrived at the security barriers (there wasn't an easy interchange) flustered and out of breath, and ended up ripping the skin of my hand on the conveyor belt, but DID get onto the plane... which then sat still on the tarmac for half an hour!

Once I eventually got to Stuttgart I was amazed to find that I could walk straight off the plane and into baggage reclaim, where my suitcase arrived after approx 3 mins, then out and straight on the bus to Tuebingen, it was AMAZING! It was also BLOODY FREEZING - all week that I was away people back home were complaining about the weather, while I was somewhere EVEN COLDER . I guess this is what it must be like to live in Scotland!

The University had put me up in a hotel, which was jolly nice but seemed to have been decorated in the 1980s, so I had an EXTREMELY brightly coloured duvet. The Winter School itself was happening on the other side of town, up a HILL and inside an ACTUAL CASTLE. I knew it was in the Tower Room of a SCHLOSS, but I was not quite prepared for the Actual Castliness of it all!

The actual school itself was MIND BLOWING. As I've said before, I'm used to going to conferences that are mostly/entirely BORING, but this one was PACKED with INFORMATION that was not only INTERESTING but also HIGHLY RELEVANT to my PhD. There were talks about Manga, Transmedia Archeology (hem hem), Comics Continuity, and LOADS about Transmedia Characters, which will be EXTREMELY useful to me. I am currently writing it all up to give as a presentation for my supervisors later in the week, so if you require a full DOWNLOAD of all the info ask me after that. I WILL TELL YOU!

The only vaguely difficult moment of the week came at the end of the first day, when we went to another part of the Actual Castle for drinks and food. I was KNACKERED so left early, and was let out of a back door... which turned out to lead NOWHERE, TRAPPING me on the top of the Castle Wall! I had to BANG on the windows of the dark, closed part of the Gallery that I'd been led through to try and get someone to come back and let me in again. I had terrible visions of FREEZING to death out there - it was a frightening... er... three minutes and no mistake!

Other than that it was BRILLO. Winter Schools and Summer Schools are fantastic Continental Things that we don't seem to have much over here. This one had about 20 people involved, half of the attendees were leading BRAINS in their fields, while the other half of us were Junior Researchers, mostly doing PhDs. This meant that it was a fantastic mix of EXPERTS and NEW IDEAS, interacting with each other. Thankfully it was all conducted in ENGLISH - I was the only active native English speaker there, with about half of the total attendees from Germany, but luckily for me English is The International Language Of Academia, so I could understand everything. Well, I could understand the WORDS, I didn't necessarily always understand what they MEANT!

Everyone there did a talk, so I did mine about my current work so far on Doctor Doom. To my surprise people got MOST excited about my DATABASE METHODOLOGY, which heretofore has mostly been considered "a bit boring". There were also some Interested/Interesting questions about an idea I have to do Observer Ratings on some characters (an idea suggested by, and hopefully involving when I get round to it, Dr M Larkin Out Of Lazarus Clamp). I am still not used to talking OUT LOUD about this sort of thing, so enjoyed it immensely, and also got to plug the twitter handle for the Marvel Age Doom blog!

It was SO interesting that the whole week FLEW by, but I still felt VERY homesick, not least due to the fact that it was SO cold that I spent most of the time either in a hotel room, in the conference, or SPEED WALKING between the two! Come Friday I was VERY happy to be heading home, though also a bit AFEARED as all week I'd been reading reports about The Weather causing even more cancellations. As it happened my plane was delayed by about an hour on the way back, but I was FULLY appraised of the situation at all points, and the only time my travel arrangements got frustrating was, predictably, when I tried to change at Tottenham Hale for Stratford and found no staff there and none of the computer displays working either. It was at this point that I knew I was back in Blighty!

It was, all in all, a FANTASTIC experience that is going to have a BIG and BRILLIANT effect on my future thinking. Now all I need to do is get it all written down before I forget it!

posted 6/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett

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