The Day I Met an Astrophysicist by Mimi Okabe

“As a specialist in literature, what does the black hole represent to you?”

This was one of the questions that Dr. Sharon Morsink asked me when I met her for the first time on a not-so-chilly afternoon in December of 2017. We sat in SUB, talking about black holes, or at least, what I knew of them (which is to say, not very much). She told me about an exciting online introductory course that she and her team were developing at the time called ASTRO 101: Black Holes. The online course was launched recently, and anyone can register for it here for free! Having taught a course on sci-fi, I was invited to participate in an interview to discuss the representation of black holes in science fiction and popular culture--I was thrilled! The topic of black holes was something new and exciting for me that I ended up reading and watching quite a bit. Considering that black holes are a common trope in sci-fi stories, films, anime and even video games, I was surprised that little critical attention has been paid to this topic. If I had the time and funds to do another PhD, this is an area that I would love to further explore! In the videos featured here, I give my two cents on fictional depictions of black holes and why I think it matters. Hope you find them interesting! (〃ω〃)


the U of A has its own observatory?! Public viewing are currently scheduled on Thursday from 12 to 1:00 pm. The day and time change with the seasons, so don’t forget to stay updated! I love viewing the moon in the fall/winter semesters!

Click here to connect to the Department of Physics Astronomical Observatory homepage. Learn more about the online course, ASTRO 101 here. See what other experts have to say about black holes here.  Videos by


“Avengers Prime, Assemble!” The Dream Team Panel at CSSC! by Mimi Okabe


The 5th Canadian Society for the Study of Comics conference was held this year from May 10th-11th at the Bloor Yorkville Marriott and the Toronto Reference Library! Thank you to the conference organizers for another great conference. For the past five years, the CSSC has been held in collaboration with the Toronto Comic Art Festival (TCAF) and it’s an exciting time for academics, creators, and fans to meet and share their work.


One of the things that I really like about this conference is the people. It’s my third time presenting at this conference and it was nice to meet new and familiar faces. It’s definitely a place where I feel safe and encouraged to test my ideas, which I use to develop into an article for publication, or incorporate as part of my thesis. This year was particularly meaningful as I got to present on a panel that I organized, but it couldn’t have happened without the contribution of Dr. Ben Whaley and PhD Candidate, Jonathan Chau.


I’ve always wanted to propose a panel on manga since while there are many fascinating discussions on Canadian and American comics (mostly in the Anglophone tradition), there are fewer presentations that address manga seriously. As a result, and by no means is this anyone’s fault, but presentations on manga tend to be grouped in the miscellaneous panel by default. Finding the right team took some time, but with the support of my allies we proposed a panel titled “Breaking the Mold: Manga & the Politics of Identity” which was accepted! For a full read of our abstracts click here.

In a nutshell, our panel examined manga (and its cultural variations) as a powerful and creative force for social and political critique. Ben began the show with Tezuka Osamu’s Gringo, exploring how the manga grapples with questions of Japanese-ness and identity. I followed with a critical discussion on the impact of the economic crisis on the formation of middle-class youth identities in Japan as a means to explore the formation of the boy criminal/detective in Ohba Tsugumi’s Death Note. Jonathan Chau shifted  the discussion to matters of genre politics, investigating Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’s Red: A Haida Manga, which fuses narrative traditions and forms in developing a culturally relevant and distinct product, or as Jonathan might say, the meaning is “all in the gutter.”

What was really great about this panel presentation was the discussion that followed in the Q & A session and this can be credited to us "Avengers Prime" (I call dibs on Thor) for having interesting and strong papers! But all jokes aside, I’m grateful for my colleagues. 

I look forward to the next conference, whether it continues to be held in collaboration with TCAF, or with Congress.

Stay tuned for our next CSSC conference by clicking here

If you’d like to be a member of CCSC see here




2018 Graduate Teaching Awards Celebration! by Mimi Okabe

“Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last."

Bonus points to those who know where this quote comes from!

 Thank you to my research supervisor,  Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell  for his guidance and support in all aspects of my professional and teaching career. 

Thank you to my research supervisor, Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell for his guidance and support in all aspects of my professional and teaching career. 

Yesterday, the 3rd annual Graduate Student Teaching Award event was held in the Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering (and what a view of the city you get from up there!). I was really honored to have been one of the recipients of this year’s award, and I couldn’t have achieved it without the support of my students and my teaching mentors. First and foremost, to the students who nominated me, my heartfelt thanks. Thank you for motivating me and teaching me how to be a better instructor. To my mentors who have provided me with an incredible support network, your openness has had an invaluable impact on my own teaching philosophy, and I hope that I can continue to emulate your level of success. For the list of 2018 award recipients see here.


How can you be nominated for this award?

Each department has its own process, I believe, so I can only speak from my own experience as a student in Modern Languages & Cultural Studies. Also, check out the outlines & procedures posted on the FGSR website.

  1. Usually, in the fall semester, there is a call for nominations. The MLCS awards committee will send you a link for you to share with students. At this stage, all you can do is to request students, whom you have taught, to consider nominating you. The more students you can reach out to, the better. They are asked to fill out a short survey (which you don’t have access to, obviously) and then you play the waiting game.

  2. About a month or so later, you will receive an email from the MLCS awards committee. If you were successfully nominated, then, you will be asked to submit a teaching dossier as part of your application. For tips on how to put together a dossier, see these links (scroll to the bottom of the page). After all this, sip on a glass of wine and start working on your other projects because you won’t find out the results until the end of February of the following year.

Some tips:

It’s never too late to get started! In other words, at whatever stage you are at in your graduate program, start thinking about how you can put together a teaching dossier and how you can develop a strong CV.  

  1. The FGSR offers workshops as well as the Graduate Teaching & Learning Program, which are designed to provide you with practical tools and knowledge about teaching.

  2. A dossier takes time to put together, so start early. Work on it bit by bit. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues, professors and/or mentors  to help you. Seek their professional advice in order to build a stronger dossier (some of them are tenured for a reason…). Luckily, I belong to a department that is supportive of their grad students, so I had no problem asking for help.

  3. At the end of the day,  be your own advocate!! Get as many teaching opportunities as you can. If you can’t get teaching gigs, do a series of guest lectures and always ask for students’ feedback (either online or in hard copy) and include them in your dossier. Join teaching circles at your university. If your institution doesn’t have one, then create one. Take initiative to demonstrate that you geniunely care about & are critically thinking about teaching.

  4. Find a teaching mentor and meet with her/him once a month or so to discuss your progress, challenges and etc. Having a teaching mentor is important because they not only provide you with words of wisdom, but can support your role as an instructor in so many different ways.

I hope some of these tips will set you up for greater success! 

The Launch of Subjective Fashion! by Mimi Okabe


This afternoon I attended the launch of SUBJECTIVE FASHION,  the second issue of Polyglot Magazine held in the IRS Studio at the  University of Alberta!

What is subjective fashion?

I think fashion has always been a powerful tool in defining our individual style and our Self, but also our collective identity. In this issue of Polyglot, I tackle this question by exploring the feminist implications of the way I dress in free verse (I don’t dress “cute” for no reason, you know). But all jokes aside, this issue celebrates the intersection of fashion, community & culture as evidenced by the multilingual and multicultural contributions. Click here to  purchase a copy of this magazine and show your love and support! See page 2 for my contribution! 

Happy (belated) Birthday Sherlock Holmes! by Mimi Okabe

What better way to ring in the New Year than by celebrating Sherlock's birthday with the Wisteria Lodgers! We all got together for a wonderful dinner at Barb & John’s home where we indulged in roast beef au jus, mushy peas, roasted potatoes, and tomato cucumber salad. As the evening progressed, we sipped on wine, sangria and sparkling apple juice over a very heated discussion about “The Final Solution” **ahem** I mean, “The Final Problem.”

One of the fascinating things about this story for me is that we see Sherlock Holmes at his most vulnerable (and perhaps for good reason). He basically sees a spitting image of himself--well that is, without the domed forehead and the deeply sunken in set of eyes--but one who uses his genius to run an organized crime network. The cat-and-mouse game between Holmes and Moriarty, which takes them across Europe is perhaps another highlight of the story that adds to its suspense, though,some of us interpreted it as a sign that Doyle was planning his vacation (and, perhaps, rightly so since this WAS supposed to be the last Sherlock Holmes story). The night ended with a series of toasts. I wrote one for the Woman, which went a little something like this:

To the Woman who was always two steps ahead,

That it scared Watson, and he wrote her off as dead.

But in the popular imagination she continues to live,

As an equal to the Great detective.

She’s an American!

She’s an Adventuress!

She’s an Adversary!

Some will say…

She’s a AAA threat disguised as a gentle lady.

So let us raise our glass to Ms. Irene Adler,

The woman of the past, present and generations hereafter!



Mapping Sherlock Holmes in Toronto by Mimi Okabe

Consider this blog as a work in progress as I continue to explore the city of Toronto and all it has to offer for fans of Sherlock Holmes and/or mystery. I’m back in Toronto for the holidays and during my short stay I plowed my way through the snow and slush to find references, places and things related to Sherlock Holmes. I’d really appreciate it if my friends & readers could comment and contribute to this list! Let the sleuthing begin & let's build an archive together (for the fun of it!). 

Here it goes for now:

  1. For starters, if you haven’t been to the Toronto Reference Library, I recommend you to visit the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, which you can access on the 5th floor. This collection is vast, so you may want to dedicate a few hours of your day exploring all that it has to offer. The collection is also an invaluable resource for researchers like me, especially since it has some  books and manga and other scholarly material on Sherlock Holmes in Japan. The librarians are also very kind and helpful and if you call ahead, you can request certain materials to be printed off and/or ready to use upon your visit. Also, if you’re around the area, take a stroll on Sherlock Holmes Walk (that is, when the weather gets warmer).

2. The Sleuth of Baker Street My husband discovered this bookstore online and we decided to pay a visit this afternoon. I was informed by the owner that since the relocation of the bookstore to Millwood, he no longer carries young adult literature such as the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew stories, but there is an abundance of mystery novels, I mean A LOT! It was like being in a candy store. The bookstore doesn’t specialize in Sherlock Holmes stories exclusively, but offers so much that your bound to find something you want to read! You can also order books from the owner. I picked up a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes to add to my collection and the graphic novel adaptation of SHERLOCK: A Study in Pink.

3. Sure Lock This is a store that I drive pass every now and then. I haven’t been inside but as indicated on the yellow pages, it’s been around since 1981, specializing in “complete lock and door hardware.”

4. What Sherlock Holmes things have you found? Comment below! 

I finally met Juliet McMaster! by Mimi Okabe

  When conversing with Dr. McMaster, I discovered that she was the external examiner for my former supervisor, who supervised me. She  referred to me as her "granddaughter" by extension, which I thought was very sweet, and what a small world!

When conversing with Dr. McMaster, I discovered that she was the external examiner for my former supervisor, who supervised me. She  referred to me as her "granddaughter" by extension, which I thought was very sweet, and what a small world!

On October 28th 2017, the monthly meeting for the Jane Austen Society of North America-- Edmonton Region took place at United on Whyte 7909-82 Avenue. The community gathers every 4th Saturday of every month and they feature guest lectures on Jane Austen and her works by academics, writers, and community members. Very nice refreshments were also provided courtesy of Vicky!  Last month, Dr. Nora Stovel delivered a talk entitled, “Modernizing Jane Austen: the HarperCollins project,” which, I sadly, could not attend.

Yesterday, Dr. Juliet McMaster, who founded JASNA-Edmonton region, delivered a compelling lecture entitled  “The Child Author as Mother of the Novelist: From the Juvenilia to the Novels,” in which she made the case for understanding the importance of how themes of courtship in Austen’s Juvenilia get carried forward and magnified in the novels. The manuscript has been sent for publication with Persuasions On-Line and I can’t wait to read it--to really digest it. This was the first time ever that I’d seen Dr. McMaster present, though, I have read many of her works. I'd always wanted to meet her, especially after having completed one of my MAs on a manga adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, but by the time I came to study at the University of Alberta, Dr. McMaster had already retired! I thought that I would never get a chance to meet her,  so being able to listen to her present and talk to her was like a dream come true! The delivery of her presentation was so incredible! She had such a great sense of humor and really knew how to draw a crowd. It was like a performance. There is much to learn from her.

 Juliet McMaster in white attire.

Juliet McMaster in white attire.

In addition to her talk on Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, Dr. McMaster also gave a fencing demonstration as part of her book promotion, Blades Against the Dark. Her demonstration was also quite impressive! She then gave a short reading from the novel. I wish the day wouldn’t end! Being surrounded by so many accomplished, intelligent and influential women, I felt so inspired and motivated!


For monthly updates on JASNA Edmonton region please click here

GEEK GIRLS (A Review) by Mimi Okabe

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Are you a Geek? You might in fact shy away from that label because it connotates some one who is different, creepy and/or a social outcast. Director Gina Hara’s feature-length documentary entitled GEEK GIRLS explores the culture of geeky women who are empowered by their geeky-ness in their own creative and meaningful ways. I was lucky to have been able to watch this documentary, which was featured as part of Edmonton’s DEDfest, a festival that celebrates the works of indie film makers. Gina’s documentary, which took three years in the making, is brilliantly put together and well researched--and it shows.

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In her quest to find the answer to the question: What does geek mean to me? Gina’s journey begins and ends in Japan as she grapples with the politics of geek identity. In her pursuit, she weaves together women’s voices from around the world, who articulate their trials, risks and tribulations of what it means to be part of a “geek” community/nerd culture. In a community typically defined by men and that which is often hostile towards the inclusion of women, the cast of women interviewed in the film, which include cosplayers, gamers, comic book creators and a scientist, celebrate how women define and redefine the boundaries of geek culture. The multiple perspectives that the documentary offers underscores the theme of "inclusivity," which is central to the film’s political vision.

The film is conscientious not just in terms of its form (sound, music & cinematography), but also its content, especially in articulating its feminist aims. In other words, it doesn’t celebrate a culture of women at the expense of men. Rather, it accomplishes to make you think and even reassess your own values and stance. This was evidenced during the Q & A session following the screening. A woman, sitting in the audience tearfully asked how she could protect her daughter in a community that might be toxic for young girls? Why at the cost of humility, shame, ostracization and cyber-bullying, would she, as a parent, encourage her daughter to celebrate geek identity? This prompted a young man, also sitting in the audience, to ask what he can do to combat sexism. Some of the best films are those that inspire and Gina’s documentary has the potential to foster and nurture a sense of community beyond the text itself.

For upcoming screenings and more information about the film, click here.

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All photos provided by Gina Hara (Thank you!).