Dear PCA Members: 

I hope that you are faring well during this pandemic, and I thank you for your continued support of PCA. Our submission site is open, and proposals are rolling in for our 2021 conference in Boston, June 2-5; the deadline for proposals is November 16, 2020. We are still planning to meet on site, as members prefer, but much remains unknown regarding personal and academic budgets; the availability and distribution of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine; local, national, and international restrictions on travel and group meetings; quarantine requirements; and other factors. We are monitoring this. The PCA Governing Board met recently with our conference planning liaison and our website developer to discuss options to present and attend virtually, and we are exploring the costs and feasibility. Because we signed a contract with the Boston hotel well in advance of the pandemic, we will lose money if we cancel, except in the event of a force majeure, an unavoidable circumstance that makes it impossible to fulfill our contract, such as a ban of all gatherings of over a certain number. A hybrid conference will add expenses for technology, increasing our conference costs by about 50%; this could mean a higher registration cost for all, whether they attend virtually or in person. Thus, at this time we are still planning to meet in person in early June but looking into other alternatives, such as expanded virtual opportunities on our website over the summer. PCA has established a COVID Task Force. If you have special expertise or suggestions, feel free to contact our task force members Colin Helb and Peter Cullen Bryant. Executive director Lynn Bartholome and I are happy to receive your comments as well. 

As I announced in my message in July, our membership and registration rates remain unchanged from last year, and they continue to be the best deal in academia. Note, though, that in order to be consistent with other academic associations, you will pay an annual membership fee at the time you submit your proposal; our specially trained area chairs are more than willing to work with those submitting to ensure that proposals are written in the right form, land in the right area, and are ultimately approved. Your membership fees are important: they keep our offices open all year long so that the PCA staff can prepare for the conference and summer research institute, administer grants, attend to all legal requirements to maintain our status as a non-profit organization, and serve our members with any services they need; this year the office had to process thousands of requests for refunds when the conference was canceled—no small feat! Also, a small portion of the membership fee also goes toward your subscription to The Journal of Popular Culture or The Journal of American Culture, both of which are published by Wiley and highly respected in their fields. Know that we do not take your membership lightly; the PCA staff and Governing Board are always available to serve our members as you navigate academic careers and popular culture research interests. 

I also want to bring to your attention new award and funding categories that have been adopted recently for deserving, often marginalized, groups. The PCA Governing Board has approved, in addition to longstanding awards for graduate students and junior faculty, a dissertation award and funding for independent scholars, retired faculty, and non-continuing faculty, including adjuncts and those in visiting positions. See the PCA website for details. We hope that these additional funding opportunities demonstrate our commitment to providing financial assistance for the conference to those PCA members who need it most.

We have much to look forward to in Boston. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and feminist author Susan Faludi and film director and screenplay writer Kevin Willmott will be our keynote speakers. Also, Michigan State University professor Gary Hoppenstand, who specializes in genre and narrative studies in popular fiction, comics and graphic novels, and popular electronic media, will be accepting the Bartholome Eminent Scholar Award and giving an address. You won’t want to miss these distinguished speakers and other events. We will keep you apprised on any changes in our program, and we wish you well as we make plans for a great conference in an unsettled time.
All the best,

Kathy Merlock Jackson
President, PCA