London Meeting: Chris Beckett

The guest at tonight’s London Meeting is Chris Beckett, author of The Holy Machine, the forthcoming Endless Worlds, and a whole bunch of short stories, some of which you can read on his website. (I recommend “We Could Be Sisters” and “The Welfare Man Retires“.) He will be interviewed by, er, me. So do come along.

Please note that the venue has changed: the meeting will be held at The Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ. (Where the Paul Cornell interview was.) The closest tube station is Sloane Square, and a map is here.

Everything else is unchaged, though: the meeting is free and open to anyone who’s interested, and the interview will start at 7pm, although there’ll be people around in the bar from 6, and possibly from a bit earlier than that.

One to Watch

Tomorrow night, BBC4, 9pm: first in a three-part series called Worlds of Fantasy, which looks like it’s the fantasy equivalent of The Martians and Us. Maybe it’ll even pop up on iPlayer. Anyway, there’s a bit more detail about the first episode, “The Child Within”, in the press release:

In the last 10 years, fantasy writing has become one of the biggest-selling genres in publishing, spearheaded by the huge success of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

In the first of a three-part series, this film explores the role of child heroes and heroines and asks why they have such an enduring appeal to writers of fiction for all ages.

The child hero goes hand in hand with fantasy writing, from Peter Pan to Harry Potter. In Victorian Britain, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies – part updated fairy story, part polemic on the use of child labour – centres on the imaginary life of the book’s 10-year-old sweep hero, Tom. In its wake came a number of novels that defined fantasy writing, including classics such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice adventures and JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.

But as childhood changed through the 20th century, so did the child hero. After the Second World War, CS Lewis created the Narnia books as children’s fables, which also incorporated strong Christian themes. In the Sixties, writers such as Alan Garner and Roald Dahl brought a darker kind of fantasy for children, both psychological and bleakly humorous, while in the present day, Philip Pullman’s Lyra has become one of the defining child heroes of our age – naughty, playful, inquisitive, but with the fate of the world in her hands.

With contributions from Pullman, Garner, novelists Will Self and Alasdair Gray and critics (and obsessive Harry Potter fans), The Worlds Of Fantasy examines how the child hero grew up, and how fantasy grew with it to become the massive success it is today.

I wonder if they’ll get through the whole thing without saying “young adult”.

Posted in Fantasy, TV. 5 Comments »

Talbot Speaks

Summon Author strikes again! Bryan Talbot has posted a long and interesting comment in response to my Alice in Sunderland review.

A Short Con Report

Yesterday I went to Picocon 25. I think this was my eighth Picocon; I know my first was in 1999, and I think I’ve missed one since then. In the past few years it’s been a sort of marker for the peak period of activity in British fandom, which runs through Eastercon and Sci-Fi London to the BSFA/SFF AGM event, so 2008 now feels like it’s really started.

It was neither the best nor the worst Picocon I’ve been to, but it was a pretty good one. Notable bits: Paul Cornell’s perhaps slightly disorganised but very entertaining talk on “doing it all” as a writer (ie working in tv and comics and prose and etc); lunch at what I fondly think of as the Princess Diana Memorial Pizza Restaurant; much good conversation in the bar with too many people to mention; very briefly meeting one of the Whogasm girls; and, along with Paul, Paul, Liz, Alex, Nick, Andrew, Tom, Simon, and a guy called Matt who none of us knew but seemed to be a decent chap, winning the annual Picocon quiz, thus gaining copious amounts of Lindt and a signed proof of Cory Doctorow’s new novel, Little Brother. (This will now be slowly passed around the members of the winning team. What we do once we’ve all read it I’m not sure, unless only one of us likes it.)

The afternoon panel — traditionally Picocon has one programme item for each Guest, then a panel with all the Guests on it in the afternoon — was not terribly well structured. The topic was “Futurism Sucks!”, which seems to have been suggested by Cory Doctorow based on an impromptu talk he gave at some other event and not discussed by the panelists beforehand such that before long there were several competing definitions of futurism in play, never mind the question of whether they each sucked or not. As a result, the discussion had a habit of touching on (to me) an interesting question, and then wandering off again, although a large part of the time it circled around environmentalism and portrayals of global warming (or not) in sf. And there are a couple of points that were raised that I just want to note down.

  1. Kim Stanley Robinson aside, there are not many major works of science fiction written in the last decade that have climate change as a central subject. There are dozens of novels where global warming is mentioned as a background detail; it’s just not treated as a part of the world the protagonists will be engaging with.
  2. Someone suggested that climate change was a more common subject in YA sf, suggesting Julie Bertagna’s Exodus as an example. I haven’t read Exodus, so I don’t know how it tackles climate change, and I haven’t read enough YA to know whether the assertion is true in general. (I have to say that from reading The Inter-Galactic Playground it is not true, but I’d be happy to hear of other examples.)
  3. Personal assumption: the scarcity of climate change sf is both noteworthy and significant. This is something sf should be dealing with.
  4. Caroline Mullan suggested a possible reason: that climate change has rapidly moved from being a scientific problem to a political one. Sf writers are (in general) still more interested in the former kind of problem than the latter, not least because it tends to be easier to make stories from them, which is why we don’t see much climate change sf, and the stuff we do see comes from writers who (like KSR) are interested in politics. Possible counter to this: we’re seeing a lot of political sf dealing with the War on Terror, its rationale and consequences, so we do have plenty of political sf writers.
  5. Final observation: when Paul Cornell suggested that it is still possible to imagine a future in which humanity comes to terms with climate change, most of the audience laughed. That, to me, suggests another reason why we don’t see much climate change sf: people don’t believe it can be dealt with, and don’t want to read about it being coped with. Which is a bit depressing, really. It seems to me it should be possible to think about meaningfully dealing with climate change in a way that isn’t wish-fulfillment. I’m reminded again of the quote from the LRB article on this topic about needing “pessimism of the intellect combined with optimism of the will.”

Alice in Sunderland

The most interesting review that I’ve seen of Alice in Sunderland (and there are plenty to choose from) is probably that by Steven Flanagan at Gad, Sir! Comics!. It’s done as a comic in the same sort of style as Alice, and so gives a better idea of what the book is like to read than any of the other reviews. Flanagan, like pretty much every other reviewer, and like me, rates the book (although he has some valid criticisms, one of which Talbot responds to in a comment), and is probably better at articulating why than I’m going to be. But for the record, here’s my take.

Alice in Sunderland is an argument about history, couched as a lecture in a dream. It is, specifically, an argument about the history of Sunderland, or perhaps at a stretch the history of England – to paraphrase Crowded House’s marketing people, according to this book you know more Mackems than you think you do – but in its general form, as a provocation to think about who writes history and what they write and why, it could be applied to just about anywhere. From a stage in the Sunderland Empire, and in another guise (referred to in the text as “the pilgrim”) wandering around Sunderland itself, Talbot narrates, explores, and invigorates the history of the city he has made his home with a fluidity and range of reference that is dizzying, and certainly more than I can decode in one reading. Some individual stories or legends are highlighted, such as the story of Jack Crawford, Hero of Camperdown (and source for the phrase “nailing your colours to the mast”), or the Legend of the Lambton Worm; these are generally presented as traditional panel-driven comics, some with guest art or script by such luminaries of British comics as Leo Baxendale. For the most part, however, Alice is a work of collage, a tremendous mish-mash of many different styles of artwork. The signature look is a black and white line-drawn figure against digitally manipulated photographs of the area being discussed, perhaps with other elements – manuscript pages, older artworks, and so on – overlaid. Such a variety of styles is no doubt intended to reflect the variety of ingredients being thrown into the melting point that is Sunderland’s story, but without pictures, it’s hard to convey how ambitious some of the layout is, nor how playful it can sometimes be.

It’s an approach that allows Talbot to bring many different versions of history, intimate conversations and epic battles and everything in between, convincingly to life in a way that, yes, is not possible in a prose work. Which is not to say the script isn’t important. Throughout the book, Talbot keeps the narration in present tense — that’s one of the things Flanagan expresses reservations about, but on balance I think it works, giving the whole book a panoptic quality, all of its events taking place at the same moment, seen from a god’s perspective. It’s not so much a criticism as an observation to say that the book lacks a strong narrative; it doesn’t do anything so obvious as run through Sunderland’s history from its early days to now, and Talbot is forever freewheeling (or so it seems) off to riff on some seemingly tangential element. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel he’s reaching a bit – to imply that Sunderland University is an older centre of learning than either Oxford or Cambridge because it’s built on the site of an earlier monastery seems a little tenuous, while the explanation of how to “read” pictures, and the repeated justification of comics as a serious medium feels a bit unnecessary in this day and age, particularly when the book itself is the best justification you could ask for. Talbot, for example, links Sunderland to the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, which he calls “the birth of British comics”; this strikes me as about as useful as some of the claims for Greek or Roman texts as the first science fiction novel.

But looked at another way, the digressions and six-degrees-of-separation revelations are part of the point — you can find interesting facts about anywhere, if you put your mind to it, the book says, and more often than our brains expect everything is connected to everything else. (I have a connection to Alice in Sunderland, as loose as some of the connections made in the book: a couple of the people who contributed photographs of the area are acquaintances.) Moreover, Talbot quite reasonably points out that, thanks to heavy bombing in World War II, much of Sunderland’s history is invisible even to most of its current inhabitants. Perhaps some excess in bringing the history back is forgivable. And if it means the book is best read in small doses, which it is, and that it can get a bit wearying towards the end, which it does, well, those are prices worth paying for the many pleasures Alice in Sunderland offers along its way. It is many things – informative, funny, inventive, argumentative, beautiful – but perhaps above all, as the cover declares, “an entertainment”.

So read it for all those reasons. Of course, I read it because it’s on this year’s shortlist for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel, and I want to talk about that a bit if only to see if I can get Jeff VanderMeer frothing. Look at it this way: any description of a book is in part about expectation management. If I enthuse to you about a book enough, I can probably persuade you to read it, but I don’t want to do so if it means raising your expectations beyond what the book can meet, or actively misleading you about what the book contains. Equally, shortlisting a book for an award acts of a description — it says, this book is eligible for this award — and similarly generates expectations. Admittedly this is more true in the case of a juried award, where you can probably assume a degree of intentionality (say, considering Quicksilver to be a science fiction novel; or considering alternate history to be science fiction [or not]) than in a popular-vote award like the BSFA, which exists to reflect the taste of a diverse group; but still, expectations are set. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that because I came to the book the way I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Alice in Sunderland is, and is not, instead of just being able to enjoy it as what it is advertised as.

The appearance of Alice on the shortlist constitutes an argument that it is a fantasy novel (despite the name, both science fiction and fantasy are eligible for the BSFA’s Awards), which is certainly an interesting way to think about the book, if only because it’s not even clear that it’s fiction. Oh, it’s framed as a story, as I suggested — it opens with a man walking into Sunderland’s Empire Theatre, and ends with Bryan Talbot waking up at the end of a performance of Swan Lake taking place in the same venue, realising that the previous 320-odd pages were all a dream — but for most of the book the frame is irrelevant. What you get is a narrator and a historical lecture; a lecture that often takes the form of a story, and indeed includes sub-stories, but a lecture that we’re told is entirely true (to the best of Talbot’s ability to determine such things). That means that the fictionality of Alice in Sunderland inheres entirely in its frame; it seems to me you might almost as well call Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics fiction; after all, it uses a similar type of narrator in its exploration of how comics work.

But say we accept Alice in Sunderland as fiction; and accept it as a novel, although you could probably argue that it’s better considered as an anthology; and accept that a graphic novel is comparable to a prose novel, although that’s not an unproblematic stance. We’re left with another question: is it fantasy?

Again, technically, yes: as I said, the ending reveals that it’s a dream-story, even if a dream of things that are true. It’s also true that there are occasional moments when, presumably to break up the lecture, Talbot has one or another historical (the White Lady who is meant to haunt the Sunderland Empire; or, from more recent history, Sid James) or contemporary individual (in one of the book’s most interesting sequences, Chaz Brenchley and Colin Wilbourn turn up to explain the genesis of a riverside sculpture park), or even fictional character (mostly from Alice), butt in, somehow, and assume an equal level of reality to Talbot-the-narrator. These are, effectively, moments of fantasy. But even when they add something to the book’s general argument they are also, by and large, intended first as jokes, gimmicks, momentary diversions from the main thrust of the book. Of course, one of the threads that runs through the book, as the title implies, is an investigation of Charles Dodgson’s life, and how wrong the popular portrait of him as a dreaming spires recluse is, and of course Alice in Wonderland is a key text of the surreal and absurd fantastic. Being about something, however, is not actually the same as being something; put another way, although Alice in Sunderland is at times about fantasy and mythology, it is not itself either in more than a trivial sense. Moreover, the fantastic elements are not nearly as central to the book as a whole as is the concern with story more generally, and how story becomes history.

So despite the fact that it’s led me to a good book that would otherwise have taken me longer to get around to reading, I feel a bit mis-led by the shortlisting of Alice in Sunderland. It seems to me that while technically supportable, the implicit description of the book that this shortlisting provides is not a Quicksilver case, is not something that makes us think about what we mean by “fantasy novel”, because Alice in Sunderland is not trying to be either fantasy or a novel. Indeed, to think of it in such a way almost seems to miss the point, to miss what’s good and important about Talbot’s fascinating, if at times frustrating book. Looked at one way, of course, in the end it doesn’t matter, because Alice in Sunderland teaches you how to read it, and even I managed to forget my genre-quibbling ways, which means that most people probably won’t think twice about the issue; and though the detail won’t stay with you (the detail overwhelms), the overall impression will, the passion and the exhilaration of its best moments. But this recommendation does it no favours.

Ken Slater 1917-2008

Sad news this morning, as reported on the BSFA website. Ken Slater, who was closely involved in the founding of the BSFA, has died at the age of 90. I’m going to repost the website’s notice in full:

In 1947 Ken founded Operation Fantast, ‘a very loosely organised group of fans who all wanted to “do their own thing” in various ways, and found that OF offered a sort of umbrella or shield which enabled them to do these things.’ By 1950 membership had reached 800 people worldwide. In 1948 he used OF to help spread the word about the Whitcon, the first post-war British SF convention and now generally regarded as the first of the Eastercon series. Military service was to keep him away from the convention itself, although he sent along money to buy a round of drinks for everybody attending.

His fannish achievements and contributions were recognised in the UK and internationally with the Doc Weir Award in 1966 and the Big Heart Award in 1995. He was a guest of honour at the 1959 Eastercon and also, with his late wife Joyce, at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton. At the first Hugo Award ceremony in Philadelphia in 1953, Forrest J Ackerman won the trophy for #1 Fan Personality, but Forrie said at the time that the award should have gone to Ken.

Throughout the decades, though, Ken was known to thousands of SF readers and fans as a man who sold and traded science fiction books and magazines, and along the way he was to lead many hundreds of people to science fiction fandom. His energy and enthusiasm never abated: last year he attended a convention in Poland and was still running a sales table at Novacon, although in the last two or three years he had reluctantly conceded that he needed a bit of help with carrying boxes.

His influence on British science fiction fandom is incalculable and he will be missed by many, many people within the science fiction community. The BSFA sends its condolences to Ken’s family.

I never met Ken, though I was looking forward to doing so — he was scheduled to be the guest at the London Meeting this April. We did correspond briefly, though, when I was putting together Vector 250 and soliciting contributions from earlier editors. He was charming, and helpfully put me in contact with several other people I needed to get in contact with. So it seemed appropriate to reprint his recollections here today.


“A lifetime ago? Perhaps not quite, but it was around 1948 I started thinking that Britain should have a national science-fantasy society. The account of my rather off-hand editing of one issue, and joint editing (with Doreen Rogers) of, I think, two other issues of Vector has been worn thread-bare in the telling, so this time I am using my mental time machine to retrace some of those events. Actually, you will find a lot about those events on the web, if you look, but for the record that is mostly recounted by other people. We don’t all look at things from the same angle, do we?

“I never used to distinguish between British and American science fiction, or even the author until I had finished the book or the story; so far as possible this removed ‘expectation’ from the equation. As writers such as Ian Watson, James White, E.C. ‘Ted’ Tubb and others started writing tales the differences twixt the American and British styles decreased, anyway. But in terms of fandom at that time, in the States there was the N3F (National Fantasy Fan Federation) and in Britain there were only a few small regional or ‘town’ groups — mostly very small — except for the folk in London. Basically, London’s fans had no need for organisation; anyone who cared could attend a meeting every week, and so could anyone from out of London who happened to be visiting. Easy and anarchistic – but not really helpful if anyone had a ‘project’ in mind. I had spent a fair amount of time bombarding British fandom with letters, one-shot fanzines, and even physical visits when I was in England on leave. Finally I talked Vince Clarke, Owen Plumridge and some others into forming the society that was called ‘the British Fantasy Society’ — really original! — which survived a couple of years, and was outlived by the fanzine originally published in its name. At this point I more or less gave up. I had left the army, and was struggling to convert parts of ‘Operation Fantast’ into ‘Fantast (Medway) Limited’.

“This was the time of the Cytricons in Kettering, and at the fourth one of those, in 1958, my dream came true. The formation of the BSFA took place. Unfortunately, I was not there. I can no longer recall why — maybe I was ill, or my wife was. But the first I knew about was a letter from (if I remember correctly Ted Tubb) telling me of the formation, and informing me I had been made founding member number six, in view of my past efforts. Note, therefore, that I did not join the BSFA. I was conscripted!

“I must admit that I did not take a very active part in the proceedings; I contributed an item to Vector as requested which was a sort of catch-all column titled ‘General Chuntering’, and would help out with other things if/when asked. But things seemed to continue on a reasonably smooth course — the odd stagger occurred, but there were always enough of us helpful folk around to grab hold of the organisation by the collar and put it back on its feet.

“A very good Vector was being produced, and there seemed to be a reasonable number of people joining the BSFA. But then at the AGM at Yarcon it was revealed that the financial position was far from good; there was a fair possibility that the Association was bankrupt, although the accounts were unclear. What was clear was that the cost of the publications was taking too much of the income, and although there were new people joining, they were not renewing memberships when they expired. So everything was put on hold, and people were appointed to consider how bad the position was, and what should be done.

“Well, most of you probably know the following action. The BSFA became ‘BSFA Ltd.’ so that officers had a legal responsibility, we produced some duplicated (and self-typed) Vectors as a stop gap and information line, and then I resigned — not for any particular reason, except that I felt I had done enough — and was made Life member Number Four. Go onto the web and dig if you wish to know more — it is all there; and much more as well! There is an industrious group of fans from the 60s or thereabouts who are industriously putting all things fannish into electronic format. Even all the book reviews I wrote for Nebula Science Fiction, and the issues of Ron Bennett’s excellent Skyrack fanzine. If anything, I guess the Skyrack issues contain more “historical” fannish data than anything else I can think of, and I was pleased to learn that they were widely available before Ron’s regrettable death. Perhaps increasing records of that sort is something the BSFA might care to engage in.”

Posted in BSFA. 6 Comments »

On James Wood

An interesting review of James Wood’s new book, How Fiction Works. I think it accurately diagnoses most of Wood’s weaknesses (“Wood is at his best when either microscopically close to a text or expounding it from a magisterial distance. In the middle ground, where plots and contexts lurk, he sometimes gets things wrong”), but made me think in a new way about Wood’s style:

Wood became famous by taking reviewing very seriously, an attitude that — for a number of reasons, not all of them sinister — is less widespread than you might think. Intelligent, well-read and extremely confident, he wrote from the beginning in a style that suggested he’d put some thought into questions concerning verbal surfaces. By the time he was starting out, the witty changes of register associated with the New Review and the New Statesman in the 70s had degenerated into a reflexively jokey high style in the hands of many journalists. In academic criticism, on the other hand, the enthusiasm for theory that peaked in the 80s had often resulted in curdled writing and an avoidance of “value judgments”. Wood responded by fashioning a critical voice that’s serious but opinionated, heavily stylised but not slick. He shares Martin Amis’s taste for coining paradoxical metaphors, but not for the quasi-laddish diction with which the novelist once brought aesthetic judgments down to earth.

As a result, Wood’s writing sometimes seems to issue from a world of rather dandified beautiful letters. Unafraid of sounding like an connoisseur, he’s entirely comfortable, say, describing Pushkin’s stanzas as “little private carriages of plush”. Nor is he afraid of sounding faux-donnishly lofty. Yet few books would get reviewed if critics agreed to a total ban on elevated language. Wood thinks that some writers worry about stylistic excess in the same way that some actors worry that their job isn’t manly, and his style is in part a stand against that tradition.

We hear writers talking about the importance of voice frequently and at great length. We hear much less (grumbling about John Clute aside) about reviewers’ voices, but I think the truth is that how something is said about a book is almost as important as what is said. Let’s have reviews with a bit more conscious control of their personality, in other words. (Of course, by no means have I fully worked out what I want to sound like when I write a review.)

The Last Enemy

Well, I thought the first episode of The Last Enemy wasn’t bad at all. A near-future political thriller, the first episode sees mathematician Stephen Ezard returning to the UK for his brother’s funeral, after several years working in China, where as far as possible he lived the life of a recluse. This is of course conveniently creates plenty of opportunities for other characters to explain to him the developments in the UK political landscape that he’s missed — although pleasingly it’s assumed that some events, such as the “Victoria bomb” that killed 200-odd people and seems to have been a motivating factor behind the rapid introduction of ID cards, penetrated even Ezard’s veil of seclusion.

On his return, Ezard is recruited as a spokesperson for a private firm developing a system (known as TIA) that links up all the existing population databases to allow total surveillance. We’re told that the legislation needed to introduce TIA is pretty much a sure thing, and that Ezard is just wanted to smooth things over; after initial reluctance, he’s persuaded to help out, not so much because he thinks TIA is a good thing, or even because he’s mercenary enough to do it for the three years’ funding he’s offered in exchange, but because he wants to use TIA to do some searching himself. Specifically, he needs to find his brother’s wife, who’s vanished in mysterious circumstances; she may be connected to the appearance of a deadly (possibly weaponised) virus in Afghanistan.

That’s an extremely top-level summary of a rather twistily-plotted ninety minutes of television, and it’s fairly obvious we don’t yet know where all the connections being set up are really leading. What’s good about The Last Enemy as a drama is the direction, which manages to make any amount of staring at computer screens interesting, and the acting, particularly from Benedict Cumerbatch as Ezard — he’s convincing as a man distinctly uncomfortable with much social interaction, yet nuanced enough to avoid cliche. And what’s good about The Last Enemy as science fiction is that it doesn’t try to do too much, that it follows the implications of its idea through quite thoroughly but (for the most part) doesn’t try to sensationalise them. Whether this will last is an open question: the producer has described the series as a “cautionary tale”, which rather suggests the ending will be exactly what you expect it to be, ie that the introduction of TIA is thwarted at the last moment, while recognising the irony that it’s helped to stop whatever dastardly plot is afoot. We shall see.

Tangentially, in the same press release I linked above, writer Peter Berry says that The Last Enemy is “predictive, rather than science fiction”. This is clearly rubbish, but I’m not noting it in an as others see us way per se. What interests me is that (I assume) Berry said it because he felt the potential audience for his show was those who watched State of Play, not those who watch Doctor Who, and the question of whether or not that justifies his comment. I want to compare it to something John Jarrold said elsewhere, regarding publicity materials that pushed a debut sf novel (by one of his authors) as worthy of attention because the author is a woman (which is apparently rare and sure to see the book appear on sf award shortlists). What Jarrold said is:

most of these proofs will go to people who do not know the genre and its history as well as you and I do; they are largely meant for the general bookshops and mainstream reviewers. And I can tell you from my own experience that if you have ANYTHING that can be used as a hook to interest the Head Buyer of SF at W H Smiths, who purchases every SF and Fantasy title that appears in WHS across the UK, and can also gain interest in the world outside the SF coterie, you use it. Both those points — Jaine’s gender and the possibility of awards — are exactly that.

To me, what this attitude says, in both cases, is that it’s ok to say dumb, or misleading, or outright insulting things about a work if they result in attention being paid to the work itself. It also says that the people who are annoyed or insulted don’t matter, because they’re not the target of the remarks in question, and they’ll watch or read the work anyway. I can believe this is true — after all, I’ve just watched The Last Enemy, and I plan to read Principles of Angels — but I can’t help finding it a bit depressing.

Posted in SF, TV. 6 Comments »

Orbital Schedule

In honour of the draft programme for this year’s Eastercon being released, here are the panels I’ll be on:

With Friends Like These …
Friday, 15:00. Fandom often criticises authors who publish SF novels outside the genre. Are the authors really to blame, or should we admit that perhaps we can’t claim everything just because we like it? (Moderator)

The UK short fiction market
Friday, 21:00. We’re far from the heyday of Interzone and the British Boom, SF short fiction mags in the US have declining subscriptions, Hub tried to launch and ended up internet-only. Is the short fiction market dying, and what can be done to revitalise it? Do we want to? (Panellist)

Everyone’s a Critic
Sunday, 19.00. Everyone can post their own reviews online. How does this affect more professional websites and magazines? Are reviews posted on your blog “proper” reviews? (Panellist)

It was ten years ago today (BSFA 50)
Monday, 11.00. One of five linked panels exploring what it was like to be an SF fan during the different eras since the BSFA was established, in this case 1998. The other items will be based around 1958, 1968, 1978 and 1988. (Moderator.)

Anathem

AKA another reason to get around to reading The Baroque Cycle (reading group still scheduled to start here in March!), AKA Neal Stephenson’s next novel, due August. No details on the Amazon page, but a reliable source informs me that this one is actual science fiction, set in the future and everything. Whee!

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