Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Well, I went to my very first UK science fiction convention, which was loads of fun, but a little disconcerting. After having been to a few US cons, I had started taking for granted knowing a few more people. I knew two of the people there, Joanne Hall (who was one of the main organizers) and Fran Jacobs, through an internet writing site, but that was it for me.

I should probably start by mentioning the Ghost of Honor, Colin Harvey, who passed away recently. A number of the Bristolcon attendies have put together a memorial anthology in his honor.

The first panel we attended was on Colonizing the Solar system, with Guy Haley, Michael Dollin, Aliette de Bodard, Ben Jeapes, and Dev Agarwal. All in all, the panelists came down pretty hard on the side of this idea being more science fiction than science fact, citing the astronomical cost and the lack of will, but it was still a very fun panel in terms of people's reasoning- particularly people's assessment of the material cost to the people on earth to keep even a few people up in space. Good moderation, very informed panelists.

We also attended the panels on collaboration, and Toilets in Space, the latter of which went lowbrow very quickly (quick summary: Nick Walters believes teleportation will solve all logistical problems, Michael Dollin has unpopular ideas about recycling, Kim Lakin-Smith reminds us being a girl may actually be less dangerous in these endeavors, and everyone agrees that we don't write sex or poo realistically, because that would make it hard to romanticize space).

We broke for a little while here because Joe Abercrombie was just a few blocks away signing his latest book and we wanted in on that.

We came back to Battle of the Books, which was one of my absolute favorite panels, and one I'd like to see adapted to every con I go to. Four panelists each picked a book (respectively Paul Graham Raven picked Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix, Nick Walters picked Brian Aldiss's Hot House, Janet Edwards picked Terry Pratchet's Wyrd Sisters, and the fourth woman (whose name was not on my program, sorry) picked Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere). Then the authors got time to summarize a bit of their book and tell you why it was the best one there. There were two elimination rounds, and Hot House took home the prize. It was all very genial though, and I think this is a great way to get people talking up books you might not have read. Both the husband and I agreed our pick probably would have been The Dispossessed, by LeGuin.

The Apocalypse panel was also great. Lots of talk about Zombies, but that's to be expected. I was particularly impressed by Tim Maughan, who is a particularly Bristol type of person, in the best possible way. We also took in the Steam Punk panel, the best part of which was Alex Dally MacFarlane and Nimue Brown sitting both literally and figuratively across the table from each other and going back and forth about representation, apology for empire, appropriation, and romanticizing the past. It was also fun to watch how many other panelists had no idea what steam punk was before they were told they had written it. We attended an artist's panel about medium and how digital people are comfortable going, which was lovely, and I think broadly applicable in that everybody has to find what they're most comfortable with.

The last panel we attended was on YA: What's the deal with it being dominated by girls now? This turned out to be an excellent panel, also dominated by girls (which is funny, because it ended up being mostly about boys' reading habits, whereas I've been to plenty of "strong female character" panels that were all or mostly dudes, or diversity panels that were entirely white. It's both fun and sad to see that works in reverse as well). Foz Meadows and Moira Young impressed me especially, though the audience participation was really key here. There was one gentleman who made the excellent point that perhaps an equal stigma to YA books being effeminate insofar as reading was girly and the characters were chicks, was the idea that what was being presented was explicitly labeled as for children at a time in boys' lives where it's very important to feel grown up. Personally, I don't think there's an overwhelming majority of girl stuff in YA, I think it's just parity being misconstrued as advantage, but that's me. It was a really good panel.

All in all it was a really lovely time, and I'm very glad I went. 

1 comment:

  1. It was really lovely to finally meet you, glad you had a good day! Give me a shout next time you're in Bristol and we can have a proper chat.