My Worldcon experience: Final day

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Monday was the day my flight left and it left at a time that meant I couldn’t stay for the dead dog party nor really do much more at the con. If I ever make it to another Worldcon I will try to make sure that I can stay longer and have more fun.

Books arranged on a stall for sale

The Hodges and Figgis stall, showing the self published books they had agreed to stock. Seen here Gods of the Deep, Lurking Miscellany and Out of this World Alphas.

However, I did manage to wander round the dealer’s room a bit and pick up the unsold books I had left in the competent care of Hodges and Figgis. Unfortunately, this turned out to be all of them but I did swap one with F.D Lee in exchange for hers. I now need to read the one she gave me and do a review. Once I finish all the other books I need to read…

In the course of wandering the dealer’s room I found out I had actually won a Hugo. It was the Hugo for ‘best panel moderated by me’ and it was hotly contested this year. Luckily, I managed to beat myself to win this prestigious, non-existent award. Thank you to the #holdahugo team for voting for me to win this.Me holding a Hugo award

I also explored the freebie table which was mostly populated with leaflets and fanzines but did have some interesting stuff. For example, I picked up a copy of Ninefox Gambit (unfortunately too late to get it signed) to read on the plane and a curious bottle of ‘Pastor Oat’s Holy Water’ which was a nice little idea from the Discworld universe.

Finally, I got to actually meet the rest of the literature team – the ones who I had been working with online for months to bring to fruition many of the Programme items that had just been played out over the past few days. We had a nice lunch in a restaurant nearby and we all got paid in strange Cthuloid coinage…

In all, my first Worldcon was a fun one, if somewhat busy in places. I got to do a lot of things that were great but also didn’t get to do some other things that I really wanted to do. I guess it all balanced out, though. I am unlikely to make another Worldcon any time soon – New Zealand is beyond my budget to travel to, as are any future US ones – but I am actively working to help bring about a Worldcon in Glasgow in 2024 by foolishly volunteering to help out.

I flew home tired but happy, looking forward to the next event I will be attending – Eastercon in Birmingham 2020…

My Worldcon experience: Day 4

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After the relative relaxation of Saturday, Sunday was back to full steam ahead with a packed schedule. It was also the day of the now notorious Hugo award ceremony but more on that later…

I started out the day over at the Point where (at her request) I photographed the second show of Death Ingloria. This one, unlike the show of the previous day, was ‘unplugged’ and an excellent performance. I talked with them afterwards (while waiting to be interviewed for a Podcast) and we discussed the concept of ‘interactive comics’ and the use of QR tags in a printed media to add audiovisual elements. Their comic, issued free to the audience, included such tags that linked to concert performances when scanned with a smart phone.

Death Ingloria, musical artist, sat in chair with guitar

Death Ingloria plays unplugged in Warehouse 2

After that concert, I headed back to the CCD where I had agreed to meet with Robin Shantz of the Invaders from Planet 3 podcast. There I was interviewed alongside Galina Rin of Death Ingloria for an episode that will be available on the linked website soon (I guess…). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to hang around and socialise after that because I was moderating a panel and needed to get to the Green room in order to prep for it.

In the Green room I met one of the panellists. Yoon Ha LeeYoon Ha Lee, author of Ninefox Gambit, and we had a chat about the panel and other things. They said they were practising drawing people and so asked if they could sketch me, which I agreed to, meaning I got the honour of being sketched by a Hugo award nominee!

After a short while, Brian Smith turned up. He was our ‘logistics expert’ for this panel and also got his portrait done. At that point, we were only lacking our GoH panelist – Ginjer Buchanan and my anxiety by that point was already thinking she was standing us up (she wasn’t… but you know paranoia…). We headed down to the room without her and got as far as my announcing the start of the panel and apologising for her absence when she turned up.

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The sketch of me…

Apparently, she had been at a previous item and had turned up at the door to the panel to be told it was full. Luckily, she was recognised and allowed in and the panel could start with a full complement.

The discussion was another good one with a lot of references to Star Trek: Voyager and the infamous shuttle replicator (for some reason). Yoon Ha Lee introduced themselves as someone who ‘always does it wrong’  with logistics and gave an amusing anecdote about their mother sending them beef jerky from South Korea to the US ‘as a special treat’ despite beef being very easy to obtain in the US. A variant on the coals to Newcastle analogy. Brian Smith commented on various examples of authors not really understanding what logistics is. The Romans were mentioned too. There was also a discussion about ‘going too far’ and obsessing on the ‘little details’ too much. Though Ginjer did point out that the examples given (usually the sort of military/tech thriller/spy thriller adventures in which they take a whole page to describe the technical specifications of a gun) were considered ‘didactic* fiction’ which is, apparently, very popular. Finally there was also reference to the infamous Game of Thrones (TV Series) ‘teleporting characters’ situation – which I have blogged about elsewhere.

A particular sticking point for the panel was when I asked a question about whether there was a SFF story where the logistics issue was the story. We all drew a blank on that one (even me since it was an off the cuff question so I hadn’t even prepared any answers of my own). However, the audience were full of wonderful ideas. If any of you are reading this and want to comment with your suggestions, please feel free (I’m afraid I did not write them down).

After this I went along to sit with Russell Smith on his literary beer and managed to drag Fangorn along for the ride too. Much was discussed…

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Fangorn and F.D Lee

After dinner I went along to Martin’s bar to watch the live feed of the Hugo awards. Much has already been said about this – about the issues with closed captions, the too loud music in the bar that detracted from the events on screen, the controversial speech by Jeannette Ng and the issues with the Loser’s party. I won’t spend too long reiterating those issues other than to say that I totally agree with Jeanette’s comments and am pleased they later agreed to change the name of the Campbell Award to the Astounding Award. I also would say that I quite liked the rowdy nature of the Hugo watching in the bar. OK, we could not see nor hear the speeches but the atmosphere was very jovial and energetic with popular winners (especially ‘Archive of our own‘) getting cheered. It felt very convivial and I think we all knew that we could, if we wanted to, watch the ceremony again at a later date with full sound. I also did not disagree with any of the winners and heartily endorse many of them. Though, I still feel Peadar was robbed…

The evening ended with more Barconning…

*In case you were not aware, didactic refers to a teaching method where you tell the student what they need to know (traditional, old fashioned lecturing) as opposed to more modern methods. Obviously, in writing it refers to a similar idea – the author is explicitly describing an object rather than giving vague details and expecting them to fill in the gaps with imagination.,

My Worldcon experience: Day 3

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Saturday was more of a working day for me. As a member of the listener team at the Con, I had a number of shifts I had to be available for – either as a roaming Listener (keeping being available for anyone who wants to approach for help or being called in to deal with issues) or at one of the listener desks (these being in the foyer of the CCD, the main con area, or the information desk at Point Square).

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The Beckett Bridge over the Liffey, taken from the CCD

This day I was scheduled to be at the Point information desk at 9am until lunch time. Which would have been fine, still not an early start for me even with the slightly longer trek to Point square from my accomodation, had it not been for the Great Breakfast Crisis.

You see, Dublin apparently does not wake up before 930 on a Saturday. Or at least the part of Dublin the conference was in doesn’t. I guess because it is mostly university and conference facilities and no sensible student is up before midday on a weekend and any conference attendee is, of course, safely in a hotel with a breakfast bar. Apart from me, that is…

So the cafe I had breakfast in on Friday (that did lovely GF bacon sandwiches) was not open when I walked past not long after 8, nor was the restaurant that promised Omlettes I spotted on Friday night and wanted to try out. Even the Starbucks at the cinema was closed. So I had to sit at the info desk breakfast and coffee free until Ed Fortune (SF journalist, Podcaster and old friend from university) came to rescue bringing coffee. Thus saving the universe (or at least Dublin) from the evil that is uncaffeinated me. Actually, this was part of some strange, mystic confluence thing where several of my old friends from university just happened to turn up at that location. Iain and Janet Clark (both exhibiting in the art room that was located in Point), Ed, Russell Smith and me. I knew there was something story based about to happen when Iain walked up to the desk and said “We’re putting the band back together.”

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One journalist, two writers and two artists… it’s early in the morning, none of them smoke, they’re out of booze, it’s light and they don’t have sunglasses…

You’d think we were all there for the same conference or something…

Most of my morning was spent dealing with info desk enquiries rather than actually being a Listener, which was fine because, to be honest, like First Aiders, Listeners at events are people you really prefer to be not doing much because it means nothing bad is happening.

After lunch, I headed to a Kaffeeklatsch hosted by Roz Kaveney, having been thoroughly impressed by her during our Thursday Panel. There followed an entertaining conversation (during which, yes, Pennyworth was mentioned again…) that covered a lot of UK SFF literary history and during which I found myself wishing I knew what had happened to my copies of Temps and Eurotemps (long ago lost, likely in some appropriate bureaucratic mess of a house move) as I would have loved to have had a signature. I may have to buy them again…

By some miracle, I actually managed to have an early night. Mostly because many of the people I usually hang out with at the bar had gone to the Masquerade and I was too lazy to bother going to get a wristband for it. Though I did spoil my early night by staying up late editing photos instead…

 

My Worldcon experience: Day 2

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The black superhero panel.

Friday involved me being on two panels.

The first was entitled ‘Guiding Star: discussing the Lodestone award shortlist’ and was moderated by the wonderful writer, Charlie Jane Anders. It also featured three other great writers in the form of Tasha Suri, Dr. Mary Watson and Nicole Kurtz. Our job was to discuss the nominees for the newly minted Lodestone award for YA fiction and speculate on which one would win.

Building up to this event, having known I was on this panel, I had spent an awfully long time reading the books on the list as soon as it was revealed. My Kindle was loaded with most of them (only Tess of the Road was unavailable in ebook for some reason) and they formed my holiday reading. The list, for those who didn’t know, was:

  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
  • The Invasion by Peadar Ó Guilín
  • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Our brief was to gush about them and gush we did. Though we were also suitably critical. After all, I am a BSFA reviewer, and there is an ancient oath we reviewers must take to never give an unbalanced review. It was interesting to see where we agreed and where we disagreed, especially on some of the different interpretations of each work, and we each presented a different favourite to win the prize. My personal bets were on Peadar Ó Guilín to take it, partly because I always love his writing (and I nominated him) but also because I felt it apt that a local talent would win it. Of course, as we all know by now (unless you don’t, in which case SPOILERS!) Children of Blood and Bone took the award – a book which I think would make an excellent Anime adaptation.

Overall, I considered the nominees to be a great mix of writing styles and character diversity – incorporating gender, ethnicity, disability and trans issues in different but always entertaining ways.

Though, one final thing to say about this panel was the location. We were located at Point square, in the Odeon cinema which basically meant we were sat at the front of a small cinema. This made me feel that we were less like a group of authors and reviewers doing a panel and more like the cast and crew of a new Hollywood blockbuster lining up to introduce the premier.

My next panel was heading into more adult areas with a talk on Romance. Specifically, an ‘Introducton to SFF romance’. In this I was harkening back to my days as a romance writer (my introduction to the audience did say I was a ‘lapsed romance writer’) and the panelists were all there to talk about how romance can be better incorporated into SFF. In this were moderated by Cora Buhlert, and joined by Darlene Marshal and Jeffe Kennedy. We started with the SFWA’s definition of ‘romance’ which lays down some rules for what ‘SFF romance’ should look like, including ‘there must be  a happy ever after or happy for now’ ending and ‘romance must be a substantive part of overall character transformation’. This is to distinguish from ‘Fantasy with Romance elements’. With the rules laid down, we started to discuss examples and give thoughts on how romance can drive a plot. In all a very useful discussion was had. It (along with other discussions had later…) led to me making a decision about ressurecting a particular character from my repertoire.

I also got time to attend two panels as an audience member. One, entitled ‘let’s do the time loop again’ was an entertaining discussion moderated by E. Lily Yu which touched on all the many and varied examples of time loops in SFF and fantasy and came up with some interesting thoughts on some classic tropes. It was, however, unfortunately impossible to say how many times the panelists and audience had been forced to endure the panel repeating… The other was moderated by my old friend, Russel A Smith and looked at Black Superheroes in TV and Film. This one looked back to the days of Blaxspoitation and forward into what is hopefully going to be a more diverse future in comics, TV and film. The Time loop panel

The day ended with more Barcon work… hanging out with F.D Lee and associates where we each frothed about each other and shared reviews… incidentally, her review can be found here and our discussion not only led me to want to bring Helen back for more torment but also made some ‘character arc driving decisions’ about her that will hopefully be seen when the story I am working on at present is published…

My Worldcon experience: Day One

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Dublin 2019 An Irish Worldcon August 15 - 19 Convention Centre DublinThose of you who follow this blog regularly (I’m sure there are a few of you…) will know that my ability to keep a consistant way of writing about events is somewhat sporadic. For my first Eastercon, I did a daily blog but wrote it after the event. For the more recent Eastercon, in London, I actually managed to write my blog every day while at the event (including photos taken that day) and include a bonus preCon day.

For the 2019 Worldcon in Dublin, I am writing my account about 10 days after I got home from the con and I have no idea how many posts I will make…

This was my first Worldcon, though I didn’t manage to get the coveted ‘First Worldcon ribbon’ as they had ran out of stock by the time I got there. I also didn’t really feel like it was ‘my first time’. Partly this was because I’m an old hand at other cons now, being a regular at Eastercon since 2016 and, if I am being honest, a lot of the people I was seeing in Dublin were also Eastercon regulars so I didn’t feel left out socially – there was usually at least one person I could say hi to and get a conversation with. It was also because I’d spent the last couple of years working behind the scenes on the con – starting out as a member of the Brainstorming group (whose job it was to suggest really crazy panel ideas that the organisers would inexplicably consider worth doing) and progressing to being a member of the Literature programme team (where our job was to take these crazy ideas, add some panelists and write a description of it). So, compared to some other first time Worldconners, who might have been walking in and feeling a little out of place, I was already in a quite privileged position.

I arrived for the event itself on Thursday morning. Early on Thursday morning. And I didn’t really have time to have a rest after my 5am wake up call and flight. I had to queue to register at the Con, head to my accomodation to drop my bags and then get back in time for lunch with the Milford/Northwrite possee (that turned into drinks with them as lunch options were limited in the convention centre…) before heading to the first panel I was moderating – Franchise Characters.

Author F.D Lee and me at WorldconIn this, I was joined by F.D Lee (fantasy and SF indie author). Scot Edelman (writer for Marvel comics), Keith Byrne (Artist and character designer with Tantalus) and Roz Kavenay (writer, critic and all round great person to talk to). We mostly discussed Marvel vs DC and the reasons why one was better than the other at maintaining a franchise. However, this also led into a discussion on Pennyworth (Roz’s current new obsession – one I totally intend to check out for the promise of fascist 60’s Britain) and a few other franchises – including trying to define what a franchise actually is. There seemed to be some agreement to my definition of it being a creation that appears in more than one format but the focus of the panel was more on how the use of ‘background characters’ can help to build the depth of the world. Here I think we were all in agreement… I was a little disappointed we never got to discuss Pratchett’s Discworld as a franchise as much as I would have liked as that is a perfect example of  a franchise where main characters from one book become minor ones in others and I had a whole thing planned around Gaspode the Wonder dog… Also, the fact that Death appears in every single Discworld novel and how that is SIGNIFICANT.

After a break for food, I headed to another panel. This one was entitled “How close are Cosplay Tony Stark and Pepper Potts outside the Dublin CCDwe to Frankenstein’s Dream?” and I was with Dr. Helen Pennington (Plant scientist from DEFRA) and Heidi Lyshol (of the Norweigan Institute for Public Health). I was actually a little nervous about being on stage with some very eminent names in science with my mere MPhil and teaching background (I guess it could have been worse… someone of the academic oopmh of Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell could have been there, even though her area is more physics) but it worked out great and we had a wonderful discussion with lots of audience questions and the line “We could do that but it would be just slightly unethical” was uttered many times. We touched upon cloning, 3D printing of organs, head transplants, building a complete body out of 3D printed organs and several other bizarre applications of biology, medicine and engineering. I also got to talk about gerontology, which is my secondary area of expertise after immunology, and discuss things like the calorie restriction diets. In all a fun panel.

After this, I had planned to meet some people for a photowalk around Dublin. I was expecting no one to show up so was pleasantly surprised that we got two more photographers and a couple of Cosplayers (Chris Corbitt and Alicia Faires). So, we started the evening with some shots of the Cosplayers before the sunset then did a post sunset walk along the river.

After that, it was time to hit the bar and then to bed… but before I do, have a photo of the Liffey looking rather Cyberpunk…

The river Liffey, Dublin, at night.

My Worldcon Schedule

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Dublin Worldcon Logo showing a stylised harp shaped D with a dragon and a rocket.So, between the 15th and 19th of August, I will be in Dublin for the 77th World Science Fiction Convention (or Worldcon for short). If you are also attending (apparently memberships are now getting in short supply and may not be available on the day so you need to book now if you haven’t already) you will be able to enjoy panels and talks from many wonderful people such as Diane Duane (fantasy writer) and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (phyicist credited with discovering Pulsars). You will also be able to attend some panels that have me in them…

Below is my final schedule as it currently stands (changes are always possible even at a late stage but this is unlikely to change now). Some of these will be moderated by me, others will just have me blethering on about stuff.

I am also planning to do some photoshoots (contact me on my photography facebook page to arrange this) and a walk around Dublin with my camera that others are welcome to join the group here to find out more.

 

Dublin 2019 An Irish Worldcon August 15 - 19 Convention Centre Dublin

Franchise characters

Format: Panel
15 Aug 2019, Thursday 14:00 – 14:50, Wicklow Room-2 (CCD)

Marvel characters are often mentioned in other MCU films, reminding us of their shared universe; DC TV shows have annual crossover events. How have these franchises – and others such as Star Trek – taken advantage of their epic canvasses to deepen characterisation? Are the in-universe reputations of some characters used to challenge our understanding of them rather than reinforce it?

How close are we to Frankenstein’s dream?

Format: Panel
15 Aug 2019, Thursday 19:00 – 19:50, Liffey Hall-2 (CCD)

Science has been making remarkable progress in rebuilding bones, growing organs, and transplants. Researchers recently succeeded in restoring a mammal’s brain from cryogenic freezing, leading to speculation about ‘head transplants’. How close does this bring us to the vision of the ‘Modern Prometheus’? What are our current capabilities and ethics behind the science?

Guiding star: discussing the Lodestar Award shortlist

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 12:30 – 13:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)

Let’s gush about this year’s amazing list of Lodestar Award finalists! What do we love about these books? Who will win, who else would we have loved to see on the list, and what else are we looking forward to seeing from this fantastic group of authors?

  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
  • The Invasion by Peadar Ó Guilín
  • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Introduction to SFF romance

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 15:00 – 15:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

SFF romance is as varied and creative as the speculative genre as a whole but, along with other romantic sub-genres, has often been dismissed and undervalued. From shapeshifting billionaires to far future secret agents, vampire brides to Highland flings, this panel will provide a broad introduction to SFF romance in all its glory as well as providing a range of reading recommendations.

Things that SFF writers often get wrong: logistics

Format: Panel
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Wicklow Room-4 (CCD)

That’s not how it really works! Organisational planning and logistics often get overlooked or written wrong – whether it’s the time needed to hunt and cook an animal in the forest, or to develop the cure for a disease. Timing, availability, and coordination of things often get pushed into a grey area where good logistical planning goes to die. What does it take to get these details right? When the details don’t work within the story, how does an author work around them? Our panellists share their own experiences, including what they have got right and wrong along the way.

Ytterbium Eastercon: Monday.

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Monday at Eastercon is always a weird thing. Very much about the take down and only a few items on.

My plan for this day was to attend two interesting items.

One was Aging Societies, a panel with John Scalzi and Caroline Mullen. In this, the three panelists discussed ideas about how society cold deal with the growing elderly population in the future. The solution in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War was obviously discussed as were a few other books that looked at concepts of immortality. I was surprised no one mentioned the Peter F Hamilton books (Mispent Youth  and the Commonwealth Saga) which explore this topic but otherwise it was a very interesting conversation. As a former gerontologist, I had opinions… but I may bother to put them into a blog post on aging later.

 

6C1A8520-Pano.jpgThen I went to a coffee date with Frances Hardinge. Like John Scalzi’s similar event on Sunday, this was a relatively informal chat with the author over coffee or tea and, in this specific case, biscuits.

Because, being a LRPer and it being something clearly built into the DNA of the average live action roleplayer, Frances had managed to overcater on biscuits. This many:

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For 12 people.

However, she had also been thoughtful enough to supply gluten free jammy dodgers which was a major plus in my mind and meant I could indulge in biscuits…

Discussion covered the range of her books and touched upon possible film adaptations (two of her books have been optioned – Cuckoo Song and The Lie Tree – but this is no guarantee of an actual TV series being produced), her tendency to be both weird and cruel to her characters (and how they went back to her early attempts at writing when she was 6) and the strange things young children ask authors. Overall, a very fun and interesting hour of conversation.

After that, I worked in the green room for a few hours and that was pretty much it for my time at the con other than drinking and socialising and spending the ‘groats’ I had acquired volunteering. These are special Eastercon fake money given to volunteers that can be spent on pretty much anything. The bar accepts them (as apparently does the hotel to pay for room bookings over the event etc.) and the traders at the convention will exchange books. jewellery or cat’s ears for them. I even heard a rumour that some of the surrounding restaurants were also accepting them… I spent mine on some food, some drinks and a book from one of the traders. This year, the groats had been designed by Sidney Padua – one of the guests of honour – and looked amazing. I kept one (despite it being worth £2!) for the cool value alone… I mean, look at this artwork…

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Ytterbium Eastercon: Sunday

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Sunday is, as we all know, a day of rest. Easter Sunday doubly so. Especially when Easter Sunday just happens to be the Sunday after a Saturday at Eastercon.6C1A8489.jpg

I’d originally planned a lie in and a late arrival at the con. However, fate and a chance encounter with one of the Green room staff on Saturday that led to a promise to help out on Sunday morning meant that I was now honour bound, by ancient compact and powerful dark con magic, to an earlier start than I’d had the entire con so far.

Which was fine, only I did one of my usual errors and turned up for my shift a whole hour earlier than I thought it was.

But it was fine and I had an enjoyable morning ticking people off lists and organising drinks for participants in panels and talks.

My next call was a post lunch coffee date with John Scalzi. This was 12 people  in a room talking with John Scalzi with tea and coffee available (though John Seemed happy with Coke Zero). Three minutes before the official start of this event, he told us the story that had to be left off the record about a con a few years ago (and I will hold to that unofficial gagging order but I am totes teasing you with the fact I know something you don’t know… unless you were involved or at this event…) before launching into the event proper. What followed was an hour of questions and discussion with John holding forth on many topics ranging from his work as a consultant for Stargate Universe to his work as a film reviewer, his writing career, his love of fan art on stuff from ‘Sex, Death and Robots’ and his reflections on his post about straight white male being ‘easy mode’ in the game of life. As always, the coffee events are a weird sort of mix of informal ‘hanging out with the author’ combined with a more formal interview event. This one was so popular, they had to organise a second one later in the day.

After this and a short break where I did some more volunteering, I headed to a talk called ‘The Genius of Rosa’ by our old blog buddy, Russel A Smith. This looked at the episide of series 11 of Doctor Who that was set at the time of the (in)famous Rosa Parks bus protest. Russ went into detail on the episode and talked about the history and social context of the episode. The talk was mainly focussed on tackling the opposition to the episode, the negative comments that came (it seemed) simply because it was an episode about a black woman protesting.  Each objection (like ‘the message was too heavy handed’) was answered in the talk.

 

Then there was a panel on Medicine in SF in which a bunch of medical doctors and biomedical scientists looked at concepts of medicine in science fiction and discussed the viablity of the methods. A lot of time was spent on the possibility of ‘AI Doctors’ similar to the Doctor from Voyager and what this may mean in terms of patient care and the risk of litigation (who is to blame if a medical AI makes a mistake?) but there was also time for a bit of discussion aboutpersonalised medicine,  homeopathy and the sort of medical scams that exist now and how these may be worse in the future.

 

The final panel of the day was called ‘History of Representation in Doctor Who’. This panel looked at how well Doctor Who covered issues like race, sexuality, sexism and disablism. The panel looked at examples of this and considered their own first experiences of Doctor Who and how that affected them. Highlights included Fiona Moore discussing how some showrunners were really bad at feminism if they tried to be feminist but actually really good if they didn’t try and Guest of Honour DC pointing out how Barbara (first Doctor Who female companion) was actually a really strong character for her time with a lot of agency. There was also an almost universal fanship for Captain Jack Harkness.

After this, it was time for dinner and the bar… and spending all the hard earned groats from volunteering…

Ytterbium Eastercon: Saturday

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Saturday for me was when Eastercon got… busy… there was so much I wanted to see and do today and so much I missed, plus I was busy with a lot of volunteer work too. However, as this mostly involved holding up a card to say when a panel was overunning, it was no great effort and I got to watch the panels too.

First panel of the day was “What is #Ownvoices and why is it important?” This panel 6C1A8357.jpgfeatured the wonderful Russell Smith, a regular on this blog, and a selection of other diverse voices who were there to discuss their own experiences of being seen as ‘other’ in publishing. For example, the tired old excuse of “We already have a book about [insert minoroty issue here], we don’t need another one.” An argument easily countered by “but you have half a dozen books about the experiences of cis het white males…” The panel made it clear why these were issues, whey they shouldn’t need to be an issue and discussed what is now a growing and more vocal group of #Ownvoices. In all, an entertaining panel.

6C1A8382.jpgThis was followed by an interview with Frances Hardinge, another old regular on this blog. As a guest of honour, she had certain obligations, including being interviewed. The interview ably covered the spread of her work and discussed such topics as her thoughts on over researching and the personalities of her main characters. For example, the wonderful quote as tweeted by Farah Mendledesohn on twitter: “My heroines tend to have other things on their mind: like surviving, or revolutions, or not eating people.”

Then we had John Scalzi’s interview, where Emma Newman went into detail about his 6C1A8420.jpgcareer as a writer, the popularity of his blog (Whatever) and why he is the only writer in history who does not seem to have imposter syndrome (diagnosis: he is a Mage…). This interview also covered why he is destined to be eaten by a polar bear (because, as a Mage, if he wishes it, it will happen and he did say if he were to get eaten hy any sort of bear it should be a polar bear as that is the most environmentally friendly option).

There then followed the Hay lecture where Hamied Haroon, of the University of Manchester, talked about medical imaging. My one take home message from that lecture was “Any chance of any jobs in your research group?” because it looked like awesome work I would really liked to have got involved with as a biomedical scientist with an especial interest in the technical aspects of research…

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After this, things got a little dark and sinister… with a panel about conspiracy theories called ‘Paranoid Politics and Fantasy’. This one also featured John Scalzi, who did coin the phrase ‘Trump’s Razor’ to describe the situation where the stupidest possibility is most likely true. Much discussion about various theories and the reasons they exist as well as looking at differences in past and present in terms of conspiracy.

Next we had ‘Romance in Fantasy and SF’ which did explore differences in current romance vs older romance tropes, mostly examining the change in the ethnicity and sexuality of those involved in it.

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Finally, there was ‘Creating Fantasy Biologies’ which ranged through a lot of evolutionary and paleontological theories and tried to work out how these will apply to alien or fantasy species. This was an entertaining panel that was, unfortunately, over crowded due to being in the smallest room.

In all an excellent day if somewhat tiring…

 

 

 

Ytterbium – Eastercon 2019 Friday

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Yesterday was just the fringe event, a small taster. Today, Eastercon started properly.

Also worth noting that this is the first time I have managed to actually post about the event on the day. I always promise to do day by day accounts but always end up sidetracked (usually by the bar) and don’t make it back to my hotel in a state in which I can coherently write. This time I cleverly made no promises so here is the report on time and (vaguely) coherent…6C1A8313

Day one at Eastercon is always quiet and this was no exception. As usual, members of the con were arriving all through the day in dribs and drabs. Most of the morning sessions are actually staff briefings to make sure everyone is up tp speed with conference policies and what jobs need doing. However, by 3pm, when the opening ceremony runs, a good majority of people are in place and ready to go.

6C1A8335Said opening ceremony introduced us to the co-chairs (both dressed fabulously in evening wear), discussed some of the upcoming highlights and introduced us to three Guests of Honour – Frances Hardinge, John Scalzi and DC- while explaining that the fourth (Sydney Padua) would be be arriving tomorrow. The ceremony was basic but also quick and efficient – allowing members to head off to whatever they wanted to get on with for the rest of the day.

I decided to head to the Newcon Press launch because there was free wine. There were also books discussed and some interesting new releases from Newcon are promised, including the ones on this page. The atmosphere was very friendly and open and everyone looked like they were  having a great deal of fun.

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The Newcon Press Launch… well, the wine from it…

Then I attended a wonderfully useful workshop on Anxiety as a writer by Emma Newman. This was very useful for me as it helped me to pinpoint some of the causes of my own anxiety and link these to reasons why procrastination might happen. Emma knows her stuff on this topic, mostly through having lived through it herself and, she says, having to go through the same anxieties every time she starts a new book. If you ever happen to be at a Con where Emma is running this workshop, it is definitely worth checking out if you can get a place (this event was oversubscribed).

Much of the rest of the day was spent socialising and discussing, well, books. Including a very scary conversation with F.D Lee who admitted to having read (and promising to, one day, maybe review it) Transitions. I, of course, had to retaliate by telling her I was currently reading hers (The Fairy’s Tale – read it, it is good) and enjoying it…

And that is it for Friday… Saturday currently has many more things planned including guest of honour interviews and some interesting panels…