BristolCon 2012

A few days have passed since this year’s BristolCon and I thought I’d best get something down. I’m on the con committee, albeit in a fairly minor role, so I spent much of the day dashing about helping keep things ticking over. I like this; I think it’s a good way to see a small, friendly con like ours. So here’s my very personal and unofficial write-up – just some things that have stuck in my befuddled mind.

The Art Room was a fantastic improvement over previous years – the display stands provided by Roundstone Framing made the place feel really open and were far more aesthetically pleasing than the slightly cobbled-together gazebo of previous years.

Anne Sudworth and Gareth L. Powell‘s guest of honour interviews were interesting. Their interviewers, Ian Whates and Kim Lakin-Smith respectively, were very good and both had an excellent rapport with their interviewee. Colin Harvey‘s Ghost of Honour session was poignant, and I tried my best not to screw up the projections.

As for panels, I kept finding myself focussed on practicalities like watching the time, ensuring there was water and clean glasses for the panellists or helping out with the sound (the PA in programme room 1 was generously supplied by Del Lakin-Smith who was very patient with my fumbling attempts to help him set-up first thing) but I particularly remember the Colonising the Solar System and Women in Sensible Armour discussions.

Later on Gareth’s monkey was a high point, Talis Kimberley and her band performed to their usual excellent standard (although I didn’t listen to as much of this as I should have) and the quiz was, well, too hard!

I met plenty of new people, all of whom had complimentary things to say about the con. I got Philip Reeve, due to be a Guest of Honour at BristolCon 2013, to sign a copy of his latest book for my daughters.  I’d hoped to have a quick chat with Marc Gascoigne (even brought my old copy of Titan for him to sign) but missed him after the Colin Harvey memorial – perhaps at a future event. The Colinthology was an excellent buy and contains some really top-class stories, so I can recommend this as not only a good cause but a good read as well.

The rest of the committee and everyone else who helped out did a fantastic job – most of them worked far harder than I did and often in the face of sickness and pain on the day, so well done to all.

On top of it all I didn’t end up with a bad hangover the next day and I even missed the fire and pestilence. A good day all round and I’m already looking forward to next year!


The dreams of children

My 4-year-old daughter climbed into bed this morning and asked if we’d like to hear about her dream. This is what she told us:

There was a princess in a tall, tall tower. A prince rescued her and she fell flat on her face. The prince thought she was sleeping and kissed her, but she was actually dead.

I hope she ends up becoming a writer, I do like a bit of dark fantasy 🙂

Cool stuff in October

There’s lots of cool stuff going on in October in Bristol if you’re into literature and SF in particular. There’s the Bristol Festival of Literature running between 14th and 23rd October with heaps going on all over the city. During the festival on the 22nd it’s BristolCon 2011, Bristol’s Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, and there’s a bunch of cross-over events happening. Also my friend and local author Gareth Powell is taking part in a Word of Mouth event at The Thunderbolt in Totterdown on the 5th October. A very cultured month in the offing!

Books in 2011

I never did a new year’s resolutions post this year.  Oh well 🙂  One of them was to try and read more, plus try to read/re-read some mythology in translation.  One part of this is that I want to keep track of what I’ve read, hence this post.

  1. Surface Detail, Iain M Banks.  01/01 – 22/01.
  2. The Táin: From the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, Thomas Kinsella (trans.) and Louis Le Brocquy (illus.)  22/01 – 30/01.
  3. The Kraken, China Miéville.  31/01 – 15/03.
  4. The Quantum Thief, Hannu Ranjaniemi. 15/03 – 22/03.
  5. American Gods, Neil Gaiman. 23/03 – 30/03.
  6. Before They Are Hanged, Joe Abercrombie. 31/03 – 06/04
  7. Last Argument of Kings, Joe Abercrombie. 07/04 – 16/04.
  8. The Lovecraft Anthology Volume 1, Dan Lockwood (Ed.) 17/04 – 20/04.
  9. Deep State, Walter Jon Williams. 21/04 – 05/05.
  10. At The Mountains of Madness, HP Lovecraft, INJ Culbard (Illus.) 22/04 – 23/04.
  11. The Night Sessions, Ken MacLeod. 06/05 – 19/05.
  12. Dark Spires, Colin Harvey (Ed.) 20/05 –
  13. Zoo City, Lauren Beukes. 20/05 – 16/06.
  14. Wireless, Charles Stross. 17/06 –
  15. The Quest for Arthur’s Britain, Geoffrey Ashe (Ed.). 25/06 – 30/06.
  16. Camelot and the Vision of Albion, Geoffrey Ashe. 30/06 –
  17. Rule 34, Charles Stross. 09/07 – 15/07.
  18. The Evolutionary Void, Peter F Hamilton. 16/07 – 23/07.
  19. Vast, Linda Nagata. 23/07 – 06/08.
  20. The Bohr Maker, Linda Nagata. 07/08 – 25/08.
  21. The Recollection, Gareth L Powell. 26/08 – 02/09.
  22. Damage Time, Colin Harvey. 02/09 – 28/10.
  23. Sixty One Nails, Mike Shevdon. 29/10 – 14/11.
  24. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin. 15/11 –

And that’s all so far. I guess I’ll be able to see just how widely, or not, I read by the end of the year.  I often have more than one book on the go, but so far it’s been sequential so far this year.  Link targets vary, some Wikipedia, some author or publisher sites, some reviews – there might be a tooltip if you hover over the link and I remembered to add one.

BristolCon ’10

I went to BristolCon’10 last weekend, a Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held at the Ramada Hotel in Bristol. It was BristolCon’s second year, and my first convention since going to Games Day ’87 as a teenager.

It was a great day out.  Loads of interesting panel discussions, a range of dealers and artists displaying their work and plenty of interesting and friendly people to talk and drink with.  High points of the day were chatting with Alastair Reynolds during the mass book-signing at lunchtime, Eugene Byrne‘s talk on the fantastic cityscape of Bristol and watching John Meaney and Juliet McKenna terrorise Joe Abercrombie and Cheryl Morgan during the “Writing Fight Scenes” panel.  I enjoyed all the panels I attended (all but two I think), came second in the pub quiz with a group of people I’d never met before (well, except for Mark) and narrowly avoided becoming embarrassingly drunk (at least I think I avoided it…)

Strangely, I was a little apprehensive before the Con.  I’ve been a fan of SF and Fantasy for as long as I’ve been reading, but I’ve never really been into Cons and fandom although it has intrigued me.  I guess my reluctance to take part in the past has been due to my own insecurities as much as anything else; I feared things might be cliquey or exclusive and I’m happy to have been proved wrong, at least by the folks at BristolCon.  I’ve been going along to the Bristol Science Fiction and Fantasy Society monthly meetings on and off for a few months this year and have met a group of friendly and interesting people, many of whom were involved with running BristolCon, so I’ll be going again next year.  Thanks to everyone involved in organising a fun and interesting day!

For the interested, there are a handful of photos on my Flickr page, and a list of links to other BristolCon’10 write-ups here on the BristolCon site.  Search Twitter for the #bristolcon hashtag for a load of associated tweets.

Banksoniain 4

Issue 4 of this new(ish) Iain (M.) Banks fanzine is available for download (PDF, 218kb). (Thanks for the heads-up, Dave.) Older issues are available from the homepage. Lots and lots of Banksie trivia, plus discussion of Consider Phlebas, notes on the publicity tour for The Algebraist (which I missed out on due to a conspicuous lack of dates in the south-west), and news of the DVD release of The Crow Road which I’d like to see.

(Posting this, I look through my sf posts and realise I don’t write enough on this topic. My degree thesis centred on SF, so I must be able to come up with something interesting to say on the subject. BTW, I’m not going to publish the dissertation here. The word “postmodernism” is used far too often for comfort.)

Ares Express

By Ian McDonald, 2001, Earthlight, ISBN 0-684-86151-8

Any book with a protagonist named Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th has got to be good, especially when she knows she’s in a story.

In Ares Express, Ian McDonald returns to the rather dreamlike distant future Mars of his earlier Desolation Road (1988). This is a welcome return for all those who enjoyed DR, and AE will not disappoint, although AE is a separate work and only one character makes the crossover between the two.

It’s a fantastical romp through a richly detailed and surreal landscape, strangely believable for all its magical touches. Martian humans are little changed from ourselves, living ordinary lives beneath the barely understood gaze of the Artificial Intelligences that drove the terraforming of the planet. Sweetness is the child of railway engineers, the pilots of the vast fusion-powered trains that link together the disparate cities and communities of the planet. She’s a dissatisfied child for all the pride and arrogance of her clan, for females do not pilot the trains, instead it looks like she’s to be married off into the Stuard clan and a life in their stainless steel kitchens.

Fortunately for the reader, Sweetness isn’t likely to take to this particular destiny without some rebellion, and when she realises that she’s featuring in her very own story, she’s off at right angles to the tracks and into a series of mishaps and lucky escapes that lead her into a search for her dead twin (who lives in mirrors) and ultimately a struggle to save the very fabric of her universe…

McDonald writes vividly. His prose in itself is reason enough to read the book, bringing the strange world to life and entrancing the reader at every step. Sweetness’ own knowledge that she’s living a story might put off those who are not fond of such indulgences, but on McDonald’s Mars, where reality itself is subject to manipulation, it fits right in among all the other weird and wonderful events and beliefs and magical technologies.

Delightfully written, pure escapism – this is one of the best books I’ve read for quite some time. Go and lose yourself among the vast trains, uploaded demi-gods, reality-twisting AIs and insane Cults on McDonald’s Mars.

Images from IMB

A guy called Chris Lynas used to host a website called Excession that had lots of graphics inspired by the work of Iain M Banks.

Feli Vitrouv from Look to Windward

This disappeared from the net a while ago, but it’s now found a new home – at There’s some of his older stuff there (including the version of the Salwowski cover of “The State of the Art” (pictured below) and a couple of new bits too, and he promises to keep it updated a bit more often.

Version of Mark Salwowski's State of the Art cover

His images are available in various sizes – suitable for use as desktop wallpapers – and he is fine about use of the images for personal use – details are on his front page.