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.

Clanking Replicator

Via the BBC, news that researchers at Cornell University have constructed a self-replicating machine and published their notes in Nature. This one is certainly a “Clanking Replicator” type and not a more exotic nanoassembler, but it’s pretty cool stuff nevertheless. I for one welcome the arrival of our new robotic overlords and look forward with great anticipation for the lauch of our first von Neumann probe and the beginning of (post)human galactic domination – Bwahahaha!

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.)

Lord of the Rings – The Final Post

I promise. Well, at least until I see the film itself. The weather held out for Wellington’s big day on Monday, and the sun beamed down on the thousands of people who turned out hoping for a glimpse of their favourite LotR actors. Most weren’t disappointed, as despite the crowds it was possible to see what was going on even if it proved more difficult to get any good photos.

[Elven Warriors make their way through the crowd]

The parade, which ran all the way through the centre of the city, made me think of a US ticker-tape parade or a Royal occasion back in the UK, but with far less security than you’d expect given the numbers involved. Interspersed between groups of costumed extras, the stars of the film slowly made their way to the cinema for a round of speeches and the Premiere itself. They all looked pretty blown away by the whole event, and all seemed to have big smiles on as they drank in the adulation surrounding them.

[The Black Riders attempt to terrify some fans]

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any good shots of the stars themselves. I had a reasonable vantage point, but the sheer frenzy that greeted them proved beyond my capabilities to penetrate. I’m not too bothered really, as I’m sure we’ll all see plenty of them all over the coming weeks as the hype continues to build for the film’s general release. In the mean time here’s another shot of some of their escort.

[The Men of GOndor march past]

The parade was fun, and seemed to live up to the city’s expectations. There was a general sense of carnival throughout the day, and I don’t think anyone really expected to get a lot of work done (I had a job interview rescheduled for Tuesday). Even the phone company got in on the act (I hope you can make out the screen, it says we’re in ‘MiddlEarth’)

[The cell is renamed MiddlEarth (sic) for the day]

Should you think that the whole country was united in LotR celebration, I should mention a few signs of dissent that were present, albeit almost swamped, on the day. As the band which concluded the parade marched past the spot I’d found for myself, a handful of people unfurled a large banner:

[Banner reading 'Our Mayor Jailed Homeless People For This']

A little further down the road was another small group standing around some graffiti-covered cardboard boxes haranguing the crowd on the same issue. There was some debate with a few of the surrounding crowd, but I didn’t stay to watch for long. There weren’t many people protesting – a tiny number compared to the crowds happily watching the parade go past – but it’s worth a mention, especially as the latest issue of The Package mentions something similar in a short piece on some of the consequences of increased tourism to NZ. There is some concern over these issues here, even if it doesn’t seem to rate much of a mention in the mainstream media outlets.

We watched the speeches in a bar, although for some bizarre reason the local media kept interrupting their coverage of the days events – even in the middle of the speeches – to report on mundanities such as the sports results, or some piece of dull local news. This was actually the subject of complaints in the letters page of the paper later in the week, so it wasn’t just us that found this a bit odd. After the speeches were concluded and the stars enjoying the fruits of their labours in the cinema, the crowds began to disperse. We headed down to Taranaki Wharf to watch some of the entertainment laid on, but it quickly became pretty cold and we ended up heading home to bed rather than sitting up to watch the Two Towers yet again – after all the bloody hype, we plebs still have to wait until the 18th to watch the damn new film ourselves!

Lord of the Rings – Premiere Day

The much expected day is here, and Wellington is well and truly gearing up for the fun. The parade is due to start in about half an hour and the crowds are already gathering along the rails marking the route, the sun is shining and there’s a carnival atmosphere throughout the city. Best costumes I’ve seen yet are the two Ents and the Elf Maid wandering up and down Lambton Quay.

I expect to see a few more before the day is out! Right, I’m off to join the fun.