At breakfast today, we shared a table with a woman with limited mobility, who had hired a mobility scooter to traverse the ExCeL. She amused us with descriptions of many different ways to incorporate such the scooter in a hall costume, Davros being merely the starting point.
My first panel was 1938: The Year In SF/F, discussing the retro-Hugos. The world was different then: SF was mainly published in magazines in the US, and it was possible to read everything every month, twice! The UK market was completely separate. It was suggested that some of the retro awards were won because present day fans were voting for the author, not the work; one panelists suggested there should be a rediscovery award for unfairly neglected writes, and suggested Raymond Z Gallun as a nominee. It was also noted that every book on the 1938 list was part of a series.
Next came Banksian, a panel discussing what the term means, and who is writing it today. Ultraviolence as a feature was discussed, but it was pointed out that while Banks wrote violence, it was never the star; there was always a strong moral content, and the reader was supposed to be sickened by the violence. Next on the list was the expansive, inventive scope and scale, of time, of events, of artefacts. Before Banks, spaceships were 500 yards long, after, they were 500 miles. Then the panel discussed his experimental, unusual writing techniques: the inverted story structure in Use of Weapons; the dialect in Feesum Endjinn; 2nd person narrative; epistolary structure of Excession. Of course, anyone copying any of these styles wouldn’t be experimental! Banksian politics is socialist utopian individualism, which needs the Minds to keep everything stable.
With a change of focus from science fiction to science, I next went to the Climate Change Narratives panel. The discussion oscillated between how to write a compelling story about climate change, and how to redesign economics to properly account for climate change. Kim Stanley Robinson was in full flow about the way current economics says we can’t afford to save the planet (we can’t afford to leave all that valuable coal in the ground), and how that means we need a better economics: “current economics doesn’t make sense – it’s astrology in support of the rich”
Next off to a fantasy panel: “Your ‘realistic’ fantasy is a washed out colourless emptiness compared to the Rabelaisian reality.” Discuss. Some authors claim to write their medieval fantasies full of straight white men, because “that’s how it was back then”. The panel of historians begged to differ (although Edward James pointed out that Rabelais wrote fantasy, not reality). Despite this, Kari had a lovely rant about how one of the problems of being a Celticist is the Celtic fantasy novels like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Gael Baudino’s Gossamer Axe, promulgating the Californian neo-pagan Myth of the Celtic Woman: quote of the panel: “Celtic women were property, not radical lesbian separatists!”
I grabbed a mid-afternoon pasty before going along to the Science Fiction Encyclopedia Reunion, where we heard the fascinating story of the design and production of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, from the first edition onwards.
Martin Rees. The first part was based around his book Our Final Century (he said how the publisher cut his question mark, and the US title was Our Final Hour, maybe because they want instant gratification!), which is about all the things that could wipe us out. He then talked about space flight, and how it would be better to commercialise it as a dangerous sport rather than as tourism, so that the inevitable accidents won’t be as traumatic. He finished off talking about the period from when the Andormeda Galaxy crashes into ours in 4bn years, to the far future of the universe, and the multiverse. His talk was peppered with wry jokes and science fiction references. Quote of the talk: “I tell my students it’s better to read first rate science fiction rather than second rate science: it’s more stimulating, and no more likely to be wrong”.
We finished off the evening with the Masquerade, which demonstrated amazing creativity and attention to detail.
And so to bed.