Friday 25 March 2016

Mancunicon Eastercon - Friday

We left our friends to drive into the centre of Manchester to the Easter science fiction convention.  The con is in the Deansgate hotel, which recommended the snappily-named adjacent NCP Manchester Great Northern Warehouse car park for parking, at the special con rate of only(!) £12/day, reduced from the standard £20.50/day.  This car park is accessed from Watson Street.  We discovered there is another Watson Street, in the suburbs, thanks to the sat nav.  So we arrived a little later than planned, but still in good time.

The first session I attended was a panel I was on: the Comma Press sponsored (Don’t) Ask the Scientist.  This revolved around bad science in SF, and whether the author has a responsibility to get the science right.  I caused a minuscule amount of controversy by saying they didn’t – but I did add that they do have a responsibility to be honest.

Next was a panel on Twisting the Story: about the different kinds of plots twists, and how to do them well.  One writer revealed their secret: “I once discovered I needed a twist.  So I went and read the book as it was so far, reading as if I knew author had set up a brilliant twist. And I found one!”

Ian McDonald at Mancunicon
Guest of Honour Ian McDonald was interviewed by Peadar Ó Guilín.  He spoke about how he sets his novels in places where he can go and do tax-deductible research: Brazil, India, and the like. His latest novel is set on the moon…

The panel Revealing History, Revealing Now examined whether the history in historical fantasy or alternate history fiction needs to be right.  (Clearly “being right” is a perennial theme in the SFnal community.)  And if you make a change, particularly to introduce a fantastical element, you need to think through the consequences of that change: it will affect the rest of the world, too.  The important point is that the real history is usually much richer and more diverse and stranger than the history we are taught, and that is enough to make readers think the author has it wrong.  Beware governments who try to control the history curriculum: look carefully at what they want the children to believe about where they and others have come from.

In the evening we had the panel What’s the Worst That Could Happen?, or, good ways to kill a lot of people.  After the panel introduced themselves, they realised a problem: none of the panellists is really an expert in mega-death.  Or maybe that’s not a problem…  The discussion riffed off solar flares, disease, revolutions causing famines, resource exhaustion, asteroids, nuclear war, bioweapons, climate change, ice ages, super-volcanoes, rogue black holes, gamma ray bursts, and Vogons.  We don’t have the ability to reboot civilisation after a global catastrophe, and so we need to colonise space to avoid most of the problems.  Just your standard apocalyptic scenarios, then.

We rounded off the evening watching a session of Whose Line is it Anyway?, with various improvised scenarios.

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