Monday, 25 August 2014

LonCon 3: Monday Decoherence

The convention chair's Steven Cooper and Alice Lawson with Guest of Honours at the closing ceremony.
This is the last post about LonCon 3, so it must be Monday, and it is, even though it's a different Monday, and rain is falling.  Rain being de rigueur for a British Bank Holiday Monday.  So end of WorldCon, and a week later the end of summer.  It has a certain symmetry.

The first thing we went to on Monday was Pew Pew! Where Have the Lasers Gone?  We went to this partly because Ann Leckie was on the panel, but also because Susan works in Quantum Optics and Lasers at Imperial College.  It became obvious that there was an expert on lasers in the audience, who would have been a good choice to have had on the panel, because he was clearly very knowledgeable.  I also think Susan would have had a lot to bring to the discussion, with stories from the laboratories.  So a little disappointed.  However, seeing Ann Leckie, and getting to speak to her afterwards was fun.

We planned on going to the Fermi Paradox Book Discussion, but talking to Ann Leckie meant we didn't, and Ann Leckie talking to us.  Cool or what?  So when we had finished we went off for coffee.  Coffee being a singular constant in our daily routine during the convention, our favourite being from Andronicas who sold what we thought was the best coffee at ExCel.

Along with drinking coffee there was talking to friends, old and new.

New friend Vivian Perry jazz singer, and here in a costume inspired by the theme of the Lady of the Lake.
Long time friend Kate, with Malcolm as the Girl in the Fireplace with cute little clockwork robot doll.
Then we took the time to go around the dealers room for any last minute bargains.  I bought a copy of Charlie Stross's Equoid, a graphic novel anthology called To End All Wars, and a box of Dropzone Commander miniatures, because they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

We ate lunch one final time, and had pasties as a treat, before we then went off to watch the Closing Ceremony, where we saw the LonCon promo trailer as a reminder of how the bid to hold the WorldCon in London began.  The committee chairs and guest then pulled a gag by entering the TARDIS to go back in time to report on the success of the convention.  We're geeks, we thought it was funny.

Our final panel of the convention was How Space Missions Happen, which was full of amusing stories and incidents about the problems of getting a mission launched.  After that I was wrecked and even though we had been invited to a Dead Dog party I insisted I needed to be taken home to have a hot bath to soothe my aching body, and an early night to sleep in my own bed.

So I hope you have all enjoyed this marathon day-by-day con report, and thank you for reading.

NB: For those who didn't go and who want to see the LonCon 3 events in full, here is the link to the online guide.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

LonCon 3: Sunday Exhaustion

Best in show winners.  Magnificent costumes.
Sunday morning I woke up after having a good nights sleep, but with the caveat that six hours wasn't enough, and therefore it felt way too early to be getting up at 08.30.  However, we both want to go and see a panel at 10.00, and that meant rise and shine.  I'm sure Myke Cole is laughing at us, but them's the breaks.

We made it in time for the Droning On panel, getting there before Myke Cole even, who the first of panelists to arrive, and for a moment it looked like the only panelist.  However, reinforcements arrived, which meant that Myke didn't have to drone on alone.  It was an interesting discussion about drones, even if unpacking the bee analogy wasn't all that useful; knowing that the professionals call them UAVs was, as was certain other phrases that came up, more useful.  All grist to the mill when one is a writer trying to create an atmosphere of verisimilitude in one's writing.  I was also very impressed Terrence Karney's insights.

Having read some other con reports, the one thing I'm taking away is the quantity and quality of the panels at this years WorldCon, I really felt like I was missing out on good stuff.  Unfortunately, I have neither time travel technology, or access to cloning to have been able to get to more items.

Then it was time for coffee.

For such a big convention we sure bumped into a shed load of our friends, mostly down to the boulevard where all the drink and food outlets were.  In fact I would go so far as to say this facilitated meeting up with more people than one might see at such a large convention, because everyone needs to eat and drink.

After drinking the juice of the bean, our minds quickened and we toddled off to A Queerer War, because it had Tanya Huff on it.  We are also both into the Blood Ties series that I talked about here.  On reflection I have realized that not only did C J Cherryh's Rim Runners book influence my first novel, but also Tanya Huff's Valor Confederation series.

The last panel of the day, and of the convention was The War on Science, with Dave Clements moderating, who we both know.  The examples of how scientific research is being ignored by politicians was quite chilling.  For example Canada's bureaucratic interference to prevent unwanted research results from being published.

Then it was off to nice restaurant for a steak meal, because we were worth it.

After eating we took the long walk back down the boulevard getting  back in time for The 2014 Hugo Awards Ceremony, with Geoff Ryman and Justina Robson acting as the compères.  I know Geoff from way back when and it was good to see him again after so many years.  All the results can be read here.

Then we retired to the fan village bar for drinkies, and much wine was drunk, before winding our weary way back to the hotel to sleep, perchance to dream.

To be continued...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

LonCon 3: Saturday Mostly

Left to right: Val Nolan, moderator, who lectures on literature and writing at National University of Ireland.  Pawel Frelik who teaches in the Department of American Literature and Culture at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland.  Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn who is a Lecturer in Film Studies and Contemporary American Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University.  Erin Underwood is the editor for Underwords Press, a small press that specializes in young adult SF anthologies.
OK, the time-stream has been crossed, and the narrative will cut back and forwards in time until normality can be restored.

Cue Spooky Theme.

I forgot to mention that I was on Thursday afternoon called The Retrofuturism of JJ Abrams.  How remiss of me.

I felt that there was a certain bias in the choice of panelists, with three of them being academics, which coloured the tone of the panel.  I took a Devil's advocate position, by arguing that Hollywood is all about bums on seats, and that retro-futurism goes back way further than the work of J J Abrams.  Still it went well enough, despite car crash caused by me pointing out to Pawel that if one is going to quote a figure one really needs a reference.

Still I had several people come up to me to thank me for my contributions, and for coming down on the misuse of statistics to lend pseudo academic credence to what is being said.

One thing I took away from this panel was that reading out peoples bios is probably not the best way to introduce one's panelists.  On the other hand maybe I should have been thorough in listing my credentials, because I use to be a minion of science.  Part of my job involved interpreting statistics from the results of research trials, and using them to set up health services.  Just didn't think it was relevant at the time I volunteered to be a panelist.

Cue Reminder. Now to get back to Saturday.

Left to right: Iain Clark, Jacey Bedford, Saxon Bullock and Abigail Brady.
I had a great crew on the 2014 Hugos: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form panel.  It was my first time ever as a moderator, and they all worked with me to have an interesting discussion about the six short listed finalists.  The fact we were all wrong in thinking that The Day of the Doctor would win doesn't change the fun we had discussing the topic, and learning about new shows to keep a look out for.

I was also very pleased when John Medany came up afterward and told me I had done good.  He also told me I was shaking and that I shouldn't be nervous, to which I replied that wasn't nerves that was excitement.  Still think we was robbed when Game of Thrones won though.

I'll just say it again, all my panelists were fabulous.

Left to right: Rohan Shah, Joe Haldeman, Jean Johnson and Myke Cole.
I then had to rush off to get to my next panel, which was Military SF: Continuity and Change with Myke Cole as the moderator. I was totally stoked to have been able to be on this panel.  I mean Joe Haldeman.  How cool is that?  Cooler than a cool thing.

Myke Cole asked us some really interesting questions, which due to the fact I wasn't on the round robin email, I had to field cold.  Afterwards he said that was a good thing, for definitions of good that probably meant challenging.  I liked his attitude and he was an excellent moderator.  I reviewed his first novel here, and I will be buying the sequels soon.

Me pontificating about who knows what, and Myke frowning, so I was probably talking out my ass.
Besides hearing Joe Haldeman talk, it was also interesting listening to Jean Johnson describe the research she did for writing her novel, and I must check her work out soon.  Rohan Shah's economic perspective on the military provided another interesting viewpoint on the topic, and I thought the panel was entertaining to listen to.

I may be biased, but it's true.  Honest.

Gay & Joe Haldeman.
Even more awesome, for me, was that on Sunday Gay Haldeman, Joe's wife, came up with her huband, and told me how much they appreciated my input into the panel.  Joe and Gay Haldeman, how awesome is that?
Right to left: Ken MacLeod, Martin Poultier, Teresa Nielson Hayden, me and Russell Blackford.
After lunch, and coffee, I went to my next panel, What is I?  Ken laid out a very comprehensive agenda for the panel, which I fear we failed to achieve.  However, we had a very lively discussion with some fantastic questions coming from the audience at the end.

The hall was packed and again I received a lot of very positive feedback from members of the audience, and not just, who the heck are you?  On Sunday I was sitting in a room waiting for another panel to start, and I heard people discussing what sounded like a very interesting panel they had gone to.  I turned around and asked what it was, only to be told it was the one I had been on.

A bit of an embarrassing moment for me.

Left to right: Viktorya H, Michael Morelli, Justina Robson, JY Yang.
By the time I got to my last panel I was pretty cream crackered.  This was on The Knowable Other and recent changes to the representation of aliens in films and TV shows.

I had started the topic with how I understood why authors used aliens to represent issues like being a Black American in the 1950s.  I should of perhaps mentioned the Star Trek episode with the white/black ve black/white aliens, but I was tired, and my brain not fully firing on all cylinders.  This resulted in JY Yang making a rather pointed response.

Fortunately, the moderator opened up the discussion to the audience, and we were able to talk about the topic.

Exhausted we went to the Masquerade and watched the display of quality costuming.  Afterwards we went to the bar for a drink, meeting up with friends old and new.  Then it was time for the long walk back to the hotel.  Hoorah as Myke Cole might say, "Work those legs, further, harder faster."

To be continued...

Friday, 22 August 2014

LonCon 3: Friday The Saga Continues

The totally awesome WorldCon Philharmonic Orchestra, made up of world class musicians from the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, and London Philharmonic Orchestras playing both modern and traditional classical music.
Friday morning and Susan had slept well.

Whereas I was woken early by the first trains going past our hotel, and couldn't get back to sleep.  As Saturday was going to be full on day for me, with Susan trailing behind, I let her lead the way on what we went to see.  Remember we are now running Plan B.

Besides I was feeling too frazzled, and my brains couldn't make any decisions.  And there was so much to see and do that one could only catch a small fraction of what was on.  Making decisions when one is tired is really hard.  It didn't help that I had forgotten to print out my list of all the things I wanted to see.

I know how very retro of me.

The first panel of the day was The Exceptional Girl Warrior, and what I learnt was avoid the tired tropes of making your young protagonists orphans without any skills.  It had a nice set of panelists, none of whom I had heard of, but they all spoke very eloquently on the topic.  What I took away was  make your protagonists competent at something, and show them becoming more competent instead of going through a learning to be competent story.

Afterwards we dropped into Social Media and New Authors panel, for obvious reasons.  It didn't tell me anything new, but it was entertaining enough.  It also confirmed I was doing the stuff I thought I ought to be doing as a writer.

We then saw the BIS: Skylon and Spaceflight of the Future a presentation by Alan Bond in the main auditorium.  It was good to see the progress being made on the Sabre engine, and the news about money starting to come in to fund the project from the British government.  If all goes well we will have single stage to orbit shuttle in about ten years time.  Susan was so excited by the talk we went to the dealers room, and she bought a model of Skylon to put on our shelves.

Mission accomplished, we went for lunch.

We walked down the long boulevard in an exploring the fast food outlets until we found something we liked the look of, and drank coffee while we ate.  We then got talking to friends who saw us eating, and then it was nearly 15.00, and time to make our way back to the main part of the convention for another panel.

Luckily I was wearing sandals made for walking.

We got into see Space on Screen, which had our friend Jaine Fenn acting as moderator.  Chris Baker was also on the panel and some people remember him back in the day as Fangorn.  He worked on the film Gravity, and had lots of interesting things to say, as did Bridget Landry, and not to forget Paul McAuley and Allistair Reynolds.  This really was an A-Team panel, and the room was packed to the gunnels.

At this point things get a bit fuzzy.

The next thing I remember doing was going to see SF: What it is, What it Could Be.  Another packed room, which made it hard to see the panelists, but I enjoyed the discussion.  After that we went on to what was the stand out item of the day.  A performance by the WorldCon Philharmonic Orchestra.  Live music of favourite SF pieces, and classics with themes relating to space etc.  Outstanding.

Given the time the concert finished all that was left for us to do was go to the bar for a quick drink, which turned into a long drink.  We sat talking to friends, and we didn't get to bed until 02.00.  There is nothing like having a good nights sleep to wake up fully refreshed with a spring in one step in the morning.  And we got nothing like that for the entire con.

This has been part two of my con report posted one week after the convention.

To be continued...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

LonCon 3: Thursday First Contact!

Brian Aldiss on the right with Steve Lawson at the closing ceremony.
Not going to rift on The Clash's London Calling, or allude to Paul Cornell's London Falling and make comments about The Severed Streets around ExCel over the weekend.  No, not doing anything like that, or any shouts outs, or mixed metaphors either *cough*, or mention that ExCel is down by the river.  No sirree Bob, short for Kate BTW, none of that here.

Cue Lost in Space Warning. The narrative is now going to go a bit wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey, as I travel forward to Monday.

LonCon 3 was not my first WorldCon that honour goes to SeaCon '79, which was held in Brighton where they had Brian Aldiss and Fritz Lieber as their Guests of Honour.  I mention this because Brian celebrated his 89th birthday on the 18th.  As a result he had a hall full of fans sing him Happy Birthday at LonCon 3.  And that as they say is what fandom is all about; a community of fans who appreciate the authors that write the books we like to read.

Cue Tardis Sound Effects.  It's now Thursday again.

We had a plan of what we wanted to see at WorldCon, but no plan survives contact with what goes on at a convention.  The things that come up daily to defeat the best laid plans are: eating, drinking and sleeping, with a large side order of meeting old friends, and making new ones.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh, and just in this case I forget to mention it in passing, lots of walking.

We arrived at ExCel around 11.30, and went on the first of the many long walks down the central boulevard of the convention.  On reaching the end, where the registration desk sat majestically back lit by the morning sun, we found ourselves in a queue where we stood for 90 minutes before getting our badges.  During which time I went off to find us something to eat.  With both of us now being representatives of an ethnic minority,  I went and bought Cornish Pasties, and black coffees.

Voice Over, "The coffee kicks back the fatigue from a sleepless night."

Susan hadn't slept well, because she was nervous about attending such a large convention, and me, me I was over excited.

Cue What Excitement Sounds Like to Me.

This meant neither of us got enough sleep.  Not a good way to start a convention.  However, we passed the time, by chatting to the people around us, and were entertained by a roving guitar player singing filk songs as well.

Due to the time it took to get our badges we missed going to the Opening Ceremony, and the Learn How to Swing Dance item, which resulted in us skipping the Swing Dance event we had originally planned on attending.  So much for our well laid out plans.

Cue A-Team Theme. So we went to Plan B; have fun.

Right to left: Roz Kaveney, Carrie Vaughn, Martin McGrath, Laurie Penny and Takayuki Tatsumi.
 Our first event was watching the Occupy SF: Inequality on Screen panel, which had Roz Kaveney contributing cutting insights into shows like Continuum, and Alan Moore's V for Vendetta.  She is one of the smartest people I know, and a lovely person.

Then we went to The Fermi Paradox in Light of the Kepler Mission panel because Charlie Stross was a speaker on it.  He always has something interesting and erudite to say, which makes panels with him on worth going to see.  It also had Gerry Webb of Commercial Space Technologies Ltd., as the moderator, who was very good.  Interesting topic, even though nothing really new about the existence of aliens arose out of the discussion.

We missed The 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards Ceremony, our desire to see the results of the vote were trumped by the need to eat; so as to prevent us turning into ravenous hungry monsters.  We had steak, and it was delicious.

Cue Clever Girl.  Impromptu Jurrassic Park re-enactment averted.

On the way back from the restaurant we dropped in to see a play some friends were presenting called The Cancellation and Re-Imagining of Captain Tartan.  It explored the complex processes behind the production of a successful series, and the importance of the writer in the creative process when re-imagining a much loved classic show *cough*.  Afterwards we went to sit down in the fan village area, and had a drink from the bar with a few more friends, before starting the long walk back to our hotel to retire for the night.

To be continued...

NB: *cough* indicates irony.  This has been a public service announcement *cough*.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

LonCon 3: Hugo Award Winners 2014


This is not going to be a full discussion of the 2014 Hugos, rather a snippet to comment on a few that I voted on, and if they won.

Best Novel:  Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie.  Definitely a yay as far as I was concerned.  I reviewed it here, the first novel I read this year, and I loved it.  It was also great to meet Ann, and exchange a few words, she comes across as a very nice person.

Best Novella:  Equoid by Charles Stross.  I like Charlie's Laundry series, and I enjoyed reading the teaser he put out for this.  I now have a signed hardback, and all I have to do is find the time to sit down and read the story in full.

Best Graphic Story:  Time by Randall Munroe.  I didn't vote in this category, because I failed to remember I had read this strip, and how seminal it was.  So, I was pleasantly surprised by it winning.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:  Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón. and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I've read elsewhere that some people didn't think it was SF, because it appears to be set in the real world of contemporary near Earth orbit space research.

In a word no, it's SF because it's set in an alternative future where the shuttle is still flying, and all the space stations are functioning, and in the same orbital plain.  I won't be pedantic about the science of the orbital mechanics, because shooting fish in a barrel.  Hollywood did hard science better for The Right Stuff and Apollo 13.  So Gravity is SF, and it was a righteous win.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, Short Form: Game of Thrones "The Rains of Castamere" written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, and directed by David Nutter.  We was robbed.  In an ideal world I would have like Orphan Black to have won, but really both The Day of the Doctor and An Adventure in Space and Time were better in my opinion.

So disappointed, but on the other hand the Hugos are what they are.  The winner is the one with the most votes, not necessarily the best of anything, just the favourite show of many who took the time and trouble to vote.  In short, the result of a democratic voting system from being part of the franchise from being a member of WorldCon.  So no real grumbles from me.

I will be posting two further pieces on LonCon 3 over the next few days.  One on what and who I saw, the other on what I did on the panels.  There will be pictures.