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.

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.

Monday, 11 August 2014

LonCon 3: Updated Panel List

This is my final update with the complete listing of the five panels I'm on.  When and where they are,  what time, and who with.


The Retrofuturism of JJ Abrams
Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL), time 16:30 - 18:00.
Val Nolan (Moderator), with Pawel Frelik, Sorcha Ní Fhlainn, Erin M. Underwood, and me.


2014 Hugos: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL), time 11:00 - 12:00.
I'm the moderator, with Iain Clark, Abigail Brady, Saxon Bullock, Jacey Bedford.

Military SF: Continuity and Change
London Suite 2 (ExCeL), time 12.00 - 13.30
Myke Cole (Moderator), Joe Haldeman, Jean Johnson, Rohan Shah, and me.

What is I?
Capital Suite 14 (ExCeL), time 16.30 - 18.00
Ken MacLeod (Moderator), Russell Blackford, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin Poulter, Tim Armstrong, and late addition me.

The Knowable Other
London Suite 2 (ExCeL), Saturday 19:00 - 20:00.
Viktoriya H (Moderator), Michael Morelli, Justina Robson, JY Yang, and me.

I've got a very busy on the Saturday, and will need my running shoes on to get between the Hugos and the military SF panel.

Been away this weekend partying before the big event, hence the lack of my usual Sunday update.  As I will be at LonCon 3 next weekend there will be no update next Sunday either.  However, I will be posting an after convention report with pictures etc. just as soon as I can.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Log 2014 3rd Aug: Yesterday's Future of Tomorrow

Yesterday was rather exciting for the simple reason that we live next to the Hammersmith & City line, and London Underground were running a heritage train during the day.  The above picture is of one of the locomotives, they had one at each end of the rake of carriages, which was powering the service.  Isn't it glorious to look at.  One would almost mistake it for some fevered steam-punk creation if it were not for the fact it was built in 1923 and is nearly a hundred years old.  You can see more pictures of the full train here.

So lots of excitement at watching other people have fun riding the train, and the stories they will have to tell of the day.  My partner took the photos for me and I put them on Twitter, and in the process had more retweets than I've ever had for anything I've posted.  By my estimation over 20,000 people saw the pictures.  You can see the Tweets at the bottom of this page.

Today rather tired.  That's what excitement does, it wears you out.  Or it does if you are an old fogie like me.  So today I had to have a nap.  Hence the lateness of this post.

I was going to talk about re-watching Stargate Universe, and reading Sin and Syntax, but they will be mentioned in another post.  This week I've continued to work on my novel, re-wrote my short story, and received my first rejection slip (from Asimov's magazine).

Thursday, 31 July 2014

LonCon Panel 5: What is I?

My fifth panel at LonCon Is the What is I?  I asked if they would like me on this one, and they said Yes!  This mean I'm working my little cotton socks off on Saturday.  The panel is being held in the Capital Suite 14 (ExCeL), starting at 16.30 and ending at 18.00.

The blurb for the panel is as follows:

What is consciousness? What is it that we think we are? What does science, religion, mysticism say about this, and are we any closer to working out what 'I' is


Ken MacLeod (Moderator), Russell Blackford, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin Poulter, Tim Armstrong, and late addition me, so I'm not in the printed book.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Log 2014 27th Jul: Cold Outside Critique

I must be a sucker for punishment, that or an eternal optimist, as I submitted another short story for critiquing with the writers group I joined.  This is the third time I've put myself through the grist mill.

My story, called Cold Outside, was inspire by reading Ruthanna Emrys The Litany of Earth, which I mentioned here.  When I started writing my story I discovered to my chagrin that Peter Watts had beaten me to the idea of writing a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing with his prequel The Thing.

Fortunately, my idea was not to rewrite the whole movie from the alien POV, but rather cast the monster as a tragic victim of circumstances beyond its control.

In fact my story really only deals with stuff that is described in passing in Carpenter's movie, because what I wanted to do was tell was the story of the alien being dug up out of the ice by the Norwegians. This is told in more detail in the prequel to The Thing, called unimaginatively the Thing.  A title that might be a tad confusing when referring to both.  They could have gone with Don A. Stuart's, a pseudonym of John W. Campbell, original story title of Who Goes There? of course, but they didn't.

So overall I got a lot of very useful feedback, mostly about how opaque my story was to those not immersed in the Cthulhu mythos, which was good.  Still it left me feeling as per the picture.

On my writing progress this week, Scrivener fails to really keep track of the number of words written when re-writing a piece.  I can get widely varying totals, depending on the time I take a snapshot of the ongoing running total.  At the end of the day I actually judge what I've done by comparing the running total of the novel.  This is usually in negative numbers.  Currently the novel is running at 87,133 words.