August 9th, 2005

buzz

Worldcon final

We resume on Sunday afternoon, when I returned from lunch to find myself witnessing the official photograph of the official signing of the official contract for the new edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, by John Clute, Dave Langford and Peter Nicholls. I was pleased to learn later from Dave Langford that he is fairly optimistic it can be completed fairly quickly (whatever that means), and positively thrilled to hear that the new Encyclopedia will be primarily a low-cost subscription on-line resource, capable of being continually updated. OK, I do like dead trees as a medium, but for a work like The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction the extra benefits of on-line searches and perhaps also hyperlinks to external information will be huge.

I mainly just hung around for the next few hours, bumping into nmg (at last!), Conor Kostick, and davesangel and her mother who had come over to present the James White Award. Had a good chat with brightglance, mylescorcoran and sammywol. Then it was time to go to the Hugos.

I've already written up the Hugo results, but just want to note that I felt a small lump in my throat at the ceremony. I've been writing various web pages about the Hugos for five years now, and at last I was actually there. More prosaically, as well as a particularly high percentage of UK-bsed winners, I have a suspicion (which I will check some time) that a higher proportion (or at least number) of women won Hugos this year than is usual. (I calculated three years ago that a third of Nebulas in the fiction categories had been won by women, but only a quarter of Hugos.) More number-crunching to follow.

Met up with annafdd for a post-Hugo drink, and we witnessed the cheers and applause of the Moat House bar as a kilted autopope strode in bearing his Hugo. We then repaired to the Hilton, admiring of natural20's success at crowd control, and looked around for parties. The Hugo nominees party was rumoured to be a) the place to be and b) opening to all after half an hour; neither of these rumours turned out to be true, and we tried out the Spruotlore/Irish party before eventually gravitating to the Finns. Somehow the Finns had managed to put together the ingredients of a fine time, lots to drink (including a particularly addictive liquorice flavoured vodka), lots of people, and what appeared at the time (though my memory as time goes on is increasingly blurred) to be good conversation. I eventually found my room mate (whose blog I have now syndicated as marusek) talking to Ken and Carole MacLeod, and we returned to our lodgings.

On Monday morning I bumped into autopope and feorag on my way in, and wandered round the dealer's room with feorag (who was somewhat the worse for wear) to buy presents for my family (sadly the picture of the Very Hungry Cthulhu had already been bought) before my 11 o'clock panel. This was supposed to be on the future of politics, chaired by Caroline Mullan, but wandered off a bit into the decline of the Swedish social model, since there seemed to be a lot of Scandinavians both on the panel and in the audience. It was also my last panel as a participant.

My one comment on programming - which in general I greatly enjoyed - would be that, if possible, moderators should have a bit more input into both the description and personnel of their panels. I did seven panels throughout the con; the one I myself moderated had an extraordinarily ambiguous description which left it unclear as to what it was supposed to be about; another had a moderator whose views were completely different to those of the other three panellists, which distorted the discussion; two had at least one panellist who really had no interesting ideas about the topic of the panel (and in one of those two cases the panellist in question was me). I appreciate that it's not an exact science; also in comparison to the many many such events I do for work, I'd say that Worldcon panellists are without exception (of the panels I attended) clever enough and articulate enough to rise above the petty problems I mention, and that Worldcon audiences are among the most forgiving, appreciative and intelligent I have ever addressed. In terms of the logistics of the panels on which I myself appeared I have no complaints, but we were all just talking heads; I noted problems elsewhere with overhead projectors and slide projectors.

Wandered into a conversation with brisingamen and peake, who introduced me to ticking_fool and purplepooka. The latter persuaded me to attend an extraordinary presentation by Duncan Lunan about the Green Children of Woolpit, a 12th century mystery which he reckons points to a high-level conspiracy involving Henry II and the Vatican to conceal the fact that the children had been transported from a human colony on another planet. I shared with those present certain information I received earlier this year from an Eastern European foreign minister which seems to me to undermine one of the key arguments of Duncan Lunan's thesis, but I will say no more of that here.

brisingamen and peake were still at the same table an hour after I'd left them, and we were joined by Julian West as we munched on sandwiches. Then it was time for the Closing Ceremony. As Robert Sheckley was absent through illness, and Jane Yolen had already left, it was up to Chris Priest to respond to the convention on behalf of the professional community, which he did eloquently and gracefully. Though he finished with a good-natured dig at autopope - "I think that in years to come, we shall look back to Charlie winning his Hugo last night, and say to ourselves that that was the moment when science fiction changed for the w- I mean, when science fiction changed forever!"

I seemed to spend the afternoon helping with the dismantling of the Science Fiction Foundation stall, then, long chat with greengolux and various other luminaries of British fandom. fjm very kindly invited me to join a literary dinner, but my plane flight did not allow for this, and I ended up finishing my worldcon with a slightly grotty chicken tikka masala in Glasgow airport in the company of ianmcdonald and Enid.

Minor logistical complaint - I put a bid in on one of the scanner/printer sets that the con was trying to get rid of, but come the crucial moment nobody seemed to be able to tell me if I had won the auction or indeed where the equipment physically was, so I dropped the issue. I would certainly have had difficulty humping it onto the plane, so perhaps it's just as well.

Apart from the two very minor grumbles noted above, I had a great time. Apologies to those weren't there and who've had to endure these ramblings over the last few days. Apologies to anyone I met and haven't mentioned. See you all again soon.
buzz

Loot

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I have a very tolerant wife.
earthsea

August Books 4) Nineteen Eighty-Four

4) Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

Managed to read this on the way to Worldcon and in the rare insomniac moments while there. Of course I must have read it a couple of times as a teenager but it's always interesting to come back to it. Just a few things that struck me on rereading:
  1. It's not so much a novel as a set of political statements framed as tragedy.
  2. There is, however, a genuine moment of suspense for the first time reader when we don't know if O'Brien is really a counter-revolutionary or not.
  3. Julia as a character is better drawn than I remembered. I think that when I first read the book I was hoping she would "really" be as ideological as Winston, but in fact her approach is an important contrast to his. "You are only a revolutionary from the waist down" is one of the most important lines in the book.
  4. Room 101, taken on its own, actually isn't very terrifying - it only acquires its impact from what has come before. But it does give the plot another element of suspense after the main question - will they manage to overthrow Big Brother or not? - has been answered.
Little more need be said.
doctor who

The Empty Child

Since this is the episode currently rated best on the dynamic rankings site - even ahead of The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Genesis of the Daleks, and everyone was telling me at Worldcon how great it was (but sadly it was broadcast when I was at the wedding), I was very much looking forward to it. Collapse )

So, operationally, what episode should those of us who care about these things collectively throw our weight behind in the nominations for next year's Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)? I still haven't seen The Doctor Dances, but I don't think it will change my view that the one to back is Dalek; as a stand-alone episode it is more accessible, it certainly got me more excited than any other (I actually referred to it in five separate posts around the time of the first broadcast). Of course, youse can all nominate what you like; but I think a little discussion ahead of time does no harm at all!