- If you could host a dinner party for 3 live people, who would it be? (any motive, any people) I really really like international political gossip, especially over dinner, so the first two are dead easy - one of them I once shook hands with, the other I've met on several occasions: Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General, and Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief. Just listening to the two of them chatting about what they thought was really going on in the world would be fascinating.
The third is a bit more difficult. To balance out with my sf interests, there should really be an sf writer, but it's difficult to think of one who wold either a) be at home in the complex world of international politics or b) might not be at home but would be a sufficiently attractive personality that it wouldn't chill the atmosphere. I haven't met him socially, though I have heard him speak a couple of times, and I wonder if Terry Pratchett might fit my criteria? (Solana after all has a Ph D in physics, so his nerdy side may not be that deeply buried.) If he doesn't, then go for the safe option - international politics, but with a woman's perspective, and invite Mary Robinson.
- If you could host a dinner party for 3 dead people, who would it be? (any motive, any people) This response is definitely more literary. I've always loved the novels of Roger Zelazny, and similarly J.R.R. Tolkien, so to listen to the two of them comparing notes on myth-making and writing would be great. However to liven things up a bit I'd want George Bernard Shaw there for the first couple of courses. As a strict vegetarian and teetotaller he would disappear home about ten o'clock and then Zelazny, Tolkien and I could spend the rest of the evening slagging him off.
- Who is the most influential/coolest/famous person to have bought you a drink? I've been at numerous diplomatic receptions down the years, some sponsored by foreign minsters, some by presidents, etc etc. Difficult to rank them in terms of influence/cool/fame! In terms of cool, which is a very personal ranking, I'd still rank Ken MacLeod ahead of any of the politicians, but I suspect he himself would reject the concept of being "cool". In terms of influence, probably Solana, who has bought me not just drinks but entertained me (with several others) to lunch (as did his successor at NATO, Lord Robertson). In terms of fame, probably the royal wedding last year. Combining all three factors, I come back to Paddy Ashdown.
- What first attracted you to Anne/Any cool storys about meeting? Heck, this is a more tricky one than you realise (though not so personal that I can't answer it).
We met as undergraduates at Cambridge, but I arrived already equipped with a different girlfriend - we'd been pen-pals for three years, and were very much in lurve. Anne was this very serious mathematician girl in the same year as me (the other mathematicians including nickbarnes and deborah_c). I remember the day in June 1986, when their first year exam results came out, which was also the day of the college's May Ball (and Clare had one of the most sought-after May Balls in Cambridge). I bumped into Anne wandering across Old Court and we headed up to the Senate House together to see how well everyone had done (my own results, as a Natural Scientist, weren't coming out until after the end of term). As we walked, a sudden rain shower hit, and I think I said, "Let's gloat about all the people going to the Ball tonight who will get wet!" (Somehow I knew that neither of us was going.) And she giggled most attractively, and I thought, Hmm, if I were a free man...
There were a couple more occasions when things almost clicked (but not quite) between us. It took a fancy dress party that she threw in February 1990, at a point that I knew that another friend of mine was interested in Anne, and I raised it with her. "No," she said, "I'm not really interested in him. You'd be a different matter." The moment wasn't quite right, as my ex-girlfriend, with who I had once been very much in lurve, was staying with Anne that evening; but I pursued matters the next day, to a happy conclusion. (And my ex-girlfriend eventually married the other bloke.) (That's not the same ex-girlfriend who became a nun. Obviously.)
- What is your best memory? Sorry to be cliched, but getting married was the best thing that ever happened to me, with the births of the three kids chasing closely behind!
- What is your favourite Belgian food/drink? I'm still getting to grips with the art of cooking those mysterious vegetables known here as chicons/witloof, translated into English variously as "Belgian endives" or "chicory" (but not what we normally think of as chicory). They're fascinating to cook as well as rather nice to eat.
Belgian food is generally fantastic. (Though I had to laugh a few months ago at a posh lunch in the European Parliament when the canteen attempted to present a sushi starter as if it was a standard Belgian haute cuisine dish.) There are a few standard vegetable which they do interesting things with - the mysterious chicons/witloof, also asparagus; but even leaving that aside they understand sauces and meat and vegetables.
However the beer even outweighs the food. I sit here with a bottle of Kasteel Blond, at 11% as strong as the average wine and very chewy and tasty. My tastes generally run between the Hoegaarden and the Leffe families, with some room for experimentation in the Orval direction (and in the summertime, which is imminent, a gueuze or a kriek can really hit the spot. So I have to say, much as I enjoy the food, I really appreciate the beer.
- If you had to recommend one science fiction book to someone who'd never read anything of the genre, what would it be? Sort-of short answer - I actually ranked the books and stories that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards on exactly that criterion a few years back. The ones that I thought then were "the kind of thing you could lend a non-sf reader in reasonable confidence that they would enjoy it and thank you for sharing it with them" included:
- Flowers for Algernon/"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- "Ill Met in Lankhmar" by Fritz Leiber
- "The Queen of Air and Darkness" by Poul Anderson
- "Goat Song" by Poul Anderson
- Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
- "Home Is the Hangman" by Roger Zelazny
- "Catch that Zeppelin!" by Fritz Leiber
- "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" by James Tiptree, Jr.
- "The Persistence of Vision" by John Varley
- "Grotto of the Dancing Deer" by Clifford D. Simak
- "PRESS ENTER "by John Varley
- "Schrödinger's Kitten" by George Alec Effinger
- "The Mountains of Mourning" by Lois McMaster Bujold
- "The Hemingway Hoax" by Joe Haldeman
- "Beggars in Spain" by Nancy Kress
- "Even the Queen" by Connie Willis
- "Georgia On My Mind" by Charles Sheffield
- "The Martian Child" by David Gerrold
- "Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang
- What is your earliest memory? Walking around the block some day in the spring of 1970 when I was 3.
- How much are you looking forward to Dr. Who on Saturday?! A lot!
But seriously though, this new series has been just great. I haven't properly blogged about it yet, but I've enjoyed almost every minute. And the fact that the Daleks are back...!!!!!!!
Reg: Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans. Brian: I do! Reg: Oh, yeah? How much? Brian: A lot! Reg: Right. You're in.