Saturday #2

So after Dedman came Helen Merrick, who was also fascinating, talking about the science in women’s SF – which is something I’m enthralled by, having been a science-y type at school (I struggled all through year 12 over whether to do science or history at uni… no one told me it was possible to do both!). Anyway, to start with she looked at why women write SF in the first place: that many grew up reading it, and also have a background of science. It also allows women to engage with science, and critique it. There’s apparently been very little research done into the science in female-authored SF. Her take, though, is that the science can be liberating for women; it can be critiqued for social/ethical consequences, as well as critiquing the institution, methodology and hierarchy; and show ways of ‘doing science’ differently. In essence, the talk was Cool, and gave me a list of reading I should do….

Then, I ditched the academic programme, and went off to hear about The New Space Opera. Have I mentioned how much I love space opera? I love it. Anyway – this panel also gave me things I need to read, which is so totally fine. Despite not having any time for reading. Possibly my favourite quote of the entire con was Ken McLeod talking Ian Banks: apparently he said he wrote his Culture novels intending to “conquer the moral high ground for the left.” Yeeah! Anyway, a lot of the panel was more about the panelists talking about their own stuff and why/how it’s space opera, which was a bit of a pain when I hadn’t read any of it. Interestingly, you can make heaps more dough in writing fantasy that in scifi; didn’t know that. The panel did, though, pose an interesting question: can space opera survive modern technology and science? It started amidst the optimism about science of the 1920s and 1930s; can the pessimism of the 00s make us set space opera aside? I wonder whether we’ll keep reading it, but with a nostalgic rather than optimistic view.

Then.. oh my! It was our turn to do a panel! Me, Ben, Alisa, and Jonathan (with Tansy a noticeable absence), talking about that crazy Last Short Story thing. People were there! And asked questions! And seemed genuinely interested in the answers…. There were a few odd comments, but that’s ok. It was far more enjoyable than I had expected.

Another book launch that night… Alisa and Kathryn and I went out dinner after, and I had the hottest prawn and onion salad in the entire world. Followed by a reading from Rob Shearman’s new book Tiny Deaths, which I bought and made him write in and am happy to recommend to people having only heard the two stories that he read at the con. The kids roaming the room were a bit of a pain, though. This was followed by heading back to my room (notice a pattern?), and watching Claire McKenna’s movie Liminal, which I saw last year and wasn’t nearly as good on a computer screen sans speakers. Basically we talked over the whole thing, commentating, which was funny in its own way. Once again, I managed to kick people out at midnight.

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