Yeh, overloading on the old blog, ain’t I?
Sunday I did not run. I was tired, and wanted to give my knees a rest – having a room on the first floor, and being terrified of the lifts after hearing about them breaking down all the way back at last year’s natcon, gave the knees quite a workout!
I went to another academic panel, On the Historiographic in the Fantastic. It was primarily about the engagement between history and fantasy. The presenter – whose name I’ve forgotten – made an interesting point to begin with: for a genre proud of transgression, it’s also obsessed with its own categories and delineation. Very true. Anyway – she said fantasy is always engaged with history: using ‘real’ historical stuff, and/or making up its own history. Post-Enlightenment, history came to be posited as rationalist, scientific, positivist, etc – in contradistinction to ‘romance’, myth-making, and so on, which is where fantasy is situated (or has been situated). I wrote down a lot more, but won’t put it here because at least some of it doesn’t make sense to me anymore! – suffice to say all this got me thinking about Geoffrey of Monmouth, and those other ‘historians’ whose works we read today as fantasy. Big crossover there.
After the panel I went to City Church of Christ, which was awesome – a very diverse group of people; the minister preached the gospel loud and clear! It was embarrassing to be from an Anglican church, though; there are some vocal Perth Anglicans who don’t believe in the physical resurrection of Christ which is just, like, stupid (if you’re a Christian).
Got back in time to go to Mark Bould’s talk, which I think I will blog separately because it was so damned cool. Anyway – then lunch with , and onto one of the highlights of the con: Rob Shearman and Ian Mond doing a live commentary on the Dr Who episode Dalek! We got front row seats, and it was fantastic. Had a drink with some friends – went to dinner with Kathryn, “MacDog,” and Matt… sorry we stooged you with the bill for a while there, guys!!
Then… oh then, it was Ditmar time. I won two of them! – well, the Snapshot team and my cohorts and I won one. You can see a full list of winners here. My row was the place to be. And didn’t we just love it!
Then, finally, the mother of all room parties. I don’t know how many people there were over the night – lots – probably 20 or 30 at any one time. Sean provided some mighty fine tunes, and someone else provided The A-Team theme. I kicked everyone out, finally, at about 2am. People keep making a big thing of me doing that, so I’m left wondering: do room parties never get moved on by the room’s inhabitants? Or did I do it in a particularly memorable way?
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.
… when I went running again, but this time only for 40 min or so because my back started hurting. Hopefully pilates will help with this.
I went to some of the academic panels, and by goodness they were great.
Robert Savage’s “Paleoanthropology of the Future” (which can mean at least two different things, as far as I can read) was awesome – about 2001, and how scifi looks at the development of Human. He made a link between the hero-journey (which I remember from doing classics) and the development of man: needing some sort of external shove, for instance, to get started, and how at the end the hero/man is the same but different. He posited that Moonwatcher, Floyd, and Bowman are all fundamentally the same character, but (I think) different aspects (I could be murdering his whole premise here, of course). Women, in this story and in the story of Man’s Development (in the classic model), are removed – and I hadn’t really noticed that: the three women in the story are a little girls and two stewardesses: they are there to provide comfort and that’s it. The bit I really liked was the idea of how 2001‘s narrative arc follows the arc suggested by paleoanthropology. The latter requires evolution or similar, which doesn’t really fit in with narrative requirements, so Clarke has the extraterrestrial influence, which fits in with the idea of “the donor” from the hero-journey arc. A couple of other interesting points: the development of Dave into the star-child // conception, when the pod goes into the sun (so the hero is the father of the child, and so is still recognisable). Also, that HAL // the leopard in the opening segment as an external motivating influence. And of course, the other possibly conclusion to the story is that HAL goes through the monolith, and comes out as… IBM? :)Â There’s also the parallel between HAL being shut down and Dave in the hotel room, at the end, regressing. So Dave and HAL are very similar, even (and this is my take) aspects of the same idea.
(Dr) Stephen Dedman’s talk on Captain America was quite fascinating, too – I know nothing about the superhero, so it was interesting to hear about his development and mutations over time. Especially as he was born out of a Congress request for publishers to put out stuff that was in line with the government’s policy on war! The (ab)use of comics would make a fascinating book, I think. The change from all-American hero fighting the dirty Hun, to whether he should be shown fighting the Vietnamese at all, to finally fighting Americans in thrall to an evil American general is quite some development.
It was great running on Good Friday morning: almost no traffic, and almost no people! I ran down to and along the Esplanade – they have a huge bloody river in Perth! And fountains… I don’t remember when there were working fountains in Melbourne. Oh – and that was after waking up at 5.30am Perth time, which my body was insisting was 7.30 for us, despite having gone to sleep at about 2am for us (midnight in Perth). Very confusing… fortunately my ability to doze off again seems to be reappearing.
Hung around with Alisa, Ben and Tehani for a bit of the morning – they were setting up their table to flog their wares (primarily 2012 and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine – Australia’s pulpiest magazine! (I adore it).
The first panels I went to were about the history of Dr Who – the pre-production stuff, like how Dr Who basically started because the BBC had an opening in their scheduling, and the fact that its producer was the first female producer and the youngest producer to boot, at the BBC. That’s cool. Interesting to hear that it seems like lots of people wanted Dr Who to fail, for a whole range of reasons! It also seems that TV people stuffing around with their programming has been going on for as long as TV has existed (and probably happened/happens in radio, too) – changing series lengths, etc. The soundstage they had to deal with makes it seem remarkable they managed to make anything, frankly, and seems a testament to the actors and the crew. And then – to top it all off, and to drive home what they’d been talking about – the panel did an overview of the first season of Dr Who, which was very cool. Those guys clearly know their Who trivia, which was fun…. It was fascinating to hear about the growth in viewers (up to 10 million for the episodes with the Daleks!), and about the interaction of the actors – and development of the characters, too.
Zara’s talk on “why we love children’s SF” was fantastic – a survey of 900 respondents, asking when they started reading scifi, what they liked as a kid, what they didn’t like, etc. I really must take the time to read The Inter-Galactic Playground. It sounds like a very cool project Zara has got herself involved in! – and gave me a list of books I really ought to chase up, too…
Anyway… then went and had a drink with a few people, then it was the launch of 2012 and Workers’ Paradise, both of which I can highly recommend. After that, another book launch! – Magic Dirt, a collection of Sean Williams’ stuff. Rob nearly choked on the little packets of magic dirt (actually gravel or something similar), and blamed me for it…. Eventually had a bit to eat at the Indian restaurant around the corner at about 9pm, then back to the hotel bar, then nearly went to a room party… but it was too loud and hot, so I bailed and went to bed. It was, after all, midnight.