Celts, Connie and Critiques

Thursday 6 August
Got off to a flying start with “The werewolves of Brigadoon” – a panel discussion on the cultural appropriation of all things Celtic by Hollywood and/or bad fantasy, and the atrocities committed against same. George R.R. Martin represented all things evil and American, Kari Spelling ranted about the myth of a Celtic matriarchal pagan goddess worshipping sexually liberated paradise, and the whole was moderated by the lovely and extremely Irish Peadar Ó Guilín (not Peadar O. Guilin, as his publisher’s page would have it … If you haven’t read Peadar’s The Inferior, go forth and rectify this gaping flaw in your life now).

Quote of the day from George R.R.: “The Celts got their butts kicked for the entire length of the Eurasian landmass and wrote sad songs about it.”

I had lunch with Peadar afterwards. He left his receipt on the table. I pointed out he could keep it and claim expenses. He pointed out Irish writers don’t pay tax. Bastards.

A panel in the afternoon on “When is genocide justified?” (“is mass slaughter of innocents only bad when bad people do it?”) had Connie Willis pointing out, in her understated Willisian drawl, that you can write about it without being in favour if it, and the Twit of the Con in the audience saying that genocide was all very well as a punitive measure but would the panel like to comment on using economic boycott as a means of expressing displeasure.

The Opening Ceremony included a speech by Dr Marc Garneau – scientist, Canadian shuttle astronaut and now MP for Montreal. An astronaut MP! I have a lot of time for Dr Evan Harris but I’m afraid this wins.

Because Nobel-winning Paul Krugman talking to Hugo-winning Charles Stross was postponed I unexpectedly found myself at a session by Scott Edelman aimed at new writers on “How to respond to a critique of your writing”. Well, it’s always fun to sit in on these and feel superior: the presenters generally produce the train crashes for people to admire and laugh at, and this was no different. Scott’s take was how to avoid being less like Alice Hoffman (who went insane on Twitter following a poor review) and more like Brad Meltzer. Brad took the juicy extracts from his poor reviews, put them in the mouths of the kids he coaches and the folks at his grandmother’s nursing home, and recorded the whole. And it’s very funny.

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