What I love about (a) fandom and (b) the modern age is that you can casually bump into someone in Oxford that you last saw in Montreal 9 months ago without batting an eyelid, and then not have to waste time with catch-up chat because you’ve already read their blog anyway.
You can also have conversations like:
“Ben, have you met Geoff?” (That would be Geoff Ryman, founder member of the Mundane Movement, amongst his many other strengths.)“Yes, I last saw him having breakfast at Résidences universitaires UQAM, 303 boulevard René-Lévesque Est, Montreal when we were both staying there in August, and I wondered if his choice of meal would trigger another mundane movement.”
Maybe I didn’t say that last bit. I said that we passed on the escalators in the convention centre.
The occasion being the fifth anniversary celebration of the Write Fantastic, a thoroughly deserved pat-on-the-back event in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Centre of St Hilda’s College. The centre has a distressingly sports centre-like vibe, all modern brutalist bare brickwork and large plate glass windows. Thankfully it lacks the smell of chlorine, sweat and fear and instead has a rather nice, cosy auditorium for thepanel sessions. The stage includes a small little statuette of du Pré + cello which I wanted to have on the panel sessions too, but was over-ruled.
Chaired by Juliet McKenna, “Politics and Genre – fantasy conservatism vs SF radicals” started (once Juliet had explained what it meant) with everyone rightly disagreeing with the perceived trope of “sf = cutting edge and incisive, fantasy = cosy”, citing counter-examples, and then getting into the realities of how politics, economics and other real-world factors would be in various imagined worlds. En route discussion touched on the infinity slappability of the ever-whinging Starbuck, having separate kitchens for the winter and summer in parts of Canada, and the different points at which The Phantom Menace really lost it for various viewers. (For me: the bit where Liam Neeson’s Konky Jonky or whatever he’s called carefully explains to Anakin and his mum that even though he is a very powerful Jedi Knight and can do just about anything he likes, he can only take Anakin with him and his mum will have to stay behind as a slave because that’s the only way the plot will work … and they both calmly accept this.)
“Reflections on a life in writing” was meant to be me effortlessly moderating by pointing Chaz Brenchley, Liz Williams, Geoff Ryman and Ian Watson at the audience, pressing the “go” button and letting them entertain us with anecdotes of their writing careers. It was a bit harder than that because, again, no one was quite sure what the session title meant, but the audience seemed to be entertained anyway. Earlier, Kari Spelling had shared the fact that a reviewer once said her characterisation wasn’t as good as Mercedes Lackey’s. Now I was on stage I could trump this with the Amazon review that said the characterisation of His Majesty’s Starship isn’t as good as Rama II‘s. The audience’s resident IP barrister offered to put me in touch with a few defamation experts that he knows.
So, good fun, the required level of silliness, seeing old faces, putting old names to new ones, and books to buy. And may I mention, cudos to the Cape of Good Hope pub on the corner of Cowley and Iffley Road for managing to serve the 50-odd guests who turned up without warning, mostly within the allocated 90 minute lunch break.
- UPDATE: Major Clanger’s report, with some photos. Somehow I’d forgotten the bit about exploring the earth’s core with Agas.