Thursday, September 25, 2014

Loncon 3 notes and quotes

Notes from Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-18, 2014, in London.

Thursday panel: "LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour, and SF Narratives."
Panelists: Andrea Phillips, Jean Johnson (m), Adam Roberts, and Charles Stross.
During introductions: "I'm Charles Stross and I tweet too."
Adam Roberts on the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks: "You'd much rather be a Mind than a meat person."
Charles Stross: "The modern human condition is a cyberpunk dystopia ."
Adam Roberts' T-shirt read: "I may at any point turn into my superhero alter ego."

Thursday panel: "Loncon 3 Guests of Honour Discuss Iain Banks."
Panelists: John Jarrold, John Clute, Jeanne Gomoll, Malcolm Edwards, and Bryan Talbot.
Asked to recommend an Iain Banks book:
John Clute named A Song of Stone.
Malcolm Edwards named The Wasp Factory. Edwards said he had seen an editor's note rejecting the novel: "Very well written but far too weird ever to be published."
Bryan Talbot named The Crow Road and Whit.
Jeanne Gomoll named Look to Windward and The Player of Games.
There was some consensus among the panelists that Use of Weapons was one of Banks' finest science fiction novels.

Thursday reading: Kim Stanley Robinson.
Robinson read from his forthcoming novel Aurora (due from Orbit in May, 2015), a generation starship story. The passage that he read concerned a woman teaching the ship AI to write a narrative of the journey.

Thursday panel: "Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction."
Panelists: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin McGrath, Laurie Penny, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Jon Courtenay Grimwood.
Several panelists discussed the point that science fiction novels frequently focus on a revolution, then skip the important next step: the formation of a new system of government. Martin McGrath recommended Eleanor Arnason's Ring of Swords as an exception includes the negotiation of a new system after the revolution. Other panelists cited Robinson's Mars trilogy as another positive example.

Friday panel: "Interview of John Clute."
Jonathan Clements interviewed Guest of Honour John Clute.
On how authors react to negative reviews: "I think authors like to be screwed in the right way," said Clute.
On reading a novel: "Any house you've entered, you've broken into," said Clute. Authors are surprised by criticism.
"It is intellectual treason to ignore endgame," said Clute. It's essential to talk about what the book is about. The phobia about spoiling the ending is nonsense.
The SF Encyclopedia (follow here) now at 4.5 million words. Clute wrote about 2 million of those.

Friday panel: "A Conversation with Malcolm Edwards."
Chris Evans and Stephen Baxter in dialog with Guest of Honour Malcolm Edwards.
Malcolm Edwards said that in his best six weeks as editor he was able to acquire these three novels for publication: Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard.
Among his accomplishments, he published Paul McAuley's first novel.
The worst ever books he published: Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee's Cradle and A Man of Two Worlds by Brian and Frank Herbert. Frank Herbert wasn't much involved in the book, Edwards said.
He published the first novel by Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, which was also the last time he published Terry Pratchett, the co-author.
On the Gollancz SF Masterworks series: "The Forever War and The Stars My Destination were out of print. Well, I thought, there's a list there. I think that will be my legacy," Edwards said.
Another accomplishment: Gateway a vast ebook collection available online.

Friday panel: "Evolution of Encyclopedia of Science Fiction."
Panelists: Jonathan Clements, John Clute, Neal Tringham, David Langford, Graham Sleight, and Rick Wilber.
All cover images are first edition covers. Part of the argument of the SF Encyclopedia is to capture how books were presented at the time they were first published, according to Clute.
The Encyclopedia is different from a Wiki. It is curated and opinionated, making an argument, possibly including original research.
The most often accessed theme articles are "aliens" and "near future," according to Langford.

Friday panel: "Fantasy vs. SF: Is the Universe Looking Out for You?"
Panelists: Stephen Hunt, Anne Lyle, Ian R. MacLeod, Robert Reed, Rebecca Levene.
Fantasy and SF are trading places a bit. "We're much more likely to create a dragon than to explore even the outer solar system," said Ian R MacLeod
Robert Reed described billionaire Warren Buffett as a magician. Money makes the trains run. "Money as magic."

Saturday panel: "The Politics of Utopia."
There was concensus that Iain M. Banks' Culture novels are utopian
"Utopia is a process not an end state," said Kim Stanley Robinson. 
Robinson asserted that Abraham Lincoln was an SF author. "That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" uses the phrase "shall not perish" as a future imperative, a science fictional declaration.

Sunday panel: "Becoming History."
Panelists: Graham Sleight, John Clute, Peter Higgins, Elizabeth Hand, and Christopher Priest.
What novels exemplify the use of a science fictional or fantastic gaze on the history of the 20th Century?
Peter Higgins named Declare by Powers, Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis, the first of a trilogy, and The Land Across by Gene Wolfe.
Elizabeth Hand named George Saunders, for his "funny and savage" stories.
John Clute named Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald.
Others mentioned: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar, Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins, and The Adjacent by Christopher Priest.

Sunday Filk.
"A Child of the Library" a moving song by Piers and Gill Cawley protesting library closures (follow for lyrics and video).

Sunday panel: "The Darkening Garden."
Panelists: Lisa Tuttle, Paul March-Russell, Paul Kincaid, Nina Allen, and Helen Marshall.
John Clute's The Darkening Garden (2007) argued for horror as a core mode of 21st Century fiction.
Horror is an emotion not a genre, according to Douglas E. Winter.
Kim Newman says you need an element of the irrational in horror. The panelists generally agree.
Nina Allan recommended The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Clute used the term "vastation" to describe the reaction to the holocaust. The term comes from Swedenborg.

Related links on this blog:
2014 Hugo Award winners
John Clute kaffeeklatsch
Loncon 3 panel photos
More Loncon 3 panel photos
Still more Loncon 3 photos
Yes, more Loncon 3 photos

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