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  • As a pre-con holiday, I went on a reading week with thirteen other people. A reading week involves taking a lot of books to a self-catering cottage in a beautiful location and then letting nature take its course.
    • Best thing: mattia's cooking.

    • Worst thing: the 24-hour lergy that went round the cottage.

    • Lesson of the week: the music scene has better movements than the sf scene. Apparently The Zutons are part of 'cosmic scouse'.

  • Books read:

    • Not Before Sundown by Johanna Sinisalo: deserved Tiptree winner, and the consensus hit of the week.

    • Kuhn vs. Popper by Steve Fuller: incoherent yet facile for anyone with any knowledge of the history and philosophy of science at all (I really don't count myself as having very much).

    • The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene: good, though I found myself more interested in how the story was constructed than in the story itself.

    • The Warrior Who Carried Life by Geoff Ryman: felt like a pure, abstracted Fantasy story; not Ryman's best, but Ryman so worth reading.

    • Past Magic by Ian Macleod: new collection coming out from PS. Review at Strange Horizons soonish.

    • Burn by James Patrick Kelly: Hugo-nominated novella, but like pretty much all the other Kelly I've read, rather average and quite predictable.

    • The Course of the Heart by M. John Harrison: intense. Still processing.

    • Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand: good enough to make me want to read her other books (Generation Loss sounds very promising), but not quite a home run in itself.

    • Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds (started last week, finished yesterday): chunky, clunky, and a bit too reminiscent of the Rama books.

  • Books acquired (from the village book fair):

    • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

    • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

    • Yesterday's Men by George Turner

  • Concussion


    • More books acquired (from the dealers' room):

      • The Helliconia Trilogy by Brian Aldiss

      • The Issue At Hand by William Atheling Jr.

      • More Issues At Hand by William Atheling Jr.

      • The Holy Machine by Chris Beckett

      • Scores by John Clute

      • Gig by James Lovegrove

      • Temeraire by Naomi Novik

      • Giant Lizards From Another Star by Ken Macleod

      • Extra(Ordinary) People by Joanna Russ

      • Viator by Lucius Shepard

    • Programme attended (a selection):

      • Elizabeth Hand interviewed by Graham Sleight: added to the feeling that I must read more Hand soon. Also, stunning reading from Generation Loss.

      • Reading As A Writer (M. John Harrison, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Graham Sleight, Farah Mendlesohn [M]): interesting discussion of how writers and non-writers differ in their approaches to criticism and reviewing.

      • M. John Harrison interviewed by Elizabeth Hand: Another good reading, and (in what became something of a running theme) more discussion of the difference between 'M. John Harrison' and 'Mike Harrison'.

      • When One Is Not Enough (Ian McDonald, Justina Robson, Colin Greenland, Paul Barnett, Amanda Hemingway [M]): panel about the use of multiple viewpoint vs. single viewpoint. Started well, with Colin Greenland's contributions particularly interesting, but got derailed (largely by the moderator) into what seemed to me fairly tangential discussions about religion and the differences between men and women.

      • Justina Robson interviewed by Jon Courtenay Grimwood: the least spontaneous of the GoH interviews, but arguably the most entertaining. Worth it not least for an articulation of something I should already have realised about Living Next-Door to the God of Love but hadn't, and which makes me respect the book even more.

      • Won't Get Fooled Again (John Berlyne, Graham Sleight, Hal Duncan, Justina Robson [M]): lively discussion of whether we should just burn sf down to the foundations and start again. Graham did his best impression of a curmudgeon.

    • Programme contributed to:

      • The Creative Possibilities of the Fanzine (with Yvonne Rowse and someone whose name I have, embarrassingly, forgotten John Dallman, of course; thanks hawkida): small panel, small audience, discussion never quite took off, but some interesting things said all the same, particularly about podcasts. Shame peteyoung couldn't make it.

      • Why Can't They Just Write It So People Can Understand? (with Elizabeth Bear, Hal Duncan, John Clute, and Maureen Kincaid Speller): discussion of accessibility, difficulty (as a Clutean term) and audience. Lots of interesting points raised by both panelists and audience, but I don't think I managed to give the discussion much of a shape. Notable for the applause contest with the neighbouring room half-way through.

      • Harrison, Harrison and Clute: That would be M. John Harrison, John Clute, and me, drafted as a substitute for Brian Aldiss, 'in conversation'. We ended up spending most of our time talking about our respective development as critics. I felt more than a little presumptuous about my part in this, given the relative levels of experience involved; I mean, I found it personally very interesting, and it helped me articulate some things, but I'm not sure the audience were getting much out of the discussion.

      • BSFA Award shorts book group: me leading a discussion of the nominated fiction. About eight people showed, which was a pretty good turnout even if I did already know half of them. Some good points made, and I really must write something about 'Magic for Beginners'.

      • Communal Criticism: me and Maureen Kincaid Speller. Again, it felt a little strange to be talking about being a critic, but thankfully it was a small room and the audience chimed in plenty.

      • Does Anyone Watch Broadcast TV Any More? (with Judith Proctor, Paul Cockburn, John Toon, and Morgan Gallagher [M]): a panel of two halves. In one half, the moderator had decided on the narrative she wanted to impose on the discussion and didn't respond well to people challenging that. In the other half, the moderator raised some fascinating points about tv as a social experience, and how that social experience is changing, which spun off into really interesting discussion. Depressing thing: I asked how many people in the (largish) audience had read 'Magic for Beginners', which on one level is of course all about being a media fan. The answer? Four, and three of those were people I know personally.

    • General observations

      • Being back in Glasgow gave me several moments of deja-vu.

      • While my impression is that the con in general was well-organised and went pretty smoothly (all hail Farah and Simon!), I think my experience of it was ... skewed. This is probably clear from the lists of programming I went to and contributed to above. I am now ready to get back to actually talking about books, rather than talking about talking about books, thanks.

      • Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy the con, because I did.

      • I did not get stung by the (apparently high) bar food prices, because I was on a two-stop strategy (large breakfast, large dinner, no lunch). This was helped by the wondrous and plentiful breakfasts supplied by the Crowne Plaza.

      • The panoramic lift. All tall hotels should have panoramic lifts. The view from our room didn't suck, either.

      • The convention produced a smart A5 book of fiction and criticism, called Concussed. My favourite contribution was probably Stephen Baxter's, which consisted of six six-word sf short stories. The best of these is like the ultimate distillation of the Baxter worldview: "Big Bang. No God. Fadeout. End."

      • I went to have dinner instead of watching Doctor Who on the big screen on Saturday evening. Having now seen the episode, I can say that I made the right decision.

      • I have seen comments that there were a number of panels where the panelists didn't seem to know why they were there. This is true. What I don't get, however, is how it happened. All panelists were emailed well in advance of the con and asked if they wanted to be on panels X, Y and Z; if they didn't think they had something to contribute, why did they say yes?

      • The tiny tiny gophers! I'm not sure whether they were growing children specially or retraining ones they already had available, but being handed my con newsletter by a very earnest eight-year-old was rather endearing.

      • I lost one of my favourite bookmarks. Boo hiss.

      • I found the blanket "Year of the Teledu" posters annoying. This may just be me.

      • The Richard Morgan Award for 'Most consistently entertaining panelist despite over-use' goes to Justina Robson.

      • On the subject of future Eastercons, I am lukewarm about 2007 (I think a year off may do me some good), but looking forward to 2008.

      • Burning question of the con:

        Who would win in a fight between Flipper and Gentle Ben?

        The Dolphin
        10(45.5%)
        The Bear
        12(54.5%)

    • Other reports:



    • I am vastly behind on email, so if you've sent me something that requires a response in the last ten days, please bear with me. Normal service will be resumed, etc.
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was John Dallman with you and Yvonne.
In one half, the moderator had decided on the narrative she wanted to impose on the discussion and didn't respond well to people challenging that. In the other half, the moderator raised some fascinating points

Oh yeees. Unfortunately I left before the end of first half as I culdn't stand any more :(

I have a rep too tho perhaps not litty enough for you! :-P
Who would win in a fight between Flipper and Gentle Ben?

On land or in the water?
In space!
I am now ready to get back to actually talking about books, rather than talking about talking about books, thanks.

Yes please. Actually, I think that's the one thing I really missed at Concussion: talk about actual books. The one panel I saw this happen on was the Not the Clarke Award panel, and they were all books I'd heard very much talked about already.

Maybe I was going to the wrong bits of the programme.

But I didn't even have much in the way of conversations about books outside of the programme either, which was odd, considering lots of the people I knew had just spent a week reading. Or it could have been because I've not had time to read much lately and therefore didn't have any books I was burning to talk about. Dunno.
which was odd, considering lots of the people I knew had just spent a week reading.

Well, I feel like I spent so much time dashing between programme items that I barely saw you, so that may have had something to do with it ...

Mostly I do think it was down to the programme slice I saw. I mean, I know there were panels on, eg, Octavia Butler, which I assume had actual book discussion.
I may have to steal that idea; it's brilliant.

Now if I knew enough people who were into reading as much as I am... *sigh*

Also: damn, this sounds like a good con. Shame I couldn't make it. Oh well, next year...
I may have to steal that idea; it's brilliant.

I gather there's a franchise opening up in Australia, too. :)
Who on earth ARE these people who think Gentle Ben would win??
And Niall hasn't voted ... very suspicious.
I am lukewarm about 2007

As part of the 50% or so of fandom with an insane hate of the Adelphi, I'll be skipping 2007. If we're back in the UK by then, 2008 does look like a good Con.

It is a shame about Liverpool too. The '94 Eastercon was my first, but it set false expectations as I didn't have to actually stay in the hotel.
(Deleted comment)
Extra(Ordinary) People by Joanna Russ

Be very interested to know what you think of this. Also, might want a loan of Viator at some point.

Graham did his best impression of a curmudgeon.

"Impression"??

Harrison, Harrison and Clute [...] I felt more than a little presumptuous about my part in this, given the relative levels of experience involved; I mean, I found it personally very interesting, and it helped me articulate some things, but I'm not sure the audience were getting much out of the discussion.

Although I wasn't on the platform, my feelings more or less exactly.

I am now ready to get back to actually talking about books.

Personally, I'm ready to get back to talking about monster trucks and explosions.

I found the blanket "Year of the Teledu" posters annoying. This may just be me.

It was not just you.
I think you were actually being a curmudgeon, but doing an impression of Dan.

Re: H2C - I found it very interesting. But then, I find reviewing interesting stuff, and I may be biased because I know you and Niall. I am curious as to what other folks in the room made of it all.

And Teledu posters = annoying.
Actually, one thing that struck me the one time when I actually managed to see you on a panel was how much you've blossomed in terms of self-confidence in the past twelve months. At Hinckley, you had lots of interesting things to say, but you seemed nervous about saying them. This year all visible traces of nerves were vanished.
"were vanished"? I need more sleep.
Long and interesting post, but could you squeeze in an lj-cut or two please?
Teledu posters = MASSIVE WANKERS
Why? What harm did they do?

Seriously, the intention wasn't to piss people off. Why were they a problem?
I managed to somehow make it all the way through the convention without realising that Justina Robson was the author of Living Next Door to the God Of Love, which I'm about 60 pages into (and only didn't bring with me because it's a hardback). D'oh!

And I agree - quite a lot of the panels seemed pretty meta, being about crit or about genre or about writing, rather than about the actual books themselves.

Not that I didn't enjoy some of those a lot, but I can see a gap in the market :->

You may have seen me walk out of the Broadcast TV panel after 5 minutes, but I hear that quite a few people decided to do likewise shortly thereafter. Shame, as it sounds like bits of it were rather interesting.
About 30 minutes in, things calmed down. I did have to step outside for a moment in order to drink something to help me cope with the natural conflicting urges I was feeling.
I'm afraid you are one of the people I kept nearly managing to say hello to and failing miserably. Hope you didn't think I was some grinning nutter. Well, maybe I am a grinning nutter, but that's not the point.

Managed to catch 2 of your panels. Meant to get to your fanzine panel, but missed it, which I am miffed about. I think you are being a tad hard on yourself about the H, H and C panel. I remember thinking it was quite interesting. I remember a few noisy sleepers too, but well, it was very early and cons are tiring things.
I am kind of with you that not many actual books were discussed at the con, and I do love talking about books, but you and a few others are much more well-read than I am when it comes to recent publications (I am stuck in the seventies at the mo). My own fault. I'll drag myself into the 21st century in time for London - maybe.
Wish I was there...

Btw, someone tell Tom that I thought we had definitively proven those boots were not waterproof back in Alberta! ;-)