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This weekend I was at Picocon 21, the annual one-day SF convention run by Imperial College SF Group. I went with about a quarter of my friends list, and must have talked to or seen a further quarter whilst I was there.

Mind you, I may not have been at my most sparkling, since I'd had less than five hours of sleep the previous night, after staying out to celebrate the return of Eliot from places foreign. Cookie cake was eaten, hatchets were buried, and a good time was had, but man was I tired on Saturday. As a result, I'm somewhat fuzzy on some of the things that actually happened, so if I've got anything wrong please let me know.

The first panel item was a discussion on dystopias, with all three guests of honour plus Juliet McKenna. Interesting stuff, although there was a high rate of topic drift. Then it was off to Wagamama for lunch - very nice, as ever, but it was generally agreed that it took too long to get there given the time available for lunch. As a result we missed the short film, and half of Adam Roberts' talk about the differences between writing comedy and tragedy. High blood sugar is obviously a good thing, though, because what we did see I remember fairly well, even if I didn't quite follow some parts of it. That's one of the drawbacks of having authors who are also academics; they're liable to casually start sentences with phrases like, "if you keep up with the work of the french philosophers..."!

This item was swiftly followed by a talk from Paul McAuley offering an answer to why we need science fiction: It's the only writing that can still be set in an unknown foreign land. The globe has been mapped, the solar system is dead, but the future - well, anything can happen there. McAuley offered three types of science fiction: near-future (shallow categorisation: technothrillers), medium-future (shallow categorisation: space opera) and far-future (Olaf Stapledon, take a bow), then (I think) proceeded to argue that thanks to the Vingean singularity concept, anything beyond a hundred years is ruled out; and that thanks to the absurdity of modern life, satire has become the most relevant form of science fiction. Entirely coincidentally, his new novel is a near-future satire. What are the chances of that?

(I agree that the singularity has to at least be addressed in any kind of medium-term science fiction, although there are hacks available; I disagree that it has any impact on far-future science fiction. By the time you get to that point, even without a singularity you're looking at a Clarke's Law situation.)

At this point it was time to swoop on alexmc for review books (I came away with KJ Parker's The Etched City, which I am greatly looking forward to; the copy of Stories of Your Life and Others went in the end to twic), and to have a quick browse of the dealer's room. There, I picked up Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, Fairyland by Paul McAuley (I find his work hit and miss, but this won the Clarke so I'm going to give it a go) and a copy of The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe. I also borrowed Gibson's Pattern Recognition from snowking, and manfully resisted buying Peter Hamilton's newest doorstop, Pandora's Star.

(At this point, there was a quick detour to the bar in which we laughed heartily at the name-truncating jukebox.)

Back upstairs, it was time for Peter F Hamilton's interview (his agent's exact words when told the length (350,000 words) of the first installment of the Night's Dawn trilogy: 'Oh, fuck'); then it was back downstairs for the fish-fight (props to oxfordhacker) and then back up again for the quiz. There was a lot of going up and down stairs on saturday. Unfortunately, I had to leave the quiz early; still, my team won, and I'm sure that was only because of the early boost my presence gave them.

My reason for leaving early was to attend my first earthling birthday meal, which was lots of fun, and a chance to catch up with people like davehiggins, who I hadn't seen for far too long. I did keep thinking of Eastern Standard Tribe, though...

Note to LJ: It would be really really useful if, rather than giving you annoying 'you are not authorised to view this entry' messages, the 'next entry' button automatically skipped you to the next entry you are authorised for. That way, I could catch up on friends' journals much faster. As it is, I have to either go a ludicrously long way back on my friends page, or navigate back and forth from the calendar page. I suppose I could set up a custom filter for each individual person, but that seems like an awful lot of work.
Well, given that we won by 1/2 a point, I think it's fair to say that we wouldn't have won without you :)

And re the skip behaviour, we know
Well, given that we won by 1/2 a point, I think it's fair to say that we wouldn't have won without you :)

I knew it!

And re the skip behaviour, we know

Ah, the joys of having an LJ support junkie for a friend. :)
Ah, the joys of having an LJ support junkie for a friend. :)

*grin* just bear in mind that S2 was in zilla for about 2 years before brad actually implemented it :)