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Just picked up a copy of the programme for this that had been delivered to my parents' house. It fell open at the following event:
Tuesday 12th April 2005

Nicholas Evans, Robert Harris, David Mitchell and Philip Pullman
New Beginnings: Ideas and Inspiration

8pm £8.00 Oxford Union

To mark the publication of a unique anthology, New Beginnings (published specifically to raise money for the Tsunami Appeal), contributor Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, is joined by Robert Harris, author of Pompeii, David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, and Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy and most recently The Scarecrow and his Servant, to discuss how they begin their novels. Starting to write is a very personal experience and this lively discussion will give readers and writers alike valuable insights into how some of our best-loved authors come to the first page. Chaired by Peter Kemp, Fiction Editor of The Sunday Times.
Philip Pullman and David Mitchell? I'm there.


Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go

6pm £8.00 Oxford Union

Kazuo Ishiguro’s many awards include the Booker Prize. His new book, Never Let Me Go, is a profound and beautifully crafted story of love, loss and hidden truths, charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of our lives. It tells of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, pupils at Hailsham, set in the English countryside. The children were tenderly sheltered from the outside world and brought up to believe they were special. But why were they really there? It is only years later that Kathy finally allows herself to yield to the pull of memory. In conversation with John Carey, Chairman of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize.

David Whyte
Making a Friend of the Unknown: Frontier Conversations in Poetry

6pm £5.50 Oxford Union

The whole spectrum of human response to the unknown, from fear to creative confrontation, has found expression in poetry and the lives poets have led around their work. David Whyte looks at the way good poetry gives us the courage of a bigger perspective and the ability to take a further step at the frontier of our own lives.


Richard Dawkins
The Ancestor’s Tale

6pm £7.00 Oxford Union

Richard Dawkins’s new book The Ancestor's Tale is a pilgrimage: a journey of four billion years. We, modern human beings, are the pilgrims, and we are travelling back in time to seek our ancestors. Simultaneously every other living thing—animal, plant, fungus, bacterium—is setting off with the same mission. As we travel down the path of time, we meet up with other bands of pilgrims with whom we share a common ancestor. Onwards we go, squeezing precariously through mass extinctions, meeting increasingly distant common ancestors; back to the origin of life itself. The book shows us how remarkable we are and how intimate our relationship with the rest of the living world. Richard Dawkins talks to broadcaster David Freeman.


Henry Gee
The Science of Middle Earth

2.30 pm £5.50 Oxford Union

Henry Gee ingeniously reveals how contemporary science can explain some of the wonders of Middle Earth, where Tolkien’s marvellous fantasy creates a world with an insistent sense of reality. In The Science of Middle Earth, he delights in explaining such scientific conundrums as how Frodo’s coat of mithril armour can deflect deadly blows and how Legolas can count the Riders of Rohan across five leagues. Just because The Lord of the Rings is fantasy, he argues, this doesn’t prevent scientific explanations for its wonders. Henry Gee is one of the editors of Nature.

Nicholas Evans, Robert Harris, David Mitchell and Philip Pullman
New Beginnings: Ideas and Inspiration

8pm £8.00 Oxford Union


Colin Blakemore, Guy Claxton and Steven Rose
The Conscious and Unconscious Mind

1pm £7.00 Oxford Union

Guy Claxton’s book, The Wayward Mind shows how, throughout history, societies have concocted comforting fables in the face of the recurrent puzzles of human existence, that invariably rely on some notion of the unconscious. But what is the unconscious? Or is it simply the brain? Steven Rose’s latest book is The 21st Century Brain, a compelling study exploring the evolutionary route by which brains emerged and looking at their future. Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, chairs this fascinating exploration of the conscious and unconscious mind.

Andrew Parker
Seven Deadly Colours

4.30 pm £5.50 Oxford Union

Seven Deadly Colours is a stunning exploration of the role colour has played in evolution. Charles Darwin could not resolve the eye’s ‘perfection’ with his theory of evolution: no intermediate stages between a non-eye and a working eye seemed possible. But was he right? Taking the colours of the spectrum as his keys to the natural world, Andrew Parker shows that Darwin in fact had no reason to worry, and that Nature’s palette is miraculous. With vivid and fascinating examples of how colour has affected flora and fauna in different environments across the globe, he not only shows the endless wonder of the natural world, but also extends our understanding of evolution itself.


Julia Neuberger
The Moral State We’re In

12pm £8.00 Oxford Union

In The Moral State We’re In, Rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger takes the moral temperature of the nation by looking at the ways in which we treat the weakest amongst us. This has long been an established way to judge how civilized a society is and she looks at the extent to which the elderly are thought a burden, the way we care for the mentally ill, attitudes to asylum seekers, support for ex-offenders, as well as the care of children and the future of society in the U.K.

Bryan Appleyard
Aliens: Why They Are Here

2pm £5.50 Holywell Music Room

‘Since 1947, aliens have poured from the abyss that lies between ourselves and the world.’ So begins Bryan Appleyard’s dazzling survey of one of the most pervasive yet under-reported phenomena of modern times: aliens—what they are and what they say about us. Aliens is a blend of pop-culture, history and exploration of the human condition. It covers all aspects of the alien phenomenon, from the Roswell Incident to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence programme, covering everything from the joyful anthropocentrism of Star Trek to the bloody-minded nihilism of Stanislaw Lem.


Philip Gwyn Jones, Joanne Harris, Peter Straus and Ion Trewin
Is Formulaic Publishing Killing Creativity?

4pm £6.50 Bodleian Library

Are readers tired of formulaic publishing or do they like to know what they’re getting? Are writers increasingly following tried and tested formats in order to get their work published? Should publishers be moving back to their roots and following their editorial instincts more than their sales and marketing departments? Join Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Jigs and Reels and recent judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award, Philip Gwyn Jones, who has just founded Portobello Books to fill what he sees as a gap in the market for novels from outside the U.K. and ‘politically-engaged’ non-fiction, and Peter Straus, former publisher of Picador and now literary agent to many prize-winning authors for a stimulating discussion. Chaired by Ion Trewin, editor in-chief at Weidenfeld & Nicolson and deputy administrator of the Man Booker Prize.


John Carey, Valentine Cunningham, Joanne Harris and Philip Pullman
Recurring Themes

12pm £8.00 Oxford Union

Why do we tell stories and what purpose do they have in our lives? Are most truly successful novels always story based? Are stories shaped by a set of rules and what is the importance of the recurrence of certain themes? Is there a finite number of basic plots? Christopher Booker’s recent book argued that there were seven basic plots; others—unsurprisingly—disagree. To discuss this are Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Jigs and Reels, writer and critic Valentine Cunningham, Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford, and Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Chaired by author and critic John Carey.

John Humphrys
Lost for Words

2pm £8.00 Town Hall

Broadcaster John Humphrys regrets what has happened to the English language and, more to the point, what might happen in the future if we don’t keep an eye on it. He accepts that language must evolve and that there will always be many different kinds of English. It doesn’t matter that we may not understand half the things that teenagers say, for instance. But it matters a lot that people in power—in business and in politics contort the language to pull the wool over our eyes. We must have a common language and protect it against the manipulators and the manglers. In conversation with broadcaster David Freeman.


David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas

2.30pm £5.50 Oxford Union

In Cloud Atlas—shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize—David Mitchell combines the stories of six individuals. Thought-provoking and exhilarating, it tells, amongst others, of a reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850, a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in interwar Belgium, a high-minded journalist in Reagan’s California. Each one’s story impacts on the others and points to a terrifying vision of the world’s future, challenging our ability to shape not only our destiny, but those that will come after us. In conversation with author and broadcaster Paul Blezard.

There are also free 'very short introductions' scattered throughout the festival. Plus, obviously, many events I haven't highlighted.

So, can I tempt anyone with a day out in Oxford? Wednesday 13th is the one I'd go for, I think, plus a trip on tuesday evening to see the 'new beginnings', thing, plus possibly a trip on Sunday 10th.
totally jealous.

stupid living on the wrong side of the ocean.
On the one hand, it seems only fair, since you get Wiscon and most Worldcons and all sorts of other things. On the other hand, yeah, it still sucks. Somebody needs to invent that teleporter.
mmm teleporters. sign me up.

you're right of course - I get to go to many shiny things, but I want them all.

and a rocket car. science fiction promised me that, too.
One of my friends has a t-shirt like that.
This is not my future
Where is my teleporter?
Where is my rocket pack?
(Or similar, I can't remember the details. I keep meaning to steal it from him, though. :)
(Deleted comment)
jog my memory, would you please?

Will do.

Going to both Mitchell events is tempting, but (a) cost is an issue; I probably shouldn't go to too much, and (b) I'm a bit wary of booking myself to do too much that week. I'm already going into London on the Monday evening to see The History Boys, and on Saturday for the BSFA/SFF event.
The 'New Beginnings' does sound fascinating, and himself and I are definitely thinking of toddling along. And, as I work a mere stone's throw from all of these venues, if any serious meeting up is going on please do give me a shout...
While I am not particularly tempted by most of the talks, should any serious meeting up occur on a weekend I might be able to arrange to be in Oxford on a weekend.
Right. I'm going to go on Sunday 10th as well then, to the Ishiguro event.

*goes to book tickets*
Right. I've booked for:

Kazuo Ishiguro - 6pm, Sunday 10th April
Mitchell, Pullman et al - 8pm, Tuesday 12th April
Blakemore, Claxton & Rose - 1pm, Wednesday 13th April
Andrew Parker - 4:30pm, Wednesday 13th April

I'm in favour of meets attached to any or all of the above...
I'm inclined to join you for the Blakemore/Claxton/Rose and the Parker on the Wednesday. I'd like to go to the Mitchell/Pullman etc. on the previous evening too, but need to think about prices/travel arrnagements/etc.
You can always crash here on the tuesday evening.