Chilperic (chilperic) wrote,

Conversation from an Open Prison, 5

13 August 2006

After breakfast we had a little walk around part of the island of Långholmen, but fjm wanted to finish working on her 2 o’clock lecture so we we did not take the long route. The first thing on the programme was a talk by Stefan Ekman which (because we were there) he kindly gave in English (which is, of course, extremely good. It was on part of his Lund PhD; the whole thing is on the fantasy environment, and what he gave us was on “landscapes of evil”—the idea that Dark Lords like Sauron can, as if they are sources of radioactivity, blight a whole landscape. He started with the parody of all this sort of thing in Diana Wynne Jones’s wonderful Tough Guide to Fantasyland and then produced a number of interesting examples. A very thought-provoking piece.

At 1.00 I was on a panel to discuss the short-list for the this year’s Hugo Awards. I was not, thank goodness, the only one not to have read the latest novel in George Martin’s fantasy sequence (which in my view shouldn’t be on the Hugo shortlist anyway), and we spent most of our time discussing the American, Canadian, English and Scottish novels instead (by Scalzi, Wilson, Stross and MacLeod). Our views were not identical, in that some of us put Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World first and others put Charlie Stross’s Accelerando in the top slot—but everyone agreed those should be the two main contenders. Having read each twice, and having enjoyed Ken’s more the second time, and still not having quite worked out what on earth was happening in Charlie’s book, I had no hesitation in putting Ken first. It was in part a re-run of the panel I was on at Eastercon,when we discussed the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, except that there Ken had been in second place in my mind, behind Geoff Ryman’s Air (which won, of course). I expect the George Martin will win this time round, which would make it (I checked this before hand) the fifth time a fantasy novel won a Hugo Award—all five times being within the twenty-first century (and all previous winners clearly recognisable as science fiction).

fjm’s talk on children and science fiction followed immediately. She had put a lot of key words up on a whiteboard before hand, which helped. It was a really impressive talk, I think: fluent, entertaining, and full of fascinating content. Basically it was about why so much science fiction for children these days is basically not proper science fiction; and she talked about this in relation to changing attitudes and policies regarding science teaching. I look forward to the whole book!

Here there was another break, and then we were both on a discussion panel of four people, which was talking about if there was a science fiction canon, and whether there should be. It was a lot better than I thought it might have been: I think (but you would have to check with the audience!) that we ended up with a whole lot of interesting ideas. This really was a most serious convention; and the level of content was often just as good, or better, than you would get at a “proper” academic conference. Anyway, that was it: we had a shortclosing ceremony; a few of us toasted each other in wine-cask-fermented Belgian beer and Tobermory whisky; and then we went straight off to the “Dead Dog” party. That was held in a pub on Södermalm called “Oliver Twist”. fjm and I decided to walk there, and to have a meal on the way. We found a perfectly OK Thai restaurant on the way (and also a gym, where fjm decided to go to lift some weights before breakfast tomorrow); but by the time we had left the restaurant the drizzle which had been intermittent all day had turned into quite heavy rain. We found a taxi; but the taxi found some difficulty finding the pub. Still, we found it in the end, and had a pleasant evening. There were maybe 20 or more of the convention people there; and Anders got me to try four or five different types of acquavit. Luckily, perhaps, the current prohibitions on carrying liquids onto planes will prevent me from having to make decisions on which kind to buy and take back to the UK!

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