My Nine Worlds Geekfest Schedule

UPDATE 30 July: Signing and room assignments added

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Here’s my schedule for the 2nd Nine Worlds Geekfest Convention, now (gasp!) only a month few days away:

 

Friday 8 August 15:15 – 16:30, County C&D

Superheroes and Superhuman: exploding the myth of the superwhathaveyou

Superheroes are everywhere these days, from comic books to literary novels to the Disney Store. How is society exploring what ‘super’ means, and how does that change depending on the suffix attached?

Nick Harkaway, Jenni Hill, Taran Matharu, Barry Nugent, Stephanie Saulter

 

Friday 8 August 22:15 – 23:30, Royal B

New Voices: Welcome to the class of 2014!

The evening showcase of new writers – one of last year’s most popular events – returns! Bring your drinks, bring your friends: this is your chance to find your next literary addiction. Fun and fast, New Voices is an opportunity for debut writers – if you know someone who would fit the bill, head over to Twitter and nominate them at @booksnineworlds.

MC: Stephanie Saulter

 

Saturday 9 August 11:45 – 13:00, Connaught B

Writing The Other – A workshop for writers

How do you write ‘the Other’ without falling into common traps, harmful tropes, and clichés? Back by popular demand after last year’s successful event, we will be exploring these issues in a writers’ workshop, with exercises, discussion and a Q&A.

Facilitator: Stephanie Saulter

 

Saturday 9 August 22:15 – 23:30, Royal B

New Voices: the class of 2014 continues!

More fun and fast-paced readings from the best new writers.

MC: Stephanie Saulter 

 

Sunday 10 August 11:45 – 13:00, Connaught B

Reading SF While Brown – Views on speculative fiction

For many of us, reading science fiction and fantasy was a formative experience — one that introduced new ideas, and shaped what we knew or hoped to be possible. But what imaginative leaps does a reader have to make to buy into worlds that don’t include anyone who looks or talks like them? And what impact does making that imaginative leap, time and again, ultimately have? Genre writers and readers talk about their experiences of reading SF while brown.

 Camille Lofters, Taran Matharu, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Aishwarya Subramanian

 

Sunday 10 August 13:30 – 14:45, County C&D

X-Punk: punk as suffix, genre and state of mind

Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Grimpunk, Sandalpunk, Godpunk, Pinkpunk, Punkpunk… what’s nextpunk? Our panelists consider the next big thing – and the perils of the X-Punk genre lifestyle.

Djibril al-Ayad, Kim Curran, Mathew Pocock, Stephanie Saulter, M. Suddain

 

Sunday 10 August 14:45 – 15:45, Commonwealth West

Signing @ Forbidden Planet table

Gail Carriger, Stephanie Saulter, M. Suddain

 

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You can follow Nine Worlds news and updates on Twitter at @London_Geekfest.

My WorldCon Schedule

UPDATE 26 July: Paradox book launch has been added!

UPDATE 18 July: I’ve received my final schedule for the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention (aka Loncon 3). Here’s what I’ll be doing even more:

 

Thursday 14 August 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCel)

Does the Future Need to Be Plausible?

One of the most common complaints about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is that the world she proposed was, at best, implausible. Collins is not alone is this. But to what extent do we need veracity from our imagined futures, and how much does the measure of ‘plausibility’ differ from reader to reader? Is a science fictional story diminished if it’s too divorced from the physical reality we live in? Is there a difference between a future we can see and a future we can only hypothesize in the abstract?

Howard Davidson (moderator), Janet C Johnston, Kin-Ming Looi, Ian McDonald, Stephanie Saulter

 

Friday 15 August 10:00 – 11:00, London Suite 5 (ExCel)

Kaffeeklatsch – Ken Macleod, Stephanie Saulter

 

Friday 15 August 16:30 – 17:30, Library, Fan Village (ExCel)

Paradox Book Launch

 

Friday 15 August 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCel)

SF: What It Is, What It Could Be

SF as a genre is both loaded and contested, bringing with it decades of controversies, assumptions, prejudices, and possibilities. What do the genre’s various practitioners and consumers think SF is? Are we speaking the same language, or talking past each other? How do perceptions of SF – in terms of who can write it, who can consume it, and what kinds of stories can find a market – create or reinforce realities? Is ‘core’ SF still about space exploration and colonisation, or is there room for other types of stories? If SF is ‘dying’, as we’re frequently told, what does that mean and in whose interests are the preparations for its funeral?

Tobias Buckell, Jeanne Gomoll, Ramez Naam, Alastair Reynolds, Stephanie Saulter (moderator)

 

Friday 15 August 22:00 – 22:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCel)

Reading – Stephanie Saulter

 

Saturday 16 August 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCel)

Race and British SF

Four years ago, Tricia Sullivan threw a spotlight on the gender balance of SF authors published in the UK, leading to a continuing conversation that is – perhaps – finally having an effect. However, although other aspects of representation have been mentioned in the course of this conversation, they have rarely been the focus, and in particular it can be argued that UK fandom and publishing have not talked enough about race. To use the same barometer as Sullivan, only one writer of colour has ever won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and so far this century only three have been shortlisted. Yet the success of diversity-led events such as Nine Worlds suggests the audience is there. So what else should publishers and fannish institutions in the UK be doing to support writers of colour? Whose work should Loncon attendees rush to buy in the dealer’s room? And whose novels and stories are we eagerly anticipating?

Dev Agarwal, Amal El-Mohtar (moderator), Tajinder Hayer, Stephanie Saulter, Russell Smith

 

Saturday 16 August 16:30 – 18:00, Autographing Space (ExCel)

Autographing 1Stephanie Saulter

 

Sunday 17 August 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 10 (ExCel)

You Don’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Commenting on the portrayal of Magneto in X-Men: First Class, Abigail Nussbaum noted that there is an “increasing prevalence of vengeful victim characters, who are condemned not for the choices they make in pursuit of revenge, but simply for feeling anger … There is in stories like this a small-mindedness that prioritizes the almighty psychiatric holy grail of “healing” – letting go of one’s anger for the sake of inner peace – over justified, even necessary moral outrage.” Which other stories – on TV or in books, as well as in films – follow this template, and whose interests do they really serve? Where can we find screen depictions of the power of anger, and/or other models of anger?

Abigail Nussbaum’s full review can be found here (although the discussion is intended to range wider than this single film or franchise, and include stories from any media).

Nin Harris, Martin McGrath, Mary Anne Mohanraj (moderator), Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Saulter

 

Sunday 17 August 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCel)

SF/F Across Borders

Genre writers such as Vandana Singh, Geoff Ryman, Tricia Sullivan, and Zen Cho are already travellers to other worlds. Many authors write as resident outsiders, and want to write their new homes as well as their old. How does the experience of moving between countries affect the writing of fiction? How can or should writers respond to the varying power dynamics of race, language and culture involved in such migrations? And how should readers approach the stories that result?

Jesús Cañadas, Glenda Larke, Yen Ooi Ms, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Suzanne van Rooyen

 

Monday 18 August 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 14 (ExCel)

Paradox Book Discussion

A discussion of the science and fiction elements in the stories in the Fermi Paradox anthology from the authors who wrote them.

Pat Cadigan, David L Clements, Paul Cornell, Adam Roberts, Stephanie Saulter, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates (moderator)

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Many thanks to the organisers for such a brilliant itinerary! It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to all of my events. I can’t wait to see the full programme – it’s never too early to start despairing about one’s inability to be in two (or three, or four) places at the same time.

Would you like to see pictures?

I’m back in London, which, while not as hot as Jamaica, certainly feels more stifling. It might be the lack of a sea breeze, or the fact that buildings here are designed to keep the heat in rather than vent it out. And while I’m over the jet lag, I seem to have traded it for hay fever – according to my sinuses, every plant in these isles is bursting with pollen. Ah well: a fruitful year all round. Though if I don’t want my redoubtable editor Jo Fletcher to start chasing me with a stick I need to get myself into writing mode, sharpish. Which means less time on social media (the greatest aid to procrastination ever invented).

I do, however, have a mini-treat for those of you who haven’t been in the Caribbean this summer: a few pictures from the Calabash International Literary Festival weekend, about which I blogged last week.

Looking ahead, if you’re in London and not otherwise engaged on the evening of Wednesday 25th June, do come along to the BSFA’s monthly get together at the Artillery Arms pub on Bunhill Row, where I’ll be interviewed by the lovely Kate Keen. Entry is free, and for a paltry few pence you have a chance to win books! (Which will, this month, include a copy of the rather handsome US hardback edition of Gemsigns.) I’ll also be chatting to the folks at Holdfast Magazine for an upcoming issue. More on that later, and other odds and ends as I have them …

Post-Calabash post

The Calabash International Literary Festival 2014 has been over for going on four days now, and I am not yet quite recovered. From the welcome dinner for authors and press last Thursday night; to the Friday morning boat trip to Pelican Bar; to the opening of the Festival proper that evening with an emotional reading of Maya Angelou’s seminal Still I Rise; to Saturday’s packed programme that featured Zadie Smith, Colum McCann, Salman Rushdie, Karen Lord, and … umm … me; to Sunday’s mellow musical wind-down, followed by another sumptuous farewell meal – it was, in a word, amazing. Calabash accomplishes something that few other literary festivals or genre conventions achieve, or even attempt: a true meeting of creative minds, a bridging of the gap between ‘mainstream’ and ‘genre’, a celebration of the full breadth and depth of literary ambition and experience.

These were just a few of my personal highlights:

  • The prominence of poetry: Scottish poet Rab Wilson brought the house down before reading a single verse, when he opened his set by coming to the front of the seaside stage with a camera and taking a picture of the audience. ‘This,’ he said, in the broadest of Scottish brogues, ‘is to prove to the folks at home that more than ten people came to a poetry reading.’ He wasn’t wrong. The marquee held, by my estimate, over a thousand seats and was at least as packed for poetry as for prose. Co-founded by a poet and a novelist, Calabash values both forms equally. So does its audience.
  • Meeting Marlon James: Some of you out there already know how much I admire this author. Ann Morgan took up my recommendation of his first novel, John Crow’s Devil, as the Jamaican book for her A Year of Reading the World project, and loved it as much as I did. His second, The Book of Night Women, was visceral, searing, and will stay with me forever. But sometimes the people whose work you admire are less than captivating in person; so I’m happy to report that Marlon is every bit as smart, articulate, keenly observant and ruthlessly down to earth as I could have wished.
  • Hanging with Karen Lord: I’d met Karen early in May, for the Women in Science Fiction panel organised by our mutual publisher Jo Fletcher Books. We didn’t manage more than a brief conversation then, followed by another, longer one a week or so later (in the course of recording a podcast on Caribbean science fiction for The Skiffy and Fanty Show) – both of which only made me want to get to know her better. Her award-winning first novel Redemption in Indigo is a genre-bending delight, and The Best of All Possible Worlds one of the more interesting, unusual and thematically ambitious science fiction novels of recent years. She is fiercely intelligent, great fun to be with, and passionate about her work. I’m already looking forward to our next meeting.
  • Hearing Zadie Smith: I don’t know quite what I expected; something a bit cerebral and detached, perhaps? Instead Smith’s reading from The Embassy of Cambodia was surprisingly warm, unexpectedly funny, and quietly tragic.
  • Science fiction by the sea: Chris John Farley read, and then Karen Lord read, and then I read. For almost half an hour each; my longest reading yet, to by far the largest audience I think any of us had ever had. Who were, in a word, wonderful. I somehow managed not to lose my place, glancing up as one does to check that you’ve got their attention, that they’re not trickling out the exits or looking blankly back at you. Instead they were rapt, listening, concentrating – hundreds and hundreds of people, leaving their world behind to travel with you into yours. ‘You can’t have empathy without imagination,’ festival co-founder and impresario Kwame Dawes pointed out when he introduced us, ‘and this is literature of the imagination.’ They got it. You know how rare it is to see imagination working its way through a sea of faces? Rare. Thank you, Calabash, for that very great gift.
  • Listening to Salman Rushdie: Who was warm and witty and wise; who talked about culture and diaspora and conflicting influences; who read a sex scene set, uproariously and appropriately, amid sacks of pepper; who commented on tracks by Elvis Presley and Lou Reed and his own lyrics sung by U2; who described the sea of stories as the Caribbean glinted and shifted behind him; who discussed and dismissed literary pigeonholing; who was, in short, everything you would hope from a literary lion and a speaker of truth.
  • Conversations! With the aforementioned Marlon and Karen; Olivia Cole and Paul Holdengraber; Adam Mansbach and Miasha; Paul Muldoon, Kwame Dawes, Chris John Farley. About concerns both tangible and thematic; personal histories and world affairs; adventures in publishing and the challenges of academia; literary experiments, cultural quirks, conceptual leaps. ‘The conversations,’ festival worker Drew Brennan confided to me, ‘are my favourite part.’ No wonder. Calabash fosters a kind of intellectual yoga: a stretching and strengthening and expansion of the faculties. Utterly brilliant.

Women in Science Fiction Panel − YouTube links

When Karen Lord, Naomi Foyle, Jaine Fenn, Janet Edwards and I got together with moderator Edward James at Blackwell’s Charing Cross back on the 8th of May, our chief organiser and master of communications Andrew Turner of Jo Fletcher Books was on hand with a video camera. It turned out to be one of the best panel discussions I’ve ever been lucky enough to be part of; and unlike any of the others, this one has been posted to YouTube for your remote viewing pleasure. Herewith links. Enjoy!

Women in Science Fiction Panel Part 1

Women in Science Fiction Panel Part 2

Women in Science Fiction Panel Part 3

AUDIOVISIONARY will be published in PARADOX this summer!

Back in February I talked about having been invited to submit a short story for a themed anthology which will be released later this year. That anthology has now been announced: it’s PARADOX, to be published by NewCon Press and launched at Loncon in August, and I’m delighted that my story Audiovisionary will be part of it. Click the link to check out the great cover and the full table of contents; there are no less than fifteen original pieces of fiction, and a starry list of authors including Pat Cadigan, Adam Roberts, Paul Cornell, Dr Rachel Armstrong, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Tricia Sullivan.

As for what it’s about: The theme of PARADOX is Fermi’s Paradox, a scientific conundrum which essentially boils down to the following: Given the age and scale of the universe, and the relative youth within it of our own solar system, we know there must exist many more planets similar to our own – that is to say, capable of supporting life – and that they will mostly be a lot older than we are. So the probability is high that intelligent life will have evolved elsewhere, and will have had more time to solve problems like interstellar travel and communications. That being the case, why haven’t we heard from them? 

(Or, rather more succinctly: Where is everybody?)

The only requirement set by editor Ian Whates was to write a piece of short fiction that would reflect on, respond to, or in some way be inspired by this. Space science is not my normal stomping ground, nor is short fiction my natural format; but the Fermi problem resonated with an idea I’d already been playing around with, plus I was struggling to get a handle on my next novel and I thought it might be helpful to get my head into something completely different for a while and then come back to it. So I decided to give it a go, and Audiovisionary came out. It’s a real departure for me; I’m looking forward to hearing what readers think, and to the rest of PARADOX.

Nose, meet grindstone.

After all the excitement and online attention of the last couple of weeks, and the turmoil of the past half-year or so, it’s time to get back to something approaching normal. I actually can’t remember the last time I spent a day, much less a week or a month, simply writing fiction. But I’ve just checked back through my list of other-things-to-do and to my relief, they’ve all been done. Guest posts and articles have been written, interviews have been given, and all are now online. Reviews for Gemsigns and Binary continue to come in at a steady rate, and I will continue to link them here. But increasingly those reviewers and interviewers (not to mention regular readers) are also asking how the third book of the ®Evolution, Gillung, is coming along, and the answer is that it mostly hasn’t been; I’ve been hugely distracted for many months now. The manuscript isn’t just a little bit late, it’s very late. But the story is there in my head, scrabbling to get out, growling at me for some undivided attention.

So that’s what it’s about to get. It’ll be another complicated, layered story with a large cast of characters, and if I’m to give it the kind of focus that demands I can’t allow my mind to wander. I’m going to try out one of those apps that’s supposed to help eliminate the distractions of the web (I’m looking at you here, Twitter). I won’t be completely absent, but I will be less immediately responsive. I’m not going to be saying ‘no’ to all new requests, but I may no longer be saying ‘yes’ to everything in the way that I have done. As it is I’ve still got loads of appearances, real and virtual, coming up: in a week I’ll be recording a Skiffy and Fanty roundtable discussion with other Caribbean SF writers for podcast shortly thereafter. A couple of days after that I head to Jamaica, where I’ll be reading at the Calabash Literary Festival on 31st May. When I get back I’ll be the BSFA’s interviewee on 25th June, and I’ve made myself available for Independent Booksellers Week which starts on the 28th, and then in August there’s Nine Worlds and the World Science Fiction Convention. I doubt I’ll be finished by then, but with any luck the end will at least be in sight.

American ®Evolution: news from the front

Gemsigns drops in America today! That is to say, today’s the day it can be found on the shelves of bookshops or dispatched to you from your preferred online retailer (and if you pre-ordered the ebook it’s probably already sitting on your reader as I write this). I am very excited, and slightly nervous; I went to university in the States and spent well over a decade there afterwards, moving between Massachusetts, California and Florida. There’s no doubt that those years have hugely informed who I am, how I think and what I write; and although the ®Evolution novels are set in my current home city of London, it was in America that I first began to grapple with the issues they address. So in a strange way it feels as though I am sending some of those lessons and questions back home; and hoping they will find as welcome a reception as I did, when it was my home.

If the last few weeks are anything to go by I shouldn’t worry; the reviews so far have been excellent. I’ve also been invited to contribute articles on various topics to a number of blogs and webzines. Here are the most recent.

More Kids, Please | Bookworm Blues | 5 May 2014

Think about your own narrative. Whether or not you have kids, you’ll certainly remember being one. Didn’t you have constant interactions with the adults around you? Didn’t you think thoughts and have complex feelings and cause things to happen? Weren’t you a person then too?

Changing Stories: Social Media in Speculative Fiction | io9 | 5 May 2014

How can an immersive media environment inform literature – both in terms of the stories we tell, and the ways in which those stories are told? … I’d read little if anything that I thought really tried to engage the potential of social and mass media, as both plot and narrative devices, within a traditional literary form.

We Need Fiction To Tell The Truth | Special Needs in Strange Worlds | SF Signal | 6 May 2014

… a lot of the standard tropes around disability that we see in fiction – that it befalls someone who has done wrong, and can therefore be understood as a punishment; or that with the loss of a sense such as sight a new ability such as clairvoyance is gained, suggesting some kind of fair exchange; or that the witch/wizard/wise scientist has a miracle cure up their sleeve; or that the disabled person is so patient and saintly they don’t actually mind either the disability or the slings and arrows they suffer because of it; or, worst of all, that said disability is the only thing of significance about them – are the coping mechanisms employed by those of able body and sound mind. They are a way of reducing people to symbols in order to codify our own fear; a way of reframing a complex reality into a simple narrative.

(I’ll be updating this post as more pieces go live later today and over the next few days; there’s a comprehensive list under Press + Posts above.)

8 May 2014 – UPDATE:

Trusting the Future? Ethics of Human Genetic Modification | LiveScience Op-Ed | 6 May 2014

Evolution relies on the emergence of exceptions — no less when it comes to social change than to genetic mutation. The exceptions that become the rule over time are those that best respond to the environment in which they have arisen. And yet we are rarely more anxious than when we feel those boundaries start to shift, or more strident in demanding an uncomplicated moral framework within which to determine the way forward.

10 May 2014 – FURTHER UPDATE (or, it’s been a hell of a week and a new blog post is beyond me right now):

The Big Idea: Stephanie Saulter | Whatever | 9 May 2014

[The] metrics of humanity can prove tricky. What if that unconscious mental ideal happens to be constructed as a white person? Or a male person? Or a fit and healthy person whose physical capabilities fall within a statistically standard range? What does that imply for the perceived humanity of brown people, or female people, or people with different physiques and capabilities?

Interviews: 

My Bookish Ways | Interview | 8 May 2014
Podcast: Interview | The Skiffy and Fanty Show | 7 May 2014
The Qwillery | Interview & Gemsigns giveaway | 7 May 2014

 

Blackwell’s hosts Women in Sci Fi

That cool announcement I trailed a couple of weeks ago has been announced. If you’re going to be in London on the 8th of May mark your calendars and claim your tickets: Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road hosts the Women in Sci Fi Panel!  It’ll run from 18:30-19.30 and I’ll be one of the panellists, along with Karen Lord, Naomi Foyle, Janet Edwards and Jaine Fenn. Our moderator will be Edward James, and we’ll be discussing the debate surrounding the representation of female authors in genre fiction. The evening will also feature the launch of a new display of books at Blackwell’s featuring female authors of science fiction and fantasy – we’ll be on it of course, along with many other wonderful writers. The event is free but spaces are limited, so reserve yours now! (And if you reserve but find you can’t make it after all, please remember to cancel so someone else can take your place.)

I’d like to say a personal thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for thinking up and organising this in partnership with Blackwell’s. They’re one of the few publishers whose SF list has equal numbers of men and women authors – the ratio we all say we want, but tend not to notice when we get! And I like the idea of doing something a bit more unusual and potentially impactful than a traditional launch party – so this stands in lieu of that for Binary. But there’ll definitely be a chance to grab a drink afterwards, and I’ll be very happy to sign for anyone who wants. Do please come along!

Eastercon Report Card (& Hugos Micro-Comment)

I arrived home from Glasgow last night, into a soggy London. The weather wouldn’t be worth mentioning had not the entire Eastercon weekend been like this:

View From Satellite4

View From Satellite4

That was the view from my hotel room on arrival Friday, and it was a good harbinger for Satellite4, which on the whole was sunny, expansive and relaxed. I can’t claim vast con experience, but the Crowne Plaza Glasgow is my favourite venue so far. Apart from the beautiful setting, both sleeping and meeting rooms were spacious and comfortable, and the layout and lifts meant there were no accessibility issues that I was aware of. Screens in the larger rooms allowed those at the back to see and the hard of hearing to lip-read – something which I know at least one con-goer was particularly grateful for. And food and drink provision was decent in quality, sufficient in quantity, and to my mind quite reasonably priced (granted, I’m comparing with London prices; but still).

I did a fair bit of hanging out with bloggers Lisa McCurrach and Daniel Franklin – it was great to finally meet them in person – and of course my regular con companion, Nicola Budd from Jo Fletcher Books. I think the only fly in our ointment as far as the con was concerned was the lack of a bookshop; there were a couple of independents and a vintage stall, but no central retailer. That meant no Binary or Gemsigns, or indeed most other titles, which was desperately disappointing – especially since I spoke to several people who emerged bemused from the dealer’s room, wondering why they hadn’t been able to find my books! A bookshop is customary at every con, as far as I know. The organisers have since told me that they tried hard to get one in, and it just didn’t happen – I’m not sure why – but I think the lesson for future cons is that it’s essential and needs to get nailed down early. If you’re bringing together authors and fans, you’ve got to have books!

That aside, all my events went very well. Women in Science and Speculative Fiction was a thoughtful discussion of gender-related career challenges (it was a nice bit of accidental timing that my post for Fantasy Café’s Women in SF&F Month went up the next day). Future Representation explored the lack of diverse perspectives in traditional science fiction – and concluded that this is changing rapidly, and for the better. It was standing-room-only for this, which did as much as the engagement and concern of the audience and my fellow panellists to convince me that speculative fiction has indeed turned a corner in terms of who gets to populate the futures it imagines.

That does not, of course, mean that the destination has been reached. While Mark Barrowcliffe and I were hosting Read For Your Life! on Saturday night, the Hugo finalists were being announced. That meant double nominee Charles Stross arriving a bit late, to cap off our fun, fresh and slightly risqué open-mic event with a stellar reading from his latest work in progress. It also meant I didn’t get to find out the details of category shortlists and attendant fandom angst until I was back in my room in the small hours of the morning.

The internet is alive with lengthy comment, to which I will not add; SF Signal is doing its usual excellent job of rounding it up, should you wish to dive down that particular wormhole. I will merely tell you that I chuckled heartily. Yes, there are a couple of authors known for their right-wing racism, sexism, homophobia and the astonishingly toxic vitriol they aim at any and everyone who does not see the world their way. And yes, there may be an editor or two who still supports the types of narratives they produce. But those authors are sitting on ballots next to women and people of colour, and even – saints preserve us! – women of colour. Those editors are mere specks in a sea of progressive thought; far more of the finalists are among the genre’s most vocal feminists and proponents of diversity. This is especially so in the fan categories – and they, if you think about it, are more truly representative of where the genre is now, and where it wants to be.

So I laughed at seeing the shoe so firmly on the other foot for a change. I have spent decades listening to the carping and sniping, the presumptions of unworthiness and accusations of liberal conspiracy, every time someone who was not white and/or male and/or straight made it into a boardroom or onto a best-of list. I still remember the crap I had to put up with when I was at MIT in the 80s, from people who simply refused to believe that someone like me – Jamaican, mixed-race, female – was there on merit. I am so used to being in the minority, to swimming against the tide of conservative opinion. Is it ungenerous of me to be amused by this turning of the tables?

Maybe it is. I never claimed to be perfect. And there’s still a long, long way to go. But I have to tell you, when I looked at those shortlists it felt more like a battle won than lost.

Needless to say, the Hugos were much discussed on Sunday – though not that much by me. I was too busy enjoying the con. With only one programme commitment I had time to attend Professor Andy Miah’s lecture on the science and ethics of human enhancement, and the first hour of Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s talk on current conundrums in astronomy; coupled with the BSFA Lecture delivered by Dr Sara Wasson the day before on realities and fictions of organ donation and tissue harvest, it left me feeling that the science component of this Eastercon had been far more extensive, robust and relevant than in my previous convention experience. And I made it to various other panels and talks over the weekend, most of which were exemplary. But I have to say that one of my absolute highlights happened at the Loncon tea party, when I was introduced to the author Richard Morgan. Regular readers of this blog and followers of my commentary elsewhere will know that I’m a huge fan of his novels, and it was a proper fangirl moment – which he lived up to by being as charming, approachable, smart and full of opinion as I could have wished.

So I had already chalked up at least one unforgettable moment before the British Science Fiction Association Awards ceremony on Sunday night. I’d been asked to present the award for Best Novel, which is quite an honour, but I’m not given to nervousness and I wasn’t expecting anything unusual: introduce the nominees, open the envelope, announce the winner. All went to plan right up to the last moment. I’m told that the look of surprise on my face was priceless.

For the first time in the history of the BSFA, there was a tie. And so I got to jointly declare the winners – Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, one of the most interesting, adventurous novels I’ve read in many years, and Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell, one of the nicest, most welcoming people I’ve met on the genre scene, and a darn fine writer to boot. It was a genuine pleasure to hand him the trophy (Ann wasn’t there; I understand that a duplicate has been commissioned, which will be sent to her).

And that was very nearly that. There was a brilliant aikido vs. karate demonstration on Monday morning by Guests of Honour Juliet McKenna and John Meaney, which I would love to see on the Loncon programme. And I had a long, lovely chat with Tori Truslow and Ludi Valentine about Nine Worlds. One con down, (at least) two to go …

 

  • Stephanie Saulter

    I love stories.
    Binary is now out in the UK & Commonwealth. It's the sequel to Gemsigns, which has also been published in the US. I like to think they're literary science fiction, but you can make your own mind up. This is where I talk about what I'm working on, ask your opinion, and generally think out loud.

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    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

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