Con Schedule: Nine Worlds 2016

(Updated 11 August 2016)

Nine Worlds is less than three weeks away, and the programme is finally out. I’m on three panels this year, all of which look excellent:

Friday 12 August, 10-11am (Bouzy)

World-Building: No One Sells Happy Life Day Cards

Economics, geography, infrastructure – it’s the background stuff that, like concrete breeze blocks, comes off as the dull, uninteresting graft of world creation. But what makes it come alive and make sense for the reader? What makes people care, and what makes a fictional culture viable?

James Barclay, Genevieve Cogman, Edward Cox, Al Robertson, Stephanie Saulter, Chris Wooding

Friday 12 August, 1:30-2:30pm (Bouzy)

Science Fiction and Science Fact

Normally bending the rules is a bit of a dangerous act, but in fiction the laws of science are bent to breaking point all the time – so what’s going on behind all that? What famous popular concepts work, and which are entirely unreasonable? What are we close to making happen, and – really! – does scientific accuracy even matter for the sake of a good time? I mean, how far can you get on science alone*, I mean, haha, honestly.

* Probably, like, quite far. The distant edge of the solar system, probably.

Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Jamie Sawyer, James Smythe, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Saturday 13 August, 8:30-9:30pm (Bourg)

Inspiring Futures: The Ada Lovelace Day conversation

Can SF inspire a life in science and technology? Do women write a different kind of SF? Should we celebrate that 4 of the last 5 winners of the Arthur C. Clarke Award were books by women SF writers?

Anne Charnock (moderator), Yen Ooi, Anne Perry, Stephanie Saulter, Stephanie Troeth, Aliya Whitely

The convention is being held at the Novotel London West in Hammersmith this year, and tickets are still available at the late rate.

Utopia Season

What a week it’s been. I generally add press news to the link page (see menu tab above), tweet once or twice and move on, but there’ve been a couple of things that deserve a bit more bigging up than that (and not just because I’m in them).

It’s Utopia season on BBC Radio 4; it kicked off with a documentary commemorating the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia (which is well worth a listen). Last year the BBC and acclaimed SF author Geoff Ryman approached me to participate in another documentary for the series: a retrospective on the proto-SF feminist utopian novel Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which would also examine how gender evolves – or doesn’t – in the futurist fiction we write now. I’d written a short post on the fictional possibilities of utopia; an approach I’ve taken in my own books, and not unrelated to the fact that they are subtly but thoroughly egalitarian when it comes to gender. Geoff and I had a long chat about the intersection of these issues at Nine Worlds in August, recorded by BBC producer Nicola Swords. Rather more than I expected made it into the final cut of the Herland documentary – along with wonderful insights from Laurie Penny, Sarah le Fanu, Dr Sari Edelstein, Caitríona Ní Dhúill, Sarah Hall and of course Geoff himself. The result is an elegant combination of a respectful look back and a provocative look forward, and though I do say so myself, it’s well worth thirty minutes of your time.

Do spend another fifteen with No Point Talking, the short story Geoff wrote while working on Herland. It’s a fantastic portrayal (and performance!) of a conservative alpha male protagonist in a near-future America in which his traditional views about gender and society are shaken to the core. It’s heartbreaking, infuriating and funny – often all at the same time.

My ideas about utopia have a lot to do with being collaborative and collegiate as opposed to hierarchical or exclusionary – so it’s particularly serendipitous  that the week started with Tricia Sullivan’s article in The Independent on how SF authors negotiate the boundaries between fact and fiction. What’s remarkable about Trish’s approach is that she got the gig as part of the promotional push for her new novel Occupy Me – and then went about it by interviewing myself, Karen Lord, Anne Charnock and Emma Newman and quoting us liberally in her piece. I’m humbled by her generosity. I’m also impressed by her publisher, Gollancz, which will be posting all four interviews in full on their website in the coming weeks.

The world, we are often told, is going to hell in a handcart. Spend half an hour watching any news programme and it’s hard to disagree. But somewhere among the embers, the flame of utopia flickers on.

Speaking of Stars

On Friday 4th December I’ll be at the NN Contemporary Art gallery in Northampton for a panel discussion on the final evening of the current exhibition They Shall Have Stars, a group show thinking about possible futures for humans in space. I’ll be honest: when first invited by British Science Fiction Association president Donna Scott I demurred on the grounds that, unlike many other science fiction writers, I’m not a space travel enthusiast. I enjoy reading the odd space opera as much as anyone, but I’ve never bought into the idea that humans expanding into space is inevitable, or inherently desirable (I’m also forever having to point out to people that not all science fiction is space fiction – a perception due in no small part to the ubiquity of that notion). So I was all set to recuse myself, until Donna came back and said a sceptical note would in fact be quite welcome. With space fiction stalwarts Ian Whates and Jaine Fenn also on the panel, it should be a frank, searching and lively discussion. If you’re in the neighbourhood do come join us.

Little Free Library, the Squats

This Wednesday, 21st October 2015, I get to do something I bet many writers dream of. I get to open a library.

Granted, it’s a little library. A very little library. A Little Free Library to be precise. Little Free Library UK is a charity that promotes reading, art and community engagement. They build and install beautiful little book cupboards in public places across the country, increasing access for everyone in the community. This one has been designed by artist Hannah Adamaszek and is going in on Wapping High Street, in association with Tower Hamlets Community Housing who went hunting for a local author to help launch the project.

I live just over the borough boundary in Hackney, but in a way I’m even more local than that. Close readers of the ®Evolution books will have worked out that the real-life location of the Squats, the semi-derelict riverside neighbourhood that the outcasts of future London reclaim and make their home, is the area that we in the here and now know as … Wapping. And all readers will recall that those future refugees turn to the archived knowledge of the past in order to restore the abandoned buildings, and learn how to live independently.

Libraries are important, and not just in the aftermath of apocalypse. Worlds are discovered in libraries. Ideas are shared. Imagination blossoms. Friends find each other.

So if you’re in Wapping after Wednesday, keep your eyes peeled for a magic box – especially if you’ve got a book to share, or are in need of one. You might find yourself whisked away to the past, or the future, or some little slice of the present you hadn’t yet encountered. You might learn something you didn’t know you needed to know.

You might discover that libraries, like another famous magic box, are always bigger on the inside.

LFL Wapping

Audio Audio Everywhere

I seem to be having a bit of a podcast spike just now. Last week Cheryl Morgan interviewed me for her Women’s Outlook program on Bristol’s Ujima Radio. Bristolcon director Joanne Hall was live on Wednesday’s show, ahead of the con this Saturday; Cheryl bounced expertly between the live interview with Joanne, the recorded one with me, and some truly inspired musical selections. It was made even more special by the news that Ujima had just won the  Community Organisation Award for Race, Faith and Religion at the National Diversity Awards. You can listen to the show here.

I’ve been a fan of the Midnight in Karachi podcast series on Tor.com ever since it began; this week I’m the guest! Presenter Mahvesh Murad (currently earning big kudos for editing the fourth volume of The Apex Book of World SF) and I talk about writing the ®Evolution, the politics of the ‘other’, the legacy of colonialism and what we mean when we talk about humans. It was a great conversation, and you can listen to it here.

Back in Bristol

It’s less than a week to Bristolcon! I’ll be there in voice (though not in person) a few days early, as an interview with Cheryl Morgan on Ujima Radio at 12pm Wednesday 23rd. Here’s the livestream link; it’ll be available on Listen Again after the broadcast. Cheryl will also be talking with Bristolcon director Joanne Hall about what this year’s con has in store. As we say in Jamaica, and on Ujima: CHUNE EEN!

The con itself is Saturday 26th September at the Doubletree Hotel in Bristol. Here’s what I’m doing:

15:50-15:55, Programme Room 1

Reading – a short passage from Regeneration (which will be available from con booksellers Forbidden Planet).

17:00-17:45, Programme Room 1

Bad-ass with a Baby

It’s still fairly rare to see depictions of parenting in SF&F. If a character has a child, does that mean they’re no longer allowed to be a bad-ass? And how difficult is it to juggle childcare and saving the universe?

Lor Graham (Mod), Amanda Kear (Dr Bob)Jasper FfordePeter Newman and Stephanie Saulter

Despite the fact that I dislike the term ‘bad-ass’ almost as much as ‘kick-ass’ (and for much the same reasons), I’m really looking forward to this discussion. The absence of children and family in SFF is something I’ve been writing and talking about for a while. Agree? Disagree? Do come listen, challenge and share.

TFFX writing contest, 9W con report(s) & a couple of cool reviews

UPDATE: The TFFX flash fiction contest has been extended!

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Further to last week’s post: as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations, The Future Fire is holding a flash writing contest for speculative fiction stories of no more than 500 words, on the theme of the number 10. The deadline is midnight on Sunday 23rd August (yes, that’s THIS SUNDAY!), entry rules are here, and the prizes are copies of Gemsigns and Binary (which I’ll be happy to sign or inscribe for you if you win) and Jennifer Marie Brisset’s Dick- and Locus-nominated novel Elysium. Don’t forget to check out (and tweet links) to the TFFX anthology crowdfunder!

In my first couple years of going to cons I would always write up a report/ review afterwards. I seem to have fallen out of the habit, largely because I’ve become so busy following up on things that arose from or at the con (or that I was ignoring until the con was over). Suffice it to say that Nine Worlds was, once more, an intelligent, thoughtful, fun-filled, inclusive, kind and curious celebration of every nook and cranny of science fiction and fantasy creativity and fandom. The two sessions of the Writing the Other workshop were both exceptionally good and full to capacity; the two panel discussions I participated in – Arcadia or Armageddon? on the question of fictional utopias and dystopias, and I Don’t See Race on how aliens, mutants and robots are often stand-ins for the ethnic “other” – were lively, engaging, thought-provoking and packed to the rafters; and I loved catching up with friends, fans and fellow writers. But the thing that makes Nine Worlds so distinctive is the way in which it embraces those who don’t necessarily find public events and spaces as easy to navigate as I do – so here are two proper con reports that describe what makes it different, and why it matters.

Of course it was particularly special for me this year because of Regeneration, now making its way in the world. It was lovely to chat with folks who’d read Gemsigns and Binary (and in one case someone who’d started with Binary and was about to take up Gemsigns … it’s totally okay to read them out of order, as I explain here), and were looking forward to seeing where the story goes next. The reviews are coming in thick and fast; they can all be found under the Reviews tab above, and so far they’re all very good indeed. No reasonable writer can hope to appeal to everyone, nor expect that their intentions will be clear to – let alone appreciated by – every reader; but every writer, I think, has a soft spot for those readers who not only like what we did, but who get what it was we were trying to do. So on that note, here are two of my favourites.

Over the Effing Rainbow: Lisa observes that, “This is not a story for anybody who’s not interested in change.” She’s right.

A Fantastical Librarian: “What happens when the status quo is challenged?” Thank you, Mieneke. That, indeed, is the question.

Regeneration! Fantasy in the Court! Nine Worlds!

6 August 2015. The day the ®Evolution ended.

Well, not quite. There’s a short story, Discordances, yet to be released; Regeneration won’t be out in North America until next year; and publication in various editions and territories will roll on for a few years yet.

But: Regeneration, the 3rd book in the ®Evolution trilogy, is out in the UK today. 

Four years ago I was about two-thirds done with the manuscript for what would become the first book. I didn’t know that anyone besides a handful of friends would ever read it, and I had no plans for any more. I didn’t have an agent, let alone a publisher. If you had told me in August of 2011 that this is where I’d be in August 2015, I’d have laughed and bought a lottery ticket.

So how am I celebrating? At Fantasy in the Court, which will entail a suitably epic trek across London town, seeing as there’s a Tube strike on. Given the troubled times the ®Evolution chronicles, hiking on a day of industrial dispute from the urban wilds of Hackney through traffic-choked streets into the literary heart of this ancient city seems entirely apt. Then it’s off to Nine Worlds, the annual tribal gathering of writers, readers and fan-folk of all descriptions, where there’ll be a launch at Friday night’s Jo Fletcher Books summer party, and discussions throughout the weekend of utopias and dystopias, representation and exclusion, and what it means to tell stories; what makes them meaningful, how we reflect and transform ourselves in their image, why they may be the most important cultural artefact we create.

The power of story is something I’m thinking about a great deal at the moment. It’s going to be the big theme of the next book. (It’s also a concern of The Future Fire, a magazine of social-political speculative fiction currently celebrating their 10th anniversary – look out for more on them next week.) It has, I realise, become the big theme of my own life.

I know what stories I’m going to write next. But which ones, I wonder, will I be written into? Four years from now, what tale will I tell?

Con Schedule: Nine Worlds 2015

The Nine Worlds Geekfest is once again right around the corner, and the lovely folks there have once more invited me to teach a workshop and talk on panels. I also get to launch the book I was writing during last year’s con, and generally marvel at the completion of the ®Evolution trilogy. I’ll be happy to sign and chat, so do come help me celebrate – tickets are still available!

Friday 7 August, 6.45pm-8pm, Room 38

Arcadia or Armageddon? – an exploration of utopian and dystopian futures

From the (arguable) utopia of Iain Bank’s Culture to the dusty carnage of Mad Max, why are we so keen to explore our future and what’s the allure of the downfall of civilisation?

Francesca Haig, Geoff Ryman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell (moderator), Dave Hutchinson, Stephanie Saulter

Friday 7 August, 8pm-10pm, Room 38

Jo Fletcher Books Summer Party & Book Launch

It’s the long-awaited launch of Regeneration! Also Tom Pollock’s Our Lady of the Streets in paperback, Sebastien de Castell’s Knight’s Shadow, and Snorri Kristjansson’s Path of Gods. Forbidden Planet will be on hand to supply books, authors will be available to provide signatures, and an abundance of good cheer and merriment is guaranteed.

Saturday 8 August, 10am-11.15am, Room 31

Writing the Other – learn to write outside your own experience

How does one write with sensitivity, avoiding the traps, tropes and clichés that reinforce stereotypes and produce one-dimensional characters? Back for the third year running and hosted this time around by the Fanfic track, I’ll help participants to identify their own preconceptions and develop strategies for addressing them. This interactive workshop provides a primer on pitfalls to avoid, and techniques for improving representation.

Based on Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. Suitable for all writers. Sign up in Room 12, from 4.30pm on Friday.

Sunday 9 August, 11.45am-1pm, Connaught B

“I Don’t See Race” – on telling PoC narratives without PoC

Looking at using aliens, mutants, robots and anything else other than people of colour to tell stories about racism.

UPDATE: Georgiana Jackson-Callen, Natalia Mole, Stephanie Saulter, Russell Smith

Sunday 9 August, 3.15pm-4.30pm, Room 31

Writing the Other – learn to write outside your own experience 

This is a repeat of the Saturday session.

April. Back in the Hole.

I quipped to a friend recently that my March workload, if not my public appearance schedule, is following me into April. I was so busy last month I barely had time to talk about things as they happened – I only managed quick posts about the WOW Festival and University of Notre Dame appearances. I can report that the North London Lit Fest was also rather wonderful: after ninety minutes of conversation there was a further hour of recorded interviews with Aliette de Bodard and myself, mostly intended to be a resource for students but which will also (I think) crop up in promos for next year’s Lit Fest. I also had a great time at the HOLDFAST anthology launch party, where I did a somewhat guerilla reading from Regeneration to a very appreciative audience. In between I attended Farah Mendlesohn’s intriguing BSFA interview with fabulist and poet Suniti Namjoshi, and finally made it to a session of the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, where I got to drink wine, listen to readings, and have no responsibilities whatsoever.

That lasted for all of a day. Binary is now out in the UK in paperback (does a happy dance), and in honour of the occasion I was invited to guest post by a couple of bloggers who admire my books. Asking the Next Question is about the challenge, and the opportunity, of writing an unplanned sequel; while it deals specifically with how I took the Gemsigns story forward into Binary, I think it has a more general relevance. Plausible Fictions and Strange Realities grew out of a conversation I had at Loncon; it talks about what types of speculation readers find easier to accept, and how much of that is down to a greater comfort level with simply seeing more of what we’ve seen before. Anyone with a passing interest in the vexed question of what constitutes ‘real’ SF might find it worth their while. And with Binary out in the US in exactly a month (yikes!), I’ve also written a post to coincide with that. I won’t pre-empt mine host by telling you where it’ll appear or what it’s about, but it is rather fun …

I was very honoured to have been asked last year to be one of the judges for the 2015 James White Award, but I didn’t want to announce it ahead of the organisers doing so. And there were delays on their end for various reasons, not least because, despite a submissions period of over six months, the majority of the 255 submissions were received in the final two weeks. That made winnowing them down into a shortlist a frankly mammoth task; but they got there in the end, and Dave Hutchinson and Gareth Powell and I read and deliberated, and a winner has been chosen. The announcement is traditionally made alongside the BSFA Awards, so I expect you’ll hear the news on that one this very evening.

Rereading the above I truly don’t know how it’s been possible, but I have also, since finishing Regeneration structural edits, written a short story (which turned out to be rather less short than I anticipated). It’s for a Jo Fletcher Books’ Secret Project and I finished it yesterday, which means I don’t actually know what I think about it yet. But I won’t have time to think about it at all for a while, because *sigh* Regeneration copy edits are back, and there are still a couple of character and plot elements that need tweaking, and with the July pub date just around the corner in delivery terms there’s no time to waste; so this entire post has really been a long-winded way of saying I’m diving back into the black hole of editing for a couple of weeks. See you on the other side.

  • Stephanie Saulter

    I love stories.
    Regeneration is now out in the US! It joins Gemsigns and Binary, already available throughout the English-speaking world. 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.

  • UK edition

    REGENERATION

    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK edition

    BINARY

    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK Edition

    GEMSIGNS

    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition

    REGENERATION

    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition

    BINARY

    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition

    GEMSIGNS

    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

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