owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
2002 SFF: M. John Harrison, BSFA: Gwyneth Jones
2003 SFF: Kim Newman, BSFA: Ian Watson
2004 SFF: Alastair Reynolds, BSFA: Paul McAuley. Also, Liz Williams.
2005 SFF: Karen Traviss, BSFA: Ian McDonald
2006 SFF: Steven Baxter, BSFA: Juliet McKenna. Also, Bruce Sterling.
2007 SFF: Francis Spufford, BSFA: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
2008 SFF: Geoff Ryman, BSFA: Peter Weston
2009 SFF: Paul Kincaid, BSFA: Nick Harkaway
2010 SFF: Rob Shearman, BSFA: Malcolm Edwards
2011 SFF: Mike Ashley, BSFA: Tricia Sullivan
2012 SFF: Aliette de Bodard, BSFA: Marek Kukula
2013 SFF: Gaie Sebold, BSFA: Ben Aaronovitch
2014 SFF: Jo Fletcher, BSFA: Frances Hardinge
2015 Brian Aldiss, Pat Cadigan (joint SFF-BSFA guests)
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:06pm on 19/02/2012 under , ,
I had an enjoyable Picocon yesterday, from arriving with flyers to an Indian meal whose most memorable phrase was from an anecdote I've now forgotten, but whose context you can imagine: "There was so little radiation that we could barely see it."

[livejournal.com profile] justinar began the day with a talk on the relationship between reality and story; the value of "trashy" literature; and the difficulty of being susceptible to echoing strong voices in the book she reads. She also introduced a theme ongoing through the day and, thank to reading Ellen Datlow's post related to the subject, my weekend, on how an established author (or editor) can no longer take it for granted that they will continue to receive contracts, from one to another.

Adrian Czajkowski/Tchaikovsky hasn't given up his day job, which is why he can afford to write his ongoing epic fantasy series. He gave us a potted synthesis of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, followed by a nicely-done exploration of the tropes which are current in epic fantasy. A fleeting comment of his on science fiction sparked a fleeting series of thoughts in my mind on a potential academic research project, which was satisfying.

[livejournal.com profile] triciasullivan proved she's just as good at talking without having written her talk out entirely advance as she is at writing talks (as she more cautiously did at a BL panel last year). (Which is to say, she's good at both!) She spoke on experimenting with form and content in her own writing, and in that of others. She likes consciously leaving space for her reader to determine just what happened in her novels, even when that may mean the results are not as sleekly edited as they might otherwise be. She then read us the enthralling beginning of an unfinished and currently-uncontracted novel she's working on. The audience could only hope it will some day be published so we can find out what happened next.

The panel was a challenge. Usually, Picocon's one panel involves the current GoHs, plus all the previous years' GoHs present in the audience. This year, they couldn't find enough chairs, so just had the current three as the panel, who were saddled with "Apocalypses" as the topic. Gamely, they did, in fact, discuss the subject, entirely on topic; but it wasn't the easiest thing to do, and I think Picocon's panel format, whose topic doesn't necessarily relate to what the guests know about, really does work better with the more anarchic, larger size of panel.

Afterwards, loitering at the bar, catching up with friends, and meeting some interesting new people. Good to have seen so many of you there!
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Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] fishlifter's assistance, involving both other correspondence and email archeology, I've now resolved the last few unknowns in tracing the history of guests for the SFF/BSFA joint AGMs and mini-conventions! (Some of the rest of you helped with the early phases of untangling this several months ago.)

2002 SFF: M. John Harrison, BSFA: Gwyneth Jones
2003 SFF: Kim Newman, BSFA: Ian Watson
2004 SFF: Alastair Reynolds, BSFA: Paul McAuley. Also, Liz Williams.
2005 SFF: Karen Traviss, BSFA: Ian McDonald
2006 SFF: Steven Baxter, BSFA: Juliet McKenna. Also, Bruce Sterling.
2007 SFF: Francis Spufford, BSFA: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
2008 SFF: Geoff Ryman, BSFA: Peter Weston
2009 SFF: Paul Kincaid, BSFA: Nick Harkaway
2010 SFF: Rob Shearman, BSFA: Malcolm Edwards
2011 SFF: Mike Ashley, BSFA: Tricia Sullivan
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:00pm on 04/11/2011 under ,
There's been exciting news in the last day: Tricia Sullivan will be Guest of Honour at Eastercon 2012! The next Vector, in honor of Diana Wynne Jones, is out! And oddness: BBC News occasionally defaulting to July 23rd, causing me to briefly panic that Norway was being shot at *again*. (It wasn't just me. It happened to [livejournal.com profile] sioneva too. And therefore, presumably lots of other people.)

But rather than discussing these at greater length, I was reading Restaurant magazine this morning and now feel compelled to give you a poll about chervil.

[Poll #1792464]
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 02:55pm on 10/03/2011 under
An excerpt from Roger Ebert's review of Battle: Los Angeles: "Here's a science-fiction film that's an insult to the words "science" and "fiction," and the hyphen in between them."

Thanks for linking to it, [livejournal.com profile] ellid!
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 04:04pm on 24/02/2011 under ,
Plaster Cast Court at the V&A

After lunch with our mutual friend [livejournal.com profile] daisho, [livejournal.com profile] 4ll4n0 and I went off to the V&A, which he had not previously seen. I took him (after the Chihuly) to see my favorite part of the V&A, the plaster cast courts.

I love them so much because it's a kind of study and tourism which just isn't done anymore, not in quite that way. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, antiquaries traveled through Europe, making plaster casts directly from major works of sculpture and architecture and using those as molds to make plaster reproductions of the originals. Who needs the expense of a Grand Tour when one can go to the plaster cast courts and see the eastern fa├žade of Chartres cathedral, Michaelangelo's David, eighth-century Scandinavian crosses, and the Trajan Column all in ten minutes?

After that we went through the Medieval and Renaissance galleries, eighteenth-century cabinetry, modern theater design, Japan (complete with an actual daisho), and a history of jewelry, before heading off to the BSFA, where the guest was so well-spoken and forthcoming, he practically interviewed himself.

On the tube, on the way home, I encountered the plaster cast courts again in the form of "this huge, ivory-white carved column of coherent light in the middle of the floor".
'What is that?'
'Trajan's column,' he said, without looking round. 'Scanned from the plaster cast in the V&A. Amazing, isn't it.'
(Gwyneth Jones, Bold as Love, 282)

Over at Torque Control, Niall is discussing Bold as Love this week. The first of the posts is here. No plaster casts. (Yet.)
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Now that I've finished The Day of the Triffids, I can tell you about the tea in it.*

Tea inventory
Five cups of tea are drunk on approximately two occasions over the course of The Day of the Triffids. Two cups of tea are drunk simultaneously in Senate House at an "improvised canteen that a pleasant-faced, middle-aged woman had competently set up there" (109).** About twenty pages later, our main character consumes three cans of tea over the course of four pages and a day. It is "sweet and strong" with a shot of rum in the first one at least. Chests of tea appear as something abscondable later on (192). That's it.

Coffee inventory
Coffee appears sooner, but no more frequently. Coffee with cointreau (92). Coffee with brandy. Coffee with canned milk (96). An unopenable tin of coffee (154).

Uncaffeinated notes
This book is chockful of alcohol in a very '50s way. Brandy. Mostly it's brandy, when it isn't beer, whiskey (Irish or otherwise), sherry, cointreau, rum, port, gin, or mead. I'm almost tempted to graph all the alcohol.

What really interested me about the edibles in this book proved to be the packaging, and how much it's changed in the last sixty years. Bacon always comes in sides. Salt comes in blocks. Sugar comes in sacks. Butter and margarine come in both tubs and packets. Biscuits appeared several times, in cases, or underneath spread marmalade.

There's a truly wonderful analogy along the way: "we should be able to cry only for a time over even an ocean of spilt milk" (164). There's also a fascinatingly unfamiliar one: she "began to taste the beans as if they were one of the jams of paradise" (155).

Taking copious notes does slow me down a bit while reading, ([livejournal.com profile] swisstone, I blame you.), but ensured I could go back to figure out the Dickens reference, and remember that "cook-book" was hyphenated. Mostly, references to food were not to substances so specific as those I've listed so far, but by "food", "a meal", "food", "breakfast", a "midday meal", or "food". The way food so often is in novels, really.

* For background to this post, see yesterday's poll. Which surely most of you have, since I've never had so many people fill out a poll before!
** Penguin, 2008 edition.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:38pm on 27/01/2011 under ,
[Poll #1673105]

I have no idea when I first heard of The Day of the Triffids. I wouldn't be able to swear it was before I moved back to the UK. More likely, it was when some movie version of it was released. In any event, it wasn't staple reading for me, growing up as a science fiction reader in the U.S. I'm reading it now, with momentum from a local SF book club.

I don't remember why, over dinner last night with BSFA people, I mentioned I was reading it, but it was apropos of Englishness. Someone said it must be full of tea. At that point, characters had only drunk whisky. I promised I'd report back on the tea situation, so here I am: after innumerable alcoholic beverages and some coffee (made with more alcohol and canned milk), two of the characters finally have cups of tea approximately a third of the way into the book.*

A newly-met American last night had never heard the title, somewhat to my delight. C. was shocked to hear that it was possible to have avoided it. He grew up in England, you see, where it is a staple of people who grow up reading SF. I often say I become unread whenever I move countries, but it was nice to have such a specific scrap of evidence to back me up on it.

* For a full Triffids tea report, you'll have to wait until I'm done reading it.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:48am on 24/11/2010 under ,
I feel sorry for books which are published in the last weeks of a year. They are inevitably left off many of the best-of-the-year lists, because those best-of lists are published before the year is even done. Some newspapers at least wait until the last week of the year. Commercial entities, however, have every reason to put theirs out in time for the Christmas shopping period.

In the U.S., it's Thanksgiving this week, a vacation which combines with its distance from Christmas to make this coming Friday the highest-volume shopping day of the year there. As a result, my inbox has been full of advertising for sales forthcoming in another day or two.

Amazon.com, as one of the U.S.'s major retailers, is, of course, in on the whole thing. In addition to their sale emails, they have also released their lists of the best books of 2010. Yes, already.

In addition to their overall top 10, they have put out top 10s for 22 genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Browsing through these taught me that I read more cookbook reviews than I had realized: I had heard of, read about, or browsed through more of their top 10 cookbooks than any other genre of books. (I wonder if it's easier to predict the "important" titles in the world of cookbooks than in other genres?) I buy more food lit, but knew fewer of their titles in it.

What I wanted to tell you about, however, was Amazon.com editors' picks of the top 10 science fiction and fantasy novels of 2010. I read lots of science fiction and fantasy reviews (I thought), but I had heard of hardly any of these titles. My first impression is that they are carefully choosing books which are packaged to have greater nongenre appeal than most of what I have been reading about.

I'm delighted to see that their top book is a work in translation, from Czech. It's refreshing - almost a relief in terms of balancing out English-language genre domination - when translated works have representation on lists; better still that this one managed to earn their top spot. N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is in fifth place, the only book on this list of which I have read multiple, largely positive, reviews. I knew about How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel.

Perhaps I was not familiar with most of this list because I have been reading more British reviews than those from other countries. Perhaps it's because I haven't been living in the U.S. this year. Perhaps it's because these are books which really are aimed more at nongenre readers, but have speculative elements in them. I keep hearing discussions of how SF&F has gone mainstream: is this list an example of that?
owlfish: (Eternal Quest)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:01pm on 20/09/2010 under ,
The British Science Fiction Association hosts a monthly pub night upstairs at the Antelope pub in Sloane Square in London, on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 pm. That's this Wednesday.

This month features Charlie Butler and Farah Mendlesohn discussing the work of Diana Wynne Jones. They're lively, insightful scholars who've done book-length work all or in part on DWJ. Many of you already know them well.

More details here.

Come along if you can!

Even if you cannot, if you have a possibly subject for them to cover in their discussion, leave me a comment, please.


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