LX: Eastercon 2009

[artwork, by art GoH David Lloyd]

The 60th British National Science Fiction Convention
10-13 April 2009, Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford

GoHs: Tim Powers Jon Courtenay Grimwood •  David Lloyd (art) •  Bill and Mary Burns (fan)

[Cedar Court Hotel]

Official LX: Eastercon 2009 pages.

A new venue: the Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford was friendly, provided good cheap food all day (in a very slightly cramped dining room), and had lots of convenient function rooms -- no twisty little passages to get lost in. Lots of great programming, with many new items, and some stalwarts.

Programme highlights

[Nicholas Jackson]

Nicholas Jackson • The Poincare Conjecture

Panel • Re-Creating History

Chaz Brenchley, Shana Worthen, Stephanie Burgis, Kari, John Clute

For every official history there are competing unofficial variants, for every orthodox explanation, there are competing unorthodox ones. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century's satirists and philosophers wrote 'fake' memoirs and accounts of imagined places in order to critique the events of their day. Modern alt.history likewise complicates and alters the past. How do writers write history and what do they do with it?


Panel • Bad Biology

Alastair Reynolds , Pepper, Paul McAuley , Ang Rosin

We always talk about bad physics, but is the biology in SF just as bad?


Panel • The author and their work

Stephen Deas, Gareth L. Powell, Cory Doctorow, Maura McHugh

Can you still enjoy books by an author whose views you disagree with? Is this harder to manage in the age of blogs and increasing online contact of readers and authors?

[Adrian Bowyer]

Dr Adrian Bowyer • 10th George Hay Memorial Lecture: RepRap

3D printers that can make solid objects on demand have long been a staple of SF, from George O Smith's Venus Equilateral to Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. But now a team at the University of Bath is building a prototype - one that can make copies of itself.


Panel • Not the Clarke Awards

Claire Brialey, Farah Mendlesohn, Edward James, Tanya Brown, Simon Bradshaw, Tony Keen

Our panel of ex-Clarke judges discus the latest shortlist, what they would pick, and predict the result

[ Song of Time won the ACC award]

Panel • SF as protest literature

David Barnett, David Lloyd, Gareth L. Powell, John Clute, Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Science fiction has a long tradition of stories written as a reaction to current events, such as V for Vendetta, Czech and Russian SF, and the reaction to terrorist legislation. Can SF have any impact?

[invisible panel]

[visible panel]

[steampunk headset hook, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/23394677@N08/sets/72157604193815319/] Panel • The Appeal of Steampunk

Venetta Uye, Peter Harrow, Kim Lakin-Smith, Tim Powers, Cory Doctorow, Toby Frost

Costumes, home-brew clockwork technology, even steampunk tea-parties and dances: why is steampunk an increasingly popular genre and aesthetic? Does it point to dissatisfaction with current technology, and its lack of romance and flamboyance? Does the hands-on nature of retrofitting your own technology give it new appeal? Does steampunk consider the less appealing aspects of the Victorian era they are emulating?

Panel • They Keep Killing Hitler

Julian Headlong, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Edward James, David Devereux, Paul McAuley

There are many alternate histories [AH] which use the same turning points, from the outcome of World War II to the assassination of JFK. Why are they used so often, and is there a greater challenge in coming up with your own spin on an often-used scenario? What neglected moments in history would make a good turning point for an alternate history?

Panel • Pacifism and non-violence in SF & fantasy

Farah Mendlesohn, Nick Harkaway, Kim Lakin-Smith, Sam Kelly

In a genre known for swords and blasters, is a pacifist universe a viable alternative? What challenges does it present, and where has it been used successfully?

[Shana Worthen]

Dr Shana Worthen • BSFA Lecture: Visualising Time in the Middle Ages

He's Spartacus presents... Insidious, by David Wake

[Warning: if you can hear this, you are in danger.]

" Inveigle " saw Molly, a schizophrenic, attending the funeral of her brother, Adam. However, the voices forced her to swear aloud in church. Dita, her widowed sister-in-law, never accepted the 'mad one of the family', and the two quarrelled at the wake. Also at the funeral were others, who seemed to be controlled by the same voices that Molly hears.

"Let me whisper something in your ear," they said, and so the group-mind grew.

During the struggle, the group used words to destroy their enemies, scrambling their brains with the right meme combination. Dita was taken over, but Molly used her medication to free her sister-in-law. The two learnt to work together to fight against the newcomers, Molly gaining the power to kill with words, and they managed to escape. But the drugs wore off, and Dita remained behind, one of them.

It's now two years later...

Inveigle, at Contemplation 2007, was a break with Eastercon tradition for David Wake -- no hilarious comedy, but instead a "straight" play, set at a funeral, which only gradually revealed its truly SFnal plot, and with a heart-stoppingly scary ending.

Now he's back with the sequel. Again excellent -- it's amazing what you can do with a nearly bare set, and the "chorus" of voices is now not just in Molly's head, but in everyone's, as the hive-mind fights the meme-wars. But again, Molly hears more than anyone else...

The next day at the con, walking past a lift and hearing a disembodied "doors closing", was a consequently spooky experience...


Panel • World-building with Music

John Clute, Ricardo Pinto, Vince Docherty, Valerie Housden

An exploration of the power of music to inspire imagination and world-building. From the ring stories of Wagner and Tolkien, to Narnia and the works of Marianne L'Engle, H. Beam Piper and others.