Odyssey: Eastercon 2010


The 61st British National Science Fiction Convention
2-5 April 2010, Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow

GoHs: Iain M Banks Liz Williams • Mike Carey • Carlos Ezquerra (artist) • Fran and John Dowd (fan)

Official Odyssey: Eastercon 2010 pages.

[infinite corridor]

The fourth con I've attended at the "Radisson Non-Euclidean", and the geometry seems even more confusing than ever -- there seem to be even more mirrors, even longer corridors, and more implausible angles (maybe I'm just discovering more, and more impossible, regions). The main auditorium had a peculiar variable star background -- very distracting! The catering this year was excellent -- multiply-located (I think -- though maybe they were all one place with vastly different approach routes?!) and the evening buffet had great variety. The con had a wide variety of panels, and very little "repetition" from previous years.

Programme highlights


Panel • Book Collections - How Do You Store/Index Your Library?

Nicholas Jackson (mod), Edward James, Susan Stepney

"I gave my books a room and then they took over the house." When you have a massive book collection, how do you make your collection accessible? What online or offline catalogue do you use? Access? Library Thing? Delicious?

Panel • Alien Archeology

Deirdre Counihan, Lee Harris, Pepper (mod), Sharon Reamer, Rob Rowntree.

What will our panel of 'experts' make of the various items they are presented with? Is it a Denebian ritual object, or simply a salt shaker?


Panel • Utopia - How the Concept Has Developed in Philosophy and SF

Elizabeth Counihan, Edward James, Nik Whitehead (mod), Iain M. Banks, Martin McGrath.

The idea of utopia - the ideal civilisation - dates back thousands of years and has become a staple of modern SF. Has anyone managed to write a truly utopian society, or does utopia for some automatically mean dystopia for others?

[Thomas More]


Panel • BSFA Survey of British SF Writers - the Conclusions

John Jarrold, Claire Brialey, Caroline Mullan, David Hebblethwaite, Niall Harrison (mod).

[BSFA two surveys cover]

Over eighty British writers were asked questions such as, 'How British do you think your work is?', 'How is it received elsewhere?', and 'Do you consider your work to be SF or fantasy, and if so why?' A panel of readers discuss the results


Panel • Arthur and Merlin - Modern Interpretations

Liz Williams, Kari Sperring (mod), Nickey Barnard, Edward James, Raven Dane

How do modern versions of the Arthurian stories compare with earlier ones? Books, films and TV have all created new strands to the legends. Is this a bad thing, or simply the natural progression of folklore?


Panel • Disability and Villains

Pat Reynolds, PinkDormouse, Paul F Cockburn, Heather (mod), Roger Octon, Al Davison.

Dr. Strangelove, Travis, Richard III. Why are villains so often portrayed as as having a disability? Are these fictional stereotypes a thing of the past? Do disabled actors have more choice of role in the present day?


Panel • It's Sh*t But We Like It - Crap TV and Film

Tony Lee, David L Clements, Steve Rogerson (mod), Fiona Scarlett, John Coxon.

The regular confessional for those cheesy things you know you shouldn't like... (Buck Rogers, anyone?)


Panel • Living Forever - Is it a Good Thing?

Mike Cobley (mod), Julian Headlong, Paul McAuley, Martin McGrath.

Many SF writers, e.g. Moon, Morgan, Heinlein, Banks, have speculated about rejuvenation or other possibilities for extending life for 100 years or even longer. Scientists and others discuss whether it can be done, and whether it would be ethical/desirable if it could be done.

[Ben Goldacre]

Ben Goldacre • Bad Science

Dr Ben Goldacre is a medical doctor and journalist, best known for his 'Bad Science' column. He campaigns against biased research, fraudulent claims (from both makers of nutritional supplements and the pharmaceutical industry) and poor media reporting of scientific research.

[Oliver Morton]

Oliver Morton • George Hay Memorial Lecture


Geoengineering - the use of technology to cool the planet - is often taken as an alternative to the more conventional approaches to global warming: emitting fewer greenhouse gases and adapting to the changing climate. Framing geoengineering this way allows advocates to sell it as a quick fix, and opponents to see it as a dangerous, possibly disastrous, distraction. Oliver Morton will be arguing that this way of thinking is a blind alley. "We are not dealing with either/or, but with both/and. It is time to explore geoengineering's potential not as an alternative to other approaches, but as a tool to improve their chances of success."

[Steve Kilbane]

Steve Kilbane • Swordplay for Writers

Steve Kilbane explains how to describe realistic fights using rapiers, longswords, and other weapons.

MD Lachlan • Bartitsu: Victorian Self-Defence with Overcoat, Wig and Parasol

Sherlock Holmes' martial art - called Baritsu by Doyle but Bartitsu in reality. The first line of defence is to look the ruffian in the eye and say 'do you know who I am?' The second is to utterly annihilate him!

[Nicholas Jackson]

Nicholas Jackson • Non-Euclidean Geometry

'The geometry of the place was all wrong' - A mathematical talk on spaces unlike our own, taking in Lovecraft, Lobachevsky and Escher along the way.


Panel • Big Biology - What Are the Biggest Biological Tropes in SF?

Paul McAuley, Michael Owen, Sharon Reamer (mod), Gary Stratmann, Stephen Gaskell

What biological ideas are being explored in current SF? Are there any important themes that are being overlooked?

[Alastair Reynolds]

Alastair Reynolds • GoH

Into the Great Wide Open: Science Fiction and the Modern Cosmos.

[Jonathan Cowie]

Jonathan Cowie • Exobiology 1.02

Jonathan Cowie is an environmental scientist who was for 15 years with the Institute of Biology and now works in (bio)science communications. He has had a lifelong interest in SF and a curiosity about the possibility of alien life. His original probability of alien life talk has been given at over a dozen conventions (and also to biologists at a couple of universities). This talk very quickly recaps part 1 and then goes on to new material in part 2.


Panel • Not The Clarke Awards

Tony Cullen, Ruth O'Reilly, Graham Sleight, Claire Brialey (mod)

Our irascible panel of ex-judges and critics offer their usual forthright take on this year's shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award

[ The City and the City won the ACC Award]

[Anthony Webster]

Anthony Webster • Fusion Power and the Joint European Torus.

Anthony Webster, our guest speaker from JET, talks about the physics of fusion. Can you say 'magnetohydrodynamics'...


Panel • Stainless Steel Rats and Rogues - Why Do We Love Them?

Henry Gee, Anne KG Murphy (mod), Farah Mendlesohn

From Robin Hood to Han Solo, via Slippery Jim diGriz and countless others, we will always have a place in our hearts for the lovable rogue. Why are characters with a code of honour but a complete disrespect for the law so enchanting?

-- gallery of lovable rogues taken to planets and told to solve things -- their unruliness being exploited
  • Indiana Jones -- unruliness locked up until it needs to be exploited
  • Deathworld -- a gambler who's tamed -- a woman who bosses him about
  • Ivanhoe -- reckless courageous wildboy, disobeying King Richard, being shaped by Rowena/Rebecca
  • not always a woman -- sometimes a servant/Jeeves figure
  • subversion of authority -- Lazarus Long , Beowulf Shaeffer , Louis Wu -- my way is easier, quicker, more fun
  • to be roguish from a position of authority is a bit oppressive
  • police fiction -- misfit, maverick, problems
  • how much is the rogue an extension of the Trickster? -- Loki, Coyote
  • -- Anansi Boys -- all about importance of trickery -- about being weak and clever
  • Puss in Boots
  • Tricksters are not the same as rogues
  • taking another's form = Trickster, not rogue
  • Monkey -- primary motive is being lazy
  • Going Postal
  • -- Moist von Lipwig is a Rogue -- the Pirate is a Bad Man
  • Pirates of the Caribbean -- Jack Sparrow -- plays with the question, is he a Rogue or a Bad Man -- cocks things up, but excels himself to recover
  • Robin Hood
  • Cutthroat Island -- rogue part taken by a woman -- is that why it doesn't work for many? -- the woman is usually the strong/sensible one -- dynamic is different
  • Trickster is amoral -- doesn't fit when society stabilises
  • Dennis the Menace (UK, not US, version)
  • Addams Family -- Wednesday
  • Long Kiss Goodnight -- v roguish character
  • what about real life rogues?
  • Stainless Steel Rat -- what I do is illegal but not immoral, a fine point on which to base a philosophy
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Telzy / Trigger / Nile Etland -- any James Schmitz protagonist -- all work outside the system

  • [panel]

    Panel• Fantasy and SF - Differing Attitudes to YA and Adult Readers

    Terry Edge, Sabine Furlong (mod), Elizabeth Counihan

    Many books targeted at children and young adults are fantasy or SF, and this is considered as the mainstream. So why is it less acceptable for adults to like SF and fantasy?


    Panel • Language and Dialect in Writing

    Iain M. Banks, Ken MacLeod, Gary Couzens, Jude Roberts, Cheryl Morgan (mod).

    Use of language can be a very effective way of creating an atmosphere. Writers use languages and dialects, both real (eg. Glaswegian) and constructed, phonetics (eg. Feersum Endjinn), and archaic or invented words. Does using language in these ways make the reader's experience more immersive, or does it serve as a bar to understanding? How interdependent are language and culture?


    Panel • Novels, a Product of Their Time

    Caroline Mullan, Graham Sleight, Jetse de Vries, Ellen Datlow (mod)

    Each novel is a story for its time. Many excellent SF stories are of no interest at all to the next generation, while others seem to stay perennially popular. Technology, science, social attitudes and even writing styles change over time. Which factors are most likely to make an old book popular or unpopular with new readers? What should new novels reflect?