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Loncon 3 was my first Worldcon, and in fact my first really big con at all. When I try to get my thoughts in order, I find I’m still a bit overwhelmed by it all, though London itself has a lot to do with that. How to give it all a focus ….
Well, I can’t. It’s just too big an experience. All I can say is, I had a great time. I began with the SFF Masterclass, which in itself was also a great time, and at which I met some great people. For three days, we were centred in Greenwich, in the Endeavour Room at the Royal Observatory, and you can’t get much more central in Greenwich than that, right up in a former telescope dome. I have to confess that on the occasions when I wasn’t instructing, I played truant, rather than sitting in on the sessions that Neil Easterbrook and Andy Duncan were doing, and went wandering. I explored the Royal Park at Greenwich and spent a (hot) day at the British Museum. Seeing the latter has been a lifelong ambition of mine. But I really enjoyed the masterclass sessions I was there for (my own) and found the discussion elicited by the books I’d assigned to be quite stimulating.
Actually, I did sit in for part of one other session, since while I was in London, a number of copyedited chapters of The Lady: Marakand Part Two arrived for me to deal with. As my computer chose those days to have a serious crisis, once I did get it restored to functioning (thinking, right, I’m in London sitting up to one a.m. trying to fix my computer — successfully, after a couple of days), I needed to do some real work. So I sat in the telescope dome at Greenwich Observatory and worked on The Lady. Appropriate, I suppose, since the most noteworthy architectural features of the temple of the Lady are the two domes.
I had a friend’s Oyster card and found getting around London by Dock Light Rail, Tube, London Overground and Thames Clipper mostly straightforward with a few bursts of confusion, the rare occasions when I’ve been anywhere with public transit being Toronto, where there are hardly any transfers between subway lines or to West Berlin of the eighties, where the system was a time-punched card.
I was thinking about what a literary city London is; not a real place at all, but an assemblage of associations. What is the British Museum? Sutton Hoo and The Story of the Amulet, The Magician’s Nephew and Greenwitch. What is the Thames? So many things — most recently the geographical thread binding Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novels — but so much history. And Our Mutual Friend, and the waters of the Isis and Handel, “the fever is abroad in Rotherhithe”, the Docklands and the Blitz . . . . So many streets and neighbourhoods resonate with so many stories, known names. One walks on the heels of Paddington, of Holmes and Watson, of Psmith and Wooster, Peter and Harriet, just in reading the names on the signage or of the Tube stations.
Loncon itself was a lot of fun; to be honest, I had expected to be a bit oppressed by crowds, which I don’t enjoy, but it was far less crowded and frenzied than I expected, because the venue, the Excel Centre, was actually big enough to hold the thousands comfortably. There were a few long queues — the one for the theatrical adaptation of The Anubis Gates was the length of the Excel. Compared to other cons I’ve gone to, admittedly only a few and much smaller, it was admirably well organized, too. Even eating was easy; the central boulevard of the Excel, which is almost a km long, was lined with fast food places, some of them very good and none with huge lineups, which is a bonus at a con. The panels I was on or attended were all very interesting, well-moderated and with a lot of good discussion. Taken all in all, Loncon 3 is going to be the con against which I judge all others. (And the takeaway curry from the Mint Leaves a new standard in basic curries.) Went to some parties and receptions, met some old friends in person for the first time, made some new ones, discovered that some of my work as a feral academic is rather better known than I thought
And then there was my voyage up and down the Thames on the riverbus, a walking tour of the heart of the city, and a day at Kew Gardens. More to come. Mostly photos! I’m going to make a couple of galleries, I think.
I’m very grateful to the friends and relatives who helped me make this trip possible, and to the New Brunswick Arts Board, which offered a grant to assist with travel expenses. #SFWApro
Thanks to assistance from ArtsNB, the NB Arts Board, I’m able to attend Loncon 3. If you see me wandering, do come and say hello and don’t wait for me to speak first. Talk to me about Blackdog or The Leopard or The Lady, or what I’m working on now or my books for children and non-fiction, or the weather or the British Museum or British beer … I’m going to Loncon eager to meet people, but I’m sort of overwhelmed by crowds (unless I’m standing in front of them speaking, in which case I’m fine).
Since it’s been pointed out that most of my photos online are actually photos of Mr Wicked, who distracts the eye of the viewer with his shiny white coat and noble pose, here’s what I look like without a dog — because it’s tricky to go around peering at nametags, right?
Here’s where to find me:
Crossing Boundaries: Histories of International SF/F for Children
Thursday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)
Is there a ‘shared’ understanding of the fantastic across cultures? How have fantasy (and science fiction) narratives for young readers evolved in different countries and storytelling traditions? What kinds of stories succeed or fail in crossing national borders and why? How are these transnational stories from ‘Other’ places received and read in their new contexts? What are some affinities and tensions between these different ‘imagined communities’? This panel will address the development of international traditions of fantasy (and science fiction) for young readers and the relationship between the local, the national and the global in the world of children’s literature. Drawing upon the range of the panelists’ national and transnational experiences, we will explore issues around the intersections between regional, national and international literatures and the representation of diversity, identity and the Other in fantastic texts for young people.
Dr. Patricia Kennon (M), Sanna Lehtonen, Michael Levy, KV Johansen, Catherine Butler
Thursday 17:00 – 18:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)
Fabio Fernandes, KV Johansen
Sense of Wonder in Children’s SF
Saturday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)
YA books are well known for their dystopias and their grand adventures. What is it about these categories that have so effectively captured the young adult imagination? When Alice walked off the literary page she opened the door to a truly wondrous world filled with unimaginable things. Since then literary children have latched onto that sense of wonder in literature from Neverland, to Narnia, Hogwarts, and Panem. What is this “sense of wonder” within literature and how does it continue to “blow the minds” of young readers? What are the most spectacular feats of worldbuilding in the YA canon? Where can we find the best aliens? And what about those wondrous infernal machines?
Farah Mendlesohn, KV Johansen, Ian McDonald, Ben Jeapes, Jo Fletcher
YA Fiction: The History of a Genre
Monday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)
Join our panelists as they drill down into the history of the YA genre from the old classics to hip new urban fantasies and science fiction novels.How has children’s literature changed? What turning points did young adult and middle grade literature going through in order to become the genre we are familiar with today? Has the genre solidified or is it still in transition? How has the re-categorization of books within the genre affected the history and development of literature, with a specific eye toward young adult fiction? What might be coming next?
Edward James (M), Helen E. Gbala, KV Johansen, Dr. Patricia Kennon, Michael Levy
I’m also going to be at DragonCon, where you’ll find me there hanging out at the Pyr booth.
The action of The Leopard begins in the lands Over-Malagru, in Praitan and the area south of it around the city of Gold Harbour. (If you’re looking at the Blackdog map, that’s off the edge to the east, beyond Marakand. Rest assured there are lovely new maps by Rhys Davies in the two volumes of Marakand, taking you farther east along the caravan road.)
The name Praitan once meant all the lands Over-Malagru, between Marakand and the eastern deserts, but now, since the long-ago invasion of the coast by Nabbani colonies, the word generally refers to only those lands in the northwest of Over-Malagru still ruled by kings and queens. There are seven tribal territories, or duinas, a word which means both the land and the folk of a god. An elective high king or queen chosen from among the seven rulers is, in theory, the supreme authority under the gods and the bards, who are the keepers of the memory of the law, but this is a land where shepherds have no qualms about arguing with their kings or queens and war generally means pinching your neighbour’s cattle. (And pinching your neighbour’s cattle generally means war . . .)
The eastern caravan road passes along the fringes of Praitannec territory and away into lands eastward where the folk still seem Praitannec in their language and customs, but have no kings, only the chiefs of small villages. To the south, nearer the Five Cities, the folk are likewise Praitannec in their origins, but are either small chieftain-ruled villages paying tribute to the nearest city, or conquered and ruled outright by the lords of the city clans. There was been much intermingling and intermarriage between the folk of Praitan and the cities over the years and the Praitannec language has picked up many Nabbani words; even among the free kingdoms there are many with city Nabbani ancestry, and vice versa.
The assassin Ahjvar is a Praitannecman, though his name comes from the eastern desert and is not the one he was born with, and he’s been living in or around the Five Cities for a very long time now. His friend/horse-boy/shield-bearer (there is a certain amount of confusion on the part of the young bard Deyandara as she attempts to define him, but he’s certainly not “the sidekick”) Ghu is Nabbani, but from the empire farther east beyond that desert, not the colonies.
The Leopard comes out on June 10th, so that’s the end of the introductions. Now go read the book! #SFWApro