Restaurant at the End of SF Fandom

WorldCon

The 63rd World Science fiction convention in Glasgow this month was the fourth World Con that I have attended. Two things in particular struck me about this one. Firstly, I think that it will only be a matter of time before the title changes to incorporate the increasingly dominant Fantasy component of Fandom. There’s a lot of “Fan” in Fantasy! Walking around the Dealer’s Room I noticed just how many Fantasy books there were for sale and how difficult it was for me to see past these in order to find the science fiction novels on the table. There were also a percentage of Science Fiction novels that function as Fantasy, for example Christopher Stasheff The Warlock in Spite of Himself series. Others have cover art that is suggestive of Fantasy.

Two particular panels made a mental link for me. One was the presentation of a paper by Neil Hook (from the University of Glamorgan) on Welsh Science Fiction in which the concept of “Hiraeth” that pastoral better place or homeland that existed before Anglo Saxon industrialisation was mentioned, and a panel on Fantasy “Masterworks” (hand up here, I thought I was going to a panel the SF “Masterworks” series). On this panel John Clute made an interesting point about the early Fantasy writers such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen A. Barfield, C. S. Lewis. He considered that they wrote their fantasy novels as an expression of conservative rejection against the modern technological world and the horrors it produces such as the two World Wars, in so doing they were seeking a more perfect pastoral existence. The Fantasy novel (at least the fantasy novel that has its roots in British fantasy writing) is therefore the Anglo Saxon “Hiraeth”.

The second striking thing about this convention was Doctor Who. It had a significant presence, personified by new series writers Paul Cornell (Father?s Day) and Rob Shearman (Dalek), together with Big Finish producer Gary Russell who performed the role of chairing the panels. Paul Cornell also had the honour of presenting the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (i.e. TV Episode). For Doctor Who to have this kind of status at a World SF Convention is unheard of and I suspect that the makers of the series must also have recognised the huge marketing potential of parading writers and episodes to so many American fans at a World Con, which for the BBC to have that much fan awareness is also unheard of.

Selecting which panel to attend from so many was always difficult, since it’s hard to predict how well the panellists are prepared to conduct an interesting discussion on the chosen subject or how interesting that subject turns out to be. It’s rather like choosing a meal at a restaurant. Sometimes, once you’ve made your choice and started eating, you can’t help feeling envious of the people who made other choices. Occasionally though you know you got it right.

Incidentally, for those of you who are interested in the Hugo results here they are as supplied by the convention Press Office

Best Novel: “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke

Best Novella: “The Concrete Jungle” by Charles Stross

Best Novelette: “The Faery Handbag” by Kelly Link

Best Short Story: “Travels with My Cats” by Mike Resnick

Best Related Book: “The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction” Edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: “The Incredibles” Written & Directed by Brad Bird

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: “33” – Battlestar Galactica Written by Ronald D. Moore and Directed by Michael Rymer.

Best Professional Editor: Ellen Datlow

Best Professional Artist: Jim Burns

Best Semiprozine: Ansible Edited by David Langford

Best Fanzine: Plokta Edited by Alison Scott, Steve Davies and Mike Scott

Best Fan Writer: David Langford

Best Fan Artist: Sue Mason

Best Web Site: SciFiction (www.scifi.com/scifiction), Edited by Ellen Datlow. Craig Engler, general manager

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo Award): Elizabeth Bear

Special Interaction Committee Award (not a Hugo Award): David Pringle



One comment


    markbrake

    August 10, 2005

    It was interesting to read Peter’s comprehensive account of the
    WorldCon.

    The paper on ‘Hiraeth’ (written by Neil, myself and “Rosi Thornton”:http://case.glam.ac.uk/CASE/StaffPages/RosiThornton/RT.html ) delivered by Neil that Peter refers to in his posting was based on a paper that Rosi researched, and she and I delivered at the _Commonwealth of Science Fiction_ in “Liverpool”:http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/splash/onthego.htm last August.

    The full title of the paper was *The Forgotten Colonialism: Science
    Fiction and Wales* and if I get my act together it should be
    available online pretty soon.

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