Orbital: Day One


  • Reassessing Heinlein. You know something’s gone a bit pear-shaped when the panel starts debating, “which is morally superior: Starship Troopers or Ender’s Game?”
  • With Friends Like These, aka the “is fandom too aggresively hegemonising” panel. I was moderating, and John Jarrold, Christopher Priest, Caroline Mullan and Chris Garcia were the panellists. I think it went pretty well: Caroline Mullan talked about the nature of literary conversations, Chris Garcia talked about differences he saw in the US market, Christopher Priest talked about pressures on writers, and John Jarrold utterly failed to rise to the bait to re-iterate his objections to this year’s Clarke shortlist, and instead made useful comments about how the UK market worked. So it was all very civil, and we agreed (I think) that it would be nice if Jeanette Winterson et al were generous (per Le Guin) about their sources, but that we should recognise they’re in their own conversation.
  • When it Changed. Five women writers discuss their experiences. Lots of interesting ground covered, and certainly a better panel than last year’s “is SF publishing overly masculine?” effort, but I did sometimes feel the panellists didn’t delve as deeply into some of the issues they raised as they might have done. (Oh, and yes, Jaine Fenn was on the panel, and yes, she talked a bit about the marketing of her book.)
  • The UK Short Fiction Market. Another panel that I thought might be a bit controversial but wasn’t; I wasn’t moderating this time, but I was on it, with Jetse de Vries, Colin Harvey, Gary Couzens, and John Meaney (who, while entertaining, did tend to run away with the discussion a bit at times). There was one conversation about the technical/economic aspects of the market — where we agreed that markets will probably Find A Way, even if we can’t quite see what it is yet — and another about the creative aspects of the market — where we agreed, to my surprise, that British short fiction is in something of a creative slump, relative to say fifteen years ago. New writers aren’t coming in through short fiction, and short fiction is in no way setting the agenda. But having more or less agreed on this, we didn’t really have anywhere to take the conversation.

Book haul:

What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid
The Reef by Mark Charan Newton
The Coyote Kings o the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust
A Tour Guide in Utopia by Lucy Sussex
The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford
The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson


  • I would have bought a copy of Celebration, the BSFA 50th anthology, but they ran out of hardback copies at the launch party before I got to the front of the queue. So an early trip to the dealer’s room is in order today.
  • The hotel is labyrinthine! And there’s no second floor, which is confusing. But I do like the atrium area.
  • I saw someone wandering around with badge number 1243. This is a big Eastercon.
  • Went out for a Friday Curry with a large contingent of third row and hangers-on, which was thoroughly pleasant, except for the walk from the hotel, which was bloody cold.
  • Geoff Ryman is still taller than me, the bastard.
  • The Independent’s view: “Orbital 2008, Britain’s 59th annual National Science Fiction Convention, which started yesterday, is dominated by the death of Clarke last week. And that has meant a hastily re-arranged programme to celebrate the legendary figure’s achievements with a series of talks and lectures. So, there is no place in this year’s programme for Klingon language seminars…” and then they talk about the bondage workshop and the slash panels.

11 thoughts on “Orbital: Day One

  1. Reassessing Heinlein. You know something’s gone a bit pear-shaped when the panel starts debating, “which is morally superior: Starship Troopers or Ender’s Game?”

    Hey, some of us tried to stay on topic….

  2. The phase ” a maze of twisty corridors, all alike” which was coined at the previous Raddisson Eastercon turns up in a number of Stross’s novels.
    Did you notice how the ’50 Years of the BSFA’ panels were exiled to small room in a dark far corner of the top floor, as far as possible from where anything else was happening. This is how we promote ourselves…

  3. The hotel in Deep Secret is (of course) an amalgam of many hotels, including the Adelphi, the International Hotel, Marsh Wall, London, and a venue for a Milford Writers’ Workshop in the 1990s. It’s an obvious thought to wonder whether the corridors that don’t quite work are inspired by the Radisson (and anyone who does is in good company) and the dates do just fit (Deep Secret published in 1997, first Heathrow Eastercon in 1996, though I don’t know if Wynne Jones was there). But Tanya Brown tells me that this aspect is actually inspired by the Chamberlain Hotel in Birmingham, venue of the 1995 Novacon. Note this anecdote from Ansible 101:

    Diana Wynne Jones enjoyed an epiphany at Novacon when, after uttering the heartfelt cry, ‘God, this place is an evil little labyrinth!’, she found the other person in the lift was the hotel manager.

  4. ’50 Years of the BSFA’ panels were exiled to small room in a dark far corner of the top floor’

    I think the fan programme room was not that bad, and not that far away at all from everything else, the winchester was next to the lift. the royal suite was about 20 feet from the lift door, the distance from lift door to atrium a moments walk.

    The room was quite full at times, but never overfilled, so I thought that was good and when the BSFA needed space fpr the launch, they got the tetworth which was quite good and the whole of the royal suite for the awards.

    I thought that was great promotion, but the table in the dealers room, IMHO was key. Can ye bring back the tom bowler – maybe next time…


  5. Ian, Niall,
    You’re probably right, but not being a gamer the 96 Eastercon was the first time I remember encountering this, on the dozen or more helpful little signs posted in the hotel corridors, telling you (if you didn’t know) that you were now hopelessly lost. (Perhaps we could send out Tobes, with a small barrel of Calvados around his neck, to seek out stranded congoers.)
    I was rather cheered to see another of those signs again this year as I tried to find the Tetworth.

  6. Silliest moment of the con was arriving at the door to the Winchester, to find a sign saying ‘Please use other door’. We asked how we got to it, and discovered that you had to go back down the corridor to the stairs, down a floor, and along another corridor to a different set of stairs, and then back up.
    The architect must have been a huge Snakes and Ladders fan.

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