SF at the Cheltenham Literary Festival

This is easily the most sf-friendly programme I can recall seeing for Cheltenham, even beyond China Mieville’s Guest Director items. Here’s what I spotted, just browsing through:

Friday 8 October, 13.00
George Orwell
A lifelong socialist, George Orwell made politics a major theme in his fiction. His political fable Animal Farm and the dystopian 1984 have become classics which have lost none of their power sixty years after his death. Leading Orwell scholar Peter Davison opens up new perspectives on the journalist and writer and his powerful visions of the future.

Friday 8 October, 19.00
Guillermo del Toro
Multi award-winning Guillermo del Toro, writer and director of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy series, is one of the most visionary and inventive filmmakers working today. He joins us in a festival exclusive to discuss his brand new novel, The Fall, the sequel to his acclaimed debut The Strain, which forms part of his modern-day vampire trilogy, co-authored with Chuck Hogan.

Saturday 9 October, 14.00
Fantastic Fictions
Described by Borges as ‘a treasure-house of memory’, internationally-acclaimed Argentinian writer Alberto Manguel’s Black Water anthology of fantastical fiction is a classic of its kind, ranging from H G Wells and Kafka to Cocteau and Calvino. He is joined by China Miéville, author of The City & The City, and Maggie Gee, acclaimed author of The Ice People, to choose and discuss their favourite tales of the fantastic.

Sunday 10 October, 10.00
The Power of Story
No story is an island; for readers and writers alike narratives have always held complex relationships to other past and present tales. Scarlett Thomas, author of Our Tragic Universe, Jim Crace, acclaimed author of All That Follows, join Alberto Manguel, whose All Men Are Liars is a fascinating homage to literature and its shapeshifting inventions, to discuss their latest novels, and how they weave other narratives into their own.

Sunday 10 October, 18.00
Writers and thinkers have for centuries imagined a myriad of ideal worlds. Literary critic John Carey, editor of the now-classic Faber Book of Utopias and biographer of William Golding, philosopher Julian Baggini, author of Do They Think You’re Stupid?, and Anthony Kenny, author of A New History of Western Philosophy, choose their favourite literary and philosophical utopias and discuss our constant urge to define the perfect world.

Monday 11 October, 12.00
Red Plenty
What if the Soviet ‘miracle’ had worked and the communists had discovered the secret to prosperity, progress and happiness? The USSR’s magical ‘planned economy’ would gush forth an abundance that the penny-pinching capitalist countries could never match — and for a brief period in the late 50’s it looked as if the dream might actually come true. In Red Plenty, Francis Spufford paints a fascinating picture of that moment in history, how it came about, and how the illusion vanished.

Thursday 14 October, 21.00
Horror Stories
What is the lure of horror? Leading horror and fantasy writer Lisa Tuttle, editor of the acclaimed Skin of the Soul horror anthology, joins Ramsey Campbell, author of The Grin of the Dark and Sarah Pinborough, author of A Matter of Blood, to discuss their writing, and why scaring ourselves to death makes us feel better.

Friday 15 October, 12.30
John Wyndham
From The Day of the Triffids to the post-apocalytpic The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham created some of the most terrifying visions of possible futures ever imagined. Novelist Jane Rogers, bestselling author Christopher Priest and Arthur C Clarke Award-winning writer M John Harrison explore the author and his literary legacy.

Friday 15 October, 15.30
HG Wells
H G Wells is the author of a wealth of science fiction classics, from The Time Machine to The War of the Worlds. Christopher Priest, author of The Prestige, philosopher and cultural historian John Gray and science fiction critic John Clute discuss this seminal author, his work and influence on subsequent writers.

Saturday 16 October, 12.00
How to Read Science Fiction
Are you open-minded about science fiction but don’t know where or how to start? For an introduction to some recommended reads and an expert guide to this alien world join Toby Litt, author of Journey Into Space, Nalo Hopkinson, and Arthur C Clarke Award-winning author of Nova Swing, M John Harrison, as they explore some beguiling writing.

Saturday 16 October, 14.00
China Mieville and John Mullan
Why is there never any science fiction on the Booker shortlist? Yet why have so many ‘literary’ novelists, from Atwood to Ishiguro, borrowed their stories from science fiction? Where does sci-fi lie on the literary landscape? What are the issues of perception surrounding this genre and its counterpart ‘literary fiction’, and how porous are the borders between them? Join critic and former Booker Judge John Mullan and Guest Director China Miéville, Arthur C Clarke Award-winning author of The City & The City, for a fascinating debate.

Saturday 16 October, 18.00
Frank Schatzing
Multi-million bestselling author Frank Schätzing’s The Swarm paints a terrifying picture of a world in which the inhabitants of the deep oceans have turned on humanity, and is a powerful warning of the perils of upsetting the earth’s ecological balance. He joins Forum for the Future’s Ben Tuxworth to discuss his writing and the perilous consequences of man’s interference with the environmental order.

Saturday 16 October, 18.30
Iain M Banks
Author of over twenty novels, Iain M Banks is one of the most popular science fiction writers working today. He joins us to discuss Surface Detail, the latest addition to his Culture cycle of novels, which centre on an interstellar, utopian society, peopled by both artificial intelligences and humanoids.

Sunday 17 October, 14.00
Audrey Niffenegger
The best graphic novels are a potent alchemy between words and pictures, and trained artist and bestselling novelist Audrey Niffenegger’s The Night Bookmobile is a hauntingly-illustrated magical and mysterious tale. The bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry joins The Times’ Tom Gatti to discuss her latest work.

Sunday 17 October, 16.00
British Science Fiction
From H G Wells to John Wyndham, Britain has been home to some of the most groundbreaking and successful classic science fiction writers. Explore past classics and the best of the current crop as authors Iain M Banks, Gwyneth Jones, Michael Moorcock and Guest Director China Miéville discuss this very British tradition.

Sunday 17 October, 16.00
Writing Ghosts
How do contemporary writers create ghosts in their fiction? What traditions do they draw on? What are the challenges they face? Novelists Susan Hill, Penelope Lively and Andrew Taylor, who have all written hauntingly beautiful modern ghost stories, join us to discuss capturing the true power of the supernatural on the page.

Sunday 17 October, 18.00
Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
Join us for the launch of the brand new Doctor Who novel, The Coming of the Terraphiles, with Michael Moorcock, award-winning creator of the Elric Saga and Mother London. Find out what the influential science fiction and fantasy giant has in store for the Doctor and Amy Pond.

All this and the usual appeal of the festival, too! I think a weekend in Cheltenham might be in order.

4 thoughts on “SF at the Cheltenham Literary Festival

  1. Certainly the place to be. Such great icons. Del Toro is a true visionary, and of course Orwell as well. It’s the best place to be if you are a true lover of the real art of sci-fi and fiction.

  2. There was also “Conjure Tales,” which happened last night at the festival. Great fun;

    Join two of Britain’s greatest Afro-Caribbean storytellers, Jan Blake and TUUP, for a thunderous exploration of sorcery and shapeshifting. Working with the magic of contraries, these are disturbing, terrifying, humorous and poignant tales of the ghosts, duppies and conjure folk that haunt the Caribbean and the Americas.

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