Reports, reflections, and other bits on WorldCon 75 last week:
By Jo Lindsay Walton
It is Wednesday. I am in Helsinki. So is everybody else.
There are a few issues of Vector and FOCUS on the freebies table, courtesy of Dave Lally; but, of course, not for long.
I put in time in Messukeskus 209, the academic track. On Wednesday, Merja Polvinin introduces the Finnish Society for SFF Research (Finfar), its journal Fafnir, and the theme of the next five days. The theme is ‘estrangement.’
Speculative fiction isn’t about other worlds, it’s about this world! In speculative fiction, we encounter real, familiar things, only made strange! There is a kind of political value to such encounters. In the movie Elysium, we encounter something real and familiar (unjust access to healthcare), only that thing is made strange.
By making the world strange, we can unsettle the distinction between what is possible and what is not. By making the world strange, we can see the world for what it really is, including all its promise and possibility.
At least, that’s the idea. Over the five days, I am struck by how accommodating and flexible and familiar the concept of estrangement has become.
You may have noticed a few changes to the Vector website. Changes may be ongoing for a while. The old Vector has woven its cocoon, but the new one has not quite emerged.
All the older content has been preserved, but some of it has been tucked away. Here is where you’ll find information about the 2010 special publication Twenty Years, Two Surveys. Here you can find still-mostly-live links list associated with a discussion, in the same year, about the under-representation of women in speculative fiction. Torque Control has become the ‘News’ tab you’re reading now. The old open thread is located here.
And speaking of threads: of course, even transitional arrangements can still require serious thought. Here, the long suspension thread is probably to dishearten ants, and the loosely-woven chrysalis is probably to prevent rainwater from pooling. Image credit: Smarter Every Day, still from ‘Nature’s 3D Printer.’
Two new editorial elements have been detected in Vector space. As Vector says goodbye to Anna McFarlane and Glyn Morgan, we are joined by Polina Levontin (who boasts both quantity and magnitude!) and Jo Lindsay Walton (who transmits pathogens!) as the journal’s new editors. Anna will remain editor for #285, with Polina and Jo taking over from #286 in early 2018.
Polina Levontin is also an environmental scientist, whose research often explores methods of modelling and analysing risk, and of synthesising and presenting different forms of knowledge for purposes of supporting decision-making. She has a PhD in Fishing and Fisheries Sciences and Management from Imperial College London, as well as Master’s degrees in Environmental Science, in Algebra and Number Theory, and in Comparative Literature. Polina’s recent SF criticism has focused on the representation of scientists and science in Nigerian speculative fiction.
Jo Lindsay Walton has a Master’s in Social and Political Theory from Birkbeck and a PhD in Creative Writing from Northumbria University. His research within SF studies mostly focuses on economics, particularly the representation of money and alternatives to money in contemporary speculative fiction. He also runs the small poetry press Sad Press and is a director of the Sputnik Awards for SFF.
The great Jeff Noon will be getting grilled by Matthew de Abaitua in London on 23rd August. All welcome (even non-members). For more information on this and future BSFA meetings, see the BSFA website.