May BSFA London Meeting: Janet Edwards Interviewed by Ian Drury


Location: The Cellar Bar, The Argyle Public House, 1 Greville Street (off Leather Lane), London EC1N 8PQ

On Wednesday 22nd May 2013, Janet Edwards (author of the Earth Girl trilogy) will be interviewed by Ian Drury.

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

Map is here. Nearest Tube: Chancery Lane (Central Line).

26th June 2013**– James Smythe, interviewed by TBC
24th July 2013*  – Cory Doctorow, interviewed by Tom Hunter

28th August 2013- Ian Stewart, interviewed by Stephen Baxter

* Note that this is a month with five Wednesdays. The meeting will be on the fourth, not the last, Wednesday of the month.

** Due to personal reasons, Catheyrnne Valente is no longer able to attend.

SF in London Drink and Art

Bompas & Parr are a fabulous London-based jelly first.

That description doesn’t begin to do them justice. I first encountered them setting a foot-tall replica in jelly of St Paul’s cathedral on fire in memory of the Great Fire of London. They built a rowable green lake on top of Selfridges. They do cocktails of various imaginative varieties, such as the walk-in G&T the other year.

On March 21st, they’re doing a science fiction cocktail event in London:

For A Culinary Odyssey Bompas & Parr is working with KitchenAid to look at the food of the future through prototyping the dishes of science fiction. The event on the 21st March opens fresh areas for culinary speculation and food ethics by examining the physical, biological and astronomical possibilities of cocktails and canapés.

The Experimental Cocktail Club (ECC) is making science fiction cocktails including Burgess’s terrifying Milk Plus, Rhea Thierstein is designing sets that include the entire solar system in papier-mâché, Poietic Studio is building a food levitation device and tropism well and Andrew Stellitano is developing a menu that includes genetic modification, entomophagy, and nano-technology On the evening, Future Laboratory will launch a report on science fiction prototyping and food preparation in the future.

The evening celebrates the launch of the KitchenAid’s 6.9L Artisan stand mixer and is proving pretty popular. The first batch of tickets went in a flash when they eventually went on sale last Thursday. We are planning to release more on the 19th March at noon from our website.

If you can get hold of a ticket you’ll be able to experience ECC’s take on the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster described by Douglas Adams as ‘the alcoholic equivalent of a mugging’ the effects of which are like ‘having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick’.

It’s currently sold out, but a second tranche of tickets goes on sale at noon on March 19th. Be ready to pounce if this interests you.

Also in London, ongoing, is second-hand science fiction retail as art. It’s been open for at least a few weeks now, so some of you may have caught artist Heman Chong’s conversion of gallery Rossi & Rossi into a temporary retail shop selling sf novels.

The artist is an avid S&F fan and has read most of these books in research for his own Sci-Fi novel set to be released next year. Heman has a long, impressive CV featuring exhibitions at The Frieze Art Fair (2011) and representing Singapore at the Venice Biennale (2003), among other highlights ( This current work explores the relationship between objects and contexts, where the gallery space oscillates between a bookstore and an artwork depending on who comes in, why they came, and how they view and interact with it. Essentially, each visitor becomes a part of, and potentially transforms the peice. We’ve had hundreds of S&F fans come and we want to invite you and your members/fans to come and enjoy the exhibit. The bottom line: thousands of S&F classics for only £1 each.

The exhibit is open Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm; Sat, 11am-4pm. Rossi and Rossi is at 16 Clifford Street, Mayfair, W1S 3RG. Nearest station, Green Park.

Based on the gallery website, his paintings of the book covers are also for sale. The installation is on until March 30th.

See also London Calling’s interview with the artist for more information on him and his work.

Out of this World: Last Day / Gift Shop

One of the things that the British Library does fairly well is providing a decent range of things to buy in conjunction with a given major exhibit.  Thanks to Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as You Know It, for the last several months, the British Library has been selling a good range of science fiction novels and criticism; “Destruction of Earth” magnets; War of the Worlds tote bags and posters; and lots of posters of mostly out-of-copyright science fiction illustrations and book covers.

There’s Mike Ashley’s book which accompanies the show, but the same name, and, from the BL venture The Spoken Word, CDs of interviews with modern science fiction authors and H.G. Wells.

There was also, to my surprise, a postcard of the cover art for an early Rondò Veneziano album, an album not otherwise represented anywhere in the show as far as I noticed. Rondò Veneziano was a group I discovered by wandering into a shop in the late ’80s, being struck by the baroque-electronica-rock music playing, and asking what it was.  For years afterward, I would buy their cassettes whenever I ran across them. I ended up with 12-15 albums, but only realized this week, after running across that postcard, that they’d gone on to do around 70 (!) albums in total so far.

The ’80s cover art of Venezia 2000 shows a pair of humanoid robots, dressed up in baroque finery, playing their stringed instruments in a gondola while an entirely unfamiliar, presumably futuristic Venice, overshadows them across the waves. It was absolutely in keeping with the range of old predictive prints and books on display in the exhibit. If you like old future predictions and don’t already know it, you should be reading the blog Paleofuture.

Today is the very last day to catch Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as You Know It at the British Library.  It’s open until 17:00.

Out of this World: Three Days Left / El Anacronópete

I made it back to Out of this World at the British Library for a last look yesterday. The room was relatively crowded, enough so that there were plenty of cases I skipped and came back to when space became available.

The one I had to check on more than once before I could come back, thus seeing it toward the very end of my time in the show, was Enrique Gaspar’s 1887 story, “El Anacronópete”, collected in Novelas. The reason the book as garnering so much attention is because it’s the oldest known story involving a time machine. The BBC posted a fairly extensive article on the story and its translation back in April.

It is forthcoming in English for the first time in 2012 from Wesleyan University Press as The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey, translated by Yolanda Molina-Gavilan and Andrea L Bell. In the meantime, those of you who read Spanish can download a digitized version here.

Good to see so many people at the show!

Out of this World: Science Fiction but Not As You Know It is available to see for free for three more days, including day, at the British Library.

Out of this World: Five Days Left / More’s Utopia

What I love most about Thomas More’s Lucian-inspired (among other sources) text Utopia isn’t the descriptive text, the building of a somewhat egalitarian community, the observations on crafts, the framing narrative, or its dual-purpose as satire. It’s all of the visual world-building which it, in turn, inspired.

There are earlier maps of imaginary places, although I love the ones made for Utopia, this one from 1516this one from 1518 edition, or these later ones. (The 1518 Ambrosius Holbein edition is available online for browsing in its entirety. See also this selection of eighteenth-century illustrations of Utopia.)

But I know of no earlier instance of an alphabet being developed for a fictional world. Either More, or his friend Peter Giles, developed it for the book. You can see the full version of his Utopian alphabet and a sample use of it on the British Library’s website. And, if you really like fictional languages, the alphabet is even available to download as a True Type Font.

Utopia is on display currently at the British Library as part of its Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It show which is available, for free, until this Sunday. The library is open until 18:00 today.

Out of this World: Six Days Left / Lucian of Samosata

Lucian is sometimes referred to as the first author of a journey to the moon. It’s not true on either count. He wrote two, not one, moon journey tales; and his work includes just the oldest surviving moon journeys, not the oldest per se. He himself mentions older ones.

Lucian lived in the second century CE and, among his other accomplishments, was a prolific writer. Eighty or so of his works survive, including the Icaromenippus and his better-known moon journey, The True History. Not only is The True History a longer and more wide-ranging work, but it was to later help inspire More’s Utopia and Gulliver’s Travels, among other things.

Out of this World: Science Fiction but Not as You Know It includes a 1647 Dutch edition of The True History.  The image from it released as part of the publicity packet for the show is of an action-packed moment in the plot, the people of the Moon and the people of the Sun at war for the right to colonize the Morning Star. Their aerial battle is fought on an enormous battlefield woven by enormous spiders (each much bigger than the Cyclades islands), and the warriors, many of them half-food, half-creature, attack in a fraught, prolonged combat sequence. Note the cabbages, the lethal radish, and, in the lower-left, the Millet-shooter.

Both The True History and the Icaromenippus are highly readable and fairly short. At Tony Keen‘s recommendation, I used the Oxford World Classics edition, Lucian: Selected Dialogues, translated by C.D.N. Costa (2005).

Out of this World: Science Fiction but Not as You Know It, curated by Andy Sawyer, traces science fiction from Lucian to Lauren Beukes. There are six days left, including today, in which to catch it (for free) at the British Library. Today, the library is open until 20:00, so if you work in central London, you may even be able to drop by after work to see it.

Out of this World Countdown

Here in London, it’s been a fantastic summer of science fictional events at the British Library, thanks to the show Out of this World: Science Fiction but Not as You Know It; but it’s not over yet.

After today, there are still six days left in which to go to the British Library and see the (free!) show.

There is still one more scheduled event remaining in conjunction with it, on J.G. Ballard, this Friday.

I’m planning on going back one more time. And just in case you’ve been thinking about it, haven’t gotten around to it, live vaguely in or around London or will be passing through in time…. I’m planning on posting something on science fiction history each day for the remaining six days of the show as a reminder that the show is still on.

Also, conveniently, this takes advantage of recent reading I did in preparation for the British Science Festival’s panel on “Science Fiction and Religion”.

The good news is that major shows in London on inspirations for science fiction and fantasy won’t be stopping when Out of this World closes, since John Martin: Apocalypse at the Tate opens on Wednesday.