Friday, June 26, 2009


'This Saturday is the BSFA/SF Foundation joint AGM day, featuring talks, panels, and the AGMs for both organisations. The guests are Paul Kincaid for the SFF, and Nick Harkaway for the BSFA. Attendance is free, and the AGMs are conveniently positioned to give non-members a long lunch break. The AGM is once again at Conway Hall, and all events will take place in the small hall on the ground floor.

10:00 SFF speaker Welcome
10:05 BSFA Panel – Launch of the British Science Fiction and Fantasy Survey 2009: chaired by Niall Harrison, and featuring Nick Harkaway, Paul Kincaid, Juliet McKenna, Kit Whitfield, and Paul McAuley
11:00 SFF Guest – Paul Kincaid
12:00 BSFA AGM
12:30 Lunch break
13:30 SFF AGM
14:00 BSFA Guest – Nick Harkaway
15:00 SFF Closing Panel – tba
16:00 BSFA speaker Closes'

The BSFA panel will be discussing 'writerly identity — how writers perceive their work; how others perceive it; how that changes, or doesn’t, over time and from place to place.' Something to do with being a British science fiction or fantasy writer, apparently. I have no idea what I'm going to say about that, yet. But I'm listening to this, to get in the mood.

EDIT: Ask four writers about whether they feel they're British writers, and what that means to them, and you get four different answers. My answer for what it's worth, was that there aren't really any 'British' writers - there are English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish writers, all with fairly distinct identities. And obviously I've inherited a mess of cultural and historical stuff to do with being 'English', but as a science-fiction writer, I also have to get past my mammalian preconceptions (and those of a carbon-based lifeform too, as Nick Harkaway pointed out). And then, as you do, when discussing 'British' SF and fantasy, we ended up talking about American SF and fantasy, and how our stuff is different from theirs. Not something American writers tend to worry about - but then American SF is the dominant form of modern SF (even if it was invented by an immigrant from Luxembourg).


Blogger xtyalis said...

Hi Paul, Iain from the Kingston course here again. Went to the BSFA/SFF day and really enjoyed it. Was planning to go even before I read you'd be there! (Sorry I didn't get to say hi.) Interesting panel about what it means to be a British SF writer. I agreed with your angle that "Britishness" in SF is harder to pin down than, say, the Scottishness in Iain Banks or Ken Macklyodd (as he was announced by the American gentleman at the BSFA Awards). It made me think of how we mainly seem to talk about things being British when they go overseas - British soldiers, British scientists and engineers, British Empire etc.
Slightly off topic, wanted to say thanks again for the encouragement and advice you gave us on the course. I tried to take everything on board when I wrote a new short story for a competition recently - and I just found out today that it's been shortlisted and will be published online next month!
So cheers, Paul!

June 28, 2009 11:17 pm  
Blogger PeteY said...

Hi Paul,

I'm surprised you say US SF is dominant, as I can hardly think of any good contemporary American SF writers. Joe Haldeman, I suppose. I'm living in a UK bubble - what am I missing?

June 29, 2009 5:30 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Iain, sorry we didn't get the chance to chat - I was a bit distracted an d had to rush off at 12. Writers do hate to be categorised or swept up into pigeonholes, so it will interesting to see the range of responses to the questionaire. Congrats on the story publication!

Pete - by dominant I mean that the themes and tropes and general form of modern SF (as opposed to scientific romance) were forged in the US, so British SF writers and others will always be the aliens in the woodpile, as it were. Not that that's a bad thing - reacting against accepted conventions and default modes rather than unquestioningly using them is always a better way of going about things.

There are plenty of good US writers - Reed, Robinson, Swanwick, Sterling, Wolfe... Would be more comprehensive but I have to go off to listen to cosmologists talk about the actual universe.

June 30, 2009 8:46 am  

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