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Checking in

I've been quiet for the past few days because I've been at Satellite IV, the 65th British Eastercon, held this year in Glasgow.

In other news: the 2014 Hugo award shortlist has been announced (along with the 1939 retrospective Hugo award shortlist—these are held for years in which no Hugo awards were awarded at the time). Equoid is on the shortlist for best novella, and Neptune's Brood is on the shortlist for best novel.

Less happily, there's considerable controversy over some items on this year's shortlists. I don't want to speak about this until after the awards (not because I'm forbidden from doing so but because, as a shortlisted author myself, it would be a dick move). All I can say for now is that my personal reactions to some of the categories was, "who ordered that?" So here are three sensible opinion pieces on the subject from people who are less constrained than I:

* John Scalzi's thoughts on the 2014 Hugo nominations
* Abigail Nussbaum's view of the shortlist
* Brandon Sanderson's opinions about the shortlists

And now I'm going to shut up about it, except to note that discussion of the shortlists in the comments on this piece is strongly discouraged and may result in the ban hammer getting an outing—and to offer my congratulations to all the first-timers on the shortlists, who must be thrilled to see their names there.



I'm not quite sure why Brandon Sanderson or Abigail Nussbaum should be less constrained in commenting on the shortlist than you, since they're also nominees. But congratulations on your own nominations.


Congratulations on having two works shortlisted!

Also looking forward to your future comments on the shortlist, especially any positive comments you have about authors who impressed you last year. I've bought authors you've recommended in the past, and I will do so again.


Brandon Sanderson is passing comment on a question that directly affects him and is doing so in a polite, diplomatic, conciliatory manner. As for Abigail Nussbaum, her thoughts converge with mine so I don't need to say what she expressed.


Now the shortlist is out, I can say a bit about stuff I nominated.

I read so little short fiction these days that I didn't nominate in those categories because it would have been unfair. Ditto media (long form and short form both) -- I haven't seen any movies made since about 2005, I don't watch Dr Who, and I'd never even heard of "Orphan Black" before the shortlist was announced. (I did watch "Adventures in Space and Time", and for what it's worth I thought it was excellent and would be happy to see it win, but I forgot to nominate it. D'oh!)

Novels: I nominated a Seanan Mcguire novel -- Velveteen vs. the Multiverse (book 2 in a series: here's the first), rather than "Parasite" (published under the Mira Grant pseudonym). The Velveteen books are where Seanan's heart lies -- she's playing with superhero tropes and mythic archetypes and doing this stuff just for fun -- publishing the stories on her blog then as fix-ups via a small press because they're so determinedly uncommercial. They have far more heart than her slick bestseller-class zombie/medical/suspense thrillers, which are solid works themselves, and I'd like to see Seanan's playful side get more exposure.

(Or maybe I just have a soft spot for crazy superhero fic right now, having written a superhero novel myself -- "The Armageddon Score", due to drop in 2015.)

I also nominated "Lexicon" by Max Barry and "Two Serpents Rise" by Max Gladstone -- the latter Max made it onto the Campbell shortlist for best new author, and he is indeed a prodigous talent (and a really nice guy as well).

I can't recall whether or not I nominated Ann Leckie's "Ancilliary Justice". I was asked to cover blurb it: bounced a third of the way in, finding it annoying (which is something I also said of "Leviathan Wakes", although I blurbed that one -- to my subsequent regret). Yes, "Ancilliary Justice" is very interesting and looks to be an over-achiever of a first novel. But I didn't find the gender pronoun switching as innovative as many other readers seem to have -- Samuel Delany tackled it from a slightly different angle in "Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand", and he took it from the 1960s gay subculture (you can still find it embedded in Polari). Strip out the weird gender stuff and it becomes a rather more mundane space opera, set in a crapsack galaxy dominated by nasty totalitarians with the technology of Iain Banks' Culture and the manners of the mid-period Roman empire. This does not make it a bad book (if nothing else, the world building was head and shoulders better than Corey's "Expanse" series, which started with "Leviathan Wakes"): just, not my cup of tea.

Maybe I'm too harsh on contemporary space opera, as a sometime unironic dabbler in the sub-genre myself: I scrutinise it too closely and find myself eyeballing the painted flats at the back of the stage set rather than singing along with the lead tenor.


Congratulations on your nominations Charlie.


Congratulations on your nominations, Charlie.


Thank you for the recs. Will definitely look further into them, particularly Seanan's novel. I'll take an earnest work over zombie fic any day of the week.


Was glad to see your name on the list, and it gives me an excuse to get around to reading Neptune's Brood finally.

I don't know how much exposure Orphan Black has been getting outside of the US, but it's a really intriguing show and I was glad to see it on the list. I don't remember if that was the episode I put on my ballot or not.


Orphan Black is on BBC Three, currently the first two episodes available on BBC iPlayer. So I shall have a look.

But does it really have a chance? Not this year.


Congratulations on the short listings! I bought my first Worldcon supporting membership in no small part because of those short listings. There's a couple books in Best Novel that I haven't read, but Neptune's Brood is penciled in as my pick. Not a guarantee, because per Brandon Sanderson, they all need to be carefully considered with an open mind. It set a high bar for those I haven't read yet.


One has to wonder where a civilization with this level of political and cultural rancor is headed -- surely this isn't a sign of a healthy civilization, but one that is headed for some kind of vast war or breakdown?


Yeah. A sign of healthy civilization is when there is no arguments, as everyone knows what's best for everyone. Uniforms and marching may also be involved, while democracy is right out.


Orphan Black is reasonably well known amongst TV-watching fans even in the UK, I think, season 1 was shown on freeview terrestrial TV here. It's definitely an SF / technothriller (premise - someone produced a large number of clones of a woman about 20 years ago, now the children are finding out about it as someone tries to kill them. I didn't nominate it because I was rather more interested in Person of Interest, a thriller series that is heading towards its version of the Singularity, but that isn't pitched as SF and didn't get through.

There have been instances before where a book that has most people going "WTF???" gets through to the ballot, e.g. Battlefield Earth. I don't personally think that this invalidates the Hugos - it just makes the process more entertaining when they go down to deserved oblivion.


Congratulations Charlie!

It's certainly an interesting ballot this year for many reasons.


I find it fascinating that those who did not feel they were constrained, so that they could make remarks about the person who masquerades using the initials VD (Which is not his real name) failed to mention that he also vhemently denies evolution at every opportunity he can find. I realise that his stance on women [ IIRC he doesn't think they should be allowed even to vote? ] is much more likely to get people's "unwelcome" attention. It's certainly going to be INTERESTING, when voting time comes around, isn't it?

P.S. Note to moderators - I hope this is sufficiently circumspect to pass?

P.P.S. Vote for Charlie!


Your talk about a superhero book made me wonder, has any of your work ever been put into a graphic novel/comic form? I think some of the Laundry novels might work quite well.


First of all congratulations on your nominations,

I'd totally missed that the nominations had caught VD as I was far too busy looking at the inclusion of Wheel of Time on the list as I'd been unawares that it was still shuffling along zombie like. Credit though to Brandon S. for the way he addressed the issues that went through my mind and by the end I thought 'fair play'.

The rest of the list made me realise how out of touch with a lot of genre material I have become with only two authors only that I have read or know anything aout (yourself and the Foglios). Looking at the retro awards and there were only a couple of items that I didn't know....


Firstly, congrats in the nominations ! I enjoyed both and hope to see you win!

Secondly - the recommendations- been struggling for things that pique my interest and those certainly do.

Thirdly - um, just read a little on this guy (never heard of him before) , and while it might be interesting to read what he writes, certainly don't want to give him money or publicity based on what little I've read about him.

Good luck


Looking through the shortlist for "Dramatic Presentation, Short Form", I've actually seen all but one of the entries this year. Ignoring Game of Thrones, which doesn't interest me any more than the GRRM books (nothing wrong with them, just not to my taste), my ordering would be:

Orphan Black - easy 1st, big margin. Won't win, because Dr Who (especially 50th ann.) An Adventure in Time and Space (distant 2nd, but still V. good, and a long way ahead of 3rd) The 5-ish Drs reboot (which was actually pretty good in some ways) Day of the Doctor (which had John Hurt in it) Name of the Doctor (which was inferior in other ways, as well as not having John Hurt)

I'd note that both the Who episodes are far better than the really truly awful Christmas episode. And that I'd love to have seen more of John Hurt as the Doctor, preferably facing off against Derek Jacobi's Master.


Oh, yes sorry, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was excellent too - would be hard pushed to separate that from Adventures ...

Although possibly a bit too "fan-fic", it was certainly done for the love, by the actors .


As a Dr Who fan I'd been happy that anything was done about the 50th - The BBC is very sniffy when it comes to sci-fi (note the current rumpus about Red Dwarf and BBC2s 50th celebrations ).

Anyway, the small snippet of Paul McGann re-generating into John Hurt certainly got a few fans hot under the collar for more.


Psst -- it's "McGuire", not "Macguire" -- she's of Irish descent, not Scottish.


Congratulations on your nomination, Charlie, and good luck on the award.

I haven't read Seanan McGuire's Velveteen books yet; per your recommendation I've put them on my long reading list (there is no short list, only long and longer). But if you like her work in a lighter vein, I suggest you try out some of her Cryptid stories. There are a number of short pieces on her website that make a good introduction. IMO the mice are worth the price of admission all by themselves, and I'd love to see them get a story of their own.


Congrats on the nominations - personally, I really enjoyed the future-nomics of Neptune's Brood, and am hoping that the geographical fact of this year's event works in your favour.

Secondly, I share your regard for Seanan McGuire's stuff in her own name. The Mira Grant stuff just seems to be written so cursorily, as opposed to slick, particularly compared to her own writing. I simply can't fathom how it is so much more popular.


Congratulations on your nominations Charlie!

And thanks for posting the links. All very interesting. I thought one of the three seemed in a very different camp from the other two ... but maybe that's just my own funny angle on them.

Shall look forward to seeing how the ballots play out ...


The positive thing about this on the whole is that you made me discover the "Velveteen" series

And then, there's the fact that while exploring the authors named by Scalzi I discovered Amazon's new enchanted books.

They sort of wobble a bit when you do a mouse-over, and also start to lift their first page, their cover page. The wobble is because they're just begging to be turned over.

I went to a few Stross books and they didn't have that feature yet.

Then I went to Seanan McGuire's books and while the Velveteen series did not have this I finally got to one that did:

The End is Nigh (The Apocalypse Triptych) (Volume 1) by McGuire and others.


I liked Leviathan Wakes, though it was mainly the Detective Miller sections that I really enjoyed. Jim Holden's character was kind of annoying -- which is my main problem with the second novel.


Dr Who gets a special exception from the BBC's general attitude to SF (for the time being, at least), because of the vast amount of money it brings in. So I wasn't in any doubt that there would be some kind of 50th anniversary celebrations. But I wish Moffat would go back to writing stories like "Blink" and "The Girl in the Fireplace", which were really good, rather than some of the awful trash he's put out in the last couple of years.

I wish the Beeb would learn the right lesson from new-Who, which is that decently written SF, made with a sensible budget, does well both in the UK and abroad. That way, we might get them doing, say, a series based on Saturn's Children, or some of IMB's Culture novels, or... almost any of the other really good British SF that's around.


I agree with your reasoning in para 2 for not nominating and/or voting (generally rather than just in specific categories). I read plenty, but there's so much stuff by people I already read and/or get a recommendation of from a source that I can rely on.

Oh and conga rat shoe laces on your own nominations.


You might find the rationalwiki page for Ted Beale interesting, if a bit ... aggressively ... worded. (The "see also" section on that page is spot-on, in my opinion.)

Wearing my Hugo voter hat I will of course give his novelette a fair reading before I decide how to vote. Plenty of famously brilliant authors have also been flaming asshats; I will try not to let that deter me.


It's hard to know if you'd like Orphan Black or not - you're not keen on a lot of TV. It's not clear to me if that's a fault of the story-telling in general or the mechanisms of the medium. But OB is satisfying on many levels - it's got a good, solid science base with a fantastical element on top of it that isn't completely outrageous (although some of it is far-fetched for 20 years ago, but it is a story). It plays a really strong hand on examining women's roles in society, and has a strong LGBT presence that's not just lip-service.

And although it appeals to me and might well not appeal to you, it's got an acting masterclass that leaves me stunned. Season 2 is due to start in a couple of weeks on BBC 3 - and while you could start there probably, at least to get a taster, it picks up 5 minutes after the Season 1 cliffhanger so it's not a great place for the new viewer.


Orphan Black is getting a crash repeat on BBC3 because season 2 starts on BBC3 in the UK on 30th April at 10PM (already started on BBC America last Saturday) and they would like it to get a bigger audience on the back of the awards and buzz season 1 got (mostly for the remarkable performances by Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles). Apart from Maslany the show is a fast-paced and unstupid SF show of modest budget.

As mentioned elsewhere Person of Interest is a stealth SF show (it doesn't call itself SF) about ubiquitous surveillance and AI which gets better each season after starting as a standard 'case of the week' adventure show. And it has Amy Acker. With guns.


OGH has commented several times on how his vision problems interact badly with current TV/Film visual style.

Something I sometimes struggle with is the soundtrack. One effect of age, and also of hearing damage, is that we lose some of our ability to distinguish speech from background noise, and that has long been a sore point for TV viewers. I am not that much older than OGH.

My own hearing is good in some ways, but being able to hear very quiet sounds says nothing about either my ability to hear high pitches or my ability to discriminate speech from background noise.

Incidentally, modern digital surround sound can help a lot. Siund effects can oten be distinct in direction from speech. That made a big difference for my father. Get the basic stereo mix wrong and things go rapidly pear-shaped.


The crash repeat, early hours of the morning and two episodes per day also gets it onto the iPlayer servers, which is probably the best way to watch it.

(I changed my ISP, and without any changes to the wire between me and the exchange I am getting a much faster connection. Live streaming is reliable too. Streaming video is reliable enough to be usable now.)


Charlie: The interesting part of ancillary Justice comes later - it does some interesting things with group/collective consciousness. But what I liked most about it was the atmosphere and I know not everyone would have the same experience reading it.


I've got to agree with the acting on Orphan Black. The amazing thing isn't the science fiction so much as Tatiana Maslany's performance as the clones.

They're reportedly using special tracking cameras that record and repeat how they move in space, so they can film the same sequence over and over again with the cameras following the same path in space for each take. That way, Maslany plays all seven (or however many) clones, sometimes with two or three of her roles interacting in a scene. The amazing thing is that not only doesn't it show in the resulting product, but Maslany's so good that it takes an effort to remember that we're seeing only one actress there, not seven separate actresses. Not that many actors of any gender can pull off the trick of one clone imperfectly trying to pass as another clone who's had a radically different upbringing, but for Orphan Black that's a normal plot device. We have absolutely no trouble telling the clones from one another. They are all very distinct women.

Anyway, I think Maslany's acting and the show's willingness to chuck her in the deep end and make all of her roles count are the best reasons to watch Orphan Black. The SF part is pretty straightforward so far.


You would have to be a rather poor sf fan not to grok that POI is a Hard SF show - realistic cyber punk one might say.

Some of the little asides that Finch makes are real CNK moments - "the machine has found away round Shannon's law" (that is a nobel prize right there) and the fact that fairly early on the machine is shown to be a true hard AI - Just how may Nobel prizes is Mr finch owed.

My personal theory is that Bear is a SC operator from the culture disguised as a Belgian Malinois


If you take the line that SF holds a mirror up to society, or part of society, the thing that OB does nicely is give us a mirror on women's roles in society. A chunk of that is the brilliance of the acting of Tatiana Maslany but a chunk of it is the writing too.

By that standard it certainly qualifies as SF even though it's not really doing much in the way of high-tech flashy special effects, androids, time-travel and things.

And I'd forgotten about Charlie's visual problems and watching TV. Sorry Charlie. I've got a good idea about personality of quite a few regulars through comments on the blog, but medical things that don't impinge on personality don't tend to stick.


"stealth" in that it borrows very liberally from Rule 34, right down to the AI having a direct line to the crazy person to get them to act as a direct agent in setting things up for the "enforcement" team to knock down. Or and the big mafia organization being a lift of the corporate structure ("the Operation" vs "HR"). And strings of uncanny coincidences coordinated by the AI to achieve its ends (eg escaping from the bank vault and taking down the NSA woman villain)

There is enough wiggle room to defer the lawsuits (and changing it to the team focused episode of the week setup for TV production) but it is really clear that the showrunners read the book. Not a good explanation for the similarities otherwise.


krousedp@39: The idea of an AI affecting the world through "coincidence" and controlling human agents through handheld devices appeared in Bruce Sterling's Maneki Neko, published back in 1998. The AI in that story is a mediator of a moneyless barter economy frowned upon by the US government.


Reading about about a teenage superheroine (with bunny ears no less) did not seem particularly inviting. However, given the recommendation, and the fact that I have enjoyed other work by Seannan McGuire, I thought I would give it a go. Loved it!

I am not sure where the particularly spleen about marketing comes from but, as an engineer, I have had my fair share of bruising encounters.

As an indirect comment on the nominations, I have noticed a tendency for significant angst over nominations, convention experiences, book content... i.e. over the business of literature rather than the literature itself - a meta-angst perhaps.

I have formed two conclusions:- - I am not clear where all this noise comes from (marketing perhaps!) but it is rather boring. I would far more discuss the work and ideas - not the soap opera accompanying it. - Some very strange people go to conventions (not necessarily those in costume). I am appalled by the experiences shared by female authors whose work I enjoy - I thought this stuff died out in the 70's. It is saddening to think that conventions require sexual harassment guidelines.

Thanks for the recommendation and congratulations on the nominations.


If he just came out and said he was a convert to Radical Islam I suspect that might mute some of the PC criticism via cognitive dissonance. Otherwise he's just a free-lance obnoxious dick.


Dirk & Charlie I have corresponded with Theodore Beale in the past - I was under the mistaken impression that he was also a YEC (but he claims not to be) Actually, he COULD be that bright ... if he has made the classic mistake ... Used a set of preliminary assunptions & reasoned, thoroughly, logically & completely, without testing those assumptions against reality. The standard "theological" error, in fact ....

Note: if you want or can stand a taster of his insanity (for such I consider it to be, so he is more to be pitied than despised!) then he used to have a web-site called "Vox Populi" - which is quite a neat pun, incidentally".


I have known people like him in the past - very smart, but using his intelligence to justify his response to a primal (irrational) fear. Quite often it is fear of women.


My own hearing is good in some ways, but being able to hear very quiet sounds says nothing about either my ability to hear high pitches or my ability to discriminate speech from background noise.

Imagine how much fun it has been to have had this issue all my life. I can heard sounds but the filters we all seem to have to pick out specific conversations or speech in general from the background is very poor in my brain wiring.

I suspect it is related to my difficulty in spotting a face in a crowd without concentrating on each face one by one. Took my wife a while to get over that one after we got married.


My introduction to SF was via a serialized story in Analog. This was back in 64/65. And it was a very racist story. White folks were the descendents of alien visitors / elites in the ancient past and non white were the obviously their natural underclass.

I was about 11 or 12 at the time. Integration occurred that year in my school district.

Even though I became addicted to SF I was constantly thinking about the racial aspects of the story that hooked me.

It wasn't for a few more years that I understood the Campbell aspects of all of this.

Should I have stopped reading Analog until Campbell died or left the magazin?


On the topic of Satellite IV, those who weren't there missed a nice convention. Glasgow is a surprisingly good place for conventions — though that's only surprising for those unaware that the last two British Worldcons were there rather than Down South — and I swear the city's layout is solely to make those Americans used to grid-based cities feel at home.

On a more British note, they got the local Kelburn brewery ales in, and the fans did their very best to finish all the barrels. (Twelve different beers at the real ale bar, and a number of real ciders too.)

So from over here, many thanks to the Satellite IV committee and guests for doing a great job. And here's looking to next year in London (when my wife is on staff, slightly to her surprise).


Something I sometimes struggle with is the soundtrack. One effect of age, and also of hearing damage, is that we lose some of our ability to distinguish speech from background noise, and that has long been a sore point for TV viewers. I am not that much older than OGH.

I'm younger than you, but I have a slight hearing impairment in one ear. This, combined with the fact that English is not my native language, makes it sometimes hard to understand the speech in AV media. This is mostly when there's too much background noise and when the accent is not something I'm used to listen to.

Usually I put on subtitles when I watch DVDs at home. In the movies there are always Finnish and Swedish subtitles, so that's not a problem.

Last time this was a problem was last week when I watched a Kenny Everett DVD. It had no subtitles and the language was a bit different from what I'm used to (I can understand Monty Python's Flying Circus nowadays pretty well, usually), and the sound mix was a bit bad, so it was hard to understand.


That a common trope in SF going back a long way the first example that comes to mind is "Mike" in the moon is harsh mistress.

And back in 84 in neuromancer both Neuromancer and Wintermute do this


But also at the time you had Authors like Asimov and Vance using SF to write about the civil rights movement.


Thanks; I'll pass that on to the Oort Crowd.

I missed you and Nojay, but I did see 100 or so other people that I know despite spending about half the con in program items.

My biggest issue was the lack of seating in the bar.


I think it may be the first such convention where we knew personally all the guests of honour. But that just shows the Oort Crowd's good taste.

More seating, yes, that'd have been good, though I have seen worse. And I suspect the way the through corridor where the fan tables were became a greenhouse was a surprise even to the locals.

(Was Jim Burns's limp because he knew that John Meaney and Juliet McKenna often have convention fights that involve other guests, I wonder.)

(For third parties: John is a Karate afficionado, whereas Jules does Aikido, and they do cross-discipline fight demonstrations. They're both short, solid and grey-haired, and they can both terrify the shit out of people. I'm glad they're both friends, 'cos I'd hate to be either's enemy.)


Congrats on it all - I will get around to reading from the pile "over there" at some point (Neptune's etc), but for so much reading going on at the moment - ferry disasters, the politics of the Straits Trade Agreement (Sunflower Movement) etc... rather alot going on, and English is taking a backseat a bit...

I have made some time for some TV, and agree with some comments above; use subtitles. I do mainly because I am a late night type and so keep the sound right down for the sleeping one's, furry and non-furry... but also because it keeps me reading fast. (Staving off the aging stuff?)

As to OB, yes agreed, she plays the clones exceptionally well (the Ukranian one has attitude!) - but then I watch PoI as well; but I suppose radically (or not) I have stopped seeing this as SciFi; I just see it as interesting - most other stuff on telly is simply not, as it usually centres about all the human stuff we already live with!

On a side note, and of course it is not on the list of nominations (I only had a brief gander online), Continuum is a favourite of mine, playing about with time is fun, but I suppose they would need to treat it like varnishing/painting a floor, and have to be careful with the place they end up in, maybe a corner?


On limited acquaintance (John I met for about 5 mins on Thursday night) I think you'd have to actively try and annoy either of them to become an enemy.


Today, partly for other reasons ... I had to visit the village (though it is "inside" the Greater London area - & thus easily accessible by bus - routes R8 & 146 ) of Downe. One of the village's two pubs The Queens Arms is the local CAMRA pub-of-the-year, so the judging teams from other London Branches have to visit it, to do comparitive scoring so that the Regional ( & then National) pub-of-the-year can be decided on ..... So, whilst I was at it, I went to Downe House as I have never been before. It's well worth it. Got to look at what was probably the original entangled bank & found a fascinating evolutionary adaptation growing in the grounds, along the sandwalk ... The Birds-Nest Orchid a true saprophyte & quite rare ....

Maybe Mr Beale should be compelled to visit?


I have to admit, I got a bit of a chuckle when I saw the Hugo nominations. All the furore over Jonathan Ross potentially saying something and bringing press attention to the convention - and they end up with a nomination of someone from 'ugly yank' central casting who will almost certainly be looking to get as much publicity for himself as possible from the likes of Fox 'News'.

It's almost enough to make you think there's something in this karma lark.

To our host, congratulations. Still haven't got around to "Neptune's Brood", but "Equoid" was nasty in a way only a warped mind can conceive. Hopefully one of them will bring you home a model rocket - even if it does mean a train ride down to London as the "Independence, yay/nay?" campaigning switches into high gear.

Personally I hope that "Time" by Randall Munroe gets some love - someone busting some bounds of what can be done. I've also been alerted to "Orphan Black" via the noms, which I'm currently working my way through as a 'worth turning the TV on for'.


I don't know if OGH would use the train to London. It's expensive either way, but flying from my local airport, via Amsterdam, to London City, costs less than some rail tickets, and I am a lot closer to London. I vaguely recall the half-way point being marked by a rail-side sign somewhere north of York.

For me it feels silly to fly, but I can imagine the reaction to the news that a resident of Scotland needed a passport to get to London.

(Total rail distance, 393 miles Kings Cross to Waverley, which would put the half-way point just south of Tollerton. There is a 200 miles to Edinburgh marker.)


Yes, the rail tickets can be pretty high. We spent £29 a head for the sleeper from Glasgow to Euston last Tuesday evening.

For the sleeper up, mind, we spent over £100 each. That's the price difference between full fare, and managing to get advance tickets.

My impression is that when Charlie does come down south, he often makes breaks with family halfway south, and also goes other places. So while a return visit by train might make sense as an alternative to a flight, driving down and then making use of the car while down here also has its attractions.


We plan to drive down to Loncon 3, then cross-country and via ferry to Dublin for the Eurocon the following weekend. Then meander our way up to Belfast and then the Stranraer ferry and the M74/M8 home. That should put about 1200-1500 miles on the Dreamliner, assuming it doesn't catch fire again. (Cruise control, climate control, and motorised driver's seat: There are advantages to having a fuel-abstemious but comfortable Volvo V70, when it's not catching fire or eating its gearbox.) As one person's return 2nd class off-peak return rail ticket from EDI-London is about £130, and that's enough Volvo-juice to drive 1000 miles -- and there will be two of us travelling -- this works out cheaper.

(No love to Air France/CityJet for cancelling the EDI-LCY direct shuttle service, which would have been the perfect way to do Loncon -- from my local airport to London City, a £5 taxi ride from the venu, and for less than the price of the second class return rail ticket.)


The road from Dublin to Belfast no longer meanders -- you have to make a deliberate effort these days. Fifteen years ago I would have allowed 3+ hours to do the roughly hundred miles, now you can go from Belfast city centre to the north side of Dublin in a shade over 90 minutes, traffic permitting -- Dublin city centre is still, well lets just call the driving style combative and the signage cryptic.

Would welcome the opportunity to buy you a pint in Belfast, but sounds like you're only passing through.


In the matter of the Hugo short form category, David Bradley gets two bites at the cherry, as William Hartnell in Adventures in Space and Time, and also as the esteemable Walder Frey, everybody's favourite wedding host.


I've seen all the Whoniverse material, which I mostly liked (Name of the Doctor would be my favourite among them thanks to season buildup and having more intrinsic appeal than the others, that do a lot of winking at the audience).

But Orphan Black is clearly the standout. It's a fantastic drama, with excellent suspense, aesthetics and story-telling. The science fiction is not a plot device, it is the core of the show and it creates human drama. The science-fictional premise would be hard to pull off, and you don't even notice it's there thanks to some incredible acting and a lot of attention to detail.


Rail fares? Expensive? 'Twas not always so ...

" Seacon '84, Eastercon/Eurocon: hasn't happened as I type, but this doesn't preclude a pre-con report. Best Committee Coup: the cheapo rail fares (£3.55 return to Brighton from anywhere in Southern Region, £5.50 from anywhere else), leading to a flood of enquiries from other cons to the hitherto obscure Theatre & Concert Rail Club – through whom diplomatic A. Akien arranged the deal by swearing most solemnly that of course the con would be chiefly concerned with the Performing Arts. "

As it was. Of course it was! It’s very much easier to be convincing - when making a sales pitch - if you are telling the Truth...for a given perspective on “Truth “of course.

Fans were very creative way back then and I swear that some of the London based fans discovered distant relatives’ way up in the far reaches of the Highlands of Scotland and devised strange and convoluted rail journeys that would permit them to visit said relatives on way to the con. For all I know said routes looped through the next parallel universe but one.

To the best of my knowledge and belief The Deal was never repeated.


IF you book far enough in adavnce [ 90 days is the usual maximum limit ] you can still get suprisingly cheap return-rail-fare deals.

In fact I shall be doing this later today, as the 90-day "window" for my return from Germany (28th July) opens today. Last year I got from London to Rheine, via Brussel & Köln & back for under £130 .....


What a delightful view into the past. Aside from name-checking various folks, I was amused by this:

Silicon 8 (24-27 Aug, Grosvenor Hotel, Newcastle): elitist event devoted to not talking about sf...


We're not planning on going direct from Dublin to Belfast.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 22, 2014 3:10 PM.

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