August 2022 Archives

This is about the gathering crisis in the UK, not any other crisis-hit nation.

Here is a compendium of the firehose of dismay that's been blasting me in the face for the past couple of weeks. Share and enjoy! And feel free to use the comment thread to discuss what's coming next for the UK as the vector sum of Brexit, COVID19, the energy crisis from the Ukraine war, and the worst inflationary bubble since 1980 punches us in the face.

Next month I'll be attending Chicon 8, the worldcon, my first overseas SF convention since September 2019, right before COVID19! It'll also be my first SF convention on US soil—and first book signing there—since February 2017.

Here's my draft schedule, by convention day.

Thursday, 1 September

Table Talk, 1pm, Crystal Foyer

This is what they're doing instead of Kaffeeklatsches/literary beers these days (masking is mandatory at Chicon 8, for obvious reasons)

Panel: Beyond our Assumptions, 5:30pm, Randolph 2

Human-built systems, such as capitalism, are neither immortal, nor inescapable. SFF often helps us imagine a world built on different scaffolding than our own. Each of our panelists will start with their favorite "What If" scenario (such as "What if all children were born without primary sex characteristics?" or "What if our only form of currency was seeds?") and we will brainstorm to build worlds beyond current assumptions of "how things work."

Friday, 2 September

How Horror and SFF Blend, 2:30pm, Crystal Ballroom C

Horror has often overlapped with SFF--hello, Frankenstein! Lately it seems like we're seeing a rise in horror elements in popular SFF, including many recent Hugo winners and nominees. What makes horror blend well with science fiction or fantasy? Are there challenges or problems with mixing the genres? And how do cosmic horror, the Weird, and New Weird fit into this discussion? Come find out whether or not anyone can hear you scream . . . in space!

Autographing, 5:30pm, venue TBA

Saturday, 3 September

Alternates, Parallels, Mirrors, and Multiverses, 11:30am, Grand Hall L

Alternate histories and parallel dimensions have been elements of science fiction for a long time, and they seem especially prominent right now, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Trek to novels like Micaiah Johnson's The Space Between Worlds and Gibson's Jackpot novels. We'll discuss what using multiverses does to writing and reading SFF, talk about texts where it works great and others where it falls flat, ask ourselves why it's having such a moment, and wonder how this panel compares to the infinity of parallel panels happening at the same time.

Getting the "Cyber" part right, 2:30pm, Michigan 1

Computers and information technology are omnipresent in both our daily lives and science fiction, but most SFF doesn't focus on it in a deep or scientific way, often using old and inaccurate tropes. What writers are great at conveying interesting things about actual computer science and techno-culture? What are our favorite examples of AI, programmers, and tech support that feel accurate or insightful?

Reading - Charlie Stross, 5:30pm, Airmeet Readings (this will be a virtual session)

NB: I'm not sure what I'll be reading yet, but as I just sent Season of Skulls off to production and have nearly finished A Conventional Boy it'll probably be one of them, unless it's a chunk of unfinished space opera or something else bites me.

Sunday, 4 September

Waiting for Closure, 1pm, Grand Hall K

Getting involved in a book series is always a tricky proposition. On the one hand, there's the FOMO of hearing all your friends squee about the latest book, but on the other hand there's the agony of waiting for the next one to come--or in some cases, wondering if you'll ever get another book! Let's talk about how serialization affects how we approach books, their plots, themes, and characters--as readers and writers, what does the promise (or threat!) of future installments do to how we engage with a book?

Monday 5 September

Future Transit, 1pm, Michigan 2

We're well on the road to self-driving cars, there are companies designing small supersonic jets, and Virgin Galactic is aiming at suborbital transportation. How will we get around in 10 years? 20? 100? Our panelists will imagine future travel both fast and slow.


Other program item participants omitted because I copy-typed the descriptions from an annoying javascript-based scheduler app that doesn't make things easy. For other participants, see the official final program.

All of this is conditional on me not coming down with COVID19 again, either before I travel or while I'm at the convention. I'll be masking/distancing and testing regularly, as is convention policy: yes, I know it's a pain, but I really don't want to get this virus again or worse, infect you with it afterwards. (I am willing to unmask in public if I'm outdoors, there's airflow, and everybody is sensible about social distancing.)

I have other engagements that are not part of this public schedule (eg. business meetings with my agent and possibly publishers: also toilet stops, meal breaks, etc), so please, if you pass me in the hall and I say I'm on my way somewhere, don't be afraid to ask again later (if I growl it's probably because of my knees, not you). If you missed my signing and I'm not busy I'm happy to stop for a moment to sign books.

Pub crawl: there's going to be a pre-worldcon real ale pub crawl on the evening of Wednesday, August 31st. I'll try to update this with details nearer the time. My wife's one of the organizers, but I may not make it—I recently started a new antidiabetes med that is playing merry hell with my stomach, and drinking even two pints of beer is a reach. (Add bad knees and too much walking and you can see why a pub crawl might lack appeal: I'll just have to see how I'm feeling on the day.)

Comments: Please do not use this topic for general discussion, keep it clear for the worldcon (in case I need to notify folks about schedule changes or discuss where to meet up). Thanks!

So we're into the Conservative Party leadership run-off campaign, and the two candidates are throwing policies at the base that, to outsider ears, sound increasingly bizarre. But there's a lot we can learn from them about how the Conservative elite perceive the state of the UK today, and some of it (who am I kidding? Most of it!) is disturbing.

In the latest move, potential Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (the richest MP in parliament, a former Goldman Sachs employee and hedge-fund manager who married a billionaire) has vowed to phase out university degrees that do not improve students' "earning potential":

... Yeah, I know what you're thinking: "train the serfs for work, actual education is for the wealthy elite". But there's a lot more to it than that.



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