Saturday, August 13, 2005

Title: Worldcon - Interaction 2005
Detail: 4th-8th August 2005, SECC/Moat House, Glasgow
Part:4. Thursday.

Thursday 4th August 2005.

I stopped work, and got home about 5pm. Went through the process of getting ready, and managed to get to the SECC for Interaction about 6.30pm. Where I signed up for my weekend ticket, and had a brief wander of the sign up hall, while flicking through the booklets. For me the booklets, both guide and souvenir were somewhat disappointing - neither really has a guide to who everyone is, which I would have thought of as an essential item at an event of this size, and some of the layout of the guide led to flicking back and forward just trying to keep up with what day's listings you are looking at. While I'm on the negatives, I might as well get those out of the way. Arriving on the Thursday night, I was frustrated to find that the information desk had already closed for the day, and to a lesser extent that the dealer's hall had also already closed.

Thursday 19:00 You Can't Copyright My DNA, Can You?

This was the first item on the itinerary I had roughed out for the weekend that I reckoned I was both interested in and could make. The panel was hosted by SF writer Ken MacLeod, with his fellow SF writers Richard Morgan and Alistair Reynolds - who all managed to show themselves up really. The other guests, Andrew Adams and Carolina Gomez Lagerlof being the experts in the field, backed up by some audience members who obviously had direct experience of the particular topic.

The discussion started with a clarification, covering the differences between copyright and patenting. You cannot copyright genetic material, though you can patent. Conversation ranged across the issues related to the topic, from the way corporations are currently dealing with this kind of material, and how it affects people, to the possibilities of this kind of field being opened to amateurs. One partial conclusion that was come to was that the current practice does not seem to be particularly sustainable.

William Gibson was quoted for the first time, with his idea that "the street finds its uses" being one that cropped up on a number of panels. One illustration of this was the example of the original Chinese Harry Potter novel that was put together to meet a demand. Richard Morgan suggested that we might be able to augment the human model with loaded chromosomes, though that was met with the suggestion that a whole new meaning would be given to the idea of "the blue screen of death" in these circumstances.

As the conversation evolved one of the major topics was the mis-use of technology, the whole street use idea. With one of the panellists suggesting that we were reaching a point where Universities would be vetting candidates before allowing them to learn the kind of advanced biotech processes which would allow the engineering of a virus. The suggestion being that there was perhaps more to cause for concern from a well trained biologist or chemist and the increasing streaming of technology which will allow home production, than your average suicide bomber. Though the idea of home made biochem product has cropped up in the past, partly with things like the drug trade, and in some of the novels by SF writers like Paul McAuley.

Thursday 20:00

After the DNA panel I had put a tentative mark against the The Military: Making It Authentic panel. But decided as I had pretty much gone straight to the first panel that I might be better served by doing a full wonder and getting an idea of where everything was, rather than going to a panel I wasn't too bothered about.

Which is when I made the discovery that the information desk wasn't open, and with work in the morning it looked like there was no chance of getting signed up for any of the Kaffeklatsch I had hoped to get on to. Again I thought that scooping out the dealer's hall and getting a feel for stock and prices would be good, but again that was closed. The SECC at this sort of time was starting to feel a little abandoned; as I had no intention of going to parties that night, I wasn't really aware that most of those started at 20:00, likely accounting for the sparseness of the hall.

It was about then that I had my first encounter with the Norwegians, bumping into a Norwegian girl, who like myself was feeling a little bit lost. We talked briefly, before she wandered off to find more Norwegians, and I wandered off to find something else to do.

Thursday 21:00 Ellen Kushner Reading

Having decided I probably stood little chance of winning chocolate for answering trivia questions, and that I wasn't too interested in Church State & Academia, I opted to got to a reading by Ellen Kushner. Kushner was reading in the boardroom in the Moathouse hotel, linked to the SECC by a corridor. I had no idea who Kushner was, just really turning up on the off chance. Turns out that she is a fantasy writer, seemingly in the bodice ripper/sex and the city mould - to the extent that she joked about wanting to call her next novel "Sword In The City", and trying to avoid a spoiler in her reading by referring to a character as "lord big". Strangely her editor had ignored the "Sword In The City" suggestion, and the novel, due out sometime next year looks likely to be called The Privilege of The Sword, or something equally not much better.

Kushner read a couple of selections from this forthcoming novel, with a room full of fans that were warmly encouraging towards her enthusiastic reading. This reading underlines why readings can work so well - for me reading at home is usually a case of trying to fit in as many pages as I can in the window of free time I have, and get on to something else on the ever growing unread pile - but when you get a session like this, you get the author taking the time to pace it and add the inflections that you don't always realise were intended. So that while Kushner's material might not be my kind of thing, I still managed to enjoy and thoroughly appreciate her reading.

Thursday 22:00 I'm sorry I Haven't Any SFing Clue

This was again in the moat house, this time in the Argyll room at the back of the lobby bar. Based on a BBC radio panel quiz game, I reckoned that this could be some fun, and mostly it was a pretty good laugh. The panel were split into two teams, guest of honour Christopher Priest and Ben Jeapes against Ken MacLeod and John Meaney, hosted by Tony Keen (Note - I may have Jeapes and Keen round the wrong way, can't entirely remember which was which).

The quiz covered rounds where each team had a Hugo nominated novel to give clues for the other team to guess, science fiction words given new and humorous definitions, and name that tune, which had the whole audience chanting the theme to Doctor Who for the panel to guess. For the most part I was amused, though half of this event went over my head - a combination of being entirely unfamiliar with the references to the format that the whole thing was based on, and just not being as up on the material actually being covered.

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