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I have blogged before about Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of Bath's 2 lovely independent bookshops. They have lovely events, with writers and conversation and food, and on Wednesday, the writer in question was Nick Harkaway, author of 'The Gone-Away World', 'Angelmaker' and, now 'Tigerman'.

The evening didn't start too well for me, as I had forgotten that They were closing the road in Dunkerton, so I had to go the long way round, and then I got held up because there had been an accident (not, I think, too serious - the police were there, and a 1st response car, but all the people seemed to be standing around and talking to each other).

All of which meant that I got to Bath late, and had to scratch plaintively at the door of the shop like a delayed cat, to be let in. And then try to sneak in to a gathering where the only available seat was in the 2nd row which you absolutely can't do without people looking at you.

Anyway, once the embarrassment factor of causing a disturbance had settled I was able to start listening to Nick, who was reading an extract (about the English, and T.S.Eliot, among other things) from 'Tigerman'.  Which was very, very funny.

And then there was conversation. The evening was nominally themed around Father's Day, but as often happens at Mr B's, due to the conversational nature of the evening,discussions around the theme were only a minor part of the evening!

Nick talked about various things which led into the book, including his own experience of a close encounter with the Esso tiger, and of learning to shoot while in Thailand.

There was also some discussion about his experience of fatherhood, and in particular the protectiveness which comes with that, and about other notable fathers in literature.

As always with a Mr Bs event, there was a break in the proceedings for food and mingling - on this occasion, the food part of that included a lemon drizzle cake with blueberries in, which was such stuff as gastronomic dreams are made on...

And there were some interesting (mostly travel related) conversations over food, too.

Finally, Nick signed copies of his books for us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night, and I am looking forward to reading Tigerman, now I have my very own shiny copy!
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After Friday night's soiree with J.K. Rowling, last night's treat was an event with Hilary Mantel, author of 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring up the Bodies' and twice winner of the booker Prize.


I have to confess that I have only read a couple of her books, but they (particularly the historical ones) are high on my reading list, and I was also interested to hear her speak, based on her reputation.

Read more... )

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On Saturday morning, while checking Twitter, I saw Garth Nix tweet that he would be in Bath that evening, which sounded as though it might be interesting, so I went along.

I have enjoyed his books for several years now, particularly the 'Old Kingdom' ones, and I enjoyed his talk, too.

He started by talking about his name (not a pseudonym, despite what people may suspect) and about telling stories, and where he gets ideas from (unlike Neil Gaiman and others, not from a little shop in southern England, it would seem) and the process of making stories.

He also read us a little of the most recent books he has out; 'A Confusion of  Princes' and 'Trouble Twisters' and also a short excerpt from what will, probably, be the prologue to a new 'Old Kingdom' book - 'Claribel: The Lost Abhorsen', which sounds as though it's going to be a book I want to read. 

He then answered questions before signing books and chatting, which was fun.

I was slightly distracted during the talk by the fact that there was some decorative bunting up, which had clearly been made out of books.. This bothered me a little. I couldn't help but notice that the bunting was made from actual pages, not anything printed as bunting.

(It's OK. I went and asked one of the staff members after the reading; they explained it was made from a damaged proof copy of a book, so it wasn't destroyed specially)

I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through 'A Confusion of Princes' which I'm enjoying.

There are going to be more authors, soon. It's the Bath Kids Lit Fest next month, which should also be fun, and I have a theatre trip or two lined up. 

And on an unrelated note, I went to donate blood today. Turns out it was my 50th donation, which means they give me a shiny brooch and a nice pen, and I was surprised at how chuffed I was about it!

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A long time ago, I signed up to attend BristolCon, having enjoyed it , and then I mostly forgot about it, and suddenly it was time to go..
The con was on Saturday, in (unsurprisingly) Bristol, which is of course practically on my doorstep.

The day didn't start well. I got distracted, so was still eating toast when the train I had originally thought of left. Then having, as I thought, left enough time to get to the station, I found that Every Single Traffic Light between my house and the station (5 sets) turned red as I approached it, and just for good measure there was the driver going Very Very Slowly and then randomly changing lanes in front of me without indicating. All of which, combined with the unheard-of event of the local train arriving (and leaving) on time, resulted in my missing the next train by a whisker. I saw it at the platform as I turned in to the station car-park, and it pulled out as I parked. So I ended up on the next train, arriving in Bristol shortly after 11. On the plus side, this meant I didn't have to queue to pick up my name badge, but it did mean I missed the Welcome, the first panel, Alex Keller's reading (which I'd wanted to catch) and the start of the second panel.

However, I was able to sneak into the 'Battle of the Books' panel, which featured Bob Neilson, Steve Westcott, Dolly Garland, John Meaney and Paul Cornell, arguing for their best books (and against those picked by the other panellists), and which was moderated with Extreme Prejudice by Cheryl Morgan armed with her zap-gun. It was highly entertaining, despite some doubts as to the existence of one of the books, and made an excellent (if late) start to my day.

Alex Keller, Harriet Castor,
Philip Reeve, MD Lachlan & Alastair Reynolds
I stayed on for the next panel, 'The Genesis Panel', which started out discussing how and why novels become epics, and which featured Alastair Reynolds, Philip Reeve, MD Lachlan, Harriet Castor and Alex Keller, and included commentary about books getting split in two by publishers, and the temptation to become epic-y. Interesting stuff.

It was followed by a short reading from Philip Reeve, which I enjoyed even though it was the second time I'd heard him read the same extract. (and I still want a Samovar Hat)

I then popped out of the Con to go down to Waterstones to meet Angie Sage, who was signing there - I enjoyed meeting her, but couldn't chat for long as she had too many others wanting to buy books and yet them, signed.

When I got back I was fortunate enough to bump into Philip Reeve and Thomas Martin (and others, whose names, I am ashamed to admit, I did not note) over coffee, and chatted for a while.

Later, I went to the 'Life Cycle of the Author' (AKA 'George RR Martin is not your bitch') panel I enjoyed Wayne Simmons' moderating, which
started by asking the audience what questions they would like to hear about, and which included comments about dealing with criticism and rejection, writing avoidance techniques, and reader entitlement. (Also the revelation from Paul Cornell that he knows people who assume that comics come to a writer with all the pictures done, and the writer simply has to fill in the speech-bubbles...!)

I would have loved to go to Mike Shevdon's panel on Archery, but it clashed with Paul Cornell's Kaffeeklatsch, so I wasn't able to. |The kaffeeklatsch was small, and I think all the better for it, as were were able to have a casual chat, rather than a mini panel. Much fun. this was followed by the "Dude, where's my jetpack?" panel, and what was and wasn't predicted, and what we all still want..

The final panel was another difficult choice as I would have liked to go to both of the streams! I actually picked the 'storytelling or literature' one, which was included topical conversation about the Booker prize, and when is genre not genre.

After which it was time to wind up the day and go home. It would have been fun to stay and chat in the bar,
and try my luck in the quiz, but it was dark, and cold..

The day ended, as it had begun, with transport issues - half the roads in Trowbridge were closed, for the carnival, but very few of them had signs anywhere useful (such as at the start of the road) to tell you - I think we had to do 2 u-turns and 2 detours before finally making it home!

all together, though, a good day.

Next year, BristolCon is on 20th October. Put it in your diary.
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Last night saw me in Bath again for another author event organised by Toppings bookshop.

This one was a reading and Q&A by Armistead Maupin, as part of his world tour for the publication of the latest 'Tales of the City' book, 'Mary Ann in Autumn'

He started by reading the first chapter of the new book, then took questions, while skirting carefully around any potential spoilers, either of this book or the earlier ones.

He talked a little about the musical of Tales of the City, which features songs written by Scissor Sisters (He mentioned that "There's an 'O my god I'm pregnant' song, which Mona sings while she has her feet in the stirrups at the gynocologist")

He admitted having borrowed Mrs Madrigal's background from a story told to him as a journalist in San Francisco, when he was attending a fundraising party held by a transwoman to fund her final operations - she called it "The ball to End All Balls" and it featured a 70 year old fan-dancer, Sally Rand!

He also spoke of having encouraged Alexander McCall Smith to write a serial novel in his newspaper column. "Alexander McCall Smith? I hate him. He writes a book every 10 minutes..."

He also spoke briefly about his pride at having played a role in gay history, and his view that opening marriage to more people, recognising gay marriage does not undermine, but rather honours the institution of marriage. That one got a round of applause all of its own!

it was a hugely entertaining evening, and I'm looking forward to  readng the new novel.
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Some time ago, my friend Cheryl suggested to me that I might like to go to BristolCon (of which she is a committee member) and, as it is practically on the doorstep, and membership was only £15, I thought "Why not? It might be fun"

So I spent yesterday there, and it was.

My day didn't start too well. Having got up remarkably early for a Saturday, dealt with some urgent errands in town and got myself to the station on time, I found that the train I was planning to catch was running very late, so had to wait half an hour for the next one, and arrived a little later than intended.

However, one I arrived and was registered, things sarted to improve. The hotel had provided tea & coffee, so I was able to get by blood-caffiene levels up, and to take a look around the dealers room and art show before heading to my first programme item - a short reading by Juliet McKenna. The programme was set up so that each panel item was 50 minutes long rather than an hour, with 10 minute readings sandwiched in the gaps. A nice idea - you get the chance to get a 'taster' of different books and writers, or alternatively to make that essential coffee or loo break without missing or disrupting a panel.

My first full panel was Cheryl Morgan interviewing Joe Abercrombie, one of the Guests of Honour.

I have to confess that I haven't actually read any of Joe's novels, but hearing him speak about the process of writing was interesting. cheryl was also able to disclose that George RR Martin is a fan, and any further delays in his completing the next book may be blamed on the fact that he is reading Joe Abercrombie novels instead of writing...

There was much discussion of hacking people to bits, and of blood spatter. Joe Abercrombie: "People getting hacked to pices, what could be funnier?"

I stepped out for the nxt cupld of pnels as I was supposed to be meeting a friend for lunch, and was back in time for local journalist and novelist Eugene Byrne's talk about Bristol.  This was fascinating - he started by telling us Bristol's founding myth (which has brothers who were rivals in love) then de-bunked the urban myth about the Bristol Zoo carpark and talked a little about the Suspension Bridge, and the Victorian lady who threw herself off it, butwas saved by a combination of her crinolenes and the very soft mud into which she fell. He then took us on a brief 'walking tour' via google streetview of some notable spots in Bristol, including Thomas Chatterton's house (almost opposite the hotel), the (site of) the church of Saint Wilgefortis, (AKA St. Uncumber) who is the patron saint of unhappily married women, and the non-existant street. It was all fascinating and highly entertaining.

I stayed for the short reading by Mike Shevdon - I saw him on a panel at EasterCon talking about fanastical London, and wrote his name down intending to buy his book, and I finally managed to buy 'Sixty One Nails'(the first one) and get it signed. He read the opening of the book and I am looking forward to reading the rest.

I also had a brief chat with him earlier in the day, when I spotted him with Paul Cornell, and asked them each to sign books for me ;-)

The next panel I went to was entitled "Future Science" and featured Alastair Reynolds, Jon Turney, Nick Walters, Gareth L. Powell and Paul Cornell,  discussing the science which they hope, fear or expect for the  future.

Paul Cornell wants to live forever, everyone expects that there will be a total loss of privacy, and that science fiction today is notably more pessimistic than it used to be.

This panel was followed by Paul Cornell's GoH spot, in which he talked, very entertainingly about past and current projects, including writing 'Death' for the Lex Luthor comic (and being able to liaise with Neil Gaiman about her dialogue, his current work in progress which is an urban fantasy novel, but without sexy, sparkly vampires - more police proceedural with supernatural elements (which to me sounds as though it may have a similar sort of flavour to Mike Carey's 'Felix Castor' novels, which would be just fine by me!)

He also broke the disappointing news that the BBC will  not be commissioning 'Pulse' - apparently it was initially approved but then cancelled, which is a great shame.

At the end of his spot Paul read from his short story "The Occurrance at Slocombe Priory", an hilarious M.R.James/ScoobyDoo mash up... That was the last of the panels I attended.

As well as the panels, however, I enjoyed meeting Alex Keller, after a mutual friend told me, via Twitter, that he would be there and I should say hello. An he was, and I did, and I bought his book, and we chatted ., and I enjoyed myself :-)

 I also briefly met Ben Jeapes - sitting down before Paul Cornell's talk I noticed the name badge of the person sitting behind me, so asked whether he was the Ben Jeapes who wrote 'His Majesty's Starship', and it was! So I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed it, and asked whether he has anything else in the pipeline (yes, but probably not for a year or two). A completely unexpected pleasure. And if you haven't read HMS (which I think was also published under the title 'the Ark') and the sequel, 'The Xenocide Mission' give them a go.  He has more convincingly alien aliens than I've come across for a long time.

All in all, I enjoyed myself a lot.

I didn't so much enjoy my trip home. I got to temple Meads about 15 minutes before the train was due, to discover it was running 40 minutes late. The next one (25 minutes later) was on time, but very crowded, and with 2 platform changes, which is a lot of running around. Oh, and the reason given for the first one being so late? It was due to "the number of people wanting to board the train in Cardiff, following a rugby match". Now, I don't claim to know much about sports, but I am pretty sure that International rubgy matches  are planned in advance, and do not simply happen spontaneously, flash-mob style. I am also fairly sure that lots of people will use trains every time there is a match, so you'd think the train operaters might be able to work this out, too, and consider, just maybe, putting on extra trains/carriages or at the very least, taking the extra volume of people into account and adjusting the timetable if needed. But obviously not.

Oh Well.

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Last night I went to Bath again, this time it was to see Michael Wood, who was there to talk about his recent TV series and the book which accompanies it,'The Story of England' 

But before I got to that part of the evening I had time for a quick visit  to Mr B's bookshop which is a very nice bookshop (with free coffee & comfy  chairs upstairs, which I didn't have time to enjoy this time round) and a wall papered with pages from Tintin, which I rather enjoyed.

 I then had to spend a couple of hours on a work related course, and had just time to grab some mediocre chinese food (and all-you-can-eat buffet is your friend when you only have 20 minutes in which to eat) before heading to St Michael's church, where Mr Wood's event was taking place.

I have to thank Cheryl again, who not only spotted that this event (and Monday's, with Iain M Bnks) was on, but also booked the tickets and got to the church first and saved me a seat.

Mr. Wood was talking about The Story of England, and it was fascinating. The premise is that he set out to look at the history of England (and he was careful to note that it was just England, not Britain) by looking at a single town.

The one he picked is Kibworth in Leicestershire. It was picked because it is (geographically) central, and broadly on the border between the part of England which was under Danelaw, and that part which was Anglo-Saxon , but mainly because it has excellent written records - one half of the village was bought by Merton College, Oxford, so there are 750 years worth of written records. The parish is made up of 2 distinct villages - Kibworth Beauchamp (the posh bit) and Kibworth Harcourt (the poor bit)

The aim was to look at the history and development of the villages from the perspective of the community - bottom-up, not top-down, history.

The two halves of the parish are very different - they have different entrances to the church, and the Vctorian rector recorded that when a sewage system was being mooted, the villages wanted separate systems, so thast the effluvia from Kibworth Beauchamp was not contaminated by that of Kibworth Harcourt.... (and in case you think tht's a one off, Michael recalled hearing a discussion in a cambridgeshire village, when it was proposed that 2 neighbouring parishes should be combined, due to declining congregations. One parishioner, entirely seriously, and wholly outraged , exclamed "We are not almagamating with them. They were Parliamentarians!" It's understandable, I suppose. After all, its only 350 years since the civil war...

In Kibworth, the social divisions certainly went back as far as Domesday book (there were fewer slaves and  villeins in Kinworth Beauchamp than in Kibworth Harcourt) and possibly longer - Michael had a theory that it may do, and that the names of the fields were anglo-saxon in one area, and celtic in another.

The project not only involved looking at the history of the community, but also involving the community in the research - they dug 55 test pits all over the parish, (including one in the pub car park where they found a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon  bone comb)

The village lost 2/3 of its population in the Black Death. The quality of the records mean that it is possible to trace 15 generations of peasant families.

The series (and book) go right up to the present day. I have not yet seen all of the episodes but I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, and to reading the book.

After his talk, Michael signed books, and was very friendly  and chatty.

A most enjoyable evening.

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend Cheryl asked whether I fancied seeing Iain M. Banks, who was going to be coming to Bath.

Well, obviously the answer was "yes", so last night I headed into Bath after work, ready to enjoy myself.

Cheryl and I met up and had a very nice meal at Wagamama, then headed to Toppings Booksellers, who had organised the event.

Toppings is a nice bookshop. It's independent, which is always good, has a nice selection of books, and has its own slightly idiosyncratic approach to shelving, which adds interest to shopping there (books appear to be shelved to some extent by size as well as being sorted by author / genre, so a writers most recent (big, hardback) book may be in a different place to the earlier (paperback) books by the the same author)

The shop is not, perhaps, the ideal venue for a reading / Q&A, as it is rather long and thin, with bookshelves arranged in bays, like an old fashioned library. All of which is very nice, but means that lines of sight etc are a little tricky. However, anyone who doesn't have a good view of the writer concerned will be seated among bookhelves and have the oppotunity to indulge in a little browsing while they listen, so I doubt that blocked lines of sight present much of a hardship!

We found seats in one of the front rows, so ended up sitting just to the right and very slightly behind where Iain was standing, and settled in to enjoy ourselves.
Iain started by explaining why he uses the "M" for the Science Fiction and not for the mainstream novels, on the basis that someone always asks, and then moved on to talk about how he started out, the revelation that 2nd drafts have a purpose, and the perils of too much research. (Quote: "I make stuff up. It's my job") Also, he likes unexpected endings and thus does not like people who read the end of a book first and spoil the surprise.

The Q&A lasted for about an hour, but felt much shorter. Afterwards, Iain signed books and chatted to fans .

It was fun.

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An early start - I had put my name down for the Kaffeeklatch with Mike Carey, which was scheduled for 10 a.m., so necessitated getting to the Radisson by 9 to check the list. Happily, it was worth it, as I was on the list, so having marked myself in I was able to forage for coffee and ensure I was actually awake, before heading down to reclaim the room from the Clanger knitting panel immediately before us.

We were very lucky as not only did we get the conversation with Mike, there was no-one using the room from 11 and so we were able to simply carry on, and the kaffeeklatch ended up continuing until 1/4 to 12. Bonus!

There seemed to be a cross section of those who were primarily fans of Mike's comics / GNs and those coming in as fans of the Felix Castor novels, so part of the conversation veered into a quick run down of Mike's back catalogue and recommendations of where to start for a non-comic reader (possibly 'Season of Mists' followed by Lucifer)

There was talk about the 'grittiness' of the settings - the fact that the London in which Felix lives, and he other places he visits are very real, (except of course specific buildings etc which Mike invents - and which people apparently regularly claim to be familiar with!) as are elements such as the time taken to get from one part of it to another. Also talked about adapting other people's work, the fact that Mike has been offered but turned down suggestions that the Felix Castor books should be adapted as GNs (because, at least in part, of the difficulty in representing music in comics), but that a possible film is in the offing (Contracts have been "on the verge of being sent" for 2 years now...

We also talked about the Constantine film (general consensus seemed to be that it wasn't necessarily a bad film, as long as you don't expect it to be anything much to do with Hellblazer...) the importance of characters taking responsibility for their own actions and mistakes, Felix Castors's sex life (or lack thereof), families (born and made), Frankenstein and the morality of monsters, torture, John Constantine's successor, and reading recommendations from all around the table.

I'm pretty sure a good time was had by all - I certainly enjoyed it, and hope Mike did, too. The extra time meant that I missed the '1st editions & fine bindings' panel, which was a pity, but one cannot have everything.

After a couple of hours in the Green Room, which included a brief conversation with Paul Cornell & other waiting panellists about Jane Austen, lost in Austen and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, all conducted with the faint background smell of smoke & cordite from the Pyrotechnics display in the main hall, I headed down to the Hall for the Guest of Honour interview with Mike Carey, conducted by Paul Cornell.

This started late due to the pyro stuff, and some of the clean up had to go on during the interview, with people from (?Ops) mopping the stage as the interview continued!

The interview covered some of the same areas which were discussed at the Kaffeeklatch but also featured the Pantera comic "Probably the worst comicbook in the history of the world [,...] I convinced myself at the time that it was ironic, but it wasn't, it was just bad"- Mike Carey and more discussion of Lucifer, an how the character changed from Neil Gaiman's original character (Prompting Paul Cornell to declare "I love Lucifer. [pause] that wouldn't go down well with my wife")

Mike also talked about "The Unwritten" (including explaining that if/when JK Rowling's lawyers come knocking claiming it rips off Harry Potter the defence will be that no, it wasn't nicked from JKR but from 'Books of Magic'....
Both Paul & Mike seemed to be having fun during the interview, and we learned Mike's research consists of "bumming about on the internet..."

I had planned to stay for the European Torus & Alan Moore talks, but the lure of a shower & nap won out. I must say, that whatever its other failings, the Ibis cannot be faulted on water pressure :-)

I got back to the hotel in time for Ian Sorensen's "Harry Potter and the Half Cut Prince", billed as ' a musical with jokes and live quidittich. It was very funny, involving many appalling puns, reworked lyrics to such classics as 'Fame' and 'Pinball Wizard' , lots of Dr Who, Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest and Rocky Horror references, and audience participation. All good, grubby fun!
An hour later, back in the hall for the Mitch Benn gig - introduced by Paul Cornell "He is one of us", Mitch's set included 'Be my Dr Who Girl', 'I might just have to Murder James Blunt' The Very Hungry caterpillar rock opera, 'Crap Shag' plus singing in dalek voice... this is a man who knows his audience. Lots of comedy between songs, including comments on not being a real Dr Who fan as he has never built his own Dalek, (and that what can what do with a dalek, except perhaps sulk) which amused me as I left, as I overheard a plaintive little voice saying "but I can think of *lots* of reasons to build a dalek"...

There seemed to be a lot of people queueing up to buy CDs afterwards some of whom didn't appear to have previously heard Mitch's stuff.

There were also lots of people milling around the atrium in fantastic costumes, preparing for the Steampunk Ball - also a rather splendid 10th Doctor.

It was shortly after this that I ended up in the Polo bar, where I had interesting conversations with several strangers, congratulated Paul Cornell & Cheryl Morgan on their Hugo nominations, drank guinness, and acquired a perfecty splendid hat from (I think) Sith Happens, before staggering back to the hotel at around 2 a.m.

Sadly, I didn't make it to the dealers room on Monday morning to get the e-mail address of the dealer from Brighton I was chatting to in the bar, so if you're reading this - sorry :(


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So, it turns out that the Ibis has the worlds narrowest hotel beds and smallest duvets, so it is just as well the keep the place madly overheated... And who needs sleep, anyway?

The first event I wanted to attend was Iain M. Banks' GoH interview, which was at 11, so had a leisurely start to the day. The interview was excellent - very funny - speaking about the 'snobberati' looking down on him for writing SF, abut his early attempts at writing - as a 16 year old "..lot of sex and violence, of neither of which I had any experience of..." and about having wanted to write SciFi, but being unable to get published. he described writing 'The Wasp Factory', and those voices in his head criticising him for "giving up on writing SciFi for the miserable self satisfaction of getting published".....

 He also mentioned having watched 'Mastermind' in which one of the contestants had his 'Culture' novels as a specialist subject. The contestant scored 26/27. Iain scored 19!

 He claimed that he wrote primarily in winter when the weather is too unpleasant to go out, and therefore that were he to live in Southern California, he would therefore never write anything at all (except perhaps Haiku!)...

 I have to confess that I haven't actually read any of his work except 'The Wasp Factory' but even without much prior knowledge I really enjoyed the interview (Now, if I can only manage Stretchy Time in order to have time to read more, I shall have to seek out & read some of his SF!

I then stayed on in the main hall for he next item, which was Ben Goldacre's Bad Science talk. I had been particularly looking forward to this as I had missed seeing him when he was at the Bath Lit. Fest. - it was lots of fun - serious points about bad science and poor reporting of scientific stores (NB: much of this seems to be due to editors, not scientists...) also, the 2000 years of medicine in 90 seconds!

having made reference to the Eloi & Morlocks and commenting on how this audience did not require the reference to be explained, he also christened this the "Picky fuckers convention" having been corrected for referring to Morpocks instead of Morlocks...

Ben made the point that having had some genuine, ground-breaking medical discoveries and advances in the last centaury, with antibiotics / polio vaccines etc we/the media expect these to keep coming, and make them up when they don't.

I think Ben could easily have talked for much longer, and I would have been happy to listen for much longer - whilst I was broadly familiar with many of the problems he highlighted I really enjoyed the entertainment as well as the information part of the talk! (And managed to say hi & get my copy of Bad Science signed, at the end, which was nice!)

Following this I'd signed up for another greenroom shift, and then a quick dash back to the hotel to chill briefly before coming back for 6 p.m. - I had a dilemma, with 3 clashing events I wanted to go to, but in the end I decided (in common with 75% of the con) to watch the Dr Who premiere, on the basis that if I didn't, I might then find it hard to avoid spoilers...
I have to say, other than the practical issue of finding a large enough sofa to hide behind, I can definately recommend watching Who in company with 900 or so fans...! I am not sure I am entirely reasdy to transfer my alleaigence from the 10th to the 11th Doctor, but I did enjoy it:) And the new TARDIS. Several very funny moments.
The evening continued for me with converstions with random people found sitting on sofas, then Sing-a-Long Buffy "Once More With Feeling" a small, but word-perfect audience and some excellent singing voices. I seem to recall calling in to the Friendly Scaninavians party, too (I can't help feeling there ought perhaps to have been an unfriendly scandinavians party somewhere else, for balance...)

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(Originally posted at Comment here or there.

Another post which is almost a week overdue - sometimes real life does slow down the posting!

This was my last Bath Lit Fest event, and was different in that the

others were all to see people I knew of, whose work I'd read or was familiar with - this was one I went to as I read the information in the festival programme and thought it might be interesting. It was a reading / conversation with two authors,Ali Shaw , talking about his first novel, The Girl With Glass Feet and Mathias Malzieu, talking about his book The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart.(Which has apparently also been made into an animated film, due out in France in October)

It was a much smaller event than the previous ones I've been to - it was in a smaller side room, and there were, I guess, around 30 people there.

Mathias Malzieu was accompanied by Sarah Ardizzone, who translated the book into English and was interpreting where necessary.

Both authors started by reading from their books - I haven't yet started reading my (shiny new & signed) copy of The Girl with Glass Feet, but I bought it on the strength of the extract which Ali read, as I loved the description, and the idea behind the story, of a girl slowly turning to glass from the feet up, so I have high hopes!

I am not sure of their literary significance, but I also feel I shold mention Mathias Malzieu's beautiful red patent leather shoes, which I was vert sad to find I had failed to capture in any of my (colour) photos of the event..

Mathias and Sarah read from the beginning of 'The boy with the Cuckoo-clock heart' and Mathias talked a little more about the plot, which as well as making me want to read it, gave me the opportunity to practice my French comprehension! He also played and sang (He has another career as a rock-singer) It was fun.

I've started reading the book which, as the title suggests features a boy whose heart is replaced by a cuckoo-clock far I'm liking it, although despite appearance it is not a children's story.

At the end, there was an opportunity to meet both authors, and Sarah Ardizzone, although I chickened out of trying out my spoken French, for fear of making a fool of myself..

I wonder who will be coming to Bath in September, for this year's Children's Literature Festival?

marjorie73: (Default)

I had a call from my sister, to ask whether I would be around on Friday and Saturday, as she & her fiance would be in the general area and would like to pop by. This may have something to do with the fact that it was forecast to be a VERY cold weekend, and at times like this, one can see the appeal of visiting friends and family who have central heating, rather than staying at home on a boat which is sitting in a big heap of cold water. I'd like to think that some of it was because they'd like to see me, tho'!

Anyway, I thought that sounded like a good idea, and so on Friday I left work very promptly in order to come home & start cooking Boeuf Bourginon. (I misread the cooking time at the list-writing stage, and had to skive off a little early in the hope of getting to eat sometime before midnight)

K&C arrived bearing sparkling wine, on the basis that an engagement cannot be celebrated too much, and we had a most convivial evening (and the Boeuf Bourginon turned out to be yummy, although it was a little late by the time we ate it)

On Saturday, after breakfast, K&I girded our loins and set out to look at Wedding Dresses. It seems that just down the road from here is one of Oxfam's bridal centres, and K thought that that would be agood place to start looking to get a feel for different syles etc, without the pressure you get in a 'real' bridal shop. I'm not normally a huge fan of shopping, so I will admit that I had some reservations (I well remember from our teenage years that I tend to reach my 'get-me-out-of-here' point a LOT sooner than K) but she is my sister, and she wants to get married, so, off we went.

It was actually more fun than I expected. It turns out that the bridal department was on the third floor, and so they basically showed us a room full of wedding dresses and let us get on with it. We spent the next 2 hours slotting K in and out of dresses, with my role being to do up zips, buttons and laces, to striaghten skirts, and then undo them all again. (And some of those dresses, you could get lost in...)

Because they are al 2nd hand dresses in a charity shop they are not precious over the designs, so we were able to take lots of photos so K can hone her thoughts about what style she fancies, and how to achieve it, and although she didn't have an 'o god this is so amazing I'm buying it right now' moment, we both got a look more girly and excited than we had expected!

Although I must confess that after 2 hours I was ready for a break, which was fine, as after 2 hours it was time for us to go home and lunch. (C had stayed home, doing his homework and the washing up)

All in all, it was lovely to see them both, and to have some time with my sister. K&C left after lunch to spend some time with C's parents, and I had a few hours to relax before heading back into Bath for another Lit. Fest. event - this one with Michael Frayn, who was there to promote his new book - Travels with a Typewriter which is a collection of articles which he wrote for the Observer (in order to pay the bills) in between novels. My familiarity with Mr Frayn comes from having read his novel Headlong, and from occasional reviews etc on the theatre pages, but I thought the evening might be interesting, and it was.

Mr Frayn was 'in conversation with' Sheena MacDonald, who is a journalist - I found her a little irritating as several times, she interrupted a perfectly good anecdote with an unrelated question.. (she also fidgeted a lot, which when you are seated on stage with lots of spotlights focussed on you, is rather noticable!)

However, despite this, it was an interesting and entertaining event - Mr Frayn started out by saying that he thought all fiction writers ought to spend some time as journalists in order to remind them of the messiness of real life, and then went on to talk about his early experience working for the [Manchester] Guardian, which included telephoning all the local fire stations and police stations every hour during the night to check whether anything had happened... he was an engaging speaker, very entertaining - he learned Russian as part of his National Service (Which has stood him in good stead, as he has translated a number of Russian plays in addition to his own writing. He cliamed that he keeps turning down invitations to go back to Moscow as he doesn't want to expose his poor spoken Russian!

The Q&A included one question from another ex-National Serviceman who had done the same, and started his question with a comment in Russian, although this was not translated for the benefit of the remainder of the audience!

I had been in two minds as to whether to attend, as I have only ever read one of his books, but I'm glad I went, as I enjoyed myself, and will definitely look out for any productions of any of his plays in the future.
(Originally posted at comment here or there)
marjorie73: (Default)
It's March, which means that the Bath Literature Festival is back in town. This year, there were fewer events which I wanted to see - at least, fewer which were on evenings or weekends and which I was able to get to, so although the festival has been running for a week, the first event I went to was on Thursday evening.
Billed as "QI: Book of the Dead" it featured John Lloyd and john Mitchinson, who are the co-creators of the TV programme "QI" (nd who have written several books together, including the most recent one, The Book of the Dead, (which is a book of potted biographies).
John Lloyd was also involved as producer of 'Blackadder', created 'the News Quiz', co-wrote 2 episodes of the original 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
John Mitchinson is a former publisher, and head researcher for QI.
The evening was highly entertaining - both Johns talking about various interesting facts - John M talking about Florence Nightingale, including her invention of the PieChart, and all of the different things which people have speculated may have caused her to spend the last 50 years of her life in bed. John L spoke a lot about teaching,
and in particuar the fact that  he believes that we remember things we find interesting, so teaching ought to focus more on fnding the kind of interesting, counter-intuative facts we get on QI, so as to stimulate interest, and encourage children to ask more quesrtions, and more challenging questions, rather than focussing solely on learning and remembering facts.
He had a rather nice quote (unfortunately I failed to make a note of whom he was quoting) that we "spend the first 12 months of out children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 12 years telling them to sit down and shut up" with the comment that as a result children learn to stop asking the difficult questions...
although there were serious points being made, the event as a whole was very funny. (and I learned that there are no such thing as fish...) 
After the talk, I was able to briefly meet both Johns and thank them for the evening, and also swap a few lawyer jokes with John Lloyd, (who was a lwyer in early life...)
All in all, well worth going. On my way back to my car, I went past the Abbey, and took a few photos, as it in unusual to see it without dozens of people around, and it was looking rather dramatic!


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