Today has finally arrived! The opening day of the London Worldcon, or LonCon. It's amazing, it's *absolutely huge* and there are about a million things to do! And thousands and thousands of people. I wonder what percentage of them are authors?! To try and sort the piles of things into manageable bundles, I'll give a few top programme tips below on what to see below. But to start off, I'm making sure my 'Worldcon kit' is all in order:
- Badge - to be worn at all times - ideally the right way around - to proudly declare your Worldcon membership
- Water - to prevent inconvenient fits of the vapours, dehydration and the like
- Choc biscuits - because who knows when you might find food again? (OK, that was a transparent excuse to get some choc hob nobs in)
- Escape route - carefully mapped out route to a place where you can catch up with yourself away from the crowds. This is so you can come back recharged to have *even more fun*! Alternatively, this interactive map to the Excel convention centre might be useful.
Now onto some Thursday highlights...
Astrobiology - the hunt for alien life at 11am looks like just the thing to get you in the mood for SF/F. And it's real! Dr. Lewis Dartnell tells all about the origins and limits of life on our own planet and where we might search the cosmos for ET. Or to make a change from listening, you can try some doing - maybe building a Lego tower inspired by Lord of the Rings or recreate the Shire - in Lego, Tolkien Style (1:30pm-2:30pm). You can also learn how to swing dance at 1:30!
Or one big highlight will be when our very own Paul Cornell interviews George R. R. Martin and Connie Willis at 3pm. Paul is also being interviewed by Channel 4 on the LonCon convention later in the afternoon! Then at 8pm is The 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards. This is an imagining of what the 1939 Hugo Awards would have been like – complete with retro-futuristic clothing, swing music, and 1939 formal wear. Attendees are also encouraged to participate by wearing their own retro-futuristic costumes or true retro 1939 formal wear. And after the awards, expect music and swing dancing no less. And to see more top programme items - featuring Team Tor and our authors - see below.
Tor UK and authors on the programme plus other highlights ...
Astrobiology - The Hunt for Alien Life
Capital Suite 14 (Level 3), 11am - 12pm
'Astrobiology' is a brand new field of science, encompassing research into the origins and limits of life on our own planet, and where life might exist beyond the Earth. But what actually is 'life' and how did it emerge on our own world? What are the most extreme conditions terrestrial life can tolerate? And where in the cosmos might we reasonably expect to find ET? Join Dr. Lewis Dartnell on a tour of the other planets and moons in our solar system which may harbour life, and even further afield to alien worlds we've discovered orbiting distant stars, to explore one of the greatest questions ever asked: are we alone...?
In a 2013 column for Tor.com, Alex Dally MacFarlane called for a greater diversity in the way SF and fantasy represent families, pointing out that in the real world, "People of all sexualities and genders join together in twos, threes, or more. Family-strong friendships, auntie networks, global families... The ways we live together are endless." Which stories centre non-normative family structures? What are the challenges of doing this in an SF context, and what are the advantages? How does representing a wider range of family types change the stories that are told?
This panel will focus on the challenges science fiction authors face in dealing with the plot and setting implications of social media. How do these tools affect the way stories unfold? Can writers represent the playful and ever-changing conventions of social media discussions without writing a novel that looks hopelessly dated before it even hits the shelves, and if so how? Put another way: would Kim Stanley's Robinson's 2312have been greatly improved by a GIF of a spinning asteroid with a cat in it saying: Asteroid kitteh sez yur lint trap'z fulla cat haerz? So panel. Very discussion. Wow.
How does world-building work? Do you build from the ground up, or tweak existing models? How convincing does an invented world need to be? How do you reveal details of an invented world without drowning readers in information? In this session authors discuss these questions and shed some light on the imaginative process.
Our first dance of the weekend will immediately follow the Retro Hugo Award Ceremony on Thursday evening. Want to learn some dances from the 1930s? We have you covered! Join the swing dance class! Antonia Pugliese and Raven Stern from the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers will teach three 1-hour classes to get you started. Take one, or take them all! The first hour will focus on 6-count swing, from the basic step pattern to some fun variations. The second hour will cover 8-count swing, equally easy but rhythmically different. Either class can stand alone, but taking both lets you mix-and-match steps. In the last hour we will cover Charleston, including lots of solo steps in case partner-dancing isn't your thing. East coast swing and Charleston can be pretty energetic, but these classes will be geared towards beginners so no dance experience is necessary. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes (flats are great!), and don't worry about bringing a partner. Just come give it a try!
Urban fantasy is a broad church. To some, it's the genre of "Wizard of the Pigeons" and "War of the Oaks"; to others, it means Sam Vimes patrolling the streets of Ankh Morpork, or Locke Lamora conning his way through Camorr. Most recently, it has become synonymous with werewolves, vampires and hot detectives. What holds together the urban fantastic? Are different strands of the genre in conversation with each other? And how important is the influence of the stuctures and tone of other genres like crime fiction?
Copy a tower from Lord of the Rings, mimic a fantasy scene or just use your imagination and recreate the Shire. All with thousands of pieces of Lego.
Please note that this is a WOOFA item and children will be given priority to participate in this child-friendly programme item.
Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb, Iain (M) Banks, Tom/Thomas Holt, James SA Corey, Mazarkis Williams: many people publish under pseudonyms, some more subtle than others. Why do writers opt for a pen-name? Why do some have more than one? How important is 'branding' to marketing genre fiction, and what role do genre and gender divides play in the decision?
The Kepler Mission has been hugely successful in searching for exoplanets. Its results have been used as the basis of claims that Earthlike planets lie in the habitable zones of 20% of stars in the galaxy – this would mean that the nearest habitable planet s just 12 light years away. If habitable planets are so common why have we seen no sign of intelligent life spreading from star to star? Does this mean that we really are alone in the universe? The panel considers Kepler and other results and try to come up with more informed answers to Fermi's infamous question: "Where are they?"
The Retro Hugo Awards Ceremony will celebrate the science fiction that attendees would have known at the time of the very first Worldcon, held in New York 75 years before Loncon 3. Celebration is definitely the word! Taking 1939 and pulp visions of the future as its theme, presenters, guests and audience are invited to come in period or retro-futuristic clothing.
Helping to cement the idea of a New York / London fusion, the awards themselves will be co-presented by a Yank and a Brit – Mary Robinette Kowal and Rob Shearman.
The music for the evening will be provided by the Brideshead Ballroom Stompers, specialising in the swing music of the late 1930s.
The Loncon 3 Retro Hugo Awards Ceremony will be a spectacular affair and certainly not something you will want to miss!
The antidote to panel-games.Two teams of fans/authors enjoy a battle of wits, and are given silly things to do by their chairman, Lee Harris. Games include: One Song to the Tune of Another, Sound Charades and Mornington Crescent.