Sunday, 4 September 2011

An Exciting Weekend - Part 4 - In Which Are Writers

I booked for Neil Gaiman's  'Worlds of Wonder' event at the British Library as soon as I became aware it was happening (thank you, Maggie!) and was very much looking forward to it.
However, it wasn't due to start until 2.30, so I needed to find something to do to entertain myself on Sunday morning.

I decided to visit The Wellcome Collection - it's small, but interesting.They have one of Antony Gormley's casts (from 'Another Place') hanging from the ceiling in the lobby, which is always good.

The part of the museum which I enjoyed the most was the 'Medicine Man' exhibition, about Henry Wellcome himself. He appears to have been an avid, if somewhat indiscriminate, collector -  amongst other things, he had Napoleon's  toothbrush, Lord Nelson's razor, a lock of George III's hair and two of Charles Darwin's walking sticks.

He also had shrunken heads, a peruvian mummy, some Japanese sex toys, and some very gruesome momentos mori...

There are also other, (slightly) more medical displays - one large glass case, filled on one side with amupation saws of all shapes and sizes, and on the other with gynocological forceps, and another case full of artificial limbs, including one dating to 1580! (and another, which appeared to be made of wrought iron, with decorative little twiddles, from the 1850s)

Very interesting stuff!

After visiting the museum, I fortified myself with a sandwich before heading across to the British library. I was fortunate enough tio reach the shelter of the Library just before the heavens opened and it poured with rain!

At the Library, I met up with my friend Cheryl, and a girl called Lucy, who was drawing a gorgeous picture of Neil, and Robin (@Raliel), and Mike (who bought my spare ticket from me), and Maggie, who I know from twitter but haven't met in person before, so I was more than happy to be wiating around for the doors to open.
Then we got to wait around inside, which was warmer, and less rainy.

And there were books for sale. Neil arrived looking rather windswept and rained upon. Cheryl lent him a hairbrush, and he brushed his hair, which instantly reverted to looking wild and windswept. I always suspected that Crazy Hair was, in truth, a factual record, and now I know it for sure.
Farah Mendelsohn, Neil Gaiman, Rachel Armstrong, Peter F Hamilton, Kari Sperring
I was lucky enough to get seat in the front row of the auditorium, and settled down to enjoy the discussion.

As well as Neil, the panel consisted of Farah Mendelsohn (moderating), Rachel Armstrong (TED fellow), Peter F. Hamilton and Kari Sperring. Farah did a sterling job of moderating, and the discussions ranged far and wide - from the fact that Science Fiction is (almost) always about now, not the future, how Chinese and Indian Science Fiction is optimistic, and how you don't really need to write science fiction specifically for children because they read what's written for adults..

There  was also the discussion about whether things are getting better or worse (and WHO they are getting better or worse for .

I don't, now, recall exactly what it was which led to Neil describing to us the "Shit Machine" he had seen in the Museum of Old and New Art, in Tasmania.. I think super villains came into it somewhere.

Rachel Armstrong provided an interesting perspective, and argued passionately that science needs writers to fire the imagination about science, and Neil and Peter both talked about being inspired by science as much as by fiction.

The discussion also ranged over politics and gender, (and how far we still have to go) - Neil talked about how 'Coraline' was initially considered to be unpublishable, because the protagonist was a girl. Which is pretty depressing..

There was comment about the effect on spam-mail of 3D printers (xkcd have, of course, already given it some thought)

The discussion ended with a short Q&A, then Neil  and Peter signed  - I've never seen a shorter signing line for Neil!

I allowed sense to overcome ambition and, on the basis I had to carry all my baggage for the weekend had brought my copy of Shoggath's Old Peculiar (now adorned with R'ylehian inscription) rather than my  Absolute Sandman - I think it was a wise decision, even if it means I do not qualify as a True Fan!

I did give him some autumn flavoured elderberry jelly, though!

More conversation, and introductions to interesting people, and then, once the signing was over, and Cheryl and I had had a chance to chat briefly to Neil, we left the library. Cheryl and I joined what appeared to be about 1/2 the audience from the library in the pub over the road, for a quick drink, then we had a rather nice curry.

I don't know about anyone else, but I had an early night, after a truly enjoyable day.

A weekend well spent, I think :-)

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