Saturday, 6 November 2010


Attended Alt.Fiction in Derby today. The venue was the QUAD: it was my first time there and I have to say the facilities are marvellous. And thanks to Alex Davis for helping me with the poster issue.

The QUAD: Derby
I attended two panel discussions the first featured two fantasy writers (Mark Charan Newton and Adrian Tchaikovsky) and two SF writers (Tony Ballantyne and Peter F. Hamilton) the subject to be discussed being ‘Other Worlds: the landscape of SF and Fantasy’. I don’t think the subject did any of the panellists much in the way of favours.

First Panel Discussion
The initial discussion centred around the persistence of stock images in both SF and Fantasy: spaceships/three moon nightscapes/scantily clad women/power spacemen in the case of SF and dragons/wizards/scantily clad women/powerful heroes in the case of Fantasy. There seemed to be a consensus that writers in both genres were constrained by these stock images. The unstated theme running thru this was that subliminally marketing had more say than anyone was willing to admit: the reader expects X and hence marketing wants the writer to deliver X. The Market Categorisation of a book is all.

The discussion became more interesting (though it needed a more provocative chairman to really have brought it to a boil) was when the panellist debated the differences between SF and Fantasy. I hadn’t realised there was such an undercurrent of competitiveness between the two. There were some great asides and throw-away lines:

‘All fiction is fantasy, it’s just that some is more honest about it than others’;

‘Today’s Fantasy is more cutting edge than SF’;

‘The technology has caught up with the dreamers’;

‘Fantasy sells more than SF’;

‘Hard SF is nothing more than techno-porn’.

Do I detect a certain elitism amongst the SF-ers and a concomitant feeling of inferiority amongst the Fantasists? Interesting, I'm going to be on the look out for this in the future. But if the first panel discussion was interesting, the second was a beaut...

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