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GenghisCon 2016 - panel suggestions and panelists wanted!
by chaosmanor, Bathrobe
I enjoyed GenghisCon 2015 so much that I was inspired to volunteer for two positions for GenghisCon 2016: running a Killer game, and co-programmer of panels.

More details of the Killer game will be released closer to the time of the con, but I will say that it's based on John Carpenter's The Thing. Right now, I'm looking for panel suggestions and panelists. I'm particularly hoping to attract local sf/f/h writers for some panels about writing, in part to make up for the lack of a KSP mini-con this year. I'm also hoping to feature panels and discussions about gaming, films, comics, etc.

Possible panel/discussion topics include:
Visions of the next century: utopia, dystopia, or a bit of both?
Manned space flight: when will we get to Mars/back to the moon/etc.?
Exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life/intelligence (the "Rare Earths" hypothesis)
The future of... (robotics, entertainment, publishing, politics, warfare, religion...)
Sf/f/h stories and characters that have endured, or will endure, or are past their use-by date.
What sf/f/h films does it make sense to remake? (or series to reboot?)
What is the worst sf/f/h film ever made?
RPGs: the best and worst features of different systems.
"Read dating": enthuse for three minutes about a particular book/movie/game/comic/series.
SF/f/h themed music videos.
Editing songvids.

Let me know what you'd like to see. (Suggestions involving Season 6 of Game of Thrones, a Black Widow movie, zero gravity sex, or Tony Abbott's head on a platter are beyond our budget, though we might manage the platter.)

At Swancon 40, on Saturday April 4th, a panel of publishers and fiction editors – Kylie Chan, Cat Sparks, Andrew Harvey and Stephen Dedman – will be doing a blind reading of first pages of anonymous submissions from writers, and vote/comment on whether they’d be inclined to continue reading and what has interested them or turned them off. Work will be read aloud, but authors not identified unless they speak up.

We have the time, the place, and the editors, but we need submissions: first pages only, with titles but no author names, of stories that you would consider submitting to professional or semi-pro sf magazines (i.e. original fiction only, no fanfic). A4, 1.5 or double spacing, 12 pi, standard margins, readable font. Hand these in at the con registration desk, and please come to the panel to hear our feedback and stand up for audience applause (or not, as the case may be). All welcome!

Many things begin with F...
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Woke up to learn that Leonard Nimoy is dead, and Tony Abbott is still PM. It's been that sort of month.
So, the good things about this February. Um... because it's the shortest month, it's nearly over?
Actually, most of the good things about this February did begin with F - highlights provided by the Fringe Festival and PIAF, particularly the Writers' Festival. That gave me the chance to catch up with some old friends, including Lee and Lyn Battersby, Sean Williams, and Teresa Anns. There were also some fascinating speakers, most notably Kate Forsyth, who told us about piss boys in the court of the Sun King and the love lives of the Brothers Grimm. Some moderators did a fantastic job of keeping the conversations on-stage interesting; others seemed to believe that the entire festival was merely a long advertisement for the books in the dealer's room (and yes, that apostrophe is in the right place). Unfortunately, the only moment that reminded me of why I write (wrote?) was when an audience member asked Erik Jensen why he'd continued interviewing Adam Cullen and writing his biography after Adam had shot him in the leg, and I thought, "How could a writer not want to write a story like that?"
(Note: this is not a request for anyone to shoot me in the leg. I had enough health problems this month. More of that later.)
The only Festival of Perth extravaganzas I saw this year were The Giants and 'The Rabbits:' both were enormously impressive, though 'The Rabbits' definitely had much better music as well as a stronger plot and message. I went to many more Fringe events: I'm much more inclined to take a chance on shows when tickets are in the $20 - $30 range, and while a couple of the events were disappointing, I didn't regret seeing any of them. Highlights, for me, were Sophie Joske's one-woman show 'Become a Functional Adult in 45 minutes' and Sugar Blue Burlesque's 'Empire of Desire'. I probably would have enjoyed some of the other shows in the last week more had I not come down with a stomach bug and asthma, probably brought about by stress.
By Friday the 13th, the silence from both UWA and Murdoch about work in first semester was starting to worry me. On the 16th, I was told that there was no sessional tutoring available at UWA, and that I hadn't made the shortlist for a position at UWA Publishing, either. So I emailed my boss at Murdoch to ask what was happening and waited for a reply.
And waited.
And waited.
Semester's started now, so unless someone quits, it looks as though I'm not going to get any tutoring work. Fortunately, I have enough savings to get me through first semester without having to go crawling to Centrelink (I've had enough difficulty trying to get a low income earner's health care card from them that the bureaucracy scene in Jupiter Ascending seemed like the most plausible part of the movie, not that that's high praise), and it will give me time to add the necessary extra material to Future Forces, the book based on my PhD thesis.
Speaking of PhDs, I did have the pleasure of seeing Laurton graduate, with accompanying fireworks and a brief performance by Divalicious - presumably to compensate us for the demotivational speech by a National Party member who seemed to be channeling Gina Rinehart as she told us to go and work on minesites and not worry about the low wages - and not to FIFO, either, because some of the regions "now have suburbs" (!). That's when I finally gave in and took out my iPad and read a David Drake novel until she was finished.
So. February was not the worst of times, though it certainly wasn't the best. And though I never had the privilege of meeting him, I will miss Leonard Nimoy.

I've got a little list...
Godot by coffeem
For the benefit of everyone who's asked me "What would you like for Christmas?" and hasn't been satisfied with my standard answers of "World Peace", a movie deal, or the resignations of any or all of Tony Abbott's wretched hive of scum and villainy, here are some alternative suggestions.

Elmstock English Breakfast tea-bags.
Signed copies of any of my favourite books.
Gift vouchers for Diabolik Books and Records or JB Hi-Fi.
Or anything on this list (and it needn't come from amazon: buy from local bookshops if you can).

Crime Scene
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This weekend (October 11th-12th), I will be a guest at Crime Scene WA, talking about writing when I can tear myself away from the fascinating presentations on forensic science by experts including Professor Simon Lewis, Associate Professor Hadyn Green and Associate Professor Guy Hall, as well as presentations on writing and publishing by GoHs Michael Robotham and Livia Day (aka Tansy Rayner Roberts), as well as Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Tony Cavanaugh and Alisa Krasnostein. among others.

If you're willing to drag yourself out of bed early on a weekend morning, I'll be at the opening ceremony at 8.45 am on Saturday, and a panel on The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You Are Published with Lee and Alisa at 9.00 am on Sunday. I'll also be giving a presentation, Red Herring, Blue Herring: Look, a clue!, and appearing at the Sundowner, 6pm to 8pm on Saturday night. Hope I see you there!

Good news!
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I'll be back at the University of Western Australia on Monday, once again teaching first year creative writing. Not picking up any work at Murdoch this semester has had an unexpected bright side, because it's freed me up to teach ten tutes rather than the five I was offered before I went overseas.

The only downside to having work this semester (and work that I greatly enjoy) is that I won't be at Loncon 3; despite this, I have been interviewed for the pre-Loncon Australian Spec Fic Snapshot.

(2nd semester at UWA does usually finish just in time for me to go to the WFC, and while I'm not planning on going this year, next year is a possibility...)

As promised, more pictures of PragueCollapse )

"Well, I'm back," he said.
by chaosmanor, Bathrobe
(as they say in the classics). More photos to follow, plus TripAdvisor reviews.

"And I realise... I'm going home."
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Walked around Prague today, making sure I'd seen everything I wanted to see (apart from the Golem, which is supposedly hidden in the attic of the Old New Synagogue), then back to the hotel to pack.

Parting shotsCollapse )

"You Are Now Leaving West Berlin", or, "Short Trips: Destination Prague"
groove, by martinlivings
I arrived in Prague yesterday after spending four days in Berlin. The first two coincided with German victories in the World Cup, and the celebrations continued for the next two and may well still be going on. These celebrations occasionally blocked traffic, but as far as I could see, were entirely civilized, and it was good to see so many people happy in a city with such a grim recent history.

I took a guided walking tour on Sunday, which started at the Brandenburg Gate and went via the Holocaust Memorial, Hannah Arendt Street, the site of the Fuhrerbunker (now a carpark, and apparently scheduled to be redeveloped into a shopping mall), a section of the Berlin Wall (between the site of the SS and Gestapo headquarters and the one surviving Nazi office building - formerly the Air Ministry, later used by the East German government, and now the tax office), Checkpoint Charlie, and the French and German cathedrals built after the 30 Years War. I followed this up by visiting the "Topography of Terror", a museum built on the site of the SS and Gestapo HQ and detailing the evolution of the death camps, more of the Berlin Wall (including the memorial to those who died trying to escape), the museum under the holocaust memorial, the Stasi museum, and the memorial to the gays murdered by the Nazis. I skipped the Berlin Dungeon, as it seemed rather redundant.

Berlin also has an amazing display of other people's rather older history, mostly gathered on Museum Island. If I'd been better organized, I might have managed to see all of them; as it was, I skipped the Altes Museum, which houses the more recent (Greek and Roman) collections, in favour of the older stuff at the Neues Museum (Neanderthal to Bronze Age). I'm not sure whether this nomenclature is also a Berliner idea of a joke, but there were still posters around making fun of JFK's having said "Ich bin ein Berliner!" more than 50 years ago. ("Ich bin Berliner" means you live in Berlin; "ein Berliner" is a pastry.) And its Natural History Museum famously has the best-preserved Archaeopteryx fossil and the tallest dinosaur skeleton on display, but I was even more impressed by the beautiful Pterodactylus pictured below.

The stand-out exhibit at any of Berlin's museums, though, is the Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon, which no photo I could display here could possibly do justice to. See it if you can. Even the British Museum can't beat it - or the Pergamon's other two huge reconstructions, the Pergamon Altar and the market gate at Miletus. By the time I reached their Babylonian display, I was half-expecting a full-size reconstruction of the ziggarut rather than a couple of scale models (the fact that no-one knows exactly what it looked like may have hampered them slightly).

My high school German sometimes came in useful for asking directions and understanding them - though most Berliners I encountered spoke English at least as well as I speak German, and the only one who admitted to no English at all was the attendant at the information booth at one of the railway stations.

I liked Berlin, but even with its museums, I can't say I loved it. Prague, however, may be the most beautiful city I've ever seen. More of that later.

Berlin and PragueCollapse )

Goodbye, Picadilly; farewell, Leicester Square...
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On Tuesday, we went to the Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum, a collection of vehicles, storyboards, and a few other props from James Bond movies. Rowan was somewhat disappointed by the gift shop, because none of the pens exploded (a la the one in GoldenEye), so we went to Covent Garden markets in search of a suitable present for his father. From there, we went to Fortnum & Mason's for ice cream, then to the Covent Garden market, then to a gigantic Waterstones where I nearly lost Rowan, then back to the British Museum.

On Wednesday morning, we returned to Forbidden Planet, where I resisted the temptation to buy an autographed copy of Lost Girls (I already have the box set), and then to Fopp.

While it isn't listed in The World's Most Dangerous Places, Fopp does a disturbingly good job of turning money in your wallet into DVDs in your luggage. It's not just that most of the DVDs are much cheaper than they would be in Australia (though they are), it's that they have such excellent taste in slightly obscure titles. I knew I was going to like the place once I saw the display of Atom Egoyan Blu-rays right inside the door (cheap enough that I considered replacing my DVD of Exotica). Finding movies such as Blow Up, if... and Big Trouble in Little China for between 3 and 5 pounds without having to pay any freight charges was irresistible, and I'm already faintly regretting not buying Downfall and Bonnie and Clyde and Trance as well, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Perhaps fortunately, they don't do overseas mail order. We then visited Baker Street with the intention of seeing Madame Tussaud's, but the queue was an hour long.

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to the Globe to see Titus Andronicus performed in a style somewhere between Elizabethan and Grand Guignol. The cast did an excellent job of dealing with material that is so outrageously vicious and violent that it constantly threatens to broad-jump over the line between horror and black comedy all the way into Pythonesque farce, and Laura Rees's performance as the traumatized mute Lavinia was absolutely amazing. After the show, we attended a Q&A with Richard Riddell and Sam Alexander, who'd played Chiron and Demetrius.

Richard III, starring Martin Freeman, was almost as gory: audience members sitting in the front three rows were offered protective clothing because of the risk of being sprayed with fake blood. It was done in post-WWII dress, and while remaining mostly faithful to the original text, made the last act more exciting by having the ghosts of Richard's adult male victims appear not before the battle but as combatants who Richard must defeat. Freeman did a fine job of playing Richard as a villain with no redeeming features except courage and intelligence, but none of the other male characters, including Philip Cumbus's Richmond, are significantly more admirable. Well worth seeing.

It seemed only appropriate to follow this bloodbath with a Jack the Ripper walking tour. I was somewhat disappointed that our guide wasn't famed ripperologist Donald Rumbelow but an actor, until Rowan recognized him as Shaughan Seymour, who had played Jane's boss in an episode of Coupling. The tour was interesting enough, but so much of Whitechapel has been gentrified since I took a similar tour in 1987 that the only landmark that was instantly recognizable was the (now very expensive) Ten Bells pub habituated by at least some of the victims.

I tried to get tickets for the Friday matinee of The Importance of Being Earnest with Sian Phillips as Lady Bracknell, but the show was booked out (*sigh*), so we headed back to Madame Tussaud's to find that the queue stretched around the block. So I took Rowan to the Tower of London but they let him escape, where we were entertained by a guided tour, a display of medieval weapons and torture implements, conversation with a Lovecraft-loving attendant who claimed to have lost some sanity looking at our Cthulhu t-shirts, and a somewhat condensed dramatization of Chaucer's The Knight's Tale. Then, after one last visit to Fortnum and Mason's ice cream parlour, I took Rowan to the post office airport and sent him home.

Samuel Johnson once said that ""Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." While I devoutly wish that London was rather more affordable, I am not tired of it, and I hope I don't have to wait too many years before returning.

LondonCollapse )

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