Where to find me at Worldcon

WorldconDublinThis year’s World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, will be in Dublin, Ireland, from August 15 to 19. About 5,000 people are expected to attend. If you’ve never been, events include panels, gaming, writing workshops, costumes, speeches, awards, movies, music, dancing, parties, art, science, theater, children’s activities, and a lot more.

Worldcons are run by us fans — no paid staff. This helps account for the variety of activities. The size of the venue, not our collective imagination, is the only limitation. That’s why when you buy your ticket, it’s a membership fee. You don’t just observe, you belong.

I’m scheduled for four events:

Panel: Continuing relevance of older SF
Friday, August 16, 11:30 to 12:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)
We are in a new millennium, a literal Brave New World. Surely much of the fiction of the 20th century no longer holds relevance? Or does it? The panel will discuss the fiction of the past and how it can still be relevant in the 21st century. What lessons from older authors such as Orwell, Asimov, Butler, Delany, Kafka, and Atwood can we apply to our app-loaded, social media-driven age?
I’ll moderate panelists Alec Nevala-Lee, Aliza Ben Moha, Robert Silverberg, and Joe Haldeman.

Book launch: World Science Fiction #1: Visions to Preserve Biodiversity of the Future
Saturday, August 17, 12:30 to 13:30, Point Square: Warehouse 2 – Performance space
Science fiction happens everywhere! World SF #1 collects some of the best stories published by Future Fiction, a multicultural project created by Francesco Verso to preserve the narrative biodiversity of the future. Come and celebrate these science fiction stories from thirteen countries and six languages. I translated the story “Francine (draft for the September lecture),” by Maria Antónia Marti Escayol. There will be light refreshments.

Panel: Into the woods
Saturday, August 17, 16:00 to 16:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)
From Little Red Riding Hood’s forests to Annihilation’s eldritch fungi, nature and plants have been a powerful force in fiction from historical fairy tales to far-future hydroponics. How have forests shaped fiction, and how has the use of nature in fiction changed over time? What do we love — or hate — about leaves?
Navah Wolfe will moderate panelists Jennifer Mace, Sarah Gailey, Seanan McGuire, and Sue Burke.

Reading: Sue Burke
Sunday, August 18, 17:30 to 17:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)
I’ll read from Interference, the sequel to the novel Semiosis, and something else fun and plant-related.

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My husband and I are also coming to Ireland a week earlier as tourists. We’re preparing to be enthralled by the beauty of the Emerald Isle, the depth of its culture, and the charm of its people.

Stranger than Sci-Fi: Talking Plants – on BBC Radio 4

p07h0tzsIf you’re in Britain, you can hear me at 21:00 tomorrow, July 31, on BBC Radio 4, as part of the Stranger than Sci-Fi show’s episode “Talking Plants.”

I’ll provide some strange science fiction ideas for your hosts, physicist Dr. Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser. Discover real-life science that sounds too strange to be true.

If you’re not in Britain, you can listen anytime after the broadcast, online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0007623.

My Goodreads review of “Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories”

Cat Pictures Please and Other StoriesCat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The seventeen short stories in this collection include the Hugo Award-winning “Cat Pictures Please.” That story begins with the words “I don’t want to be evil.”

In a way, that summarizes all these stories. The protagonists don’t want to be evil – but they have problems: a terminal illness, a missing piece from their soul, captivity, or horrible mistakes made by their parents. They may find themselves searching for their real parents, measuring alien penises, missing their friend’s robot, falling in love with a mortal, watching the Berlin Wall fall, or trying to cook for a houseful of quarantined children during a long and disastrous pandemic with dwindling food supplies.

Most are fantasies, most center on women’s lives, and invariably they are humane, sometimes even gentle, yet fascinating. The breadth of Kritzer’s imagination is on display, along with her sense of humor. If you like “Cat Pictures Please” (read it here if you haven’t), you’ll love this book.

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All the good names have been taken

 

Space Station Middle Finger

So much beer, so little liver.

You may have noticed a trend to give strange names to beer. (Wines, too.)

For example:
Arrogant Bastard Ale,
Great Big Kentucky Sausage Fest Imperial Brown Ale,
Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout,
Bitzkreig Hops Double IPA.

Does this help sell beer? Maybe the first purchase. I wanted to buy a six-pack and I saw Space Station Middle Finger. I like science fiction. It sounded like fun.

The carton said: “From the dawn of time, humans have looked to the sky for answers. Space Station Middle Finger replies to all from its eternal orbit. Behold and enjoy Space Station Middle Finger, a bright golden American Pale Ale.”

So I bought it, and it was a fine brew with a citrus-like tang, not as highly hopped as some American pale ales, and overall very satisfying. As I drank, I admired the artwork on the label, which could have appeared in an episode of Red Dwarf, and that was a pleasant thought.

Tasters at Beer Advocate also had a good opinion of the ale.

Would I buy it again? Sure. But wandering through a beer aisle or perusing a display cooler yields no shortage of tempting fermented adventures. A brand has to find a way to stand out. A strange name helps, I guess, but what happens when all the strange names are taken?

My Goodreads review of “Radicalized”

RadicalizedRadicalized by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book isn’t a novel, it’s four novellas – but I like short fiction, so that’s fine. The stories are all united by “our present moment,” as the cover says. I think some are more successful than others, but they all capture a truth about what’s happening now.

“Unauthorized Bread” explores the ways that technology and laws can control poor people and take from them what little money and freedom they have. They fight back, and the story dives deep into exactly how they rebel with a satisfying level of detail. The happy ending, though, seems a bit strained, although I want to believe it.

“Model Minority” has one big plot hole the story can’t successfully explain away. How did the superhero American Eagle, who is not stupid, spend so many years on Earth in the United States and not know the basic facts about racism? The lectures to get him up to speed seem didactic – which doesn’t make them any less true. He learns there’s no super-strength shortcut to justice.

“Radicalized” left me with one question. In the story, people who have been screwed over by health insurance companies decide to take revenge against the executives who sentenced them or their loved ones to needless suffering and death. My question: Why isn’t this happening now? The anger is out there and easy to find.

“The Masque of the Red Death” is a modern retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe story. A rich guy holes up in a bunker to escape the ravages of a catastrophe. He and his friends are arrogant asshats, and they get what’s coming to them. It’s a brutal kind of fun to watch them fail while the key to survival lies elsewhere.

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