B. Wilkinson, 128 Sherwood Avenue, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3TX, Great Britain
Interaction, the Scottish 2005 Worldcon, is a few days off as I write. I hope to see many old friends there, and perhaps meet some new ones. I wish it all success.
Contact: Interaction, 379 Myrtle Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S2 3HQ, UK. Also: info[at]interaction.worldcon.org.uk and http://www.interaction.worldcon.org.uk.
The Tolkien 2005 event is the week after (11-15 August), held at Aston University, Birmingham http://www.tolkiensociety.org/2005/.
The SFHub (http://www.sfhub.ac.uk/) is a subject portal for science fiction scholars created by The University of Liverpool Library, and containing an index of its collection of Science Fiction and SF related manuscripts. This is the culmination of many years of work. Apart from the steadily growing indexes, there are useful links to other SF scholarship and other SF related sites.
My first trip really abroad in years (since I went to Poland in 2003) was to the Ukrainian National SF convention this spring. The convention is financed considerably by the attached computer fair – and that was unlike any I'd seen in years too. Boris Sidyuk and the others in the organising team are involved in a computer magazine, My Computer, and this magazine sponsors both the fair and the con. The relationship is not parasitical, as I had first thought (a neat trick to get finance), the presence of the SF con feeds back into the computer fair. That is in turn because the computer fair isn't like any I have met in years – there was a buzz long missing from British computer fairs. Apparently, while disk and box sellers were being charged full whack for their stalls, the tiny little booths at which games developers were showing off the prototypes of their new games cost little or nothing. But they were considerably what drew the crowds (and crowds there were). Leading edge stuff some of it. Not only the new Cossacks II, but also a demo of a future game by the same company, Stalker, set in the zone at Chernobyl. And with some very impressive graphics (although you can't tell what the game play is like from a demo). The games developers mixed with the SF writers, leading to a cultural cross-fertilisation useful to both.
In the SF con proper, a type of fantasy fed by history appeared to be the subject of much discussion, there is also a thriving RPG scene to which numbers of the younger fans (and there are plenty of them) belong.
The fair included two or three bookstalls, selling new SF (and computer) books. I asked if there was a second hand market for SF books, and was told that there was, but not at the con. I was then taken for a couple of hours to a market, somewhat outside town, where I went to a couple of book booths. The first was a specialist in SF, and the only specialist SF bookshop in Kiev. While a few books were displayed at the front, most were behind the stall holder, and you had to ask for them. I bought several for the Science Fiction Foundation. However, I was also interested in second hand books. We then went to a second hand bookstall. Initially I was offered recent translations of English language SF books, then the stall holder got the hang of the fact that I was interested in that old Soviet stuff. There was no recent Russian or Ukrainian SF, relatively little of it has been sold, and the owners of those few books hang on to them. Hence no second hand market for the casual buyer. I picked up a number of SF books from the late eighties, and some from earlier periods.
It was fun mixing with the other guests, Roberto Quaglia and Robert Sheckley, and I was devastated to find out later than Robert Sheckley had fallen ill on his trip down south a few days later. I was much relieved when he made it back to the US and (I hope) a full recovery.
KLM decided to make the end of the con surreal for me with a plane breakdown. They kept us at Kiev airport for hours, before finally admitting that we were going nowhere, and putting us up in various hotels around the airport. It was one of the others, not me, who as we got onto the plane the next day in the same seats said it felt like live-action Groundhog Day.
This is particularly to:
Irish SF News – irishsfnews[at]yahoo.co.uk Website at: http://www.slovobooks.com/irishsfnews/ Edited by Pádraig Ó Méaloid. The current issue, number 26, has news about the Irish SF convention, Octocon, to be held in Maynooth 16-17 October 2005: http://www.octocon.com/2005/ Other sujects include, comics, other cons, gossip, Pottermania – including the less well known translation 'Harry Potter Agus An Órchloch' (I'll leave you to get out your dictionary for that one), the Irish SF anthology to be available at Interaction from the publishers of Albedo One – Aeon Press – see http://homepage.eircom.net/~albedo1/html/aeon_titles_0.html, and the presence of an Irish group bidding for the 2007 Eurocon at Interaction.
Espora: The Newszine of Spanish Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror – espora[at]yahoogroups.com This Spanish SF newsletter includes news on the Spanish national convention, Hispacon, which will take place in Vigo from the 28th October to the 1st November 2005 http://www.hispacon.tk, also a report of the previous Hispacon held in Cadiz on 5th November to the 7th November 2004. Also news of other cons, of Spanish SF awards and competitions, new SF books, and other things.
Miesiecznik: Biuletyn informacyjny SKF – hard copy, but their website is at http://www.skf.org.pl. This one's tougher to read, it's in Polish. Contents of the issue to hand include SF news from around the world – books, DVDs, films, TV; news of SF awards; book reviews; film reviews; SF con reports; and an obituary of the Polish SF artist Zbigniew Beksinski.
Yes, there's been a bit of a gap. The family illness problems that I referred to last time (over two years back), rapidly got much worse than I dreamt at the time. My mother had been steadily declining for several years, she fell twice in one day and went into hospital and my father (who had been caring for her) was dead within the week. My mother, in turn, died a few months later. I spent every weekend (pretty well) that year clearing they family house, then as I was finishing that off, I fell ill with gallstones. After I'd had my gall bladder removed almost a year later my right knee went. I've destroyed the cartilage in that knee, and am now waiting for an operation on that. In the meantime I'm trying to put my life back together again. I can't cycle, I can't walk any distance, and it's driving me mad.
As the sharp eyed among you will have noticed, I'd changed my home address, but not (yet) my email address. I've still got huge spam problems, but they are just about manageable (just). The house is much bigger than anything I've lived in previously – by orders of magnitude. I'm still redecorating it, and still sorting out various of my parents things that ended up spread over a huge number of boxes. In the longer term I'll decide what I keep – but first I need to list exactly what I've got, and reunite long divided sets of this, that and the other.
Various bits of the software I've been using for years is now refusing to play ball. Hot Metal Pro keeps on hanging, so I'm ending up editing this in OpenOffice. Although it adds junk into the header such that I will behead it before publication, at least it doesn't do what Word would do to it (shudder). I am also slowly winning my battle with auto-correct, although it may have sneaked in a few nasties while I wasn't looking. I need to get hold of another HTML editor, or simply make do with a text editor such as Textpad.
I dread the next stage when I transfer this into a DTP program... I already know that OpenOffice wants to take over that job too...
Yup, I can't even get the DTP program loaded, and OpenOffice doesn't seem to believe that anybody, anywhere might ever wish to convert an HTML document into a word processing file, let alone that they would choose Word Perfect format to do this...
Fans Across the World: Many thanks to Boris Sidyuk, Piotr Cholewa and the SKF, Dave Lally, Alexander Vasilkovsky, Pádraig Ó Méaloid, Espora, and many others.