matrix: the news and media magazine of the british science fiction association
Issue 188
July 2008
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- Matrix 187 - Mar 2008




A one-day convention wrapped around the AGMs of the British Science Fiction Association and Science Fiction Foundation.
Featured guest talks from Geoff Ryman and Peter Weston.
Date: Saturday 7th June 2008
Location: Conway Hall, Red Lion Square in London

by Donna Scott

Timetable of Events:

10:00 Doors open
10:30 Introduction, and brief address by the President, Stephen Baxter, followed by BSFA panel session: "The BSFA, historical footnote or force for the future" (Chair: Ian Whates; panellists: Stephen Baxter, Claire Brialey, Peter Weston).
11:30 SFF guest talk: Geoff Ryman
12:30 SFF AGM
13:00 Lunch
14:00 BSFA AGM
14:30 BSFA guest talk: Peter Weston
15:30 SFF panel
16:30 End of session


The BSFA had its AGM on Saturday 7th June at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square in London. Conway Hall was opened in 1929 as the meeting place for the South Place Ethical Society, and remains a place of political happenings to this day - in fact, the Communist Party were having a meeting in the building on the same day, and I heard someone point out with pride that we’d needed a bigger room than them.

After availing ourselves of tea and coffee, we settled into our seats to welcome our new president, Stephen Baxter, who spoke touchingly about his association with Arthur C. Clarke.

In a change to the agenda, Stephen Baxter then introduced the guest speaker, Geoff Ryman. In his speech, Ryman demonstrated how he had taken current scientific theory, concerning vectors in genomes, and extrapolated to produce a story in which humans, having carried the genomes of their favourite animals inside themselves in order to preserve them, exist in a state of human-animal hybridity, sorted into tribes according to the specific genomes they are carrying. The speech, interspersed with extracts from the story proved an interesting explanation of how real science theory can be applied in science fiction, essentially mundane SF, although some audience members expressed confusion as to how Ryman’s “magic wand” act of bridging gaps between the theory and the fiction could still successfully fulfil his mundane intentions.

After the break, Stephen Baxter joined Claire Briarley and Peter Weston in a panel chaired by Ian Whates entitled "The BSFA, historical footnote or force for the future". The discussion touched on what the BSFA’s objectives were, and what they should be, a subject Peter Weston returned to with vigour in his later talk. Overall, the conclusion of the panel seemed to be that the BSFA remains relevant, and that members want the association to continue in the same vein, but also introduce SF to a wider readership.

The Science Fiction Foundation had their AGM before lunch, and the BSFA AGM was the first event of the afternoon session.

Peter Weston’s talk on fifty years of the BSFA was most elucidating. He gave us a potted history of the origins of the BSFA and discussed how the modern association has much to thank the late Captain Ken Slater for, for the way in which he helped shape the organisation.

The afternoon was nicely rounded off with the SFF presenting the BSFA with two huge cakes to commemorate our 50th anniversary, one iced with the names of prominent science fiction writers from 1958, and the other with the names of significant science fiction writers from now – a few writers made it onto both cakes. Did I have some? What do you think?

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