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
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?