One of those events to chalk up as a life experience, Comic Con was a bit on the overwhelming side considering I spend nearly all of my time sitting quietly, writing about stuff, with the volume control on the stereo barely above O. Also I have no sense of direction so my chances of finding any celebrities were always going to be slim. It’s probably for the best. I’m not very cool in those situations.
At least I managed to find the Platinum Suite, where all the authors were being kept safe in a corner, and I had an enjoyable time talking about British SFF with the other Unsung Stories authors (and Unsung editor George Sandison asking the questions). Perhaps we spent too much time on Guy Ritchie’s new King Arthur film, but it does make an interesting example of how we recycle our traditional stories, and change them every time to suit our own understanding of the world.
We didn’t get around to discussing the class system, although I did get to air my pet theory that it’s the conflict around issues such as class in our society – issues that are treated as cultural norms rather than as ongoing struggles and therefore become difficult to express in terms other than speculative – that lurk behind a lot of SFF writing. I promised on Twitter that I would reveal the list of books I made for the panel on that topic, so here it is:
Any John Wyndham novel, but most particularly Trouble With Lichen, for really getting into the political ramifications of a life-changing discovery, and coming up with solutions within the existing class structure that still fascinate me.
Charles Eric Maine’s The Tide Went Out, which reminds me of Wyndham but finds no redeeming features across any part of the class system. Or humanity, generally.
Transit by Edmund Cooper, which is one of those books which takes all our existing hang-ups off to an experimental desert island without considering things like the class system might change too.
Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud, for that ivory tower of academia ‘us and them’ type feel.
Doris Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor because it address that period when the current system becomes outdated from a generational angle.
I’ve also scribbled JG Ballard and HG Wells on my notes for the panel. I really came at it from a historical point of view; I don’t think there’s anything newer than the 1970s on my list. But perhaps that’s because it’s difficult to discuss Britishness as a modern concept (we talked about that on the panel). I tend to define it in terms of the past alone, which is interesting in itself. But who can really define the present, anyway? I don’t think novelists manage it.
Sounds like another panel discussion waiting to be had. Maybe next time.