Detailed news, everyone!
I’ll be at Loncon3 and will take part in three discussion panels as well as an academic one. The details:
- “The World at Worldcon: Eastern European and Baltic SF/F”, Friday 19:00 – 20:00, London Suite 2 (ExCeL): In the Anglophone World, probably the best-known Eastern European science fiction and fantasy writers are Stanislas Lem and Karel Capek, and in recent years Zoran Zivkovic and Andrzej Sapkowski. But this region has produced many fine writers of fantastika. Which other writers should Anglophone readers be aware of? Our panel of writers and readers from Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria and Latvia will discuss current trends, perennial themes, and future hopes. Participants: Michael Burianyk (M), Stanislaw Krawczyk, Irena Raseta, Imants Belogrîvs, Ivaylo Shmilev
- “The Wrong Apocalypse”, Sunday 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL): Zombies, aliens, and monsters from the deep are all very well, but — unlike climate change and other ongoing environmental damage — they’re not actually likely to cause the downfall of industrial civilisation. Are contemporary TV and film neglecting the apocalypse-in-progress? Where can ecological perspectives be found in SF and fantasy on screen, and how are they portrayed? What are the strengths and weaknesses of visual climate narratives, compared to their prose counterparts? Participants: Ramez Naam (M), Nina Allan, Tiffani Angus, Jeff VanderMeer, Ivaylo Shmilev
- “How do you divide a railroad”, Monday 18:00 – 19:00, Capital Suite 14 (ExCeL): This panel looks at the issues that face new independent nations as they separate from a larger state — whether as colonised entities, federated or equal partners. Participants: Phil Dyson (M), Nicholas Whyte, Farah Mendlesohn, Ivaylo Shmilev
And last but not least, the academic panel – “Reading Iain M. Banks”, Monday 09:30 – 11:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL): Three academics each give a 15 minute presentation. These are followed by a 30 minute discussion jointly held with the audience. Participants: Val Nolan (M), Michael Morelli, Jo Lindsay Walton, Ivaylo Shmilev
Here’s the abstract for my academic paper:
In his Culture novels, the late Iain M. Banks posed a myriad of ethical questions concerning warfare, all stemming from incessant encounters between diverse species, civilizations, organizations, philosophies, ideologies, religions. Examples of such questions abound: Should a highly advanced civilization lure an infamously unethical not-so-advanced one into a war with an unknown force to weaken (or annihilate) the first and estimate the second one’s strengths (Excession)? What kind of war may be waged for the liberation of biologically dead persons whose minds are transferred into, and punished for alleged past sins in, virtual-reality Hells (Surface Detail)? Can a formidably skilled but very unpredictable mercenary be used for civilization-scale damage-control interventions without compromising the integrity of his/her handlers (Use of Weapons)? When should war against a religious organization be waged (Consider Phlebas)? These questions originate in specifically situated narratives which enact particular aspects of the entanglement between warfare and ethics, and can be analyzed through the framework of Levinas’s encounter with the Other as well as via several applied ethics approaches. Still, the results of such contemplations will only be interim conclusions because Banks is a step ahead of the analytical apparatus’s capabilities. He poses yet another question which interrogates the justifiability of earlier ones: if known reality can be left behind by stepping into other dimensions via the process of Subliming, can a Sublimed civilization draw a final line and calculate its “ethical score”? If there is another reality where life is devoid of hardship, and self-improvement is an exponentially unfolding process, is transcending there a betrayal, an escape, a right, a reward? Why do people choose to Sublime (The Hydrogen Sonata)? The examination of possible answers to these questions leads to a fuller understanding of the primary and deeply intertwined roles warfare and ethics play in Banks’s science fiction.
These will certainly be some lively discussions. Hope to see you there – come by and say hi!