Saturday, 22 April 2017

Innominate - EasterCon Saturday

On Saturday, we were Jedi. I wore the Jedi librarian costume I wore last year - with the addition of two little pins to keep the bands on my shoulders, which worked really well. I was forever fiddling with them to keep them up last year!

And here is the Young Man as a Grey Jedi.

So the first panel we went to had to be the Women of Star Wars, which started slowly and finished in a rush as they found there was more than enough to talk about for an hour!
We had plenty of time to look at the art show and dealers' room, followed by a Kaffeeklatsch with Aliette de Bodard. She was one of the guests of honour last year, which led me to buy The House of Shattered Wings, and earlier in the day I had treated myself to The House of Binding Thorns - more Fallen Angels, and a Vietnamese dragon kingdom below the River Seine.
After that was the BSFA Award ceremony (I spent some time on Friday running round trying to find the box for votes, and ended up leaving my voting form in Ops, because that was where the votes were going to be counted).
The best novel was Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson. Best short story was Liberty Bird by Jaine Fenn. Best non-fiction work was Geoff Ryman's 100 African Writers in SFF, which he wrote for, and best artwork was the cover for Central Station by Sarah Anne Langton.

And then the big screens in Kings, the biggest hall, were set up for Doctor Who - which was awesome! I loved Bill, and the way she became a Companion, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.

And to finish the evening off, we went to the filk session. The Young Man came away inspired to write lyrics! I brought along a song book I'd bought at WorldCon 87 - one of the other filkers in the room sang one of his own songs, Hoopiness, which happened to be in my book (The Drunken Rabble Project), so I got him to sign it for me. Later, I sang Welsh History 101b (failed), and when I looked up from the page, it was straight at the name badge of the writer of the song! So I got him to sign the book, too. It was that or sink through the floor with embarrassment! One of the other singers in the room was a girl called Shadow, who sang one of her own songs based on the Mercedes Lackey Vandemar series (which I have fond memories of). We'd seen her earlier in the Kaffeeklatsch, when she was really quiet and shy, so it was a bit of a surprise to hear such a lovely voice.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Innominate - EasterCon 2017 - Thursday and Friday

Remember the good old 1980s? I thought I did - I went to the Metropole Hotel at Birmingham International airport several times for Star Trek Conventions.
It's all changed, of course. I remember walking across to the hotel from the station, but this time we were very happy to take the courtesy bus, because I didn't recognise anything! There's a whole new building next to the lake called Resort World - where we found a nice place to eat and sample interesting beers from round the world called World Bar. The Young Man was especially pleased to find some Icelandic Einstock beer.
Since we'd arrived early, we volunteered to help with the setting up. In the end, there wasn't much for us to do beyond moving some panels about, setting chairs out, and cheering the Thunderbird-esque machine which trundled into the middle of the dealers' room so that Tech could run cables across the ceiling with skyhooks. We also spent some time chatting to a very interesting couple who seemed to know everything there was to know about running conventions - so it was lovely to see them accepting the Doc Weir Award for fans who work hard behind the scenes, at the Closing Ceremony on Monday.

On Friday, our first costumes of the weekend were Steampunk Victorian adventurers. As Miss Amelia Harper, I'd just come out of the desert where I'd been digging a lost city with Gertrude Bell, and the Young Man was Cutter Conway, world traveller - and willing to indulge in various shady dealings for the right price.
The first panel we went to was From LGBT to QUILTBAG, talking about all the different varieties of gender and sexuality, and how they can be incorporated in SF and Fantasy, so that stories are more realistically diverse.
The history of comics was next, with Jack Kirby at 100 - I hadn't realised just how wide his influence was.
The panel on Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission was well attended, and the lady running it, Joanne Hall, who works for Kristell Ink as acquisitions editor, gave a lot of sensible advice.

Then it was time for The Explosive Opening Ceremony, at which the guests of honour were introduced. These were Colin Harris, fan and scientist, Pat Cadigan, writer, and Judith Clute, artist.
And then Dr Emma King took over for the explosive part. She workfor the Royal Institution in an educational capacity which seems to involve blowing a lot of things up!
Here's a photo taken by David Lascelles, where she had three children on stage as volunteers, who had to put an asprin into a film canister with some water, and then run like mad to the other side of the stage before it blew up!

I had taken a short piece of writing to read out at the Open Mic - but the room had problems with the lights, and nobody could find the person who was supposed to be organising it, so we headed off to the fan lounge to eat before the stalls closed at 8pm. We ate very well over the weekend, and there was a constantly changing variety of food on offer - we never did get round to the Jamaican goat curry, though the Thai green curry was very nice. And we were also in the right place for the last event of our evening - a Literary Beer with Russell Smith:

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Women in Science Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan was the second of the three leads in the film Hidden Figures - the one who wanted the supervisor's job, and taught all the other women in the Colored Computers section to use FORTRAN so that they could use the new IBM computer and not lose their jobs doing the manual calculations for NASA.
She joined the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Lab in 1943, for what she thought would be a temporary job for the duration of the Second World War. She had previously been a maths teacher. She became the first black supervisor of the West Area Computers, and an expert in FORTRAN, though not quite as it happened in the film.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Women in Science - Katherine Goble Johnson

I've just been to see Hidden Figures, the film about Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who all did outstanding work for NASA in the early days of space exploration.
Katherine Goble was the "computer" who calculated the trajectories of rockets. She worked on the early missions of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn, and on the Apollo 11 mission, right up to space shuttle flights in the 1980s. She's still alive at the age of 98, and has said of the film Hidden Figures: "It was well-done. The three leading ladies did an excellent job portraying us."
Along the way, she was one of the first African-Americans to attend graduate school at West Virginia University, and the first African-American woman to do so. The film points out the many difficulties of living in a segregated society - it wasn't easy for any of them, and they had to be extraordinarily determined to do what they wanted to do.
She had three daughters, Constance, Joylette and Katherine, and after her first husband died of a brain tumour, she married James Johnson - and they've been together ever since. They still live in Hampton, Virginia, near the NASA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory where she did her work.
On May 5, 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot building was named Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility and formally dedicated at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Katherine Johnson was there as guest of honour. It was the 55th anniversary of Alan Shepherd's flight, for which she had provided crucial calculations.

And here she is recieving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama:

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Trowelblazers - Tatiana Proskouriakoff

Tatiana Proskouriakoff was a Russian archaeologist whose speciality was Mayan culture. She was born in Tomsk in 1909, and her father was sent to the US in 1915 by Czar Nicholas II to oversee the production of munitions for the First World War. When the Revolution happened in 1917, the family were forced to stay in the USA, and Tatiana only visited Russia again once, to meet fellow Mayanist Yuri Knorozov.
Initially trained as an architect, she went to work for the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 1936, on the Mayan site at Piedras Negras, between Mexico and Guatamala. Here she discovered the discipline which would become her life's work, and led to positions at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, and later Harvard University.
During the Second World War, she worked on the translation of Mayan heiroglyphs, making significant contributions to the field.
She became the honorary curator of Mayan art at the Peabody Museum on 1958, where she also taught a number of young women who went on to work in the field of Maya archaeology, and she died in 1985. She was buried at Piedras Negras, in Structure J-23, on Easter Sunday, 1998, where there is a plaque in her honour. Another plaque in her honour has been set up in her home town of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Lady Gardeners

I found this picture on Twitter, shared by Kew Gardens. It's how the first young women who worked as gardeners at Kew dressed (so as not to "distract" anyone!) in 1896.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Local History I Never Knew

Occasionally, I read the blog Beamish Buildings, because one of the staff at Beamish is the daughter of a woman I went to school with. Just recently, Shannon has been researching Georgian hearse houses, which were built in churchyards, as they are building one at Beamish at the moment.
She's been looking at examples of surviving hearse houses across the North of England - and one of the best sources mentioned in the blog is at St Mary's, Prestwich.


I used to go to this church as a child - I went to the C of E Primary School, and we occasionally used the church for services. I remember a carol concert when I was in the choir - we were doing it by candlelight and torch in case (or possibly because) of a power cut. Graham Ward, from my class, sang the solo first verse of Once in Royal David's City from the back of the church, and it was so beautiful....
I also remember a service where I had been chosen to do a reading from the pulpit (I could only just see over the top). It hadn't occured to me to mention this honour to the rest of my family - my gran found out by accident, and came to stand in the back of the church to listen to me. I was so focussed on what I was doing, I never noticed her.
It's also the church usually used for filming when they need a church in Coronation Street!

So I remember the church, but I don't remember a hearse house!

It seems the local history of the area where I grew up was more interesting than I had imagined.