Sunday, 12 April 2015

Dysprosium - Day Two

I dressed up for the day in a blue silk jumpsuit with a tool belt - as a Tardis engineer. Anyone seen an old Type 40? I hear the chameleon circuit needs fixing, and every time I get somewhere it seems I've just missed it!
The Young Man, in cream frock coat, was a Time Agent.
The longest queue of the convention was for breakfast, due to a misunderstanding between the committee and the hotel that breakfast was between 9am and 11am, when in fact it could be taken earlier.
The first panel of the day for us was The Return of the Great British Eccentric, Huzzah!
Two Great British Ecentrics, Professor Elemental and Herr Doktor, were on the panel - I didn't catch the names of the other panelists. There was some discussion about whether eccentrics had to be British (Huzzah!), and about half way through it was realised that all the examples of eccentrics given so far had been male - and posh (poor people tend to be labelled mad, like poor John Clare the poet). So a good few women eccentrics were mentioned, like Gertrude Bell. One member of the audience said that talking about class was a load of rubbish - he had members of the Establishment on one side of his family and penniless refugees on the other side, so we shouldn't take any notice of the traditional class divisions.
Then on to Unseen London in Bleriot, which started off by talking about the Tube, and then branched off in interesting ways. One of the panellists here was Russell Smith, who spoke on some interesting panels on urban fantasy and London at LonCon. There was quite a bit of discussion of obscure engineering works, which was quite fascinating. The chap who'd talked about class (or the lack of it) in the previous panel was there too, and turned out to be extremely knowledgeable about Tube lines and tunnels under the Thames and so on.

Pause for a bit of gentle shopping, combined with chatting to people like Dr Geof, the lovely couple from Gearhearts magazine, the lady selling Beeblebears (with two heads) for ZZ9 the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy fan club, Runesmith, Major Tinker, and others. And lunch. I think we had lunch.
We were also looking out for Clickety Click!, the Con newsletter, which was being put together over the weekend at a room off the Real Ale Bar, marked by the moose and crossbones flag. By this time the committee were appealing for more gophers (I'm afraid I wasn't about to volunteer, as I wanted to spend all the time I could with the Young Man, who I don't see very often. If I was on my own, I probably would have done.)

At three we were back in Discovery for Jim Butcher. He has started another series of books which are not at all like the Dresden Files, with cities inside huge spires, ruled by Spirearchs, connected by airships. Albion Spire is about to make war on Aurora Spire and the main characters are caught up in it. However, he was reconciled to the thought that the main thing that people would remember about the series was not the airships or the world building or any of that - it was the fact it had talking cats in it!
He also talked a bit about how he became a writer, and the writers' course he'd been on (and the terrible novels he'd written) until he decided he would prove his teacher wrong by doing exactly what she said he should do (thinking that it would fail and then he could say he told her so). And that was the first of the Dresden Files.

Later that afternoon, we were in Endeavour, across from the big hall, for Trowelblazers, which is an initiative to give recognition to all those women archaeologists whose contributions have been glossed over and forgotten. The speaker was Brenna Hassett, herself an archaeologist. I knew about a few of them, like Kathleen Kenyon - but there was plenty I didn't know, like seeing a picture of Gertrude Bell posing with Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill, on camels, which just goes to show how influential she was (she was at some Middle East peace talks).
There was also a delightful film made in the 1930s at an Egyptian dig run by John Pendlebury, archaeologist and (later) war hero. There were women in the background, holding the high jump for the "Olympic Games" he put on for the children of the local labourers (who seemed to be having a great time), or sitting at tables illustrating the finds, but they were never mentioned or named. There were women labourers, too, walking, or sometimes running, around with baskets of dirt on their heads. Their names were never recorded, either.
I discovered, too, that there was an all female dig at Great Zimbabwe in 1929. It was run by Gertrude Caton-Thompson, who was a student of Margaret Murray (who I knew better as a writer on witchcraft), and one of the diggers was Kathleen Kenyon. Gertrude seriously annoyed the South African government by saying publically that there was no evidence at all that Europeans had come in and built Great Zimbabwe (as was widely believed, because of course the natives couldn't build anything in stone like this) and of course Africans had built it. It was such a fascinating talk that I started taking notes, and there is a website, too (link in the side bar).

And then it was back to Bleriot for the announcement of the Hugo shortlist, with a live video link to the committee of Sasquan.
Which was - interesting. It seems the Sad Puppies have been at it again. After the total failure last year to get their preferred right wing, white male candidates chosen, they have been much more organised this year. Voting is going to be a minefield. There was a meeting the following night, which we didn't get to, for concerned people who wanted to work out what to do about the voting.

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