Monday, 1 May 2017

Innominate - EasterCon Sunday

I've been ill, and thus not blogging for a while, but I'm back out of my sick bed now....

A bit blurry (but thank you to the chap behind the registration desk for taking the picture) - we spent the day as Holmes and Watson, and got an embarrassingly large number of Hall Costume tokens, since these costumes were assembled from fairly ordinary clothes which we happened to have in our wardrobes rather than anything specially made.

Sunday at EasterCon for us was Science Day! It was quite impressive just how many real scientists were at the Con, and at the Bio-hacking panel we had a group of speakers who were all experts in their fields, including one chap who works at Cambridge and was dressed in a smart blazer from The Prisoner - we saw him going round with a lady dressed in the striped cape from the series later. The discussion covered body modifications of all sorts, including having chlorophyll in your skin so you could take nourishment from the sun rather than eat food, and some of the possible consequences of various modifications.

After that, astronomy, with Seven New Planets! Squeeee!. On the panel for this discussion there was a space physicist and an astrophysicist - one looks at space within the solar system, and the other looks further away. The discussion wasn't just about the new planets discovered around Trappist-1 - it also covered human colonisation and sending robots into space.
There was a discussion about BREXIT and Science later in the evening, which we didn't go to, but which was reportedly well attended, if somewhat depressing. One of the things that came up was the possibility that the UK could be seen as a rogue nuclear state until things get sorted out, as at the moment, the UK comes under the EU committee on nuclear regulation, which will cease when the UK leaves the EU - and keeping the nuclear industry well-regulated is kind of important....

The Con had a pretty strong Disability in SF thread running through it, and so the next thing we went to was the Wheelchair Martial Arts Demonstration. I'd seen Al Davison in the dealers' room - as well as being an accomplished martial artist, he's an artist who works on comic books. I bought a pencil sketch of Jon Pertwee from him, and the Young Man was very pleased to find a graphic novel on his stall he'd been looking for, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman. He also has a film background, and for a recent film that he worked on, he developed a choreographed fight scene between an able bodied man and a man in a wheelchair (himself). With the help of two able bodied martial artists, he demonstrated - how film fight scenes go for the larger, more visually interesting moves, whereas if a person is attacked in the street (and he said he used to get regularly beaten up by people who thought it would be funny to tip someone out of their wheelchair - until they actually tried it) they need to go for the fastest and most efficient way to end the fight, because disabled people often don't have the stamina for a long fight.
He talked about his background in martial arts - meeting a Chinese man and his sister when he was young, who had come to Britain when their village had been destroyed. They had survived only because of the man's habit of meditating by a waterfall at 4am, so were not in the village when everyone else was killed. After a long time when young Al went to watch the man do his practice every day, the man agreed to take Al on as a student.
He also talked about disabled people in film - if you see an amputation of a limb on film, it's almost always a disabled actor who has lost that limb on screen - but it's a lot more difficult for disabled actors to graduate to speaking roles. Years ago, he was one of a group of disabled actors who went for the casting of the starring role in My Left Foot - they were all taken out of the queue and sent home, and only able-bodied actors were considered. Conversely, the makers of Kingsman, more recently, actively looked for a double amputee to play the assassin with blades, and none of the double amputee actors available wanted to do it, so they eventually went for an able bodied actress and CGI. Although it seemed like a very cool idea, the amputee actors were concerned that the character was using their disability to maim others - and maybe it would have been better for the film makers to have re-thought that character.
It was a fascinating and thought-provoking session.

And in the afternoon, Pat Cadigan Explained it All For Us. I'd been vaguely aware of her name as an SF writer, but never really taken much notice of her work. And then when she was introduced as one of the Guests of Honour of the Con she greeted the audience with "I'm Pat Cadigan, bitches!" in a broad American accent and - well, what a fascinating woman she turned out to be! Her talk was mainly about her life, starting with some life-changing incidents involving anaphylactic shock, near death experiences, vaginal sponges which were not in a good place.... and her next sentence began "My son...."
She held the audience in the palm of her hand, talked honestly about her terminal cancer (she came to the Con with a carer), and is determined to enjoy life as much as she possibly can while she can.
I went straight down to the dealers' room after the talk and bought the only book I could see with her name on it - Synners.

We walked round the lake for dinner, back at the World Bar, where the girl behind the bar asked us if we were enjoying our weekend. She said she'd seen a few people with Con badges coming over, some in costume, so she was aware something was going on at the other side of the lake.

The last part of the evening was a world premiere! The performers were Pauline Haas on concert harp, and Thomas Bloch on three of the strangest instruments I've ever seen. They were the ondes Martenot (invented in 1919 by a wireless operator who wanted an instrument which could reproduce the sort of sounds a radio makes when you're trying to tune into something), the glass harmonica, which is 37 glass bowls, carefully graded to give different notes, on a revolving spindle - the principle is like rubbing your finger round the rim of a wine glass. This one is the oldest instrument, invented by Benjamin Franklin, and some classical music has been composed for it. And then there's the cristal Baschet, invented in 1952 to make electronic type noises acoustically - there are glass rods and an odd shaped gong. Basically, it makes the sort of sounds that were popular for 1950s SF B movie soundtracks.
It was a fascinating recital, with classical pieces, and film and TV scores - including the world premiere of the music for Blade Runner 2049 (though the film is not yet out, so the music may change between now and then). TV music included Twin Peaks, Being Human and Monk. Films were Chant d'Atalyante, The Elephant Man, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Fellini's Casanova and The Fifth Element, and Pauline Haas also played one of her own compositions, La Lyre d'Ys.
I bought Thomas Bloch's CD afterwards, and they were also signing pieces of sheet music for donations to the Con charity, Afghan Mothers.

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