This month, we have a talk about writing with STEM by Lauren James. She will discuss how her scientific research inspired events in her novels after studying Chemistry and Physics at Masters level.
Lauren James was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the twice Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series, as well as the dyslexia-friendly novella The Starlight Watchmaker and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. Her upcoming release is The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker.
She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.
Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. The Last Beginning was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent.
Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.
Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She teaches creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.
BSFA Monthly London Meetings (all welcome- free : one does NOT have to be a BSFA member to attend)
ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY
6pm Fans gather
7pm: start of interview.
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets)
We are delighted to announce that the BSFA Awards for works published in 2019 are nowopen for nominations. The deadline for nominztions is midnight at the end of 31st December 2019. If you are a BSFA member you may nominate here: https://tinyurl.com/BSFA2019nominations
If you’d like to refresh your memories of 2019 (or help jog anyone else’s), we maintain a list of suggested reading. Anyone may add to this – and you can make as many suggestions as you like. Please feel free to add eligible works here: https://tinyurl.com/BSFA2019suggestions
The BSFA Awards are awarded each year to the best Novel, work of Short Fiction, Artwork and work of Non-Fiction as voted for by the members of the British Science Fiction Association. For the full rules and timetable visit this page: https://bsfa.co.uk/bsfa-awards/awards-rules/
We’ve been very fortunate to have a great selection of interviews at the BSFA social in London. Chad Dixon records as many of these events as possible and you can find a great selection on his Youtube Channel here.
As many of you will know, we’re currently in the process of establishing our members newsletter. This will go out every month and communicate to members their membership number and renewal date.
We intend to continue the non-members newsletter, which will contain similar content.
Unfortunately, during the transition, some issues have come up, most notably a problem between the BSFA’s Mailchimp account and several mail servers, one of which appears to be Gmail. This means when we write the newsletter and send it, Mailchimp tells us it has been sent and got through, but members report that they have not received it.
This problem is clearly not the fault of the sender or the receiver. The technology is failing us somewhere along the line, so we will continue to try and fix this.
Interestingly enough, despite this, there has actually been a reported 7% improvement on the opening of the emails with the newsletter in, which is encouraging, but lots more needs to be done.
In the meantime, the non-member’s newsletter for September will be sent out today and a link to the contents will be posted here on the website so all interested parties can access it.
As you may have heard, over the summer there have been quite a lot of changes here at the British Science Fiction Association. One of these was the change of chairs at the AGM in June (see previous post), which has brought me, Allen Stroud in to replace outgoing (and brilliant) chair, Donna Bond.
With Donna also undergoing surgery just before the convention, a lot of plans had to be shifted around. That meant myself and my partner Karen Fishwick would be running the table for the convention. This is something we’ve done before for other organisations, but still, it would be a first for us at Worldcon for the BSFA.
The convention was held across two sites. The Covention Centre Dublin (CCD) and Point Square, a small leisure arcade just under a mile’s walk away.
There were plenty of hands to help out. The irrepressible Dave Lally acted as point of contact for the Thursday before we were able to arrive and during the rest of the weekend both he and Vector Editor, Jo Walton assisted Karen and I by taking over at times so everyone got to enjoy the convention.
Having the table in the exhibitors hall at the CCD also meant Karen and I had a good base from which to operate from before and after panels, events, and the like. It also meant we got to meet lots of really interesting people on the stands next to us. There’s some incredible work in SF going on everywhere and hopefully some of those discussions will turn into some interesting collaboration projects between the BSFA and other organisations.
Meanwhile BSFA photographer Chad Dixon roamed the convention taking plenty of excellent pictures of all that went on.
The dealers and exhibitors hall was the centerpiece of the CCD, on the ground floor of the main hall. As you walked in, right in front was a replica of the Back to the Future DeLorean, gull wing doors open and lights flashing as if it were ready to go.
A highlight over at Point Square was the art exhibition, with a huge room on the first floor devoted to displaying amazing artwork by painters, crafters, and other creatives working in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Photography of this area was restricted, but some of the lego scene exhibits at the far end were also amazing.
Around the exhibitors hall there were plenty of stands and fan tables, showcasing some of the best SF available. The former are market stalls from publishers big and small, with Gollancz and Harper Voyager running their own tables. Forbidden Planet was also there, offering a selection of everything, right alongside some fantastic Irish small presses, bookshops and an assortment of other merchants promoting a variety of writing from across the world.
Throughout the weekend, the CCD and Point Square hosted an array of fascinating activities. The variety of events meant you were always going to miss out on a few things, which really, is the sign of a good convention. A whole host of people appeared on the programme with speakers on a veritable cornucopia of subjects. I managed to present a paper on some of my research, looking at themes for Future Civilisations, took part in a discussion on mythmaking in genre fiction with the brilliant Dr. Stewart Hotston and Dr. Anna Smith Spark and I lent an opinion or two to a writing in games panel on the Sunday.
The Hugo Awards
This year’s ceremony was an interesting mix of celebration and controversy. The John W. Campbell Award winner for best newcomer, Jeanette Ng, took the opportunity to (quite rightly) call out the deceased editor after whom the award was named as a fascist. After the convention, on August 27th, it was announced that the award would be renamed The Astounding Award for Best New Writer, honouring the Astounding Science Fiction magazine of which Campbell was once editor.
The complete list of Hugo Winners is here:
BEST NOVEL – The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
BEST NOVELLA – Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
BEST NOVELETTE – ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,’ by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
BEST SHORT STORY – ‘A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,’ by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
BEST SERIES – Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
BEST RELATED WORK – Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
BEST GRAPHIC STORY – Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM – The Good Place: ‘Janet(s),’ written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM – Gardner Dozois
BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM – Navah Wolfe
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST – Charles Vess
BEST SEMIPROZINE – Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien
BEST FANZINE – Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
BEST FANCAST – Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
BEST FAN WRITER – Foz Meadows
BEST FAN ARTIST – Likhain (Mia Sereno)
BEST ART BOOK – (A one-off category created as per WSFS rules by Dublin 2019)
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)
The following awards which are administered by WSFS and voted on alongside the Hugo Awards were also included in the ceremony:
LODESTAR AWARD for BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK – Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD for BEST NEW WRITER – Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
There were also some issues with the automated closed caption system provided for deaf and hard-of-hearing convention members. Again, the convention organisers did apologise for this after the awards ceremony had concluded, with the convention chair, James Bacon, taking full responsibility.
After Party Problems
The losers’ party at Worldcon 2019 was to be held at the Guinness Brewery. However, many of the Hugo award nominees found themselves shut out of the event owing to overcrowding. This was particularly hard on them, as — after not winning the award — the way in which the science fiction community traditionally embraces nominees is normally an encouraging and positive experience. However, being stranded on the pavement looking into a party you have an invite for is not cool. This was particularly traumatic for those refused admission who had disabilities and had difficulty standing for long periods. The social media accounts and comments in person the next day revealed a great deal of anger and hurt.
Monday morning saw the convention winding to a close. Some of the Hugo attendees were understandably sore over the previous evening’s events, but continued to fulfill their commitments to the convention – a testimony to their character. Hopefully lessons will be learned and the situation improved for future years.
After packing up our fan table we left the hall to return later for the Dead Dog’s party – an after-convention celebration. This was a good opportunity to get a drink and chat with people we hadn’t had time to spend time with all weekend.
We flew home on Tuesday evening having had a great time at the event. Despite the issues mentioned, Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon was an excellent event and credit to the organisers for pulling it off.
Credit to Chad Dixon, Dan Ofer and Karen Fishwick for the pictures.
Department of Physics, South Kensington Campus, Imperial College
1005-1100: Panel 1 – BSFA
The Zero Sum of Literature: are some SF writers wrong to not welcome “literary” writers with open arms to the genre?
1105-1200: Interview/talk 1 – Rachel Livermore
1200-1230: SFF AGM
1300-1330: BSFA AGM
1330-1430: SFF panel – “Return to the Moon: how and why?” – GS (M), Dave Clements, Rachel Livermore
1430-1530: Interview 2 – Juliet E McKenna interviewed by Sophia McDougall.
The BSFA &SFF One Day Convention is free to attend and open to the public. The AGMs are the only parts of the day that will be members only, but are around lunchtime.
Attendees are free to spend lunch where they wish, but our lunchtime recommendation is The Queens Arms, Kensington.
Juliet is a prolific fantasy author, whose series include The Tales of Einarinn, The Aldabreshin Compass, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, and The Hadramal Crisis. Her standalone novels include Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom (2016) and The Green Man’s Heir (2018).
Update: during the AGM this year, I’ll be giving a summary of reports received, but you can read the full ones here.2019 BSFA AGM agenda and Annual Reviews I will be distributing some of the proposals for constitutional change at the meeting only.
Gavin is a Scottish author, who has a number of books under his belt, including the Veteran series (the first of which was nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel) and the Bastard Legion series.
Gavin will be interviewed by Stephen Deas. Stephen is a prolific author whose books span historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, including the Fateguard series, the Thief-Taker’s Apprentice series, the Silver Kings series and the Memory of Flames series.
Together, Stephen and Gavin write as Gavin Deas to produce novels in the Elite: Dangerous universe.
8th June – BSFA & SFF Mini convention & AGM, Imperial College London – 10am-5pm.
26th June – London author event at Central Station, guests TBA.