Thrilling Wonder Stories 2
Jeff VanderMeer talking about Finch, courtesy of Cheryl Morgan
I had a really nice yesterday at Thrilling Wonder Stories 2, despite the cold and the British rail services conspiring against me. I got to the venue a little late, quarter to one, but thankfully I had only missed some of the introduction and none of the actual panels.
First up were Geoff and Nicola (of BDLGBLOG, edible geography, etc.) talking about some really interesting architecture stories related to futurist architecture. They used quite a lot of examples, but my favourite bits included Geoff talking about a new way of using 3D printers to print concrete and ways in which architects are trying to solve the problem of deterring people in the far future from excavating nuclear waste (including using a lot of booby traps). Geoff also talked about how rat catchers in New York had developed not only an extensive knowledge of the current city’s architecture in order to do their jobs, but also that of previous versions of the city. Nicola told us about how NASA are trying to find out how space and the moon smell and how you can buy a very expensive perfume that is the fragrance of how a rose smells after it has been exposed to space. She also talked about how a wine label writer had discovered that the power of suggestion affects what people think they taste in their wine, leading to the idea that we could suggest extravagant things they would taste, like the dust from a lost city. My favourite part of the presentation (and I suspect it was also for a few other people as well) was when Nicola spoke about the urban myth about a tunnel under New York used to transport cows into the city. I really enjoyed Geoff and Nicola’s presentation, I don’t know a great deal about architecture but I found it easy to follow and interesting. Some of what they said gave me some ideas about Aickman’s Never Visit Venice, which I may write up later in the week.
Following Geoff and Nicola were a design group who were talking about some work they had done on a project about life in 2050, but their ideas were so radically different to my own I didn’t find it particularly interesting. After a round table and short break, we moved on to the next grouping and Jeff VanderMeer gave his presentation on Finch. I don’t know if it going to be put online, Jeff mentioned something about perhaps doing so, but I found it really interesting. He talked about the fungal technology and the way in which it infects the populace and affects the landscape. One of the most interesting parts of the talk for me was when Jeff talked about how Finch uses the new map to overlay the old so that he always has a reference point for how things were before the occupation. In a sense, it reminded me of Borges’ Of Exactitude in Science. One of the things I picked up on that I had noticed before was the difference in the portrayal of cross-pollination between Shriek and Finch. As everything is seen from the point of view of Finch in the third novel, everything is alien and frightening, and Wyte’s infection is horrifying because it is something that he does not want. Duncan, on the other hand, in Shriek can only survive in the undercity because of the fungal changes and it is something that he embraces. I really enjoyed Jeff’s talk and hopefully he will put it up in some form on the internet so other people can as well, and if not perhaps the stream will be made available as a download in some form.
Following on from Jeff was Will Self, who started by calling us all benighted peasants, and then talked about when he used to engage in airport walks, in which he would walk from his hotel to the airport or vice versa. He also read a long excerpt from his novel, Walking to Hollywood, about his experiences walking in California, and as he was his usual acerbic and witty self, there were a lot of laughs. One unfortunate soul had the misfortune of asking him a stupid question, whether he took notes when he was walking, and probably wished they hadn’t after he chewed them out for asking him an oxymoronic question. One thing he did mention that I was unaware of is that it takes the better part of a full day to walk from the centre of London to outside the city.
The final person in the second group was Paul Duffield, whom collaborates with Warren Ellis on Freakangels, and he was talking about his new project, Signal. Inspired by Carl Sagan and the SETI program, it is a non-dialogue comic that is about the last man on a distant planet monitoring for signs of other life in the universe. The art was really beautiful and there were some really interesting ideas, like the concept of what a “galaxy rise” would look like. The most impressive thing for me though was the flow of the panels, as Duffield was able to use a pretty complex spiral direction that was easy to follow and felt natural.
After that panel, we went out to get something to drink and as I had promised Doug a trip to the comic stores before we went home, that was unfortunately all of the speakers that I saw. I had a great day though, met some really nice people (including the lovely Cheryl Morgan), and managed to get to and from London despite a fatality on the line and an incident involving a drunk person and the police. I also picked up more of Brian Wood’s Viking comic, Northlanders, in trade paperback format and Dark Horse’s Yoshitaka Amano Vampire Hunter D art book. Hopefully they will make the rest of the talks available to download, as I am particularly interested in the Apocalyptic Visions panel that I missed, which included Anthony Johnson, Splash Damage, and Rachel Armstrong.
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