Swancon36 » Retro Futurism http://2011.swancon.com.au Get ready to party like it's Easter 2011 Thu, 05 May 2011 07:14:06 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.6 en hourly 1 Why I am going to Swancon Thirty Six | Natcon Fifty http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/03/why-i-am-going-to-swancon-thirty-six-natcon-fifty/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/03/why-i-am-going-to-swancon-thirty-six-natcon-fifty/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2011 04:11:32 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=752 Glenda Larke is an invited guest of Swancon Thirty Six | Natcon Fifty. Here she tells us why she loves conventions, and why you will too.

Back in the days of yore…

Ok, back in about 1997 or 1998, my agent, who lives in UK, told me I should start going to science fiction conventions now that I had my first book accepted for publication. I said, ‘Conventions? What are they?’

She explained, and it all seemed rather strange and alien. I couldn’t imagine me, all alone, rolling up to a place where I knew no one and no one knew me – and not just for one day, either. For several days, and at great expense, seeing as I live in Malaysia where there is no such event.

Yeah, well, I’ve come a long way since then. Once I got the hang of this thing called the internet*, I investigated and it all seemed intriguing. So I decided I’d give one a try. I timed a visit to Perth to see my sister with the Easter holidays, then twisted her arm to come with me for the first day of Swancon 2004. Fortunately she’s an ex teacher-librarian with a love of SF/F, and she was happy to oblige.

No one knew who I was, my first Oz published books were not long out, but I was welcomed, shoved onto panels, met a whole slew of terrific people many of whom are still friends, and generally had a ball. Tim Powers was the main guest, and was totally delightful. I still remember his GoH speech.

I was hooked for life. I’ve loved cons ever since. Donna Hanson somehow got me to go from Perth to Canberra for Conflux 2004 immediately afterwards. That was the first time I met Russell Kirkpatrick… The main GoH was Greg Benson. I went back the next year to another Swancon (Charles de Lint was the main guest). Even now, I still haven’t got over being on the same panel with famous writers.

In 2008 I was totally gobsmacked to be asked to Swancon as their Australian GoH. I was incredibly moved to have my hometown ask me back as a guest. Even more fabulously, the international GoH was Ken McLeod, and writer Rob Shearman of Dr Who fame was a guest as well. What a great con.

So, above you have several reasons to go to a SF Con, especially ones in Perth.

Reason No 1: You have a ball
Reason No 2: They have fabulous guests
Reason No 3: You make lifelong friends
Reason No 4: You can end up on panels — or attend them

I’ve been to other Australian conventions since: Continuum 2005 in Melbourne, which had one of the funniest debates I’ve ever heard — after all how can you go wrong with Neil Gaiman, Russell Kirkpatrick and Kim Wilkins (Lord, how could ANYONE ever forget her speech???), Poppy Z.Brite and Richard Harland taking sides on the subject of whether humans are creatures natural or unnatural…

Reason No 5: Writers are often also very witty speakers…

Most of that con I actually spent with the Harper Voyager and their authors, including Robin Hobb. I think that was the time I first met author Karen Miller, whom I now count a very special friend. Then there was Natcon/Convergence in Melbourne in 2007, which was where I first met Dave Freer, who was one of the guests, and was later enticed back to Oz to live.

Reason No 6: You meet some of your favourite authors…

And in the meantime I was also investigating my first Worldcon, in Glasgow in 2005, and my second in Denver in 2008, my third in Melbourne last year.

So, if you live in Oz and aren’t going to Swancon Thirty Six | Natcon Fifty – the 50th Natcon, by the way – why not? Come to think of it, you don’t have to live in Oz to go. I don’t.

See here for more info. It’s 21st-25th April (Easter) 2011. And I am one of a whole stack of invited guests. Don’t miss it.
*I was a very early user of a PC — Apple IIe anyone? — but came somewhat late to the internet.

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Retro-futurist fiction http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/03/retro-futurist-fiction/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/03/retro-futurist-fiction/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2011 07:46:19 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=698 Sarah Parker has been a part of Australian Fandom for 14 years, having attended one Worldcon (Melbourne), thirteen Swancons, three Continuums, two Fandomedias, one Wastelands, one Nights’ Edge and a partridge in a pear tree. She has been secretly writing for five years and has already won a Tin Duck for her Zombie Apocalypse posts on her blog. She’s written a retro-futurist story. If it inspires you, why not enter the ASFF Natcon Fifty Short Story Competition?

Miss Wilhemina strolled along Cobblestone Way, her arm tucked firmly into Charlie’s, and her eyes on the horizon.

“Careful Miss,” Charlie said a few times as she almost tripped on uneven stones and rubbish.

The night sky was lit from below with warm gold. She couldn’t see anything further than the clouds and rooftops, but all of London knew what was going on tonight. They turned the last corner, and her hand on Charlie’s arm squeezed in excitement.

“Oh,” she breathed as she took in the marvellous views of men running around the base of the emerald silk balloon. The glare of a thousand lanterns brightened the faces of curious houses, every window open with onlookers hanging out for a better view.

“Look at that,” Charlie said, pointing to the basket. Men shouted over the roar of gas burners as silk laboured and flapped above them. Her cheeks were tinged with the heat of the burners against a chill wind.

With such a large balloon tugging at the lines, she expected something much bigger, but the basket had barely room for four men. She knew it to be well provisioned. Fine webs of knots and rope moored the impatient contraption to the tiny people below. The square was awash with strangers, their faces alight with the glow of the future.

“They’ve never tried to go so high before,” Charlie said.

“Well,” said Miss Wilhemina as she gave a small laugh. “No one has ever tried to reach the moon by balloon before!”

“I wish I was going with you,” Charlie said distantly.

“Don’t worry,” she said, and squeezed his arm again. “Once Sir Julius and I have returned, I am sure they will offer such escapades for a fee.” As his assistant she knew of Sir Julius’ hopes and dreams well in advance of others.

“Perhaps we could get married on the moon, Miss Wilhemina,” Charlie said, his gaze capturing hers. She gave a delighted giggle, and could feel the colour rushing to her cheeks.

“Of course, Mr Charlie, of course! That can be my next Luna adventure!”

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Official Report of the First Australian Science Fiction Convention http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/03/official-report-of-the-first-australian-science-fiction-convention/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/03/official-report-of-the-first-australian-science-fiction-convention/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2011 10:19:12 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=688 By Way of Introduction

The First Australian Science Fiction Convention was the most ambitious venture of its kind ever attempted by Australian fandom. From a humble beginning in 1951 and without the benefit of the recognised channels of fan recruiting, the organised Sydney community successfully staged a gathering of several days’ duration that attracted a total of 58 interested science fiction readers. It must be admitted that the majority of those who attended were from the Sydney or near-Sydney area. However, the national flavour was maintained by visitors from Melbourne, Newcastle and Forster, and the general recognition given by fans from other States and New Zealand.

Many factors emerged from the Convention, but the most important one was that Sydney fans could work together as a team. The problem of our isolated and lonely existence has tended to make us self-reliant and anarchistic, but this was anything but a one-man show. The main duties were performed by the members of the committee. However, Sydney fandom as a whole and the members of the Futurian Society in particular gave vital and valuable assistance.

Praise is due to everyone concerned. Graham Stone, dynamic Secretary of the Convention, for devoting so much time to the needs of fandom; Nick Solntseff, Treasurer, for his efficient handling of the finances, and the production of the Official Booklet; Arthur Haddon, for the manner in which he conducted the Auction, and for the printed circulars in the British Reprint ASF; Lex Banning, for the courageous manner in which he arranged a scratch programme for the film section after having been let down on his original programme; Vol Molesworth, for his co-operation with all members of the committee far beyond the natural call of duty, and also for so much personal help to me; and Roy Williams, David Cohen, Ken Martin, Ian Driscoll and Bruce Purdy. Also, the Futurian Society of Sydney, as an organisation, for assuming collective responsibility for the success of this, our first, Convention.

Many valuable lessons have been learned by the Sydney fan community. There were several bad points that the assembly graciously overlooked, but were noted by organisers. There has been much analytical discussion over the form and style of the day’s activities. There has been much debate as to whether the most was extracted from the opportunities presenting themselves. All this is good and healthy. It is my belief that the best way to crush laurels is to sit on them.

In conclusion, I wish to thank everybody that attended the convention and trust that you enjoyed yourselves. I also wish to express the hope that we may all gather again at the Second Australian Convention in 1953.


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Pop culture meets ancient icon http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/pop-culture-meets-ancient-icon/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/pop-culture-meets-ancient-icon/#comments Mon, 21 Feb 2011 03:34:25 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=629 A very cute bit of retro-futurism from Rachael T E Sparks at the UCL Museums & Collections Blog.

There it was. A rather charming hand applied to the vessel wall. Well, I’m a fan of pop culture myself, so my immediate thought was that there had been a bit of jiggery-pokery by a Star Trek fan with a time machine and a talent for working clay, to produce what looked like a fine representation of a Vulcan hand salute.

Actually, the link is not as far-fetched as first seems; the Vulcan hand sign was supposedly invented by Leonard Nimoy, inspired by a hand gesture used in temple to represent the Hebrew letter shin. This is an Iron Age sherd, from Hebrew Kingdom of Judah, so maybe the ancient potter intended the same thing. Or maybe the placement of the fingers is just coincidence. What we don’t know is how this element related to the rest of the vessel. Was there a matching hand? A modeled face or head between? It is an intriguing possibility.

Read the whole thing.

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oooh… fashion! http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/fashion/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/fashion/#comments Tue, 15 Feb 2011 08:14:05 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=619 Taking a little break from the words today, in favour of pictures. Lots of beautiful pictures of how designers thought we would dress, and what science-fiction inspired fashion looks like today.

Show notes from the Ohne Title RTW Fall 2011 Collection said their fall line was influenced by “the shape, volume and details in early Apollo mission spacesuits:

From the Ohne Title RTW Fall 2011 Collection From the Ohne Title RTW Fall 2011 Collection

Katie Gallagher’s RTW Fall 2011 Collection leans towards the dystopian with mesh and leather and messy lines:

From the Katie Gallagher RTW Fall 2011 Collection From the Katie Gallagher RTW Fall 2011 Collection

The Giorgio Armani Privé collection in Paris joined in the retro-futurist fun:

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Forward and back, back and forward… http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/forward-and-back-back-and-forward/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/forward-and-back-back-and-forward/#comments Thu, 10 Feb 2011 07:10:24 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=599 Richard Harland has been a spec fic author for 13 years, ever since he overcame the previous 25 years of writer’s block. At the moment, he’s totally into steampunk. Could it be because he got his big breakthrough success with the steampunk fantasy, Worldshaker? Or because the sequel, Liberator, comes out internationally round Swancon time? No, no, a thousand times no! He just loves steampunk anyway.

The thing about the future is you can never really know where it’s going until it’s been and gone. Science fiction kicked off in the 19th century when the world appeared to progressing on a steady upward slope. Its not so easy to think that way now. Technology is the one strand of the story that mostly advances along a clear line; but what people do with technology, that’s another tale entirely.

I can go back thirty years (it’s true, I’m older than I look!) to a time when there were two competing ideologies of progress: capitalism and socialism. No one would have expected the socialist way of thinking to drop so suddenly out of the picture. But what’s been more amazing has been the rise of fundamentalist Islam as the opponent of capitalism. Not an ideology of progess at all, but an ideology of fixed eternal religious verities. Of course, there were conflicts in the Middle East thirty years ago, but nobody, absolutely nobody ever imagined the revival of Islam as an alternative system of belief, a whole way of thinking. Believe me, it wasn’t even on the map!

Who knows what retro-futures might turn out to be real futures? When Frank Herbert wrote the original Dune, he wasn’t trying to predict the future; on the contrary, he drew his ideas from the past. The rise of the Fremen is the explosive arrival of Islam in the 7th century; the intrigue-riddled Empire is Byzantium. Check it out: it matches in every respect except the drugs! Nowadays … I swear, if you want to understand the mentality of jihad, you can’t do better than read Dune.

Change always happens, but I don’t believe it happens along a smooth line. It jumps about all over the place with some truly perverse twists and turns. Let me go on with my Islamic example. I’m sure the fundamentalist backlash has happened because modern digital technology brought modern Western attitudes (re gender roles, family roles, sex, etc.) right into the homes of traditional Muslim families. And how do the fundamentalists organise their violent opposition? By websites, by mobile phones, through the media. Forward and back, back and forward …

As for cultural styles, the one sure thing I reckon I can predict is that the styles of the future will keep going back to the past for inspiration. The Renaissance harked back to the Greeks and Romans; the Romantics harked back to the medieval period; our contemporary clothes fashions hark back to the age of flares or the age of flapper beads or the age of bodices (take your pick—I don’t claim to be up with the latest). Styles and fashions don’t progress, they just jump!

In science fiction, imagined retro-futures are most often explained as coming out of a cataclysmic war. But real history gives us an example of regression without cataclysmic war—the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome sank gradually away as a result of countless local developments … so gradually that people still thought of themselves as citizens of the Empire a century after the real structure had ceased to exist.

I like the steampunk possibilities of imagined retro-futures, where technology has advanced in some ways beyond the real past, but not in the way we know at present. My Ferren books were retro-futures, set a thousand years in the future, at a point where society has regressed drastically. When I think of those books now, I see the technology of the Humen as an early outbreak of my repressed instinct for steampunk! (Repressed only because no Australian publisher would touch the stuff at that time.) The best example would be Phillip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and its sequels—full-on steampunk and a retro-future setting.

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Other people’s retro-futures http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/other-peoples-retro-futures/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/other-peoples-retro-futures/#comments Tue, 08 Feb 2011 13:01:29 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=591 Keira McKenzie has been writing & drawing stuff for positively ages & is now engaged in her PhD, the creative work concerning, quite coincidentally, futures of all stripes and worlds and times, and non-fictionally, H.P.Lovecraft and philosophical theories – which also involve the nature of futures in the past from the perspective of the present.

Future Imperfect. Surely this isn’t limited to the anthropocentric here and now? It immediately brought to my mind the future imperfect of Lovecraft’s 1931 novella, ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ in which the extreme geological past is retrofitted to render the future very imperfect for some, the present uncomfortable for his characters, leaving the retro-future from the story’s survivors point of view scarily imperfect.

The narrator is one of two survivors of a scientific expedition to Western Antarctica who relates the events of unfolding wonders and horrors, and sees the results of mismanaged environmental and technological issues that happened millennia – aeons, actually, in the past. For those not familiar with the story, it concerns an expedition 1931 to West Antarctica which uncovers not only fossils (several millions of years old) of alien beings, but actually a live one (though it was dead by the time the narrator saw it). The survivors encounter not only portions of immense ruins half buried in the ice, indicative of a civilization predating anything remotely human, but also the part cause of that civilization’s decline: the Shoggoths.

So – why is this Future Imperfect? Well, for the ‘elder beings’, builders of this great civilization, it was. Very. Imperfect, that is. They had travelled through space to settle on earth before life began on the planet, “they were the makers and enslavers of that life”. It’s all set so far back in our past as to imply geological rather than anthropological ages: nothing was younger than the Pliocene age and most Jurassic and earlier. These elder beings, so culturally rich, with magnificent recorded histories and an apparent understanding of the values of a civilized society nonetheless were subject to the same strictures of us all: their environment, underpinned by the fact that during their time on earth, they had lost the power of space travel (never one of Lovecraft’s strongest points as everything flew through the ‘ether’ on wings poorly adapted to anything else, even the mighty Cthulhu wafted through space on rudimentary wings) so were forced to deal with the rampant geology of a young planet, other invading beings (Cthulhu among them) and their own technology gone bad: protoplasmic goo.

Lovecraft toys with the not quite accepted theory of continental drift and theories of the last ice age, both of which impacted on futures rapidly becoming ever more imperfect for these ‘elder beings’. They were forced back to Antarctica and then had to face the ice age. Many made the transition to the undersea life (they were physiologically equipped for it), through the waters of subglacial lakes with outlets to the sea, their slide into a decline hastened by their badly controlled technology: the shoggoths (Remember, this was written in 1931. Subglacial river systems in Antarctica weren’t ‘discovered’ until 2006, and the sub-glacial Lake Vostok in 1973 – & the Russians have only 50 m left to drill before breaking through into Lake Vostok not far from where Lovecraft set his novella, just as the Gamburtsev Range, a mere few hundred kilometers from the mountains of the novella’s title weren’t discovered till 1958 and not mapped until 2009-2010.).

The shoggoths were (or are?) manufactured goo of a tremendous size that developed their own intelligence. These so advanced and cultured elder beings apparently didn’t like working up a sweat. They made the shoggoths to do all the heavy lifting. But like all slaves, the shoggoths rebelled.

Slaves, as we know from our own (decidedly anthropocentric) history, are expensive: financially, militaristically, and morally. From the vanished peoples of the Fezzan (the ones who first mined the ‘fossil water’ that keeps Libya alive) to the Brits and the Americans – slavery proved too expensive, not to mention undermining the’ moral high ground’. So it was with the elder beings. They had granted their shoggoths enough sentience to do the work required, and thought no more of it. Twits. The shoggoths developed intelligence and rose up against their masters. And think of this:

It was the utter, objective embodiment of the fantastic novelist’s ‘thing that should not be’; …nightmare plastic column of foetid black iridescence … a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train – a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming, and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down on us…

Imagine a horde of these rearing up in rebellion! And it happened twice! No wonder things ended in despair. A once magnificent civilization that had flourished for millennia, that predated Cthulhu and survived when Ry’leh had sunk below the waves, was brought down by a combination of environmental disaster exacerbated by their own arrogance, leaving the mess behind them because they didn’t really address issues when they – um – first arose. A great deal of regret is implied there.

The future in Lovecraft’s fiction – not just this novella, is both retro and forward-looking. However, the nostalgia is more melancholia towards ages past, before humanity impacted the present. And always it comes with the terrible awareness that the imperfect futures other beings met in the unimaginably distant past will affect the anthropocentric futures the characters contemplate.

In At The Mountains of Madness, the shoggoths remained to rule the vast white reaches of Antarctica; this ‘future imperfect’ happened a long time in the past. But what waits for us in the future in the white wastes within the Gamburtsev Range, the so-called Ghost Mountains with their fantastically sharp peaks and steep, deep valleys? And with Lake Vostok?

Enquiring minds what to know!

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Swancon Thirty Six: A Chinese horoscope http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/swancon-thirty-six-a-chinese-horoscope/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/swancon-thirty-six-a-chinese-horoscope/#comments Thu, 03 Feb 2011 04:16:18 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=571 As part of our ongoing series on retro-futurism and fandom, please welcome Bill Wright. Bill is the awards administrator of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. He will be on deck in that capacity at Swancon Thirty Six | Natcon Fifty to introduce presenters of the 2011 A. Bertram Chandler and Norma K. Hemming Awards. Visit: the ASFF site for details.

2011 is the Year of the Rabbit beginning on 3rd February 2011 and ending on 22nd January 2012. The Rabbit is the fourth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animals signs. The diagram below doesn’t go past the year 2005 but, since the cycle of 12 animal signs repeats itself every 12 years, it’s easy enough to calculate which sign relates to 2011. The last Year of the Rabbit was in 1999 so, logically, 1999 + 12 = 2011 is also the Year of the Rabbit.

Here’s why it happens…
Five thousand years ago, Buddha summoned all the animals to him before departing the Earth. When only twelve came to bid him farewell they were rewarded by having a year named after them in order of their arrival. And that is why the animals of the Chinese zodiac are, in serial progression: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog & Pig. A person’s ruling animal is the one which presided over their year of birth and, according to the Chinese, the animal which hides in that person’s heart.

For civil purposes modern China uses the Gregorian calendar established by the Catholic Church in 1582 and based solely on the Sun’s movements (see page 7 of the fanzine linked (pdf)). It has, however, retained the traditional Chinese calendar dating from the reign of Emperor Huang Ti in 2637 BC to determine the timing of its festivals. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, being based on the movement of the longitude of the Sun and the phases of the Moon. It is the most ancient chronological record in history.

Swancon Thirty Six horoscope
If you are a Rabbit, the Astrological Divination of Heaven (ADH) decrees that you are articulate, talented, ambitious, virtuous, reserved, and known to have excellent taste.

But most Rabbit people are overly fond of gossip, clever at business and lucky at gambling – traits that can often lead to a lack of trust. It you are conscientious, tactful, generally kind, can keep your temper, never back out of a contract and moderate your gambling, you can win praise for being conservative and wise.

These traits constitute both your weaknesses and your strengths and are central to your innermost being.

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Learning from the past http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/learning-from-the-past/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/02/learning-from-the-past/#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 08:15:15 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=564 PharaohKatt is the convenor of Swancon 2012 and blogs at Something More Than Sides.

Science fiction is not just about looking to the future: it’s also about learning from the past. Even a cursory glance at the past will show you just how much science fiction has changed and grown. What was once thought of as an “old men’s club” is now read by and written for people of all sexes.

But to see how far we’ve come, we must first look to the past.

What is commonly regarded as the Golden Age of Science Fiction, the period from the late 1930s through the 1950s, is filled largely with men’s names; Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke just to name a few. Despite the notable influences of writers such as Mary Shelley and Andre Norton, women were largely excluded from recognition. If this wikipedia list is to be believed, only one of the prominent writers was female.

But it wasn’t to remain that way. The Golden Age passed and gave rise to the new era: New Wave. Even in this brief jump of 10 years, science fiction progressed, and with it so did the number of female writers who were being recognised! Along side names such as Frank Herbert and Roger Zelany sat some very popular women, like Ursula K. le Guin and…. Well, Ursula K. le Guin anyway. That’s certainly something!

Women have also made great strides in recognition when it comes to awards. A great example of this are the Hugo Awards. Take the award for Best Novel, for example. This award was first won by Alfred Bester in 1953. It wasn’t until 1970 when a woman, Ursula le Guin, finally won this award, although women such as Marian Zimmerman Bradley and Andre Norton had received nominations previously. Since 1970 there have been 42 Best Novel Hugos awarded; a huge 14 of those have been awarded to women! If you aren’t so good with maths, that’s a whopping 33%! You could almost say that women have completely taken over the Hugos.

Anthologies, too, have progressed a long way. Take the Mammoth Anthologies, for example. The first Mammoth Book Of… was The Mammoth Book Of Thrillers, Ghosts and Mysteries. Published in 1963, it was an anthology that featured an entirely male cast. It was followed by The Mammoth Book Of Fantastic Science Fiction in 1984, again featuring an all male cast.

But jump ahead to 2009 and just see the progress that has been made! In 2009, Mike Ashley published The Mammoth Book of Mind-Blowing SF. Filled with some of the best and most mind-blowing science fiction in the field, The Mammoth Book Of Mind-Blowing SF published stories by such great female authors as… Um…. Wait, I’m sure I can think of one, just give me a minute.

But never mind! I’m sure I’ve made my point. As is clear from my examples, science fiction has come along way in terms of inclusion of women. Where once women’s work was ignored, belittled and forgotten, nowadays female science fiction writers can expect to be…. Ignored. Belittled. Forgotten.

In addition to the enjoyment we get from looking back at the history of science fiction, it’s important to correct the record so that we remember and celebrate everyone who was there. Helen Merrick’s “The Secret Feminist Cabal” is a great place to start!

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The Perils of Future Retro-Futures http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/01/the-perils-of-future-retro-futures/ http://2011.swancon.com.au/2011/01/the-perils-of-future-retro-futures/#comments Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:06:21 +0000 swancon36 http://2011.swancon.com.au/?p=543 Grant Watson is a Swancon favourite and invited guest of Swancon Thirty Six | Natcon Fifty. His podcast is Bad Film Diaries and you should listen to it.

I love it when history overtakes science fiction. Earlier this year I re-watched Peter Hyams’ film 2010, which presented us with a strange future in which we not only can travel to Jupiter in a spacecraft, but we also keep dolphins as pets. It’s easy to laugh at what the science fiction writers get wrong – it’s so much more entertaining than trying to keep track of what they get right.

Doctor Who is a favourite. Thanks to Who I know that by now a sister planet to Earth, Mondas, has been and gone. I know we’ve mastered matter transportation, and have a museum of space travel on the moon. Charles became king back in the early 1990s, and you can pay for beer with a five pound coin.

We’re only five years away from 2015, when we can discover how many of the future cultures and technologies of Back to the Future Part II have come true. (Here’s an early hint – not many.)

I suppose the grand-daddy of outdated histories is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, but to be honest I think that one gets a free pass. Given all of the other manipulations of news, information and culture in that film, can we really assume with any certainty that the novel actually is set in 1984? It could be 2439 for all poor Winston knows.

For me the masterpiece of avoiding future retro-futures, which is what I think we shall call this phenomenon, is Max Headroom. First made as a TV movie on the UK’s Channel 4, then as a two season weekly SF drama in the USA, Max Headroom was set 15 minutes into the future. 20 years later, and it’s still 15 minutes into the future. That show’s simply never going to date.

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