July 4th, 2011

breaking bad

SFF Masterclass

I would recommend the SFF Masterclass to all who would like to spend a long weekend discussing SF with educated and intelligent people. Although I had not done the reading I managed to enjoy the discussion. I was able to wing it on my past reading, and/or keep my mouth shut.

The three 'class leaders' were Paul McAuley, Claire Brialey and Mark Bould. Mark Bould teaches film at UWE. He's a Marxist, so that was quite congenial. He talked about the sublime and the grotesque and a lot of the things I am interested in to do with making peace with corporeality and the contingency of personal identity. It was really good, and he used The Thing/ Who Goes There and At The Mountains of Madness as texts, which really suited me down to the ground. I was very interested in what he said about using language to suggest the ineffable, both through the use of holes and gaps, and also through over-writing or meaningless over-elaboration. I think Mountains of Madness is firm and hard at one end, and soggy and soft at the other.

Claire was particularly good at making everyone participate and contribute, with almost-invisible direction which avoided too much silence or too much overlapping talk, so it all flowed seemingly-effortlessly. Paul seemed to be winging it, because I think he was responding unplanned to where the discussion went, and able to pick it up without needing to direct it very often.

Participants had come from many different countries, including Australia, USA, Sweden, Germany and Ireland. There was a good mix of ages and genders. Some very gentle or playful. Some more analytical and assertive. Every one was intelligent and well read. A real pleasure to meet them.

At the after-class party I met rozk and dalmeny, who was just in the country for one day and stopped by the party. What a great coincidence! We talked for ages before we realised who we were. Again, a real pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.