Friday, February 23, 2007

Seeking Redemption at the weekend

I've been going to science fiction conventions on and off for many years - my first being in Cardiff in 1991. There are conventions going on all the time catering for all aspects of the field and so I've always stuck to the more literary-oriented ones. Partly because that's where I am myself, with my unswerving conviction that progress in science fiction is made at the literary end of the spectrum, and the better known / more publicised media end will catch it up ten years later. And partly because ... well, I just don't want to be surrounded by people who have lovingly crafted their very own Klingon battledress complete with an exact replica of the medal bestowed upon Worf by Picard during the third series of ... and so on. It makes me ... uneasy.

All very stereotyped, I know, and I finally feel secure enough in my own identity to be venturing into the heartland of media SF conventions. Specifically, Redemption, to be held in Hinckley (a small triangle of grass between the M1, M69 and M6, on which someone has built a hotel) this weekend.

Redemption is a once-every-two-years series of conventions based loosely around Babylon 5 and Blake's 7, but now broadened out even to other shows that don't follow the B + numeral pattern. The title is of course - how sad that I know this - taken from the first episode of the second series of B7, in which our heroes, having spent the first series swanning around the galaxy in their stolen alien starship Liberator, are finally called to account by the Liberator's builders who want their ship back. In other words, as Blake helpfully says, redemption. Which, yes, is a technically correct definition of the word, but not how it is generally perceived. I suspect Terry Nation, who wrote the episode, just wanted to use the word in the title.

I have absolutely no idea what to expect, save that I've looked at the membership list and it features some gratifyingly sane people known personally to me.

Partly as a means of getting involved, and partly as a way of making sure I generally have at least a table between me and the Klingons, I've volunteered for various panels. And golly, according to the programme I'm down for seven. Seven! Three of them being back to back on Saturday morning, and me with my incipient sore throat, though it's still best not to be absolutely sure what's happening in a programme until you turn up. They are:
  • What would Blake's 7 be like not set in space?
  • Room 101 (with the guest of honour!)
  • Narnia: film vs the books
  • Elections and politics in SF
  • What would you cut first? Making a programme to budget (no idea how I got onto this one)
  • Legal systems in Babylon 5 and Blake's 7
  • Creating an alien culture
Guest of honour is an actor named Scott Fredericks, who had small parts in Dr Who and B7 way back when and has diversified since, not least into writing and directing. His photo on the web site shows he has aged gracefully, though it would be hard not to improve on his appearance in the 1972 Dr Who episode "Day of the Daleks". The series had a bad case of the seventies back then, and when Mr Fredericks's character - a time travelling freedom fighting guerilla - first appears with the rest of the group, you take one look at the sideburns and moustaches and have to force yourself not to start humming:
"Young man, there's no need to feel down, I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground ..."
"Day of the Daleks" also has a famous scene of precisely three Daleks being wheeled out of a tunnel, over and over again in different orders and shot from different camera angles, to give the impression that a whole army of pepperpots is invading. Gave me the willies at the time. There was no CGI in those days, children, and we were better off for it.

Anyway, it should all be great fun and I'm looking forward to it. Reports will be made next week, depending on how reportable it all is.


  1. Panel #1 ought to be easy - just find the memo in which Terry Nation sold B7 to the Beeb as "X in space", and remove the words "in space"! (Yes, apparently if 'Star Trek' hadn't been set in space, it would have been just like 'Wagon Train' - easy!)

    Actually, since Terry Nation had a chronic inability to think of space as anything other than the sea with funny costumes (*and* he couldn't tell a solar system from a constellation from a galaxy from a universe - fule!) you could reasonably argue that B7 would really just be 'Mutiny on the Bounty', or some form of pirate/buccaneer serial.

  2. After about two seconds' reflection, I'd like to change that to 'Captain Pugwash'. Just because it amuses me really, although... Pugwash and B7 *are* both about *nice* pirates... see, see, it fits!

  3. Actually I incline more towards Robin Hood in charge of the Nautilus. Or maybe I should just drop Robin Hood and go all-out Verne. There's a lot of Blake in Nemo. (The man, not the fish.)

  4. I'd be fascinated to hear how it goes. Judith has tried to persuade us to go in the past and we've shied away for similar reasons.

    On an unrelated topic, we enjoyed "red nose day karaoke" on Friday and one team from Finance did YMCA. Having seen Neal in biker/ S&M gear (open leather jacket, no shirt and copious chains) I'm not sure I'm going to be able to look him in the face!

  5. My friend once accused me of being a Trekkie, something I strenuously denied. So he asked me to name all the captains. I hesitated, and ummed and ahhed but eventually I came out with all of them...

    Then I blushed, and confessed that I found it funny to pretend not to know their first (and in some cases, middle) names too.

    But surely no memorabilia = not a Trekkie? Surely? Please?

  6. Not having memorabilia helps. The acid test is whether you can name Kirk's two predecessors and describe the Starfleet rank insignia.

    Which I can, but I don't have memorabilia ...

  7. He had *two* predecessors? Ah, ignorance is bliss.


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