Friday, 27 March 2009

going to london brb

Going to a conference on Eros with my little Powerpoint and my knitting! Back on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


(You can tell it's the spring vacation, can't you? HELLO THAR INTERNETS.)

So I read Love and Lies: Marisol's Story, which is a companion volume to Hard Love, which is one of my favourite YA novels of all time, and Parrotfish, which is about a FtM protagonist, and they were fine, but neither of them had that thing that made Hard Love so awesome. I think it was because Hard Love had lots of different voices, lots of different formats and styles and points of view, and you had the sense that more was going on with everyone than you ever found out: its point of view was slightly skewed from the main narrative line, and there was something pleasingly complicated about the star-crossed lovers plot. Whereas both Love and Lies and Parrotfish, I felt, worked a little bit too hard at presenting the 'right' way to see things through a first-person narrator, and that made everything a bit flat and unnuanced. They were good examples of the problem-novel genre, which I happen to really like, but they didn't do an awful lot with it, I thought. But, you know, isn't it great that there's lots of perfectly-good-but-not-world-scorchingly-brilliant queer YA fiction out there? When J wrote her first queer YA novel, her editor told her it had to be three times as good as the next book because it was queer. And that's just not true any more, which is great.

Okay, now I have to go revise my article for Cultural Critique - the anonymous reader (who was very helpful, thank you anonymous reader) pointed out that I hadn't written the last paragraph of it. Which I never do; that's like my besetting sin as an academic writer. I hate the bit where you go 'And so in conclusion the last five thousand words were basically about this'. So, gah, I hate having to do it, but double-gah, I know it will make the piece like a hundred percent better, so I can't even grumble about the unreasonable demands of editors.

Incidentally, yesterday I practiced my Eros paper on J and she says she can't tell whether I'm getting cleverer or stupider either.

Monday, 23 March 2009

This Charming Man

The only book I have so far read from the Tower O Books is Marian Keyes, This Charming Man, which I liked a lot on the way through and which I think did some subtly quite interesting stuff with gender and race/racism, but I was kind of disappointed in the ending. It wasn't as bad as Alexandra Potter's Who's That Girl?, but it did remind me of it, in that both books deal with men who serially abuse women (the charming man of MK's title beats and rapes his girlfriends, and Who's That Girl has a character who sexually abuses his patients), neither book shows the man being punished for it, and both of them frame their endings as happy. Me, I'm of the opinion that the good should end happily and the bad unhappily (that is what fiction means), and it doesn't seem too much to ask that, you know, rapists in popular, escapist-ish fiction should get their come-uppance.

Probably I will read something by Ellen Wittlinger next.

and what i really want to know is this

I listened to Laurie Anderson's album, Bright Red, constantly while I was discovering Benjamin and Derrida in my MA year, and (perhaps consequently) it seems to me to be one of the savviest theoretical works on history in existence. It has a song 'Same Time Tomorrow' which contains the lines:

and what I really want to know is this:
Are things getting better, or are they getting worse?
Can we start all over again?
Stop. Pause. We're in record.

Which is such a deft and intelligent and dense and complex set of reflections on what it is to do history (we can't interpret historical data, particularly data from our own historical moment, without a narrative of progress or of decline; we can't start all over again, because the burden of history weighs on our brains like a nightmare from which we are trying to awake; and our experience in the present is conditioned or determined by technologically specific archival structures.) The fact that the previous stanza is all about letters and their burning (the conceptual/metaphorical centre of Derrida's The Post Card) just makes me love this song even harder.

The Benjamin connection is 4REAL, by the way - one of the ways we were taught Benjamin on my MA was through a documentary by/about Laurie Anderson, in which she clones herself and her clone (who looks nothing like her) only speaks in Walter Benjamin quotes. Also, her song 'The Dream Before' is a version of Benjamin's Angel of History, from his 1940 essay 'Theses on the Philosophy of History' (recently retranslated as 'On the Concept of History').

Anyway, I'm currently trying to write my paper for the Eros conference this weekend and wishing I knew whether I was getting cleverer or whether I was getting stupider (is the reason it's flowing relatively easily but I can tell where the conceptual holes are just because I am better at writing and more self-reflective than I used to be, or because I have become glib and superficial in a career-driven bid to publish/give more papers?) Which is what that title was originally about, but of course it will also serve to segue into my promised post on Benjamin and Edelman.

I've bitched talked a fair bit about what I think is wrong with Lee Edelman's book No Future in the chapter I wrote for Miriam Leonard's volume Derrida and Antiquity. I had really high hopes for the book, which is about the political motivation of appeals to 'the children' (won't somebody please think of the children?) and the way that such appeals implicate us in a particular way of thinking about the future as the reproduction of the present, which involves a particular kind of naturalization of heterosexuality and the nuclear family as well as a problematic conservatism, a closedness to the future as radically unknown and unknowable. Which is a great thing for a book to be about, yes? Yes! But the book itself has four main flaws, for me:

(1) It takes for granted that reproductive heterosex can be distinguished from queer, non-reproductive sex, and it doesn't seem to believe that the future can be thought of in any way other than the reproduction of the Same (this is the point I take aim at in the Derrida chapter).

(2) Its argument, riskily, is that queers should proceed by repeating and fulfilling the homophobic insistence that queerness is dangerous or deadly to children, and that queerness has no future. I don't think this risk pays off: Leo Bersani writes on the back cover of the book Edelman’s extraordinary text is so powerful that we could perhaps reproach him only for not spelling out the mode in which we might survive our necessary assent to his argument. Which means that his book requires that queers assent to our non-survival, our eradication: I can't think of anything more anti-queer than that (not just that queers should be eradicated, but that we should participate in our own eradication), and it never quite becomes clear to me what is pro-queer about the book's argument.

(3) Edelman repeatedly says 'queers' and 'we' when he means 'gay men' (We all know the pain of homophobes insisting that we are effeminate interior designers! No, not if 'we' are butch lesbians). Universalizing specifically male experience is irritating, lazy and sexist anyway, but when it's in a book about the production of children, it's even more so.

(4) It doesn't engage with the fact that some people are children - and that the use of children-as-metaphors is damaging and harmful to them, too.

So, anyway. I teach an MA unit called 'Reception: History, Time and the Archive' which is about the reception of (texts and artefacts from) the past, and the models of history and time that we use to think about the material or textual survival of the past into the present. It's a really fun unit, and this year I have a particularly excellent group of students, who pretty much on a weekly basis help me to push my ideas further (they're already in the acknowledgements page of Now and Rome for helping me, in our session on Jauss, to sharpen up the relationship between textual and political reception that the book is all about). And when we read 'Theses on the Philosophy of History' a couple of weeks ago, I realized for the first time that Benjamin's whole argument there can be seen as being about the revolutionary potential of the past as opposed to the future.

In Theses 2-6, Benjamin talks about the claim that the past has on us, and how the task of the materialist historian is to 'rescue' the past, which is in danger. For example, in thesis 6, he writes (emphasis original):

Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.

And the angel, of course, in Thesis 9, 'would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed': 'his face is turned towards the past', but he is blown helplessly into the future by the storm of progress. But the clearest bit, I think, is in Thesis 12, which is otherwise quite opaque to me because I don't know the historical context well enough (emphasis mine):

Not man or men but the struggling, oppressed class itself is the repository of historical knowledge. In Marx it appears as the last enslaved class, as the avenger that completes the task of liberation in the name of generations of the downtrodden. This conviction... has always been objectionable to Social Democrats... Social Democracy thought fit to assign to the working class the role of the redeemer of future generations, in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength. This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished more by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.

Benjamin's target throughout the 'Theses', as-I-argue-in-my-book, is a set of linked concepts: 'tradition', 'progress', 'the continuum of history', and (crucially) 'homogeneous, empty time'. He's arguing, I think, for a way of doing history that doesn't allow the ruling classes or the 'victors' to determine causality and continuity, or to determine what makes it into the historical record and what doesn't. That is, he is arguing against the enslavement of the future to the past via a dominant set of cultural and political norms, against becoming trapped on the trajectory of 'progress', as opposed to being able to take a 'tiger's leap into the past' in 'the open air of history' (which, he says, 'is how Marx understood the revolution').

So the important and revolutionary thing, for Benjamin as for Edelman, is the refusal of dominant forms of continuity and 'progress' into a future which is modelled on the past. Like Edelman, too, Benjamin argues against thinking the future through the figure of the child: he says that the image of 'liberated grandchildren' is what destroys and dissipates the energy (the hatred and spirit of sacrifice, isn't that a great phrase?) of the revolutionary class. But he doesn't therefore say, like Edelman, that there will be 'no future', or that we must 'pronounc[e] at last the words for which we're condemned should we speak them or not:... that the Child as futurity's emblem must die: that the future is mere repetition and just as lethal as the past' (No Future, p.31). Very tellingly, this is the only reference to the past that I remember in No Future (I don't have my copy of it to hand, I lent it to a friend), and I don't remember Edelman explaining why 'the past' should be lethal when it can, of course, be life-giving (for example, many queer people have found it urgent to research and tell queer histories in order to find alternative ways to be queer in the present).

Anyway, Benjamin's critique of futurity runs, perhaps, along similar lines to Edelman's, but he doesn't draw the same conclusions as Edelman. Instead Benjamin says that, in doing history in a new way, in thinking of ourselves as the redeemers or rescuers of the past rather than of 'future generations', we are inaugurating a whole new model of time, escaping the 'homogeneous, empty' time of progress and historical continuity. He ends, in Thesis 18B, by saying:

We know that the Jews were prohibited from investigating the future. The Torah and the prayers instruct them in remembrance, however. This stripped the future of its magic, to which all those succumb who turn to the soothsayers for enlightenment. This does not imply, however, that for the Jews the future turned into homogeneous, empty time. For every second of time was the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter.

So doing history in the Benjaminian way - turning our faces towards the past; thinking of ourselves as the redeemers not of future generations of liberated grandchildren but of enslaved ancestors; refusing to investigate the future - opens up the future to the absolute unknowability and otherness of the Messianic moment. It turns the future into a future-to-come (in Derrida's pun on the French word 'avenir', which means both 'future' and, differently punctuated, 'to come'). Just as Edelman sets out to do, the 'Theses' demolish a future predicated on the Child as the emblem of 'heteroreproductive futurity', the endless repetition of the same, but Edelman leaves us in an unsurvivable moment which valorizes death (the subtitle of No Future is Queer Theory and the Death Drive), while Benjamin, fanning the spark of hope in the past and valorizing redemption and rescue, shifts us into an entirely different mode of futurity.

I know which revolution I'd rather dance at.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

no no future = yes future!

To remind myself that when I get an hour or so (mmm... an hour...) I must post about how Walter Benjamin pre-emptively and definitively dismantles Lee Edelman's No Future. And how my MA class were the ones to show me how. I love my MA class.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Harry Potter is a war criminal

and I love Shami Chakrabarti even more than I did this morning.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


I have a huge pile of books!

J and I bought them together in two big binges: today we went to Cardiff and bought the first five in Borders (I just went in for This Charming Man, it was like that episode of Black Books where Manny goes into the bookshop and comes out five seconds later with #100 worth of books and a latte), and when we came home the rest had arrived from Amazon (in, J wishes it to be recorded, a big box. Not a small one, as you might think; a big one). The big box was the result of an online binge a couple of weeks ago, which in turn was a result of J's slightly chaotic accounting system (me: I wish we had lots of money to spend on books; J: I BET WE COULD AFFORD LIKE A HUNDRED POUNDS OH LOOK.)

Anyway. They are sat on the coffee table, waiting for it to be the Easter vacation. This is a list of them and why we bought them:

Jacqueline Wilson, My Secret Diary (I buy everything by JW as soon as it comes out)
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (it has a reference to Blake's 7 on page 22)
Leslie Arfin, Dear Diary (It is about chaotic drug-addicted teenagers!)
Marian Keyes, This Charming Man (Big fat chicklit novel about domestic violence! And Morrissey gave permission for the title!)
P C and Kristin Cast, Marked (J says: For the first time in ages a vampire novel that reminds me of Buffy!. [In the shop she said: A vampire novel with a sense of humour about itself!])
Katia Noyes, Crashing America (Streetsmart lesbian road movie novel with teenage protagonist and a back-cover blurb from Michelle Tea!)
Ellen Wittlinger, Parrotfish (FTM novel!)
Mayra Lazara Dole, Down to the Bone (Cuban-American lesbian teen lit!)
Ellen Wittlinger, Love And Lies: Marisol's Story(Companion novel to Hard Love, one of my top three favourite queer YA novels)
Steve Berman, Vintage: A Ghost Story (J says: Queer Gothic, worth a try)
Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality and Lesbian Public Cultures (WHAT MORE NEED WE SAY)
Perry Moore, Hero (Gay teen superhero! And all his friends have, like, rubbish superpowers!)
Sylvia Brownrigg, Pages for You (Intergenerational lesbian awesomeness!)
P E Ryan, Saints of Augustine (One of them is gay! One of them is straight! They fight crime learn and grow in the course of a turbulent adolescent summer!)

When I have read them I will tell you about them.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

high on books

So I survived my Very Busy Week in fine style: Thursday afternoon saw me spellbound with interest at an awesome keynote lecture by the inexplicably undersung Marcel Swiboda on Samuel Beckett's Ghost Trio, followed by a very exciting response from Richard Stamp which followed some of the same theoretical and formal questions through a reading of Duck Amuck (YouTube link). (Later, over dinner, I argued that there was, in fact, a right answer to one of the central questions - 'what does a close-up sound like', or 'what is the auditory equivalent of the close-shot' - and that answer was THE SOUND OF THE TARDIS.) So that might have been one of my favourite academic moments ever.

Then on Friday I went to a short-listing meeting where we all quite amicably agreed on a short-list for the one-year post-doc at the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition, and then to a workshop on mentoring (I have a mentee!), and then came home and finished* my marking. Then J & I celebrated the finishing of marking with champagne, popcorn and the episode of Black Books where Manny gets a weekend off and announces his intention to take long baths, braid my beard, unbraid it, lie around fondling moonbeams and being a lord of leisure, eat tiramisu in bed with a long spoon.

And now it is the weekend, and I have two days off,** and things are going to be a bit calmer for the next few weeks. When I was walking down the hill to my mentoring workshop yesterday, it was a beautiful spring day, and there were daffodils in the gardens of Bristol Grammar School and blossom on the trees by the road and that springlike energy in the taste of the air, and it suddenly occurred to me that on the way home I could go into a shop and look at the things in it for no reason! I could take slightly longer than necessary over tasks! (In the end, I didn't, because I wanted to get my marking finished early. But still. That sense of being off the treadmill is just glorious.)

So far my moonbeam-fondling activities have mostly consisted of having energetic conversations with J and reading novels of immense brilliance and joy. In termtime, I read very little new fiction, because I get so little uninterrupted reading time that everything has to be broken up into five pages here and there (usually in bed, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, when I don't want to be sinking luxuriously into a fictional world/a sensory-intellectual bath of wordlove). So I mostly read chicklit, and undemanding chicklit at that, while J rolls round in literary splendour and piles up huge Towers O Books by my side of the bed for me to look at longingly and then pick up another Meg Cabot novel.

But today! I read Cathy's Key, which is the sequel to Cathy's Book, which I stayed up till one in the morning to read in one hit last summer. Key is slightly less exciting than Book, I think, and does less with its so-called 'interactive' format,*** but much more emotionally complex and interesting - in the same league as Feeling Sorry for Celia, which is one of my favourite books in the world. You guys should all read it: it's a really refreshing in a post-Joss-Whedon kind of a deal (as in, following up on the cool stuff in Whedon and briskly repairing the uncool stuff in a no-nonsense, hip kind of way), and makes me even more puzzled that Twilight is taking over the world. Here's a non-spoilery extract from some of the metafictional discussion towards the end, which I read as a pleasing sideswipe at Bridget Jones**** and post-Bridget Jones romantic comedies (on which, see this potentially interesting Guardian article, by the way), and as kind of a manifesto for the books' portrayal of kick-ass girlhood:

Hollywood is nervous about having female lead characters. Romantic stories about young women in adventurous situations are considered very niche - only for teenage girls. [But] they liked all the bits about you getting humiliated at work.

Anyway, there's a third one coming out next month, Cathy's Ring. Hooray!

And the second book I read today is Kensington Gardens, which all my ch lit friends must go and read IMMEDIATELY, though I have also told you all to go and see P J Hogan's film of Peter Pan and none of you have done that, so I hold out no hope. But it is awesome! It's narrated by Peter Hook, a children's writer and the creator of 'Jim Yang', the time-travelling boy hero who can't grow up, and it's a kind of bonkers mash-up of the life of J M Barrie with London in the Swinging Sixties. It's rich and strange and full of pontification and riffs and at one point has a ten-page list of people who were famous in the last 60s, and it's completely compelling - it's 400 page and I read it in one go.

The oddest thing about it is that J loves it, and it's totally the kind of thing she'd usually hate. I know this because it's avowedly structured very like The Good Soldier, which is one of Fresan's favourite books and also one of mine, and J hates The Good Soldier to the extent that she is gnashing her teeth and hurling it against walls by about ten pages in. And actually, the 'ten-page list' thing makes me think of American Psycho, which it doesn't really resemble except where it does, and J hates that, too.

Anyway, but the really awesome thing about it is that it's kind of a version of Homeward Bounders, which I don't think (from his acknowledgements and lists of sources) Fresan has read. I am semi-seriously toying with the idea of sending him a copy, because I think reading some DWJ would totally remap his ideas about children's literature.

And tonight! J and I and our friend G are going to go and see The Wizard of Menlo, a play about Thomas Edison (sample quote from publicity: Yes. Life is being improved. We are improving it with our machines), which I am fully expecting to be as steampunkily mad and brilliant as Tomorrow's Eve, though I may of course be disappointed. So between the post-Buffy teen-girl-adventure-romance-with-supernatural-elements and the Latin-American-magic-realist-Peter-Pan-60s-London thing and the Czech-paean-to-Edison, possibly my brane will explode and I won't have to teach on Monday anyway. HOORAY FOR THE WEEKEND.

*I still have three units of second-marking to do, but none of that is actually late yet, and I have finished my first-marking! (Until my Latin students have their exam on Thursday, anyway.)

** Well, I have to do a handout/Powerpoint for my 9am lecture and read like fifty lines of Vergil for my 10am reading class on Monday. BUT THAT IS ALL.

*** The books have phone numbers and email addresses and websites and suchlike in, that really work, and a little envelope full of doohickeys - menus and documents and scribbled-on matchbooks and stuff. The doohickeys are cool but the phone messages are all transcribed in the book itself, and the websites also seem to just have scans of the doohickeys, and I'm unsure why 'clicking on stuff' is any more 'interactive' than 'turning the pages of a book'. But I am a grumpy old woman, I know.

**** I actually really liked Bridget Jones the book, which is mainly about female friendship and urban friend-based kin networks of care, and the inanity of self-help-book versions of heterosexuality which try to set up men and women as different species. But the film... didn't really do that so much.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


So last weekend I went to Redemption 09, a multifandom convention which has been running biannually for ten years now: it started in 1999 as a Blake's 7/Babylon 5 convention, became 'Blake's 7, Babylon 5 and Beyond' in I think 2005, and now the only real trace of its origins as a two-fandom con is the awesome logo (the Liberator from Blake's 7 emerging from a Babylon-5-style jump-gate). I've been going since 2001 (though I had to miss '07 because I was in Australia, and will probably miss '11 for the same reason, BOO).

It was fantastic. I haven't been very involved with fandom as such over the last few years: the shift of fandom from e-mail lists to Livejournal hasn't suited me very well, and also there was the whole thing where I got a girlfriend and a full-time job and had less time for spontaneous small-scale writing, and also the obsession with Harry Potter which has paradoxically kept me out of organized fandom. So I don't participate in a lot of the activities which tend to be used to define 'fandom' - I've written very little fic, and almost all of it in fandoms which I don't otherwise participate in or which are extremely small-to-non-existent; I don't beta-read, edit, or really read fanfic or watch songvids; all my fandoms are closed-canon so I don't participate in ongoing show discussion or reviews or whatever. But really my online life centres around fandom and fans, and I still think of myself as a fan. I guess I still read like a fan. But I went to the con with a little bit of trepidation, in case I didn't 'count' as a fan any more.

But it was just bloody marvellous. I still had that feeling of being among my people, and just that absolute joyfulness of being among people who all want to think and talk and share their skills and their enthusiasm with one another. People who are making stuff, all the time, out of the bits and pieces that our culture gives us, and who are keeping alive niche skills and strange traditions, and who are looking at the world from a strange sideways perspective and thinking about how to live in it differently, and who are in a glorious tradition of amateurism (root word love): doing things for the love of it, as best as we can, and in ways which often bypass the main (commodified and professionalized) circuits of reward and evaluation. I guess one of the best ways to try and convey that is to talk about the Saturday-night cabaret, where any con attendees can sign up to perform, and which this year included, among many other things:

* a beautiful youth whose gender I couldn't read (sorry, beautiful youth, unless you prefer not to be read in gendered terms, in which case, unsorry) performing a hilarious Star Trek version of a song referred to in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, complete with Tribbles; I talked to hir afterwards and ze said it had been hir first performance without a script, but ze hadn't been nervous because ze'd spent the whole half-hour before ze went on talking to the Guests of Honour (Doctor Who writers Paul Cornell and Rob Shearman) and they'd been so lovely and interesting ze'd forgotten to be scared;

* a woman in a pinstriped corset with a red feather boa and a tiny black hat with a veil skewered onto her long hair, performing a dance to an amazing song called 'Doomsday' which managed not only to be visually splendid but also to critique and extend the characterization of Lucy Saxon (the Master's wife in Season 3 of New Who) in fabulous ways;

* a person in mediaeval dress playing the dulcimer and the recorder (simultaneously);

* a woman doing a poi routine to a Tom Lehrer song;

* a completely hilarious sketch crossing Doctor Who with the Council of Elrond from The Lord of the Rings (and critiquing both texts in the process);

* a fancy-dress competition won by a woman who'd hand-sewn an outfit from original Victorian patterns, with second place taken by a woman who'd made a 'Liberator' costume out of three paper cones and a big green balloon - both of them were amazing and fannish in completely different ways, one because of the craft and the rigour/geekery and the skill and the labour, and the other because of the simplicity and the humour and the way in which it relied on a shared fannish world of references and icons and allusions.

The Redemption community is a nice mix of ages - skewing mainly into the 30s and 40s but with a good sprinkling of white-haired sex- and septuagenarians, and a fair number of twentysomethings. Also some children, between about three and about ten (not many teenagers). It's pretty white, but by no means completely so, and there were a number of people with visible disabilities (including a guy with a guide dog who ran a panel on how blind people experience TV, and talked very interestingly about how Old Who, with the Radiophonic Workshop, is a much better show for people mainly experiencing it aurally than New Who, with the fancy visual CGI and the intrusive/cliched post-John-Williams-style music).

I spent a lot of time in the bar, talking to good friends I made through Blake's 7 fandom and/or at earlier Redemptions, and a lot of time going to panels (one of the differences between a Redemption convention and a conference is that Redemption schedules three streams of panels/activities continuously from ten am until midnight or one in the morning, and people think this is a good thing, because there isn't anything we'd rather do than, for example, have a beery discussion about who the best Doctor Who writer is at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night). I participated in two panels - one on Mary-Sue, which was absolutely brilliant and caused me to have many thoughts, which will all mulch around in the back of my brain until I suddenly come up with a shiny new Theory of Mary-Sue, and one on Lois McMaster Bujold, which was also brilliant: in fact, one of the things I liked best about the convention was that we managed to spend nearly an hour talking about Bujold's protagonist Miles Vorkosigan and the way in which her characters are given psychological depth and complexity so as to deepen and extend the action-adventure/space-opera/romance genres that she plays with... and no-one even once mentioned that Miles (the action/romance hero) is severely disabled, because there was so much else to say. (I also liked the moment when about seven of us, all women, had gone out into Coventry to forage for dinner and some boys threw stuff at us from an alleyway - but we paid no attention because we were too busy animatedly talking about self-defence systems and the best way to deal with attacks, and the boys got bored and gave up straightaway.)

But perhaps the highlight of the con was the now-traditional dramatic reading of Man of Iron, which started in 2001 and now has to be scheduled in one of the biggest conference rooms the hotel has to offer, because the audience gets bigger every time. Now, Man of Iron is a never-produced script written for Blake's 7 by Paul Darrow, who played one of its leads, Avon, and, in the words of the person sitting behind me at the reading, it reaches levels of bad never before attained by humans. It was, alarmingly, the only specifically Blake's 7 item on the programming this year, and I'm pretty sure there were people watching it who had never seen any of the original show, but this doesn't seem to detract from the sheer joy of it. By now, it's becoming a sort of Rocky-Horror experience, with semi-formalized, semi-spontaneous audience participation (eg the explosion of applause and catcalls at the line Water is your ally, Tarrant! Water! Water!). Again, it's the sort of thing you could only get at a convention: it's a celebration of a shared world, a shared knowledge of genre conventions and their uses and abuses, and a shared mythology of Paul Darrow and his curious mix of self-delusion and canniness (one of the things that is most mocked by fans about Darrow's performance in B7 is his running; one of the things we love the most is his capacity for Beautiful Suffering; and the Man of Iron script consists in roughly equal measure of Avon running and Avon being beaten up). And the performance works so well because of its skilled amateurishness: more of a professional gloss would ruin the tone of it, and make it less of a shared experience between audience and actors (also, would we start casting according to physical type, and lose our fifty-nine-year-old, walks-with-a-cane, portly, white Dayna and our skinny, blonde, female Avon? Not to mention our mad scientist in a silver PVC knee-length kilt?); less skill in the performance and it wouldn't come across at all.

And now (see previous post) that is all the time I have to write about Redemption, though I wish I could say more about almost every aspect of it. I'm gutted we'll probably have to miss Redemption 11, but starting to lay grandiose plans for Ruler of the Universe at Redemption 13 (this year won by Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart, an alternate-universe Fascist version of the Brigadier who appears in one story from Old Who - I love it when the minor characters rule the universe! - played to the hilt by a fantastic fan whose name I only know as 'Ming' (his badge name), complete with a poster campaign with slogans like: If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boot stamping down on a human face. Now imagine your foot in that boot. Vote Lethbridge-Stewart!), and hoping to attend Odyssey 2010, which will be run by the same committee as Redemption and therefore will no doubt be AWESOME.

And so, in conclusion, GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!!!