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In Which There's Some Rambling about the Diana Wynne Jones Con(ference) - So Many Books...

Jul. 18th, 2009

10:52 am - In Which There's Some Rambling about the Diana Wynne Jones Con(ference)

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As I said in my earlier post, the conference was a huge success, and much credit to fjm and steepholm for their organising. I also said I'd write about it as sensibly as possible, hoping my brains would return enough for me to do a paper-by-paper account, as there were so many wonderful papers, in such a variety of areas. I don't think that's going to happen, unfortunately, but there is now a conference 'souvenir' on the webpage, where the abstracts of all the papers can be seen, along with photos and links to blog write-ups.

What I should be able to muster sufficient brain-power to do though, is the usual rambling about less intellectual matters - happily no less meaningful for being less intellectual.
...when I gave up on sleeping and woke up the computer, to find that DWJ's travel jinx had hit already, and hit hard. steepholm and I had arranged to meet Deborah and Allen on Thursday night when I got into Bristol, but their flight from Boston to London had been cancelled! As Deborah was giving a paper the first afternoon - in fact, the first paper - this was more than a minor annoyance for her, and disappointed though we were not to get to see them then, there was some worry as to whether she'd make it in time at all. Thursday morning when I got up properly it was to news of the Destruction of Dublin by Flood. Okay, parts of it anyway, but as the access roads to Dublin Airport were closed, the parts snafued were not insignificant.

Made it there anyway, and had arranged for Deborah to ring me on my mobile when they were up Friday morning, as steepholm had to drive off bright and early to deepest Devon to deliver his external examiner report. I'd packed all the bits and pieces I needed to bring to the con in my suitcase and was ready to go when Deborah rang - sounding remarkably together for the amount of sleep (very low) and chaos (very high) they'd had over the last couple of days. Luckily the bus going out to Frenchay Campus was right across the road from steepholm's, as the bag was so heavy I could barely drag it behind me at all. Just before we arrived, the person behind me asked if the bus went into the campus, and I asked, for the first of many times, 'Are you going to the DWJ conference?' Not only was she, but she turned out to be Martha Hixon, one of the editors of Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. When we got off the bus, I confidently directed her with a vague wave of the hand in the direction of the student village, while I set off even more confidently for the conference rooms (which I'd already visited with steepholm). My adventures getting there, which involved help from people who worked on campus, either baffled themselves or unbaffled but wrong, brought home to me the truth: THE WHOLE CAMPUS IS A TRAVEL JINX. I don't quite know how that works out when DWJ isn't involved (i.e. from the time it was built until the weekend of the 3rd to 5th of July 2009), but it's the truth nonetheless.

At long last I found my way to the rooms, and after receiving a run-down on the whos and wheres of the U.W.E. people around to help us out (and having had to make an unexpected organizational decision that yes, we really did want a screen up against the windows for people's Powerpoint presentations) I briefly met one of the DWJ listserve/LJ friends I'd been looking forward to meeting, and totally failed to cop on to who she was. Having looked over the entire list of participants carefully several times, I should have known there was nobody with the (Irish) name Ciara, while Kyra could be pronounced differently from the way I'd been saying it.

Then Deborah and Allen turned up, not quite having used up the sum of their travel jinx on the flight over enough to find the conference rooms easily, but still early enough that we got a chance to chat a bit before registration began properly. (I've known Deborah from the DWJ listserve for 10 years now (!) but never met her in person, so this was a real pleasure.) Doing registration was great, as it was possible to greet everyone without shyness or reservation since it was my job, and I probably got to talk to almost everyone, which wouldn't necessarily have happened with a group that size otherwise. But, of course, there was nowhere near enough time to talk to anyone - in fact my feeling afterwards was that it was like a - slightly longer than normal - wedding: there's a huge amount of organizing beforehand, there are things to be done during the time and they're all totally meaningful, and you want to visit with everyone properly and there's not a chance you'll be able to.

Of course it wasn't totally like a wedding, as - aside from the obvious reasons - you don't usually come away from a wedding with a bunch of shiny new ideas as well as new friendships. steepholm breezed in a few minutes before he was due to give the welcome to the conference, which I missed, in order to phone for Help for the various technical hitches that had already surfaced, but I managed to get the help done in time to catch Deborah's talk, as I'd been determined to do. And so began the con proper, in participant terms, as her paper was very interesting and inspired me to reread Hexwood and Dark Lord of Derkholm from the perspective of protagonist age she discussed. And so went the whole weekend. I managed to get to the talks of everyone I knew previously from the listserve and LJ (with just one exception, which is pretty good), and they were all wonderful. It was especially lovely that there were so many varied approaches and perspectives - I think this is where the con element kicked in, as opposed to a completely standard (academic) conference, but perhaps it was just the awesomeness of the people giving papers. The two Keynote speeches, by Nicholas Tucker and Sharyn November, were wonderful too, and added the new U.S. version of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland to my Must Get Now list.

And the conversation! So many wonderful discussions about the papers, DWJ's books, the sheer Hotel Babylonness of the U.W.E. campus, and the other books we loved. sartorias was much missed, but there in spirit whether she knew it or not, for her books kept coming up (in the Books We Love sense, so it's 100% clear this time!) again and again. Sherwood Smith fandom came up too; though I might have been the one who mentioned the incredibly in-depth knowledge her many fans have of Sartorias-deles and their presence on LJ, heads nodded emphatically in agreement when I brought it up. Other authors who came up often were Megan Whalen Turner and Dorothy Dunnett, (though I've already managed to forget whether to start with the Niccolo or the Lymond books).

Happily a number of people were able to stay around for dinner on Sunday night, though some hadn't managed to arrange it and were also missed. Inevitably there were so many of us that conversation was pretty much limited to a few in close proximity, but we were able to take over a whole corner of the restaurant so it wasn't as limited as it might have been. fjm and chilperic stayed the night at steepholm's, which was great, as it prolonged the socializing for us right through till Monday morning. And when the two main organizers understandably went to lie down before the dinner, chilperic and I got a nice chance to chat - even more books discussed!

I think that's more than enough, and the rambling about intersecting internet worlds will have to wait for the write-up of the Asterisks and Obelisks conference - hopefully coming soon.

Current Music: Free - Ben Kritikos

Comments:

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From:rj_anderson
Date:July 18th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
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(psst! Start with Lymond)

Though I may be biased since I decided not to read Niccolo and migrated over to Dunnett's Johnson Johnson spy/mystery novels instead.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:July 18th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
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Kay, thanks! I didn't even know she'd written spy/mystery novels - they sound good too.
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From:sdn
Date:July 18th, 2009 01:22 pm (UTC)
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here's the link to the us tough guide.

it was great to see you and everyone. and dwj has come out of her surgery really well.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:July 18th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the link, Sharyn! And it's great that the surgery went well.
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From:gillo
Date:July 18th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
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the sheer Hotel Babylonness of the U.W.E. campus,


I'm glad it wasn't just me - I failed totally both at getting there and getting away. And I re-read
Deep Secret
just to check. I'll swear UWE has seven right angles to each square!

Dunnett - Niccolo is first chronologically, but Lymond was written first and probably ought to be read first. I'd start with
A Game of Kings
anyway.

I had no idea so many DWJ folks were on LJ - and am delighted y it, even if I did have to extend my flist significantly. I know what you mean about the interseting internet world!
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From:steepholm
Date:July 19th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)
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I'll swear UWE has seven right angles to each square!

I've been working there for 19 years, and still get lost every time I go to that campus. And they've just bought a lot more land, so expect the fun to increase in years to come.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:July 19th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
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Yikes. After they move you out there I may never see you again!
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:July 19th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
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I'll swear UWE has seven right angles to each square!

Heh. The oddest thing is that they could fix most of the problems by just renaming the section of the "D Building" we were in something else. If you can't get to it from the main part of the D Building without going outside, how is it not a different building?!
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From:booksandtea
Date:July 19th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)

travel jinx

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The travel jinx hit us, too, when we tried to enter the UK. I got in alright but they confiscated my friend's passport because it was reported as stolen (by her, years ago, and reported as found again when she got it back two months later. Hurray for computer records). It was lucky we arrived on Thursday since it took a whole day of phoning and visiting the embassy to get new travel documents for her.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:July 19th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)

Re: travel jinx

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Oh, that's a really low way for the jinx to strike! Sounds as if it stole some tricks from the Archer's Goon siblings.
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From:aryky
Date:July 19th, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
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I'm still amused that I've spent years pronouncing gair's name wrong in EXACTLY the same way that everyone else has been pronouncing my name wrong.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:July 19th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
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Oh yes - it is exactly the same way! I think I'd been pronouncing gair's name that way until it came up somehow on the list. BTW, wasn't it cool when there was a talk about Power of Three and Gair and Gerald kept being mentioned and gair and gerald were right there?

I'm in the getting name pronounced wrong club too, of course, but not in exactly the same way as you two. (sniff)
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From:aryky
Date:July 19th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
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I guess it's an easy and convenient way to pronounce names incorrectly?

Yes, very cool.

Yeah - I'm pretty sure my parents were pronouncing your name incorrectly, such that when they mentioned you, it took me a little while to figure out to whom they were referring. . . .
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