|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Monday, September 16, 2013
My visit was as a guest of Fairies and Flying Saucers, the university's research cluster on fantasy and science fiction, and they looked after me well: Joseph Norman was at the bus stop to welcome me, and he showed me to the comfortable accommodation of the Lancaster Lodge and then met me in the bar for a pint or two before he and others took me out for a curry.
The conference was held in the Antonin Artaud building, and it ran smoothly, with breaks and refreshments at just the right times. My opening talk was billed as the keynote, which it certainly wasn't: despite much preparatory thinking and note-typing, when it came to delivering it I fell between the two wobbly stools of rambling anecdote about the man (and boy) and amateur analysis of the work. However, the audience listened sympathetically and laughed occasionally, and the questions that followed were well asked. SF critic Paul Kincaid was kind about my talk, and gave the whole conference such a good write-up that I really can't better it. (A full report is projected for Foundation issue 116, a special issue on Iain.) Two new books, The Transgressive Iain Banks: Essays on a Writer Beyond Borders and Gothic Dimensions were passed around, and their editor and author respectively each gave well-received and stimulating talks. It's exciting and indeed moving to see so much scholarly interest in Iain's work, coming at it from so many different academic angles.
Joe kept things on schedule, and after the conference finished on time, I had an hour for a reading -- from the opening of Descent -- and a Q&A, all professionally and unobtrusively photographed. Then about twenty of us headed through a light rain to dinner and subsequent pints and conversation at the fine local pub The Malt Shovel, whose very existence I had managed to miss in all my years at Brunel.