It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

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The Language Barrier

Back around the turn of century, the only English language radio station in Abu Dhabi, Capital Radio, rebadged itself as Emirates Radio and split into two stations. Called, of course, Emirates Radio 1 and Emirates Radio 2. A change in programming also went with the change in name. One DJ decided to liven up his afternoon show with some “games”. Most days of the week, this was a quiz – answer five questions in a row correctly, and you win a prize. Sometimes, it was Radio Hangman. Sometimes, it was Twenty Questions…

The object of the game was simple enough: discover the identity of the person the DJ was pretending to be. But only by asking questions that could be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Not everyone managed to grasp this…

DJ: Okay, we’ve already established I’m a person and I’m a politician. Next caller, what’s your question?
Caller: Hello. Are you a river or a lake?
DJ: We’ve already worked out I’m a person. And you can only ask questions that I can answer yes or no.
Caller: Oh. Okay… Are you dead or alive?

Most callers seemed to find it difficult enough to follow the game, but one caller managed to outdo all the others:

Caller: I have to guess your name?
DJ: Yes, I’m a person.
Caller: You are a pop star.
DJ (pleased that someone seems to have finally caught on): Yes.
Caller: Henry?
DJ: Ah, you’re going straight to the name. No, it’s not Henry.
Caller: William?
DJ: No, no, I’m female. We’ve already established that.
Caller: No, you are a man.
DJ: I’m not. I’m a woman.
Caller: No, no. You are definitely a man. This much I know. George?
DJ: No, I’m not a man! I’m a female!
Caller (heatedly): You cannot tell me you are a woman. I may not know much, but this much I know.
DJ (finally twigging that caller thinks she is identifying the DJ and not the person he is pretending to be): No, no. It’s a game. I’m pretending to be a woman. You have to guess who I am.
Caller (determinedly): You are a man. Is your name Peter?
DJ (quickly): Thank you very much for calling…

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Contemplating Science Fiction

Back from Chester and Contemplation, the 2007 Eastercon. It was put together as a replacement for the cancelled Liverpool Eastercon. A good con – the organisers did an excellent job. I didn’t, as usual, attend any of the programme items, except for the BSFA Awards – where I watched Ian McDonald hand out one award and receive another, and Jon Courtney Grimwood hand out one award and receive another… Congrats to all the winners.

The hotel was very good too – conveniently laid-out, and the staff friendly and helpful – albeit a tad more expensive than usual. Its location in the centre of Chester was an added bonus. Lots of nice restaurants within walking distance. We ate out every evening and enjoyed some good food. For me, cons are less about the programme than they are a chance to catch up with friends I otherwise wouldn’t see, make new friends, and network. I managed to do all three.

I can’t remember much of the conversations from the weekend – most probably aren’t repeatable, anyway. There was one with Neil Williamson on the voting habits of cats versus dogs, and which were more likely to vote for David Blunkett (I credit cats with too much intelligence to vote for him). There was a discussion on Stingray‘s Marina and whether it should be considered odd to fancy a puppet. (The answer is probably yes. But still, Marina…) I chatted to Ian McDonald about foreign language films and, of course, raved about Divine Intervention. He told me some of the odd-but-interesting facts he’d picked up while doing the research for Brasyl. There was a running joke on book titles for planetary romances set amongst Saturn’s moons (given that we couldn’t remember which were moons of Saturn and which were moons of Jupiter, there was some confusion). It started off relatively sane, with Warriors of Titan and Wizards of Mimas, turned alliterative and a little odd with Courtesans of Callisto, and then completely off-the-wall with Go-Go Dancers of Ganymede and Eunuchs of Europa. Someone asked, what about Io? Obvious, I said, that’ll be Dwarves of Io Io It’s Off To Work We Go… But perhaps you had to be there.

I did quite well on the book-front. Yes, the dealers’ room was smaller than is typical for an Eastercon, but I still managed to pick up some bargains and/or good books, including a signed hardback copy of Michael Swanwick’s Tales of Old Earth; Soundings, a collection of Gary K Wolfe’s reviews from Locus; a couple of small press titles by friends – Chris Beckett’s The Holy Machine and Gary Couzens’ Second Contact, each of whom signed their book for me; a few cheap Moorcock paperbacks (City of the Beasts I’ve now read and it’s rubbish); Lin Carter’s Down to a Sunless Sea (read this too and it’s even worse than the Moorcock); a Moomin paperback by Tove Jansson (it’s for children, but it’s a damned sight better written than most adults’ books – the first line is “I, Moominpappa, am sitting tonight by my window gazing into my garden, where the fireflies embroider their mysterious signs on the velvet dark”; you won’t find lines like that in Steven Erikson, George RR Martin or Jennings Goes to Wizard School…); Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys (the alien artefact is the most interesting thing in the novel, but Budrys seems more keen on bad psycho-analyses of his characters). I did buy a Leigh Brackett Ace double, The Secret of Sinharat / People of the Talisman, only to discover that both stories are in Sea-Kings of Mars, which I already have. So I sold it to Eric Brown for a pint. Which was more than the book cost.

I didn’t get that much sleep during the con – heading off to bed after one a.m. most nights, and up at seven o’clock the next morning. Saturday night wasn’t helped by some evangelicals singing Hallelujah outside the back of the hotel at 2:00 a.m. At first, I assumed they were just pissed-up drinkers on their way home. Then I realised they were harmonising a little too well. And then I heard the tambourine…

Although there were times when Contemplation felt a bit like a two-day con stretched out over three days, I had a very enjoyable time. A pleasant hotel, convivial atmosphere, good (if occasionally surreal) conversation, and a chance to catch up with people you haven’t seen since the last Eastercon. Good stuff.