Tags: brightonsf



The literary operator

One of the great pleasures of putting on Brighton SF right before last year’s dConstruct was how it allowed me to mash up two of my favourite worlds: the web and science fiction (although I don’t believe they’re that far removed from one another). One day I’m interviewing Jeff Noon about his latest book; the next, I’m introducing Tom Armitage on stage at the Brighton Dome.

Those two have since been collaborating on a new project.

You may have seen Jeff’s microspores—a collection of tweet-sized texts, each one an individual seed for a sci-fi story. Here’s Spore #50:

After the Babel Towers attack, lo-fi operators worked the edges of the language, forging new phrases from the fragments of literature. They filled boxes with word shards in the hope of recreating lost stories.

Tom has taken that as the starting point for creating a machine called the literary operator

It’s quite beautiful. It fits inside a suitcase. It has an LED interface. It has a puck that nestles into the palm of your hand. It comes with a collection of books. You take the puck in your hand, pass it over the spine of one of the books, and wait for the LEDs to change. Then you will receive a snippet of reconstructed text, generated Markov-style from the book.

As Tom says:

It is an object that is both entirely fictional, and entirely real. Not “design fiction”; just fiction.

Literary Operator Fahrenheit 451

You can use/play with the literary operator—and hear from Tom and Jeff—this Thursday evening, September 26th at the Brighton Museum as part of Digital Late. Sarah and Chris are also on the bill so don’t miss it: tickets are a fiver if you book ahead of time.

Listen to Brighton SF

Brighton SF really was a wonderful event: Brian Aldiss, Jeff Noon, and Lauren Beukes all gathered together for an evening of chat and readings, hosted by yours truly.

Brian Aldiss, Jeff Noon, and Lauren Beukes on the Brighton SF panel, chaired by Jeremy Keith

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Thanks to Drew’s tireless efforts, the audio is now available for your listening pleasure on Huffduffer. I’ve also published a transcript.

Brighton SF with Brian Aldiss, Lauren Beukes, and Jeff Noon on Huffduffer

I highly recommend giving it a listen: readings from Jeff and Lauren, together with wonderful tales from the life of Brian Aldiss …superb stuff!

#BrightonSF It's Brian Aldiss, Jeff Noon, Jeremy Keith, and Lauren Beukes on stage for Brighton SF.

If that whets your appetite, there’s more audio goodness from each of the authors to be found on Huffduffer:

In the meantime, enjoy Brighton SF with Brian Aldiss, Lauren Beukes, and Jeff Noon.

The mind-blowing awesomeness of dConstruct 2012

Where do I start?

I could start by saying that dConstruct 2012 was one of the best days of my life. But let me back up a bit…

Here’s what I did last week:

  • Sunday, September 2nd: The amazing PixelPyros at Jubilee Square with Seb, followed by The Geekest Link pub quiz at The Caroline of Brunswick.
  • Monday, September 3rd to Wednesday, September 5th: non-stop Reasons To Be Creative.
  • Thursday, September 6th: Improving Reality with the brilliant Warren Ellis followed by Brighton SF, which exceeded my wildest expectations.
  • Friday, September 7th: dConstruct. Indescribably brilliant.
  • Saturday, September 8th: Mini Maker Faire, a fantastic collection of hackers and hardware in one place.
  • Sunday, September 9th: IndieWebCamp UK round at The Skiff with some of the smartest people I know.

That was just one week in the Brighton Digital Festival! And the weather was perfect the whole time—glorious sunshine.

I was really nervous on the day of Brighton SF. Like I said, I had no idea what I was doing. But I began to calm down right before the event.

I was sitting outside with Christopher Priest (I told him how much I liked Inverted World) and Joanne McNeil when the Brighton SF authors showed up, met one another, and started chatting. That’s when I knew everything was going to be fine.

Jeff Noon. Lauren Beukes. Brian Aldiss. Three giants of science fiction. Three warm, friendly, and charming people.

The event was so good. Each of the authors were magnificently charismatic and captivating, the readings were absolutely enthralling, and I end up thoroughly enjoying myself.

Thank you for sending in questions for the authors. On the night, things were going so smoothly and time was flying by so fast, I actually didn’t get a chance to ask them …sorry.

It was a wonderful event and Drew very graciously agreed to record the audio so there’s going to be a podcast and a transcript available very soon. Watch this space.

When the day of dConstruct dawned, I was already in a good mood from Brighton SF. But nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

I had the great honour and pleasure of introducing an amazing line-up of speakers. Seriously, every single speaker was absolutely superb. It was all killer, no filler.

Ben’s keynote set the scene perfectly. And boy, what a trooper! He really wasn’t a well chap, but with classic English stoicism and moustachioed stiff upper lip, he delivered the perfect opening for a day of playing with the future.

From there, it was just a non-stop delivery of brilliance from each speaker. After each talk, I kept using the words “awesome” and “mind-blowing”, but y’know what? They were awesome and mind-blowing!

Ben Hammersley Jenn Lukas Scott Jenson Ariel Waldman Seb Lee-Delisle Lauren Beukes Jason Scott Tom Armitage

And at the end …James Burke.

(this is the point at which I really needed to study the dreams/reality diagram because I was beginning to lose my grip on what was real)

James Burke

What can I say? I was really hoping it would be as good as an episode of Connections but what I got was like an entire season of Connections condensed into 45 minutes of brain-bending rapid-fire brilliance. It was mind-blowing. It was awesome. It broke my brain in the best possible way.

When James finished and the day was done, I was quite overcome. I was just so …happy! I had the privilege of hosting the smartest, most entertaining people I know. And I’m not just talking about the speakers.

At the after-party—and on Twitter—attendees told me just how much they enjoyed dConstruct 2012. I felt very happy, very proud, and kind of vindicated—it was something of a risky line-up and tickets were selling slower than in previous years, but boy, oh boy, that line-up really delivered the goods on the day.

Here’s one write-up of dConstruct. If you were there, I’d really appreciate it if you wrote down what you thought of the event. Drop me a line and point me to your blog post.

If you weren’t there …my commiserations. But here’s something that might serve as some consolation:

Thanks to Drew’s tireless work through the weekend, the audio from Friday’s conference is already online! Browse through the talks on the dConstruct archive or subscribe to a podcast of the talks on Huffduffer.

But you really had to be there.

Admiral Shovel and the Toilet Roll on Huffduffer

Questions, please

The Brighton Digital Festival is in full swing, Reasons To Be Creative is underway, and Brighton is chock-a-block with all manner of smart geeks enjoying the seaside sunshine. It’s pretty damn great.

Not long now ‘till Brighton SF on Thursday evening with Brian Aldiss, Lauren Beukes, and Jeff Noon. I’ll be the host for the evening so I should make sure that I’ve got lots of incisive questions for the three authors…

What the hell am I thinking‽ I have no idea what I’m doing. Damn it, Jim, I’m a sci-fi fan, not an interviewer!

I could do with your help. If you have anything—anything at all—that you’d like to ask one or all of these luminaries, please share it with me. We’ll be taking questions from the floor on the night too, but I’d feel a lot better if I had a nice stack of good questions to get the ball rolling.

So please, leave a comment and let me know what I should be asking these three masters of sci-fi.

From Chicago to Brighton

I was in the States last week for An Event Apart Chicago. I had a most excellent time. Partly, that’s because An Event Apart is always excellent, and partly because Chicago is such a great city.

I took pictures.

I did the Architecture Foundation’s river cruise (again), which I would highly recommend to anyone with the vaguest interest in either architecture or just cruising down rivers in boats.

Canyons of stone and glass Jessica

I also went to my the second bases-ball game of my life. The first one was at Fenway Park, so going to Wrigley Field feels like the logical next step—maybe I should work my way through all the bases-ball field diamond pitches in chronological order.

Chicago dog in Wrigley Field On the bleachers

To balance out such sportsness, I made sure to spend plenty of time in the Art Institute Of Chicago, taking full advantage of the Lichtenstein exhibition that’s currently running there.

Lichtenlips Lichtendog

I had the opportunity to meet some of the hard-working web geeks of Chicago. I had a look around the Obama campaign HQ, thanks to Daniel Ryan. I also got a tour of the whacky Tribune Tower, thanks to Chris Courtney, and I got to see first-hand how the web team at The Chicago Tribune are doing some very cool stuff with data.

On the Tribune roof Journalism is serious business

Now I’m back in Brighton, which is turning into geek central with the Brighton Digital Festival. It kicked off last night with Seb’s fantastic PixelPyros digital fireworks.

PixelPyros PixelPyros are go!

Reasons To Be Creative starts today. I’ll be popping in out to hear some of the talks, but things are getting pretty busy here at Clearleft Towers, what with this being dConstruct week.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve started having dConstruct dreams this week. I have to remind myself to actually enjoy myself and not spend the whole time stressing out. I think it should be fairly easy to enjoy myself, what with that kick-ass lineup.

That’ll be on Friday. Before that, there’s Brighton SF on Thursday. That’s going to be a lot of fun too, and a total geekfest with Jeff Noon, Lauren Beukes, and Brian Aldiss.

Grab a ticket if you haven’t already. See you there.


Just when I thought the first week of September couldn’t get any better, Brighton SF has ramped up: there will now be three world-class science fiction authors for me to be fanboyishly nervous around. Adopted Brightonian Jeff Noon is going to be there!

So for the princely sum of seven British pounds, you can spend an hour and a half in the company of these SF luminaries:

Blow me down with a psychedelic feather!

Countdown to September

It’s less than a month until the Brighton Digital Festival and I’m already ludicrously excited …and somewhat nervous.

The festival will kick off on September 2nd with fireworks …digital fireworks, courtesy of Seb.

The 2nd of September is also the first Sunday of the month, which means it’ll be time for The Geekest Link pub quiz at The Caroline Of Brunswick. And yes, this will be an official Brighton Digital Festival event. If you want to start swotting now, the rounds will be:

  • Artificial Intelligences,
  • Simulated Realities,
  • PC Games,
  • CGI picture round and, of course,
  • General Nerdage.

I’ll be there, hoping to improve on last night’s performance when our team—Quidditch Pro Quo, Clarice—pulled ahead from a very shaky start to come in second. Second! If you’ve been to the Geekest Link before, and you know how hardcore it can be, you’ll understand why we were so pleased with that result.

The next day, the internet geekery gets in to full swing with Reasons To Be Creative—formerly Flash On The Beach—running from Monday, September 3rd to Wednesday, September 5th.

Wednesday, September 5th is also when the dConstruct workshops kick off. The two workshops going on that day—Ethan’s and Remy’s—are already sold out, but there are still some spaces available for the workshops on Thursday, September 5th from Lyza and Jonathan. They will kick ass, so I highly recommend grabbing a workshop ticket, which comes with a free pass to the dConstruct conference day.

On the same afternoon, Improving Reality will be taking place over at the Pavilion theatre, featuring Warren Ellis amongst others. Once that wraps up, there’ll be a break—time for a drink at the bar—and then, from 6pm it’s time for Brighton SF.

This is what I’m nervous about. I think it’s going to be great—in fact, I know it’s going to be great because it features the great Lauren Beukes and the great Brian Aldiss—but I’m going to be playing the part of the evening’s chat show host. I’ve always enjoyed moderating panels at conferences like @media, South by Southwest, and Mobilism, so I’m hoping my nervousness will evaporate and I can enjoy it.

Seriously, it’s going to be pretty damn great so if you have any interest in speculative fiction, grab a ticket for just £7. Better yet, grab a combination ticket for Improving Reality and Brighton SF together for just £20.

All of those great events will be happening in the lead-up to the big one: dConstruct on Friday, September 7th. I still can’t quite believe the fantastic line-up we’ve got, and I’m looking forward to every single talk. I’ll be introducing the speakers on the day so I hope I don’t make too much of an idiot of myself.

Amazingly, there are still a few tickets left for dConstruct! When I say “a few”, I really mean a few …a handful might be more accurate. But if you’ve been thinking about going, you’ve still got a chance to get in there and snap up a ticket.

If you’re thinking of coming en masse from a single company, check out the sponsorship options. The magnificent Mailchimp and Heart Internet are already on board. As well as our gratitude, you will get your logo on the website and badges, a number of free passes, and a stand at the conference to show off your wares.

If you’re not into the stand idea, another option is to sponsor the pre-party or after-party—always a big hit with the attendees. Or you could sponsor a coffee cart at the event; the coffee from the Brighton Dome is notoriously crap, so any company that sponsors a Small Batch coffee cart will earn the undying gratitude of the multitudinous geeks. Drop me an email or give me a call if you or someone you know wants to be the hero of the hour.

Just one month until dConstruct …I can’t wait!

Brighton SF

One of the perks of organising this year’s dConstruct is that I get to put together my dream line-up. Hence the presence of one of my favourite sci-fi authors and all-round lovely person, Lauren Beukes.

Now seeing as Lauren is coming to Brighton for dConstruct anyway, I started to wonder whether it might be possible to persuade some other authors to come to town for something specifically sci-fi to tie in with the Brighton Digital Festival. Myself and Kate started scheming together.

Here’s the result: Brighton SF.

Lauren will be joined by none other than Brian Aldiss! Yes, the Brian Aldiss.

I’ll be hosting the event. I’m simultaneously really excited and really nervous about that. I’m hoping that we’ll have a fun hour and a half of chat and readings. I’ll try to not to embarrass myself by being too much of a fan boy.

Brighton SF will take place from 6pm to 7:30pm on Thursday, September 6th—the day before dConstruct. Tickets are £7 but that includes a free drink at the bar beforehand, so get along early for that.

The venue is the Pavilion Theatre. That’s also the venue for this year’s Improving Reality during the afternoon. Last year’s Improving Reality was excellent and this year’s looks like it’s going to be another winner. Warren Ellis will be speaking along with a host of smart artists and thinkers.

Improving Reality will take place from midday to 5:30pm. Tickets are £15 (or £10 for students). If you’d like to go to both events (and who wouldn’t?), you can get a combination ticket for £20 (£15 for students).

This is going to be fun! Hope to see you there.