Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2014: Blogger Panel #4 – Favourite Alien

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2014, an event hosted by myself and Oh, the Books!. You can keep up to date by following @SciFiMonth on Twitter, or the official hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Welcome to the final blogger panel for Sci-Fi Month! This is where we ask a group of bloggers a question relating to science fiction, and they are free to answer it in any way they wish. There has been four over the course of the event, alternating between my blog and Oh, the Books!. Today’s participants include myself, my co-hosts, and Cecily, who came up with our question! Today’s question is:

Who or what is your favourite alien, and why?

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Asti @ Oh, the Books!

Asti

I have to admit, I don’t have a great knowledge of aliens to pull from. The only book I’ve actually ever read is The Host by Stephenie Meyer, and while it was okay I wouldn’t say the aliens were my favorite. No, I think I’m going to have to turn outside of books for this one.

I’ve loved my fair share of movies with aliens – Star Wars, E.T., District 9, Mars Attacks!, The Fifth Element, Transformers, Men in Black, Superman, etc. etc. (seriously, I could go on and on) – but there’s one that will always hold a special place in my heart. And I must warn you, it’s probably a bit unexpected, especially as it comes from a movie that’s a Rated R cult classic released in 1975.

My favorite aliens are the transvestites from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. Now, if you haven’t seen Rocky Horror Picture Show that may sound incredibly weird – and it is. That whole movie is weird! But it’s the most entertaining and memorable musical comedy horror film I’ve ever watched!

Why do I love these aliens so much? Because they’re so outlandish and have such simple desires! They’re not after world domination or anything like that. No, they just want to dress up, party, love, sing, and, in Dr. Frank N. Furter’s case, make themselves a man! Seriously, if these aliens were to show up at my door step I would not hesitate for a second to invite them in. I would have to keep Dave in my sight at all time sot ensure he doesn’t get up to any trouble, and I’m sure his parents would freak the heck out, but the mere thought of doing the Time Warp with them just excites me to no end.

So yes, my less-than-conventional answer is the aliens from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you haven’t seen it, you won’t quite get it and I’m not sure it’s a film I’d recommend to everyone. But I watched this film regularly with my friends as a teen and learned all the callbacks and saw it performed in theatre and just YES! There’s no other choice for me.

Asti blogs at Oh, the Books! with Kelley and Leanne, having previously blogged at A Bookish Heart before joining up with the other two to make a superblog! She is the awesome creator of the Bookish Games, and the Sci-Fi Month Social Media Maestro.

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Kelley @ Oh, the Books!

Kelley

It’s actually harder than I thought it would be, to choose a favorite alien! Naturally, I tend to ponder all of the various aliens from Star Trek, but since so many of them are humanoid it somehow doesn’t feel completely fair. Strangely, though, I don’t seem to be able to think of many alternatives! So… I think I’m going to say that my favorite alien is Odo from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. To me, his character is one with a lot of depth and introspection, and I think his arc was very well done. He’s a changeling, which means he can take the shape of anyone or anything he desires, but he’s spent most of his life trying to figure out who — and what — he is. He struggles with a lifelong identity crisis, trying so hard to fit in, find where he belongs, and just to DO GOOD in the universe. And even when he found out what he was and where his people came from, he didn’t forsake everything he’d grown to be up until that point, and I loved that too. 🙂

Kelley blogs at Oh, the Books! with Asti & Leanne, having previously blogged at A Novel Read before joining up with the other two to make a super blog! She also has a super adorable three-legged cat.

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Cecily @ Manic Pixie Dream Worlds

Cecily

I have two (three, really) favorite aliens from my reading this year, and I think both are illustrative of the different ways that science fiction can be used to delineate the human condition.

The first are the two alien civilizations in Mary Doria Russell’s theological science fiction novel The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God. What’s really poignant about these alien cultures is how sapient species would have developed if they were, rather than one omnivore species like humans, two that lived in uneasy harmony: one carnivore and one herbivore. Russell explores the conflicts between the individualistic and pluralistic, the competitive and cooperative, if they were taken to their extremes in two separate species rather than internally in one. The author builds these two civilizations’ cultures into their linguistic systems — the language and culture inform each other in a recursive sense — and the resultant gaps in understanding are what drives much of the story’s conflict between the human explorers and the two species. The author’s background as an anthropologist shows.

The second I love for the opposite reason, which is how very realistic and unremarkable the aliens are. Solaris Rising 3, an anthology edited by Ian Whates, has several stories about aliens, the most refreshing and interesting of which is Alex Dally MacFarlane’s Popular Images From the First Manned Mission to Enceladus. The aliens in this story — discovered on one of Saturn’s tiny water-covered moons, and realistically ones that could be discovered within my lifetime — are microsopically tiny… and unlike in any other story I’ve read dealing with tiny aliens, they aren’t a virus or dangerous bacteria or erstwhile plague. They just are; the conflict of the story is derived from the discovery of the aliens rather than from the aliens themselves: from the tensions between science and business interests; from the harsh environment the scientists are exploring. This story, narrated via descriptions of space exploration propaganda posters as signposts, is the only one about aliens I’ve ever read where the protagonists say — paraphrased with great liberties, as this story is engagingly lyrical — “Holy shit, y’all: multicellular organisms!” Which is, you know, exactly how us nerds would react!

Cecily blogs at Manic Pixie Dream Worlds.

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Rinn @ Rinn Reads

Rinn

My answer to this question comes not from books, but from video games (although was that really a surprise??). There’s no question about it – my absolute favourite alien is Garrus Vakarian from the Mass Effect series. Whenever I play the game, he is always my love interest (when available…), and the conversations between him and Commander Shepard are wonderful. He’s motivated, driven, intelligent and not afraid to stand up for a cause he believes in. He rebels and protects the people, deviating completely from his Citadel security job to look after the hungry masses. To be honest, the entire Mass Effect series is a wonderful example of a range of humanoid and non-humanoid alien species, like the Elcor or Hanar, Asari or Turian. It’s full of a LOT of loveable aliens.

Oh, and Garrus’ one flaw? He’s always busy doing those damn calibrations…

Rinn blogs at… well, um, this blog you’re looking at right now, funnily enough. She created Sci-Fi Month in 2013 and desperately wanted to run it again this year, although she’s not been *quite* as good at it as she’d hoped. Thank goodness for the ladies from OTB!

Who or what is YOUR favourite alien?

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Recap of BristolCon

Just under a month ago, I went to a fantasy and science fiction convention not far from where I live, called BristolCon – and for today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I want to share my experience with you! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

 

BristolCon is a one day convention, organised by the Bristol Fantasy & SF Society, and held annually. It gives those living in the south-west a chance to attend the sort of events we normally miss out on. 2013 was the fifth con, and it has grown from an afternoon to a full day of panels, stalls and other exciting events over the years. You can view the programme here.

Guests this year included: Philip Reeve, Storm Constantine, Mark Buckingham, Sarah Ash, Paul Cornell, Janet Edwards, Jaine Fenn, David Gullen, Emma Newman, Ian Whates, Gareth L. Powell, David J. Rodger and many more. Several of the guests are actually taking part in Sci-Fi Month, which was particularly exciting!

I went to the con with two friends of mine from university, and we started off by browsing the dealers room. The stalls ranged from Forbidden Planet selling books (many of which were signed; I purchased Earth Girl by Janet Edwards and Queen of Nowhere by Jaine Fenn to be signed later on), Crafty Miss Kitty who sells some wonderful jewellery including many Doctor Who themed pieces, PQ Vintage Sci-Fi who had a massive collection of vintage and secondhand sci-fi classics and various other stalls selling sci-fi books, memorabilia, costumes and more. You can view the list of dealers here.

Then we thought we’d consult our programmes and work out which panels to attend. The first thing we knew we wanted to attend for sure were the book signings at 2pm (all authors at once!). I knew I wanted to get my books signed by Jaine Fenn and Janet Edwards, so I made a beeline straight for them. Sadly Janet was nowhere to be found, but I met Jaine and introduced myself, and she was lovely! It was nice to meet someone I’d been speaking to online, and put a face to the ‘voice’ – but I have this horrible shyness around people I admire and once I’d introduced myself I had a bit of a brain freeze… anyway, I just want to take this chance now to say thank you to Jaine for taking part in the event!

One of my friends had a couple of Philip Reeve‘s books, so she got them signed and they had a long chat! I’ve spotted several copies of his Mortal Engines in my local second-hand bookshop, and wish I’d picked at least one up to get signed, but never mind!

At 3pm we went to our first panel, one that immediately stood out to us by name,

because we are mature and responsible adults: ‘How To Poo In A Fantasy Universe and Other Grubby Goings On’. This was moderated by Dev Agarwal, and the panelists were Ben Galley, Myfanwy Rodman, Lor Graham and Max Edwards. It was a discussion on how, often in big fantasy epics, we never see or hear of our beloved protagonists going off to the toilet, or collecting food, or doing basic things like cleaning pots and pans after a meal. Frodo treks across Middle-earth and never once has to stop for a toilet break. Does Han have a bathroom aboard the Millennium Falcon? Does the Death Star even have plumbing? It was a really fun talk (and very true!) – although we did discuss series that do cover such events as well, like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. For example, Arya has to make sure she steps well away from the rest of the group to go to the toilet when she’s on the run disguised as a boy, and another rather spoilery moment much later on that I won’t reveal here (but one of the panelists did!). All I will say is that it involves a death, but since it’s a GRRM book that isn’t really a surprise…

Thank you Jaine!

5pm brought with it a talk on ‘Magic in Fantasy’, moderated by Jonathan Wright and featuring Anne Lyle, Storm Constantine, Snorri Kristjansson and Paul Cornell. It was a fantastic talk on fantasy and magic systems, how different authors show magic and which systems we thought were the best. One person suggested the system used in The Name of the Wind, where magic is known as sympathy and requires a sacrifice, and I completely agree!

Another brilliant talk followed, ‘Beyond Arthur’, which was a discussion on folktales and legends that often get ignored in fiction, moderated by Gaie Sebold and featuring Roz Clarke, Catherine Butler, Philip Reeve and Scott Lewis. They discussed many local legends, including variations on how the River Avon got its name (one being that a lady named Avona drowned herself in it after spurned love). It was at this point that I also bumped into Colin, who runs Clarion Publishing, and has been a major help for Sci-Fi Month – he is the one who put me in touch with so many of the authors taking part, so thank you so much Colin!

Our next plan was to head to the quiz (we love quizzes!) which wasn’t until 8.30pm, so we hung out in the bar for the next few hours and just chatted about the day. Whilst we were sat in there I finally spotted Janet Edwards, and managed to grab her just before she left! I explained that I was the one organising Sci-Fi Month, and she told me all about Nara’s interview and one particularly evil question that Nara posed for her! She was lovely and didn’t mind at all that I sort of grabbed her on her way out. And I got my book signed, yay!

And then finally, the quiz! Hosted by Nick WaIters (who has written some Doctor Who novels), it was really fun and a brilliant laugh – me and my two friends had our own team and we did SO badly (we got a grand total of 19 but actually were the losers only by 1 point…). There was an entire round on William Shatner. We know nothing about William Shatner. The round we did really well on? Cats on film. It was a picture round and we had to identify which films the cats were from – Jonesy from Alien, one of the Bond cats etc. We’d been laughing along with the team next to ours, who marked our quiz sheet (sure to draw more laughter), and it turned out one of the members was Ian Whates, who is taking part in Sci-Fi Month! Anyway I introduced myself and he was absolutely lovely. He was very impressed with our feline knowledge.

And that was the end of the con! We arrived back at my friend’s house just after 11pm, a brilliant day only slightly hampered by a constant migraine… And the next day, we went to Bristol Museum (we’re all archaeology graduates so of course) and bumped into Philip Reeve in the museum cafe, as you do (tea and cake were sorely needed). He even recognised us!

Here are my spoils from the weekend:

 

  • Nova by Samuel R. Delany and Limits by Larry Niven – from PQ Vintage Sci-Fi, they had so many amazing vintage and secondhand books for only 50p each so I had to grab a couple at least! We spent a lot of time stood at that stall…
  • The Alchemyst by Michael Scott – this was our freebie book in our goodie bags, and the author kind of makes me giggle because I’ve been watching a lot of The Office US lately (if you’ve not seen it, Michael Scott is the boss, the character played by Steve Carrell). But it does sound good, it’s about Nicholas Flamel!
  • Earth Girl by Janet Edwards – this one has been very highly praised, and Janet is even taking part in Sci-Fi Month. You can win a copy of this one over on Nara’s blog, and read an interview with Janet herself!
  • Queen of Nowhere and Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn – I picked Queen of Nowhere up at the con, and got it signed (see above), but didn’t pick up Consorts of Heaven until the next day (at the £2 Book Shop, it is HEAVEN) so couldn’t get that one signed, sadly! I first encountered Jaine’s writing last year and was really impressed by it.
  • Doctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts and Douglas Adams – my other £2 Book Shop find, I’ve been wanting to read one of the Classic Who novels for a while and this seemed like a great one to start with.

I also picked up a copy of Dead Angels by Gunnar Roxen, a very friendly author who was at the con. It’s a short novella so I thought it would be a good way of checking out his work. I also got a little fabric owl (I have an owl collection that has mostly come from other people buying me owl stuff ever since I bought an owl bag and matching purse…), and you can see my con badge in the photo too!

And that’s pretty much it for my recap of BristolCon! I had a fantastic time and would love to go again – but I could do without the migraine next time…