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This year's MeCon had four guests. Ian McDonald and Dave Wingrove had both attended in previous years, while Mike Cobley and Ken MacLeod were both new to the convention. Several of MacLeod's books are reviewed in this month's ORBzine here .
All four guests participated in a number of lively discussion panels on a diverse list of topics.
Girls & Guns in Science FictionThis panel discussed the evolution of female roles in SF&F over the last 100 years.
Lord of the Rings is a very boys-own adventure, with very few females roles. In the recent movie adaption the part of Arwen was vastly increased, in part to give female audience members someone they could relate to.
Star Trek must be mentioned, in all its incarnations. The original series in the 1960s was renowned for its tokenism, while in the later series it became very Politically Correct. To an extent it was the fault of the Network executives. In the 1960s Number One was originally female, but the executives only wanted blondes in miniskirts. In Star Trek: The Next Generation the Doctor and the Counsellor were both female, conforming to the nurturing, mothering stereotype. Ten years later Star Trek: VGR showed the two extremes in the form of Janeway and 7of9. However, the only character that female audience members objected to was Tasha Yar, because they felt that she had no femininty. Strangely they did not object to Kira or Dax in the first Season of Star Trek: DS9 , or even to the butch marine Vasquez in Aliens on whom the character of Tasha Yar was based!
A speaker from the floor mentioned Star Maidens , a British 1970s Science Fiction TV show that was notably sexist. It starred Gareth Thomas as an alien henpecked husband who fled to Earth and was pursued by his domineering wife. However, the year after Star Maidens Gareth Thomas went on to Blake's Seven , arguably the finest British SciFi TV show ever made. And in it he was pursued by the ultimate bitch-queen of outer space - Servalan!
Invasion of the SF SnatchersThis panel discussed the fact that TV networks take blatantly Science Fiction concepts and try to pass them off as something else, something more mainstream. Smallville is made out to be a teen drama, for example.
Ultraviolet takes pride of place as an excellent British SF TV show. However, despite being about vampires [who use magic, and have no scientific explanation] the word Vampire is never actually mentioned in the show. It is said that creator Stephen Gallagher deliberately chose not to mention the word Vampire when he pitched the show to the Network, and that if he had then they would never have commissioned the show!
Ian McDonald mentioned his desire to create a TV show based on War of the Worlds that was actually faithful to the original book by HG Wells .
1001 Ideas In An HourThe panel, in conjunction with the audience, created an elaborate plotline involving a feminist Monica Lewinsky, the evil Bin Laden and a heroic David Ike!
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