This is Not Just Any Post-Apocalyptic Play…

Focus contributor Taj Hayer has been in touch to tell us about his play North Country which is being performed in Bradford from 26th October to 5th November. Performances are taking place in an abandoned Marks and Spencer in Darley Street.


The play follows three teenagers from Bradford, Harvinder, Nusrat and Alleyne, who have survived an outbreak of plague, and must come to the rescue of their people, whilst facing down the zombie remnants of their civilization. Tickets available here.
£3, £5, or £10 tickets available.Venue: The Wild Woods, Darley Street, BD1 3HL (entrance on Piccadilly).

7.30pm Weds 26th of October, 7.30pm Thurs 27th October, 5.00pm Fri 28th October, 7.30pm Weds 2nd November, 1.30pm & 7.30pm Thurs 3rd November, 5.00pm Fri 4th November, and 1.30pm & 7.30pm Sat 5th November.


These Violent Delights – Review of new HBO Series, Westworld

Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973) was a film I watched over and over on Saturday afternoons as a teenager. In it, the Delos Company has created a vacation paradise for the rich, comprised of Roman World, Medieval World and Westworld, where vacationers can live out their fantasies in an immersive, historically themed environment. The big draw, for those who can afford to go there, is the presence of robot hosts who are there to be submissive to the will of the guests; to serve, to be fucked, to be killed. To enact barbarous acts against these machines is not only permitted, but encouraged in the name of fun and relaxation, despite their being physically indistinct from humans. Many vacationers delight in their exemption from morality, knowing the robots cannot return the harm

Holidaying friends Peter and John are our guides through the Westworld zone, with everyman Peter retaining a scepticism about the hosts. When challenged by the Gunslinger – the iconic role played by the steel-eyed Yul Brynner – Peter cannot quite let go of the idea that he is not safe. And indeed, he is proved right when an infectious malfunction leads the robots to begin killing the human guests, the Gunslinger becoming a relentless hunter intent on winning the ultimate gun battle against Peter.

The key tropes of this four-decades-old film remain sharp: the singularity (the technicians don’t fully know how to fix the computer-designed robots), the casualness with which guns are brandished in a holiday resort, the decisions of the resort managers to keep the resort going despite the problems, prioritising money over safety, and the entitlement and vulgarity of the moneyed classes, who arguably deserve their fate

When we have heard on the news that AI can learn from conversations on Twitter (which didn’t go too well), create paintings or compose original music, rightly or wrongly we get the impression that an AI capable of humanlike thought is within easy reach. And so many of the recent film and television concepts have dealt with the morality of this: how AI might believe themselves human, or superior to humans, or like humans with obsessive disorders (AI, Humans, Black Mirror), and the morality of humans treating them like machines. There is a high expectation for emotional complexity in this exchange. Put simply, when it comes to HBO’s new series Westworld, based on the 1973 film, white hat/black hat will not do, and the concept of AI must be both extrapolated and differentiated from previous models

In many respects, HBO have kept things simple for their new Westworld. Gone are the concepts of Roman World and Medieval World. Only Westworld remains, and its basic premise: an immersive holiday experience where the hosts are there to fulfill the desires, no matter how innocent or depraved, of the rich holidaymakers. Ahead, some minor spoilers…


The series opens with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), an AI host, sitting still, naked and bloodied in the cold blue light of the underground room where she has been taken for repair, a fly crawling over her glassy, unblinking eyes while her voice answers questions about where she is, how she feels. She believes she is in a dream. She does not know she is a robot.

Throughout this episode, we learn about Dolores and how she came to be in the room. She is a sweet girl-next-door type, who lives on a farm a short walk from the town of Sweetwater, where the “newcomers” arrive every day. She is asked what she thinks about them: “The newcomers are just looking for the same thing as we are – a place to be free. To stake out our dreams. A place with unlimited possibilities

Whether all the AI would agree with her point of view is not made clear, but Dolores says, “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty

Dolores and her father, Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), are immediately likeable, as they share an appreciation of their world and an optimistic philosophy. Their bond is visibly real, and deep. And then there’s Teddy

Teddy (James Marsden) arrives in town on the train, like any newcomer. A repeat visitor, Dolores always remembers him, and he seems set to play the storyline of chivalric suitor, hoping to win a woman’s affection rather than outright “pay”, which is the role-play he seems to be offered in the whorehouse by Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton). From the start it is clear he is playing a white hat, but there is some clever sleight of hand played with our expectations.


The iconic Yul Brynner role has been mentioned elsewhere as having been taken up by Ed Harris who plays the nameless Man in Black, a man with a mission to play the deepest, darkest game he can find, and who especially delights in inflicting pain and degradation on the hosts who don’t understand how they are unable to defend themselves against him, which is bizarrely, part of their design:

“I never understood why they paired some of you off. Seems cruel. And then I realised… winning doesn’t mean anything unless someone else loses.”

Not all the robots are unaware of their nature. In “Orientation”, guests are met by hosts who help them dress for Westworld, and acclimatise themselves to interacting with non-humans. This encounter is problematic enough for newcomers like William (Jimmi Simpson), though others take such opportunities in their stride

Something is clearly very wrong in Westworld, but the set-up does not exactly mirror that of the 1973 film, and there are more grey areas in play. Is this a simple malfunction, or a mass murder in slow-motion, and if so, who is the killer or killers? Is it the Man in Black who wants to crack the code, or is it the owner and creator of Westworld, the mysterious Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) who has invented the concept of “reveries”, gestures that robots can make at something akin to a sub-conscious? Or could it be the Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), the technician, who is secretly accessing the AI at night to ascertain how they think? Or could it be Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), the emotionally volatile games designer, who comes up with horrific narrative concepts involving cults, slaughter and cannibalism to keep the guests entertained? And who might be the victims?

Harris, Marsden, Newton and Wood are exceptional in their roles, with Harris in particular exuding a subtle menace as the Man in Black. The lighting skilfully washes the different scenes with optimism and joy, or horror and despair, reflecting Dolores’s feelings, or ours, as her dark memories are overwritten – not that they can stay under the surface for much longer, and there are some very quotable lines, some of which may have you reassessing any romantic notions you still hold for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This is addictive storytelling.

Sweet, too, are the little Easter Eggs of rock tunes on the whorehouse pianola (I spotted “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden, “Paint it Black” by The Rolling Stones and “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead.) All in all, I was not disappointed, this looks to be a very compelling reworking of the original Westworld concept, and I look forward to the denouement of the rest of the series.

In the meantime, Ed Harris is appearing on the West End stage in the critically acclaimed New York production of Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Buried Child. Set in rural America in 1979 following a recession and political unrest, the play examines disenfranchisement of Americans in a dark, macabre and painfully funny family drama that is uncannily as relevant to the modern political era as it was during its first run almost 40 years ago. Starting November 14th at the Trafalgar Studios in London.


“An American gothic masterwork. It is to the American theatre what Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming is to the British stage, the classic domestic drama”

The New York Times

Recording of Edward Cox interviewed by Al Robertson at the Artillery Arms

Thanks once again to Chad Dixon who has sent us the audio recording of Edward Cox talking with Al Robertson at The Artillery Arms on Wednesday 28th September.

Listen to the conversation here.

And here they all are, looking fab and smiley.


14513571_10157473783425065_1250612907_oThank you, Al and Ed for being marvellous guests.



BSFA London Meeting Wed 26th October: Jason Arnopp interviewed by Scott K. Andrews

Location: The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8ND
 Jason Arnopp is the former editor of Kerrang magazine turned scriptwriter extraordinaire. Author of various BBC and Big Finish Doctor Who works, scriptwriter of numerous horror features, he is also the author of The Last Days of Jack Sparks published this year by Orbit.


Jason is interviewed by Scott K. Andrews, who is the author of The Timebomb books published by Hodder & Stoughton and The Afterblight Chronicles: School’s Out books for Abaddon books.


6pm Fans gather
7pm: start of interview.
8pm Q&A
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets).

Start Time: 19:00

BSFA London Meeting Wed 28th September: Ed Cox interviewed by Al Robertson

PLEASE NOTE, THERE IS NO LONDON MEETING THIS MONTH (AUGUST). However, here is something delightful for September…

Location: The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8ND

Edward Cox is the author of THE RELIC GUILD TRILOGY (The Relic Guild, The Cathedral of Known Things, and The Watcher of Dead Time) published by Gollancz.

Ed is interviewed by author, Al Robertson, whose novel Crashing Heaven was published this year by Gollancz, and very much enjoyed by Edward!


6pm Fans gather
7pm: start of interview.
8pm Q&A
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets).

Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2016-09-28

Westcountry Weird at Waterstones Exeter, August 11th

This Thursday, authors Nina Allan, Catriona Ward and Aliya Whiteley will be appearing at a special event at Waterstones in Exeter along with George Sandison, editor in chief at Unsung Stories, to discuss the inspiration of the region on their writing.  On her blog post, Nina  Allan also writes: ” We will also be discussing war, climate change, the increasing importance of women in speculative fiction, and the rise of weird fiction generally in these unsettled times.”

The event begins at 18.30 pm at Waterstones Exeter (High Street branch). Tickets are £3. They can be purchased direct from Waterstones, reserved online or bought on the door on the night. Please visit the Waterstones site for more details.

Nina Allan is author of BSFA-Award nominated novel The Race, of which there is a new edition now out from Titan Books.

the race cover (2)








Catriona Ward’s debut novel Rawblood is currently shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award.

Aliya Whiteley’s latest novel, The Arrival of Missives, has made the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize 2016 list.


BSFA London Meeting Gaie Sebold, Farah Mendlesohn, Susan Gray and Russell Smith 27th July 2016

Location: The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8ND

In a change to the previously advertised line-up, we have a night of readings and chat with four awesome guests.

Photo Gaie Sebold c/o

Gaie Sebold – Author of the steamy Babylon Steel series, and the steampunk fantasy Shanghai Sparrow books, published by Solaris, she is also an award-winning poet.

Image result for farah mendlesohn

Photo Farah Mendlesohn c/o

Farah Mendlesohn – Award-winning science fiction and fantasy critic, and Professor and Head of the Department of English and Media at Anglia Ruskin University, Farah’s latest publication is Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction, co-authored with Michael Levy.

Photo Susan Gray c/o

Photo Susan Gray c/o

Susan Gray aka SuzieGeeForce, is a Science Fiction spoken word artist and playwright with several productions under her belt and is Artistic Director at Stars or Mars Theatre. She is studying for a Creative Writing PhD in Science Fiction and Theatre.

Photo R A Smith c/o

Photo R A Smith c/o

Russell Smith (R. A. Smith) – is the author of Oblivion Storm and Primal Storm from The Grenshall Manor Chronicles series. He is a graduate of MMU where he studied for his BA in English and his MA in Creative Writing.


6pm Fans gather
7pm: start of interview.
8pm Q&A
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets).

On 28 September Ed Cox will be interviewed by Al Robertson.
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2016-07-27


BSFA and SFF Mini-convention and AGM 25th June 2016

it was great to see fellow SF fans and BSFA members on Saturday, on a gloriously warm June day. If you couldn’t make it, once again, Chad Dixon has kindly provided us with media links  recorded from the BSFA and SFF joint mini-convention and AGM from this Saturday and photos.

Audio downloads:

Whither Human Space Flight.


David A Hardy, Una McCormack, Graham Sleight & mod, Phil Dyson

crowdP1150500indexUna and Graham2016-06-26 13.28.18

BSFA Special Guest: Liz Williams Interviewed by Kari Sperring

P1150511 P1150512 P1150510

Representations of Mars

Liz Williams, Andrew Butler, Sophia MacDougall & Dave Lally

2016-06-26 13.45.18P1150518P1150516Youtube video links are here, but you can also catch up via Chad Dixon’s Periscope channel. Here is David A. Hardy’s Art Show presentation.  Here is Whither Human Space Flight. Here is Liz Williams interviewed by Kari Sperring, and here is Representations of Mars.


Note the time correction: the BSFA AGM will be at 1:30pm, not noon.

Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of the British Science Fiction Association Ltd will be held at:

Lecture Theatre 1, Blackett Laboratory Building. Imperial College, London

on Saturday 25th June 2016 at 1:30pm for the following purposes:

  1. To approve the Minutes of the previous Annual General Meeting

  2. To approve the financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2015

  3. To receive and consider the Annual Review of the Year.

  4. Elections: The following Directors retire by rotation and offer themselves for re-election: S Baxter & I G Whates.

  5. Any Other Business

A proxy form is attached here for use if a member is unable to attend and wishes to appoint a proxy for voting purposes, and draft financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2015 for approval at the meeting.

Martin Potts

BSFA London Meeting Charles Stross interviewed by Edward James 22nd June 2016

Location: Keynes library at Birkbeck University: 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

Charles Stross, 51, is a full-time science fiction writer and resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. The author of seven Hugo-nominated novels and winner of three Hugo awards for best novella, Stross’s works have been translated into over twelve languages: his most recent novel, “The Annihilation Score”, was published by Ace (in North America) and Orbit (UK/Commonwealth) in July 2015. His work has also been shortlisted for the Clarke, Nebula, and Locus awards.

Like many writers, Stross has had a variety of careers, occupations, and job-shaped-catastrophes in the past, from pharmacist (he quit after the second police stake-out) to first code monkey on the team of a successful dot-com startup (with brilliant timing he tried to change employer just as the bubble burst). Along the way he collected degrees in Pharmacy and Computer Science, making him the world’s first officially qualified cyberpunk writer (just as cyberpunk died).


He will be interviewed by BSFA Best Non-Fiction Award-winning critic Edward James.

This event will be held in conjunction with the London Science Fiction Research Community.



6pm Fans gather
7pm: start of interview.
8pm Q&A
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets).
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2016-06-22

Future events see us return to the Artillery Arms:

On 27 July we have Tessa Farmer interviewed by Mark Pilkington.
On 28 September Ed Cox will be interviewed by Al Robertson.




Edge Lit 5 Festival in QUAD Derby 16th July confirms guests

Edge-Lit, Derby’s annual festival of science-fiction, fantasy and horror, now in its fifth incarnation has announced three major authors as Guests of Honour for its event at QUAD, Derby, on Saturday 16th July.

Alastair Reynolds is a hugely popular author of hard science fiction and space opera, and hit headlines in signing a £1-million, ten book deal in 2009. His famed series Revelation Space and Poseidon’s Children brought him to prominence within the UK science-fiction scene, and his forthcoming title, The Medusa Chronicles, is co-written with Stephen Baxter.

Alastair Reynolds Photo: The Guardian

M John Harriosn: Photo The Guardian

M John Harrison is one of the most acclaimed science-fiction writers of the last thirty years, and author of titles including the Virconium series, Light, Nova Swing and Empty Space. He is a previous recipient of the Arthur C Clarke Award, The Philip K Dick Award and the James Tiptree Award.

Emma Newman is the author of the Split Worlds urban fantasy series, and more recently her SF debut Planetfall has been garnering superb reviews. She is also co-writer and host of the popular Tea and Jeopardy podcast.


Emma Newman: Photo SFX

For details of the other authors appearing at this event, check the Edge-Lit website. Edge Lit tickets are £30 and include access to all sessions plus an event goodie bag.

For more information, or to book tickets, please visit or call QUAD Box Office on 01332 290606.

BSFA/SFF Mini Convention and AGM Saturday 25th June 2016

We are delighted to be able to tell you about this year’s Mini Convention and AGM in London, in collaboration with  Science Fiction Foundation.
Our special guest is novelist Liz Williams.
Science-Fiction author Williams is the daughter of a stage magician and a Gothic novelist. She holds a PhD in Philosophy of Science from Cambridge and is the author of fourteen novels including the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated The Ghost Sister, and Empire of Bones, while Banner of Souls was nominated both for the Philip K. Dick Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. She is also the creator of the popular Inspector Chen novels, and a  diarist – two volumes of Diary of a Witchcraft Shop have been published by Newcon Press. She has had numerous short stories published in the likes of Asimov and Interzone and also writes on matters of literature and paganism for The Guardian.
SFF’s special guest is David A. Hardy.
David A. Hardy is the longest-established living space artist, and has illustrated for the likes of Patrick Moore, Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan. Hailing from Bournville, he first started producing space art as a teenager, and his early art career was as a packaging designer for Cadbury’s. Since 1970, his science-fiction artwork has graced the covers of hundred of books and magazines, and led him to various other commissions, such as Hawkwind album covers, and working on shows like Tomorrow’s World and Blake’s Seven, and films like The Neverending Story. He is European Vice President of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, and former Vice President of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, as well as having been heavily involved with the Birmingham Science Fiction Group, for which he has been Chairman, Secretary, Newsletter Editor and Publicity Officer.
Venue: Lecture theatre 1, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London, SW7 2AZ

The following schedule may be subject to slight alterations, so please check ahead of travel if there is a particular panel you wish to see. The AGMs will take place during the time assigned to the lunch break on the schedule below.

The event is free and open to all for the panels and interviews, so you don’t need to be a member of either organisation to attend.

Time Event
09:30am Doors open
10:00am Welcome
10:05am David A. Hardy panel discussion
10:55am Short break
11:05am-11:55am Liz Williams interview
noon-2:30pm Lunch (confirmed lunch venue: Queen’s Arms – it’s a 3min walk away from the Blackett Lecture theatre)
1:30pm BSFA AGM
2:30pm-3:20pm David A. Hardy talk
3:30pm-4:20pm Liz Williams panel discussion
4:30pm Finish

Then… (optional) drinks!

BSFA London Meeting 25th May: Justina Robson interviewed by Kate Keen

Map here:

Justina Robson was born in Yorkshire, England in 1968. After completing school she dropped out of Art College, then studied Philosophy and Linguistics at York University. She sold her first novel in 1999 which also won the 2000 Writers’ Bursary Award.

Justina_RobsonShe has also been a student (1992) and a teacher (2002, 2006) at The Arvon Foundation, in the UK, (a centre for the development and promotion of all kinds of creative writing). She was a student at Clarion West, the US bootcamp for SF and Fantasy writers, in 1996.

Her books have been variously shortlisted: for The British Science Fiction Best Novel Award, including the 2015 for her latest novel “Glorious Angels”, for the Arthur C Clarke Award, the Philip K Dick Award and the John W Campbell Award. An anthology of her short fiction, “Heliotrope”, was published in 2012. In 2004 Justina was a judge for the Arthur C Clarke Award on behalf of The Science Fiction Foundation.

Her novels and stories range widely over SF and Fantasy, often in combination and often featuring AIs and machines who aren’t exactly what they seem. She is the proud author of “The Covenant of Primus” (2013) – the authorised history and ‘bible’ of The Transformers.

She lives in Yorkshire with her partner, three children, a cat and a dog and is working on her twelfth novel.

Kate Keen headshot
Kate Keen lives in a house full of books about science fiction, classics, and psychology. Her husband and cat are also in there somewhere. Kate pays for all the bookshelves and cat food by managing IT contracts and software licenses. She is on the committee for Nine Worlds Geekfest 2016.


6pm: people start gathering and liaising in the bar.
7pm: start of interview.
8pm Q&A
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets).

For further information about BSFA events in London, contract Andrea Dietrich (BSFA London Events Officer) at or via Twitter @MrsPassepartout

If you can’t make it in person, why not join us in virtual reality? We’ll be broadcasting the event live via the Periscope app. All you need to do is download the free App and follow @lapswood8 (Chad Dixon) on twitter. Chad will be sending out a “Five Minutes to Air” tweet to give you time to get ready to watch so make sure you get the notifications alert.
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2016-05-25

Tenth Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism 2016


Places are still available on a first come first served basis. Please note that this event has been timed to coincide with the Science Fiction Research Association bringing its conference to Liverpool on 27-30 June.

Continue reading

For those who missed Aliette de Bodard interviewed by Edward Cox…

For our last meeting just before Easter, Aliette de Bodard (the unsuspecting double BSFA-Award winner of the very near future) was interviewed by Edward Cox and here they are, then.


Aliette de Bodard and Edward Cox, captured by Chad Dixon at our emergency location, The Sutton Arms, London.

If you missed it, the marvellous Chad Dixon has recorded the interview for you which you can listen to as and MP3  audiofile or even watch via #Periscope here. Don’t forget to follow Chad via Twitter on @lapswood8 to pick up the live stream of the next interview, which will be Tessa Farmer in conversation with Mark Pilkington on April 20th.



Tessa Farmer in Conversation with Mark Pilkington – Cancelled

19/04/16 Unfortunately, we have had to cancel this event due to illness. We are very sorry about this and will rearrange the event for as soon as possible.


Location: The Artillery Arms 102 Bunhill row London EC1Y 8ND

Map here:

Come and join us Wednesday 2oth April at 7pm when BSFA Award-winning artist Tessa Farmer will be interviewed by Mark Pilkington.

Tessa Farmer was born in 1978 in Birmingham and lives and works in London. She is the great granddaughter of the influential writer of supernatural horror Arthur Machen. She studied at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, The University of Oxford where she received a BFA and a MFA. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is in many collections including those of The Saatchi Gallery, London, The David Roberts Collection, London and The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania.

In 2007, she was artist in residence at The Natural History Museum, London, and was nominated for the Times/Southbank Show Breakthrough Award. In 2011 she was awarded a Kindle Project ‘Makers Muse’ Award.

Recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition Unwelcome Visitors at The Holburne Museum, Bath, The Nature of the Beast at New Art Gallery, Walsall, Victoriana at Guildhall Art Gallery, London and Red Queen at MONA, Tasmania.

Tessa is represented by Danielle Arnaud London and Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York.

Mark Pilkington founded and runs Strange Attractor Press and is the editor of its sporadic Journal, as well as hosting events and exhibitions. He’s the author of two books: Mirage Men (also a feature documentary film) and Far Out: 101 Strange Tales from Science’s Outer Edge, and has written for numerous anthologies, magazines and websites. Mark also plays synthesizers in Teleplasmiste Raagnagrok and Urthona and performs solo as The Asterism.

Mark Pilkington.jpg


6pm: people start gathering and liaising in the bar.
7pm: start of interview.
8pm Q&A
8.15pm: book raffle (win a selection of sf novels for just £1 for 5 tickets).

For further information about BSFA events in London, contract Andrea Dietrich (BSFA London Events Officer) at or via Twitter @MrsPassepartout

If you can’t make it in person, why not join us in virtual reality? We’ll be broadcasting the event live via the Periscope app. All you need to do is download the free App and follow @lapswood8 (Chad Dixon) on twitter. Chad will be sending out a “Five Minutes to Air” tweet to give you time to get ready to watch so make sure you get the notifications alert.


FUTURE DATES: 25th May. Justina Robson interviewed by Kate Keen.
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2016-04-20