Talks – The Summaries [Conviction (Syncon 88) Con book]

transcribed by Anna Hepworth

Things to see and do in the dark

A popular talk by

David Malin of the Anglo-Australian Observatory

Before the glow of the electric light and the airborne pollution of the 20th century conspired to hide it, the subtle beauty of the night sky was familiar to everyone. Nowadays, most of us live in cities or brightly-lit suburbs where only the most brilliant stars are visible, should we trouble to gaze skywards. The mystery of the night sky is only evident away from artificial light and its full beauty is only seen after long adaptation to the dark conditions. Only then does a sense of wonder begin to take hold and profound questions suggest themselves to the enquiring mind.

But dark conditions and distant objects limit our eyes by lowering our perception of colour and removing any sense of distance in the starry sky. Only photography can overcome these restrictions and fully reveal the beautiful and unexpected colours of the stars. When the techniques of photography are used to record the light collected by a large telescope, the astonishing range of form and colour of distant objects can be enjoyed by both astronomer and layman alike. The colours reveal, often for the first time the complex interplay between starlight and tiny particles or the subtle shades of blue and yellow in some dusty galaxy.

In this profusely illustrated lecture, David Malin, Research Photographer at the Anglo-Australian Telescope will show how the colours of the brightest stars tell us about our place in the Milky Way itself and reveal the nature of the galaxy we inhabit. The talk will conclude with a tour of the nearest galaxies and the beautiful nebulae and star clusters of the southern sky.

Samuel Delany

Ian Nicholls

In the early and mid-sixties, when the New Wave was growing in force, Delany was one of a group of American writers commonly identified with this movement. Most of the thrust for the movement came, however, from the other side of the Atlantic, under the leadership, if such it can be called, of Moorcock, Bailey, Ballard, Aldiss and others. The paper seeks to investigate some of the early works of Delany in the context of the New Wave movement, and to examine their place within that movement. The question is whether Delany really participated in the rejection of the tenets of classic SF, the “old guard” SF, or whether his early works were simply a more linguistically complex, a more ‘poetic’, treatment of the themes and subjects of the pulp fiction of the day. In essence, whether Delany really has a deserved place in the New Wave pantheon. The works examined are THE BALLAD OF BETA-2, EMPIRE STAR and BABEL-17.

The Nature of Reality

Michelle Hallett

This talk aims to raise discussion about the construction of reality and to draw together material about ‘objective’ reality as defined by the laws of physics and ‘subjective’ reality as discussed by psychologists and epistemologists.

As you can see it is ambitious in its scope and will require lots of audience input to work well. I envisage that discussion will revolve largely around the question as to whether an ‘objective’ reality actually exists independent of our descriptions of it or whether our descriptions of reality in fact coerce the universe to adapt itself to our models.

Possible lines of investigation include the matter of uncertainty (uncertainty of matter?) in subatomic physics; the question of worldview or world ordering which dictates our approaches to problems and the resulting solutions; how language may influence our description of reality by limiting or expanding our choice of words; and the ways in which we are educated to view or test reality. Is it true, for example, that if we expect bad luck that is what we will get?

I will provide basic points for a discussion but will be more than happy to accommodate any participant who wants to lead off on a tangent. A reality where the instigator of the discussion mutates into a listener along with others is certainly permissible.

What if the South had won

A look at alternate history

Warren Nicholls

The ‘what-if’ factor in history is one which always provokes a certain amount of discussion and speculation; it has long been a favourite theme in SF, giving rise to such works as LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN, the Lordy Darcy stories, LEST DARKNESS FALL and so on. This program item will look at one such book in some detail, BRING THE JUBILEE by Ward Moore.

The session will be divided into two parts. The first will be a short talk, sketching in the political and military background to BRING THE JUBILEE and the American Civil War, followed by a detailed consideration of the alternate history proposed by the book; it will also cover various alternate scenarios to those mentioned by Ward Moore, and look at the actual likelihood of the Confederacy winning the War.

The second part of the session will be a discussion by a panel of BRING THE JUBILEE and alternate history in general. Audience participation will be welcomed and invited for this part of the panel.

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