On Wednesday I went to The State of the Culture, a symposium on Iain M Banks's "Culture" novels, at Brunel University. Paul Kincaid's writeup suggests that his experience was very similar to mine. Including the journey. I thought it was a long hike from Hackney, but he came all the way from Folkestone. And I managed to find the main reception, where they gave me a map showing the way to the Antonin Artaud building. I was later than Paul, though.
I was surprised that it was so sparsely attended. There were only about thirty people there, including all the ones who were presenting papers. Given Banksie’s popularity, I thought it would be packed. A few years back when he was guest at the BSFA’s monthly London meeting, they had to have it in a lecture hall at Imperial College, instead of the usual room over or under a pub. I suppose that either the academic nature of it put people off, or just that it wasn’t very well publicised. Shame, really.
My assessment of the event generally is much the same as Paul’s so you can just read his comments. But of the papers that were presented, the one that I was most disappointed by was the one that I would probably have found most interesting, if I had been able to hear it. Martyn Colebrook’s “Playing Games with Gods: The Player of Games”, which compared the Banks work with John Fowles’s The Magus. By coincidence I’ve read both of those in the last couple of months (and more on them later), so it would have been interesting to hear what Dr Colebrook had to say. But unfortunately he was just speaking too quietly for the human ear, which is what I’m equipped with (I was at the back of the room, having arrived late).
I’ve sought his paper online, but it doesn’t seem to be around yet. Maybe sometime.
The most used word of the day, apart from “Culture”, was “transgressive”. Indeed, the same Dr Colebrook has edited a collection of essays called The Transgressive Iain Banks.