Given the amount of unreality that has been going on in the past week (this morning I discovered from Twitter that being a trans person made me guilty of sending rape threats to feminist journalists), it was perhaps appropriate that Roz Kaveney and I were amongst the people spending Friday evening in Oxford listening to Kij Johnson talk about fantasy literature. I’ll have a lot more to say on that subject tomorrow when I have managed to get my grasp of literary theory updated. For now I just want to say thanks to Kij and the staff at Pembroke College (especially Will Badger) for a lovely weekend, and do a bit of travelogue.
Getting to Oxford on Friday was a bit challenging. There was a couple of inches of snow on the ground when I left home, and it was still coming down. The local train line was in chaos, with trains disappearing into the Westbury Triangle and not coming out (or being reported as having teleported to Cardiff). When I finally got to Bath the only London departure listed was marked “cancelled”, but again a train eventually turned up. Because I had allowed 7 hours for what should be a 3 hour journey, I got there in good time.
One of the first people I met was Kij, who was busy being an American tourist. And why wouldn’t you? Old Oxford colleges look beautiful in the snow. I even took a few pictures myself. They are here, here and here.
Pembroke is one of the less well known Oxford colleges, but it is associated with a number of prominent people, including Samuel Johnson, J. William Fulbright (founder of the Fulbright Scholarships program), James Smithson (he of the Smithsonian Institute) and Sir Roger Bannister. By far their most famous connection, however, is with a certain J.R.R. Tolkien, which is why we were all there.
The lecture was held in the historic Broadgates Hall, and despite the snow it was packed solid. Goodness only knows what we would have done if it had not been snowing. Many invited guests had prior engagements or were deterred by the weather (and let’s face it, snow is the only thing that the Fellowship of the Ring was defeated by). However, a few notable people did turn up, including Brian Aldiss, Edward James and Roz Kaveney. Roz and I managed to not talk politics all night, doubtless to the relief of everyone else.
This morning Kij gave a two-hour fiction masterclass, and I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow. Thankfully the trains were all running smoothly today, so I had no trouble getting home (though I did take the precaution of taxis at both ends of the journey, as ice and I have an unhappy history).
I was delighted to see the inaugural lecture get off to such a good start. Here’s hoping there will be many more fine events in the future. Two people I’d love to see give the lecture (aside from China & Neil who are doubtless ridiculously hard to book) are Guy Gavriel Kay and Graham Joyce. They are both very different writers to Kij, and both brilliant at what they do.
There should be more tomorrow, but right now I’m going to take things fairly quietly for the rest of the day.