PROGRESS REPORT 1

The 2nd International Week of Science and Science Fiction

[ Top: Click here for Progress Report 0 - The Preliminary Announcement]

[ Top: Click here for Progress Report 2]

Four days of informality followed by a two-day convention

for science fiction professionals, personalities and fans.

With:

Danut Ungureanu

Romanian SF writer

Ian Watson

English SF writer

Istvan Nemere

Hungarian SF writer

H.G. Wells

English writer, our Week's Ghost of Honour

and

Vince Docherty

Scottish SF fan and Worldcon organiser

.

Presented by the week's toastmaster

Roberto Quaglia

Italian SF writer

19 - 25th May 2003

Timisoara, Romania

Introduction

Welcome to Progress Report 1 for the 2nd International Week of Science and Science Fiction.

The first Progress Report for most conventions is traditionally their initial announcement. Usually PR1s announce intent and aspirations. However the International Week of Science and SF, despite being a small gathering compared to most international events, has a little more going for it and already many of its plans have been confirmed and a good number of the many resources required have been secured: though we have still much to do and sponsorship to obtain (hint). Indeed, there has already been a preliminary announcement (Easter 2002). This announcement (and subsequent news) can also be found on the internet:-

  • in Romanian on:-
  • and in English on:-

    For those for whom this will be their first International Week of Science and Science Fiction (a previous week was held in 1999), the week is a small affair for about 75 people (which is how many the oak panel hall being given us holds). However it has the international range of participants similar to a Eurocon: we expect registrants from 6 or 7 countries. The week is divided into two parts. From Monday to Friday consists of informal activities and then at the weekend there will be a small convention.

    The weekday informal activities will allow visitors to Romania to see Timisoara and meet local dignitaries. The weekdays will also allow Romanian visitors to Timisoara to engage in their own holiday activities, and Timisoaran locals to either have a holiday themselves or to continue with their work. There will be the opportunity in a couple of mornings for an hour or so for Romanian magazine and fanzine editors (as well as those from other nationalities) to interview visiting SF authors and personalities. (We will ask that anyone wishing to do this to let the organisers know in spring 2003 so that we can liaise with the visitors and arrange a schedule that is fair to all.) It is also planned to have two or three hours set aside one day mid-week for a book and magazine launch and this will be a midday occasion where again everyone can get together. Here, anyone wishing to launch a science fiction book or magazine should contact the organisers no later than mid-January 2003 so that we can work with you for proper press and domestic arrangements. Finally, each early evening Monday to Friday from about 17.00 there will a couple of hours of SF programming. Above all, during Monday to Friday, things will be taken at a leisurely pace in part to allow everyone to interact but also because of the weekend...

    After a leisurely week the weekend sees a burst of concentrated activity with a proper convention programme between 10.00 and 19.00 Saturday and Sunday. The convention will consist of a single stream of: talks and interviews with the guest authors and personalities; films; slide shows; a cunning visual-audio TV SF quiz for all participants (Timisoara & Scotland versus the rest of the World); and other things (your suggestions for which would be positively welcomed for consideration). Finally, Sunday evening (from about 20.00) we hope (depending on finalising sponsorship) to have a farewell dinner to celebrate what we hope will be a fascinating week of science and SF and to thank our visiting guests.

    To sum up. If we have done our job properly, the International Week should enable you to meet SF authors and personalities from other countries you have never met before and would not normally have had the chance to do so. Western participants will meet writers who have never been to western events and eastern participants will get an extremely rare opportunity to meet a range of foreign professionals and those active within the SF community. Naturally there will also be the renewal of old friendships and the forging on new ones. Everyone will have the chance to enjoy major SF works, to learn an aspect of exotic science, have an encounter with one of Romania's most fascinating and multi-cultural cities... And possibly, just possibly, have considerable fun in the process. In short, a lifetime experience.

    The language for the International Week

    The principal language for the International Week will be English but there will be some translation into Romanian and vice versa.

    International Week Guests

    The International Week is extremely grateful to all its guests for so generously giving of their time and resources to come to Timisoara. Their contribution truly represents the spirit of fellowship towards the SF community that exists amongst the genre's leading lights. We know that you will join us in giving them a suitably international, if not interstellar, welcome in May 2003. More information about the guests will appear in the programme book (and some is already available in the Preliminary Announcement), but for now we have asked them (in alphabetical order) what sort of SF do they write and the kind they enjoy?

    Vince Docherty, our fan guest of honour, is not known for writing as he renowned for being the organiser of the 1995 Worldcon/Eurocon (Glasgow), and is the mastermind behind the 2005 Worldcon bid. Nonetheless, it goes without saying he enjoys science fiction. In particular he is a fan of hard SF SF with a solid science element. Britain is currently going though a bit of a hard SF renaissance (this year 3 Brits have Hugo nominations) and Vince enjoys the works of Iain Banks (a fellow Scot), Ken Macleod, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds. He also enjoys non-British hard SF writers such a Greg Egan. He also likes to watch TV science fiction as a way of relaxing. He likes the way Babylon 5 has long arcs spanning entire series to its storyline, and considers the latest series of Farscape to be fun. We hope that nobody will make comparisons between the small International Week of SF and the 7,000 strong Worldcons Vince so ably organises. Vince enjoys astronomy so it is likely that the science part of the International Week will have a space element.

    Istvan Nemere is our non-Romanian, Eastern European guest is one of Hungary's most respected authors of over 40 novels, many of them SF and some crime stories. He enjoys problem-solving fiction where there is a puzzle to unravel. Indeed some of his own books that have been popular, have been written for a young audience. These have as protagonists three young trainee astronauts who get themselves into a difficult situation from which they have to somehow extract themselves. Such problem-solving in science fiction is not that distantly related to that in detective stories and we may well ask him about this during the International Week. His writing also has an H.G. Wells element to it in that he explores the social consequences of a new invention (as opposed to the invention itself), or immortality and other SF tropes.

    Roberto Quaglia is so well known by the Romanian SF community and in Italy - especially for his contribution to the SF e-magazine Delos, that we did not feel the need to ask him for his favourite SF authors. We already know that his enjoyment of Bob Sheckley's work is so great that he part-sponsored the man to cross the Atlantic to attend the first International Week. The Romanians already know from his novels published in that country, and the British from his short-stories published for UK held Eurocons, that his own writing takes a bizarre look at the World and juxtaposes ideas and concepts. We seems to like his SF to both entertain him and engage his mind, but we will not ask him about his SF at the 2nd International Week. Instead we will get him to ask the other guest incisive questions for the benefit to the rest of us.

    Danut Ungureanu. The easy option for the International Week would have been to secure a writer local to Timisoara but then the local SF community already see these on a regular basis. The best option, then, was to ask a respected writer from the other side of the country to participate. As the author of a few score of short stories publish in Romanian magazines, including a sprinkling of award-winners Danut is more than an appropriate guest. Equally appropriate for the International Week his own favourite SF writers come from many countries and include: Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem. the Strugatsky brothers, Herbert Franke and van Vogt. As such he equally likes space opera, golden age and cyberpunk SF. He calls his own writing 'SF entertainments' a term used by the British writer Graham Greene. We look forward to finding out what he means by this at the International Week.

    Ian Watson as the author of over a score of SF novels (some of which have been published in Romania), and many more short stories, is incredibly well qualified to be the International Week's western guest. His own writing ranges quite widely in themes and tone, from inner to outer space and from the serious to the comical. but it all tends to be about the nature of consciousness in one way or another. As for other SF authors, Ian had difficulty coming up with a short-list as he reads so widely. Among the older authors he enjoys: Philip K. Dick; John Brunner (who was a Guest at the 1994 Timisoara Eurocon); Jack Vance, Barrington J. Bayley (a British author Ian wishes was better known (and who was a guest at a London convention Concatenation's Jonathan Cowie helped organise)); and mid-career Robert Silverberg. His favourites among younger writers include: China Mieville; Alastair Reynolds; Stephen Baxter; Ken Macleod; and Sheri Tepper. As for films, well it would be biased for him to mention Spielberg's A.I. (Ian wrote the screenplay), but he likes: Dark City (which is, he says, so much better than The Matrix that followed it); Gattaca (Ian gives it his vote for best sound track ever); David Lynch's Dune; and Silent Running. As for TV science fiction among the best recently was the Scottish series Invasion Earth. This last was shown as part of the first International Week and we hope that Ian will approve of our choice of mini-series to be shown in the mid-week evenings during the 2nd International Week of Science and SF.

    H. G. Wells The near immortal H. G. Wells will be the International Week's Ghost of Honour and will be arriving courtesy of a very slow time machine. He will be giving a Ghost of Honour speech.

    The organisers

    The official organising body is Timisoara's H.G. Wells SF society, and the event is organised as part of a series loosely connected by the Anglo-Romanian Science Fact and Fiction Cultural Exchange. However many others in Timisoara's and Romania's SF community are positively involved and we are delighted that so many Romanian SF groups and others are giving active support (for example note the aforementioned web sites). So who are we? The main organising committee consists of (in alphabetical order):

    Triain Badulescu is co-ordinator for the Romanian SF magazine Anticipata and veteran of the 2001 Romanian Eurocon committee. He is involved with a number of Bucharest region SF groups and the www.imagikon.go.ro writers' collective. He also manages the 'RoFandom 'SF chatroom on the internet. A journalist by day, he is responsible for promoting the International Week to eastern Romania and liaising with the Bucharest SF community.

    Antuza Genescu is an SF translator of western novels into Romanian, she was a past participant in, as well as organiser of Anglo-Romanian Cultural Exchange projects and the first International Week of Science and SF. A member of Timisoara's H.G.Wells group, she is responsible for registration for the International Week and venue liaison among other things.

    Silviu Genescu is an SF writer (author of D is for End) by day and journalist by night. Veteran of the 1994 Timisoara Eurocon. Member of Timisoara's H.G.Wells SF group, Silviu does a little bit of everything for the Week and ensures that its standards are kept.

    Cristian Koncz is the President of Timisoara's H.G.Wells SF Society. By day he is a medical doctor so in addition to representing the International Week's hosting body on the Committee, he will ensure that we all stay healthy... However, he urges our guests with minor health problems to get a cold bath at their arrival (as apparently he only has real expertise in how to treat complex cases of pneumonia).

    Mandics Gyorgy. Journalist by day and SF and Fortean writer by night, Mandics Gyorgy is author of The Encyclopaedia of Extraterrestrials and a member of Timisoara's Helion SF Group. Past participant and organiser of Anglo-Romanian Science and Science Fiction projects and living both in Timisoara and Budapest, he is responsible for the Hungarian dimension to the International Week.

    Liviu Pervan. A business man, an organiser, Liviu is a veteran behind the scenes of the 1994 Timisoara Eurocon as well as the first International week of SF. Poet (author of Being Away). A member of Timisoara's Helion SF group, he is negotiating with a number of those in Timisoara providing services for the International Week.

    In addition to the above core committee there is Jonathan Cowie who denies any involvement with the International Week, who refused to accept the blame for numerous UK conventions (1970s-1980s) or the press operation for the 1984 and 1993 Eurocons, let alone responsibility for editing the e-zine www.concatenation.org or representing British biology. His involvement with the week is purely advisory though he does pass on information to the western SF community.

    Timisoara

    Is an ideal venue for an International event situated as it is a score or so miles from borders with both Hungary and Serbia, and is probably Romania's most multi-cultural city. Its origins go back way before the 15th century. Indeed Timisoara's name arose because the Romans who travelled up the Bega river actually thought they were going up the Timis river. However the city really grew from the 15th century onwards arising out of the marshy Banat plain (a long-term geological descendant of the Tethis Sea). Timisoara is also ideal for SF purposes (a genre that explores new worlds and cultures) because the region has a chequered history belonging alternately to Hungary and Romania, and most recently was the sparking point for Romania's 1989 revolution against communism. And if you wish to have a sense of the history of our times then do visit the various sites where it all happened. All this becomes apparent when explained by the locals as one walks about. Participants visiting Romania this foreign visitors to the International Week will have the opportunity to do courtesy of the local SF community on a number of mid-week (Monday to Friday days.) The town centre is compact mainly with 18th and 19th century architecture of a Mediterranean feel and is surrounded by a circle of parks. Local museums and cathedrals are well worth visiting, the Bega is a delight to walk along (or row on), and the centre is sprinkled with small cafe bars. Visitors' only problem will be how to chose from so much to see. But then nobody said that life was easy.

    Accommodation

    On a budget. Those whose principal expense is travelling, and who have a limited amount for accommodation, will find the Youth Hostel (str, Aries nr. 19., Timisoara 1900, Romania) economical. There, a three person bedroom is just 10 US dollars a night (breakfast is not included): that is 3 US dollars 33 cents a person but three people must book together. This hostel is a 15 minute trolley bus ride from the city centre. The number 16 trolley bus can be caught near the Continental Hotel which itself is 3 minutes from the Romanian Writers' Association, and number 19 stops near the Huniade Castle (County Museum) a 10 minute walk away. Trolley buses are every ten or fifteen minutes during the day mid-week and cost 50 cents for two tickets (they sell them in pairs). A taxi costs less than a US dollar. Having said this we have received mixed reports about the hostel and are actively looking at other options.

    In interstellar style. Those whose principal worry is being close to where the action is may prefer the Continental Hotel as this is only three minutes walk from the Romanian Writers Association (Timisoaran branch) where much of the SF programming will take place. The Continental is a three star hotel by international standards (though five star by Romanian (in case you were expecting a sauna and swimming pool)). Rooms have bathroom en suite and come with fridge and satellite TV. At the time of going to press (June 2002) prices were about 35 US dollars a night (or about 25 UK Pounds) for a single room. Prices include breakfast. Having said this, the Continental has just been taken over by the Americans and is being re-furbished. This may mean a price rise? We are in the process of negotiating with the hotel to reserve between a dozen and two-dozen rooms for us at a reasonable price. Those wishing to stay in the Continental should contact us in January 2003 if they want us to reserve a place for them or alternatively you can make your own arrangements. Bdul Revolutiei 1989 nr.2, Timisoara 1900, Romania.

    Travel

    Timisoara has an airport with a twice-daily connection with the Vienna airport central European hub connecting in turn to nearly all European capitals. There are also direct flights to and from Budapest and Bucharest. Indeed once or twice a week there are direct flights to the United States run by Tarom (Romania's national airline). Groups of arrivals will be met at the airport on the Monday and non-Romanian registrants will be asked nearer the time on which flight they expect to arrive. However those independently-minded souls can get a 20 minute ride taxi from the airport to Timisoara's Continental Hotel at a cost equivalent to about 5 US dollars. (We will provide key Romanian phrases in future PRs.) There is also a rail connection with Bucharest which takes the best part of a day, but from experience allow an extra two days each way due to possible delays if you have flights with which to connect.

    Registration

    Spaces are limited so do contact us as soon as possible to get your foot in the door. We will need your: name, nationality, and postal address (and if at all possible an e-mail). These will remain confidential to the Committee. Failing to provide all this information means you've failed the intelligence test so freeing a space for someone else. Yes, H. G. Wells was a fan of Darwin.

    Registration provides you with a (named and numbered) convention badge which will also be your ticket allowing you access to the programme hall and a number of sponsored events (yet to be announced). Those running these special events will be given a list of registrants' names and numbers as a security check, so it is important to ensure that you are properly registered. Though registrants are responsible for covering their own accommodation and meal costs, as you can see below, we are planning a farewell dinner, tickets for which will be either at a low cost to Eastern Europeans or (depending on how the sponsorship goes) free. Finally, if having registered you cannot attend, then do let us know immediately. This is important as those registered who do not attend will not be popular as they will be blocking a place that someone else might have had.

    For Eastern Europeans and full time students registration is free. E-mail

    For Western Europeans (who are not full-time students) register by sending the above information to info AT concatenation DOT org . Registration is also free, however we would greatly appreciate you purchasing a Sunday banquet ticket on arrival for 20 UK pounds or 37 US dollars in western currency. (This is not at all compulsory but really would greatly help us.) In return not only will you be able to participate in the farewell dinner but you will have access to some mid-week, mid-day tourist activities with English and French speaking members of the local SF community acting as your guide. These activities will be separate from the SF programming and only available to western participants financially contributing to the event. If at the end of the week you have thoroughly enjoyed yourself, had the experience of a lifetime, have not changed all your western currency, and wish to donate a small token of appreciation, then again be welcome as it would help offset the interest-free western loan being used to finance the event. If all this seems a little convoluted it is because of the obvious economic disparities in Eastern Europe (the average middle class Romanian wage is only about 90-150 US dollars a month and we are running this event on a very tight budget). This package seems the fairest way to handle things. It enables all participants to attend free of charge (and so are equal), but enables the event to receive the small amount of western currency it requires to take place in return for those western visitors wishing to getting an exclusive tourist, guide and translator service.

    Finally do read the small print in PR0.

    Future PRs will be mailed direct to registrants. They will contain a brief rough guide to getting along in Romania, further travel and accommodation details, more news of the SF activities to take place, and a few useful Romanian phrases.


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