May 3, 2010

On Saturday I participated in the Life in 2050 event, as part of Sci-Fi-London.  The aim of the event was to try and do something about the lack of British Sci-Fi Films appearing in a British Sci-Fi Film festival.  To that end, the organisers had arranged for two Scientists (Jonathan Cowie and Simon Park) to discuss new developments, whilst two writers (Philip Palmer and me) would discuss the story potential of the ideas.  Around twenty scriptwriters attended who would hopefully turn the ideas into treatments.

This was one of the most interesting and enjoyable events I have attended for ages.  For a start, it took place in the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons.  At lunch time we were given a fascinating tour of the exhibits: parts of men, women and children stored in pickling jars:  enough parts to resurrect an army of the dead given a sewing kit and decent bolt of lightning.  Actually, this description is probably selling the museum short – go and take a look if you’re in the area to see what I mean.

As to the event itself…

Philip Palmer led off with an introduction to the day.  I followed up with a short talk about the difference between an idea and a story, and then Jonathan Cowie got the science going with a ten minute talk about the perfect storm awaiting the planet somewhere between 2030 and 2060.  Population pressure, bacteria spreading, food shortages… it sounds rather selfish to regard all this as nothing more than raw material for film scripts, but we began to discuss possible stories.  Philip Palmer was rather taken by the looming  phosphorus shortage and we spent a happy time discussing recycling skeletons.  As Philip kept pointing out, the key to a script is great visuals, so we imagined skeletons on buses, Gothic churchyard scenes  and piles and piles of bones.

After lunch Simon Park gave an equally interesting talk on Slime Moulds and bioluminescent bacteria amongst other things, and we continued with the discussions.  It’s always interested me how different writers approach the same idea in so many different ways.  There is a tendency, I think, in beginners to worry that people will steal their ideas.  This is a mistake:  it’s the application of the idea that makes the story.  It was also nice to discuss the extrapolation of the ideas which, for me at least,  is what makes a good SF story.

This was a valid and worthwhile event, I’d be very interested in seeing more of this sort of thing.  Thank you to Robert Grant and Sci-Fi-London for organising it.  I don’t know about the screen writers, but I got a novel and several short stories out of the event…