Nearing the End of 2014…

And it’s about time that I update the blog! 2014 has been such an exciting year – writing, performing, producing and presenting – and I’ve met so many amazing people who have wowed me with their hard work ethics, friendliness and creative brilliance.

Conferences

This was the year of the first SF Theatre conference – Stage the Future! We had performances, papers, discussions and more. You can read reports here and here. I want to thank all those who took part and attended, as well as those who supported us throughout. Also big thanks to Christos Callow Jr. for being a great co-organiser!

I also had the pleasure of presenting SF Theatre things to Lincoln twice this year – one as part of the Performing Science Conference (just before Stage the Future actually!) and the What Happens Next conference. Not a conference, but had a great talk at the Equity North/East Branch in Dec this year – discussing the pros and cons of staging SF on stage. They were a great audience, full of ideas and enthusiasm! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spread the word far and wide!

Performances

Performances have been crazy for me this year: Terra Firma was performed as a rehearsed reading in Feb, then as part of a fully produced play at the Camden Fringe in August. Both took place at the Etcetera Theatre, who were very accommodating indeed. Thank you to Ryan Watson, Alice Havilyn, Natalie Boakye, James Unsworth, Christos Callow Jr., Barra Collins, Rus Kallan, Jessen Aroonachellum, Paul Valentine, Eleanor Russo, Briony Wyatt, Sarah Bauer and Judith Georgi.

The Reality Test was a short play of mine that was produced as part of the Writers Bloc Night “CAGED”. I managed to do a few rehearsals before I had to leave for both conferences, leaving the production afterwards in the very capable hands of Jack Heath and Alice Havilyn, who did a great performance on the night – thank you so much!

Notes from Other Worlds was published and performed! Thanks go to Playdead Press for making my 20 year + dream a reality – nothing beat the moment when I saw my book in Foyles. Incredible! The SF monologue book has been a long project for me on and off, and it was all so so worth it. Thanks also go to Jessen Aroonachellum, Briony Wyatt, Judith Georgi, Eleanor Russo, Paul Valentine and Eva Mi Becker for their readings. SUM was my last run of performances in the year, which included my own performance – which I was extremely nervous about! I’ve always wanted to act in one of my SF plays and the cast and crew made the experience so comfortable, fun and challenging (in a good way!). Thanks go to Christos Callow Jr., Melanie Crossey, Lydia Kay, Briony Wyatt, Eleanor Russo and Lucy Harrison for her amazing composition and overall managerial skills! It’s such an honour to act amongst such talented people – especially Melanie, whom I shared most of my scenes with. I couldn’t have found a better Syne! Videos will hopefully come soon.

Publications

Notes from Other Worlds and SUM were published this year, which I’m ecstatic about! notes_from_other_worlds_front_coversum-front-cover

Aren’t they beautiful? You can read more about them here. I also have a small play published at Amazing Stories, one that inspired the writing of SUM. The original idea was a posthuman version of Susan Glaspell’s (great name) Trifles. So an amazing year all round – I couldn’t have done any of it if it weren’t for these amazing people in my life. I’m incredibly blessed.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas and see you all in 2015! xxx

What the Evolution Lounge Taught Me

evolSo recently, I took part in this introduction to the Evolution Lounge as an exercise of mindfulness and embodied cognition in a “site of chaos”, which happened to be the centre of a busy tube station. It’s a situation that I, as a chronic Londoner, have experienced many times. It holds many resonances for me; clocking up many moods, memories and experiences just being in this particular site. Of course, they hardly ever enter my mind as I’m usually rushing to some engagement or other (like people do when they’re at stations!). This really allowed me to slow the process down.

I don’t want to spoil the experience for those wanting to take part in it, so I’ll relay my feelings and thoughts from the session.

What was particularly novel and groundbreaking for me was the aspect of practicing mindfulness in this scape of noise, of rush, of adrenaline. I’ve practiced meditation and what I would normally associate with it is finding a quiet area where distractions are minimalised to carry this out. That’s why meditation retreats are so popular, I’d imagine – so this idea intrigued and startled me.

The observations whilst in this mindfulness, as a group, what we picked up in terms of noise, touch and sensation, contrasting this to the inner space and how it felt through the body- just staying still and engaging, but also linking it to how we feel and think at that present moment in a group.

It’s taken some time to percolate, but I realised how much it resonated not only in my daily practices, but in my actual PhD practice too.

What I’ve always found quite difficult is to actually distinguish between thoughts and feelings and how they react on the body. I’m often centered in my own head space and don’t often realise how much my feelings are playing out as well. I’ve always known it, in a way, but the exercise that I did yesterday really brought that to the foreground.

I’ve also realised that my PhD practice focuses on this concept too, from the more blatant 3 degrees – a monologue that I’d written that focuses on citizens undertaking this compulsory mindfulness, allowed to only think to 3 degrees of separation in a world even more saturated in data then we are today – to Object meet Subject, whereby a solipsistic conversation takes place to the point where object and subject cannot be distinguished. My current play that I’m writing, Pioneer, deals with the different test stages of hiveminds – from the pilot where people are becoming convinced to compromise their individuality for this idea of strengthened community and enhanced intimacy (which seems to me to be an extrapolated social media) to the ways in which this technology becomes increasingly warped and uncontrollable.

Because of this, embodied cognition becomes increasingly important to me, not only in my daily practice but how characters can envisage and portray a world that differs from ours, in both an acting theory and an engagement through writing. This is what I’m researching for my worldview chapter now.

Find out more about the evolution lounge here

Stars or Mars!

Another delay – so it goes!logo

Some stuff has happened since my last post:

Stars or Mars, my new theatre company on SF Theatre, is now up and running at http://www.starsormarstheatre.co.uk! I really should buy a domain for this site, I think… if you go on the site, you can see updates for Terra Firma and collaborations between futurists and artists, which I’m in the midst of organising now actually! Email me at starsormarstheatre@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved!

 

Also:

I reviewed the Headlong Theatre production of 1984 at Amazing Stories, which you can find here – thrilling, dark, unsettling and timeless!

Stage the Future, myself, and Science Fiction Theatre at large also got a mention in the SciFi London Blog: http://www.sci-fi-london.com/blog/2014/05/brave-new-world-science-fiction-theatre-or-beam-me-la-right-now-scotty!

If you want to see me in the flesh – I’m going to the CRSF (which is actually tomorrow, oops!) in Liverpool – giving a talk on SF Theatre and Worldbuilding. If you’re in the area, do drop by – I’d love to meet you!

Susan

Fiction Friday

ImageAnother cultural marker (following on from last post) – Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Hope you’re all well! I’ve been busy working on my play which is going to have a staged reading at the Etcetera Theatre on the 25th/26th February! I’m utterly thrilled by this! We’re well underway in rehearsals and the cast and crew have been utterly superb. Terra Firma is obliquely quite a personal play to me – as I’ve written and redrafted it on/off (which is quite unusual for me), I can actually pinpoint the times in which I wrote certain parts!

You can find out more about the play at this website, which I’ll be updating shortly – http://www.terrafirmaplay.co.uk

So apart from this, I’ve been writing monologues for my collection, of whose working title currently is Notes from Other Worlds. I’m not *too* sure about this title wise (I don’t consider myself well versed in titles, unfortunately), so any suggestions would be helpful!

I’m working on some more plays – I’ve recently redrafted Pandora’s Box and Fishbowl and am starting planning on the new plays 🙂 Also, stay tuned for conference news – lots of exciting things to come!

Susan

Thoughts on Theatrical Jenga

Jenga 3Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you are all well and taking the opportunity for the next calendar year to accomplish a new and established set of goals and achievements. Of course, time is a human construct and you can make goals at any time, but it’s always a nice marker to play by.

It’s been strange, but I haven’t had the clarity that I had of last year in terms of my creative work. I had a plan of some sort and I draw out scenes, acts, characters and tropes by simple sentence synopses. I still write longhand in notebooks and manage to get through so many in the process (I have abnormally large handwriting, as some of you will know). I usually have a notebook for one or two plays specifically (originally called “play books”), where I will dedicate its entirety to ideas, scenes and timelines.

However, I’m becoming increasingly scatterbrained, which I hoped last year wouldn’t happen. It’s nice when ideas come, but they shatter the illusion of confidence (that I know what I’m doing, where this is going, that it feels consistent-ish to the characters and their intent) and the play becomes unrecognisable. It happened to Cuckoos and Chrysalids, it happened to Newshound and I’m a little scared that I don’t take the transitions as well as I had hoped. I often chop and change my writing projects and it isn’t as fun as I thought.

The theatrical Jenga of the title though, is from what I’m “researching” for my critical work. Theatre has been seen as notoriously hard to create a world only for it then to be disrupted later in a way that the audience can identify and run with as soon as the piece has been taken away and the structure compromised. Would we be able to see the piece from all angles? Do we have to wait for someone to gasp and cry “Oh no! The puzzle has collapsed!” or the equivalent in SF pulp literature? I’ve been looking at it, however, through the anthropological theories of Tim Ingold’s taskscape and how patterns of behaviour can build up this picture, punctuated by the dialogue.

I’m working on a few creative projects at the moment – but these descriptions are going to be incredibly vague. One play is about a character who is unable to focus on the present moment, instead dwelling around past and future, unable to see how people have changed around her (it’s to do with memory development and enzyme reactions). Another is dealing with virtual representation, mass hive-mind juries and A/B testing. Another is to do with the transition between mind transfer and living in another skin, monologue style (which I’m hoping to structure in a similar way to the amazing production of There has been an Incident).

It’s taking me longer than expected to hone these theatrical sculptures, but it could be a good sign. I feel that I’m taking more risks with the writing I’m producing, which can only be a good thing at this stage.

Rambles on SF and Sense of Self

NB: This is a condensed version of what I scribbled at 6am this morning – I had these thoughts in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s like the mental version I’d imagine of having a small child when they classically jump up and down on the bed because they can’t sleep.

What arguably defines SF and Fantasy from other genres can be made on many levels – but one I will deal with here is the sense of self and the way in which the concept is presented. Arguably many genres are about human agency, characters that are shaped by what they do to others. Of course, this is a symbiotic relationship – reactions and actions are cycled in the background of many well known plots. Romance is often battling against obstacles to find “true love”, placing the power in the protagonist’s hands – often they don’t realise this at first, or most novels would indeed be flash fiction instead. Puzzles are pieced together internally and externally, but with the spotlight on the (usually) two characters. Crime and Thrillers thrive on us working out the puzzle – obstacles are placed in our way – an epistemological mode of fiction. SF, I argue, is an ontological form – one that deals with world view specifically in a way that other genres generally do not deal with (of course, genres are often blended, such as Romance and SF, Crime and SF, etc. and it’s fascinating to see how these modes can work with and against each other).

In other words, what is evident in a lot of SF texts is the distancing from the sense of self that other genres emphasise and highlight. Space is not just about outside of the Earth’s atmosphere – it’s about the sense of space inside us, between individuals, between groups, societies, singular and collective identities (as well as the ones our virtual spaces have increasingly encroached on our daily lives). It can often be seen as a metaphor of remoteness – those who close themselves up and ones who grasp for others. The sense of the alien can be a metaphor for the self/other, and how we can define ourselves in a species that for some time now has enjoyed the top seat of the food chain. To have species that rival us – often the Fermi Paradox is lifted and we become the magnet for extra-terrestrial life for artistic license, allows us to view humanity at a distance (I’m at once reminded of the convex/concave mirror that the narrator views the people with in HG Wells’ In the Days of the Comet – he is really fond of ants, isn’t he?). Of course, we have the infamous Solaris with the frustrations that humanity has to be unable to view things outside of our sphere without anthropomorphising everything – our filters of perception blocks out the fully realised idea of the world, let alone the ones outside of ours. The famous Moorcock quote – the only true alien planet is Earth – is an effective way of summing this up. The trope of Robots is similar but a little different – they are our timesaving devices, in effect our slaves, but by that reason alone our dependence on them makes them our eventual masters. Very often do you get a text with robots as the main trope as a warning!

For this reason and more, Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke is one of my favourite texts of all time. The introduction of the overlords and their eventual plans for humanity – the ending can really give you future shock – not only on the literal level, but of a metaphor of the next generation, our children, outliving us. They are our genetic saviours, a token of our own humanity and by extention, frailties. I’ve also been thinking, how The Tempest by Shakespeare is seen as an SF play – and that could be evident of the way humans are at the mercy of the supernatural (but then again, I thought, isn’t that the case with A Midsummer’s Night Dream?). It could be why SF and comedy are so compatible – seeing humanity from our distance and seeing our foibles from far away.

I’m reading Metzinger’s Being No-One and it’s really enlightening to me in the way representata are built collectively and experienced by us in such a heavily coded way – that the constructivist world view exposes the human self as an illusion in itself. It’s mind-blowing and well worth a read (I’m hardly finished, mind). I also love the fact that it comes with equations – I tried to formulate Possible World Equations earlier on this year to great amusement. I might leave it up to him.

Saturday Salon du Livre

I got it right this time (I hope!)

To update on the play – I seriously can’t believe it’s been a week since the LAST performance of it – it went very well! I’m so proud of the actresses who worked so fast and so well to get the lines and movement on point – and they were wonderful to work with. I certainly enjoyed directing, and it’s helped me to inform my own writing as well, so the process has worked both ways symbiotically. I can now see why the writer/director is such a compelling choice. I’ll blog more about this when I have time.

So what’s next, I hear you ask? 

I’m doing a collaboration (that I’ve mentioned before, I think) and it’s going along the lines of the performed monologue I’ve written called Object, Meet Subject – which sound composition would definitely bring it to life. I will write up about it as it’s in my Writing Section of completed plays at the moment.

I am now also a blogger at Amazing Stories – which, as you know, has a thoroughly impressive heritage in the Science Fiction and Fantasy realm. It’s wonderful to be a part of it! My first post is up here.

I’m also doing some academic writing too – the talk I gave at Lincoln for the conference on Adam Roberts is being written up for a chapter of the collected papers. It’s being edited by the great team of Christos Callow Jr. and Anna McFarlane.

I’m also doing some other academic-y bits here and there, and will be getting back on those monologues when I have time (I do have a PhD to complete, you know!)

I also have plans to write an SF Libretto (I’m utterly excited about this one)!

I’m also taking part in a Horror/SF writing challenge, but I can’t say any more than that, I’m afraid!

So that’s it in a nutshell! I will be writing more reviews and so on (which is a shame that I haven’t so far – I’ve seen some great plays since but haven’t had the time to review them. I will get round to it, pronto!)