Mass Con Jan 31st

Critical Mass is planning another single day mini convention.
Unlike other years, this one will be online from 12noon til 8pm, Adelaide time on Sunday January 31st.

We’ve organised a reprise of Eugen Bacon’s talk on Afrofuturism, and Adam Jenkins digs deep in history to tell us about A True Story by Lucian of Samosata.

There’s a panel on the New Doctor Who; talks on interesting new SF&F in print and on air; a talk about the Adelaide Uni SF Association, formed fifty years ago in 1971; and an assortment of podcasters to talk about their art. Add a few games, a reading of The Frankenstein Burlesque and time to chat with fellow fans in a virtual bar or two, and it should be an interesting day.

If you are interested in attending, or have an idea for a talk or panel you’d like to see, please contact roman (, We’re also looking for volunteers to host the zoom and welcome guests (in one hour shifts, training provided).

Login details:

Time: Sunday Jan 31, 2021 12noon Adelaide, 12:30pm Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 860 1369 3109
Passcode: MassCon

Draft programme will be posted on by the 24th

Upcoming titles in 2021

Liz Bourke, in her recent Sleeps with Monsters column, lists some highly anticipated new titles, including:

Winter’s Orbit by Everine Maxwell (February 2)
Two princes have to make an arranged marriage work, or their empire will fall. Secrets, lies, misunderstandings, romance, and space opera politics. I read an advance copy of this accomplished debut, and I look forward to seeing it out in the world.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard (February 9)
I read an advance copy of Fireheart Tiger, a new standalone fantasy novella from the author of Tea Master and the Detective and In the Vanishers’ Palace, and yes, 2021 is sure to be improved by it. A jewel of a novella, concerned with power and affection, colonialism and independence, and complicated interpersonal interactions, it’s a delight to read.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (March 2)
Sequel to the award-winning A Memory Called Empire, A Desolation Called Peace revisits Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass as a crisis on the Teixcalaanli empire’s borders—and on the borders of Lsel Station—calls for diplomatic skills. Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is faced with an alien threat that she can’t communicate with and that she can’t easily destroy. Mahit and Three Seagrass share an impossible task while negotiating the boundaries of an empire that, like all empires, is difficult to work for without being consumed by.

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (April 27)
Murderbot and a murder mystery. Who in the world could turn that down?

— read the full list at Sleeps With Monsters: Most Anticipated Books For 2021 at

interzone taken over by PS Publishing

PS Publishing has announced that it will take over publication of Interzone magazine from TTA Press, which also produces the Black Static and Crimewave magazines. Ian Whates of NewCon Press will replace Andy Cox as editor.

PS co-founder Peter Crowther said, “The call came on the Saturday before Christmas Day, from Andy Cox, Main Man of Interzone magazine who wanted to know if I fancied taking on IZ’s production reins, thereby giving Andy a well-earned break.”

— Locus Online,

MassCon 2021: end of January

As in previous years, we’re holding a small one-day convention to review and repeat some of the talks we had over the past year. The only difference is that this time, it will be online via zoom.

So if you have any bright ideas, talks you’d like to revisit, workshops you’d enjoy, or games you want to play, get in touch. We’re looking for ideas for talks, panels, discussions, games and workshops. And, of course, people to help organise the event!

Crit Mass on Fanzines: Sat Dec 19th

As part of our end-of-year celebrations, Critical Mass is convening a zoom panel on Fanzines.
At 8pm Sat Dec 19th (Adelaide time), we will convene a zoom panel with guests from overseas to discuss the intriguing world of fan magazines. The panel features Bruce Gillespie, Alison Scott, Christina Lake and LynC, with Roman as moderator. Come along, listen to the panel, ask awkward questions and satisfy your curiousity.

Details of zoom login:

Meeting ID: 824 6710 5925
Passcode: 420646

Panel starts at 8pm Saturday Adelaide time, 8:30pm Melbourne time,
9:30am London time and 1:30am San Francisco

A miscellany of fanzines

Masscon Jan 2021

In previous years, we’ve held the occasional one day minicon reprising some of the talks we held at Critical Mass during the year. Adam and I thought it’d be nice to hold an online mini-con in late January.

We were both impressed with Punctuation, and thought we can put our paid Zoom account to good use. We decided to organise a few test runs in December to see what was possible, and get some experience wrangling Zoom.
Our current plan is to run trials on the weekend, at 8pm Adelaide time. Here’s the current draft schedule, if any of you wish to be guinea pigs
Sat 5th Dec, 8pm: Unearthed treasures
People bring two books: forgotten gems or recently unearthed discoveries
We send them to one of two breakout rooms; they have 30mins (6 x 5) to Talk about their book #1 (& post a para to host), then half of them move to the other breakout room and repeat with book #2.
Sun 6th Dec, 8pm: Quiz (Individual): Shared slide and people raise hand to answer
Sat 12th Dec, 8pm: Quiz (Team): Shared slide and teams gather in breakout rooms to compose answers which are posted to host(s) to mark
Sun 13th Dec, 8pm: Treasure Hunt: Teams form, move to breakout rooms and are given a list of items. They find as many items as they can before being recalled for judging
Sat 19th Dec, 8pm: Panel We test whether we can create a webinar like panel followed by general discussion when all audience are visible for Q&A

If you’d be interested in taking part in the experiment, email me at for more details

MassCon trials
8:00pm Adelaide / 8:30 Melb/Sydney
Every week on Sat, Sun until Dec 19, 2020 — 5 occurrence(s)
Sat Dec 5, 2020 08:00 PM Unearthed treasures
Sun Dec 6, 2020 08:00 PM Quiz (invividual)

Sat Dec 12, 2020 08:00 PM Quiz (team)
Sun Dec 13, 2020 08:00 PM Treasure Hunt

Sat Dec 19, 2020 08:00 PM Panel

Meeting ID: 824 6710 5925
Passcode: 420646

Doctor Who’s sonic pioneers to turn internet into giant musical instrument

Members of the Radiophonic Workshop live in concert in 2016. Paddy Kingsland, left, and Dick Mills
Members of the Radiophonic Workshop live in concert in 2016.
Paddy Kingsland, left, and Dick Mills

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop made the famous science fiction theme tune and worked with the Beatles. Now it is preparing to make history

The Radiophonic Workshop has always broken new sonic ground, from the Doctor Who theme to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now they’re at it again – this time using the internet as a musical instrument.

A performance of Latency will take place at a special online event on 22 November using a technique inspired by lockdown Zoom calls. The band includes composers from the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created soundtracks for most BBC shows from the 60s to the 90s and influenced generations of musicians from Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield to Aphex Twin, Orbital and Mary Epworth.

The idea [of playing the internet] reflected our time,” said workshop member Peter Howell. “We’re all subject to the internet now in a way that we never thought we would be. And Bob and Paddy came up with an idea that is literally using what we’re all relying on for a creative purpose, using something that we’ve all taken for granted but in an artistic way.”


The internet has an unpredictable natural lag, or latency, caused by the milliseconds it takes for electrical signals from one computer to reach another, as anyone using Zoom has experienced.

The trick that Earland and Kingsland discovered was that they could extend the internet’s delay from a few milliseconds into several seconds. Instead of trying to play at the same time, the Radiophonic Workshop will play one after another – in sequence, rather than in parallel.

“We had the bright idea of using that latency to make a loop of music,” Earland said. “The sound gets sent to someone, and they add to it, and it keeps going round. So you’re not relying on everyone being on the same clock.”

By James Tapper, from The Guardian, 15 Nov

Punctuation Con: !

Last weekend saw several hundred sf fans enjoy an online sf convention designed to provide social spaces for people to chat, discuss, debate and play as they might in a face-to-face convention. Punctuation Con was organised by GUFF winner Alison Scott and her colleagues from the #octothorpe podcast; they used Zoom, Discord and Streamyard to present panels and talks, provide rooms for group games and discussion, and encourage fans to talk about their passions. The Aussie Drinks Room included people from Adelaide, Canberra and Wellington as well as the curious fans from around the world. Bilby and Kwoll agree that it was a very well done convention, and hope to use some of these ideas in a mini con in January next year. (VirConium?)

As part of planning for an online minicon, we’re going to hold some Zoom sessions to test out ideas on Saturdays over the next few weeks (around 8pm Adelaide time, so that overseas fans can join in if they wish). If you’re interested in taking part (we’re looking for guinea pigs), contact Roman (

Crit Mass: The Mongolian Wizard, 7pm Nov 18th

Over the past seven years, Michael Swanwick presented a new fiction series at, consisting of stand-alone stories all set in the same world—an alternate fin de siècle Europe shot through with magic, mystery, and intrigue. The first nine in a projected series of 21 are published by Tor.

Please read a few or perhaps all of the stories in the series. They can be found on the website, listed in order on this page: Mongolian Wizard

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Zoom details:
Note that we will open the zoom  room about ten minutes before the start of the meeting

While this is the last in our set of formal meetings, we will be planning a gathering in early december. If we aren’t under strict lockdown, perhaps dinner in a restaurant; otherwise a zoom gathering for a chat/puzzle/game/panel*

New Collection of Jane Yolen

The Midnight Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 978-1-61696-340-8, 242pp, $16.95, tp) October 2020.

The Midnight Circus is the third collection of Jane Yolen stories from Tachyon in the last three years, following The Emerald Circus (which won a World Fantasy Award in 2018) and How to Fracture a Fairy Tale. Collectively these rather modest volumes are giving us a pretty good sense of what a Selected Stories volume might look like, and it might look pretty important. Yolen’s aston­ishing bibliography, closing in on 400 volumes as I write this (and who knows, maybe passing 400 by the time you see it) represents an almost unprecedented synthesis of centuries of worldwide tale-telling, at all levels, from kid’s board books to challenging novels of the Holocaust.

— full review by Gary K Wolfe at Locus