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Festival of Ideas

What Can Science Fiction Tell Us About Life on Mars? Panel Discussion

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Science fiction writers Chaz Brenchley, Lucy Kissick and Liz Williams join Cheryl Morgan to talk about their visions of life on Mars.

Liz Williams’ Banner of Souls (shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award), Winterstrike and Phosphorus are set in a far distant future Mars which includes weird animals, canals and red deserts, and is ruled by a violent matriarchy. Chaz Brenchley is writing a girls’ boarding-school series set on a steampunk Martian colony that has become an outpost of the British Empire. Lucy Kissick wrote Plutoshine, a story about a little girl growing up during the terraforming of Pluto, while completing her PhD on ancient Martian lakes.

Our panel discusses the joys of world building; Mars’ role within human thought; the history of the planet; whether they would take the leap to travel through space themselves; and their favourite books about Mars.

This event has been inspired by ‘Building a Martian House’, a public art project at M Shed that has made a prototype of a real Martian house. Visit their website to book a free ticket to view inside the house and to find out about other events taking place.

Liz Williams will be a guest of honour at BristolCon 2022. Find out more here.

Some of our panel’s books:

Chaz Brenchley

Chaz Brenchley has been making a living as a writer since the age of eighteen. He is the award-winning author of thrillers, fantasies, ghost stories, science fiction and more. He has also published as Daniel Fox and Ben Macallan. He is currently writing a girls’ boarding-school series set on Mars: Three Twins at the Crater School and Dust Up at the Crater School.

Lucy Kissick

Lucy Kissick has a doctorate in planetary science from the University of Oxford, where she recreated ancient Martian lakes in the laboratory. She is now a scientist in nuclear research between the mountains and the sea of the English Lake District and can usually be found in either. Her debut novel, Plutoshine, was published in 2022.

Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan is a science fiction critic and publisher. She is the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press and the Wizard’s Tower Books ebook store. Previously she edited the Hugo Award-winning magazine Emerald City. She also won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer in 2009. She is a director of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc. She is a co-chair of Out Stories Bristol and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature, and is director of The Diversity Trust, for whom she runs trans awareness courses.

Liz Williams

Liz Williams is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in Glastonbury, England, where she is co-director of a witchcraft supply business. Her novel Banner of Souls has been nominated for the Philip K Dick Memorial Award, along with three previous novels, and the Arthur C Clarke Award. She is also the author of the Detective Inspector Chen series and appears regularly in Asimov’s and other magazines. She has been involved with the Milford SF Writers’ Workshop for 20 years, and teaches creative writing at a local college for Further Education. She has also written on the history of British paganism in Miracles of Our Own Making and Modern Handfasting.

Image credit: NASA via Unsplash.

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