So long and thanks

Monday 10 August
Almost there …

A reading first thing, at which I didn’t know 50% of the audience. So if you stick to percentages, that’s quite good. I gave them both the first chapter of the current work in progress and got some suggestions for speeding it up a bit.

Then, out of curiosity, the panel “Polyamory: Not quite as Heinlein described it”. (This doesn’t narrow it down as a subject.) Hmm.

Worth quoting the programme listing here:

“One of our panelists once described poly as “always having someone to miss”. A livejournal poster described the moment of realising she didn’t know which house needed the mustard: others talk of the wonders of Google calendars. Proposed: poly, properly done, is calm, quiet and perhaps a little dull but an awful relief from the drama.”

Right … I’ll let myself be marginally more convinced by the above coming from two people I know and respect on the panel. (Though one of them was the emergency moderator, roped in at the last minute and I didn’t catch whether he is of this inclination.) The other three all cheerfully self-identified as poly but asked not to be identified in blog reports as they are all academics and don’t want this to be the first thing their students learn about them. (But they are all listed in the programme …) Still came away with a sneaking suspicion they were making life more complicated than it needed to be … I mean, drama? What drama? That last sentence sounds like a good description, and an excellent justification, for monogamy.

And suddenly … well, that was it. Nothing more I really wanted to do. I can never decide if cons are always a day too long, or just long enough to let me go home with my head held high and not a backwards look. But my plane wasn’t until much later so I went to see Wall-E, this year’s winner of the Hugo for the best long-form drama.

And what a good film it is! You can’t help but love Wall-E himself, the most anthropomorphic, resourceful, plucky little robot since R2D2. An astonishing amount of design work went into it so that there isn’t a single visual that doesn’t look right but plenty of detail that slips right past you on just one viewing. I also saw it on my last day in Denver last year, so maybe I’m destined to see it on the last day of worldcon for ever more.

It also struck me that this was the perfect response to the polyamory panel. Wall-E is quietly getting on with his life, not minding or even really noticing that he’s lonely … until he meets the one person who can fill the gap in his life, after which he will move heaven and earth to keep her. Wall-E the Polyamorous Robot really would not work.

So, what of the con itself? I would say a well varied programme, though the videos could have been better advertised. The Palais is unspeakably ugly, as previously mentioned, all exposed girders and brutalist concrete … but in its sixties way I found it preferable to last year’s gargantuan sterile airport lounge. The spaces were large enough for a crowd but small enough to feel at home in.

The Dealers’ Room was disappointingly small, not a lot bigger than at some Eastercons, though I gather that’s the fault of Canadian Customs being extra unfriendly this year. Still bought enough books to bust the wheels on my lovely wife’s case.

The badge was inspired, even if I first met the idea in 2002 and it may be even older than that. It’s not just a badge, it’s a wallet, see. So you can put things in it. Unlike most badges it will actually outlast the con by a factor of years.

And so to the airport, wondering when I’ll do this again. Not Melbourne next year – though an Australian holiday would be nice, one day, given time and money – and not remotely interested in Reno in 2011. (Both subject to immediate change if I suddenly become Big in the countries concerned.) In fact, maybe not ever again. At my level of fandom it’s not really a time- or money-efficient way of having fun. Let’s see where the career takes me, eh?

Back-to-back bluffing

Sunday 9 August
“Like gay men taking over a lesbian bar”: YA author Fiona Patton describing how media fans moved in on the literary sf scene in the late seventies, post-Star Wars, at a panel on writing for teens, moderated by yours truly. This was meant to include Eoin Colfer who hadn’t been seen for the entire convention – the latest report was he hadn’t checked in. Speculation was rife, including that he may have unwisely told an immigration officer he was here for business, been unable to produce a work permit, and been bundled on the next flight out again. Apparently it happens. Cons are not business, even for working authors. They are Fun.

Before that, the annual ecumenical service led by excellent the Rev. Randy Smith. I wish our vicar was called Randy because he always starts his services with “I’m Ron, I’m the vicar …” I know, I know, it’s just short for Randall and Randy is a top guy.

The afternoon was the back-to-back bluffing with me on two panels I don’t actually know that much about: the Napoleonic wars and science blogging. I obeyed my mother’s instruction to let everyone know my 3xgreat-grandfather has his horse shot from under him at Salamanca. But Steve Stirling and Walter Jon Williams could manage quite well on their own. Still, my knowledge of things Napoleonic is encyclopaedic compared to my science blogging savvy. I could say I follow Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science site, but I still got a tinsy bit confused and thought he was the one being sued by the chiropractors, despite having signed the petition and told you all about it.


At the end we were each asked what we’d like to see in the future of science blogging. This being an sf convention, I proposed that an artificial intelligence – say, Skynet, if it wanted a more useful outlet for its activities – could produce a web page of 10 random facts a day. But, each fact would be impeccably researched and linked, free of all political and financial bias, so that the interested reader could drill down and find out the absolute truth. Co-panelist Chad Orzel, one of the two professors up there with me, thought this was good idea, so I will plug him and his forthcoming book How to Teach Physics to Your Dog.

Little becomes big

Saturday 8 August
A day of unexpected highlights from items I wasn’t too sure about.

Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Nalo Hopkinson, Doselle Young and me did a panel on “Archetypes and Stereotypes”, exploring the fine lines that distinguish them and also working out where “cliché” fits into the equation. And I don’t know how well we satisfied the audience but it was great fun – a lot of laughing and also a few good points made, though I say it myself. One lady afterwards told me it was the best panel yet, and this guy would seem to concur.

Then there was the signing, at which several people I didn’t already know produced copies of The New World Order and The Xenocide Mission and of course Time’s Chariot. 3/4 ain’t bad.

The one I really didn’t have high hopes for was “Size does matter” – a panel discussion on small presses. 8pm on a Saturday night, most people can think of better things to be doing, especially when it’s scheduled against the Masquerade. I had an invitation to the launch of ChiZine, which essentially said “we’re delighted to see you’re on a panel about the virtues of small presses: please come to our party to celebrate the launch of our small press which is scheduled right against your panel on the virtues of small presses.” Do you begin to see the flaw?

But anyway, the audience eventually outnumbered the panel and the proceedings unexpectedly became pretty well a monologue by Ron Drummond on what sounds like a breathtakingly beautiful museum edition of John Crowley’s Little, Big, to mark its 25th anniversary. Not quite bound in silver-engraved handtooled unborn calfskin but getting there. January 2010, people.