Were I At WorldCon..Saturday.

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Were I At WorldCon

09-03-04: Panels of DOOM!!!!! Were I at WorldCon It Would be Three Hours Later

Full Schedule Here:

I was going to try to manage this yesterday, but what with getting the column up and a four hour drive to take my son to Boy Scout camp, I didn't manage. But this morning I find myself wondering what exactly is going on there...and so I'll report to my readers who might also want to know what, at least, is scheduled. As always, this list is my own extraction, so it's subject to prejudicial meandering.

Saturday 10:00 a H302:

Doorstops: Truly Enormous Books and Series

Huge books, a never-ending series—why are these herniators so popular? Why does it take so many words to tell a good story? Does anyone edit anymore?

Daniel Abraham, Kevin J. Anderson, William C. Dietz, Beth Meacham (m), Martha Wells

[Comment: Beth Meacham is Tim Powers' (sometime) editor over at Ace. And the subject is one of interest to a reader I the midst of an 800 page novel.]

Saturday 10:00 a H303:

Imaginative Fiction: A Third World Perspective

Why are science fiction and fantasy important to the Third World? And in what way could the Third World be important to science fiction and fantasy? Fans, readers and writers around the world are embracing imaginative fiction and adapting and transforming it to reflect upon their societies and their possible futures. Much Anglo-American SF glorifies humans colonizing other worlds, but writers from post-colonial cultures are more likely to identify with the conquered aliens. As imaginative fiction crosses national and cultural borders, how can we—Anglo-Americans and others—sample, learn from, and enjoy the resulting rich brew?

A personal take on the subject from a writer born and raised in India, with discussion to follow.

Vandana Singh

[Comment: I don't know the writer, but having just finished 'River of Gods', I find this discussion to have a lot of interesting potential. May want to look up or at least look out for this writer.]

Saturday 11:00 a H302:

Reality Ain't What It Used To Be: Secret Histories and Urban Fantasies

Science fiction has always challenged conventional notions of reality, but recent years have seen a growing interest in speculative stories that dwell on ancient conspiracies and secret histories, parallel dimensions which interact in strange ways with our own and hidden corners of great cities in which lurk creatures of myth and legend come to life. Panelists can explore these cracks in consensual reality and their implications for the future of SF itself as a genre based largely on developments in science and technology.

There are more and more books where the author, such as Tim Powers, re-examines the past and reveals the "real" secrets hidden there. Supernatural conspiracies may explain what we might have always thought of as dull historical trivia, and underlying connections between the most disparate events are elucidated with great verve. What the hell is going on here? Are secret histories gaining on alternate ones? Why are they so addictively enjoyable? How might the fantastic reinterpretation of history practiced by such authors relate to current events? And, in a world where Mae West slept with Ho Chi Minh, what even stranger connections might make intriguing reading?

Paul DiFilippo, Daniel Hatch (m), Alex Irvine, Steven Sawicki

[Comment: A form of fiction most interesting to me with stellar panelists. May want to look at Hatch and Sawicki, based on their being on this panel.]

Saturday 11:00 a H304:

What's Entertainment?—A Look at the Future

Entertainment probably started with oral storytelling, followed by plays and written stories. The twentieth century saw the rise of movies, radio, television, and video games. What's next? The "feelies" from Brave New World? Aroma symphonies? Digitally created actors (oh, we already have them…)? Some perversion of virtual reality? Our panelists have come back from the future to let us know.

Simon R. Green, Henry Jenkins, James Stevens-Arce (m), Rick Wilber, Connie Willis

[A topic of interest to readers and writers -- and great people to talk about it.]

Saturday 11:00 a H305:

Sweat and Blisters: How Much Reality Can We Stand in Fantasy Quests?

Why do people on quests in fantasy literature never sweat? How do you handle all the inconveniences like potty breaks, rain, bugs, rocks under your blanket, carrying enough food and water, etc.? Does it matter?

Kage Baker, Glen Cook, Sean McMullen, Peter Morwood, Josepha Sherman (m), Andrew Wheeler

[A topic of some interest and a panel of great interest. I'm a fan of lots of grit, but -- what do I know?]

Saturday 11:00 a Grand Ballroom:

Terry Pratchett GoH Speech

Our Guest of Honor became Britain's best-selling author by writing funny fantasies. He once said, "We are trying to understand the fundamental workings of the universe by a language devised for telling another where the best fruit is." Come by and he'll probably say more things like that.

Terry Pratchett

[Comment: Having interviewed Pratchett, I'd certainly want to hear him speak. Why is the GoH Speech is scheduled at this peculiar time?]

Saturday 12:00 n H204:

Is All This Labeling Necessary?

Authors, editors, artists and fans look at what labels like "science fiction," "fantasy," "genre," etc. do for us and to us. How do you actually define this literature of the fantastic?

Brian W. Aldiss, Ellen Asher, John Clute, Fred Lerner (m), James Morrow

[Comment: A stellar panel -- a timeless question -- this is why WorldCon should exist!]

Saturday 12:00 n H205:

Is It Fair?

Do magazines accept only on the basis of the perceived quality of the submissions, or are there other criteria in play? If there are, what are they and how important are they?

Because no writer can support himself by writing short stories, are short stories therefore "amateur" products? Are short story writers less good than novelists? Does the quality of current short stories say anything about this?

Scott Edelman, Carl Frederick (m), Shawna McCarthy, Resa Nelson, Sheila Williams

[Comment: No, it's not fair! But that's the point. Good thing I'm not there -- I'd want to go to this one as well. To my mind, perceived quality should be the marker. And to answer the third question, one needs to be reminded that novelists are generally not making scads of money, and to need be able to supplement their work by short stories, which also act as advertisements for their novels. A case in point for me is Jay Caselberg. Whose short story in TTA interested me in his novels.]

[Comment for panels below: A trio of panels for writers all scheduled simultaneously?]

Saturday 12:00 n H301:

What is the Rock's Motivation in This Scene?

How do you keep control of your cast of characters and explain them to the reader without stopping the story?

Theodora Goss, Stephen P. Kelner (m), Chris Moriarty, Martha Soukup, Jo Walton

[Chris Moriarty is, I believe the author of 'Spin State' a novel I'd very much like to read. And the subject is, I believe potentially interesting, though perhaps not amenable to a teaching/learning situation.]

Saturday 12:00 n H302:

Why Write?

Do you write for simple pleasure? For an audience? For posterity? All or none of the above? Discuss—it's all valid!

Joe Haldeman (m), James Patrick Kelly, William Tenn, Martha Wells, Gary K. Wolf

[Comment: I may get tired of typing this, but once again, a stellar panel, a timeless subject. ]

Saturday 12:00 n H303:

What New Writers Need to Know

Having sold a few short stories or a first novel, a writer often enters that awkward age between being and nothingness. What are the best ways to approach a nascent career, and learn the ropes about promotion, copyrights, the IRS, etc. How do you move onward into the realm of name recognition? And how do you capitalize on that shiny-new SFWA membership anyhow?

Kevin J. Anderson, Sally Wiener Grotta, Jane Jewell (m), Vera Nazarian, James Stevens-Arce, Eleanor Wood

[Comment: We should all have such problems!]

Saturday 12:00 n H304:

Hear the Symbols Clash!

Are we literate enough to use symbolism deliberately? When is it dangerous?

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Jarrold, Kathy Morrow (m), Vandana Singh, Takayuki Tatsumi, Mary Turzillo

[Comment: I'm always there for Jon Courtenay Grimwood. And symbols.]

Saturday 12:00 n H307:

Children's Play in the Future

What will children be playing at in fifty years? What will be the new toys: artificial pets, weightless sports, alien games? Will anyone go outside anymore to play with other kids? Will the whole concept of childhood itself change? Maybe children will be "playing" at being CEOs or space warriors…for real!

Jeffrey A. Carver, Kathryn Cramer, Janice M. Eisen, Bonnie Kunzel, Isaac Szpindel (m)

[Comment: A topic worthy of fascination. Original and not dealt with often. And remember 'Mimsey were the borogoves?' One of my favorites!]

Saturday 12:00 n H310:

The End of Copyright: Can the Arts Survive the Digital Age?

Can we continue to protect intellectual property? Should we? If we don't, how will human creativity change?

Cory Doctorow, Daniel Grotta (m), Sean M. Mead, Steve Miller, Charlie Petit, James M. Turner

[Comment: An interesting dilemma and EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) guy Cory Doctorow to talk about it. He's really a great speaker. Cath him if you can.]

Saturday 12:00 n H312:

The Rise of the Paranormal Romance

It's now one of the fastest-growing segments of the fiction market. Why? And why is it more than just horny vampires and angsty werewolves?

Catherine Asaro, Charlaine Harris, Sue Krinard, Sandra McDonald (m), Diane Turnshek

[Comment: An interesting market question. And a growing market. And a knowledgable panel. ]

Saturday 1:00 p H311:

Reinventing Genre Fantasy

With so much genre fantasy being published, what can be done to refresh our jaded palates?

Hilari L. Bell, Debra Doyle (m), Elizabeth Hand, Alex Irvine, Katherine Kurtz

[Comment: It's not our palates that need refreshing but the publishers' -- but still some interesting people to talk about an interesting problem. Junk fantasy sells, how to wean the tastes towards something else...]

Saturday 1:00 p H312:

Tradeoffs between Freedom, Security and Privacy

Is she free? Is he secure? Should we know? It seems that to get more of one thing, you have to give up something else. Since different people want different levels of freedom, security and privacy, how can we reach a societal consensus on the tradeoffs? What happens when smart dust watches everything we do, scanning technologies monitor what we think and microbots will take action?

Where is all this going? Where should it go? What can we do? Is Big Brother coming at last, just a bit behind schedule?

Cory Doctorow, Joseph Lazzaro, James Macdonald, Don Sakers (m), Teresa Nielsen Hayden

[Comment: Pertinent topic and intelligent commentators. Cf earlier comment about Doctorow.]

Saturday 2:00 p H301:

What Do You Passionately Read?

…Besides fantasy and SF? Of course you want to finish that new trilogy (which has suddenly expanded to five books), but even the most devoted fans have other interests.

Bibliophiles get together to discuss the non-SF/F books they love, from historical fiction to murder mysteries to biographies, with other stops in between.

Chris Barkley (m), Laura Anne Gilman, Mary Kay Kare, Toni L. P. Kelner, Lawrence Watt-Evans

[Comment: they ran this panel at Torcon and it was interesting though frustrating to all involved, as everyone both in the panel and in the audience had different ideas as to what the panel was supposed be about and do. I'd like to attende it here just to compare notes between the two conventions.]

Saturday 2:00 p H302:

Whatever Became of the Space Merchants?

…and where did the broad heavy-handed satire go? And why?

Steve Carper (m), Mitchell Freedman, Harry Harrison, Barry N. Malzberg, Frederik Pohl

[You should still be able to catch this one...and damn you should. I love a good heavy-handed satire. Long live 'Our Gang by Philip Roth!]

Saturday 3:00 p H206:

Tough Love for New Writers

Give it up: there are already too many writers. Let's face it, even with a lot of help, the best to be expected from most new writers is that they will produce a lot of mediocre sludge. In fact, most people who attend "how to" panels at conventions won't even do that well. Moreover, there are is already so much good to read that the field doesn't need such sludge. The panel's advice to wannabe writers: give it up now and get a real job. (An honest appraisal of the new writer's chances.)

Gavin Grant, David G. Hartwell, Steve Miller, Priscilla Olson (m), Teresa Nielsen Hayden

[Comment: There are is many good reasons for new writers. This panel could quickly devolve into a sort of WWF-meets-Crossfire style free-for-all. Slit your wrists and join the fun! Good thing WIlliam Gibson didn't attend the 1974 version.]

Saturday 3:00 p H309:

Authors or Editors: Who is Closer to the Readers?

Magazine submissions are judged by editors whereas contests are usually judged by writers. Do they select different types of stories? If they do select different types of stories, then which of them (editors or authors) are more representative of the tastes of the readers?

Paul DiFilippo (m), Carl Frederick, Beth Meacham, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

[Comment: Well, I'd say readers are closer to readers. Try asking them, huh? Oh I should fly out now just to be a pain for this panel, right?]

Saturday 3:00 p H311:

The SF/F Detective

Why are so many SF/F detectives cast in the somewhat pulpy hard-boiled Private Eye mode? (And is there anything wrong with that?) Discuss what makes a good genre mystery guy.

Charles Ardai (m), Barbara Chepaitis, Simon R. Green, Paul Levinson, John Zakour

[Comment: Uh..."genre mystery guy"? And here I was under the impression that mystery was a genre! But Simon R. Green does this spectacularly well, so I'd love to hear him talk about it.]

Saturday 4:00 p H302:

The Numinous in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Okay, we know that "numinous" isn't a noun, but there is something, well, noun-like in the way some authors can invoke a feeling about stuff beyond our everyday experience. But the numinous does seem to show up more in our genre than in most others. Why? Why can some authors give us this sense so effortlessly, while others try to get us there and don't quite make it? (And it is so often missed!) And why would a bunch of rational science-oriented people care about that kind of thing in the first place? Is this because SF is at its roots interested in the same things as fantasy and fantasy has a particularly close relationship with the numinous, or is it just that the numinous is a great way to get a Sensawonder fix?

Lois McMaster Bujold, James Macdonald (m), Farah Mendelsohn, James Morrow, Deborah Ross

[Comment: Probably lots of fun to hear these folks try to talk about the un-talkable-about. ]

Saturday 4:00 p H304:

Postcapitalist Social Mechanisms

A look at the reality and potential of such things as reputation/abundance/gift economies and the like—as found in Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Stross's Macx stories, and a wealth of others…including fandom itself.

M. M. Buckner, Cory Doctorow, David Friedman (m), Benjamin Rosenbaum, Charles Stross

[Comment: I thought capitalism was the be-all and end-all of social mechanisms. But Stross and Doctorow are like the Simons & Garfunkel of Singularity. So drop in and dig the harmonies!]

Saturday 5:00 p H203:

SLOFs: Who and Why?

The Secret Librarians of Fandom are lurking everywhere, waiting to pounce on you with recommended reading or a good place to research X. Who are they? Why are they in fandom? Why are they librarians? How you can avoid them or find them when you need them?

Mary Kay Kare, Fred Lerner (m), Steve Miller, Val Ontell, Don Sakers

[Comment: I suppose I might slight resemble that remark.]

Saturday 5:00 p H302:

The Monster in the Maze

There is a monster. It's lurking in the shadows, waiting. There is always a monster. It might be the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Crete or an alien aboard a deserted spaceship, but it is always there. Why? What is the monster, if it's more than the dark shadow of the self. Explore the monsters that haunt our sleeping and waking hours, and how we may (with luck and wisdom) find and defeat them. Discuss some works that did this (and examine if they did it successfully)

Stephen Dedman, Neil Gaiman, Simon R. Green, Yves Meynard, Robert Sheckley

[Comment: I love monsters! And any panel on monsters is a panel I'm going to attend. Oops, I'm not there to attend.]

Saturday 5:00 p H309:

Can SF Be Outdated?

Is there a future for science fiction? Is it possible that SF as a literary genre has actually run its course? This seems like a strange question when SF has penetrated every corner of pop culture, from movies to video games, and most bookstores carry shelves devoted to a thriving output of new novels. But look more closely and what appears may be endless variations on clinched SF themes that arguably ran their course decades ago. Meanwhile, mundane reality seems to have caught up with SF in the daily newspaper, and a "sense of wonder" is available in any science magazine. Or is SF as we know it undergoing its own evolution in style and subject matter? Now that we're "in" the future, what is there to write about?

John Clute, Gregory Feeley, Jay Lake, Dennis Livingston (m)

[Comment: Somewhere in the stack are the beginnings of a column on this topic. Inspired by the announcement of some nanotech foundation that said the current crop of "grey goo scare" nanotech SF was behind the times. A great cast worth hearing on any topic!]

Saturday 8:00 p Auditorium:

The Hugo Awards

Bestowing the most famous honor in science fiction, the Hugo ceremony is indeed The Big One. Come watch some of our most towering talents endure hours of squirm in hopes of one magnificent minute of squeal.

[Comment: Tonight watch some 462 self-selected paid-for-it voters bestow honors upon their favorites. Any correlation between quality and awards is strictly coincidental. By and large, all the works are worthy. ]

Afterwards...the famous parties. I must say it rather reminded me of orientation week in college.