|SFRevu Convention Coverage - July 2002|
Coverage: If you're attending a Science Fiction Convention
and would like to be a "cosmic stringer" for SFRevu, , or if
you're planning one and would like to publicize it, we'd like to hear
(Ernest Lilley) On the way up to Readercon, I stopped in NYC to catch Neil at his Coraline reading at the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Touted as Neil's first children’s novel, I managed to get there late enough to miss the reading, but too early to miss the lines trying to get Neil's autograph. To handle the deluge numbered tickets were handed out. Such is the price of fame. Though Coraline is a "children's book" the majority of the audience seemed to be betwixt their childhood and childbearing years.
Then on to Readercon, which should really be called Writercon, for the number of authors that gather in Burlington Mass. Once there I wandered from well stocked panel to engaging reading and around the halls running into new authors and old friends.
I was on a panel on electronic magazines, but traffic on I-95 was so bad I missed it. Pity. I would have liked to hear what I had to say.
I took notes in a few panels, and none in many more, so my apologies to almost everyone I'm about to slight by yakking about a few.: I was particularly interested in Feminism and Dinosaurs. Honest, there's no theme there, except that both interest me though I'm technically neither. Hopefully I'll put enough in the photo coverage to give you an idea of how much geeky fun it was. (continued)
The Current State of Feminism in SF: (Kelly Link, Gwyneth Jones and John Kessel) If it's just a story about women in non-traditional roles, is it feminist or just normalizing? What are the current goals of feminism? Why are the feminist panel members reading books about family? Is it a return to 1950s conservatism? "We've tried to make people people change their gender roles, and it seems that people may not want to change." said Gwyneth Jones, "short of surgery and heavy hormone treatment."
"John, you've got to tell us, why are you interested in feminist science fiction?"
"Well, it sounds like you all have a sense of what the feminist utopian world would be, and I don't. I was at a race awareness seminar about twenty years ago held by my university, and the first half a day was kind of a brutal assault on us white people. The moderator assumed the role of an angry black person, and it was quite remarkable."
"What did you see when you saw Martin Luther King?" the moderator asks. "I saw a man." says the questioned person. "Was he a black man or a white man?" "Just a man." the person insists. The group breaks down and laughs because the fact of King's blackness is obvious. Just as women are women, regardless of their social roles.
I even got to throw in my two cents....which I stretched to a nickel. "You talk about science fiction like it was all cut from one block. In truth, even golden age SF encouraged diverse roles for women. Doc Smith's Red Lensman was a woman, and it seems to me that his view that women are every bit as strong as men, stronger in many ways, but not the same at all has come full circle to be back in vogue. Considering that many of these writers were little more than adolescent males fantasizing about their idea of fun in space, I think the field deserves a lot of credit. Even 1950s Sci-Fi Movies, where the most frequent cause of death was running in high heels, had plenty of women as scientists, as well as the odd giantess." As a woman I know in charge of woman issues for a major branch of the military said to me...you can be special, or you can be equal...but you can't be both at the same time.
Why is it always Dinosaurs? Robert Sawyer, Jeff Hecht, Michael Swanwick...SF's intrepid Dinosaur Hunters. The asteroid theory is still controversial. Paleontologists don't get into fist fights because they have to go to other conventions with the same people. RS says: One of the great critics was a Great Canadian Paleontologist named William Sargent who had come up with a whole collection of reasons why it couldn't have been just a dinosaur. The panel slammed the "Last Dinosaur Book" written by a "cultural relativist". Paleontologists are not post-modernists. They have rock solid beliefs, backed up in stone. If you like they will show you the rock. Jeff Hecht says that his review in New Scientist was fairly harsh, but it does have pretty cool pictures.
Somebody else is coming out with a new book on dinosaurs, Jeff just reviewed Dinosaurs of the Air by Greg Paul. Michael Swanwick (Bones of the Earth) wants to make it clear that Greg Paul has some theories that respectable paleontologist do not subscribe to. Michael and Jeff talked about John Ostrom, the grand old man of feathered dinosaur research, with whom not everyone agreed, but everyone respected.
Drugs, Sex and Science Fiction. One of my favorite panels, and from the number of attendees, others as well, was a panel on the role of drugs in the creative process. Viewpoints ranged from former recreational drug users, like GOH Gwyneth Jones and Hard SF type Allen Steele, who evidentially got a lot of visions out of the process, but have drifted away from it in their dotage to Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who takes a battery of drugs just to pry her loose from narcolepsy. If Teresa had an especially startling thought while writing, she would instantly fall asleep over her keyboard without drugs, so besides the question of whether drugs enhance the creative process, for some it makes it possible.
No drug recommendations were given, as the all the panelists seem to have moved beyond recreational drugs and seemed to assume the audience had as well. They're probably right.
Liz Wasserman, not actually doing a story on the con for the Atlantic Monthly, but working on pitching one, soaked up local color to get an idea what it was all about. Before anyone could tell her the truth, I jumped in and declared the last 100 years prologue to a new fanboy-post-modernist synthesis. I think she bought it. I hope we didn't scare her away. After she escaped, Ian Randal Strock (editor/publisher of the Sci Fic/Fact Mag Artemus) remarked: That was amazing! I had no idea you could be eloquent. Ernest: Attractive women have that affect on me. Ian: You mean, now that you’re married and harmless. Ernest: Mostly harmless.
There was no Tiptree Auction this year: Official reason: The auctioneer couldn't come due to a family emergency. Unofficial speculation: It was funnier than the Kirk Poland Bad Prose session.
Featured WorldCon 2002: ConJose
San Jose, CA -- August 29 - September 2, 2002
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Conventions and Events: Red
Means SFRevu will be there
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu el051802 sa072702