Sep 1 2015

Worldcon — the panels


More about my time at the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane: this time, the panels (I only attended as part of the audience, and was not on the program myself).

(Normally I’d have link on each person’s name, connecting to their website — but I’m just too beat tonight.  There are lots of names!  Maybe I’ll come back later.  Until then, there’s Google.)

The “Comfort Reading” Panel (with Louise Marley, Lawrence Schoen, Christie Meierz, Jason Hough and Jo Walton), suffered from a bit of confusion as to what the panel was supposed to be about — whether it was what you read to relax, or what you turn to when you actually need comfort or reassurance.   Regardless, the discussion was interesting in both directions.   Jason Hough admitted that James Bond is a nice relaxing read for him; Lawrence Schoen turns to Bujold’s Miles Vorkasigan series.   Jo reached way back to Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” as an important work in her early life.   Someone brought up Dune as a book one rereads over and over; and of course Lord of the Rings.   (For me, it’s hard to separate relaxing reading from exciting reading, because I find  newness and weirdness inherently refreshing.  But for comfort and reassurance, it’s YA.  I’ve been known to go all the way back to the Heinlein juveniles.  Recent favorites: anything by Scott Westerfeld, and Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series.)

Brother Guy Consolmagno, of the Vatican Observatory, won the Carl Sagan Sagan Medal this year, which is awarded for outstanding communication to the general public by a working planetary scientist.  One of the duties that come with that is to present a speech to the general public, as part of his acceptance of the award.  And he chose to have Sasquan be the place he would give that speech, a nice touch I think.  Brother Guy is an excellent science communicator, and very enthusiastic, geekily charming and scientifically inspiring. (Not religiously inspiring, for me: atheist, here.)  I was glad to hear his talk, which was about “Discarded Worlds” — all the different views of cosmology that almost got it right, and how they worked, up to a point, until each was superseded by a better explanation.

The Star Party, which was supposed to happen right after the speech, with telescopes and amateur astronomers arrayed all through the adjacent park, was a washout.  Due to a) clouds and b) smoke.

I mentioned the smoke, right?  Wildfires in Washington state.

James C Glass did a  solo presentation on Australian Aboriginal views of Astronomy, which was a bit difficult to follow, as his slides were missing!  They showed up later, but then were rushed.

Brother Guy did a solo presentation as well, on Vesta and what the New Dawn mission’s info suggests about the early formation of the solar system.  Some nice crunchy science, there.

The panel on “Medieval Science and Engineering” was fun, too.  Bradford Lyau moderated, with (again!) Brother Guy, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton and Eric Swedin, talking about how the supposedly Dark Ages had a lot more science going on than the general public realizes.

Also, a presentation about the Book View Cafe, a cooperative of self-published authors (all of whom have a track record in traditional publishing — it’s a prerequisite for membership).  The talked about what they are, what they do, and how they help each other do it.  The members present: Brenda Clough, Jeffrey A. Carver (that man is everywhere!), Vonda McIntyre, Nancy Jane Moore and Pat Nagle.

The Rare Books panel, with Jo Walton, Ada Palmer, Fred Lerner, and Lauren Schiller,  was taken over by the visual aids: actual books hundreds of years old, passed around hand to hand.

Not actually by Aristotle.

Not actually by Aristotle.

Students will get bored, inevitably. Result: cartoonery.

Students will get bored, inevitably. Result: cartoonery.

And as mentioned before: Kate Elliot’s solo presentation on Narrative Structure and Expectation.

And that covers it: panels I attended at Worldcon.    I don’t think I left any out…

Okay, I really have to turn in now: workday tomorrow!