Saturday, August 08, 2009

WorldCon - Day 1

I started catching it on the flight from Chicago to Montreal. It was a very particular odor. Sometimes it the barest hint of a scent, while other times its reek filled the air. The normal people around me, or 'mundanes' as they've been called, could sometimes catch it though they might not fully recognize what it was.

The Scent of the Tribe.

The couple sitting across the row from me had it. Not strong. I caught whiffs of it from the book she was reading, one whose cover seemed to promise passage into strange, dark worlds. Her husband, who it turned out had co-authored a book nominated for a Hugo in the non-fiction category this year, was working on his computer, adding to and correcting some manuscript. There was another fellow, with a thick beard and sporting a fedora hat, sitting up front who had the scent of the tribe even stronger than they did.

They were science fiction fans heading toward the World Science Fiction Convention, or WorldCon.

WorldCon is quite different from Comic-Con in San Diego, where I went last month. For one thing, WorldCon is much smaller, with a membership that numbers around three to five thousand people, depending on the year and the location, compared with the 125,000 or so that make the trek to San Diego for Comic-Con. One of the reasons is because unlike Comic-Con, which grew beyond its original focus on comic books to add movies, television shows and video games to its many presentations, WorldCon kept its focus on science fiction, and more specifically on the literature itself. Furthermore WorldCon, in keeping with its name, is held in a different location each year. Los Angeles, Yokohama, Denver were the previous three WorldCon cities. Next year it will go to Melbourne, Australia. The year after that it'll be in Reno, Nevada.

That's one of the reasons I like coming to WorldCon: Every year is new. There's a new city to explore, with local fans that haven't had the opportunity to go to a WorldCon before, joining the 'regulars' that come year after year, no matter where it might go in the world. I think I'm becoming one of those regulars. I kinda like that.

I attended three panels on the first day of WorldCon:

Kickstart Your Writing - Part of a series of panels designed to help a beginning science fiction writer go from idea to finished story. It was a very well run panel run interactively, with panel members and convention goers building story ideas together. It used a method of story building that I hadn't used before, and I liked the results it produced. The last part of the panel was spent with everyone writing the first page of a story. For getting the most done, I was given a copy of a book on how to get published entitled "The Fiction Writer - Get Published Write Now!" written by Nina Munteanu, one of the panelists. I had her autograph it afterwards. Nina also has a blog entitled, "The Alien Next Door."

No More Soldiers - Robots on the Battlefield - Joe Haldeman was supposed to be one of the panelists, but unfortunately couldn't make it. It was still a lively discussion about the use of drones on the battlefield today, and information about things they are actually designing and testing for the future (Terminators are closer than you might think!). The bulk of the discussion was focused on whether or not we should be relying so heavily on such high-tech electronic soldiers and what the consequences might be when fighting in an asymmetrical situation.

How to take a Critique - A seminar about the best way to respond to critiques of your work. It was strongly suggested that all participates of the Writing Workshop I'll be involved in on Saturday attend this panel. It was a fun presentation. The most entertaining part was a recitation of rejections received by some of the classics of literature and science fiction (Did you know Dune was rejected 23 times before it was accepted by a publisher?)

I tried to get into a panel on the nature of consciousness, but it was literally so full that I couldn't get more than a foot into the room.


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