Sunday, September 01, 2013

WorldCon Day 3 - Time Alterations

Late, late, late, late, late...
My sense of time is slipping away from me already.  And this is only Day 3.  I must be getting older.  
When did 11 AM become "early"?  
I was speaking to a member of the Japanese contingent the other day, and she was telling me how the Americans that go to WorldCon are different from other American's she's meant.  "Futsu no Americajin ha..." or, "As for normal Americans," always look her in the eye with what she perceives as a startling directness.  They make and hold direct eye contact while speaking to her.  
Convention, goers, however, are more Japanese-like.  They will often look away, shielding their gaze from her.  She thought this distinction interesting, though it was surprising.  
It was a simple thing to me.  The fans at WorldCon are "otaku," using the Japanese word for "super-fan" or, more colloquially, "geek."  They have been taught by society that the things that interest them, comic-books, science fiction, science itself and the desire to know as much as possible about all of this stuff, is weird.  We're used to being embarrassed.  We're used to being polite to hide our true selves and get along.  We watch new people out of the corner of our eyes to see if they share our particular bent.
A nerdy life is a lonely life.  You spend the better part of your existence dealing with normal society.  It's why we go to conventions like this, to meet other like minded people to tell ourselves that we're not as weird as other people think we are.  Or, with greater honesty, to tell ourselves that just because we are weird, it's not a bad thing to be.  
The ultimate state to reach is, "Yes.  I am THAT weird, and it's the way I want to be."  The more militant among us would add, "So, deal with it."
Coming down the elevator, it came to me that I had to establish my own reality for a bit.  I was riding in the express elevator, that went from the 25th floor to the lobby in one shot.  While passing all the floors that it doesn't stop at, the lighted floor indicator above the door will show a big, glowing red "X."  
When it appeared, I said out loud, but as if talking to myself, "The X-Dimension...  I've finally made it home."  
The others in the elevator laughed.  I turned my back toward them, facing the door.
"I am truly sorry for what's about to happen to you all."  They laughed again, just as the elevator stopped and I entered the world I had just made my own.  
The Relationship between Writers & Editors - This was an OK panel.  A lot of common sense advice that I'd heard before.  A lot of funny horror stories about writers using their editors as ersatz counselors, or conveying secrets about their life the editor would rather hadn't known ("I won't be able to turn my manuscript on time because I'm leaving my wife next week.  But don't tell her 'cause she doesn't know yet").  One interesting point, brought up by Sheila Williams is that she gets less of that sort of contact since they've gone to online submissions and emailed communication.  
The Year in Physics & Astronomy - This panel was standing room only.  Lot's of people interested in science at a science fiction convention.  Some of the things mentioned: 
*) A Chinese group has announced that they've developed a working "Dean Drive," a spaceship engine that is supposed to produce thrust without reaction mass.  As their results have yet to be duplicated, this claim is met with skepticism.  
*) The discovery of quantum mechanical effects in the metabolic substrates of our cells.
*) The discovery that quantum mechanics is behind the reason why plant cells use the sun's energy to photosynthesize more efficiently than anything man has created thus far.  It seems the molecule controlling the process can hold a photo in an non-collapsed state for longer periods (measured in pico-seconds) so it will collapse where it will produce the most energy output.  Woah.  
*) Lots of claims about dark matter and dark energy.  Described as a "food fight amongsts physicists."  
*) Unbound planets traveling between solar systems may outnumber the stars in the galaxy.  
Starship Century - A presentation by Gregory Benford about the laying the foundation toward creating and launching a spaceship to another planet within the next century.  It follows a symposium that was held at UC San Diego in La Jolla, and a book that came out this week collecting the talks and presentations from that symposium.  Benford read a quote from Thomas Jefferson in 1804 who said that the American frontier would reach the Pacific Ocean in about 1,000 years, and then noted the fact that the intercontinental railway was completed in 1869, beating Jefferson's prediction, considered to be one of the most intelligent people of his day, by an order of magnitude.  Topics brought up included nuclear rockets, 3D printers, space elevators and transhumanism.  
Science Fiction in Japan - Very different style of panel than I think most western convention goers would be used to.  Very presentation.  Talks about conventions in Japan, including one bringing together writers and publishers from China and the West together.  One woman presented her work which she calls "AR Poetry."  She will visit a location, such as a clean-up site in the tsunami-hit Tohouku region in Japan, and will use her smartphone to place visual tags on what she sees.  Using the same software on your smartphone, you can see her tags through your phone in a form of visual poetry.  I also found out that the Japanese version of YouTube allows viewers to post their comments on a video in the form of subtitles across the bottom of the screen.  Very interactive.  


Anonymous AnnD said...

Great post. Do you mean to tell me I'm an outcast and I haven't noticed it all these years? That would explain some things.

I think there's a Freudian slip in your description of quantum mechanics in biology. You refer to planet cells, which I believe should be plant cells. Either way, interesting.


September 1, 2013 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

Whoops. No slip, except of the fingers. I'll fix that typo. Thanks for the point-out.

And you're no more of an outcast than I am. Which means, the answer to your question is "yes."

September 1, 2013 at 10:52 PM  

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