Monday, September 02, 2013

WorldCon Day 5 - What I REALLY Want Is...

As I write this, WorldCon is pretty much over.  The last panel has been attended.  People have started going home.  Farewell dinners are being eaten.  The Dead Dog party should be coming up soon, when you get together and say your last good-byes.  
"It's been fun!"  
"See ya in London!"  
"You really ought to go to Westercon next year..."  
I just sighed, in case you couldn't hear me.  I am a bundle of wants right now.  I want what I want and I'm going to keep on wanting until I get it.  
Here are the last panels I attended for the last couple of days.  I point out my wants as I go along.  
Disaster & the LIterature of the Supernatural - This was a presentation put on by the Japanese contingent.  The moderator for the panel, Masao Higashi, was in the Tohouku region of Japan collecting ghost stories from people in the area a couple of weeks before the earthquake and tsunami hit.  He completed his work to include the ghost stories that have come out of the region since the disaster.  One thing I didn't realize was the underpinning of the Japanese festival Obon.  I knew it was a time to honor one's departed family and ancestors, and that part of the celebration was the telling of ghost stories.  What I didn't know until this week was the belief the Japanese have that the dead continue to exist through the telling of these stories.  They live on by being talked about.  I also learned about a Japanese custom of telling 100 ghost stories in a room lit by 100 candles.  With each story one of the candles is extinguished until, after the last story, when the living are in darkness, "something" happens.  
Before the panel I was talking with one of the panelist about a previous panel she had been on, about the difference between Japanese giant monster movies and American giant monster movies (think Godzilla and King Kong).  She asked me if I had since the movie Pacific Rim.  I tried to say I hadn't seen it yet ("mada mite imasen"), but ended up saying that I hadn't held it yet ("mada motte imasen").  She gave me a funny look and asked me again if I'd seen it before I caught my mistake.  
I want to speak Japanese better.  
Rapture of the Geeks - A panel about the possibility of uploading one's consciousness into a computer and achieving digital immortality.  Most of the discussion was either about how far we are from achieving such a technological feat (or even if it was ultimately possible), or about the possible pitfalls if you allowed your "self" to be put in such a situation.  "If you're just a brain in a box, what happens if they decide to unplug you?"  The most interesting question was the degree to which our physical sensations shape our sense of self.  How much of "Me" would be in there if the sensation of having a pepperoni pizza, or having sex, or being hugged by someone I loved was not part of my sensual input.  
I have to admit I hadn't thought of that part before.  Maybe I need to have a better body made to go along with the improved brain.  Still, I want to be uploaded.  
Care & Feeding of your Aliens & Magical Beings - A panel about how to create imaginary creatures that are just humans in rubber suits.  Very little about fantasy creatures was discussed since all three panelists thought of themselves as science fiction writers.  A lot of the same "things to think about" as I've heard before.  What senses do they have?  What range in the spectrum, frequency, etc, do they perceive.  Better parts of the panel were from the aspect of story creation.  What does the alien need in the story?  Plus examples of well designed aliens from stories past.  
I'm working on a story about a first contact right now.  I want to make the aliens in this story believable.  
You might be seeing a pattern in this blog at this point.  
First Contact without a Universal Translator - A panel about how we would establish communication with an intelligent alien species without the technical gizmos sometimes found in popular entertainments.  All of the panelists seem to have backgrounds in linguistics and psychology, so a big part of the time was spent define terms, such as the difference between "Language" and "Communication."  Toward the end of the panel, when I asked them directly what protocol would the panelists set up if an alien was dropped into the room right they and they were tasked to communicate with it.  The answer was, "teach it our language by pointing at something," she pointed at the glass before her, "and saying something like, 'glass.'"  
It was an interesting discussion, but I wanted to get more out of this panel.  
There wasn't a lot on the program that interested me today.  I decided to take some time and go see the Alamo.  It's only two blocks away from the hotel I was staying at.  
One thing about the Alamo is that it's a lot smaller than you expect it to be.  The map tells you that what you're actually visiting is the chapel of the original structure, which actually covered the equivalent of several city blocks.  There is a spiritual aspect to the place.  The woman asks anyone wearing a hat to remove it before stepping inside.  No photography of any kind is allowed.  
Heading toward the Alamo I passed a group of protesters.  They had signs about lowering the rate of cesarian births and knowing about your rights to have a mid-wife.  They were down the street when I passed them, but by the time I came out of the Alamo they had moved to stand right before the moment to have their picture taken with it in the background.  
They wanted something and I guess they thought it would help to have the Alamo on their side to get it.  
Can Traditional SF Communities Survive Multimedia Conventions - This is the first "fan" panel I've attended at a WorldCon.  I'd been having discussions with my con-going friends about the difference between the two conventions I attend each year.  Comic-Con in San Diego (which gets about 120,000 people attending over a four, or four and a half if you count preview night, day period) and WorldCon, which gets somewhere in the general neighborhood of three to five thousand, depending on where in the world it's held.  The panelists were all people involved in the running of fan conventions and seemed to be quite militant in their desire to not have WorldCon become like Comic-Con or similar large conventions.  
One panelist put it this way: "You go to Comic-Con or DragonCon to get something.  The latest issue or a glimpse of a star in your favorite show.  You come to a convention like WorldCon to meet the friend you haven't met yet."  
I have to admit that as time progresses I find myself more interested in coming to WorldCon than Comic-Con.  I find the experience to be more enjoyable.  I look forward to the discussions about favorite books or discovering books I haven't read yet, or "talking shop" with my writing friends.  
At one point, a young fan, 22 years old, offered his opinions about the draw for larger conventions for people his age.  The panelists invited him to join them up front and tell everyone what he thought.  Unfortunately, they kept interrupting him to explain what he meant as he tried to put his thoughts into words.  To give him the opportunity to speak his mind, I tried to ask him to describe three or four panels that he would have liked to have seen at this year's convention.  
After the panel was over, I had several people come up and tell me what panels they thought I should have.  I seemed to have given everyone the impression that I was thinking of running my own convention and was looking for ideas. 
Do I want to try to run a WorldCon style convention?  Uh...  I'm setting that question aside. 
Computers Using DNA for Storage - The title of the panel says it all.  I got in late, so I missed a lot of the technical information as to how it is being done.  I did get some interesting tidbits.  There have already been successes using artificial DNA to do things like save the entire collection of Shakespearean sonnets.  And that 1/2 kilo of DNA could be used to store all of the digitally generated data created in the entire world.  Discussion about how, since our bodies are already pretty well functioning harborers of DNA, this sort of data storage should be relatively easy to splice into use to carry.  Followed by discussions as to how advisable that would be.  
I want to think about that a little before I try it.  
That was it for the convention, pretty much.  Except for one thing...
Sunday was the Hugo Awards.  I was tweeted about some if while I was there.  The parts that surprised me.  Dr. Who finally NOT winning a Hugo was the biggest surprise for me.  You can find the winners online if you want.  No need for me to give out those names here.  
It was while sitting there, I think during Pat Cadigan's acceptance speech for her first win, that I felt it coming over me.  
I want to win a Hugo.  
I want to write lots of stuff and have it published.  
I want to finish my novel and have lots of people read it and nominate it so that I can win the Hugo I mentioned wanting to win above.  
I want to be very, very, very, VERY good at this so that fans recognize me and get made for now coming out with the sequel as fast as they want it. 
Yeah...  That was about the time that WorldCon does what it usually does for me.  Makes me want to keep doing this until I get it right.
I just sighed again.  Got to pack for the flight to reality tomorrow.  
See ya'll in London.


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