Along with the many panels, film screenings, and anime episodes, Worldcon offers author readings and Kaffeeklatches, where 8 fans sit at a table with an author for an hour or so. Erik has many favorite authors in attendance, including the one guy Marcie and I are especially interested in seeing: Ian MacDonald. His book Brasyl is up for the Best Novel Hugo Award. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the Hugo Awards are decided at Worldcon, voted on by the attendees, meaning us. I read all the nominated short stories, novellas, and novelettes, but only one novel (Rollback). I voted for Brasyl anyway. (I finished reading it this week and stand by my choice.) The winners will be announced at the Hugo Award ceremony Saturday night. But it’s still Friday, as I was saying, and we are electing not to sign up for Ian McDonald’s Kaffeeklatch (also happening Saturday). The whole idea makes each of us uncomfortable. What would we say to him? What if we come off like stalkers? Besides, who wants to show up at 8 in the morning to sign up? But then Phil chimes in. He’s been to a kaffeeklatch already. I can’t remember the author, it was someone he wasn’t hugely excited about but he signed up anyway and tells us it was a wonderful experience. Alright, fine, we’ll meet here early tomorrow and get in line.
But for now it’s Friday, and Ian McDonald is on a panel about Science Fiction as a vehicle for social change. I haven’t read any of the other panelists. (Alright, now I do feel like a stalker. Really, there are lots of other sci-fi authors I enjoy, but my other favorites are not in attendance. Except for Connie Willis, which I’ll catch in another panel, and Phil Foglio, who I totally fail to talk to in the dealer room, and Robert Silverberg, who lays low until the Hugo ceremony.)
It’s a great panel, delving into the effects literature and art can/should/do have on an audience and society. I’m especially struck by some of the things James Morrow says (best line: “adult fetuses haunting their quasi-parents”)– I’ll have to look into his work. In fact I should read all of these folks, given that they have an interest in making a difference. Once upon a time I dreamed of making a difference. Then li’l bush got re-elected. But that’s another post.
Friday afternoon is the Critter Crunch, a gladiatorial robot combat, the inspiration for Robot Battle which has always been on cable channels I don’t get. I’ve been looking forward to seeing some miniaturized mechanized mayhem. It’s in the ballroom of the hotel, a few blocks from the convention center. We take the opportunity to check out the Con Suite, a breakout room in the hotel where attendees can lounge around, grab a free snack, work a jigsaw puzzle, and other low key activities just about 24 hours a day. Even though we never make it back there (except for Marcie, on a diabolical quest for P state quarters in the coin exchange) it lends the con a great sense of hospitality.
Alright, enough warm fuzziness. To the ballroom! To the Critter Crunch! We get there a few minutes after start time – no matter, it’s scheduled to go on for several hours, and I just want to catch a few rounds of carnage. But there is no carnage. There is nothing happening. There is a smallish plywood stage, people sitting in chairs, other people fiddling with robots and remote controls.
And this is where it all finally starts to wear on me. I don’t know why, really. It’s not as if we’ve had to wait around for a lot of things at the con. It’s certainly not as if I’m any more witty or charming than the presenters. But here we are, the robots I can see are disappointingly small and box-like, and they aren’t ready, and the sound system isn’t working, and a long-haired guy in a lab coat is stalling with a long-winded history of the Critter Crunch, peppered with inside jokes that don’t seem very funny even if you’re in on them. Lots of people at the the con are under a sadly mistaken impression that they are “witty.” Many people mistake the exaggerated stringing together of redundant overly-technical terminology for “wit.” I know, I’m being cruel and hypocritical. What is the World Sci-Fi Convention if not a place for nerds to gather, free from judgement? But I can’t help it. It grates on me. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Stumptown crowd; also a bunch of geeks, but hugely entertaining to be around.
Finally The robots are working, warmed up, and Labcoat is still talking. I start yelling “fight! fight!” at passive-aggressive volume. Labcoat gets the message and the Crunch is on. It’s not too exciting though. All you have to do is push you’re opponent off the platform, making the preferred weapon a little snowplow. No spinning saws, no hammers, no mechanical arms. I guess it’s childish to expect such things, but come on! Battling robots! What am I supposed to expect?
We catch a couple more panels and call it a day. Anyway it’s good to have some time with my parents. Especially since they’ve had to babysit our dog this whole time. Teagan plays with Tycho really well, but she’s still not totally sure about Casey. Not exactly the non-stop dog party we were expecting, but they’re doing okay.