Worldcon 2011, part 1

26 08 2011

I’m not going to give a day-by-day accounting of the world sci-fi con in Reno, like I did for Denver. Just recapping the highlights this time. Or lowlights. Most-interesting-lights.

I flew in from Portland and my brother Erik flew in from Denver. I started reading A Game of Thrones on the plane. I wanted to have a nice fat book for the trip–reading in airports and on planes is no fun when you have to pace yourself so as not to finish the book with hours of travel time left over. And I’ve been hearing good things about the HBO series, although I won’t be seeing it until it’s released on disc. Still I was glad to have jumped on the Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon. The popular series always loom large at these events–Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. Being a lately converted George R. R. Martin fan made me feel that much more plugged in.

The first evening, Erik turned me on to a new writer, Lauren Beukes. I read the first few pages of her book Zoo City, and promptly bought it and her other book, Moxyland. Am I too quick to judge? Probably. But it usually doesn’t take more than a few pages to know if I’m going to like an author. Mira Grant is a notable exception- more on that later. Anyway, we signed up for a Literary Beer with Beukes. The Literary Beer is a gathering of one author and 10 or so fans, much like the Kaffeeklatches, but with alcohol instead of caffeine. As with the Ian MacDonald Kaffeeklatch in 2008, this was one of the most rewarding experiences of the con. Beukes is a South African journalist, and she shared some of her remarkable experiences that inform her writing. I’ve been home for a few days now, finally finished Game of Thrones, so now I’m reading Zoo City for real. (I did run out and buy A Clash of Kings, but I’m taking a break between Ice And Fire tomes. Otherwise I’ll be reading nothing else for the next year.)

We kept busy attending panels. As in Denver, there were a dozen rooms of programming throughout every day of the con, with subject matter ranging from writing tips to hard science to scholarly critiques to fun goofiness. (One panel we went to posed the question, which historical events are so unlikely they are clearly the work of time travelers from the future?) Due to the panels I attended, my experience had a strong political theme. Some socially-minded panels I sought out (Social Justice in Science Fiction, Revolutions in Science Fiction, for example), others just bubbled it to the surface (The Far Future, How To Draw People of Different Races, The Future of Cities, F&*# Your Knight and the Horse he Rode In On, and others).  My next big project was on my mind, and I want it to address inequality and corruption in the real world without degenerating into a mere screed, as my past satirical efforts have tended to do. I picked up some strategies that seem promising.

Some people wear costumes. The majority of costumes I saw were steampunk in nature. There were lots of steampunk books and artwork as well, but the prevalence in costumes really struck me. I think we’re looking at a 3rd phylum of fanciful tales, alongside Science Fiction and Fantasy. Steampunk could be considered a subset of either sci-fi or fantasy, but it sort of has to pull elements from both, and it has its own distinctive aesthetic and tropes. It also contains a wide variety of sub-types, as sci-fi and fantasy do. (Does everyone really hate the term “sci-fi?” Too bad, I’m using it anyway.)

I didn’t wear a costume. I took advantage of the venue to wear dorky clothes I would wear everyday if I wasn’t self-conscious; leathery flight hat, big round goggles, pockety vest. I added a BPRD patch to my vest, so if anyone asked I could say I was dressed as an agent of the organization from Hellboy. My specialty: archaic cosmologies. Or silly drawings. Yes, I’m a nerd, we’ve established this, if you don’t like it read some other blog.

Next: The Hugo Awards

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