Friday, July 26, 2013

WorldCon56-Bucconeer Panels Appendix

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm swamped with reading Hugo nominees, so I'm too busy to write original material right now. Instead, I'm posting an e-mailed trip report from the 1998 WorldCon. This is the appendix, where I wrote about individual panels at the con.

OK, here it is:

Panels appendix to my report on the 56th World Science
Fiction Convention (WorldCon 56, "Bucconeer") Aug. 5-9
in Baltimore, by Patricia Elkins Matson.
I had a blast, although I was run ragged a lot of the
time.



There were many, many activities offered most days
between 10 AM and midnight and beyond. On one hour in
one day (Fri. 1 PM), I counted 23 offerings. My
activities included many panel discussions. Many of
the panels were fascinating, and none of them were
boring to me. Some I picked by topic, some by authors
appearing. Detailed descriptions of 1-hour panels
appear in this Appendix. An (M) after a panelist’s
name denotes that the panelist was the moderator.
Note: by no means do I agree with all the opinions
expressed herein!



WEDNESDAY:
2:15 - went late to last part of panel
"Faster-than-Light: Only in SF?" at Convention
Center. Panelists: Catherine Asaro (M), John G.
Cramer, Eric Kotani, Richard Stoddart.
Can’t remember anything.
3:00 – tried to go to "Life Under the Ice:
Possibilities on Europa" panel but the panelists never
showed.
3:30 – gave up and went to end of "Media Tie-Ins: Good
Idea or Work of the Devil?"
Panelists: Ginjer Buchanan (M), Roger MacBride Allen,
Susan Shwartz, J. Steven York.
This panel was on SF books taken from TV series,
movies, etc.  All the panelists had written media
tie-in books and were thus apologists, but it was
interesting anyway. Ominous fore-shadowing quote from
panelist Roger McBride Allen: "I’d like to point out
that it’s 3:30 on the first day and there are already
2 people asleep in the audience. Pace yourselves,
folks."
4:00 - "How do Authors Collaborate?" panel. Panelists:
Michael Capobianco (M), A.C. Crispin, Elizabeth Moon,
John Maddox Roberts and Wendy Old.
Very interesting panel (if you’re interested in
writing or the authors mentioned).  Best quote, John
Maddox Roberts on "collaborating" with Robert Howard
on his Conan books: "There are advantages to
collaborating with an author who’s been dead for over
50 years."
ACC and EM, respectively, say that Andre Norton and
Anne McCaffrey are easy to collaborate with.
JMR would love to be a senior writer (as opposed to
the junior partner in a collaboration, his usual role)
because that would mean his name was a brand name that
helped sell books.
6:00 - "Historical Research - Getting the Details
Right" panel. Panelists: Susan Shwartz (M), Lance A.
Harrop, Laura Frankos, Walter Jon Williams, Connie
Willis. Interesting.
LF: The key is to keep your mind on the story and
characters, don’t overload with irrelevant details.
CW: Pick your time and place to put details in.
SS throws everything in and then lets her editor cut
it.
WJW feels he’s lucky he only has to write about stuff
he cares about anyway.
?: If you know what you’re doing, it’ll show.  Some
details about the past and the general period
environment/atmosphere should come out/be exposed in
the characters’ thought processes.
LH: the salient point (critical determinant) of armor
is whatever it’s designed to defend against.
WJW: Sometimes there’s just one telling detail that
makes it all come real. (e.g. how itchy a gorget
(throat-protector) is)
CW: Imagining what it really was like is what makes it
come alive.
LF: The telling detail is like the tip of the iceberg.
You know the whole background, but only the relevant
10% is presented.
SS: "The Bozo Filter" useful when researching.  You
know which Web pages or books will be good or useful
or trustworthy because you have some methodology to
choose, or filter out bad stuff (e.g. throw out
anything that mentions the great Knights Templar
conspiracy)
CW: You must trust, follow and explore your interests.
Don’t ultra-focus; look for connections with many
other things.
WJW: Like the Knights Templar popping up everywhere!
That’s neat! (gently disputing SS)
CJ: Books for children are great for giving you the
right level of information without overwhelming you.
SS - she gets really involved with
research/characters; she’ll go shopping and the
characters will start telling her what they want, or
they had a shirt like that but it was stolen, etc.
SS reads travelers’ diaries for picking up background
details.
WJW - read the sailing masters’ logs, not just the
captains’.
LF - Go to the contemporary sources. Avoid the
filtering by interpreters.
CW - one way to find out a fact is to extrapolate and
put the guess in your book.  If you get it wrong,
you’ll get lots of letters telling you so, and find
out the real fact.
Audience - one great way to slip period details in is
with the chapter headings/short insertions of other
materials.
CW - of course, if you’re intellingent and charming
enough, you can get away with putting in anything you
want. (Charles Dickens, and some book that opens with
a 3-page description of the London fogs.)
LH - dig a little deeper than the secondary sources so
you’re sure you’re past all the Bozo Factors.
CW - you’re sure to come up with more stuff you want
to research after you start writing.
But be warned, just because someone is contemporary
doesn’t mean they really understand what was going on.
Contemporaries can be morons too.
SS - get someone who knows about the stuff to
proofread your work.
Audience - don’t trust people who have an axe to
grind. But sometimes axe-grinders are right. (Panelist
cites/ridicules how historians for years didn’t refer
to slave accounts of ante-bellum South because the
slaves would obviously have been biased against the
system.)
Audience - to make it a story, you have to see it thru
characters’ eyes, not just your own.
CW - Yes, it’s all just an illusion. You’re doing a
trick, putting many elements together and making it
look convincing.
9:00 - found Omni hotel for "I can explain that!"
panel, which offered many ridiculous explanations for
audience questions about various science fiction
boners/cliches.
Panelists: Charles Sheffield (M), Catherine Asaro, Hal
Clement, Judy Lazar, Jack McDevitt.
Fun, but nothing that stuck in my mind afterward.

THURSDAY:
4:15 - Came to "InfoWar: High Tech’s Role in Military
Conflict" panel.
Panelists: Susan Shwartz (M), C.J. Cherryh, Tom Cool,
Peter Jackson, Kevin Randle.
Lots of interesting things to think about.
Disinformation to troops, crashing systems, etc.
SS - Will the forces of 2010 really be leaner and
meaner, or just sort of skinny and unhappy?
Audience - brings up the War of Lies - WWII Allied
deception campaigns, disinformation against Rommel,
Hitler.
SS - If you’re wrong at the base of the information
pyramid, you’ll be REALLY wrong by the time the
disinformation filters to the top.
CJC - mentions her "Hellburner" book relevance.
KR - CIA etc. try to guard against disinformation. But
point people at what they expect to see, and they’ll
usually see it.
Audience question from a self-called grunt soldier:
You guys are ruining our wars. How do we guard against
being spoofed? (Seemed to expect an instant, tangible,
applicable answer.)
KR - The American Army has traditionally been famous
for everyone getting the information. (Contrast:
Japanese in WWII, only officers know what’s going on;
only officers’ gas masks have capability to talk.
Like traditional Russian style - officers important,
grunts are cogs.) But now, it seems as though only the
people back at the Pentagon will be able to see the
whole picture clearly and at once.
PJ - but this really upsets the experienced ones. The
advantage of the American system is that the guy on
the ground knows what’s going on and reacts quickly,
and therefore can deliver surprises to the enemy.
Audience Q - We need a virtual-reality Cultural
Berlitz program (like Berlitz language courses) so
that a soldier can learn about the place he’s being
sent to.
Audience - Food logistics used to be important, but
now it’s information. How do you control the info
flow?
Audience - Getting info may be easy, but how do you
use it? How will the enemy use it?
CJC speaks of the Grenada syndrome - ordinary citizens
(American med school students) called back to the U.S.
from payphones. Now warzones will have the Internet
there. Information PROTECTION will be much harder,
with people telling about stuff they don’t even know
is important (giving away where troop positions are,
etc.)
CJC and KJ - the Soviet Union collapsed partly because
of all the info flowing in. The Soviets would project
bad information about the US (poverty, racism, traffic
jams), but Russians saw good stuff inadvertently
included (traffic jams, yeah, but look at ALL the CARS
those people have!)
Audience Q - how do you train people to ask the
question that they actually want to be answered?
KJ - maybe the flood of info will help people to think
more precisely.  Do a Web search with just one
keyword, and you may get thousands of sites. But add
conditions, and you’ll narrow it down?
SS - and maybe the flood of info will help people not
to confuse information with knowledge (let alone
wisdom).
5:00 - "Molecular Biology and Space Opera: Two Great
Tastes…" panel.  Panelists: Wil McCarthy (M), Steve
Gillett, Shariann Lewitt, Linda Nagata, Walter Jon
Williams.
Not just molecular biology, actually about a whole lot
of new tech and thought-patterns and how they can fit
into future space operas.
LN - the kinds of stories that resonate today are the
kinds that made up the classics of yes-teryear.
WM - You’re painting on the largest canvas available,
so stories have room to be great.
SL - What if tech means individuals each have more
power, and they can set up their own mini-societies?
WW - Space operas have been stuck in ’30s style, with
empires predominating (just like all the
nationalism/empires of early 20th century).
Also, writers didn’t realize that the future might not
be monocultural.
LN - In space opera, even the rare strong female
usually follows masculine patterning. Also, the future
is North American, and alien cultures are monolithic
with no politics.
SL - It would be nice to see people getting smarter,
not having the same old problems.
WM - SO uses outdated hardware, no sophistication.
Rays and projectiles used, but those are really just
blunt instruments. What about sneaky, subtle things -
pathogen-type things?
Also, on battles, human pilots probably unrealistic.
Also, you’re talking enormous distances. You send off
weapons and wait… drop chaff, dodge. Also, in reality,
battles can be very short - e.g. an Olympic fencing
match that has two parries is really a long battle,
unlike in movie fights.
WJW - "Aristoide" changes everything and nothing at
all. The problems you DO have are a whole new order of
magnitude. Biological systems, compared with the
vastness and hostility of space, are fragile. We’ll
send out robots to find worlds we can survive on, then
they’ll re-build/download the species.
LN - Well, because of the experiences different people
undergo, that actually causes them to end up with
different brain structures (because of how neurons
grow and connect?)
Relativity should be realer. The more difficulty
characters have, the better the stories are. FTL is a
cheat, and cheats spoil stories.
WM - Now things (computers) are more powerful when
decentralized (network computers as opposed to the old
mainframes), so you have less control.
We’ll define technologies and societies by their
emergent characteristics.
LN - I may be an anarchist, but I still have to obey
the laws of physics.
WJW - for real future warfare, you want something that
will go in and infiltrate quietly, and then go off at
a later time - like a sleeper virus.
6:00 - "What if Alpha Centauri Had a Peace Corps?"
panel. Panelists: John J. Kessel (M), Keith R.A.
DeCandido, Barry N. Malzberg, Dr. SETI, Toni
Weisskopf.
What if aliens come, will their "help" be good or bad,
as viewed by us?
The (U.S.) Peace Corps as a propaganda tool - Kennedy
started ours as much for prop as for pro bono, quite
as much for Cold War purposes as to help people. U.S.
sends out "advisors" - hope the Alien PC isn’t like
some of our "advisors" (military advisors)…
Assume they can’t come here, they only want to talk to
us. What if it were us? What would we say to a
bacterium?
Missionaries tend to be from more technologically (if
not socially) advanced cultures, just because they’re
the ones who can travel farther.
Would the species helping us be homogeneous? Wouldn’t
we be more likely to get caught in some ideological
conflict?
Analogy - U.S. PC told African mothers not to
breast-feed because it’s primitive and unsanitary -
disregarding question of finding potable water to make
up the baby formula.  What realities of ours would
Alien PC fail to take into account?
Out to 50 light years - right now - we’re already
announcing "We’re here" with broadcast, atom bombs,
etc.  50 years from now, the  announcement sphere will
be 100 light years.
"Information by its very nature is disruptive."
Reference to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode
of "Darmok" - will we be able to interpret the
signals at all, or will we only be able to tell that
someone’s out there?
"The translator is a traitor" - truly accurate
translation is practically impossible.
If they can come here at all, they can probably do
anything at all that they want to do to us. If energy
isn’t expensive, all bets are off anyway. With costs,
telecommuting is cheaper, but motives (religion?) may
outweigh costs.
Cultural demoralization - give alcohol to Indians,
etc. Also just feelings of inferiority. Of course,
demoralization may not be all bad for humanity.
Cargo plane culture/religion of (South?) Pacific
islands referred to.
"I’d like to contradict something I said earlier."
U.S. PC can’t just decide to go into countries, it has
to get permission from the govern-ments.
How will PC help us? Will they decide we’re
overpopulated, and make 90% of males sterile, or
something even more disruptive?

FRIDAY:
12:00 - "It’s all SF: Science Fiction/Southern
Fiction" panel. Panelists: Toni Weisskopf (M), James
S. Dorr, Andy Duncan, Edward Kramer, Mark L. Van Name.
A lot of interesting things were said, but I often
felt that this wasn’t MY South that they were talking
about.
Southern Fiction traits: obsessive self-obsession and
self-reflection.
Traits for both: Feeling that you have to be familiar
with predecessor-writers, building on them or
contradicting them, but taking them into account.
"Plus, the South is just (expletive) weird."
"The landscape is a permanent, oppressive part of
you."
Someone mentions James Lee Burke, a Southern writer.
The Southern culture historically has been an indirect
culture - lots of talking, but the real info may be
hidden.  Culture of deceit and indirection.
Talks about slavery & guilt, swampy atmosphere,
difference between sense & sensibility.
Storytelling tradition. Each locality has a lot of
history; kids grow up hearing adults telling stories.
They may not understand, but they feel the power of
the stories.
Isn’t SF looking forward while Southern fiction looks
back? (but the future is based on the past).
Antitechnology stance is elitist - average people
embrace technology.
Someone from audience says the biggest turning point
in the South isn’t from the Civil War, it’s from the
general introduction of air conditioning.
Remember, there are many regional differences even
within the South.
The South has long experience with living side-by-side
with an alien culture.
Intermingling of white&black cultures.
Trying to keep blacks down eventually just made the
race question all-pervasive.
Incredible classist structure. Poor whites actually
have lots in common with blacks, but everyone knows
what class everyone belongs to.
Southern approach to religion and SF approach to
faith. John Kessel’s "Good News from Outer Space."
Other recommended S/SF authors: Greg Benford, Michael
Bishop (Bischoff?), Gene Wolfe, Terry Bissan, Manly
Wade Wellman, Harry Cruz, Rudy Rucker, Joe Lansdale,
David Drake, Anne Rice, Tom Dietz, Willie Gibson,
Robert E. Howard, Orson Scott Card, Sharon McCrumb,
Joan Hess (spellings not vouched for)
Note differences between Southern culture and
Appalachian culture. There are and have always been
many Souths. W.J. Cash. But there’s also 1 South.
1:00 - "Extrapolating Known Science into Science
Fiction" panel. 
Panelists: Ian Randal Strock (M), Michael A. Burstein,
Karl Kofoed, Dave Kratz.
Began with one of the panelists upset about having to
speak into the microphone for the tape (tapes of all
lectures are available for sale) because the panelists
aren’t getting any of the tape proceeds. He said, "I’m
not bitter, I just find this absurd."
By the end of the 19th century, most physicists
thought the major discoveries had been made and that
the rest would just be refinement.
Robert L. Forward, James Hogan are good. Hal Clement’s
"Mission of Gravity"
Taking known science and using it is so much more
interesting than just saying ‘OK, we have FTL, let’s
go on from there.’
One guy says good science is good, but good characters
are also necessary for good SF. Cites Greg Benford and
Greg Bear.
Difference between science-based hard SF and
tech-based hard SF?
Also goes back from SF to use ideas for producing
real-world applications.
"Important question - what the HELL is known science
anyway?"
"A beautiful theory destroyed by an ugly fact."
New facts make much old SF questionable, though it
seemed possible at time of writing (Venus as jungle
planet, e.g.)
6:00 - "Ridiculous Medicine in SF/F/H" panel.
Panelists: Elizabeth Moon (M), Lee Killough, Judy
Lazar, Perrianne Lurie, Joan Slonczewski. Pretty
funny, all about silly errors writers often make when
medicine enters their fiction.
LK - blood transfusions in Dracula with no blood
typing.
EM - broken bones heal too quickly without help.
JS - Humans and aliens producing babies. Parts
shouldn’t fit, egg&sperm shouldn’t fit,
genes/chromosomes shouldn’t fit.
JL - Michael Bishop’s "Transfiguration."
"Salem’s Lot" - Anemia vs. High blood pressure - one
shouldn’t exclude the other.
Unlikely to be able to catch independently evolved
microbes from each other. But you’d probably get
immunological responses to foreign proteins, as we do
from terrestrial things.
Genes can be picked up from one bacterium to another.
EM - irritated by John Wayne wounds in the shoulder
that never hit anything vital. Also, the harmless
concussion people bounce back from. Actually, the
longer someone’s knocked out, the worse off they’ll be
for longer.
Bright arterial blood spurting from the jugular VEIN!
Allergies you’d get on a terraformed planet. The soils
would have toxic, different makeups.
Animals instinctively knowing what’s good for them -
NOT!
Earnest paramedics who easily know what to do for
aliens. What are the limiting factors? Does it even
breathe?
Whenever we get an alien contact, veterinarians will
instantly gain more respect. Drugs that will heal cats
will kill dogs, etc. Also, you can’t ask where it
hurts, etc.
Universal antibiotics - bad enough - but which will
also work against VIRUS from alien world.
What’s to keep the body from rejecting nanotechnology?
Even today, implants are a problem.
Cloning. Mixing species to make centaurs. Clones that
grow up in 4 days and have the same memories as the
parent/twin. Cloning from red blood cells!
Radiation that produces lots/high proportion of viable
mutants. Anti-radiation injections!
Organlegging urban legend (You visit a foreign city
and wake up minus your kidney).
Long dying speeches.
Brain transplants OK, but you can’t heal a damaged
spinal cord.
Genetic engineering.
Baselines - normal can be a funny and varied thing.
Adaptation to society can be seamless even for someone
with an irregular brain, as shown by dissections.

SATURDAY:
11:00 - went to "Guest of Honor Speech by C.J.
Cherryh" with Sarah.  CJC really seems like a
fascinating and good person.
Talks about early life, finding a home with fandom.
"The late 20th-century attention span is geared to the
commercial break. Now, we
watch-watch-watch-watch-watch,
talk-talk-talk-talk-talk…" (watch-talk-watch-talk as a
lifestyle/primary mode of "interaction" and
experiencing life.)
The amazing changes she’s (and we’ve) lived through in
the century - TV, political borders, the moon,
computers.
As computers work faster, "the worker is being driven
faster and faster and faster by the machine."
Dealing with the Data Monster - inundation by data.
Students - everything they’re learning now may be
ephemeral - disappear or be useless by ??? years. An
increasing flux.
Ideological stereotyping seems to be replacing former
ethnic, etc. stereotyping.
Tendency to oversimplify: There’s so much to
know/experience that we look for short, quick ways to
identify things and move on. Books are being marketed
this way now, as brand-name fiction. People get
information by skimming the data-peaks and
extrapolating whatever data mountains the peaks might
represent.
People are impatient of ideas that question their own.
They want a short burst of info-tainment that supports
what they already believe.
Internet very important to fannish community, keeping
us together and helping young/new people, encouraging
exposure to new ideas. The core fan community is
actually growing now. CJC hopes for virtual SF
conventions someday, supplementing/reporting fully the
real conventions now. CJC drops into chat rooms,
online, meeting and helping newbies. "Newbies,
frog-hopping their way across the lily-pad web pages
toward fandom, ‘organized’ fandom - more power to
them!"
Q: What does CJC think of modern education? A: You
need both sets of anchors - a grounding in the past
and a concept of the future. The older generation has
a tendency to oversell things to youth, as if they’re
trying to convince their own generation. Don’t do
gloom&doom when teaching about the environment, tell
kids what they can do about it.
Q: What to do about really tightly-focused people? A:
They need some friends. The more diverse people you
know, the more willing you’ll be to leave your own
familiar interests and explore others.
If you see a T-shirt you don’t like, remember that
that’s not the whole person inside.
Q: The gender difference in fandom. A: Certainly more
females now than when CJC started. But there’s some
gender division within numerous interest groups.
Sometimes you just have to screw up your courage and
go cross that line. A smile goes a long way.
Q: feminism? A: CJC classifies herself as a
human-rights person.
Q: How do you choose among data piles etc.? A: First
form some friendships, then form a network and branch
out. Get your friends to help you find out what’s
worth learning. You suddenly discover that the people
at the table with you have so many different
experiences and viewpoints, yet they all come together
on something or other. Cross-pollenization.
When you come to these cons, the resources everyone
can bring to bear on problems is amazing!
Q: People (fans) should make a point of talking to
library acquisition people. A: Yes, local fan groups
can have a great effect on libraries. Fan impact does
make a difference.
Q: Any audio books in the works? A: No offers yet;
maybe pronunciation is a problem. (She’s poking a
little fun at herself here, since many of her
character names have gutturals and sneezes and
apostrophes in the middle, etc.)
2:00 - "Maim ‘em Right" panel on how authors can write
realistic battle/sickness scenes and avoid stupid
errors.
Panelists: Kurt Siegel (M), Lee Killough, Elizabeth
Moon, Lisa Freitag, Dale Ridder.
KS - mentions the current resurgence of tuberculosis
DR - problem with anthrax is that the spores don’t
break down
KS - the World Trade Center bombers also planted
anthrax, but luckily the explosives burned it up. Look
at vectors of contamination in the Middle Ages.
EM -  Usually authors make someone sick or die for a
plot purpose, but you can accidentally dissipate
dramatic tension by flubbing something. Figure out who
you want injured and how long they’ll be hurt, then
take it to an expert and ask what thing will make that
happen.
DR - Frogs, reptiles are about 10,000 times more
resistant to nerve gas than people.
And up until WWI, if you got wounded you’d have a 25%
chance of dying from gangrene. Some Middle Ages
folklore said that moldy bread would help a wound to
heal.  And where does penicillin come from (where
discovered)? Moldy bread.
EM - Most societies have a wide range of knowledge.
Pragmatic, tradition, etc.
Q: Roman army medics used wine to wash a wound and
then honey as a poultice. That usually works IF you
do it early enough - before sepsis sets in.
EM scenario - space station, with terrorists with
multiple child hostages. Can’t pump in sleepy gas,
because the same medication dosage affects different
people differently - so it’s likely that one terrorist
would drop first, and then the others would start
shooting. Also, enough drug to make some people
totally unconscious would make others stop breathing
altogether.
Can’t fiddle with reality too much - too many
coincidences are bad.
Purpose of a John Wayne wound is to create sympathy
for the hero. Put the wound on the OUTSIDE of an arm,
not the middle of the shoulder where all the bones,
arteries, etc. are. Remember, if the weapon is too
sharp, you’ll slice all the way to the bone, and if
it’s too blunt, you’ll release toxins. If you use a
gun, don’t have a high-velocity slug.
A host is where the bug lives, the vector is what
transmits it. Example - hosts are animals in Africa,
vector is the mosquitos that transmit malaria or
whatever.
4:00 - "The Coming Environmental Disaster" panel.
Panelists: Joan Slonczewski (M), David Brin, Dave
Kratz.
Some good points and some I disagreed with.
DK - disaster is a catastrophic disruption, anything
to cause long-term changes.
DB - operative emotion in almost all cultures has
always been fear. When the fear horizon is high,
threats are close - "Will my children get enough bread
to eat?" When fear starts to decline, people join up,
say, as villages to protect against other villages
(fear is for more long-term threats). You can see this
with American Indians - they hold big intra- or even
intertribal gatherings in times of plenty.
Nowadays, if you hear that a dolphin is stranded, you
may run to the beach with the same speed as your
ancestors - but with entirely different motives (you
to save, ancestors to eat).
JS - mentions eco-disaster of the appearance of
oxygen. Dr. Ian Malcolm in "Jurassic Park." When we
talk about eco-disasters, we really mean OUR ecosystem
that keeps us comfortable and looks nice, etc.
Sam Shiner - Professional ecologists have been talking
about these kinds of things for a long time. But we
don’t talk about disasters as such because that begs
the question, a disaster for whom? But disasters have
happened before, anyway - e.g. Permian extinction.
Doug Frost - the current worst disaster is the slow
ongoing loss of ecosystems, species, etc. (Slash&burn
in Brazil, etc.)
JS - why do we care about all this anyway? Well, you
never care about anything until you’re in danger of
losing it. Indian myths and the tradition of closeness
with nature may have come with their realization that
they had killed off most of the large species in the
Americas.
DB - knowing the self-interest inherent in altruism
does not take away from the beauty of altruism.
"Earth" and "The Transparent Society." DB talks about
first-order and second-order effects, rants about the
Republican Congress actions. Mocks Gregory Binford’s
(sp?) ideas on fighting global warming (dump something
- was it iron - in the seas to absorb/react)
SS - It’s not at all clear that people WANT to save
the environment. People want the Disney version - the
pretty stuff but NOT the ugly parts that coexist and
help the ecosystem run.
DF - population driving the problems.
Education/poverty correlations with overpopulations.
Q - overfishing and dumping of toxins.
SS - Today, point-source pollution is really the worst
problem. But you can attack the problem - witness
Chesapeake Bay, etc.
Q - what about rain forests and oxygen?
DF - we’ll die of too much CO2 long before we die of
lack of oxygen. The danger is that the soil is bad in
rainforest territory, so if you lose the rainforest,
you can’t re-establish it.
DB - we’re already smearing species across the world,
contaminating ecosystems.
Books - Silent Spring, Where Late the Sweet Birds
Sang, Timescape. George Stewart’s "The Earth Abides,"
John Brunner’s "The Sheep Look Up" and "Stand on
Zanzibar," "Bladerunner"
Quote - "Whatever your cause is, it’s a lost cause
without population control."
America is using so many resources, it’s hard getting
the Third World to listen about popu-lation control.
But we can’t be driven away from problem solving
simply because of accusations of hubris.
Our technological development (harmful as it may have
been in the past) is what helps us be able to solve
problems now.
5:00 - "Transplant Technology: Miracles or
Organlegging?" panel.
Panelists: Judy Lazar, Larry Niven, Ronald C. Taylor.
Also Ronald Taylor, a transplant coor-dinator; someone
who interfaces for a transplant board; and Mike,
someone who’s had a transplant.
A lot of the questions were just about the state of
the technology now and near-future. Some panelists
were pretty dictatorial about cutting off debate on
ethics.
Larry Niven surprised me a little - I expected someone
high-energy, and he seemed pretty laid back. Bearded
balding guy with glasses, wearing a fanny pack, with a
high-pitched voice. Says transplants are fairly old as
fiction, pretty recent in fact. LN’s been writing
about them since before people did them. He perceived
societal dangers, yelled a lot, noticed doctors’
groups popping up on transplant ethics, stopped
yelling. He’s not really up on the field now.
Transplantee says it was painful at the time, but
later you don’t notice it.
Coordinator says it’s still pretty hard to get donors.
One of the panelists says that anyone who hasn’t
signed their organ donor cards shouldn’t even be here
listening to the panel. After this, numerous people
who ask questions preface with their good
faith-credentials by saying they’ve signed.
Many people are working on various aspects of problems
in transplants.  Example - genetically engineered
pigs.
LN - my problem 30 years  ago was over condemned
criminals being obvious targets for organ harvesting.
LN asks about possibility of harvesting criminal
organs.
JL - mentions a death-row criminal who volunteered to
have his body thin-sliced for study.
RT - Human genome project, etc. We’re getting a grasp
on control signals for genes being turned on &off,
eventually affecting organ transplants.
Q from audience says Chinese killing prisoners &
selling organs.
Telemerase, vague hope of making us immortal, bigger
hope of killing cancers.
Q: mechanical organ replacements. Coordinator: now,
primarily used as a bridge while waiting for
transplants.
JL - work done on artificial pancreas to monitor blood
sugar and give insulin.
Q: In 2 countries in Europe, there is mandatory organ
donation UNLESS you actively fill out forms to opt out
beforehand.
Q: New technology lets people push margins (e.g.
anti-lock brakes just get people driving faster). Will
easy transplantation let people just abuse their
bodies more?
LN answers - it’s all a dance. People may smoke more
because they can replace lungs, but then anti-smokers
will feel more free to punch them, because fixing
someone is easier.
Q: If you want to sell a kidney for $10,000, to boost
your life or pay for kid’s operation or whatever, why
can’t you have the freedom to make that choice?
Answer, pretty dictatorial and of a tone to cut off
debate, with contempt-frustration at "foolish"
question: Selling organs is illegal because it’s just
too easy to abuse.
LN mentions urban legends of organlegging, countries
executing someone but not quite kill-ing them, then
selling organs.
Back to the organ-selling question: Blood donations
were the first transplants. But the people who want
to sell blood are the people whose blood you don’t
want.
Cloning for organ transplants. Skin is already on the
market.
Q: Growing organs  - could you do it fast enough? A:
well, you’d have to do it with universal organs that
could go into anyone. (Answer was from the "auxiliary
panel," a husband-wife team of medical researchers who
often popped up to interject thoughts or answer
questions.
Giving blood tends to lower tendencies to heart
disease. Also reduces iron content and oxi-dative
damage.
Q: This is an era of overpopulation. Why transplant,
wouldn’t it be better for the planet to abstain?
RT answers - not overpopulation everywhere. Japan
doesn’t even have replacement (more die than are born
each year). Nor does the U.S., nor Canada.
Q: How do you prioritize transplants?
Q: When do you stop trying? If someone’s rejected
organs twice, shouldn’t someone else get a chance?
A: That issue is still up in the air.
LN - actually (looking at watch - panel is ending
late), we "stop" NOW.
6:00 - "Mad Lib SF" - not really a panel because
designed for lots of audience participation.
"Panelists" were Ray Ridenour and Tom Whitmore.
Passages chosen from literature, L. Ron Hubbard,
Victorian plush-red-velvet romance, and the progress
report from the San Francisco 2002 convention
committee. Fun, some clapping, but not many belly
laughs.  A couple of my suggestions were taken (e.g.,
a long verb was called for, so I said "hopping down
the bunny trail.").
7:00 - "Influences of C.J. Cherryh" panel. A lovefest
on how great CJC is, but some really neat stuff was
brought up anyway.
Panelists: Elizabeth Moon (M?), G. David Nordley,
Paula Lieberman.
EM - says how tired she is. "If I had to get on a
horse right now, I’d have to get on a mounting
block." EM tells the tale of how she’d pretty much
given up on writing SF (or getting it published) until
she read CJC’s "Merchanter’s Luck."
GDN - was blown away by the Chanur series. The
universals and idiosyncracies of
intelligence/sapience. Balancing of reproductive
strategies for other species, many other things.
PL - a fairly recent critic, not a writer? Mentions
some idiot writing about superior womyn leaders who
used "Downbelow Station’s" Captain Signey(?) Mallory
as an example of cooperative leadership! Ha! Mallory
is usually pretty autocratic, ruthless when needed.
EM first stumbled across the Faded Sun - Kesrith
books. Read first two, couldn’t find third. Very
frustrating. Stopped for a while, then led back by a
used book dealer who didn’t have the third book but
had "Merchanter’s Luck." This book helped EM go on
with writing. Her first SF convention was NASFIC in
Austin in ’85. EM went to a CJC reading. CJC advised:
Don’t write big fat books at first, tackle something
manageable. This coming from CJC, who mostly writes
big fat books all the time! So EM was inspired by a
desire to be up there at the podium - if CJC can do
it, I can do it.
GDN - says he finds all these tough, resourceful women
in CJC books something of a turn-on. Also, he says
something about conscious/unconscious influences
creeping in (to his own writings?)
PL  - finds "Rimrunners" very believable in terms of
her own military experience (except there’s no gym for
exercise on the spaceship)
GDN - of course, like anything, things change, and the
written universe is now getting more touchy-feely.
But CJC understands the space environment.
And the whole issue of cloning - "Cyteen."
EM - CJC is brilliant at atmosphere. The people and
their reactions to science, LIVING with the advances
in technology, let alone the reactions of aliens
living among humans.
PL - CJC does a lot of interesting things with her
cultures. In the Chanur books, the human is the
alien/outsider.
EM - prefers CJC’s hard SF to her fantasy work. EM’s
looking for something in fantasies that doesn’t appear
in CJC. The insistent realism prevents the fantasy
from breaking loose. A little too didactic.
PL - certain themes resound: Trade is about ideas, not
goods. Taking the long view.
GDN - "Cyteen" with evolved Union culture, a
meritocracy government, with more-or-less castes,
backstabbing and brown-nosing.
EM - CJC’s very realistic "Wave without a Shore." The
difficulties encountered by people with opposing long
views. CJC doesn’t ever make things too easy, but all
the problems flow seamlessly from her characters. EM
disagrees with saying fantasy should be just wild and
free - it’s just that you’re using different rules
from another place.
GDN - has trouble setting one law aside without
thinking of other ramifications.
PL - CJC was early "Thieves’ World" contributor,
started "Merovingen Nights" series and did some of the
"Sword of Knowledge" books.
GDN - says "Merovingen Nights" books are not
fantasies.
PL - "Serpent’s Reach" characters have been
genetically modified. Also says that because of
relativity, S. Mallory reappears after long timespans
without aging much.
EM - relativity/ long view - people get in and out of
phase with their worlds, their pasts, etc. CJC dumps
you in the middle of something, full speed ahead. The
reader then gets a better picture of what it’s like to
be in the action of the story. She’s big enough to
take/accept the risk/certainty of readers being
confused and dropping her books.
GDN - the richness of CJC’s books.
EM - if you read classical language in the original,
you appreciate what just a scrap of it can mean in
terms of making connections.  To make a culture feel
real is to build layers and textures unobtrusively.
Implies a history going back to Rome.
PL - Some of CJC’s books are much more accessible than
others. "Downbelow Station" is tough because all these
people on the station are dropped into the middle of a
war, and they each see only their own part. "Gate of
Ivrel" has very ambiguous characters with ambiguous
goals. How do they react in stress? Whether you’re a
hero or a villain depends on who’s looking at you.
EM - Attitudes toward sculpture (& architecture?) go
back all the way to Babylon - the concept of the
importance of having a public space. "Wave without a
Shore" and a discourse on space.
GDN - Back to the scraps and connections - it’s
fascinating the things that survive from one culture
to a later one. Everyone knows what an Achilles heel
is, for example. CJC’s use of survivals to enhance
rich atmosphere.
EM - I didn’t copy CJC’s prose style, but I did look
at CJC’s techniques to see how she’d try to adapt
them.
DJN - CJC doesn’t really have good versus evil. She
has shades of gray. Seems so much more real.
EM - It’s not just black&white, and there’s not just
shades of gray. (Evil is real, conflict between
good&evil does happen in the real world.) Stories of
good versus evil can be complex. CJC, on the other
hand, has ethics and morality, but not really any
dimension of spirituality.
PL - disagrees, there are indications of spirituality
in Chanur (as background?)
GDN - Heinlein’s "Revolt in 2100" - the Prophet is
just bad.
EM - Heinlein’s epilogue - essay says the book is a
prediction of what happens if things go on along the
way they are.
PL - of course, Heinlein had to be more black&white
because look at the culture/times he was writing out
of and fighting among.  What would CJC’s books look
like if she’d been writing in his era and suffered
the restrictions he did?

SUNDAY:
12:00 - went late to "Fantasy in the Real World" panel
with Sarah.
Panelists: Lawrence Watt-Evans (M), Brenda W. Clough,
Brett Davis, Jody Lynn Nye.
All I can remember is a comment from Lawrence
Watt-Evans: He was going to say something about
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" but it came out as "BUCKY
the Vampire Slayer." Re-member, the con mascot is
Bucky the Crab. So this slip drew a big laugh, and I
had this hilarious mental vision of a little blue
crab wielding a cutlass in one big claw and a stake in
the other.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think about this!