This morning I joined a partial Locus Magazine retinue, including Gary K. Wolfe, for breakfast with HarperCollins Eos editor Diana Gill over at the Marriott, a brief cab ride away from the Moat House hotel and conference center. By the time we finished, the sun was out and blue sky prevailed, so Gary and I decided to walk back to the SECC, a distance of only a mile or so. Within five minutes, the sun disappeared and it started to rain. Then we got stuck in an office park cul de sac and had to backtrack a couple blocks before finding a way across the expressway and back to familiar territory. By which time the sun was out again. Our little adventure.
I bought some more books — between yesterday and today, new titles by David Langford, Gary K. Wolfe, Michael Bishop, Paul McAuley (2), Kim Stanley Robinson, and a couple others — chatted with Justin Ackroyd and John Picacio, then headed for a panel on the ‘aesthetics’ of SF, with Robert Silverberg, John Clute, Ian Watson, and Ian McDonald. (Scheduled Kathryn Cramer was, as she described in her blog, unable to attend.) The panel dwelled on the differences between SF and fantasy, with Clute’s precise if overwrought distinctions challenged by Silverberg, who said he considers SF simply a branch of fantasy, described why he’s never read Tolkien, and declared that his aim as a writer has always been to produce in the reader the sense of wonder he felt at age 10 reading the final scenes of Wells’ The Time Machine.
After a nap (I’m not entirely over the jet lag) I sat in on an academic panel with Graham Sleight, Paul Kincaid, and Andrew M. Butler discussing the work of con Guest of Honor Christopher Priest (who didn’t attend the panel himself, and who though I’ve passed in him the concourse a couple of times I’ve yet to see speak himself) — whether his narrators can be trusted, how he deals with multiple versions of reality. It was a fascinating discussion that makes me want to go back and reread his recent novels and catch up on the one or two I haven’t yet gotten to…if only I can find the time.
Later, I listened to most of a panel with Connie and Cory and Sean McMullen about the assumptions SF makes about gender roles, with two of the panelists offering insightful remarks based on their reading and their perceptions of history and society, and the third recounting detailed examples of problematic characters from his own work. A quiz panel following, a SFnal version of ‘Call My Bluff’ in which one team offers competing definitions of some word and the opposing team tries to guess which definition is the true one, had the audience spilling out of the room, with quick-on-the-uptake Gary Wolfe presiding between teams with John Clute and Esther Friesner on one side, David Hartwell and Roz Kaveney on the other. Words in play included ‘franchulate’, ‘interstitial’, ‘foma’, and ‘agenbite’.
Then came my second panel, ‘In Memoriam’, where I nominally moderated Laurie Mann, Rich Lynch, and one no-show in a summary of notable SF people who’ve died in the past year. The panel ran from 7-8 p.m. — rather ruining dinner/party plans I might otherwise have made — and was attended by barely more than a dozen people in the audience. I had the list of obits I’ve posted on Locus Online, while the con program book has a much longer list (including fan and media people that Locus doesn’t usually cover), so with Rich and Laurie covering most of the fan notables, and I most of the professional folks, we did a fair retrospective in the 45 minutes or so of the panel. If I’m tasked to do this sort of thing again, though, I’d prepare better and have more material in hardcopy for quick reference.
After that came the familiar dinner companion troll, where the unaffiliated con-goer, without any formal plans for dinner, strolls through the lobby and bar looking for people he knows that he might hook up with to have a meal. But it was late–after 8–and the people I knew in the bar, and sat with for a while, had already eaten; so I got a table of my own in the casual diner section of the hotel lobby and ate while jotting down notes on the day’s events. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast…
There was an Asimov’s/Analog party in the SFWA suite, which unlike last night was packed. I chatted with a few people before letting myself be squeezed out, then returned to my room to go through e-mail and post items, and write this blog entry, for a couple hours.