Readercon Says, “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!”

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I worried I was getting old when I turned 50 and started getting mail from AARP. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I suddenly became eligible for senior discounts. (No, that can’t be right. My parents were seniors, not me!) And now…

Readercon, once one of my favorite conventions, has decided that—well, let’s let them tell it in their own words: “You won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29. We’re deeply grateful to you for your years of participation at Readercon… but…” But so long, and thanks for all the fish!

They go on to say that they’re making room for fresh, young writers—which, if I thought that were the real reason, would at least be understandable. The truth, of course, is that Readercon has always been welcoming to new writers. I was one myself once, and Readercon always gave me a place at the table, as they did others. In fact, one of the things I liked about it was the yeasty mix of writers of all kinds, all ages, genders, creeds, etc. It made for great conversations. I guess the newer team of organizers are aiming for a new shape for their demographics. Either that, or they think they’re comping too many memberships to program participants.

I’m not the only one to receive this letter, of course. A number of older, white male writers (including my friend Craig Shaw Gardner) have received the same email. I don’t know if any female writers have received it or not. I’d be interested in knowing. (Update: I’ve received a secondhand report that a woman-writer friend of mine, also in my age group, got a similar boot to the backside.)

Perhaps the icing on the cake was the offer to register ahead of time (for $5 off!) by using the coupon code PASTPRO. Ouch. Does that say what they really think? Or did they just not think what that said?

—This report brought to you by Captain Dunsel.

I seem to recall that, in end, Kirk and Spock overcame the odds and prevailed, as they always do.

Boskone 2018

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Boskone is taking place this weekend, down on Boston’s waterfront.  I’ll be there all day Saturday, so if you’re attending, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. Here’s what I’m doing:

  • 11:00 a.m. – Autograph session, with several other writers
  • 12:00 Noon – Kaffeeklatch, where I’ll just sit and jawbone with y’all who show up
  • 2:00 p.m. – Panel “About Airships”
  • 5:00 p.m. – Panel “Electronic Evolution: Is Skynet Here Yet?”

Aside from that, I’ll wandering the halls with everyone else, or perhaps engaging in secretive, high-level, possibly subversive, publishing talk. Come listen in! Oh wait—it’s secret. Or was, until I blew my cover.

Final Days in Helsinki after Worldcon

This will be told mainly in pictures. We took a ferry across the Baltic to Tallinn, in Estonia, on Monday and walked around the old medieval town there. That was fun, though I got awfully tired of walking on cobblestone.

Tuesday we mostly crashed, but then rode around the city on the tram and checked out the market square and a nearby brew pub—very nice. There are a lot of small breweries in Helsinki, as it turns out. The American-style IPA has made definite inroads. Chatted a bit with the brewmaster of this pub, who turns out to be a lover of hard SF and space opera.

Wednesday we visited Church of the Rock—a church partially carved into solid bedrock. They seemed to have an ongoing service (they were speaking German when we were there), while catering to a steady flow of tourists. Then on to the Ateneum, a big art museum in the city center. Allysen went on to a modern art museum, while Jayce and I took a city ferry to the island fortress Suomenlinna, and spent several hours walking around. Among other things, Suomenlinna has a church that doubles as a lighthouse, a restored Finnish submarine from WW2, various fortifications and cannons, and a tomb that looks as though it marks the grave of a man from Numenor. All the roads and paths were cobblestone. I have developed an extreme dislike of walking on cobblestone! But I loved the views.


Today we leave for Reykjavik and two days in Iceland.

Worldcon Oddity: Peeing in Helsinki

Every worldcon I’ve been to in recent years has had its own oddities. In Spokane, it was four days of breathing smoke from wildfires on the US/Canadian border. In London, it was staying an hour from the con on a cramped sailboat that had been misleadingly billed on Airbnb as a houseboat. Also, there was Wardrobe Malfunction Day, when my belt broke and I walked around the convention center holding my pants up with both hands.

In Helsinki, it was peeing in the convention center restrooms. The urinals looked perfectly normal, but there was nothing to warn you that they flushed automatically both before and after use. So you would step up to the fixture and before you could even reach to do what you had come to do—floosh!—the thing would flush energetically in your face. (It didn’t spray literally in your face, but it felt as though it was about to.) Granted, it fit with the image of Scandinavian cleanliness, but it was certainly disconcerting.

Startling, too, was the high-speed hand-dryer mounted next to one sink, so close that when you stepped up to wash your hands, you got an instant blast of hot air on your left shoulder.

Perhaps weirdest were the urinals in one restaurant, which apparently had been installed by a very tall Viking plumber—because they were mounted too high on the wall for a person of mere modest height like me to use. I briefly contemplated ballistic trajectories of peeing upward and outward and hoping for the best, but I finally opted to choose other means. I’m sure the janitorial staff thanked me.

We now return you to our regular non-weird programming.

Worldcon 75 Wraps

Worldcon ended on Sunday, and as a way of saying farewell, I thought I would post this picture of the welcome sign.

I had a Kaffeeklatch on Sunday that was well attended, and included attendees of various ages from countries all over the world. They had come to drink coffee and ask me questions, so that meant I did a lot of talking. They all seemed to enjoy it, and I know I did. One local fan (I think he said he was Finnish, but it all blurs) did a little video interview with me afterward. I suppose that might end up on youtube someday.

And here’s a picture of one of the highlights for me in terms of programming I watched from the audience. It’s NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren giving a presentation on space medicine based on his experiences on the International Space Station.

Dr. Lindgren is a wonderfully entertaining speaker, and a gracious ambassador for the space program, based on a brief chat we had in the corridor. He’s also a science fiction fan. (At the Spokane worldcon, he presented one of the Hugo awards via Skype from the space station.)

Here’s a picture of him zipped up in his zero-g sleeping bag. Cozy!

Worldcon 75, Part 2

Thursday through Saturday were good days for me at Worldcon.

But first, congratulations to all the winners of the Hugo and associated rewards! You can see the full list on tor.com. Women once again dominated in the trophy winning, which might have made some people unhappy, but I thought it was great. It’s about time some of our fantastic female writers got their due. And I’m also glad to see lots of young fans, from many nations, of all and sundry genders.

The convention ran into problems with serious overcrowding, because attendance wildly exceeded expectations. Tons of people registered at the last minute, or showed up without preregistering or hoping for day passes, which they had to stop selling. Combined with this, the local authorities strictly enforced the fire laws, so that no standing room was permitted in any of the rooms. The result was crazy long lines, lots of folk not getting into panels they wanted to see, and plenty of hair pulling. The con committee rallied, worked with the convention center, and got some of the more popular events moved to larger rooms, and even added additional panels at the last minute. It was a tough recovery, but I think they did a good job under difficult circumstances.

My own panels over the last few days included one on keeping yourself motivated in writing, a topic that drew plenty of interest. Friday we were on for writing space opera and writing collaboratively, and both were well attended and fun discussions. I was moderating both, so I was revved up keeping things moving.

Today I had two big panels that I was not moderating, one on the future of physics, and one on world building. Both were a lot of fun.  Here’s a sort of blurry picture of the world building panel, with (from left to right) Jon Oliver, Alex Acks, me, and George R.R. Martin. The audience for this one was huge, as you might expect. It was a lively and interesting discussion, I thought.

There were lots of camera flashes, so if anyone out there has a clearer picture and would like to send it my way, please do!

Hei, Helsinki! Worldcon 75!


We arrived in Helsinki, Finland, early this morning for Worldcon 75, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention. At the moment, sleep deprivation and jetlag are making things somewhat of a blur. (Finland time is seven hours earlier than Boston time.) I think half the people on our flight from Iceland to Helsinki were on their way to the con.

Tomorrow, I start things in earnest, with a signing session at noon, and a panel on how to motivate yourself when writing is tough at 15:00. (Everything is on the 24-hour clock here.)

Friday I’ll be moderating a panel on space opera, and another on writing collaboratively. Saturday, I’m the one non-physicist on a panel on the future of physics (I guess I’m the wild card in the deck), and participating—in my last panel—on one on world-building, a panel that might or might not include George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, depending on what listing I believe.

Once the worldcon is over, we’ll be taking a few days to see Helsinki and Finland, and then a couple in Iceland on our way home.

I’ll try to post some updates, but don’t hold me to that. Things can get pretty crazy at a worldcon. I’m looking forward to seeing many friends!

 

Boskone 2017

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I’ll be at Boskone (SF convention in Boston) this coming weekend—by which I mean on Saturday, and possibly Friday night. Boskone is always a good time, and a great bunch of fans, writers, editors, etc. I’ll be on a couple of panels Saturday afternoon, and doing a reading, as well. Haven’t picked out the reading yet, but I’ll find something from The Reefs of Time manuscript. So it you’re there, do stop by and say hello!

 

 

Boskone 2016!

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Boskone b53-header

Interrupting The Ponce Chronicles for a moment…

The weekend is almost upon us, and that means this year’s Boskone, Boston’s highly popular annual science fiction convention, held at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday. Here’s my schedule:

Dated Science Fiction
Friday 16:00 – 16:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

When the future described in an older SF story contradicts our already-lived experience, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Scientific “predictions” didn’t turn out as imagined. So what? The story still holds up, as in classics like The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. But other tales much lauded in their time have since lost their luster. Wherein lies the difference? Does the science in science fiction truly matter over time as long as the story is well-told?

Fred Lerner (M), Ellen Asher, Jeffrey A. Carver, Tony Lewis, David Gerrold

Autographing
Saturday 14:00 (2 p.m.) Dealers Room
Seven Easy Steps to Taking Over the Universe
Saturday 15:00 – 15:50, Harbor III (Westin)

The universe would be perfect, if only you were in charge. Today’s the day to stop dreaming and start doing! What are the “must dos” and the “no-nos” that every evil emperor must keep in mind when conquering? Should you be the face of the takeover, or is it better to have a sidekick to throw into the spotlight? How do you handle pesky rebels? And is a catchy dictator name an essential accessory for success?

Leigh Perry (M), Jeffrey A. Carver, Esther Friesner, Frank Wu, Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Writing: Generating Suspense and Fear with Odyssey Writing Workshop Faculty
Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Burroughs (Westin)

The Director and guest lecturers of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, held each summer in New Hampshire, discuss the most effective techniques for keeping readers on the edge of their seats and awake long into the night.

Jeanne Cavelos (M), Jeffrey A. Carver, Alexander Jablokov, Allen M. Steele

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