I went to my first science fiction convention expecting to see dweebs dressed in Star Wars outfits, doofuses pretending to be Star Trek commanders, and dorks enraptured by fantasy worlds of dragons and magic.
I was totally right. I felt at home among them because I’m only a few notches away on the sanity scale. There’s also comfort in knowing that you’ll never stand out as the oddball, the weirdo, or the loner. I was on my own, though I ran into a few people I knew, such as Lilith Von Fraumench, “the original metalhead leatherdyke transsexual ubergeek SubGenius minister.” I know her through the church. And there was Brian, my former “little brother” in the Big Brother program who is now a big, physically fit dude and all-around nice guy.
But getting back to the convention…it was great. You can easily skip the costuming and fantasy part, skip the gaming part (because I’m not a gamer) and just attend panels all day. Very interesting panels with very knowledgeable speakers. I wanted to hear Vernor Vinge, one of my favorite science fiction authors, and I heard him a lot. Among other things, he wrote A Fire Upon the Deep, which is great space opera.
He’s also known for a 1993 essay in which he used the term “the Singularity” as an approaching time when “super-intelligence” appears by way of AI or networked machines or machine/human combination. Beyond that, nothing is predictable and history as we know it comes to an end. He still believes the Singularity is due within the next 30 years. He’s a very congenial, unassuming, well-spoken guy.
I attended a talk by a representative and pilot from one of the private space vehicle companies, XCOR Aerospace. I went to a panel on Intellectual Property and Creative Commons, another on the Large Hadron Collider, another about alien biology, another on how to speed up the pace of space exploration despite bureaucratic and economic barriers, another about online and on-demand book publishing, another on surveillance and privacy, and of course the Church of the SubGenius panel, and one about bloggers as public intellectuals.
There was more, but I’m tired of listing them. During that one about blogging, I sat next to Cory Doctorow, SF writer, activist, co-editor of Boing Boing, etc. He spoke in several panels. While next to me in the audience, he typed on his laptop, played a card game on his phone, and asked questions of the panelists. Busy guy.
So there you have it. It was an interesting time. I’d consider doing it again, depending on who the the speakers are. Probably wouldn’t if I had to pay for a hotel room, but if I can just pop in there and then return home, there’s lots of fascinating stuff. I didn’t even mention the music stage, the dealers room, and the dweebs selling light sabers.
By the way, I’m really tired of the word “steampunk.”