The 63rd World Science Fiction Convention concluded on Monday. It’s my third Con so far and I think I’m getting the hang of it. Two Big Ideas emerged from the proceedings:
1) Cell phone cameras wreck story-telling
2) Cats = success
Writers have long spoken about the ill effects cell phones have on story-telling as they make people too contactable. You can’t have your hero madly searching the dark city streets for his girlfriend before the baddie gets to her when all the hero has to do is hit speed dial. Well, add cameras to the gizmos and it’s virtually impossible for a baddie to get away with anything. Of course, being paranoid by nature, I see this as an opportunity to spookify the hyper-connected surveillance world we’re currently living in. And, in fact, a sub-theme of Idea 1 is what I’ll call The Little Brother Effect. Forget Big Brother. It’s too cumbersome. We donâ€™t need a centrally controlled panopticon watching us. We’re watching each other.
As for Cats, what’s up with them? They were everwhere. The Hugo winner for best short had “cat” in the title. There was even a panel entitled “What the F*** is it About Cats?” I guess if I really cared to answer this question, I’d have attended the panel. At any rate, cats will figure prominently in all future stories.
Andrew and I were interviewed for BBC Scotland and were forced to answer tedious questions like, “Are the stereotypes true? Are science fiction fans really geeks?” After removing my dessert fork from the reporter’s eye, I told him that science fiction writers and fans are, in fact, the overlords of the future. That, know it or not, he is living in our world. The fact that we don’t announce our supremacy is all part of our plan.
The lovely and talented Kelly Link won a Hugo Award for her novelette, “The Faery Handbag”, as did the kilted Charles Stross for his novella, “The Concrete Jungle.” Ellen Datlow won two count them two! These things, by the way, are huge. I don’t mean in terms of stature (though of course that too), I mean physically. What on earth do you do with a two foot tall dildo-shaped rocket? (please donâ€™t answer that, anyoneâ€”that means you, Andrew.)
Christopher Rowe and Benjamin Rosenbaum were both honored with nominations but did not get to grace us with acceptance speeches. Sadly, I missed Christopher’s reading because the door was locked. Christopher is a wonderful reader and should be sought out wherever he may be. Christopher’s wife, Gwenda Bond, neither read nor paneled but you can find her latest pearl of wisdom in the advice column she writes for Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. I did have the opportunity to hear Ben Rosenbaum who somehow manages to read at the speed of light while injecting his narrator’s voice with a schizophrenic range of personalities. I was entertained, exhilarated, then exhausted.
Justine Larbalestier read from her tantalizing novel-in-progress, which promises to redefine the nature of fairies. And Scott Westerfeld dazzled with his dark and wonderful world of enforced plastic surgery.
Sadly I also missed future Hugo winner Cory Doctorow’s reading for no good reason whatsoever. I think I was eating lunch or something. But I did get the pleasure of hearing his thoughts on the subject of AI. Most compellingly, he stressed the good use of all that intelligence that’s just lying around. Like the entire open source movement itself, Excess Intelligence or EI is a non-market driven means of deriving value from people’s skills and smarts. I don’t know if Excess I is the phrase he used, but I like it and I’m sticking with it.
For further permutations of AI, I was treated to a far too brief lecture by Karl Schroeder on Augmented Intelligence, which is the marriage of technology with human brains. Karl promises us we will have the cool implants and wearable interfaces people like me have been writing about in 5-10 years. I intend to hold him to that estimate.
John Scalzi claimedâ€”in publicâ€”that blogging did not, in fact, prevent him from completing his novel on time and assured us that we will all be successful and rich if we blog blog blog, all day long.
I had a nice chat with Lou Anders who is kicking some serious ass with his new(ish) imprint Pyr. Among other things, he has picked up US rights to Justina Robson’s first two novelsâ€”Silver Screen and Mappa Mundi. As the most underrated hard SF writer in the business, Justina deserves a vastly wider audience than she currently has. Justina teased us with a brief reading from her upcoming novel, Living Next Door to the God of Love.
But what’s this? Have I been saying nice things about everyone? Surely that can’t be. What can I do to rectify the situation? Oh yes, that wretched cartoon, The Incredibles, was inexplicably honored with a Hugo. Usually when the recipient is not present, he or she sends a video thanking everyone. Well, not writer/director Brad Bird. He assigned the craft service p.a. on his new film the task and the jerk-off opened with some lame condescending reference to wookies. He then made (and I’m not kidding here) the Vulcan hand gesture and said “Nanu, nanu.” Sadly, I was not armed with a manure catapult so the video screen went unassaulted.
Oh, yes, Gavin Grant read what I consider his best story yetâ€”though only half of it, the dirty tease. And Sharyn November, in addition to regaling a strangely prudish audience with hilarious tales of the legendary Rainbow Party book, took no prisoners in her defense of honesty and authenticity in Young Adult Fiction.
What else? What else? Oh yes, haggis. Haggis basically looks like something you sweep out of a horse’s stable but tastes like a really good Swedish meatball extruded through the jaws of a barracuda.