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"I meant Gandhi"

Happy early birthday wishes to nakeisha, ebonange, and shelled_avenger! I hope all three of you have fantastic years to come.

ConCarolinas was a terrific experience. It was wonderful to see shiny_elfriend, hinluin, witchcat07, arymetore, davidbcoe, madkestral, Gray Rinehart, and Mike Pederson, and to meet sittingduck1313 for the first time in person. The con moved to a new hotel this year, and it was a great success with more than 1,000 attendees (a new record for the event).

I was pleased with the attendance and participation at my panels. The Lost discussion was very fruitful. I shared my thoughts on how the series unfolds the "state of nature" debate from the history of political thought, and I heard some compelling theories (especially about the nature of Jacob and the problem of good and evil) that I'll be pondering until the next season. The reaction to the Star Trek film and what it means for the franchise (and science fiction more broadly) was overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, positive. The Hobbit panel was more speculative than informational, but it was fun to discuss both our "wish lists" and our concerns about the forthcoming film. We reached no conclusions on the "Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy" panel, but I found some useful insights in the conversation about the state of the industry and the demands of readers, especially about anti-technological sentiments and how they may or may not be influencing the trends toward YA fantasy and dystopian fiction.

I attended a number of other fascinating panels on everything from "Science as a Political Tool" to "The History of Paranormal Studies," and I worked in some great one-on-one conversations as well. I ran into a particularly impressive Qui-Gon Jinn costumer who was kind enough to let me take his picture, as you can see. One of the highlights of the con included sitting in a packed room and singing along with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which was doubly fun since I was seated next to arymetore, who was in complete (and excellent!) Dr. Horrible costume. I'm already looking forward to next year. My next con appearance will be at Anticipation/The 67th World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto in August.

In other news...

* The finalists for the 2009 Mythopoeic Awards have been announced. It's a particularly great year for Myth and Fantasy Studies, I'm happy to say.

* MentatJack has posted an incomplete but interesting Reading List for the New Weird.

* Check out the Apex Author Lottery throughout the month of June, which features signed books, limited editions, and other goodies!

I'll be having some rather extensive oral surgery tomorrow, so I may be quiet for a few days. I look forward to catching up with everyone soon!

Dr. Horrible: I wanna do great things, you know? I wanna be an achiever, like Bad Horse.
Penny: The Thoroughbred of Sin?
Dr. Horrible: (pause) I meant Gandhi.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog



( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
It was a great weekend and so wonderful spending time with you! I've been pondering a bit about some of the ideas expressed in the scr-fi vs. fantasy and the YA panels. I may have to post some of the resulting thoughts later on. Also, the more I think of my new plot bunny, the more its turning into a plot dragon. I think I'll slide it by you for your opinion at some point if you don't mind.
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
I'd love to see your thoughts on those panels! And of course, I'm very interested in your upcoming novel. Re: character/place names: have you thought of being thematic in your choices? I've seen some authors choose, for example, Celtic names, or Slavic names, or names with particular mythological resonances or abstract meanings, to help create a "whole message" in their works. Might this kind of approach be of use to you?
Jun. 5th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is an excellent suggestion. I've been looking at names and trying to find the ones that feel right. I am being drawn to Old English and Old Germanic with a few Celtic names in the mix. When I have finished collecting names I believe I will commit to just one of those for my kingdom and perhaps use another for outlanders. That should add a sense of cohesiveness that just making up stuff that sounds good might not offer. I hope.

Hopefully this weekend I can organize my thoughts from the con into something that makes sense...at least to me, lol!
Jun. 2nd, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much indeed.

Jun. 5th, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you had a good birthday! *hugs*
Jun. 2nd, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
Congrats on your successful con appearances. Sounds like it was a great time.
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! It was indeed a great time. :)
Jun. 2nd, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
I have not seen the current season of Lost; when the changeover to digital TV occurred in February, the signal for that network became too weak for our new HDTV set to pick it up with an indoor antenna. I'm planning to rent the discs when they come out. I'm interested in this "state of nature" idea, as I've thought for some time that having characters named things like Locke and Rousseau could not be accidental . . . and there was at least one more recently introduced character whose name looked like another such reference. Perhaps you could blog something about this, or point to a URL for a paper?

(I think of Calvin and Hobbes, where the names are similarly oddly fitting: Calvin embodies the innate depravity of man, and Hobbes embodies the state of nature, where life is nasty, brutish, and short.)
Jun. 2nd, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
I've now scanned the cast list and spotted Hume and Burke, plus outliers Lewis and Faraday (appropriately, a physicist!). The writers were having way too much fun.
Jun. 5th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes indeed! And, interestingly enough, Locke even uses Bentham as an alias. I was suggesting that the island, by taking each of the characters out of their societies, or states, put them in a position to show themselves as "noble savages," discoverers of a cooperative "natural law," or proof that life is "nasty, brutish, and short," as it were. Some of the larger issues of free will and choice versus fate and destiny seem bound up in this question of human nature, too. My main illustration, beyond the various forms of redemption/development of the primary characters, was one scene taken from the most recent season finale, so I won't go into spoilers unless you want me to do so. It involves characters "opting out" and following a path that shows a nice contrast to other characters' choices/lives.

I'm still thinking out loud re: this theory, since I don't yet know where the series is going, but it does seem to me that there's real significance in the names of the political theorists being used, many of whom were preoccupied with the question of human nature.

This page may be of interest (although it misses characters such as C.S. Lewis). I'd be interested to know your thoughts!
Jun. 7th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
I'm not sure I have a clear enough sense of what was going on in the series to comment very meaningfully; I'd need to go back and watch it all the way through, keeping this topic in mind. It seems as if, for this to be a substantive point, we would need to see the castaways overall be confronted with the alternative stances toward human nature that these philosophical references suggest. Do you think that was happening?

I do spot what looks like another possible reference, but to a fictional character rather than a historical philosopher: the character of Sawyer has an obvious prototype, a boy from the country with limited education, a fondness for tall tales, and a tendency to go over the boundaries and get in trouble. And, for that matter, an affinity for caverns. It's even more fitting that "Sawyer" is itself a fictitious name.
Jun. 7th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)
It seems as if, for this to be a substantive point, we would need to see the castaways overall be confronted with the alternative stances toward human nature that these philosophical references suggest. Do you think that was happening?

Yes, that's exactly what we discussed in the panel for a time. I do think these contrasts have been played out - with subtlety, but consistency - in parallel with the issues of fate/destiny vs. free will/agency. Then again, I'm sure that however the series ends will cast a different (and lasting!) light on the arc of the series as a whole, so it's still early to tell.

That's a fantastic point about Sawyer!
Jun. 2nd, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
Oh boy. Oral surgery!!! I'll be thinking very positive and healing thoughts to you, and I'll send you a little something in the mail.

I'm glad that you had a great time at the Con! Sounds as though you had plenty of interesting panels to attend and love the picture of Qui-Gon Jinn. Costumes are such a fun highlight of cons!

(((hugs))) and thanks for the update!
Jun. 4th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
Oh boy. Oral surgery!!! I'll be thinking very positive and healing thoughts to you, and I'll send you a little something in the mail.

I sent you something as well.
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)
How kind of you! Many thanks.
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks a million! *hugs* By the way, I saw you posted your new address - thanks a million! Happy relocating!

The panel discussions were great. My favorite costumes were apparently all in one family: the father was Gilderoy Lockhart, and the two little boys were a Jedi and a Starfleet officer, respectively. Talk about boundary-crossing! Too cute.
Jun. 2nd, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Best wishes for a successful operation tomorrow. I look forward to hearing from you when you're recovered (enough)!
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I didn't think it was physically possible for me to go so long without talking. Ha!
Jun. 3rd, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Oh my, I hope you heal well and suffer no pain.

I had oral surgery in 2005, it was really nothing I would call extensive though, and the DMD even said I tolerated the procedure very well [head pat]. I will spare you the amusing details.
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:53 pm (UTC)
Ha! Thanks so much. :) I appreciate it! And I send retroactive sympathy for your surgery, as well.
Jun. 3rd, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
Yikes! Qui Gon has let himself go there.

I'm afraid I missed part of the SF vs. Fantasy panel as I had to take my purchases from the Dealers' Room up to my room before the bag holding them finished disintegrating. So this could have been brought up. But did anyone bring up how literary SF has competition from television while fantasy (at least classical fantasy) doesn't? For that matter, there's a fair amount of original SF movies while the vast majority of fantasy movies are literary adaptations.
Jun. 5th, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC)
The picture doesn't do justice to the Jedi robe and boots. They were spectacular!

Good point about SF vs. F. I do recall the mention of fantasy TV ("True Blood," "Legend of the Seeker") being based on pre-existing books, but then again some of the forthcoming SF TV ("Flash Forward," for example) will be, too. We didn't hit on film as much, although you have a very good point. The subject may have been brought in on the later panels; we were only "round one" of a multi-panel debate. Unfortunately, I was at different panels conflicting with the later installments of the discussion, so I missed seeing how it unfolded. Hopefully we can pick this up next year. I have no doubt it will still be relevant.
Jun. 4th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Hope the surgery goes well. I have my own scheduled for the Wednesday after we get back.

Also, something I considering bringing up in the Sci-fi vs Fantasy discussion: When considering the "hard" science fiction (i.e. fully grounded on known scientific principles) might the explanation of the science be so far over the reader's knowledge base that it doesn't make sense and therefore has more difficulty following the underlying premise of the novel? An example would be discussing cosmic string theory as a means of interstellar travel. Or an alien attack involving a three dimesional black hole tangle that luckily is discovered early enough by searching for a different micro black hole and using gravitional beams are actually able to develop a gravitational spaceship drive (Earth by David Brin). True, the good sci-fi stories use the science as a backdrop to what the people do with it, but it seems more often with science catching up to the golden age speculative science fiction, there is less of a gap between reality and fiction. And so to achieve hard and "edgy" sci-fi, some authors seem to go into so much detail it is just shy of reading a textbook on partical physics.

Fantasy is fantasy and creates whatever laws and means it wants and as it is not considered possible in any shape, form, or fashion, is simply accepted as part of the story.
Jun. 7th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the good wishes! It looks like the surgery was a success (I have a weird genetic thing with my gums - top ones are fine, bottom ones aren't attached and are almost nonexistent, and so they took nine skin grafts from the top to put on the bottom) but the recovery time is a full month to six weeks. Blech. I don't have another speaking engagement until the end of July, though, so this was the best time to do it. And I suspect I'll shed a few pounds with this all-liquid diet, and I'm not complaining about that, either! Ha. I hope your surgery goes well and your recovery is rapid and as painless as possible.

True, the good sci-fi stories use the science as a backdrop to what the people do with it, but it seems more often with science catching up to the golden age speculative science fiction, there is less of a gap between reality and fiction. And so to achieve hard and "edgy" sci-fi, some authors seem to go into so much detail it is just shy of reading a textbook on partical physics.

Great point! I wonder if the "harder" SF writers, the one whose writings are one step away from textbooks, don't give the others a bad name in this day and age. I'll admit that, Tolkien aside, I read far more SF than F (although I love the contemporary fantasies of Gaiman and Bujold), but I pick and choose whose works I read. I think some of the SF writers who also are scientists are goos and accessible writers (David Brin, for instance), but I know there are others who don't connect with the humanity of storytelling in a compelling way. So much of the fault is on them. I wonder if part of the blame, too, lies in modern science education. Jules Verne and Robert Heinlein, in vastly different eras, both could assume that reasonably well-rounded, educated readers knew at least the basics of physics and chemistry and such, and so the tools they used to build their descriptions would be as familiar as pop culture references today. But I don't think authors can make the same assumptions. And yet, even as I type this, I think of contrary examples: Cory Doctorow's extensive discussion of computer and gaming technology (hacking using the Xbox) in Little Brother assumed lots of specialized knowledge about a particular kind of technology/science in readers today, and I think rightly so.

Clearly, I'm going to have to give this some more thought! I definitely think you've put your finger on a key point.
Jun. 7th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a really involved surgery. But it sounds like it has gone well and you are on the way to recovery. And hehe... I hope I will as well. I gained back pretty much everything I lost since the start of the year over this past week in VA :P Course, some of it is coming back off just as fast, but still... planning a lot of soups in the near future :P

Well, I do agree that modern science education does hold some of the blame in that the common person is not as grounded in some of the science that might come up in SF. But, at the same time, perhaps due to those that ARE well grounded in it, the SF has to work harder to push the envelope of new ideas and concepts. Using the idea of Jules Verne and Heinlein, they were able to come up with wildly speculative ideas. Some were well grounded in potential science, but others were well out there. And at the time, they were more able to freely speculate cause the science hadn't caught up to them. Now though... science is surpassing some of the ideas they had originally. A book I picked up at the con called The Daleth Effect by Harry Harrison written in about 1970 came up with a very interesting starship drive using information from a space probe that indicated a gravitational anomoly. Current science has been working on various "anti-gravity" experiments and might have some idea as to what might create a Daleth Effect as described in the book. Or, it could be something different but similar... like the sort of wild idea I had driving back for a human powered flying wing VTOL aircraft using the Townsend-Brown effect for initial lift and propulsion... So perhaps aside from the storytelling ability of some authors, they are trying to push the boundries so far that they delve into a level of science that most people have trouble understanding and leading to a widening gap between those who are grounded in science enough to understand it and those that don't and switch to fantasy.
Jun. 11th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Soup is good. :)

Thanks for your comments. I see what you mean now about how far the boundaries have to be pushed by authors to seem innovative, since we live with so much scientific reality every day. I hadn't thought about it that way, but you make a very good point.

they delve into a level of science that most people have trouble understanding and leading to a widening gap between those who are grounded in science enough to understand it and those that don't and switch to fantasy

Yes! Good point. And even among those who can understand it, surely some don't want to take the time to do so, for one reason or another (too much effort, other things to do, etc.). Fantasy, on the other hand, only requires a willingness to suspend disbelief and accept the imaginative world offered.

So is there a solution to this widening gap, do you think? Our world probably won't get less technological and scientifically complex, but maybe the next "paradigm shift" in science will open fresh frontiers for writers to explore? Or perhaps authors just need to experiment and become more innovative in how they bring their stories to contemporary readers?
Jun. 9th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
We so enjoyed seeing you again. So glad you got a pic of QuiGon. Ary holds the camera and he was talking with someone when I saw QuiGon walk by, so I missed out. ;~)
Jun. 11th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
It was great fun! My picture doesn't do justice to the details of his costume, especially his boots. It was such a nice shock, coming down the escalator and seeing Qui-Gon Jinn sitting in one of the lower lobby chairs, reading the paper. LOL!
Jun. 11th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Ah, but that's the fun of Cons. :~)
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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