First and foremost, it's official: the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) will be in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA in 2010. *celebratory fist pump* Will you be attending? I hope so! Be sure to check out the very clever FAQ here.
Today began with a lovely breakfast with some of the terrific people related to the Prometheus Awards. Unfortunately, author Cory Doctorow was unable to attend as planned, because his panel schedule was switched in the eleventh hour to accommodate other last-minute changes, but we still had a good time.
Then I was on the Hard Science Fiction: Is It What You Do Or How You Do It? panel with editor Gabrielle Harbowy and author/editor Joël Champetier. Harbowy did an able job as moderator in involving the audience from the very start, so it became a very inclusive and dynamic discussion about how we should define and delineate the subgenres within science fiction. My concern was that some definitions of "hard" and "soft" SF are based on assumptions about what exactly are sciences, and do not take into account the way the idea of "science" in science fiction has expanded to include such disciplines as linguistics, anthropology, sociology, political theory, etc., and we discussed this for a time.
I found several comments in particular to be helpful to my thinking. One author in the audience described science as a separate character in her novels, and she considered "hard SF" to be those stories in which science is a reliable character, and "soft SF" to be those in which the character is unreliable. Another commented that the role of the hard SF author is the same as that of the writer of historical fiction: know the facts. I was struck by one attendee's comments on the contract with the reader that is "negotiated" on the dustjacket of a book: once the reader's expectations of the "playing rules" of a given universe are set, when if ever should a writer break them?
I wrapped up my delightful WorldCon experience with the Dealing with Disasters panel in the science and space programming track with medical and military specialists such as Perianne Lurie, Dave O'Neill, and James MacDonald. I won't go into too much detail about this fascinating discussion, as it left me wanting to stockpile bottled water and hand sanitizer (ha!), but I found it interesting to hear specific examples of how culture and politics shape reactions to disaster, how cycles of sensationalism and rumination add to potential panic and retard efforts to move past traumatic events, and how the human mind and body are hardwired to react in certain predictable ways to unexpected emergency situations. Underneath the various issues ran an undercurrent of disagreement among the panelists: in the worst possible scenarios the experts can imagine, is it more likely that your neighbor will be your ally or your enemy? Much of what was said related back to Saturday's panel on disaster film, as well as Sunday's on apocalypse and dystopia, and so this was an appropriate and satisfying way to end the con.
Now for a few hours of unconsciousness before catching an obscenely early flight back home. Goodbye, WorldCon. *waves* It’s been real! It's been fun! It's been real fun!
I'll be catching up with my replies and emails soon! Thanks so much for reading.
"Hello. My name is Darth Vader. I am your father. Prepare to die."
-- button seen at WorldCon