The traditional notes to self about panels at Boskone, next week. (Nb.: I am cranky and dissatisfied today and it shows.)
(We are likely to miss most of this for non-convention socializing. However, in case plans change:)
Otis: The Rise of Modern Science
What happened in the Middle Ages which led to the rise of modern science? Why did it happen first in Europe and not elsewhere? How did science grow if the Middle Ages were really an "age of faith" without reason?
Guy Consolmagno, John Farrell, Michael F. Flynn
(Science in the Middle Ages is Flynn's Thing, which does not necessarily make for good panel.)
Commonwealth: Death to Peeps Fun Fest
In David Weber's Honor Harrington universe, the Peeps are a cunning, tyrannical enemy. Here, the Peeps are cute, marshmallow foodietoys. Either way, they've got as much chance as Bambi playing bumpercars with a Manty superdreadnought. Unleash your inner mad scientist as we research ways to reverse-engineer the Peeps' assembly instructions. Flutter a flock into Somebody Else's Blender, design a tragic Peeps diorama, nosh on Peep kabobs, write an ode to a Peep's gruesome end, or do something unspeakable to a Peep Cthulhu. Prizes and fun for all ages. We supply the Peeps; you supply the fiendish imagination. Remember, in the Con Suite, no one can hear you cheep. (Note: please don't think us evil. We have nothing but good intentions ...)
(I definitely want to see at least some of this, since I had fun suggesting terrible things to do to Peeps . . . )
Otis: Hidden Biases in SF
Why aren't there more blacks or Asians, Jews or Catholics or Muslims or Buddhists in even our most richly imagined futures?
Tobias Buckell, Gregory Feeley, Gregory Frost (m), Daniel Kimmel, Pamela Sargent
(It says something, I'm not sure what, that my first reaction to this is "Oh boy, I could play Bingo! *head-desk* " instead of "Gee, this might be interesting, insightful, or eye-opening." Of these panelists, I only know Buckell, and am wondering if I should steel myself to go to at least part, if I'm around, in case he needs another anti-Bingo voice . . . )
Otis: Writing Erotica That Appeals to Most Sexes
Can you craft your prose to appeal simultaneously to audiences with differing erotic tastes? Do you keep several different readers in mind, take care to alternate viewpoint characters, or focus-group your product? Have Samuel R. Delany and Jacqueline Carey evaded the problem just by writing incredibly well about their chosen sexual territories? What can we learn from their or other successful approaches?
Eve Ackerman (m), Beth Bernobich, Cecilia Tan, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Commonwealth A: SF and Fantasy as the Modern Myth
John Campbell, Joseph Campbell, Tolkien and George Lucas: What is the role of myth in F&SF and F&SF in myth? Does the ubiquity of SF's tropes in society support the thesis that SF is our modern myth? (And, if not, what is?)
Judith Berman (m), Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe
(I tilt my hand back and forth in the air, balancing-like.)
Revere: Tunguska at 100
On June 30, 1908, an exploding asteroid leveled 2000 square kilometers of Siberian forest, producing a fireball from the sky which knocked pine trees over like matchsticks near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. Such an explosion today over more populated areas could lay waste an entire city. What was it? (Do we know, yet?) What are some of the older theories, and why were they discredited? How likely is a repeat? How common are events like this? Are there any other historical records? Would we expect there to be?
Guy Consolmagno, Jeff Hecht (m), Chad Orzel
(Spousal loyalty vs. not so sure I'm interested in Tunguska vs. possibility of neat science ancedotes vs. certainty of Chad relaying any neat science ancedotes . . . )
Commonwealth A: A Universally Acknowledged Truth
Almost two centuries after her death, Jane Austen is more popular than ever. We see film after film of her novels, read books about her life, and encounter a surprising number of works featuring her characters, or even herself. In recent years, SF authors including S. N. Dyer, Karen Joy Fowler, and John Kessel have written stories entwined with her world and words. What is the allure? Why do so many SF writers and fans love Jane Austen?
Eve Ackerman, Beth Bernobich, Esther Friesner, Beth Meacham (m), Teresa Nielsen Hayden
(This would doubtless be more meaningful if I'd read more than Pride and Prejudice. (I think I've read one other, but I don't remember which, so that hardly counts.))
Commonwealth BC: Tops on the Tube Tonight: Good New Genre TV Shows
From Pushing Daisies and Eureka to Supernatural, Moonlight to Torchwood, Journeyman to Jericho, there's a fair bit of buzz in genre TV fandom about some new and newish shows. What separates the standouts from the nonstarters? What have they learned from shows and showrunners that have gone before? What offers any hint of originality? Where can you find the best writing? The most promising premise? The hottest honeys and hunks? And can the good survive?
Michael A. Burstein (m), Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Pelland, Eric M. Van
(Did an omission jump out at anyone else?)
Hancock: Genre Poaching
The fanzine Ansible found an interesting term proposed at a recent Modern Language Association con. "Genre poaching," as practiced by writers such as Jonathan Lethem and Cormac McCarthy, would comprise "works that have been shelved, reviewed, and studied in the realm of literary fiction but whose authors use tropes, themes, and ideas explicitly drawn from genres such as science fiction, detective fiction, romance novels, TV, and superhero comics." Drawls the MLA, "Is such co-optation destined to be condescending, reactionary, or nostalgic; or is it potentially generative of new literary forms and approaches? ... What do the authors have to say about the reprobate status of the forms they're drawing from?" Good questions.
Don D'Ammassa, Gregory Feeley, Steven Popkes
Otis: Character Assassination for Fun and Profit
The death of a major character often proves upsetting for involved readers. How does it feel to the writer? What genre works have killed off their own most memorably? Does it always help the story? Which writers have a special gift for this dark art?
James D. Macdonald, Joshua B. Palmatier, Allen Steele (m), Charles Stross
(I bet I can do this right now: "It depends"; "you can do anything if you do it well"; "spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler." Next!)
Commonwealth A: The Appeal of the Lawless Elite
Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden has said, "Much of the genre works by appealing to our wish that the world's extra-legal violence be under the control of the kind of smart people we admire. The Second Foundation and the X-Men — and, for that matter, the Scooby Gang and the Laundry — are all, to some extent, basically the Ku Klux Klan, except that the extrajudicial violence they carry out is (we're assured) merited and just." Discuss.
Alexander Jablokov, Beth Meacham (m), Paul Park, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Karl Schroeder
(Huh! Could collapse really badly, mind.)
Commonwealth A: Bringing Elfland to Poughkeepsie
LeGuin criticized mixing the modern with the high fantastic, yet Tolkien pointed out that our own green Earth is a character in ancient legends and is where the fantastic plays out. So what's wrong with mixing the high fantastic and the mundane? Discuss what works and what doesn't. Why?
S. C. Butler (m), Paul Park, Wen Spencer, Jane Yolen
(However, I'm not particularly interested in either Park or Spencer's works that do this, so . . . )
Hancock: Who'd'a Thunk It? Unexpected Uses of Technology
Numerous technologies wind up getting used for quite different purposes than their originators expected. Consider dynamite, bubble wrap, speed trap radar, screensavers, the Internet's massive if not main use as a conduit for pornography, and laser pointer cat toys. What other example suggest themselves? Does this phenomenon make basic research more desirable, or less? Is it ever discussed in SF? Consider some of the great SFnal inventions (the hyperdrive, AIs, cyperspace, anti-gravity, boosterspice, positronic robots, personal force fields). Can you extrapolate some unexpected uses for them?
Tobias Buckell, Chad Orzel, Karl Schroeder (m), Charles Stross
(This should be good geeky fun.)
Otis: The Best Things in the Worst Books
Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden has said, "Sometimes the unkillable merits of otherwise terrible work are a lot more interesting to discuss than the several perfections of the best." Let's see if we can prove him right.
Kathryn Cramer (m), Wen Spencer, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
(So should this.)
Revere: The Great Book Covers
Let's talk about the truly outstanding art that has adorned science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. (By all means, bring and show examples.) How is a cover different from other artworks? Does a great cover always make a great book? Must it always both tell and sell? Do the best covers share any specific elements of content or style? Can a once-great cover go out of fashion?
Ellen Asher, Gavin Grant, Elaine Isaak, Omar Rayyan, Joe Siclari (m)
(And I like cover art discussions, darn it.)
Stone: Inside Every Fat Fantasy, There Is a Thin Story Struggling To Get Out
It has been argued that the novella is a form particularly well-suited to SF and fantasy, yet the field has tended towards big fat volumes. Should we be editing more heavily?
Debra Doyle (m), Esther Friesner, Greer Gilman, Rosemary Kirstein, Lawrence Watt-Evans
Webster: Whom You Should Be Reading — Old Pros Division
They're not always the bestsellers or the prizewinners. But stalwart toilers in the SF, fantasy, or horror vineyards such as Jack McDevitt, Elizabeth Willey, Ramsey Campbell, and Rosemary Kirstein offer reading enjoyment you really shouldn't miss. Bring your own picks, too. We'll discuss what their stuff is like, and suggest the work you might want to start with.
Don D'Ammassa, Beth Meacham, Pamela Sargent, Allen Steele (m), Eric M. Van
(Why is two o'clock so packed?!)
Hancock: God's Mechanics: How Techies Make Sense of Religion
(This could be very interesting.)
Otis: The Glamor of Elfland
Elves are glamorous. They're tall, cooler than people, dress well, have great taste in music, and are all-round athletes, as well as being immortals with magical powers. And they're in tune with nature, too. But are they really? Most elvish societies are intensely hierarchical with a few ueberelfen at the top and many more peons at the bottom. And there's no way for a peon to work his way up, since the master race is genetic. Tolkien's Elves were fairly benign, but the elves in many of the derivative fantasies that followed on don't look all that different from what we could imagine finding in a world a thousand years after a Nazi victory: the horrors at the start are long forgotten, but now there is a master race. Unfair? Discuss.
Judith Berman, Amy Thomson (m), Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jane Yolen
(Waving a copy of Lords and Ladies in the air would get about half of this, but only that.)
Webster: Spear Carriers Are People, Too
How do you make a walk-on character rounded and memorable? Can a supporting player ever be so striking that he, she, or it draws too much attention from the main cast members? What minor portaits from SF, fantasy, or horror books or movies do we still recall with fondness (or other strong emotion)?
Patricia Bray, Bruce Coville, Don D'Ammassa (m), Sharon Lee, Paul Park
("Very carefully"; "yes"; "[stuff I've never heard of]." (Hey, I said I was cranky today . . . ))
Otis: Urban Legends of Science, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Fandom
The essence of an urban legend is a story or "Just So" tale that is untrue, but so attractive that it gets repeated, and spreads. Candidates from our folkways might include Archimedes in that bathtub, the evil baron's first night with the bride in innumerable medievalish fantasies, the FBI's questioning John Campbell about leaking the A-bomb, the SWAT team at Disclave, the Galilleo myth, or Dave Kyle and seating. What are some of our other tales too tall to be true? What's their basis, if any? What do they tell us about us?
Michael F. Flynn, Jordin T. Kare, James D. Macdonald (m), Teresa Nielsen Hayden
(May require a good deal of context-providing, but could be fun.)
Webster: Making Language Fit the Culture
Do languages constructed for SF and fantasy works too often become monolanguages for monocultures — where predator people mostly spit insults, while forest folk issue leafy murmurs? What well-known stories in our genres more realistically suit the way characters speak to the ways they live? How successful were the creators of 'kreegah bundolo,' 'lembas,' 'Dirac Angestun Gesept,' 'Klaatu barada nikto,' 'gom jabbar,' 'sfik,' 'shaych,' and 'frell'? What methods seem to work? Does building an actual alien grammar help? And can you ever use enough apostrophes?
James Cambias, Elaine Isaak, Fred Lerner (m), Lawrence Schoen, Sonya Taaffe
(I don't know very much about this, which might make it a reason to go.)
Hancock: If You Liked X, You're Gonna Love Y
Sometimes good books are alike in interesting or unexpected ways. Our neighborhood bookshop is exploiting this phenomenon to display older novels next to particularly popular new ones. Let's do the same for worthy works of SF, fantasy, and horror – and speculate on the mysterious affinities we may find between very different works of art.
Ellen Asher, Kathryn Cramer, Don D'Ammassa, Faye Ringel (m), Peter Weston
Hancock: Nominating for the Hugos: Written
The Hugo nomination deadline is only two weeks away! Join us to talk about what we liked from 2007 in the written categories.
Claire Anderson, Vince Docherty, Jim Mann, Mark L. Olson
(Why can't this be at a reasonable hour?)
Stone: Quantum Teleportation
When physicists talk about "Quantum Teleportation," just how close are they to making a Star Trek transporter? This talk will cover the basics of what quantum teleportation is, what it isn't, how it works, and how to explain it to your dog.
data projector #1, Chad Orzel
(The data projector gets no actual lines. Come and hear the first-ever public reading from the forthcoming book!)
And then I have to be somewhere else at noon, so no more programming for me. Alas.
(Icon in honor of Chad's talk, which will have lots of cute dog pictures.)