Nebula Awards 2008 took place in Austin, TX on April 24-27. Being in Texas, the award ceremony had to have some Texas flavor, and that was amply supplied by the MC John Moore and the toastmaster Joe Lansdale. Moore started by explaining Texas dialect to the out-of-state folks. He said, "in Texas you don't say 'I'm going to have a glass of wine', you say 'I'm fixing to mosey down to Hospitality Suite and rustle up a Shiner Bock'. And right now I'm fixing to introduce our toastmaster. He's a kick-ass Texas writer, and I mean it literally: he founded a school of martial arts."
Joe Lansdale's speech was the highly anticipated highlight of the award ceremony. Everyone in the Texas fandom knows Lansdale is pretty damn funny. And his speech was funny indeed, although a bit rambling. I managed to remember a couple of anecdotes Joe told; for the sake of brevity, I'll compress the details which, in my opinion, didn't add much to the story. (Though what do I know? Perhaps readers adore Joe Lansdale precisely because of those details I consider rambly.)
His point was that Texas is such a weird place it can't help but inspire science fiction. Here is an incident that happened to him and an even stranger one, to another Texas writer. Lansdale also listed his rules for the attendees of science fiction conventions.
(Later at the ArmadilloCon 2008 Joe Lansdale told more stories from his life on the Campfire Stories panel. They can be found in my blog post.
Michael Moorcock, who was bestowed a title of SFWA grandmaster, had his own funny stories to tell about life in Texas -- and why he likes it here.
Pictures from the Nebula awards can be found in my photo gallery.
Description in the program book: Was there a homoerotic subtext to Lord of the Rings? Is subtext in the eye of the beholder, or is Spec Fic friendlier to GLBT characters and readings than the mainstream? Panelists discuss the perception of alternative sexualities in SF/F.
Panelists: Alexis Glynn Latner (moderator), Lee Martindale, Jess Nevins, Selina Rosen, Mel. White
What was it really about:
The discussion didn't focus so much about a relationship between Frodo and Sam (though there was some speculation), or even whether SF is friendlier to gay / lesbian / bi /transsexual (GLBT) characters than mainstream literature. Mostly it revolved around fan fiction, especially slash fiction.
Pictures from ApolloCon 2007 are in my photo gallery.
Official Synopsis: Cuddling with the computer too much? We've been there too. Ways to learn (or relearn) social skills.
Panelists Eric and Cathy Raymond discuss flirting tactics and first date ideas that work well for geeks.
At Linucon 2004 Eric Raymond gave a speech on the basic principles of the Unix philosophy. They are the same principles as described in the "Basics of the Unix Philosophy" chapter of Raymond's book "The Art of Unix Programming". Since the book is available online, I put a link to each rule so you could compare what's said in the book with what was said in the speech. He dwelled a little longer on each rule and gave more examples than he does in this chapter of the book. At the end of the speech he answered questions, some more, some less related to Unix philosophy. He also ranted on XML (after admitting not having an opinion about it) and expressed his opinion on Hurd.
Pictures from Linucon 2004 are in my photo gallery.
Synopsis from Linucon program book: "The most popular open source license, the GPL, inspires controversy to this day. Eric Raymond recently expressed some ambivalence about it, so he and his lawyer wife Cathy are moderating this panel, with Jay Maynard, a.k.a. The Tron Guy speaking out against the GPL and Rob Landley defending it."
One of Rob Landley's pro-GPL arguments is that it can prevent a project from forking. Jay Maynard claims credit for coining the term General Public Virus. His objection to GPL lies in its ideological agenda. Rob says GPL keeps companies from taking open source code, incorporating it into their products and making money off of someone else's work without giving back to the community. Jay objects that even if companies did that, the good consequences of this action would outweigh the bad. Eric Raymond then inserts himself physically and ideologically between these two "nutcase friends" of his. His position is that GPL is slowing down the adoption of open source, because it is often incorrectly perceived that a company that uses open source software would be obligated to blow open their entire intellectual property. Furthermore, he says, GPL is based on the assumption that defecting from the open source community is attractive, whereas in reality it is its own punishment. Both sides use Linksys as an example to support their arguments. :-) They briefly debate whether the reason BSD did not become as popular as Linux was due to its license, or, as Eric Raymond argues, because they got their social machinery wrong.
Some pictures from this panel can be found in my Linucon 2005 photo gallery.
Read more about The Tron Guy in my blog.
Synopsis from Linucon program book: Wanting to build a costume? Grab a seat for some tips and tricks from those who know.
Panelists: Kim Kofmel, Jay Maynard, Cathy Raymond
My impression. There are several ways you can win a costume award at a masquerade. By making audience laugh, for example. By being original. There is also a fairly self-explanatory "workmanship" category. This panel devoted quite a bit of space to the tips and tricks of how to make a costume, and they managed to be quite entertaining while doing that. Far from being tedious, their discussion was enlivened with all kinds of titillating details from the costume history. The panelists also spoke about the psychology of wearing a costume, and the motivation for making one in the first place. All in all, an interesting panel even for those who, like myself, have only a marginal interest in costuming.
Pictures from Linucon 2004 can be found in my photo gallery.
Read more about The Tron Guy in my blog.
Wil McCarthy, a scientist and science fiction author, was the Guest of Honor at ApolloCon 2009. He gave a talk on the work he's been doing in programmable matter. He started off by showing the audience a piece of clear glass. Then he heated the glass with a hair dryer. An irregularly shaped reflective blob grew on the glass -- the heat turned the glass reflective. This was McCarthy's demonstration of materials he's working on in his startup.
Definitions and discussion of programmable matter can be found elsewhere on the web, and McCarthy did not dwell on the theory, but talked about his work in this area. His practical work in programmable matter developed from his nonfiction book "Hacking Matter", which it turn was born from his fiction. He talked about the events that lead to writing of "Hacking Matter", and how it attracted investors' interest, leading to creation of programmable matter startup. McCarthy talked about his company's journey to discovery of viable commercial applications for these materials, and why he avoids the word "nanotechnology" for marketing this technology to investors. He briefly discussed weapon potential and security issues of programmable matter with the audience. Finally, he talked about balancing his science and writing careers, or rather, impossibility thereof.
Pictures from ApolloCon 2009 are available in my photo gallery.
Read more about ApolloCon 2009 in my blog
Science fiction writer and physics professor Gregory Benford was the Guest of Honor at Fencon 2008. On several occasions during convention he shared his thoughts on topics such as American dominance in the world and its role to play in the technological future. Having been in science fiction fandom for four decades, Benford is proud of American science fiction and fandom influence on the world, which he puts in such blunt terms as "We own the future". At the same time he acknowledges that the future is not all rosy, and that science fiction may be the proverbial canary in the coal mine, signaling of darker times to come. Benford's keynote speech on Saturday was the problems facing the world and what can be done about them. Of those, global climate change was the most significant issue. He assured us that whatever is being done to counter it isn't working, because global warming is typically viewed as a moral problem (excessive consumption), when it needs to be seen as an engineering problem. To that end he proposed an unconventional -- or perhaps little known -- approach. At the end of his speech he spent some time on space travel and overpopulation.
Gregory Benford also appeared in the "Science -- fact or crap?" game at Fencon, where two teams of players competed regarding their knowledge of science facts. Read more about it in my blog.
Panelists discuss the process of self-editing. And no, we don't mean just chucking it out the window and starting over. How can you honestly and dispassionately proof and edit your writing? Start with the ending and write toward the beginning; kill your darlings; summarize a scene in one sentence. Finally, funny tales from editors' trenches.
Panelists: Rosemary Clement-Moore, Melanie Miller Fletcher, Alexis Glynn Latner, Julia Mandala, Barbara Winter
Pictures from ApolloCon 2007 are in my photo gallery.
More blog posts from ApolloCon 2007 (in my blog)
More blog posts from other ApolloCons (in my blog)
On September 25, 2005, Book People, an independent bookstore in Austin, TX, hosted a meeting with Neil Gaiman, a phenomenally popular author. Gaiman read an excerpt from his new novel "Anansi Boys", answered questions and signed books.
Gaiman is so funny it's suspicious. Each of his answers to the audience's questions was like a mini stand-up comedy. He cracks a joke in every other sentence. Can he really improvise that well? Or did his agents plant people in the audience with pre-approved questions? :-)
More pictures from this event can be found in this photo album.