Wednesday Morning Sasquan Pixel

There’s a strong forest fire ash scent in the air — when we flew in last night and encountered that suspicious burning paper smell passengers started looking around to see if something had gone wrong aboard the plane.

This morning I emerged from the elevator and there was Dennis Miller with his bicycle, setting a good example for the rest of us. I also met Amy Thomson who filled me in about the Ranquet location.

Dennis and I headed for registration. En route we got to say hi to Larry Niven, and Michelle Pincus gave us some gag ribbons for our badges. Mine says “48% Sith, so don’t push it.” I’ll let you know when somebody gives me the ribbon that answers what the other 52% is….

Although the reg line was advancing at a shuffling pace, which is good for the first morning of a Worldcon,I decided that would be too long standing on a hard surface. So wandered back til I found a spot to crash on a bench, which happened to be next to Colin Harris, a past Worldcon chair and Journey Planet coeditor.

While working on this post I’ve said hello to Jo Walton, Dave McCarty, Morris keesan and James Bacon.

And somebody just walked by wearing an “Occupy Mars” t-shirt, which kind of symbolizes why I come to these things.

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355 thoughts on “Wednesday Morning Sasquan Pixel

  1. What I want is a proper Dortmunder movie. Steven Soderbergh would do a great job on something like Watch Your Back!

  2. My hagiography game is weak, but were there any reformed cannibals who went on to sainthood? A saint who was consumed by cannibals? Or converted the cannibals? A patron saint of cannibals and/or offering protection from cannibals?

    It might be one of those things that requires a broad interpretation.

  3. @ Jack Lint – According to Wikipedia, Saint Blandina is the patron saint of those who are falsely accused of cannibalism. Also, St. Nick found an innkeeper who was about to eat three dead children and he brought them back to life.

  4. My hagiography game is weak, but were there any reformed cannibals who went on to sainthood?

    Do not go onto Tumblr looking for pictures of Mads Mikkelsen in flower crowns.

  5. Cat: You got to kaffeeklatch with P.C. Hodgell? Oh I am so jealous! I met her once but it was years ago. I understand she’s working on a new book; did she mention much about it? I hope whoever Self Absorbed was they didn’t get in the way too much.

    Hodgell says she’s really pleased about how her work on the current book is progressing.

    Interestingly, she expressed a fair bit of unhappiness with the covers for her book, especially the first one (which I will attest, is really, really bad) — but said that she had had discussions with the publisher regarding that, and the most recent cover was much less objectionable.

  6. I also got to kaffeeklaatsch with Lawrence M Schoen, Klingon language expert and author of the Buffalito stories. He is a fun and funny guy. His latest novel, Barsk, will be released in December, and based on the synopsis of the book he discussed in the session, it sounds really interesting.

    The genesis of the book occurred years ago when, in the process of an RPG, he insisted that his character would be a sentient, talking elephant living on a planet where it rains constantly. The GM kept insisting that an elephant was not one of the role options, and Schoen kept insisting that he was going to be an elephant anyway. It ended with his friend the GM challenging him to write a book based on his premise — which he eventually did (his first novel). This was put in a drawer for years, until an editor a couple of years ago asked him for an outline proposal for a book and the first 3 chapters. He pulled out the book and completely rewrote it.

    I thought the synopsis as printed on the book cover sounded a bit bizarre, but have to admit that the extended description I received in the session made the book sound really interesting and totally sold me on reading it.

  7. Tony Cullen on August 21, 2015 at 12:54 am said:

    at least two things you can do.

    Three. Roast the lamb and serve it with the potatoes.

    Well there is a Lamb Vindaloo as well but people might not recognize that as traditional British cuisine. I think as a retcon it counts.

    Plus: lamb sausages and chips

  8. The Opening Ceremonies were really a disappointment to me — probably because I saw the OC at Chicon in 2012, which were fantastic and included a great deal of interaction with the guests of honor.

    The session started 15 minutes late (out of an allocated 60 minutes). Then a Native American guest who presented a storytelling session in the style of his culture. This was quite interesting but went on for 20 minutes (which, under other circumstances, I would probably not have found too long).

    Then a 5-minute promo video for Sasquan and Spokane was shown. This would normally have been fine, but it was nothing special, and in my opinion it should have been omitted due to time considerations.

    Then the con chair spoke, and introduced the division heads. These people have worked incredibly hard over the last couple of years and their words were heartfelt — but unfortunately it all appeared to be extemporaneous, and went on far too long with lots of ums and ahs and repetition.

    The session was at 54 of its allocated 60 minutes when the first guest of honor was introduced. The guests were all introduced, and the longest any of them spoke was under a minute. It was already over 60 minutes when a video of Kjell Lindgren, speaking from the ISS, was to play, but they had problems queueing it up and a couple more minutes was wasted. Also unfortunately, the setup was such that none of the people onstage could see the video.

    The video was great (I think Sasquan has posted it on Facebook and/or their website), and I encourage you to look for it. (I’ll post a link if I can find it.)

  9. @PeterJ:

    I’m Welsh, which makes me about one-eighth rain.

    If you and seven of your close relatives could visit California soon, it’d be greatly appreciated.

  10. > “… she had had discussions with the publisher regarding that, and the most recent cover was much less objectionable.”

    The cover for “The Sea of Time” was indeed very noticeably better.

  11. JJ on August 21, 2015 at 11:41 am said:
    Hodgell says she’s really pleased about how her work on the current book is progressing.

    Interestingly, she expressed a fair bit of unhappiness with the covers for her book, especially the first one (which I will attest, is really, really bad) — but said that she had had discussions with the publisher regarding that, and the most recent cover was much less objectionable.

    Oh wow, that is one of those covers, isn’t it.

    I recognize the signature and style of Clyde Caldwell, who in my experience did mostly rip-roaring chainmail bikini covers for “Dragon” Magazine and other D&D related products. I don’t know much about God Stalk, but I wonder if this cover does it justice.

    While poking around I found this cover, which looks earlyish and not bad:

  12. @Eli:

    Ah, if only! it would go beautifully with a visit to Sasquan – but finance dictates otherwise.
    I’d like to try the Lis Carey approach of watching the livestream with a couple of dogs, but the eight-hour time difference and the need to impose on my friend Keith for both the internet connection and the dogs rather rules that out – will have to catch up on Sunday.
    I would have replied earlier, but was busy combating puppy-related sadness by the best possible ways, viz. (i) a walk at the local nature reserve, and (ii) FOOD! Phase 1 was unexpectedly prolonged, and consequently wetter than expected, through meeting a friend who had to be be played with – a fifteen-year-old who recently deprived Sammy (a stripling of 13) of the title of “oldest puppy in town”, and is almost as much fun as his very bestest friend, who happens to be named Hugo.
    Which is a long-winded way of saying that there is one puppy I’d like to see get a Hugo this weekend.

    And we’ve got here in three or four logical steps from discussing VD’s maunderings.

  13. RedWombat: As you have an interest in hagiography, I cannot recommend listening to TNH talking about the 14 Holy Helpers (of whom there were approximately 17) too highly. They were the X-Men of the Middle Ages.

  14. On Wednesday, I also attended the “Hard SF Movies: Rare but Not Extinct” panel featuring Connie Willis, Fonda Lee, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. The panel description:

    Hard SF has always been rare in the movies. “Forbidden Planet,” “2001,” “2010,” and a few others set the standard. Recently, “Interstellar” had a well-known physicist keeping the science (mostly) in line with reality, and next year we’ll have “The Martian.” What are the great works of hard SF in the movies? What tried and failed? Are there cases where they tried to keep the science so hard they hurt the story? (We can all name pieces of written SF that did that.)

    All the panelists were quite knowlegeable on the subject, especially Zinos-Amaro who had clearly made a point of watching or re-watching a great many old and new Hard SF movies in preparation for the panel.

    I’ll try to find you a video if one gets posted.

  15. For those of you who are wistful about missing Worldcon, here’s a walkthrough video of the dealers and exhibits area to give you a sense of being here:

  16. I attended John Scalzi’s reading session this afternoon, and the audience was treated to a lengthy segment of his yet-to-be-published Urban Fantasy The Dispatcher.

    I had been dubious, but it actually sounds as though it will be pretty awesome. He requested that those of us there not post spoilers for the rest of you; no doubt someone will do so, but it won’t be me.

    He also read his post “Standard Responses to Online Stupidity” and encouraged anyone who wishes to do so to freely link to this when the situation warrants it, then took 15 minutes of Q&A:
    1) no sequel to Redshirts
    2) no Shadow War of the Night Dragon trilogy (though Scalzi is still damning his agent for, when Hollywood called about film/TV option rights, pointing out to them that it was an April Fool’s Joke)
    3) film/TV options for Old Man’s War and Lock In are still in play; Redshirts options just relapsed, but he expects that they will presently be snapped up again.
    4) He would love to see the explodey mall scene from Android’s Dream filmed with full CGI.

    Nerdycellist also provided a ukelele and managed to persuade him to play and sing a song.

    Krissy happened to call shortly into his reading of The Dispatcher, so we all got to say “hi” to her.

  17. I’m going to attempt to live-blog the Space Opera panel with Ann Leckie, Charles Stross, Jeffrey A Carver, Doug Farren, and Rich Horton moderating.

    Stross has started a new SO series, says it’s really hard to tell your publisher you want to end a series after 2 of the stories in it have been shortlisted for the Hugo.

    Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy will be out in a couple of months.’

    Carver is in the midst of work on the next in his series which started with Neptune’s Crossing.

    Farren is a self-published author of SO.

    Horton is the editor of a couple of SO anthologies.

  18. Horton talked about how SO used to be a derogatory term of SF in the style of Westerns, but now is considered a desirable subgenre..

    Stross says that this started changing in the UK around the 60s, with special note to M John Harrison in 71, then a real resurgence with Iain M Banks in the 80s. In contrast to the oppressive empires such as seen in Star Wars, Banks proposed an interstellar empire which is post-scarcity for his Culture novels. Stross also mentions Bruce Sterling as a lead in the resurgence in the U.S.

  19. Leckie says that she feels that the appeal of SO has always been quite strong because of the appeal of the big action and shootouts. She likes that SO is now being taken more seriously and being better-written now, with a continuum from Old SO through to New SF.

  20. Carver contrasts Old SO with sparse characterization and average writing with New SO as “Ancillary [fill in the blank here]”, that it not only has the grand action but good characterization and excellent writing. Mentions Firefly which was literally a Space Opera Western.

  21. Farren says he started out reading EE Doc Smith with the big adventures and loved that, but that now you see the advanced technology a little bit-reined in, with better characterization.

  22. Horton mentions Harrison’s Centauri Device, supposedly written as a response to Delany’s Nova. There is more of a continuum between Old SO and New SO, rather than a hard dividing line. Harrison started a few years ago a new series which included the vastness of space but maintaining his own particular style.

    Arthur Koppel wrote an SF story about a spaceship transporting horses to a planet so that they can fight their wars on the planet using horses.

  23. Leckie says trying to draw a line between Hard SF and SO is bound to create bitterness and recrimination, Stross says he sees a huge overlap between the two. Leckie says that the SO sensawunda is a natural addition to Hard SF.

    Horton points out that people guessing what things might be like 3,000 years from now, those making wild guesses may end up luckier than those trying to adhere closely to current science and tech projections.

  24. Stross says he abandoned his Singularity series after trying to reconcile inconsistencies in the first two books made his head explode.

    He started Saturn’s Children with the idea of projecting Mundane SF forward, with the them of how interstellar finance would work. If you load your SF story with too many tech props, you end up with something indistinguishable from High Fantasy. There will be a follow up to SC and Neptune’s Brood.

  25. Leckie says the she knew she was going to be using a causality problem and deliberately didn’t care, but tried to maintain some consistency with Mundane SF.

    Carver says he was on a worldbuilding panel where “experts” said there will not be habitable worlds in multiple-star systems and steamed silently, swore to write them anyway — and then was vindicated years later when such planets were discovered.

  26. M. John Harrison apparently said Nova was “a waste of time and talent.” So he’s a dumbshit.

    Nova was one of the most brilliantly written SF novels ever, so I agree with your assessment of Harrison.

  27. Leckie says she believes writers who try to adhere too hard to what’s technologically feasible limit themselves.

    Farren says it’s a fne line to walk between exploring possibilities you don’t have to explain and getting called out by readers on something unrealistic.

    Horton says it’s about taking real science as far as you can and seeing where it gets you, but that sometimes as with Iron Sunrise you will end up with an unresolvable paradox. Sometimes you end up in a really cool, strange place.

  28. Nova is not only brilliantly written, it is a total fvcking blast. It’s about as much fun as a book can be.

    I did read the first couple of Harrison’s Viriconium books and they were nice enough. The third one I gave up on pretty early. But ultimately, I allow authors to have stupid opinions about other authors’ works. In many cases, it’s what gets them out of bed in the morning. I just don’t take their opinions that seriously.

  29. Leckie says that manifestos about what can be written make her “itchy” and that it’s best for writers to allow themselves to explore possibilities.

    Carver says written SO for some years made him uncomfortable but now it’s so much better that it makes him feel good as a SF reader.

    Horton says Tolkien made it possible for Poul Anderson’s work with SO possible, Stross says made what would have been Fantasy possible as SF and SO.

    Horton says SO is built such that the traditional aristocratic mode is turned inside-out and re-examined.

    Leckie says that the mythic adventure story is easy and comfortable for us, and that SF re-imagines that, and that is part of its appeal.

  30. Carver says that Star Trek and Star Wars really opened SO up to a larger audience than just hardcore SF fans, and that a lot of TV and movies now reflects that, that much more interesting things are being attempted now rather than 30 years ago, though not always successful, but it’s attempting to do a lot more.

  31. Q and A:

    (long digressive non-question comment by fan about non-feasibility of autocratic governments in SO)

    Stross says Miles being a cousin to the emporor gives Bujold a “Get Out Of Jail Free card”.

    He, Bear, and others decided the next big genre will be “Commiteepunk”,

  32. Leckie says that manifestos about what can be written make her “itchy” and that it’s best for writers to allow themselves to explore possibilities.

    The more Leckie talks, the more I like her.

  33. Stross calls Perry Rhodan “the series which ate German SF”.

    A fan says he calculated reading all of PR would take him 7.5 years.

    Another fan asks “why would you waste time calculating that”?

    Another says “because he’s a SF fan”.

  34. SO recommended by panelists:

    Cherryh’s Merchant
    book called “Enemy of the State”
    all of Iain M Banks starting with Player of Games, Use of Weapons, and Accession.
    Winston juveniles
    Vorkosigan novels
    Lensman series
    Delany’s Nova

    Leckie’s SF-hating parents when she was 10 gave her Space Opera ed by Aldiss and introduced her to Lem.

  35. Horton says operatic-level, exaggerated emotions is one of the points of SO.

    Stross says SO is “utopia that gives Libertarians the creeps”.

    Banks hoped for, but despaired of, humans ever becoming good enough to be Culture citizens.

    (end of panel)

  36. This Space Opera panel live blogging is giving me horrible fomo. I was sucked back into Sci-fi after years of mostly reading horror and fantasy (and playing catch-up with the pulp classics) by The Algebraist and then the New Space Opera anthology. The good folk at a book store called Other Change of Hobbit, in Berkeley, turned me onto a ton of great Space Opera.

  37. An Enemy of the State by F. Paul Wilson? (It’s what comes up that seems to match.)

  38. Jim Henley: Thanks for the liveblogging, JJ. I really enjoyed it.

    You’re welcome. I kind of enjoyed doing it, but I only decided to do it at the last second, and I ended up sitting on the floor and didn’t really have a good setup for typing. It’s very difficult to try to listen AND type at the same time and very stressful in not trying to miss things.

    It definitely makes me appreciate the work Rachael Acks is doing on the Business Meetings even more.

    I’ll talk to Mike and see if he’s interested in having me do it at the Business Meeting tomorrow morning.

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