Friday, August 25, 2006

2006 Anaheim Worldcon -- Day 2 -- Thursday 

There were more people in evidence today at Worldcon, though the enormous Anaheim Convention Center still seemed rather sparsely populated. The size of the convention is nevertheless indicated by the extent of the program; at 10 a.m. Thursday, there were no less than 26 panels and presentations, ranging from G. David Nordley on interstellar travel to the WSFS Preliminary Business Meeting, blogger Phil Plait on Bad Astronomy and Rick Sternbach on the "Look" of Star Trek, to panels on SF's generation gap, Tarot and writing, alternate histories, fanzines, and Ed Wood. And there were five additional programming slots later in the day, equally busy. (One innovation at this con that seems to work well is scheduling such program items for 1 hour, with 1/2 hour intervals between slots, giving everyone a chance to take a break, cruise the dealers room, etc., before having to rush to get to the next panel.)

I missed all the 10 a.m. events, attending instead the annual Locus Foundation board meeting, where the various attending board members meet to discuss progress on Locus' master plan to control every aspect of the SF field -- we're up to something like 93.4%. Seriously, we generally each year rehash ideas to keep the magazine alive (Locus' subscription base has been steadily shrinking, like those of the SF fiction magazines) by way of attracting more subscribers, offering alternative subscription options, or pursuing additional Locus Press projects. In attendance were the Charles, Gary Wolfe, Connie Willis, Kirsten Gong-Wong, Jonathan Strahan, and myself. This year's meeting struck me as somewhat more successful than previous years', with firmer resolves by various parties to actually pursue implementation of ideas (one or two of them originally mine) that have been bandied about for several years. To avoid jinxing anything, I'll refrain from further details for now.

After that I did a more thorough patrol of the dealers room, noting books I should or might want to buy, and actually buying a couple of them, including one of the con's special books, an anthology of original 'space cadet' stories edited by Mike Resnick.

I attended two panels. The first had Charles Brown, Gardner Dozois, Randy Smith, and Perianne Lurie rating the fiction Hugo nominees -- how each of them voted and why, what they thought should win, and what they thought would win. There was general consensus on the weakness of the short story category this year, and general consensus on the weakness of a couple nominated writers in particular. The panel prefers that Paolo Bacigalupi *should* win in the novelette category, but supposed that Peter S. Beagle or Cory Doctorow *will* win. Novella preferences were for Kelly Link and Ian McDonald; novel preferences were for Charles Stross or Robert Charles Wilson, though the panel gave George R.R. Martin a fair chance of actually winning for best novel, based on the continued popularity of the series, even though this particular book isn't complete in itself. John Scalzi, they predicted, will win the Campbell for best new writer, but probably not the Hugo for best novel.

The next panel was a debate about the 'Space Opera Renaissance', subject of a recent anthology by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, with panelists Hartwell, Charles Brown, Wil McCarthy, Mike Shepherd [Mike Moscoe], Gardner Dozois, Al Reynolds, and Toni Weiskopf. There was less dissension among panelists than I expected, though the result was like the joke about blind men describing an elephant; each panelist talking about the same ostensible subject, but each saying something completely different from what the others said. Brown established that 'space opera' has to have spaceships and be in space (as opposed to 'planetary romance'), and described its history as rooted in the manifest destiny theme of US history; Dozois discussed its origin in the 'super science' stories of the 1930s and '40s, with pendulum swings since then on the acceptability among young writers of writing in the form, and the quality of flamboyance that's essential to make something space opera; McCarthy claimed the 'renaissance' has involved traditional space opera's incorporation of first relativity, then chaos theory, biotech, and all the rest; Reynolds noted that this 'renaisssance' actually began 10 years ago, and cited Cordwainer Smith as the earliest of the new space opera writers; Weiskopf talked about sincerity and Honor Harrington; Shepherd talked about space opera's renaissance as the corrective to all those downer '70s stories, and stressed that space opera should by fun, fast-paced adventures with happy endings, as his own (prominently displayed) books are; and Hartwell explored the distinctions between space opera and hard SF and the evident overlap of the two from writers like McCarthy, Reynolds, and Stephen Baxter. Other writers mentioned were Scott Westerfeld, John C. Wright, Iain M. Banks, Walter Jon Williams, Vernor Vinge, John Clute, and M. John Harrison. If there was a consensus among the panelists, it might have been that the coolness of space opera has waxed and waned over the decades, but the form hasn't gone away, nor will it in the future.

Later the various Locussociates gathered in the suite, along with the Australian contingent from the night before, but then split into subgroups as Armagnac was drunk and dinner plans were negotiated. Some had dinner dates with high-powered agents; some retired downstairs for bar-fare; the last group of us ate burgers and lettuce wraps in the hotel cafe. Afterward I caught up with Beth Gwinn, who'd attended the Chesley Awards ceremony, for the list of winners, duly posted. Then it was patroling the bid-parties for drinks and munchies and ribbons until too late, before returning to my room to check e-mail, skim and delete spam, and post this notice.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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