September 4th, 2013

Captain America Pensive

WorldCon, DragonCon, the Hugos, and what not

This past weekend moonsinger and I got to go to WorldCon (aka LonestarCon 3) in San Antonio.  We had last attended WordlCon in 1997 when it was last in San Antonio.  Due to expense and having our special needs seven year old with us, we decided to only do one day and not purchase a full membership.  I was extremely worried about how Alastair would deal with the con and would we be able to attend any events/panels.  In the end, this proved to be the most positive aspect of the Con for me.  The con had a kids track in one room called the Rangernauts and in addition to some kid oriented activities (like making frankenstein stuffed animals, or live action angry birds) they had other activities like slot cars and model trains, and games for the kids to play (including some D&D).  After staying with Al for a bit and showing him how to play with the slot cars he was hooked and I took off to see a panel or two.
The last time we attended WordlCon in 97 I remember it being huge with lots of people everywhere and tons going on.  I didn't get that impression this time.  In a way that was quite nice.  It seemed more private and comfy.  I was much less worried about my kids (7 and 13) at the crowd levels and I ran into a number of poeple that I knew.  mycroftca
and forestcats were in town and we have known each other virtually for years.  It was such a pleasure to finally meet them and chat extensively.  Whta wonderful people.  We also saw isyllt and her husband and son and it was great to visit with them for a bit.  I wish that we had not been so exhausted and gotten to sup with binaryathena and bugcatch.  We also ran into the Arnolds and Rhiannon went around with their daughter to some panels.
As for the panels...I went to a few. 

  • The Yard Dog press one I caught the last 10 minutes of and it was fun but not spectacular.  Not their fault, it was an industry panel and they brought all their authors up and had them say a few things.  The best part was seeing hutson speak.  I hadn't seen her in ages.

  • I went to a panel on building starships and it was pretty good.  The panelists were David Brin, Greg Benford, and some others.  It was a good panel with some interesting discussions on what life might be like on other worlds.  Most of the discussion centered on the way to buld starships with what we know now.  So it was all STL and looked at solar sails and lasers driving them.  Interesting, but not fascinating.

  • I went to three other panels only in part.  One was a discussion by five women who work for NASA.  One is an astronaut ( and another is working on new spacesuits designs.  I caught the tail end of the panel and wish I had made it for the entire panel.  It was interesting to hear about life on the iSS.  Later on, the same crew came to the Rangernauts and gave the kids an up close look at a space suit (even trying it on), and some awesome NASA swag.  Rhiannon got an autographed poster of three of them and she was a little fangirl about it.  I was so proud.  I also got to see a panel on writing combat scenes (the last 15 mins).  It had Bujold and Moon on it and I enjoy both of their books.  Overall it was fine for what i term "light" combat writing where the fighting isn't the main purpose of the tale.  They talked about how heavy things are, and how unweildy, and how tiring.  It reminded me of Crichton's Timeline where they see the men at arms practicing with the local knight and are amazed at how fast they are.  People tend to forget that warriors who train for war (especially pre-gunpowder) had to strong and fast.  In a way they were the pro-athletes of today.  Assuming that a normal person could pick up a sword and compete with them is similar to saying that a normal person could put on pads and play with a BCS college team.  It stretches credulity.

The rest of the time I spent in the exhibition hall.  They had an Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator demo set up which is amazingly cool.  I am going to have to get the local SA Catapult office to do a LAN session with this.
Which brings me to the Hugo awards.  I was pulling for Captain Vorpatril's Alliance to win, but Scalzi's Redshirts won instead.  I have no desire to read Redshirts as the concept I found uninteresting.  I hear it was well crafted, but...
Lastly, there was some ongoing discussion about DragonCon vs WorldCon and which one is "better".  We went to DragonCon many years ago (in the 90s) before we had kids.  It was amazing, huge, stupendous, overwhelming...and easy to get lost in the shuffle.  I would be willing to go back to it sometime, but no way would we be able to take Al.  Also, being on Labor Day is an issue and driving to Atlanta is a two day affair.  Its not worth taking them out of school for a con.  There is certainly more to see at DragonCon than at WorldCon...and I struggled to find any authors that I like at WorldCon (Brin, Moon, Bujold were the few that I can think of).  In theory, WorldCon is a great place to meet and chat with authors.  For Example, my best memory of WorldCon 97 was spending an hour talking with John Steakley (Vampires, Armor) after his panel and finding out that he was a character and a half.  He could enliven any conversation and was so happy to just sit and chat with us.  This time, I didn't really get a chance to chat with anyone.  Being there with the kids and only for a day also mean that parties were out of scope and I suspect that would have been a great time to mingle.  Perhaps at some point in the future.
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