Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

In the Clammy Embrace of the Hell-Thing

Now that we're only living a few miles away from Readercon, we decided that we really should check it out; that was the main project for the day. It turns out to be a fine convention, so long as you enjoy panels. (Which I do, even if I'm not on them.)

First up was the greatly-oversubscribed "Quantum Mechanics" talk. This was a valiant but slightly doomed lecture, attempting to explain entanglement in 50 minutes, starting with the two-slit experiment and its implications. It wound up wandering a fair bit, as the questions drifted across the subject terrain, but it was a lot of fun along the way. The teacher, Carl Frederick, emphasized that if you're not confused, you don't understand the subject well enough yet.

Next up was "Everybody Dies", moderated by editrx, which may have been the most emotionally-loaded panel I've ever seen. The topic was fiction about the end of the world, principally about stories where absolutely everyone dies. (Markedly different from the stories where almost everyone dies.) It started out in the usual somewhat detached academic mode, but got much more earnest when Thomas Disch started bringing the topic around to the subject of tragedy and death. He clearly felt strongly about it himself (coming to tears several times), and that really drove the rest of the panel, which got rather less analytic and more personal. Very good stuff.

Next up was "Architecture and SF", a fascinating (if somewhat rambling) monologue by Kathryn Cramer, who I had never heard of before, but clearly need to get to know. The name aside, the topic was essentially "My Crazy Year", describing how she started the year intending to write a book about using Mathematica for teaching kids, and wound up mildly world-famous in the wake of the year's natural disasters, and started becoming expert on the shadowy world of modern military high-tech. Along the way, she got drawn into Francis Yates' work on the nature of memory (the book that describes the principles that underlie Masonic ritual), and began developing new software for assisting in the development of narrative (which seems to be touching on much the same ground that I'm getting into with my advanced Wiki work). Fascinating stuff, wandering quite freely from cognitive science to politics to humanitarianism -- definitely someone to pay more attention to.

Then on to this year's "exception" -- the Battlestar Galactica panel. Readercon is quite adamantly about Books, Dammit, but they apparently tend to have one panel a year about a TV show, and BSG was the obvious choice this time around. Fun and freewheeling. jenwrites was one of the panelists (apparently as the sole representative of the non-40-something-male crowd), and managed to get all the best lines.

Next was a few hours out, to take a spin through the Bookshop (Readercon's Dealer's Room is almost entirely books, naturally), and do the obligatory daily trip to our storage unit. (We're down to about four carloads, then I can close down the big unit -- yay!) Dinner was from Flatbread down on Route 62, a seriously earthy-crunchy pizzeria. Not bad: the crust is a smidgeon chewy, and I don't really care about the more organic than thou thing, but the pizza was flavorful and different. Nice as a change of pace.

Then back to the con for the 20th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. This was one of the major motivations for going to the con -- Christian has been talking it up for years, and I trust him to have good taste in silliness. In fact, it was even better than I expected, ranging from amusing to chokingly funny. The whole experience reminded me that there is a *long* ways down from I normally think of as "bad". Craig Shaw Gardner was reliably the funniest (and least convincing), but the other contestants all did a fine job of fooling the audience. Even if you don't do panels, this contest may well be worth the price of admission for the con...
Tags: con

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