So the last few days have been both hectic and enlightening, as well as closing a kind of thematic circle about the fuckupedness of the Human Race. It started with Friday night’s appearance of Cory Doctorow and China Miéville on the stage of Toronto’s International Festival of Authors, where they were interviewed by Mark Askwith; I would have taken pictures if I’d only remembered that I’d stuck my camera in the bottom of my laptop bag. (Cory took a picture of Caitlin and me afterward, but given that it makes me look like Ichabod Crane I don’t think I’ll link to it.) Instead I asked an impertinent question from the floor, remarking on the fact that during the interview both had repudiated the notion of People=Assholes, and had then spent the following fifteen minutes exchanging tales of fascist sadism, sociopathic plutocracies, and recreational cannibalism (although I can’t swear to that last one).
We hung out with them and a couple of local friends afterward (it’s been ages since I’ve seen either China or Cory in the flesh), and while there wasn’t nearly enough time to get properly caught up we did touch on a fairly wide spread of topics ranging from circumcision to DPI to D&D (both China and Cory either are now, or ever have been, D&D fanatics. Who knew?). Also pupa soup, the amorphous liquid slurry that is, apparently, what a pupa consists of when caught with its pants down between larval and adult forms (I was embarrassed that China had to tell me about that). Not to mention this really-disquieting video in which Walter White uses the miracle of modern chemistry to either create a basket starfish or summon Cthulhu (I’m not quite sure which — but I swear, if Darwin had seen this he would’ve tossed his Natural Selection theory right out the window and bought into spontaneous generation on the spot).
We never did get back to the goodness/nastiness-of-humanity thing, but it was lurking in the wings.
That was Friday. Saturday evening was a kind of domestic electric pizza-and-wine fest in which Scott Bakker (you remember Scott Bakker, don’t you?) came by with a couple of friends who — in a classic case of small-world — turned out to be buds with Ed Keller, the guy who Skyped me right over the heads of the USA’s border trolls so that I could give a talk at last year’s Transhumanism Meets Design symposium in New York. It is unusual, in my experience, to meet someone for the first time at your front door and be arguing neurophilosophy with them by the time you’ve hit the kitchen; but that’s what happened with Nandita and Dan Mellamphy. The three of them were in town for the SpecFic Colloquium thingy that I gave you an excerpt from last post; that took up all of Sunday, and was a massive success even if all the speakers did go over our allotted time. (I myself got a little flustered when the monitor held up his “5 minutes” sign and I was still on the stock-market-algo part of my talk — I could’ve sworn I’d timed the whole thing out at 45 minutes on the nose — and I ended up going overtime even after fast-forwarding over a bunch of stuff. It seemed to go over well regardless. The vivisected leech-nervous-system video and Banana-the-Cat slide proved especially popular.)
The centerpiece of the whole day was a talk given by Robert Shearman; you might know him as a multiaward-winning playwright, novelist, and short-story writer, but you probably know him as the guy who wrote “Dalek”, the episode that reintroduced those malign giant pepper-shakers back into the rebooted Doctor-Who universe. His talk was awesome and doubtless rehearsed, but it didn’t come across that way; the dude just talked to us, no notes and a minimum of slides, and he ruled the day.
I will say no more about any of these talks, because they’ll all be online eventually; the whole day was recorded. But I continue to stand in awe of what the ChiZine people manage to pull off, year after year, from the confines of their tiny dank basement HQ. I shudder to imagine what they could accomplish if they turned their skills to Evil instead of Good.
Which brings us up to today, and the closing of the whole People=Assholes circle.
Today is the day that Minister Faust and I duke it out via competing blog posts over at CBC’s “Canada Writes”, on the question of whether or not SF is (or even should be) a happy place. The blog posts are mere preamble, though: the main event is a studio debate argued in realtime, recorded a couple of weeks back but released into the wild only today as part of the “Literary Smackdown” segment of Shelagh Rogers’s “The Next Chapter” on CBC radio. (CBC’s been doing a whole lot of SF-themed programming throughout the whole of October; you can catch up on it here).
The fact that I had such a good time is especially remarkable given that I was beset with mysterious and worrisome chest pains throughout that whole day (and actually ended up in Emerg that night — no, I am not dead, and no, they couldn’t find anything wrong me. Except perhaps that I am just a big pussy). Minister and I actually managed to have an honest-to-God debate, despite the fact that I actually agree with pretty much everything he said. I think the differences in our outlooks come down to scale of resolution. He looks at the local community level, sees decent people struggling to be good to each other under increasingly shitty circumstances; I look at the global level and see those decent people ground beneath the heels of the plutocrats and sociopaths who tend to rise to the top of social power structures. (I also see a lack of foresight throughout that pyramid, so that even at the local level people just don’t connect the dots between their SUVs and rising sea levels.)
Anyway, it was fun. And Minister Faust, with whom I’d never previously interacted, is awesome. The folks at the CBC were great and even left the occasional profanity more-or-less intact in my blog post, simply sticking a cautionary note at the top of the piece to warn off the easily-offended. (I admit wasn’t expecting that from such a mainstream, publicly-funded venue. I’ve seen far more censorious behavior from local cons with relatively-microscopic profiles and far less to worry about in terms of public prudery.)
I’d do this again in a second, even with the chest pains. It’s not every day you get to be interviewed in the studio they use for Quirks & Quarks. If I had any teensy complaint, it would be that the folks in post edited our recording so that my brilliant proposal of a Grand Synthesis (we cede local-perspective stories to the optimists, while us Nihilistic doomsayers get the run of the global scene) didn’t appear in the final cut. I think that would have been a nice and (dare I say it) upbeat way to end.
Now, that reconciliation denied us, I see no option but all-out war.
 Well, except for maybe Helen Marshall.