Anticipating Worldcon

So.  Montreal.  Next week.  Worldcon.  That thing where you spend some of your time on panels; more of your time feeling guilty about all the other panels you should be attending if you could just get your ass off the barstool; and hardly any of your time sleeping (well, except in your panels).  I guess I’m going after all; and the organizers have me loaded up with nine events.  Nine.

I don’t know how I feel about that.  It could eat into my barstool time.

Anyway, for any of you who might be joining in the festivities, here are the details:

Thu 14:00: What is Consciousness?
Pat Cadigan, Kim Binsted, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Pat Cadigan
Studies of complex chemical systems, AI, neuroscience and MRI are beginning to find answers to this question. What are the results and what do they mean for our sense of self?
1:30 hrs:min

Thu 19:00:  The Future is Artificial, the Future is Intelligent!
All Participants:  Russell Blackford, Tom Galloway, Kim Binsted, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Tom Galloway
Ray Kurzweil thinks there’s going to be a bright future for AI, Vernor Vinge thinks we’re all invited, and Bill Joy isn’t so
sure in either case. Why are people quoting the Unabomber Manifesto during the debate?
1:30 hrs:min

Fri 15:30:  Are We Conscious and Does it Matter?
Daryl Gregory, James Morrow, Kathryn Cramer, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Kathryn Cramer
What do we mean by consciousness? Has it become as much of a distraction as wondering whether there is a heaven? Would we act any differently if we didn’t think we were conscious? How important is the concept to fantasy and science fiction?
1:30 hrs:min

Sat 10:00:  Author Reading
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Scalzi, Peter Watts
1:00 hrs:min

Sat 15:30:  Cross-Genre Hard SF
P. C. Hodgell, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Me Again.
Description:  While there are many instances of cross genre SF – horror/fantasy, romance/fantasy – hard SF usually isn’t involved. Why is this?
1:00 hrs:min

Sun 11:00:  The Singularity: O RLY?
Gregory A. Wilson, Jody Lynn Nye, Paul Chafe, Walter H. Hunt, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Me.
Vernor Vinge first proposed the idea of the Singularity in 1988: more than two decades on, are we measurably closer to it happening? Have the intervening years provided any evidence for or against its likelihood?
1:00 hrs:min

Sun 17:00:  The New Space Opera 2
Bill Willingham, Cory Doctorow, James Patrick Kelly, Jay Lake, John C. Wright, Jonathan Strahan, Mike Resnick,
Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, Tom Clegg, John Scalzi, Peter Watts, Gardner Dozois
This is an informal event for most people related to The New Space Opera book.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom Clegg should be there at 5pm, this is a “drop-by” event for the remaining writers.
1:00 hrs:min

Sun 21:00:  Legitimizing the Woo
Margaret Ronald, Eoin Colfer, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Who the fuck knows?
It is an ongoing tradition of science fiction to rehabilitate overtly fantasy tropes (vampires, zombies, fairies, god)
by soaking them in SFnal rationales. What are the rules for hijacking a trope from one genre and reprogramming it for another?  And why bother?
1:00 hrs:min

Mon 11:00:  The Drake Equation and the Fermi Failure
Alice Bentley, Ian Tregillis, Thomas Womack, Jordin Kare, Peter Watts
Moderator:  Alice Bentley
Recent discoveries have enhanced our estimates of the number of planetary systems in the galaxy; recent analysis suggest that the silence dominating the hydrogen band may be more an artifact of signal dissipation than evidence of an empty universe. Is there any real point in describing the frequency of technological civilizations using a 7-variable equation for which 5 of the parameters are completely unknown?  Do we even know enough to have a reasonable debate?
1:00 hrs:min

Looking at this list, I notice a few things.  I notice, for example, that the organizers Disneyfied the title of the last item; I know this because I was the one who suggested the topic, and I’m pretty sure the title I put forth was “Drake’s  Debacle, Fermi’s Fuckup”.  I notice that I’m moderating the Cross-genre Hard-SF  panel has a measly two panelists at the moment, so the audience (assuming there is an audience) might be called upon for a mite more participation than usual.  I note that “Legitimizing the Woo” does not have a moderator listed, but I fear it’ll end up being me because I suggested that topic too (which mean that I’d have to behave moderately on, let’s see, three occasions in a single 5-day period).  And I notice that I’ve been slotted in for a reading with Jon Grimwood and John Scalzi, which is good because it means that all their fans will fill the room and at least some of them will be too polite to troop out when it’s my turn.  (I don’t usually do readings at these kind of things, for reasons which should be obvious).

I’m not quite sure what to read yet.  The thing I’d like to read is currently in publishing limbo because of fears it might get me sued.  I’d like some feedback on this point.

But I shall leave that question for another day.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday July 31 2009at 11:07 am , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

18 Responses to “Anticipating Worldcon”

  1. Wish I could go… those sound like some fascinating discussions.

  2. So are we going to get accounts of these sessions from you? Or from anyone – do the proceedings get published?

  3. I nominate Peter F. Hamilton for reigning king of woo legitimization. He’s given scientific rationalizations for souls, gods, possession, elves, and, I’m sure, several other things I’ve forgotten from his 3000+ page novels (they even have the length of fantasy).

  4. Yes, that would be sweet if someone could record them and put them out as a podcast. Good luck with all the panels!

  5. David E: I nominate Peter F. Hamilton for reigning king of woo legitimization.

    Woo?

    What exactly is “woo”? I know not of it.

  6. Regarding the singularity:

    When I read Kurzweil/stuff about him, I always get the impression that he and others like him are just way too optimistic about what the future holds for this technology. Maybe even mindlessly optimistic would be the best description.

    Every time the guy wakes up, he loads his body full of vitamins and chemicals in the hope that the next day he will finally be able to jack his brain into a computer. Why stop there? Why not just abandon a little more logic and reason and convert to Christianity or Hinduism instead? That way you’ll at least save shit loads of money on pills.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong about this issue and it could be right around the corner…

    Anyway, it would be great if someone did record these talks. They all sound extremely interesting – especially the ones on consciousness and the Fermi Paradox.

    Hope all goes well next week!

  7. Fermi’s fuckup?

    His paradox is a perfectly legitimate observation.. but it’s not really a paradox at all.
    Why bother blasting radio waves into space? A bloody waste of energy.
    Why bother with exponential colonisation on a galactic scale?
    Both of those don’t make a lot of sense.
    It’s all just lot of speculation, almost no hard data, no way of getting them, so just perfect for after dinner yammering and sf fiction.


    The thing I’d like to read is currently in publishing limbo because of fears it might get me sued.

    I can’t imagine how an sf novel can get an author sued.
    Unless it’s plagiarism or contains very uncharitable references to living & litigious people, both of which strike me as unlikely after considering your bibliography.
    Then there’s obscenity, but no has one sued John Ringo for his Paladin of Shadows* series… and he has sold more books than you. Higher profile, and all that.

    I’m intensely curious as to what might get Peter Watts sued. Even the guy who posted “Girls Scream Aloud” was cleared.. and in the UK, so it can’t be obscenity. Topping that’s almost impossible.

    *it has even spawned a semi-famous catchphrase.. “Oh John Ringo No!”.

  8. I’m actually going to be in Montreal during Worldcon, although I hadn’t plannned on attending. Some friends of mine will be there, though, and they’re going. One of the many people I loaned my copy of Blindsight to mentioned that you’d be on some of the panels (and that he was going to a couple of them), so I was wondering if I’d see something in the Crawl. I hear you can get into Worldcon for 2 hours or less for $20 net ($75 day pass, and $55 refund when you leave if it’s within 2 hours), so now that I know when they are, I’m going to make an effort to come to at least one of them.

    I’ve also got a list of must-try brewpubs from a friend of mine who lives in the city. I think it’ll be a good trip overall. 😀

  9. Hey Peter,

    Are you coming to Worldcon in Melbourne in September 2010?

    Daz


  10. Woo? What exactly is “woo”? I know not of it.

    You must not be a frequenter of skeptic websites or blogs. Woo is a term some nonbelievers have given to a wide variety of extraordinary claims: telepathy, channeling the spirits of the dead, faith healing, homeopathy and thousands of other things many people believe in passionately with no rational support.

    You can find lots of woo examined at http://www.randi.org

  11. David E: Thank you for the definition!

    I’d googled it, and its usage is surprisingly wide and diffuse. I figured it probably tailors itself to different subcultures/communities, so the definition here might be particular to this blog and related areas. You formulating it helps me get the sense of it. Thanks again.

    If I say – “woo” is to skepticism as “negative” is to new agism, as “sin” is to Christian fundamentalism? Proof me – do I have it?

    My skepticism is sort of home-grown, kind of mental exercise and entertainment, not a part of an orthodoxy of skepticism. I’ve read some writing by The Amazing Randi, and find him really fun, but I haven’t hung out at his e-home. However, I’ll check out his site more closely, since you recommend it.

  12. Lars said:
    So are we going to get accounts of these sessions from you? Or from anyone — do the proceedings get published?

    Pretty sure they don’t get published. I’ll certainly comment/vent on anything that strikes me as worth your time, although I can’t say how much time I’ll have to report from the con itself.

    David E said:
    I nominate Peter F. Hamilton for reigning king of woo legitimization. He’s given scientific rationalizations for souls, gods, possession, elves, and, I’m sure, several other things I’ve forgotten from his 3000+ page novels (they even have the length of fantasy).

    Great. And I’ve never read any Hamilton.

    Y.T. said:
    Fermi’s fuckup? … It’s all just lot of speculation, almost no hard data, no way of getting them, so just perfect for after dinner yammering and sf fiction.

    And con panels.

    I can’t imagine how an sf novel can get an author sued.

    Four words: The Wind Done Gone.

    I’ll post more on this later.

    daz said:
    Are you coming to Worldcon in Melbourne in September 2010?

    It’s possible, actually. Generally I can’t justify the expense of nonlocal cons; I’m terrible at schmoozing, preferring to hang out with people I like rather than those who can advance my career (I remember having to physically yank myself free of a fellow who was dragging me over to meet Gardner Dozois at Torcon back in ’04). So I tend not to go to nonlocal cons unless my expenses are covered. OTOH, I’ve wanted to visit Australia since I was seven, and I never have. And it’s vaguely possibly my finances might be getting a bit rosier. So never say never, I guess.

  13. Alice Randall is a sf novelist?

  14. Hmm, no Charles Stross for that singularity session? I remember reading one of his books that treated the singularity as the main character :)

  15. I remember reading one of [Stross’] books that treated the singularity as the main character

    Hahahahaa!

    Point to Michael.


  16. Four words: The Wind Done Gone.

    Speaking of novels that play off of previous works I really need to pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I never could get more than 20 pages into Pride and Prejudice but when you throw in zombies it sounds right up my alley.

  17. You, my friend, rock the house. Yet another reason I wish I was at WorldCon. *sigh*. I may just start a local fundraiser to get Peter Watts to Dragon*Con in 2010, just so I can hang out with you. Seriously. Keep next L…oh, crap. Checking…sunofa. WorldCon on same weekend. Dammit. WHY, UNIVERSE…WHY??

  18. @David E: That’s weird, someone just recommended Pride, Prejudice and Zombies to me recently.

    It must be the next wave: “satirizing classic literature” or possibly, “zombies.” Zombies are BIG with the under 35 age group right now.

    The person told me it was way funnier if you had actually read P&P because is kind of mocked Austen’s writing style, but still spun off into all directions after that.

    If you read it and can recommend it (as a Watts bloggizen), I will get it.