Tuesday, May 15, 2007

LepreCon - SF Convention near Phoenix


This past weekend I did a couple of panels at LepreCon which was held at a Marriott hotel in Tempe, AZ.

I didn't stay over at the hotel (it's just up the road from me about half an hour) -- but drove in for Sunday. I did a 10AM Sunday panel -- (notorious for sleepy people) -- and a 3PM close of the day panel. I ended up moderating both panels.

The 10AM panel was billed thusly:

Sunday Ballroom C 10:00 AM I have Seen the Digital Future and It is Full of Fans
Once we were the proud and lonely few. But here in 2007, SF tropes are everywhere, and the interactions of the internet -- blogs, livejournals and so on -- feel like fanzines reinvented for the digital age. Except these days, everyone seems to be doing it. Are we no longer special?
Judith Herman, Emily Hogan, Ernest Hogan, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Michael R. Mennenga, Ken St Andre

And the 3PM like so:

Sunday Ballroom C 3:00 PM Spirituality and Writing
How much spirituality do you need to write with depth? Can you prevent too much from seeping through? Does your religion affect your writing?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Will Shetterly, David Lee Summers, Karen Traviss

After the first panel, I had an hour-long discussion on the craft of novel writing in the hallway, then went to the Green Room and talked some more -- could barely pull myself away from a fascinating conversation about everything in order to go to a Dr. Who panel.

They were showing the trailer for the 3rd season of the New Doctor -- I can't wait! And we discussed where Dr. Who fits into the SF reader's world. Then I had to run to my 3PM panel.

You'd think there'd be no connection, but it all fell together with the main topic of this blog - Alien Romance.

In the morning we talked about the vision of the paperless future that Margaret posted about on this blog a few days ago. Today the new generation is not going to cons because they get all the "intelligent conversation" they need online. "fanzine" fandom now posts online.

So the panel concluded that we won -- fandom of old has won. We have become the general public. If fans aren't a majority -- we are at least a respectable minority.

But that "fandom" was always about associations, about communication, about forming relationships.

In between I talked about the blog post I made here a couple months ago I think -- about fat fantasy novels that wildly invent everything-and-the-kitchen sink worlds which aren't thematically focused. And I concluded that these novels too are "art" in that they depict the kind of information-overload confusion that real people experience in the real world.

The digital information age presents the world as chaotic.

This led into the discussion of spirituality -- and we only scratched the surface of that, never getting into how a writer's religion might affect a novel ostensibly not about religion.

We talked about James Blish's A CASE OF CONSCIENCE and other famous novels that investigate relgion. I think I touched on C. J. Cherryh but can't recall in which conversation.

Religion is part of worldbuilding -- the anthropological part, the xenology part -- and so we discussed the human impulse or need to "worship" -- and that if there isn't a God concept handy, people will worship science, or technology, or something, because humans somehow just do that.

We just barely touched on questions about how humans could explain our religions or spiritual concept of the world to aliens. But I did mention this blog.

So this convention was a full day of non-stop talking and talking -- which is generally what cons are all about. But again, it was sparsely attended compared to say 15 years ago.

Hotels are expensive, travel is expensive, time is just not available, and so people are getting their convention experiences via the internet.

During this weekend, a news item surfaced about the advent of the virtual office -- where the entire office environment can be simulated at home via internet connection and a vast majority of office jobs could be done without the gasoline burning commute.

Someone in the audience commented that SF writers like Isaac Asimov were only off a little in predicting a future where we all sit in our sterile little cubicals of a home and never actually touch another person.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think touching, even eyeball to eyeball conversation, can't be replaced.

What will we do when we have a free CHOICE about whether to go out "in public?"

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Anonymous10:05 PM EDT

    I'm kind of new to the Con-goer experience as I attended my very first one in 2004, but I love going to them. Amazingly enough, I go for the "connectivity" of it -- seeing friends from past cons; rubbing shoulders with the authors I've read. I'm sure part of this stems from my not really being one of the Digital Generation. No doubt that's why I so prefer printed books to digital formats, even though I've bought and read a few of those too. I'll keep going as long as I can. I can only do a couple or three a year, and even that hinges on some of them being fairly local events, but I do enjoy them. Since I'm attending as a fan, they're vacation-y for me. I've also never really done chat rooms, but I dearly love panels. Bottom line? I likes me some Con in my life!

  2. Anonymous10:20 PM EDT

    Back again, on the spirituality issue this time. I definitely believe that a writer's own beliefs/values will manifest themselves in the stories told. In my own case, I've found that even my aliens believe in some kind of superior being or beings. What's been fascinating to me is to see how the alien and human cultures react to the others' belief systems. Adaptation and annexation are tremendously fun to watch -- from the distance of author to page at least, and I'm finding that acceptance and rejection are behavioral traits that seem to cross all boundaries. Neither is a sure thing based on species alone. At least, that's how it seems in my universe.