Photo: ARAFAT KAZI
Readercon is one of the best-curated sci-fi/fantasy conventions in America. You probably don’t know about it. Unless you have a bald spot and a ponytail, in which case you’re reading this with Tor and cackling about how everybody’s going to have bald-spotted ponytails by 2254. You’re also part of a privileged breed, the special kind that Readercon’s made for: you love speculative fiction, and you actually read books.
If you’re saying “That’s me!,” hold your chromium horses. Readercon 21 is over. It happened this past weekend at the Burlington Marriot (beautiful bus ride on the 350 from Alewife Station) and Readercon 22 ain’t till next year. 500 of America’s brightest sci-fi fans have already been there, done that. Even better—a hundred and fifty writers, editors, critics and publishers, with guests of honor Nalo Hopkinson and Charles Stross and—best for me, because I’m an unabashed fan—a guest list that included Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl.
Arif Abdullah, ex-president of the Gettysburg College Sci-Fi Club, says: “I am all a-twitter when I think of Readercon. I don’t know what excites me more—the vintage books at the Bookstore, or the amazing panels and readings, or simply the fact that unlike Comic-Con, I don’t have to deal with a thirty foot Transformer statue or sweaty cosplayers when I want to talk about the philosophy, ethics and consequences of science! Oh joy!”
I attended a talk called “Science for Tomorrow’s Fiction,” featuring Charles Stross, John Crowley, Jeff Hecht, Paolo Bacigalupi, Joan Slonczewski, and Michael Swanwick. The talk, ostensibly about the promise of technology, was more of a free-for-all of knowledge and hilarity. I took hasty notes on my Touchscreen Information Processing Device (one of Tesla’s promises that has come true), so I will paraphrase. I apologize if my stenography is more like steganography (a little scientific humor there):
Charles Stross (on the subject of a satellite powering the world with microwave energy beams): The problem with an orbital satellite shooting microwave beams is that any orbital satellite of sufficient power is what we technically call a “death ray.”
Joan Slonczewski: But by that standard, every furnace is also technically an “inferno,” because that’s what’s going on.
Charles Stross: Yes, but you can’t point your furnace at my house from space.
There was also a general consensus that mankind would have no choice but to move into space if for no other reason but waste management. And, if you’ve ever wondered why there are so few doomsday devices—it’s because beta-testing them is hard. Where would you check to see the bombs go boom if they made the whole world explode on first go?
Arafat Kazi pressed the big red button that says DON’T TOUCH. You can read his wholly unrelated blog at arafatkazi.com.
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