The World Science Fiction Convention – the science column

Long-term readers of this column will know that, every so often, I go off to science fiction conventions. I’ve done it again: I just finished attending the 66th Annual World Science Fiction Convention in Denver.

It was, as WorldCons almost always have been for me, a wonderful experience…although that experience has changed over the years.

The first WorldCon I attended was ConVention ConAdian, held in Winnipeg in 1994. I was almost overwhelmed by the number of panels I could attend and the living legends I saw walking in the halls and listened to on panels, authors whom I’d been reading for years.

In 1994, I would hardly dare speak to them directly. Now, I’m a little more forthcoming–this year I finally got a chance to tell Robert Silverberg that the first book he ever had published, a children’s novel called Revolt on Alpha C, helped cement my interest in science fiction at an early age and led directly to me being a science fiction reader.

Because that, of course, is the biggest difference for me between 1994 and today: now I’m a published science fiction author, with two novels out from one of the major SF publishers, DAW Books, and a third due out next year.

That meant this year, my favorite part of the convention wasn’t listening to editors and writers talk on panels, it was meeting and talking to my own editor, Sheila Gilbert, both socially at a dinner DAW hosted for its authors and professionally in a two-hour session to go over revisions for my next novel, Terra Insegura, due out next May.

Because I was so focused on the professional-writer side of things, I didn’t attend as many panels as I wish I had–which is a shame, because I probably could have collected topics for the next three months of science columns if I had.

That’s because science is at the heart of science fiction, which in its purest form is about the impact of science and technology on individuals and societies. Which means WorldCons always have a strong science track.

This year, topics included the social implications of a declining birthrate, dark matter, global warming, lasers, nanomedicine, pharmaceutical chemistry, programmable matter, the Japanese space program, the return to the Moon, and more.

Alas, the only one I attended was on the influence SF writer Robert A. Heinlein (this year’s “Ghost of Honor,” as opposed to the Guest of Honor, novelist Lois McMaster Bujold) had on the efforts to build a space suit in the early days of the space program.

My own panels ranged from “Writers Reading Their Juvenilia” to “Working with Science and Science Fiction Museums” to “Canadian Science Fiction.” The rest of the time I hung out in the Dealer’s Room (I was good, and only bought three books and a T-shirt), signed a few books (not as many as I’d like) and attended the Hugo Awards.

These Awards are the highest honors in the SF Field. (The top award, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, went to Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. But it was another of the awards that thrilled me the most. The Hugo for Best Professional Artist went to Stephan Martiniere–who my editor had informed me just a few hours earlier would be doing the cover for my next novel. Whee!)

So, for me, WorldCon this year the emphasis was on the fiction part of science fiction rather than the science part of it.

Next year, though, I’m going to try harder to pick up some more science panels. Not just because they’re a great place to get ideas for new science fiction stories or science columns, but because science matters: it affects every aspect of society and all of us embedded within that society

Sometimes I try to get that idea across through science fiction, and sometimes I try to get it across in my science columns, but either way, it’s an idea that needs to be communicated.

Oh, and next year’s World Science Fiction Convention? It’s in Montreal. (And the World Fantasy Convention is coming up at the end of October in Calgary.)

Start making your travel plans now!

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    • Edward Willett on August 20, 2008 at 10:03 pm
    • Reply

    Oops. And I even have a ConAdian T-shirt. That’s what I get for writing my column late at night mid-vacation.

    And, of course, there’s also the fact that the Calgary SF convention I’ve been to many times is called ConVersion….

    Thanks. I’ll correct it here, though I can’t change what’s in the newspaper, alas.

    • Kevin Standlee on August 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm
    • Reply

    I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the convention, and that you also enjoyed your first Worldcon up in Winnipeg. (Note that the 1994 Winnipeg Worldcon was actually called “ConAdian,” not “ConVention.” Easy mistake to make.)

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