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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Worldcon 2013: San Antonio

You all can go to Hell, I shall go to Texas.  David Crockett

Labor Day weekend found me on another Grand Adventure!  This time to San Antonio, TX, for the 71st World Science Fiction Convention.  My friend and I made a road trip of it, spending two days on each end driving through the heart of the states.  For myself, I got to travel close to the entire distance of Interstate 35, which starts in Duluth and ends at the Gulf of Mexico.  Didn't make to to the Gulf, but darn close in my opinion!  Very cool.

I'll leave out the very long drive and just say I saw some very interesting things like the Flint Hills of Kansas,  Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma, Kansas City at night, part of the Mormon trail, longhorn cattle, buffalo, nice waysides, not so good waysides, and some others that are eluding my sleep deprived brain right now.

We arrived in San Antonio late afternoon on Wednesday, checked into the hotel, got our convention information, and went in quest of dinner.  The convention center and hotel were located right on San Antonio's famous Riverwalk and I spent nearly every non-convention moment outside enjoying this great resource. 

Riverwalk in the morning before the weekend crowds.

Thursday morning before it got too warm (warm being 80*F/26*C at 930am) we did a lengthy walk around the Riverwalk in the immediate area, then went and toured the Alamo before heading off to convention panels.
The Alamo at night.

Thursday I attended:
Fantastic LondonLondon has inspired many fantasy writers and continues to do so.  What is it that intrigues us?
What Makes a Review Great?  Many of us rely on reviews to point us at new authors and new and interesting work from people whose work we know. What makes a review useful, entertaining, or great?  Who is reviewing different from criticism, and where should be go to find the the best of each? 
Self Promotion: Everything You Know About It is Wrong. Done properly, self-promotion is an important part of building a career.  Poorly excecuted, self promotion can do more harm than good.  How is the conventional wisdom wrong?  What are the more advisable but underrated neglected approaches. 

AND!  Best of all!  A GHOST TOUR!  Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours of San Antonio do a walking tour of the historic and haunted buildings of downtown San Antonio.  While the group was rather large (upwards of 50 people), it was still well done and interesting.

San Fernando Cathedral.  Haunted! 

Friday I attended:
Knitters GroupSelf explanatory. 
The History of TexasAn overview of the history of the great state of Texas. We learn what makes it unique within the history of the US, Mexico and the world at large.  
Klingon Language LectureDr. Lawrence Schoen may be a Hugo and Nebula nominated author, but he's also the founder and director of the Klingon Language Institute, where for more than 20 years he's been promoting the warrior's tongue around the globe.  
Ravelry MeetupMore knitting. 
The Romance of Military SF. What draws and attracts readers to military SF?  Is it the romance? The sound of laser blasting?  We hear discussion from several purveyors and enthusiasts of the subgenre. 

Friday we discovered the very under utilized indoor/outdoor pool on the seventh floor of the hotel.  Nice way to unwind after a busy day.

Saturday I attended:
History of San AntonioA general overview of the history of San Antonio, including it's most famous landmark, The Alamo. 

Then I went for a walk and browsed the craft vendors set up along the Riverwalk. 

SFF South of the (US) Border:  Mexican SF and Fantastic Fiction.  Bruce Sterling wrote "Mexican SF is intensely fantastic, but it's not very sci-fi.   It's a New World science fiction without the stabilizing presence of engineers and American gadget magazines.  Explore what's going on south of the Rio Grande and see how it lines up with this assessment. 
Novels You Should Have Read since Chicon 7 (Chicago Worldcon).
Famous Last Stands: The Alamo, Masada and Thermopylae. The Alamo is one of the most famous historic memorials in the US. How does the battle here compare with similar past events.  How did these events change history?  Could it have been avoided?  Should it have been avoided?
Space Opera: More than Mind Candy?  After our panelists finish defining Space Opera and their favorites, we get down to the brass tacks:  is it just entertainment?  Can it have predictive value?  Discuss socially relevant issues?  What gems are often overlooked?  What about this subgenre is so inspiring or even aspirational? 

I was going to participate in a "Walk with the Authors" to the Alamo, but upon finding another group of 50+, I bailed and did the San Antonio Trolly Tour.  Wish I had done that earlier.

One of four Missions found in the San Antonio area.

But is it Science Fiction?  Why do some reviewers, authors and academics seem to confuse the sub-genre of space opera with the entire field of SF?  What do mainstream authors miss when the write SF without being aware of what's already been written? How can SF authors gain credibility in winder literary circles, or is it even important to do so?
Space is Really the Old West. Wagon train to the stars is a familiar trope in SF.  Immense distances of space form obstacles and difficulties analogous to those encountered by settlers as they crossed and colonized the continent.  Is space any different? 
Consider Iain M. Banks.  Writer or SF and especially space opera.  Did he build a utopia you'd want to live in?  He set out to "reclaim space opera". Did he succeed?  
Almost Nominated.  We all know who made the Hugo Nominee list this eyar.  But what about those who were just a few points shy of the list?  

 Then I went for another walk about the Riverwalk.  Hard to stay inside when it's 90*/28* and sunny!

We skipped sitting through the Hugo Awards this year and opted for a swim instead.  We chose wisely.  

And Monday we were on the road again by 7am for the return journey home.  First nights destination was North of Kansas City.  Tuesday I was back in Duluth by 700pm.  Lotta miles in those two days!

Great trip, would love to go back to San Antonio as a tourist.  The next Worldcon will be Spokane in 2015! 

Ya'll come back now! 

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