More odds and ends from the World Science Fiction Convention is San Antonio (earlier entries below)…
1) I attended the brief ceremony for the Prometheus Award, which is given out annually by the Libertarian Futurist Society to the book that best exemplifies libertarian thought. The winner this year was Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema. I haven’t read it, but I was a bit surprised by this pick. I’ve read some of Doctorow’s essays and blog posts and he usually comes off as more leftist than libertarian. Guess I’ll keep an open mind, as libertarianism includes a lot of uneasy overlap between the left and the right. Also announced was the Prometheus Hall of Fame award, given to a libertarian-leaning science-fiction classic. That prize went to Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read that one yet either, but it is loaded onto my Kindle, impatiently tapping its foot waiting to be read.
2) This being Texas, there were a lot of panels and displays devoted to native son Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian, duh). Anything you wanted to know about Howard’s creations was explored in almost obsessive depth. I attended one panel on the R.E.H boom of the 1970s, when all the books came back in print, the comics debuted and fanzines devoted to Howard flourished. I have a million of his books, and I think I need to revisit some of them. Fun fact: Some of Howard’s early works have entered the public domain, meaning anyone can write about the characters, within limits. Hmmm.
3) The best panel I attended was Genetic Manipulation and Made-to-Order Species: Biotech in SF, which, if you’ve read my Connor Rix novels, you’ll know is right up my alley. Writers on the panel included David Brin, Nancy Kress, Ramez Naam, Sam Scheiner, Amy Thompson and Paolo Bacigalupi. This one had some good back-and-forth. Brin and Kress lamented the depiction of genetic engineering in SF movies that only shows it in a bad light, ignoring the amazing positives that are possible, and the tremendous good that can be done for people with this line of research. Bacigalupi was more worried about the unintended consequences five or six steps down the line. I thought Kress had the better of the argument.
4) Politics. Sigh. It’s probably unavoidable, but politics always rears its head at events like this. Well, technically, most of it was avoidable. The names of many of the panels had a whiff of humanities grad school about them, like “The Role of Gender in…” So these were easily avoided. Harder to ignore was a Hugo winner blithely assuming everyone else in the room naturally shared his political viewpoint. My Eyeroll Award goes to local artist John Picacio. John is a great talent who truly deserved to win his Hugo for Best Professional Artist, but he couldn’t resist using his moment to deplore his dumb ol’ home state for not following his preferred course of action. Sigh. Eyeroll.
5) And, of course, there was an amazing display of the true, no-fooling, honest historical record of the great Texas-Israeli War of 1999. Those were tense times for our state, but we came through it okay. I read this book in 8th grade, and despite its slanderous opinions on the quality of Texas beer, it remains a valuable historical textbook. Students in Texas have to read it in 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th grade, lest we forget the valuable lesson learned from that war. Honest.