In case you didn’t know, Patrick and I will both be speaking at Conjecture 2012. I am speaking on 11(!) Panels and will be having my first reading and first signing!
The Normality Field: Why Isn’t It the Future Yet? (Moderating)
Panel 1: Fri 10/5 3:00 PM, 60 minutes.
In 1993, William Gibson said “The future is already here —
it’s just not very evenly distributed.” But even in the
rich, future-dense regions (like Southern California), we
didn’t feel like it was the future in 1993, and usually we
still don’t. We’ve absorbed technologies that older SF
writers expected to take decades to generations longer for
us to achieve. Why hasn’t the fact that we’re living in an
SFnal world penetrated our cultural consciousness? And what
would happen if it did?
Self-Publishing: From Vanity to Legitimacy
Fri 10/5 5:00 PM, 60 minutes.
Self-publishing was originally referred to as “vanity
publishing” because only the friends and family of the
author would read the book. Now with the huge success of 50
Shades of Gray, and before that Eragon, self-publishing is
becoming a viable way for new authors to break into the
“Why is Rue Black?” Colorblindness, Privilege, and Reader Assumptions
Fri 10/5 6:00 PM, 60 minutes.
Many readers of The Hunger Games skimmed over the
description of the character Rue, assumed she was white,
and reacted with horror when a brown-skinned actress was
cast in the film to play a character whom the author
plainly stated had brown skin. In SF&F’s potentially
infinite universe, why is the assumed default for
characters still white (and usually male)?
This is Horrible, Give Me More: The Appeal of Dystopias
Fri 10/5 8:00 PM, 60 minutes.
Why do we devour so many books and films set in grim
totalitarian states or post-apocalyptic wastelands? It’s
especially popular in YA literature, where it may be an
extension of one of the main themes of Buffy the Vampire
Slayer, “high school is Hell”.
Buying It Again: Evolving Electronic Media
Sat 10/6 11:00 AM, 60 minutes
Music went from vinyl to cassettes to CD to downloads.
Video went from tapes to DVDs to Blu-Ray to downloads. Now
books are going from print to downloads—but proprietary
e-reader formats make it harder to change platforms if you
want to keep reading what you’ve already bought. Charles
Stross has argued that publishers need to get rid of DRM to
keep serious fans, especially genre fans, happy—and avoid
driving them toward piracy. How much of a cost is it to
read books (or watch movies) on multiple, changing
platforms with incompatible formats?
Mining Urban Legends for Material: From Men in Black to InCryptid
Sat 10/6 12 Noon, 60 minutes
The folklore of the modern age and how it surfaces in our
entertainment: Area 51, chupacabras, vanishing hitchhikers,
jackalopes, and beyond. Consider Men in Black, Warehouse
13, Sanctuary, Supernatural, and Seanan McGuire’s
Cleaning the Gene Pool: What’s a Flaw?
Sat 10/6 2:00 PM, 60 minutes.
In Keith Harlman’s The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual
Corpse, he depicts a chilling future where the ‘gay gene’
is identified…and prenatal testing followed by abortion
wipes out most homosexuals in utero, while gay kids born
after the test get shipped off to ‘camp’ when they test
positive. Who has the right to decide that a trait should
be removed from the population, cither through prenatal
screening or gene therapy? Can we have the foresight to
know for certain that we won’t need that trait in the
future? Is it ethical to try to wipe a relatively harmless
trait out of a population for aesthetic or philosophical
reasons? Yeah, go ahead, get rid of all the fat
people…now deal with a famine, or an ice age. Oops.
Can the Constitution Survive the Internet?
Sat 10/6 5:00 PM, 60 minutes
Can the freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution
survive the age of technology we are only beginning to
enter? Will we end up with David Brin’s Transparent Society
or a world more like that of Cory Doctorow’s Little
Brother? How will individual rights fare as our paradigms
continue to shift?
Reading: J.M. Perkins
Sat 10/6 6:00 PM, 60 minutes
Standards in Science Education
Sun 10/7 12 Noon, 60 minutes.
State and national standards determine the science
curriculum in public education. Twenty years ago,
California actually spent half the biology year on ALL
types of organisms (classification, ecology, lots of
botany), while now it’s only about animals (except for
knowing the importance of other things in ecology and
photosynthesis) — and half the year is spent on molecular
biology (including a lot of molecular genetics and cellular
physiology). Botany is gone. The new standards are just
coming up, but aren’t out yet. There is also a discrepancy
between state standards and national standards.
Signing: J.M. Perkins
Sun 10/7 1:30 PM, 30 minutes.
Unintended Consequences of Electronic Games
Sun 10/7 2:00 PM, 60 minutes.
Back in the early 90s, gamers started using video games to
generate movies (and even a realtime talk show, in Halo,
called This Spartan Life!) — a process called “machinima”.
MMORPG economies have had economic impact in the physical
world, from gold farming to Second Life real estate riches.
(See Edward Castronova’s 2001 paper “Virtual Worlds: A
First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian
Frontier”.) Early this year, Minecraft was adapted as a
design tool for 3D printing. And a few months ago, when
media critic Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter
campaign to produce a video series analyzing images of
women in electronic games, an enraged male gamer responded
by designing and distributing a game in which the player
beats the crap out of an avatar of Sarkeesian. What other
unexpected uses will develop for electronic games?
Media Tie-Ins: Today’s Pulps?
Sun 10/7 3:00 PM, 60 minutes.
Are the Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy, and videogame novels
of today the equivalent of the pulp novels of the 40s and 50s?