Daily Archives: July 3, 2009

FiestaCon – Day #1

If I’m going to write up summaries, I should do so before I’m utterly sick of the con. And just like preparation for ultimate leagues, I will be sick of the con by Sunday.

FiestaCon / WesterCon 62 is being held at the Tempe Mission Palms downtown. This is the third con I’ve attended at that location. It’s a great venue for such things. It’s big, nice without being ultra swanky, and there’s plenty of room. It’s also about three miles from home, on the rail and shuttle lines, and surrounded by restaurants.

Programming didn’t start on Thursday until 3pm, but we skipped the first panel and had lunch/dinner at Chuckbox.

First panel was on science fiction movies: What are the good ones? What are the bad ones? What are not even science fiction anyway? (Or vice versa.) Much audience participation, led by Kevin Birnbaum who has a movie premiering Saturday.  My note from this panel was that should probably check out Primer.

Second panel that I wanted to attend was the discussion of Jekyll & Hyde.  Since Eric hadn’t read it, he skedaddled off to a panel on the subject of Titan, while I stayed where I was. The leader of the discussion, an older man, incredulously wearing a beany studded with pin-on buttons, came in and sat down.  This is John Hertz.  He’s one of those enthusiastic people who have an infectious love of whatever subject they’ve thrown themselves at.  After twenty minutes of me sitting at the back of the room paging through my program and Mr. Hertz reading at the head of the room, it became obvious that **I was the only person attending this discussion**.  Now, I had read the Stevenson, but there’s a difference between reading the text well enough to participate in a group discussion and reading it deeply enough to be able to talk one on one about it–with a man that was reading a Nabokov lecture on it. At very least, I would have taken notes. But Mr. Hertz and I chatted about it and those were the fastest 35-40 minutes of the night. I hope I didn’t sound too much like an illiterate fool.

Third panel was on the interplay between plot, characters, and science in science fiction.  I think the conclusion was that if you want to write a series, a long running series of related novels/stories that isn’t one on-going story, you need a great character.  Think Sherlock Holmes here.  Sometimes, in SF, the character is just a platform for the story–and that’s okay too, but it’s more difficult to base more than a book on that.  Also touched on was how abnormal short fiction is in the history of literature, yet seemigly the norm in SF. I’m not sure I buy that, but my mother was a novel reader, so that’s the take I’ve always had on SF.

Eric and I took an hour break and headed to MoJo Yogurt for dessert.

Last panel, for us, of the evening was on science fiction versus fantasy.  The age old question.  Is the relationship oppositional?  Are they simply cousins?  Are they they same with different trappings?  Does it really matter at all since they’re going to be shelved together anyway?  Obviously there is some difference since fantasy out-sells SF by a huge margin.  Why is that?  An intriguing theory put forth by Eric Flint is that there’s a historic gender bias.  SF hasn’t been female friendly.  Early SF had few/no female characters, despite scantily clad women on the covers, and was low on characterization.  Fantasy, in a way, has less history and of the two had become more female-friendly, fatter (bloated?) with characterization.  And women buy more books.