WesterCon 70 ~ Part 2: Science and Writing

Part 1: Steampunk & 19th Century F&SF

I was glad to see a healthy science track during this convention. Science, especially space exploration, is important to speculative fiction, but I think that sometimes science for laymen is hard to do so it gets overlooked.

On Saturday, we attended “Year of the Dwarf Planet” with Dave Williams of ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. It was a lot of information about New Horizon’s Pluto flyby and the Dawn orbiter of Ceres. Do you know what’s pretty cool about Ceres? Cryovolcanos. Basically, instead of molten rock bubbling up, water and other minerals create a frozen cone-like structures.

On Monday, there was “Exploring the Red Planet: What Could We Be Doing?” Steve Howe was part of the “Science of Steampunk” panel the day before. There was lots of talk about better, cheaper propulsion methods, but the coolest part was the concept of “hoppers” that we could use to pepper the surface of Mars and collect data. We also attended Steve Howe’s “Intelligent Tool-Using Dinosaurs: Would We Know?” Incongruously titled, the lecture was good (Howe is a great talker) with lots of audience back-and-forth. If dinosaurs had a culture, would we know it through the archaeological record?

The only other science panel I attended was “911 in Space!: Handling Medical Emergencies in Freefall” with another alum of “Science of Steampunk,” Bruce Davis. I’m not writing about space, and I never intend to, but  going into space had always been a way far-out dream of mine.  And that doesn’t change even though I now know how bleeding occurs in low grav. Luckily, there hasn’t been that many medical emergencies in space, but if we intend to send more people for longer periods of time, well, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Great panel. Eric also attended another with Bruce Davis about writing realistic wounds. I didn’t because I was attending some writing panel…

Over the four day weekend, I attended five panels on the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing. Mostly, I didn’t learn much. That isn’t to say the panels weren’t good, but I’m not a novice at this stuff anymore. (Yes, I haven’t been acting much like a professional either lately, but I’ll get to that later.) I was a little surprised that traditional publishing is still being emphasized, though hybrid publishing is a close second. I did pick up on an interesting synergy between Sharon Skinner’s “Kill Your Darlings” and Tom Leveen’s “Writing Exceptional Dialogue”: An emphasis on character intentions and goals on a macro *and* micro level. What is the character’s goal? What do they do, even in their dialogue, to achieve that goal? The secondary note on this is that honing these intentions can come after the first draft. I’m not sure that I entirely agree, but it’s something to think about.

There were two “writing” panels that were just a lot of fun. The first was “Married with Deadlines: Balancing Home Life When Your Significant Other Also Writes.” The panel featured three writing couples: Emily Devenport & Ernest Hogan, Marsheila Rockwell & Jeffrey J. Mariotte, and Yvonne Navarro & Weston Ochse. The good part of being married to a fellow writer? They know the struggle. The bad part? Idea stealing sharing! (Okay, not necessarily a bad thing.) Similarly, “Weird, Wild, Urban and Unknown: Speculative Fiction in the Southwest” with  Suzanne Lazear, Tom Leveen, Amy K. Nichols, Weston Ochse, and Guest of Honor Connie Willis was mostly about funny and harrowing stories about living in Arizona, but also the kind of inspiration that can be derived from our crazy and beautiful landscape.

I plan to Part 3 with some notes about the visual arts and “fallout” later in the week.


One thought on “WesterCon 70 ~ Part 2: Science and Writing

  1. Pingback: WesterCon 70 ~ Part 3: Art and “Aftermath” – The Writerly Reader

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