Live-blogging the 2017 Albany, NY Science Fiction convention, Albacon. The symbol of the convention, above, is the statue “The Thinker,” some planets and a skyline on Albany’s most famous structure, “The Egg.” In real life the all-wood, tilted, futuristic structure sits on a base, but here it is cast adrift to better help the thinker ruminate about science-fictional futures.
Friday, March 31, 2017: I will be mostly travelling today, but will catch part of the festivities this evening. Let’s see if United Airlines gives me a good experience.
Well, both of the aircraft I took were small, but at least the one from Columbia SC to Dulles in D.C. was a jet. The “United Express” plane from D.C. to Albany, NY was a prop craft. Note to self: Never sit just inside the aircraft from the huge, LOUD propellers. It did not help that they had –literally–taped over some sort of flaw next to the propeller out my window, tape which I took a photo of. Observe:
(Of course there was no in-flight movie, but FYI the movie “Donnie Darko” has an engine fallout out of an airplane.) The flight arrived at 7:24 and by 8 PM I was at Albacon, which is now being held at the Albany Airport Best Western. Good venue but snowy and cold after SC. That first night I saw con chair and friend Chuck Rothman, GOH Chuck Gannon (who conveyed a book I’d won almost two years ago, thereby divesting himself from a load of guilt *wink*), Lawrence Schoen, Ruth Burroughs, Hildy Silverman, Facebook friend Peter Huston, and many more. There was the traditional Albcon Ice Cream Social, and the Art Show Reception. Then I coordinated with A&A’s webmaster, and this new edition of A&A went up at about midnight.
Saturday, April 1, 2018: The Albacon convention room was nice and I slept well. The breakfast buffet was first rate, including eggs , home fries, sausage, and what Lawrence Schoen called “the magic waffle printer.” I saw good friend Carl Frederick–who is back to his first love, quantum physics–and everyone from last night, plus authors Ken Altabef, Melissa Mead. I did a signing, lunch with Ruthie (Japanese) and was on call to fill in if any panelists cancel.
ALBACON 2017 Panel notes
The Ethics Behind the Story: Moral Dilemmas in SF & F Fantasy (moderator)
- Ask each panelist for examples of moral dilemmas in SF &F NOT IN THEIR BOOKS.
My examples: Tolkien, LOTR
- Eyowyn disobeyed Théoden but brought down the King of the Nazgul. Was she rewarded for disobedience and lying?
- Not killing Gollum saved the day in the end
My Examples: Asimov
- Ever read “Misbegotten Missionary”? It had competing world views. And the moral dilemma there was between a worldview of a pan-planet organism and our individualistic planetary flora and fauna.
- Not thinking about the moral dilemma can cause problems, too. See “The Nine Billion Names of God” by Asimov, where the salesman just cared about making a sale and caused the end of the universe. But wait, in the moral universe of the monks, the ending was cool.
- “I, Robot” in the movie version the conflict was “do you kill a newly sentient machine as a threat?” IN the movie, no. In the book the answer was, yes you must.
My examples: Cherryh, Foreigner series
- Bren Cameron is constantly bombarded with the quandary of representing the humans on Mospheria and representing the interests of the Atevi ruler that he translates for.
- Bren has to choose between his dying mother and an alien threat to the planet.
- In the most recent book (no spoilers) Bren has to choose between betraying an individual and betraying his entire society. Easy choice quantitatively, not so easy qualitatively.
My examples: Dan Simmons, Hyperion
- The threat to humanity was in gates between the worlds in their own homes, so to remove the threat you left people 10 light years apart with no notice if they were in another room.
Note: I fully expected a panel or audience member to bring up examples from Star Trek & Star Wars. They did.
- Ask panelists for examples IN their books. My example was the peaceful squid-dolphins in MIME STREAM being asked to go to war on behalf of themselves and humanity.
Saving the World After 50: Are SF/Fantasy Adventures a young hero’s game? (moderator) and let’s not forget to talk about heroines!
- Let’s define young! Is it a child, a teen, a young adult, or just under 30?
- Do you think it’s a young hero’s game? My examples of young heroes:
- Ender’s Game
- Harry Potter
- Ready Player One
- Just about any videogame ever
- Just about any Disney movie ever
- Early (70s) Star Wars movies
- Hunger Games
- Examples of older heroes:
- LOTR: Frodo, Gandalf, Théoden
- Foreigner: Ilsidi, Ginny Kroger, Captain Sabin
- Trek: Captain Picard, and if you count “mature” everyone except Wesley Crusher.
- X-Men – Xavier and if you count mature Beast, Cyclops, and Jean Grey
- Recent Star Wars movies (esp. Lia and Han)
- Age discrimination! Why are the baddies so often older? What does it say out our culture that we prefer youthful inexperience to maturity?
- Seriously, how many young villains or villainesses can you name? I can name one: Morgan in Chalice of Shadows, by CN Lesley. Why we presume youth = innocence.
- Why the “coming of age” story is so seductive a trope.