Following a busy first day, I was eager for day 2. Once again, I am relying on my memory to capture some of the best impressions. As luck would have it, I left my finicky camera at home today. But really, I would have needed a skull-implanted video recorder to really capture all the cool things I heard and learned today.
The good news about day 2 at ApolloCon was that is was filled with some very interesting sessions. The bad news was that some of the session overlapped and I was forced to choose between them.
My first session of the day was What You Should Have Read By Now: The Foundations of SF/F/H and the panel included A.T. Campbell III (moderator), David G. Hartwell, Lawrence Person, Martha Wells. I arrived slightly late – weekends were made for sleeping late, weren’t they? – but the discussion was taking a decade-by-decade look at essential science fiction short stories and books. There were no surprises here, just the name-dropping one might expect: Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, Clifford Simak, Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, George Alec Effinger, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. LeGuin, Lovecraft, Hodgson, and tons of others. The panel was knowledgeable and vocal about their favorites.
Next up was an autograph session with David G. Hartwell and wife/co-Editor Kathryn Cramer. Ms. Cramer and I talked at some length about editing anthologies (publishing lead time, author and story selection), blogging, conventions, con etiquette and the surprising (to me in this Internet Age) lack of con gossip on the web. I commented that I needed to add David Hartwell to my short list of SF/F Writers Who Don’t Blog…But Should. (OK, yes, it was originally meant for fiction authors, not so much editors, but Hartwell does write non-fiction sf and his stories and experiences are incredibly interesting. And besides, it’s my list anyway. So there.) After that, I broke into total fanboy mode, bought a copy Year’s Best SF 12 from the dealers’ room, and asked both of them to sign it.
Next up was a mind-blowing session by Ms. Cramer’s father, the physicist and author John Cramer. Professor Cramer is currently running an experiment in quantum entanglement, a phenomenon which involves the observable relationship between two particles that are physically separated by either small or astronomical distances. The idea is that one of these particles can be altered by interacting with the other particle only. His session, Sending Signals Back in Time with Quantum Nonlocality, talked about using the property of quantum entanglement and modifying the distance between the particles in such a way that one was closer to the original source than the other. If you tickle the furthest particle, is there an observable reaction in the closer particle? If so, then that observation (the effect) happens sooner than the trigger (the cause). Talk then turned towards the paradox. What would happen if you observed the effect and then did not proceed to generate the cause? Hey, I said this was mind-blowing stuff. But even so, Professor Cramer explained it all quite nicely. Later in the day, I mentioned to him how much I enjoyed his novel Twistor and still, to this day, remember some of its scenes with vivid clarity.
With my head still trying to wrap itself around the idea of communicating through time (Send yourself the winning lottery numbers!), I stepped into an author reading session with Katharine Eliska Kimbriel and Chris Roberson. Listening to fiction is a different activity than reading it yourself but both authors brought some really good snippets in which to get immersed. Katharine read from a fantasy story set in the 19th century in which magic is possible. She seemed to adhere to a rigid set of rules for her universe (one of my personal requirements for enjoying fantasy) and really did her homework on nineteenth century lifestyles. Or at least, I assume that hot cocoa was heated in a pan by the fire. Actually, I asked after her reading and she did do the research. Chris read the exciting first chapter from his upcoming novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons, the first novel of his Celestial Empire, an alternate future in which China and Mexica bring their ancient war into space. He described it as “The Magnificent Seven The Dirty Dozen in space.” Gripping stuff. Sign me up. Chris was also handing out a Celestial Empire sampler titled “The Line of Dichotomy”. Sweet!
After that was an interview with David G. Hartwell as conducted by fan guest of honor A.T. Campbell, III. (Like the rude buffoon that I am, I got caught up in a discussion of Professor Cramer’s earlier session with another con-goer and didn’t notice that the Hartwell interview had already started. D’oh! In my own defense, it was Hartwell’s father-in-law’s fault for giving such a great session. ) The questioning followed Hartwell’s professional career and revealed how he started reading science fiction: by spending his weekly 50-cent allowance on two paperbacks. He had some great editing stories as well as some great stories about publishing in general. I wish I could remember them all. Good stuff.
The next session was What’s Hot in YA Spec Fic? with panelists Marianne Dyson, K. Hutson Price, Chris Roberson, Amy Sisson, Steve Wilson. The notable thing about this session was that every single one of them was passionate about young adult fiction – writing it, reading it and recommending it to young and old alike. I asked about the qualities of good YA fiction, the answer to which included accurate science. Marianne Dyson in particular strives to recommend accurate yasf books and will pan bad ones on her site. She also recommends the good books over at the website for The National Space Society. Besides individual titles, we also talked about trends, getting kids to read, and age-appropriate material. Good stuff all around and another wonderful session.
At this point I accosted Jayme Lynn Blaschke, who I recognized in the audience (he was also a con guest, but I missed his session) and we got to talking – at such length that I missed most of the next session – about Battlestar Galactica (he has some great ideas on how to make it better), Farscape, comics and more. His passion for the genre comes through loud and clear and I got the impression that this was only the tip of his iceberg of ideas.
As much as I enjoyed talking with Jayme, I wish I hadn’t arrived late for the session Effects of the Web and Online Publishing on Spec Fic. Panelists were Troy Belding, Matthew Bey, Kathryn Cramer and Jess Nevins. There was some great talk going on about wikipedia (don’t get Kathryn started! :)), online communities and even (Gasp!) online reviews. I wish the reviewing part was a little longer, but the topic changes at that point were fast and furious and, as a latecomer, I didn’t want to steer any conversation towards something that had been touched on before.
The final session I attended that day was Pay No Attention to the Pro Behind the Curtain: Editors with panelists David G. Hartwell, Selina Rosen, Mel. White and Steve Wilson. This one was geared more towards writers than to fans like me but it was interesting nonetheless. If nothing elese, it taught me that editing is sometimes a thankless job for which readers (and writers!) should be forever grateful.
Another exciting day! Again I want to mention that con size (a couple of hundred people?) was perfect as far as getting face time with the panelists. There was lots of great programming (even though I missed the zombie session) and the time flew by. I’m not entirely sure just yet that I will be able to attend the last day, but if not, the experience was already worth it.