In only two weeks from today, I will be off to Chicago for Chicon 7 - The 70th World Science Fiction Convention. To say that I am looking forward to it is an understatement. I am totally excited! Being my third time attending, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to navigate the con. At the top of my list of things-to-do this year is attend lots of author readings and try and stay awake past 9:00pm so that I can go to the parties. I'm also happy to be a panelist this year. At Anticipations (Montreal) and Renovations (Reno) I delivered academic papers, but didn't want to go that route this year (which is good, seeing as there is no academic track as far as I can tell). While it is still possible that it might change (especially in terms of my fellow panelists), here is my draft panel schedule:
Thursday 3:00 - 4:30 The Alien as Metaphor
Movie aliens aren't real aliens; they're humans in disguise. What do movie and TV aliens tell us about us? Is it surprising that during the Cold War the enemy aliens were often from Mars... the "Red Planet?" Do the aliens of "Avatar" tell us something about how we exploit primitive cultures? Is "Paul" a variation of the "fan as Slan?" We have met the aliens and they are us.
Panelists: Daniel M.Kimmel, Eric Hayden, Jason Schachat, John G. Hemry/Jack Campbell, Me! (moderator)
Thursday 4:30 - 6:00 Should SF Be More Optimistic?
When authors talked about the slow pace of technological innovation, the technologists turned around and criticized science fiction for its lack of vision in recent years, saying SF authors spend too much time on dystopian visions like The Road, The Walking Dead, and the I, Robot film. What happened to the optimistic future of Star Trek? Are writers spending too much effort on worst-case scenarios instead of what might be accomplished? Is any of this the fault of readers, publishers, or media companies?
Panelists: Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Me!, Katy Stauber, Lynda Williams ORU (moderator), Niall Harrison
Sunday 9:00 - 10:30 Fat People in Space
Based on our genre, there aren\'t any. Why not?
Panelists: Farah Mendlesohn (moderator), Julia S. Mandala, Me!, Petrea Mitchell
Sunday 3:00 - 4:30 Innerspace vs. Outerspace
Are the stars, or even the solar system, in humanity's future? Recent progress in genetics, neuroscience, computing, and nanotechnology has far outstripped progress in space exploration or travel. The problems that press on people and society the most - health care, aging, mental health, energy supplies, a damaged environment - have more to do with managing our planet than venturing into space. Should science fiction spend more time on the topics of inner space than outer space?
Panelists: Bill Higgins (moderator), Edward M. Lerner, Me!, Tad Daley
Overall, I am happy with the topics, but I wish that I had better time slots. I guess as a newbie to the SF community, I'm off to as good of a start as anyone, so I'm certainly not complaining. I do find the gender break down of the panelists interesting. For instance, there aren't any men listed on the "Fat People in Space" panel, and there are no women panelists on the "Alien as Metaphor" panel (except for me of course, but I'm listed as moderator). Gender parity is definitely something I will be paying closer attention to this year.
I hope that I will be able to reconnect with all of the cool people I met at previous cons, as well as get to know a whole lot more. I'm ready Chicago!