Having mostly exhausted the books I brought with me, I began reading books I had just bought. First up was Norton's Quest Crosstime
, which was (way back when) my introduction to the concept of alternate history. (A good part of the story takes place in a timeline in which Cortez was killed during the first retreat from Tenochtitlan - which I remembered - and, also, Richard III was victorious at Bosworth Field - which I didn't remember.) Not a bad story, although my WSOD was upset by scenes taking place in a timeline where life never evolved on Earth - but which still had a breathable amount of free oxygen in the atmosphere. Uh, no.
After a waffle breakfast, I headed over to the convention center. I had no intention of buying any more books, but I did have a hankering for some CDs - specifically, Mary Crowell and Tricky Pixie. So, I foolishly returned, one last time, to the Dealers' Room. I found no CDs. I did, however, blunder into the vicinity of the NESFA table, which sucked me in, not releasing me until I'd bought a volume of Murray Leinster, two volumes of Chad Oliver, Zenna Henderson's Ingathering
, and an old copy of Avram Davidson's The Phoenix and the Mirror
(which I think I read, long long ago, at the instigation of Lin Carter). I also spotted Howard Tayler's table, and went over to extend my collection of Schlock Mercenary. I picked up three volumes, but, oddly, not Massively Parallel
, which was in the running for the Graphic Story Hugo. I also, on a whim, bought a metal water-bottle (with one of Tagon's rules on it). This was to have consequences a couple of days later....
The first, and best, event of the day was a reading by LMB from the in-progress Ivan book. It was hilarious; Ivan has never seemed more Threepwood-like to me. Lois projects another year, year and a half before it can come out even in hardcover, alas. In the aftermath, there was a listie cluster, in which plans for the evening were finalized. I spent some time drinking coffee and chatting with a small group, including CatMtn, James, Pat Mathews, and Karen Black. (There were at least two others, but my notes don't name them and I can't cudgel them from my memory.)
Panels for the day discussed horses, SF in this solar system, Victorian scientific romances, and linguistics. The panelists for the first were Ellen Asher and Melinda Snodgrass, and they waxed indignant over the unrealistic treatment of horses in fantasy (and in mainstream fiction, for that matter); questions of equine physiology, psychology, and economics were much-discussed. I found myself trying to match up what they were saying with Temple Grandin's discussion in Animals in Translation
- different expertises, but they should be consistent with one another (and for the most part were).
The discussion of SF in the solar system, for the most part, focused on the accelerating rate at which we're learning how wrong we've been. Mercury and the asteroids drew a lot of attention. One amusing point: a while back, someone tried to put together an anthology of original or recent stories set on or around each of the planets, and had great difficulty coming up with a story about Uranus. The inner worlds, sure; the big gas giants, no problem; even Neptune - but not their cockeyed cousin.
In between panels, I went to Tim Powers' Guest of Honor speech. It was hilarious
; I'll mention only the conclusion, in which he described some neighbors of his who had build a giant electric Ouija board, which attracted ghosts like a stadium light draws moths.
"Do they ever say anything?"
"Oh, yeah, they's always wantin' to tell us what numbers are gonna win the lottery."
"Do you take the numbers down?"
"They lyin'! They don't know what numbers gonna win!"
The panel on Victorian scientific romance spent much of its time trying to determine the boundaries, eventually laying claim to everything from Mary Shelley to Edgar Rice Burroughs. There was also some discussion of the prefiguring of the old hard SF/soft SF dispute in the annoyance of Verne (hard) with Wells (soft). They also pointed out that there was a lot of such material which has been largely forgotten, with San Francisco as one of the hotbeds. (I found it necessary to mention Bellamy's Looking Backward
; no one else had brought up his name! The panelists agreed, and pointed out that a number of other authors were directly inspired by Bellamy, although with much less interesting results.)
The panel on linguistics was kind of meh, from my point of view, although one panelist offered an interesting typology of constructed languages: "philosophical", aimed at fostering a particular point of view; "engineering", pushing the envelope by giving a language unusual or extreme characteristics; and "naturalistic", trying to capture the semi-organized chaos of natural language.
After that, a bunch of listies - seventeen or so - gathered and, with Lois in tow, went over to Foley's Irish Bar for dinner. There were too many people for full-group conversation; I wound up off in a corner with Stellan and Frank Kempe. We talked about the con, baseball (I whined about the Padres), and various other topics, over a meal of (in my case) shepherd's pie and Guinness.
The final event of the evening was the Masquerade, which was quite a bit of fun. There were several costumes which were just gorgeous, including an Undine and a reproduction of the aliens from "Avatar"; there was a Medusa skit, performed to the tune of ELO's "Turn to Stone" (of course); and a variety of others. The presentation was marred somewhat when the judges inadvertantly announced the wrong team as winner of a Best in Class award. It took several minutes to get that one straightened out, and I was sorry for the unfortunate team (who, sad to say, did not win any other award either). After the contestants had all presented, while the judges were conferring, the audience was diverted by a sort of game show, "Just a Minute", in which contestants were required to speak for one minute, impromptu, on a topic given by the moderator, without digressing, pausing, or repeating themselves. (This last was strictly enforced; you could repeat words from the topic title, but repetition of any other content word - even saying "over and over" - caused a forfeit.) Seanan McGuire put on a bravura performance, and wound up winning.
That was Friday.