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September 6th, 2012

Worldcon Wrapup

2001lostsciencecover.jpgIt was a relief to step off the plane in Colorado Springs and grab a chestful of thin, dry air. I've lived in dry climates since early 1987, and I've lost my taste for late-summer Chicago mugginess. The toughest part of Chicon 7, which concluded on Monday, was going back and forth across the Chicago River between the Hyatt and the Sheraton and wondering if I were walking above the river or wading through it. The con went very well, considering my aversion to crowds. I got to see a lot of people I don't see very much, granted that I missed a few. I heard some readings and workshopped a couple of stories with my friends from the 2011 Taos Toolbox workshop. And the Hugos, which I haven't seen in person since (I think) 1986. John Scalzi was easily the best Hugos toastmaster I've seen since I began attending worldcons in 1974. He was funny, he was terse, he was great at improv, and he held the awards for the winners as they spoke their thank-yous into the mic. (There was nowhere else to put them.) He's losing his hair and doesn't shave his head--he certainly gets private points from me for that.

I was not aware of it at the time, obviously, but a misguided attempt at automated copyright protection killed the stream that Chicon was sending out to people who couldn't be at the con. This was idiotic on so many levels--the video clips being "protected" had been given to the con by the studios specifically to be shown at the awards--and reminds us that robots should not be enforcers. Never.

The very idea of copyright, on which artists in many areas depend, is being weakened in the public mind by crap like this. If something eventually kills copyright, it won't be the pirates.

I had a marvelous interview with the fiction editor at a major press, at which he agreed to read the manuscript for Ten Gentle Opportunities. Better than that, he took notes on my experience and my background (I brought both The Cunning Blood and one of my computer books) and suggested that what he might like even more from me than a humorous fantasy mashup was a good ripping hard SF action adventure.

I wondered for a moment: Gosh, could I do that? (Only a moment. A short moment. Ok, no moment at all.) I had intended to pursue my first Drumlins novel The Everything Machine after TGO was on its way. Now, I'm not so sure. The Molten Flesh is less far along, but it may get promoted to the top of the queue. We'll see.

I did spend a fair bit of time with my sister and her girls down in the dealers room. (She and Bill publish and sell filk CDs as Dodeka Records.) As usual, I did a little shopping, emphasis on little. (We didn't drive, so whatever I bought had to be packed home on what I call a "sewer-pipe jet.") But I found something wonderful, as Dave Bowman notably said in 2010.

Across the aisle from Dodeka Records was Apogee Prime, a publisher specializing in aerospace books in several categories. They had a new book that, at 12" X 14.5", was mighty big for my creaky old suitcase, but I bought it anyway: 2001: The Lost Science. What we've got here are original photos, sketches, and literal blueprints of the technologies presented by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Much of the material was thought to be lost, and when the sequel 2010 was filmed in the early 1980s, a lot of it had to be re-created from scratch, often by having artists watch the original movie fifty times with sketchpads in their laps.

The book draws on the personal collection of Frederick I. Ordway III, who is a real rocket scientist and former colleague of Werner Von Braun, and worked on the Explorer 1 project. Kubrick hired Ordway to help him predict, as reasonably and realistically as possible, what space science would be like in the year 2001. This book is a good overview of his predictions, at least those that made it into the 1968 film. Satellites, space stations, nuclear propulsion systems--these were the aches that a certain class of nerdy 16-year-olds were feeling in 1968. For a good many reasons, only some of which I've discussed here, 2001 has long been and will likely remain my favorite film of all time. I remember those aches, and wear them proudly, as they are the aches of boys who dare to dream.

This is a coffee table book, but one that you may actually read cover-to-cover. (I'm not quite done but will be soon. There have been times when I've had to take a deep breath and set it down.) Softcover. $49. Very highly recommended.