LoneStarCon 3
A convention report by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 2015 by Evelyn C. Leeper
  • Stroll with the Stars Thursday
  • Coming of Age in the 60's
  • Hoaxes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Bloopers and Blunders of Science
  • All of Biology in One Hour or Less
  • War of the Worlds at 75: The Power of Mass Media
  • The Romance of Train Travel
  • LSC3 Film Festival: Barbarian Days
  • The Future of the Future
  • Two-Gun Bob: The Somewhat True Tales of Robert E. Howard
  • Do SF Stories Have Fewer Happy Endings Now?
  • Latino Characters by Mainstream Authors: Diversity or Cultural Appropriation?
  • LSC3 Film Festival: Frankenstein's Monster
  • Magic Realism
  • Sidewise Award for Alternate History
  • 30 Great SFF Films You Almost Certainly Haven't Seen
  • Trends in Banned Books
  • Brain-Melting Nonfiction That Every SF Writer and Fan Should Read
  • Historical Space Ships Patents
  • Gorillas in Science Fiction: The Encore Performance!
  • The Legacy of Omni
  • Forgiving History
  • Have We Lost the Future?
  • Getting Research Right in Historical Fiction
  • LSC3 Film Festival: Life Tracker
  • Hugo Awards Ceremony
  • Reading: Howard Waldrop
  • Cambrian Explosion: A Developmental Toolkit for Complex Body Plans
  • "An Age Undreamed Of...": World Building with Robert E. Howard
  • Computers Using DNA for Storage
  • Miscellaneous

    LoneStarCon 3 was held August 8-12, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas.

    Stroll with the Stars Thursday
    Thursday, 9:00 AM
    Jason M. Hough, Steven H. Silver, Stina Leicht, Bobbie DuFault, Hagrid, C. J. Mills, Liz Gorinsky, Catherynne M. Valente, Phil Foglio

    Description: [none]

    Attendance: [unknown]

    These strolls were scheduled every morning and the promise was that we would be back in time for the 10AM panels. Luckily, we decided to test this on Thursday, when there was little or nothing at 10AM, and it ran well over. You might argue, "Well, they knew there was nothing to rush back for," but it was clear from the time spent gathering people from two hotels, walking at a pace set pretty much by the slowest people, and trying to cover something of interest, that this was not going to be suitable for anyone wanting to attend a 10AM panel.

    Coming of Age in the 60's
    Thursday, 12:00 N
    Fred Lerner (M), Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis

    Description: "Sex, Drugs and Politics: How Science Fiction was used as a marker for generational shifts on values."

    Attendance: lots

    Silverberg said that contrary to popular opinion, he had not attended every Worldcon--the first (in 1939) was held when he was only four years old. "And he had already written his first three novels," Fred Lerner added.

    As far as the periods "the 1960s" covers, Lerner said he would date it as starting with the publication of Stranger in a Strange Land in 1961.

    Silverberg thought Robert A. Heinlein was ahead of his time. For him, the key markers of the 1960s were the Beatles (1964), Haight-Asbury (1966), and Baycon (1968). Of the latter, he said the first chemical people encountered was the tear gas in People's Park, followed by the "horse anesthesia pills." He would say that 1966 or 1967 through 1973 was "The Sixties." He also commented that at that time he was writing pornography because science fiction was boring.

    Willis said that she hated, and still hates, Stranger in a Strange Land. "[Heinlein's] idea of what women want is nowhere close to the planet." And she thought that "the grass wants to be walked on [is the] dumbest idea." She described the book as trendy, but Silverberg insisted it was trend-setting.

    In passing, Willis commented on trying to pin down decades; for example, the 80's was only 1984 through 1987, especially the shoulder pads and disco, because people were so eager to get out of it.

    Silverberg observed that Heinlein was a nudist and in an open marriage in the 1930s, which is not how people think of him. Willis said she liked the females in Heinlein's juveniles, where he was "revolutionary in his females." Silverberg said the females were patterned after Heinlein's wife.

    Silverberg described science fiction in 1960 and 1961 was constricted and constrained: the use of the word "testicles" was ground-breaking (as were the words "pregnant" and "virgin"). And Heinlein did nothing to change this. Silverberg said that in The World Inside he used made-up words for the F-word and the C-word. And in 1971, Galaxy was still printing "to f---" in its publication of I Will Fear No Evil. (Willis noted that she did the same in "All My Darling Daughters".)

    Silverberg said that science fiction was the literature of thirteen-year-old boys, but now it has vampires and is the literature of fifteen-year-old girls.

    Willis says it became "all sex, all drugs, all the time" in science fiction, but there was also wonderful stuff--it was "a very fertile time, a very exciting time." However, Silverberg observed, the audience did not want that sort of excitement.

    As for the drugs, Silverberg claimed, "Some of us were required to use those drugs as research." In this context Willis mentioned Philip K. Dick. Silverberg said the Dick contributed a way of looking at the world, "not language or sex." But he "fit in with the 1960s and the drugs." He described a story titled "I Hope We Shall Arrive Soon", which sounded a lot like "Mind Partner".

    Silverberg felt that "attitudes need to be put in context" and referred to the recent dispute over the recent cover of the "SFWA Bulletin". Some people seem to want to "require beliefs of the moment to be applied retroactively." He said that they are the sort who object because in Othello a black man strangles his white wife.

    Willis talked about revisiting old favorites and discovering that "some stories are timeless, some transcend, and some the suck fairy has been at." But she also noted, "Science fiction has had great stories in every era."

    Lerner said that some writers (such as Rudyard Kipling) go out of favor, then come back; is this possible in science fiction? He suggested Heinlein (particularly Stranger in a Strange Land), Dick, Frank Herbert's Dune, and some of Robert Silverberg's novels. Silverberg added Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron, and some of Joanna Russ's works. Willis said she remembers the 1960s short stories, and J. G. Ballard.

    Silverberg concluded by saying, "Science fiction, with rare exceptions, is commercial drek for kids." Willis countered, "Science fiction always re-invents itself."

    Hoaxes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    Thursday, 2:00 PM
    Steven H. Silver (M), Bobbie DuFault, Jeff Orth, Fred Nadis, Anthony Lewis

    Description: "Bids, fanzines, Worldcon program tracks. We enjoy a good hoax in fandom. What are the good ones? What are the ones that went horribly wrong? Can we see in advance what could go wrong?"

    Attendance: [unknown]

    Silver said that he found a list of fannish hoaxes, and it ran sixteen pages. They seemed to go in cycles, and the first ones involved non-existent fans. Next came the death hoaxes (which were not very funny), and the current trend seems to be for hoax Worldcon bids.

    Orth said the last fall into two categories: the party excuses (which he said were obvious), and the "evil ones" actually intended to deceive. DuFault said she used to point out flaws in bids to identify hoax bids.

    Orth said that in 2000 there was a Boston in Orlando bid, so there should be a Kansas City in Boston bid. DuFault pointed out that the winning Westercon 2013 bid started out as a hoax bid against the Portland bid, but people were so unhappy with Portland that the hoax bid won.

    [No one mentioned the first Zagreb bid, which was basically a party excuse, but not obvious. The bid committee realized they could get money from the Yugoslav government to promote the bid, and so could travel to lots of conventions all over the world, but at some point they made the convention sound so good that they became terrified they would win and actually have to put on a convention, so they started spreading the one a bit more openly that it was a hoax.]

    Silver noted that the Bermuda in 1988 bid was a hoax and almost won. Lewis mentioned the Highmore (South Dakota) in 1976 bid, where the accommodations were tents, etc.--slides were even passed around at Business Meetings.

    The latest Australia Worldcon started as a hoax bid, with people throwing $20 bills at Stephen Boucher when he suggested it. The most famous (and long-lasting) hoax bid is Minneapolis in '73 (post-supporting memberships are -1 cents each).

    Non-convention hoaxes included the Richard Shaver Mystery ("I Remember Lemuria") promoted by Ray Palmer, with its mystery alphabet. Silver said that the fanzine Ploy by Ron Bennett came out with its first issue masquerading as the second issue, with letters referring to the pros and big-name fans in the first issue.

    Silver was obliged to talk about the Chicon 7 hoax track. It was a tradition at Capricon, and was inserted in the Chicon 7 Program Book without much thought or consensus. It was variously called the Phineas T track or the Lake Woebegon track, and each item had one living panelist, one dead panelist, and one fictional panelist.

    Oddly enough, they should have known better. The idea did not work even at Capricon--one year there was listed a track on kinship in Lois McMaster Bujold's writings. People heard about it ahead of time, and many showed up to join the convention just to attend that track.

    Perpetrating this hoax at Chicon 7 had several problems. First, the architecture of the convention center/hotel was somewhat Escheresque, so it was not at all obvious that there was no such room as was indicated. Second, calling the room the Stagg Field Room was supposedly a clue, but probably only to Chicago people. There were far too many pointers to it in the programming. The panelist names were too clever, and even if you recognized that one name was that of a dead person (for example), you might figure it was the same sort of panelist that "Mark Twain" was at ConFrancisco. Even if people recognized it was a joke, they thought the joke would be at the panel.

    The conclusion was that it would only work if it were more obvious and less advertised.

    Silver said that Terry Carr was responsible for many hoaxes, including "Carl Brandon, the first black fan."

    Are pseudonyms hoaxes? People mentioned Kilgore Trout, Richard Bachman, H. N. Turteltaub, and Robert Galbraith. Nadis said a pseudonym is a hoax when it comes with its own persona. Silver said that sometimes an author will take a pseudonym to avoid a one-author table of contents in a magazine. Orth thought that a pseudonym is a hoax when there is an attempt to deceive. The table-of-contents trick is an attempt to deceive, but no personae are supplied. For that matter, Stephen King (Richard Bachman) and J. K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith) are trying to deceive.

    [Perhaps the best pseudonym hoax in the science fiction field--sort of--is I, Libertine. At oe point, radio personality Jean Shepherd starting making references to a racy Victorian novel titled I, Libertine. After a while, people started writing or calling in asking where they could find it. Of course, Shepherd had made it up, but he found someone to write it under the pen name Frederick Ewing, and he found a cover artist for it. Frederick Ewing was Theodore Sturgeon and the cover artist was Kelly Freas, and Ballantine Books published it.]

    Silver mentioned "Travis Tea" and Atlanta Nights. Atlanta Nights was written by a group of science fiction and fantasy authors in an attempt to see if PublishAmerica would accept "an unpublishably bad piece of work." It would, though the offer was withdrawn when the hoax was revealed.

    [An actual hoax of a different sort is the one dramatized in the film Argo, where covert operatives pretend to be scouting locations for a science fiction film, while actually rescuing Americans from Iran.]

    Tom Galloway said that he wanted to publish a hoax on the Hugo Winners.

    There is a Fancyclopedia 3 article on hoaxes.

    Bloopers and Blunders of Science
    Thursday, 7:00 PM
    Barbara Galler-Smith (M), Bradford Lyau, G. David Nordley, Miguel Angel Fernandez

    Description: "Lord Kelvin claimed that craft heavier than air could not fly. The Piltdown Man went from being one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century to being exposed as a forgery more than 40 years later. Science is not immune to the foibles that plague ordinary citizens. Ranging from the somewhat humorous to the truly deadly, come hear our panelists discuss some of the classics."

    Attendance: 250

    Galler-Smith edits On Spec, and Lyau is a trained historian.

    Galler-Smith cited Mario Livio's book, Brilliant Blunders. He talked about the bloopers in the proposed Texas science curriculum, including that the appendix and tonsils are vestigial, how amino acids are produced, and fraudulent embryo drawings.

    Lyau talked about the Leibnitz-Clark correspondence. Leibnitz was an Aristotelian; Newton was a neo-Platonist. Leibnitz said that time and space could be relative.

    Nordley said that a blooper was something simple ... and wrong, while a blunder was a determined denial of evidence. Bloopers include cold fusion, ether, the age of the earth, phlogiston, and absolute time. Blunders include the denial of continental drift, Lysenkoism, comments that space travel is utter bilge, and the denial that lunar craters were caused by impacts. The problem is often a reliance on intuition and feeling, or a desire to please authority.

    Fernandez referred to Jack Garman's decision on Apollo 11 (see Wikipedia for details) as the avoidance of a major blunder.

    Galler-Smith said that often people don't see what's in front of them.

    Fernandez pointed out an article in the August 1954 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction on "plasmogenics."

    Lyau listed the various methods developed by scientists: induction (Roger Bacon), deduction (René Descartes), and experiment (Galileo). Then Isaac Newton was the capstone to all of them.

    Nordley commented (in connection to something) that intestinal flora determines species.

    Galler-Smith talks about the blunders that were cures that did not work: exorcism, tonics (such as radium water), lobotomies, mercury, blood-letting, sex, cigarettes, dung, and sacrifices.

    Nordley said another blunder was the introduction of the mongoose into Hawai'i. Galler-Smith said that Guam has no snakes because of the introduction of brown snakes. (One could add to this any number of introductions of non-native species--kudzu, anyone?)

    Nordley said there are also people who give intentional disinformation.

    No one mentioned things like the belief for centuries that women had fewer ribs (and fewer teeth) than men--apparently no one ever bothered to count them!

    [In general, there seemed to be a lot of anecdotes and off-hand comments that were pretty much off-topic.]

    All of Biology in One Hour or Less
    Thursday, 8:00 PM
    Sam Scheiner

    Description: "Learn the theory of biology and how to apply it to building worlds and alien critters. A dizzying romp through biology's fundamental principles in one easy lesson that will allow you to dazzle your friends with your erudition."

    Attendance: 100

    Scheiner described himself as "a bureaucrat by day, a scientist by night" and named the "Theory of Biology" with the term "GUT"; Grand Unified Theories.

    He defined what a theory is, and what a general theory is. The domain of this theory is the diversity and complexity of living systems, including its causes and consequences.

    Some of the core questions are:

    There are ten fundamental principles that Scheiner covered, along with their ramifications for science fiction.

    1. Persistence: "Life consists of open, non-equilibrial systems that persist." So life feeds and excretes, and repairs itself.
    2. Boundedness: "The cell is the fundamental unit of life." (Hence viruses are not alive.) So this means no amorphous, gaseous aliens or energy beings.
    3. Information: "Life requires a system to store, use, and transmit information." So this means you need a DNA equivalent. Computers can be alive, but you cannot have intelligent bacteria or viruses (not enough information content).
    4. Variation: "Living systems vary in their composition and structure at all levels." So "the word for world is not forest," or Dune. (Scheiner said, "The science in Dune is total crap.") In reality, you cannot have an entire planet of all one type.
    5. Complexity: "Living systems consist of complex sets of interacting parts." So again, no amporphous, gaseous aliens.
    6. Emergence: "The complexity of living systems leads to emergent properties." So basically, expect the unexpected.
    7. Contingency: "The complexity of living systems creates a role for contingency." So, you can get very low probability occurrences if they are needed to drive the plot." Someone in the audience described this as "the randomness of an emergent property is the determinism of the atoms."
    8. Evolution/Mortality: "The persistence of living systems requires that they are capable of change over time." So alien species obey evolution by natural selection. He cited as good example Julie Czerneda's "Species Imperative" series, and C. J. Cherryh's "Chanur" series, and as bad examples Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake and Octavia Butler's "Dawn" trilogy. In general, two sexes is good biology, three sexes is not. Also, "All living organisms are mortal." (An audience member rephrased this as, "Anything immortal is not alive.")
    9. Continuity: "Living systems come from other living systems." So (according to Scheiner) all life on a planet is related, and there are no interplanetary hybrids. [I have to express some skepticism that Scheiner's first conclusion on this is always valid. Just because life got started only once on Earth, or if more than once, only one tree of life survived, does not mean that on some distant planet there could not be two distinct "trees of life."]
    10. Creation: "Life originated from non-life." Unless, as Scheiner notes, it originated in a time-travel loop.

    War of the Worlds at 75: The Power of Mass Media
    Friday, 10:00 AM
    Julie Barrett (M), John Maizels, Anthony Tollin, Bradford Lyau

    Description: "It's only one of the most famous broadcasts ever made, and it was the stuff of legends! Aliens in Grover's Mill! It was also a fantastic hoax perpetrated by Orson Welles. Our panelists discuss the impact and importance of Welles' fake newscast, and how we're still swallowing the same stuff in the 21st century."

    Attendance: 40

    Maizels works on standards, many (he said) in response to various panics.

    Lyau said that H. G. Wells (and Jules Verne) were not just authors, they were major world figures. Wells had written major non-fiction works such as The Outline of History and The Science of Life, and was comparable to Herbert Spencer in late Victorian times. He was even on the cover of the September 19, 1926, Time magazine. But he started to fall out of favor in the late 1930s, and became known as a cranky old man. (One of his more notable predictions was in his 1914 novel, The World Set Free, when he coined the term "atomic bomb.")

    Tollin pointed out that Orson Welles was also on a Time cover. Before the Mercury Theater he was known for his WPA Theater of Harlem production "Voodoo Macbeth". The Mercury Theater did a modern-dress "Julius Caesar"--it was cheaper to produce than a normal production, and used Army surplus materials.

    Welles achieved realism in the radio broadcast by using H. L. Kaltenborn, a real radio announcer. And his timing was carefully planned. Six minutes into "The Chase & Sanborn Hour", Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were done, Nelson Eddy started singing, and people started "frequency-surfing." Which is why they came into "War of the Worlds" after the warning announcement had been read.

    Tollin said that Welles's versions of events were never reliable, and in particular his surprise at the result. John Houseman said the "surfing" was expected. And while Welles gets all the attention, Tollin said that Frank Reddick (who played Carl Philips) was the unsung hero of "War of the Worlds"; Ray Collins was another stand-out. The first half, he said, was very good, but the second half was "meh." However, all the governments denials are "one of the things that makes it believable."

    Welles wanted realism, but he could not use the President in the drama. So he had someone referred to as the Secretary of the Interior who did a very good Roosevelt impersonation. He also compressed the sense of time; the first part is at least somewhat like real-time, but this did not last long. Tollin added that Orson Welles used silence better than anyone else in radio except Jack Benny.

    Tollin talked about how people did not learn from their mistakes, with the result that when they did a re-creation in Quito, Ecuador, many years later, listeners were so outraged that they stormed the radio station, burned it down, and killed several employees. And after the Mercury Theater broadcast, "Newspapers were delighted to attack radio."

    Lyau said that H. G. Wells was upset because he was not asked for permission to use The War of the Worlds. Tollin responded that Wells's United States agent gave permission, but then protested because of all the changes Orson Welles had made.

    Trivia: H. G. Wells met Orson Welles in South America October 27, 1940 (almost exactly two years after the broadcast).

    There was an explanation of "sustainer" shows (such as "X-1", "The Mercury Theater", and "Norman Corwin") which were scheduled opposite popular shows.

    There were repercussions around the world. Maizels said that Australia passed laws prohibiting the broadcast of things like fire engine sounds that might fool people. He felt, though, that the "compressed time" would make it harder to fool people today. [I'm not sure this is true; people had pretty much stopped listening to the Welles broadcast by the time the compression became obvious.]

    [A similar idea in film was the made-for-television film Special Bulletin, which ran with a lot of disclaimers throughout.]

    Maizels and Lyau said that today such a panic would be started on Twitter or other social media. As Lyau said, "In social media, there are no rules."

    Tollin said that Dick Clark and Walter Cronkite were going to hoax Orson Welles, but he died two days before the date planned.

    An audience member observed, "We check our reason and our intellect when fear is involved."

    The broadcast has inspired a variety of works: a segment in Radio Days, The Night That Panicked America, the Jeff Wayne musical (mentioned by Maizels), and Orson Welles & Me (which Tollin found amusing).

    The Romance of Train Travel
    Friday, 12:00 N
    Elizabeth Moon (M), Jo Walton, Evelyn Leeper, Andy Porter

    Description: "No one associates romance with any other form of modern transport. What is it about train travel that evokes such passion?"

    Attendance: [unknown]

    "The romance of trains is leg room."

    [Sorry, that's the only note I took.]

    Barbarian Days
    Friday, 1:00 PM
    Director: Damian Horan

    Description: Most people spend their whole lives searching for what makes them happy. Few find it. Even fewer get the chance to share it with friends. Every year, hundreds of fans flock to tiny Cross Plains, Texas, the home of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. Nearly 80 years after his death by suicide, Howard, an outsider himself, has attracted his own merry band of self-admitted outcast followers. We followed the Big 4, the top two Howard scholars from the old guard and two up and comers, through their world of fandom at "Howard Days," the annual celebration of Howard's life and works. Despite the cheery air of the celebratory weekend, drama and emotions often run high as Howard fans take their pastime very seriously, but in the end, however, the fans have all gathered for the same reason: to share their passion for Howard, and, for one weekend a year, leave their ordinary lives behind.

    [I did not see this at the convention, but Mark did, and based on his description, I ordered the DVDand watched that. Pretty interesting.]

    The Future of the Future
    Friday, 2:00 PM
    Gregory Benford (M), Steven Diamond, Joe Haldeman, Norman Spinrad

    Description: "Why isn't there more science fiction that has grand generational or eons of focus. Where is the human race going?"

    Attendance: 400

    Benford began by noting, "In the front row, as ever, is Evelyn Leeper." Well, if I want to be sure to hear everything (and see who says it), I pretty much have to sit in the front row.

    Spinrad said that he had researched China in the 15th century. They were two hundred years ahead of everyone else, but then they just stopped. He sees our present like this. In science fiction, he said, "We see all these dreadful movies" with superheroes, post-apocalyptic scenarios, vampires, etc. We are in the Golden Age of Astronomy, there are 17 billion earth-like planets in the galaxy, and we see little of this in science fiction. "Our place is smaller and the Universe is much grander and more complicated than we thought." This should result in a scientific, spiritual, and religious revolution.

    Diamond responded, "So I'm supposed to follow that, huh?" He felt that the films reflect what we are worried about.

    Benford said that the Singularity is the other side of this. And Haldeman said that editors are not buying Stapledonian science fiction; what sells is closer to realist fiction. Benford replied that he wanted to see more Stapledonian science fiction, so Spinrad asked him, "Why don't you write more [of it]?" Diamond suggested that Stapledonian science fiction does not do characters well, and Benford asked, "Do you think the scale dwarfs the characters?"

    Benford also pointed out that if we will get smarter for the Singularity, characters are even harder to write. Haldeman noted that he has done a far future novel (The Accidental Time Machine).

    Spinrad opined, "The Singularity is a bummer. Why would we build a thing like that?" He said we should not make a distinction between intelligence and consciousness. "If [machines] can't be stupid, they can't be conscious."

    Someone mentioned Robert Sheckley's "The Gun with No Bang". Spinrad also said that Bede Rundle's book Why Is There Something Instead of Nothing? does not really answer its own question.

    Benford noted that Thomas Aquinas said that time and space were created together. He also observed that a vacuum is unstable if it is created with no mass. Haldeman said that he still knows only particles, but Benford said that "particles are emergent properties of fields." The problem, he added, is that science fiction that has all this "is hard to write; zombies are much easier." Haldeman agreed that it is difficult to come up with plots dealing with quantum mechanics.

    Benford said that people do not write like that anymore, and people do not buy that anymore. "Writing is seduction. And I don't mean just vampires. Vampires are about seduction; werewolves are about rape."

    Benford also said that he has been told that "space is over," indicating a growing cynicism. Spinrad said it was "not cynicism so much as ignorance." He has written Child of Fortune and some stuff on the evolution of consciousness, but editors want to establish a franchise rather than do something innovative. As he pointed out, drug dealers do better selling addictive drugs than non-addictive drugs.

    [I wonder if it is easier for established authors to write the far-future stuff.]

    Diamond said that he wants a plot with a definite end, interesting characters, and characters in some sort of danger (i.e., "there are stakes"). He gave the examples of James S. A. Corey's "Expanse" series and Ian Tregellis's "Milkweed" series.

    Haldeman said that for writers, it becomes harder to come up with satisfying endings. Spinrad said that you need the ending before starting, and the ending should exemplify the "arc" of the characters. Benford disagreed, saying that he does not know his endings before starting. Haldeman recommended the novel The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

    Two-Gun Bob: The Somewhat True Tales of Robert E. Howard
    Friday, 4:00 PM
    Mark Finn (M), Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Damon Sasser, Rob Roehm

    Description: "Writing a biography is an inexact science, and it's made all the more difficult when the subject in question was less than truthful about what they chose to tell other people about themselves. Four Robert E. Howard experts will shatter long-standing myths about Howard's life and talk about how they separate fact from fiction when writing about REH."

    Attendance: [unknown]

    Finn began by noting that until the late 1990s, there was only one theory and one story about Robert E. Howard. There was "only one biography by one guy, and a contentious one at that." [The "guy" was L. Sprague de Camp and the biography was Dark Valley Destiny.] Burke added that the biggest challenge was that Howard was a professional liar, especially in his letters to H. P. Lovecraft. Roehm said that de Camp believed everything interviewees told him, even when it was contrary to existing documents. Finn also said that de Camp was not just too trusting of his sources, but also of Howard himself, who was an unreliable narrator. And Sasser added that Howard's father also had a tendency to prevaricate, especially after Howard's death. And finally, Louinet said everyone who came after was too imbued by de Camp to correct or even to detect his errors.

    For example, Finn and Burke noted, de Camp claimed that Howard did not go to school until he was eight years old because of bullies, but in fact everyone in Texas started school at eight years old.

    Roehm said that the most damning, and damaging, of de Camp's claims was that Howard was "maladjusted to the point of psychosis." Louinet felt that de Camp would never admit his ignorance on a topic, but would just make it up.

    Burke referenced his "Purist Manifesto of 1990" ( http://www.hupa.com/OLDWEB/burke_manifesto.htm) and said he saw a disconnect between de Camp's introductions and the stories themselves. He observed that people always gave a negative view of events. Roehm said that he saw spin rather than facts in de Camp.

    Sasser said that he likes the challenge and the hunt for the truth.

    Louinet said that he researched the genealogy because "Howard" is not an Irish name (though there are some), and so Howard's claim to Irish ancestry seemed unlikely. (One assumes he was specifically claiming it on his father's side, since the Irishness of "Howard" would have nothing to do with the maternal line. In any case, Howard would not have been the first person to manufacture a false history for himself.)

    Finn felt that more than inaccurate, de Camp was "mean" to Howard. He said that de Camp did not account for the fact that Howard was a Texan, and Finn's book "put the Texan back in the biography." (I assume that "Texan" in this context implies "teller of tall tales" or some such.) He added that de Camp did not understand boom town psychology, or even why Howard always carried a gun. The latter was because he had been mugged one time when his car broke down, and he decided he needed a gun for protection.

    Burke observed that in many ways it was easier for de Camp to continue writing "Conan" stories if Howard was not a real genius, or at least was not considered one.

    Basically, Robert E. Howard was not a misfit loner. Finn said that E. Hoffman Price was jealous that Howard was younger and more successful, and so got "snarkier" with time; de Camp used this as some of the basis for the biography.

    Finn said that the elephant in the room was why Howard killed himself--at least that is what people most want to know. Sasser said there are other unanswered questions (e.g., when did his dog die?).

    Finn pointed out that while de Camp promoted Conan (and sword and sorcery in general) as escapism, Howard had many axes to grind and many opinions he was promoting. Burke said that Howard was more of a conscientious artist than we thought. For example, Howard claimed he did only one draft, but he actually did three or four. Burke referenced Carl Jung's Psychology and Art and warned against the intentional fallacy.

    In de Camp's favor, Roehm pointed out that de Camp did a lot of interviews, and had others do even more research. Finn felt that de Camp's appearance worked against him when he was interviewing. (I am not sure if he meant he looked slightly satanic, or what.) He said that Novalyne Price's book, One Who Walked Alone--Robert E. Howard: The Final Years, was a response to de Camp's book, and both he and Burke recommend it. (This book was the basis of the film The Whole Wide World.)

    Do SF Stories Have Fewer Happy Endings Now?
    Friday, 6:00 PM
    Bryan T. Schmidt (M), Jessica Reisman, Martha Wells, David Nickle, Grant Carrington

    Description: "In the 1940s, 50s and even 60s the Good Guy usually won and the Earth was saved. How and why did our stories' endings change?"

    Attendance: 15

    Nickle began by claiming, "Most of the time, victorious endings are a cheat." He defined these as those in which the protagonist gets out and learns something.

    Schmidt said that at least these have some sense of hope, and asked whether you can have a happy ending for some but not for all. Reisman said it was a question of it being a happy ending for the narrator. And Nickle thought these were such wistful, nostalgic questions.

    Wells observed that in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, not all stories had happy endings, and cited "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin. (However, that seems most notable in having an ending so atypical of the time.) Reisman named other stories of the era he felt did not have happy endings: Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. (I suppose one could add 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Wicker Man by Robin Hardy, and The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney.)

    Reisman said that pulps were more simplistic, and largely adventure. [Could it be that the Depression and World War II required happy endings, but the 1950s not so much? The (non-SF) film Sullivan's Travels addresses this. However, John Steinbeck did not necessarily follow this rule.] Schmidt suggested readers are more sophisticated now. Reisman said it was a question of different cultural perspectives. Wells said that we now have the concept of the "antagonist," rather than just a villain. Or perhaps we have carried it even further, with people "rooting for the bad guy."

    Schmidt asked whether happy endings require a positive future.

    Nickle felt that the writing of the period in question was warped by the Hays Code for motion pictures, probably in the sense of warping the expectations of readers. He said that it was works such as Night of the Living Dead and Pet Sematary by Stephen King that changed expectations by being satisfying even with "unhappy" endings. Reisman added Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (titled Midnight Riot in the Uited States); Carrington listed James Gunn's The Cave of Night.

    Latino Characters by Mainstream Authors: Diversity or Cultural Appropriation?
    Friday, 7:00 PM
    Derek Kunsken (M), Norman Spinrad, Rudy Ch. Garcia

    Description: "Non-Latino authors have been more successful publishing "Latino SF" than Latino writers. What role have agents and publishers played in this and why? When do non-Latino authors go too far-cultural misappropriation-assuming we can define "too far"? The panel will explore these issues from a variety of perspectives."

    Attendance: 8

    Kunsken had taught in Honduras, and was a diplomat in Colombia and in Ecuador. He asked whether non-Latino authors have been more successful in publishing Latino science fiction than Latino authors. (At this point, the panel clarified that they were talking about only in the United States and only science fiction.)

    Spinrad said he has various connections to Mexico, and does not feel as if he is appropriating anything when he writes Latino science fiction.

    Garcia made a distinction between cultural appropriation versus diversity. For example, the film Armageddon has no people of color. He said, "We want dark people in other people's novels," as well as in novels by Latinos. He said the important thing was to be authentic, e.g. do not put Puerto Rican food in Mexico. (Actually, I think it is more likely to go the other way around, but you get the idea.)

    Garcia mentioned a website, http://www.scifilatino.com.

    LSC3 Film Festival: Frankenstein's Monster
    Friday, 8:00 PM
    Director: Syd Lance

    Description: A light steampunk adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

    Attendance: [unknown]

    An interesting "steampunk" version--or at least "steam", since the Monster seems to be steam-driven.

    Magic Realism
    Saturday, 11:00 AM
    Darlene Marshall (M), Howard Waldrop, Rudy Ch. Garcia, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Stina Leicht"

    Description: "Magic Realism, Science Fiction, Fantasy. How can you use these terms to describe the varied work of Angélica Gorodischer, Gabriel García Márquez, and Laura Esquivel?"

    Attendance: 30

    Garcia McCall has written Summer of the Mariposas, a young-adult magical realism retelling of The Odyssey. Leicht has written Of Blood and Honey, a magical realism novel about Ireland.

    Ch. Garcia said that magical realism is not a strictly Latino genre--that is a stereotype, like the idea that only certain groups have rhythm.

    Marshall said there are many definitions, but magical realism is basically realistic fiction with fantastic elements, e.g., The Metamorphosis and The Trial by Franz Kafka, The Tin Drum by Günter Grass, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

    Waldrop said that he had written such magical realism works as A Dozen Tough Jobs. He said that the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? was similarly structured of necessity. He also cited "The City Quiet as Death" by Steve Utley and Michael Bishop as another example of magical realism.

    Leicht thought that United States culture has no myths of its own. Yes, there are such stories as that of Paul Bunyan, but they are not integrated into daily life. We do have urban fantasy, however.

    Ch. Garcia quoted George R.R. Martin as having said, "Magic realism destroys the line of demarcation between what seems real and what seems fantastic."

    Leicht suggested that the play Man of La Mancha was magical realism. [What about The Life of Pi by Yann Martel?]

    Marshall asked what makes one book magical realism and another fantasy; is it the publisher who decides? [One is reminded of the old Avon Bard series of magical realism, so influential that someone on a panel many years ago jokingly defined magical realism as being a book published with a white banner at the top with the title, the author's name, and one or two short blurbs, and the rest of the cover displaying a surreal, brightly colored image.]

    Ch. Garcia thought that explicitly labeling a book magical realism was pretentious.

    Marshall asked, "Is magical realism tied to political overtones?" Everyone seemed to agree with this idea. (One example from film would be Pan's Labyrinth.) Ch. Garcia mentioned The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez as a Latin American novel with political overtones that is not magical realism.

    [I should note that a lot of the list of magical realism works at http://leepers.us/evelyn/reviews/magreal.htm (compiled from Usenet) is not political.]

    Ch. Garcia said, "All children young enough are magical realists."

    [I have to note that Marshall is a great moderator.]

    Sidewise Award for Alternate History
    Saturday, 12:00 N
    Evelyn Leeper (M), Steven H Silver (M)

    Description: [none]

    Attendance: 25

    The Sidewise nominees were:

    Short Form

    Long Form

    The winners were Rick Wilber for "Something Real" and C. J. Sansom for Dominion.

    Both winners are first time winners. In fact, none of this year's nominees have ever been nominated before.

    30 Great SFF Films You Almost Certainly Haven't Seen
    Saturday, 2:00 PM
    Perrianne Lurie (M), Adam-Troy Castro, Terry Floyd, Elektra Hammond

    Description: "The many new options for home viewing have greatly increased the availability of any number of obscure, independent, and foreign films available to anybody willing to risk a journey off the beaten path. Panelists will take two minutes apiece to sell you some little-known masterpieces you should check out at you first opportunity. Be prepared to take notes."

    Attendance: 200

    [Film notes by Mark R. Leeper]

    Well, this was a popular panel! The panelists asked the audience members to raise their hands if they had seen the movies the panel suggests. Mark and I had our hands in the air for most of the films. Panelists and people around us were amazed we had seen so many of the films. Since we sat toward the front of the room we were unaware that we were alone in the number of films we recognized.

    Rather than list the films chronologically, we will list each panelist's suggestions. And, yes, there are more than thirty. (The ones with question marks I was unable to find in the IMDB, so I may have gotten the name wrong.)


  • Evelyn C. Leeper may be reached via e-mail or you may visit her Homepage.

    Mark R. Leeper may be reached via e-mail.