Philcon 2017
Convention report by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 2017 Evelyn C. Leeper

Table of Contents:


If I thought the Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill had gone downhill last year, this year topped it (bottomed it), as I found myself trapped in an elevator for about twenty minutes. I tried pressing the alarm button; it set the alarm off, but nothing happened. I tried the elevator phone--again, nothing. Even pounding on the door and yelling got no response. Luckily I had a cell phone that worked from inside the elevator, so I finally called one of our friends who was at the convention and asked him to go to the front desk and tell them I was trapped. It turns out they knew (presumably from one of the alarms), but did not think it was worth while to send someone to the elevator to let me know help was on the way, or ask if I was okay. (Even after I got out, the best they could do was one free brunch. So Mark, Kate, and I had Sunday brunch at the hotel, with each of us paying 2/3 the usual price--not a terrible deal, but still...)

Oh, and our floor's ice machine was broken.

Franz Kafka: It's Not All About Cockroaches
Friday, 5 PM
John Ashmead, Bruce Dykes, Alan Gordon, Mark Wolverton

Description: "An exploration of Kafka's work and its impact on science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing."

Estimated attendance: 20

What Do We Owe Mary Shelley?
Friday, 7 PM
Alan Beck, Keith R.A. DeCandido, April Grey, Christine Norris

Description: "Mary Shelley planted the seeds for the concept of AI, engineered the Mad Scientist trope, used the impact of climate change on society as an inspiration for fiction, and wrote one of the first post-apocalyptic stories of the modern era. A discussion of the many ways in which the founder of SF is still influencing the genre today."

Estimated attendance: 20

Science Fiction Stories Age Like Wine
Friday, 8 PM
David M. Axler, Tom Purdom, Joe Siclari, Michael J. Walsh

Description: "Which is to say, some remain delicious to imbibe after decades while others turn to the literary equivalent of vinegar. Is it a change in modern standards of quality or a change in palate that has people losing their taste for works they once enjoyed?"

Estimated attendance: 30

How Libraries Have Changed
Saturday, 10 AM
Scheherazade Jackson, Evelyn Leeper, Andre Lieven, Christine Norris, Suzanne Rosin

Description: "What is different about the libraries of today? Electronic book loans, availability of databases and museum passes, classes and craft meetings are common. What do today's libraries mean to the communities around them?"

Estimated attendance: 30

How Casting Affects Our Perception
Saturday, 12 N
Orenthal Hawkins, Kim Kindya, Carl Paolino, Jeff Warner

Description: "How does the choice of an actor for a role impact not only what we think of that character, but the narrative they sustain? How did the choice of Jason Momoa for Aquaman change our impression of what Atlantis would be like, and our expectations of his role in the films? What about the decision to cast Scarlet Johansson as Major Kusanagi? If, say, Lupita Nyong'o was playing Daenerys Targaryen, how would that alter the meaning surrounding that character's arc in Game of Thrones?"

Estimated attendance: ?

The Flaws of Golden Age SF Literature...and Why You Should Read It Anyway
Saturday, 12 N
John Ashmead, Vikki Ciaffone, Darrell Schweitzer, Joe Siclari

Description: "If necessity is the mother of all invention, the Golden Age must have left us with needs unmet. In the decades since that formative era of SF, writers have innovated and improved endlessly, much to readers? delight. Yet, those imperfect stories of a bygone age still have much to teach us about the heart of science fiction and why it appeals to the human spirit. Explore the past with us, and discuss what authors got wrong, as well as what they got right."

Estimated attendance: 30

That's Not History, That's Hollywood.
Saturday, 2 PM
Vikki Ciaffone, Elizabeth Crowens, Tom Doyle, Evelyn Leeper, Carl Paolino, Steve Vertlieb

Description: "So many impressions we have of our world's history come from fiction we've subconsciously adopted as fact, with Hollywood's choice of narrative and casting giving us a very misleading understanding of what previous eras looked and interacted like. How do you tell if your work is perpetuating racial or sexist stereotypes that never existed in the name of 'historical accuracy'? And how important is 'historical accuracy' when you're writing a fantasy world, anyway?"

Estimated attendance: 30

If Christianity Had Never Come Along
Saturday, 3 PM
Debra Baker, Ef Deal, Bernie Mojzes, Richard Stout, Alyce Wilson, Batya Wittenberg

Description: "Imagine what the 21st century would be like without Christianity in history. Would we be worshipping a different god or gods? Or would society have developed in a different direction? What fiction is already exploring this idea?"

Estimated attendance: 50

Climate Change in the Next Ten Years
Saturday, 96 PM
Chris Kreuter, Frank O'Brien, Jay Wile

Description: "The effects of climate change can already be seen all over the world. Close to home, the superstorm hurricane season, midwestern drought, and western wildfires are all linked to climate change. However, the impacts are felt most keenly by developing countries, and the poorer inhabitants of developed countries. Panelists will discuss the climatological, meteorological, and sociopolitical developments we can expect to see in the next 10 years, and the most important steps that need to be taken to mitigate these impacts."

Estimated attendance: 35

What Impact Can Any One Novel Have?
Sunday, 10 AM
Ellen Asher, Vikki Ciaffone, Russ Colchamiro, Joe Siclari

Description: "What are the limits of influence a book can have on society, on other novels, and on publishing? Is there one? Is there even a codifiable way of measuring a story's reach, or is it too subtle a thing for us to ever truly know?"

Estimated attendance:

The Influence of Film on Contemporary Science Fiction Writing
Sunday, 12 N
Tom Doyle, Peter Prellwitz, Aaron Rosenberg, Diane Weinstein, Steve Wilson

Description: "How is the hope for a Hollywood adaptation influencing writers and their current works?"

Estimated attendance: 10

Subterranean Science Fiction
Sunday, 1 PM
James L. Cambias, John Grant, Richard Stout, Diane Weinstein

Description: "From Verne's 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' to Burroughs's "Pellucidar" series to "The Tunnels" series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, the idea of a world hidden beneath our own has been a persistent trope in SF. What opportunities does an underground setting offer to writers?"

Estimated attendance: 20

Classic SF Anthology Shows
Sunday, 2 PM
Stephanie Burke, Ray Ridenour, Mark Wolverton

Description: "Almost everyone has heard of the Twilight Zone, even if they've never seen an episode. But what about similar shows, and their contributions to the genre? A discussion of Tales from the Darkside, Night Gallery, The Veil, Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and more."

Estimated attendance: 20


The Dance Party room was apparently set up by the hotel with rows of chairs in it.

Plaza II needs microphones, and Plaza I needs to be quieter. In general, we need microphones because many attendees' ears are failing, and panelists' voices are failing also.

There should be a panel on "Science Fiction Films Made for Less Than $5 Million"

Someone asked why their were Sabbath services happening in programming rooms at a lot of science fiction conventions, so I suppose I'll explain here. Observant Jews are not allowed to drive, ride in a car, etc., on the Sabbath. But their are no synagogues within walking distance of most convention hotels, so in order to accommodate people who might otherwise not be able to attend, an unused room is set aside Friday evening and early Saturday morning for this purpose. There are no rooms set aside on Sunday for Christian, since Christians are allowed to drive or ride in cars.