MidAmeriCon II, Day 3 (Friday, August 19, 2016)

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10 a.m. – Oceans The Wettest Frontier
Since one of my failed fiction attempts from years ago was about a seafaring submarine culture’s attempt to create a maritime dairy industry with whales, I found myself drawn to this particular panel topic.

The panelists brought up some very interesting points. Since I didn’t catch their names well or keep them straight, I will lump the commentary generally.

One of the first comments was “No matter where you set your story, your setting is a character.” That and the realization that three dimensional thinking is required of us flatlanders, and we had a good basis for a discussion.

But unlike writing about space, more people who can tell when you get things wrong about the ocean than about space.

The environmental issues of earths oceans came up. One panelist mentioned the loss of 2/3 of the predatory fish, another the loss of oxygen in the earth’s oceans.

The influence of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was discussed. Some found it important, others had hardly been touched by it. Which led to dicussion of early submarines. “What time does something stop becoming techno-thrill and become science fiction?”

Other issues discussed were the dynamics of living aboard ship and communication underwater. One attendee asked a good question about how to handle electronics underwater. Didn’t have time for in-depth on that.
I also got to ask my second question at a panel. Would it be practical for a group of humans to make a culture out of recycling the refuse — like plastics — that we have dumped into the oceans. Turns out one of the panelists is making some of that a part of one of her upcoming works.

11 a.m. — Reading Aloud
We went to this panel, but the panelist didn’t make it to the convention, and they didn’t get the schedule updated. So we got confirmation from a helpful volunteer about 10 minutes in and went to the exhibit hall for a snack and some reading.
12 p.m. — The Future is a Different Country
We arrived in this room and sat down to find a person in a scooter behind me (I didn’t look) being loud, rude and annoying. Then Betsy asked me if I recognized her as the Toastmaster from the opening ceremonies. No, I hadn’t recognized the rude person as Pat Cadogan.

This panel was on predicting how tech will go in the next 40 years. I found myself reacting strongly to the blindered persectives of some of the people on the panel. Only the youngest seemed to be really aware and flexible.

The first question was where each panel person saw tech going.

Edward M. Lerner saw the number of things connected to the internet going from people to gadgets as the majority. From cars to clothes he sees gadgets taking over — increasing our concern for viruses and trojans.

Patrick Neilsen Hayden discussed how e-books didn’t fulfill the potential of 2009-10, having plateaued at about 1/5th of sales. From my other reading I knew of course he was using the numbers from his publishing house, TOR, and representing them as the entire industry. If one used sources such as Indie publishing and Amazon one would see that the numbers are entirely different, and that e-book sales are continuing to claim more of the market.

Andrea Philips was the most sensible of the panel. Her take was that it wasn’t individual technologies, but how they worked together, that most affected her field. “Each additional tech makes more interesting things.”
The second question was how we as humans were going to interact with the new technologies. To which Edward made another dumb statement (my opinion) — that the biggest use of technologies would be the elimination so work for most of us, no need for us to work. To which Patrick eagerly described as “fully automated luxury communism.” The issue I had with this was that every time this has happened in the past, technological dislocation, people have always found other things to do. Many of the jobs they are talking about going away didn’t exist 50 or 100 years ago.

Andrea made a good point that technology allows people to be more human, to do things outside of sustenance. It comes down to what communities and status will we seek?

There were a lot of other points, but the final one I will mention is that of the interface between biological and engineering. Kathleen Ann Goonan asked how will our biology be impacted by these technologies. Which looped to an earlier point of Edward’s about carbon based nano-technology.

The discussion came with Andrea discussing human reluctance to change our sensory apparatus, while Edward noted that once the devices for prostetics for the disabled became better than the natural, that reluctance would disappear. Patrick said this would be augmented once the enhancements are not obtrusive.

1 p.m. — Beta Readers
This panel was an excellent discussion by panelists Martin L. Shoemaker, Eric James Stone, Sharon Bass, Mary Soon Lee and Shanna Swendson.
First came the attempt to define the Beta Reader vs. the editor, which was left a bit vague.
The key points about Beta readers was to not just give them the work, but to tell them what you want them to look for, such as continuity, proofreading, how the feelings came across, what works and what doesn’t, etc.
There can also be specialist readers, either technical or sensitivity. They agreed it was good to write about groups other than yourself, even if you sometimes make mistakes. I found this view refreshing. You aren’t limited to writing only what you know and your own group.

One should also not argue with a critique, don’t argue, whether you think they are right or wrong. And thank anyone who makes a critique.

3 p.m. — Baen Travelling Road Show.


After another refreshment break, and a short look at the art show we came to the Baen Travelling Road Show. And yes, it was a show.
They gave out free books to active military, librarians, people who asked good questions. We got to meet several authors talking about books coming out, learn about the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast, the Baen Free Library.

They touted their leadership in e-books: “no encryption, we treat our customers as customers.”

Once again, it was a real exciting time, live, a real show, but hard to describe in writing. But it just emphasizes how Baen creates a real loyalty for its book and brand that the other publishers can only envy.
4-6 p.m.
Spent some time at a private con suite, and then went back to the Exhibit Hall for more browsing and some refreshment.

6 p.m. — ‘It Takes a Pack to Raise a Child’ Families and Friends in Steampunk


This panel was one of the most well run and lively exchanged so far. Heather Rose Jones (who we had met first day) moderated a panel of: Belinda McBride, Beth Cato, Gail Carriger and Sandee Rodriguez.
They interpreted the panel description as: Are supporting characters important in driving stories forward?
Heather asked the panel if they thought punk had a stock set of characters. Belinda mentioned the psychic type; Beth mentioned the mechanic or ship captain; Gail mentioned the hero/villain.

Heather then asked about favorite supporting characters. Gail liked female friends that are non-betrayal. Beth liked strong, eccentric, older women. Sandee amplified that to elderly characters in strong roles, not used as a pity kill. Belinda liked mechanics and family.

The questions then turned to what supporting characters distinguish the genre. Belinda mentioned the urchins that show up in Victorian. They can be mysterious, and carriers of messages (like Hermes). Gail saw the urchins as child labor, light serviceable workers for dirigibles, for examples.
Beth brought up Frankenstein-like characters and automatons, and the moral implementations. Gail noted a connection between science and religion in the Victorian world that allowed the spiritual elements to work in steam punk.

Then came the second reference of the day to Jules Verne. Heather brought up the Nautilus as a steam punk example of a character in its own right. The question: where is the line between automaton as character and technology as character in its own right? Belinda saw the distinction on whether they are able to give consent.
Several other topics were mentioned in the audience question session. I will just mention a couple of items.

They brought up the importance of “Found Family” to the genre, that you need teamwork to survive. Gail brought up the concept of the Heroine’s journey:  the glorification of connection for success. This was contrasted with the Hero’s journey, defined as a severing of connections to fulfill a quest. “Give your white alpha male hero some friends” She said.
This got agreement about the heroine’s journey, and disagreement about the hero’s definition.
With the association to the Victorian era, the other questions were about whether steampunk could be done without a British taste, or without an aristocratic class system. They came up with some nice examples of non-Victorian steam punk.
End of evening

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We took a trip to the private party room, until the book launch party for Mysterion, where we grazed the snacks and talked to the author of one of the stories, as well as the editor of the book. Mysterion, per its blurb, is “a fascinating look at Christianity through the prism of speculative fiction.”.

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We also saw some of the broadcast of the Masquerade, and caught the below picture of someone in costume at the con suite. We had seen her several times during the week, including one of the private parties, but as usual I hadn’t managed to catch her name.

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My nametag list of ribbons on day 3 — only grew by one this day.

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