Three cons for SF fans under the sun.
Seven for the Gamers in their dungeons of stone.
Nine for steam punks doomed to puff.
One for the cos players on their cardboard thrones.
One con to rule them all. (yah right)
One con to find them.
One con to geek them all.
And in fair Nerdom bind them.
At the con Polaris where the actors are.
Please note: there were panelists not listed in the Polaris hand book and I have sadly omitted you because I’d rather get it right than do a botch job of things without a proper reference. Sorry about that guys.
The quest began the Wednesday before the con when I ran out to get the cones for the ice cream social that I was sponsoring in 10 forward, the hospitality suite, on the Friday. I wanted the big boxes to get the most bang for my buck. That task complete I went home and packed my exhibitor’s box and all the other things I would need and started filling the freezer section of the fridge with water. The Thursday before the con I purchased two liters of Hewitt’s Goats’ milk ice cream for the social, since I am well aware that not everyone can eat cows’ milk products. All was well and the evil influence of the ring…. Blast! What ring?… Hmmm…. No there is no way I was going to toss my wrist watch, I’ve had it since I was 16 and it’s hard to find a wind up now days. Ah hu! That’s it, it works…. The evil influence of the clapped-out toothbrush from the downstairs bathroom had yet to assert itself. (To be far it was a good toothbrush it did its job it just wore out. But I need a ring allegory, really!)
Con Friday arrived and after a quick trip to the chiropractor I was off to get the ice cream while she who must be obeyed, the light of my life, my Precioussss, Joy my wife, stayed behind to do last minute packing. Thus began an odyssey of delays and annoyances. I gave up fighting it when I got caught behind a traffic jam of three overweight trolls arguing about which one should go down the trail first. (Three elderly people with shopping carts who decided the middle of the access was a good place to chat.) I swear it was getting ugly, epically because there was another pair of them boxing me in from behind. The evil influence of the toothbrush was exerting itself. With heroic effort I fought my way through. (The old folk finally sorted themselves out with me prompting them by saying excuse me.) Over an hour after I’d intended to be out of the city I hit the road with Joy all my kit and fifty six, yes fifty six, liters of ice cream stowed using a shrinking charm in my saddle bags. Gods how I wish. You ever try to pack a large volume of stuff into a Hyundai Accent? World Tetras championship here I come. With each bump my noble stead hit I was reminded that books are heavy and so is ice cream.
Arriving at Riven….the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel an hour later my first priority was to get Fro… the ice cream out of the thirty degree C heat. With the help of a pair of young elves, (volunteers) the task of transporting the ice cream to ten forward was accomplished and Fro… the ice cream was saved from becoming a melted sticky wraith. Next, she who is my queen and beloved, the shining one, finest gem of woman kind, (I’ll stop now before I get smacked) checked into the con. The panelist check in wasn’t yet manned, so I went to check into Minas Morgul, yes Minas Morgul, otherwise known as the Best Western the lower priced option attached to the convention center. More on this later. Someone had supplied punch and cupcakes as a greeting treat for the con goers which was nice. A room that was fit to sleep in would have been nicer.
Having checked in I lugged our clothes food and the like to the room and exhibitor’s table. By now we were running late so I skipped my swim took a shower dressed and charged into the fray. Wielding the mighty blade spiel I carved through all those who approached clearing a path for noble Tinker’s Plague, enticing Slaves of Love and fair The Hollow Curse to work their magic and preparing the way for Nukekubi who is soon to follow.
(Hay, I’ve been doing this a lot, how many ways do you think there are to work in the book titles anyway?)
She who is the love and light of my life, seriously twenty-five years in and I still love this woman, she’s special despite my teasing, joined me between mad bouts of putting up posters. I tried something different this year posting short short stories by the elevators where people always end up waiting. They seem to have been appreciated as they kept vanishing. So long as someone took them because they liked them and not just to be an idiot I don’t mind. Then 8:00 PM came along and I slipped off to the ice cream social. It was the first time I have ever seen an ice cream buffet. Fifteen different types of ice cream sitting on a long table with cones and bowls. People were helping themselves and seemed to really like it. Everyone was chatting and scarfing down the fast thawing treat. I even managed to snag some of the Goat’s Milk, guess why I was aware enough to bring it. So we feasted and rested in Lori… ten forward.
I rejoined Joy to take down our table which we were sharing with Gim… Ira Nayman proprietor of the Alternative reality news service: www.lespagesauxfolles.ca (Sorry about the Gimly thing Ira) ;-) Stowing our gear we returned to the social and Joy feasted.
Then came my first panel.
How to Judge a Book By Its CoverDescription: Book cover art can have an enormous impact on not only a book's sales, but also how it's perceived by the public. A good cover can make a book stand out in a bookstore and linger in the reader's mind after reading. A bad cover can turn off a potential reader before they've even read a word. How are book covers chosen? How do artists get into the field, and what does it take for a cover to truly stand out? This is your chance to find out. Area: Art Programming Team Member: Vickie Kostecki
Panelists: Stephen B. Pearl – www.stephenpearl.comJulie E. Czerneda (M) – http://www.czerneda.comSarah McCully – www.myspace.com/sarahmccullyErik Buchanan - www.goodreads.com/author/show/2920035.Erik_BuchananTime: Fryday 10:00 PM –ButtonVill
This was a good discussion of the realities of cover art. We dealt with things such as how to prep an artist. I hadn’t known this, but it was suggested you take excerpts from your book describing your characters and the like. Just a couple of pages worth. This was good advice.
Of course I’m a little fish, and I defined my input into covers thusly. “Dear publisher I’m desperate, you’ll put my book out, I’m very agreeable. “I’m just curious why is there a muskrat sitting on my lead’s head?”
Sorry Robert and Rita you guys were great but it got a laugh.
I was surprised to learn how many of the big houses have a reserve of art that they just leaf through and pull out. It now makes sense why so many covers don’t really match the book.
A lot of leeway has to be given the artist because the cover will never match what’s in the writer’s head. Of course in my case that would be a weird swirling of paints in a random pattern indicating utter chaos but anyway.
- Get them to pick up book.
- Make them think about book?
- Match the books content.
- Not make false promises.
- Be striking.
- Make a good thumb nail
- Blow up well for posters.
One that is obvious but surprising is how important the spine is since most books are put on the shelf spine out.
After this we hit 10 forward again sat in on “I peed in the cargo bay” a panel discussing Farscape one of my favorite science fiction shows.Panelists: Kate Halloran : Julie E. Czeneda : www.czerneda.com Marc Nadeau
Then to Minus Morgal and our cell.
Let’s see about the Friday night. Well if you remember last year the air conditioner sounded like a DC10 with misaligned props this year was an improvement. They’d replaced it with a Cessna. It was still loud but tolerable. They still hadn’t learned that a king-sized bed needs a king-sized under sheet not a queen sized so the under sheet pulled out and bunched up beneath me as I tried to sleep. We had two people in our room, Joy and myself, so of course they only supplied one packet of caffeinated coffee and one packet of decaf for our use. The coffee maker was almost impossible to fill without spilling water all over the place. At least this year the shower curtain wasn’t moldy and the room’s smoke detector didn’t beep at us all night. More on this last tomorrow though. When I booked I’d reminded them of last year’s issues and told them not to repeat the same mistakes. Still, I’ll put up with little things. I didn’t complain Saturday morning because I deemed it more trouble than it was worth, everyone makes mistakes after all. More for Saturday night.
Saturday dawned. No, I will not tell you more details about the previous night! Gods write a few sex scenes and get labeled. I mean really!
OK the next day we breakfasted then bathed in lake salt water. That salt water pool is the best part of the hotel. Oh wait it is in fact part of the health club. Then it was back to the quest, aww err, table fighting our way though hordes of Ork…. reluctant customers. It’s a wonderful magic how a book purchase can turn an Ork back into a beautiful elf. Ah yes, everyone should try it. (If I could afford shame I might have some.) ;-)
Until Panel one of the day.
The Hundred Year StarshipDescription: Supposedly, NASA is considering the development of one-way space missions into Mars or deep space. Would you volunteer on such a mission? Would planning and launching such a mission be a worthwhile use of NASA's resources? What might the endgame be? Area: Science & Technology Programming Team Member: Leisa Knapp
Panelists: Stephen B. Pearl – www.stephenpearl.comEric Choi – http://www.aerospacewriter.caDavid G. Stephenson – http://web.ncf.ca/ah728/index.htmlPatrick Mazerolle – Couldn’t locate link.Time: Saterday 11:00 AM - UnionVille
This went very well and I got to make the points I wanted to make which were.
You could use “Disposable People”
- Good for teraforming.
- Australia colonization allegory.
-Lay a foundation that future colonists can exploit.
-Bodies supply organic compounds
=Reduces the cost of prisons.
- Again organic compounds.
-Not contributing as much to Earth society
- “little loss”
- No Babies.
-Variable gravity could actually be a benefit because of.
- Weaker bones.
- Loss of strength
- Someone stuck in a wheel chair could be up and dancing in lower gravity.
Other points were made by a brilliant panel. Such as
Economic incentives could drive it.
Problems with C force artificial gravity that need to be dealt with.
Questions of “Biers remorse”
Large floating cigar like ships might work with c force.
Cost of launching and setting up systems.
A host of other things.
I’ll be honest some of the points I wanted to make were probably made by the other panelists but as happens with a good panel you lose track of who said what and just remember the content. I have to give a special shout out to my co panelists on this one. I find being with brilliant scientific minds invigorating and count it my supreme good luck to have been pared with these men of science so often on panels over the years. We may disagree but you always have my respect. Then back to the table before doing three panels back to back.
The Future of the Printed WordDescription: More and more, traditional books seem to be on the road to becoming obsolete. Ebook readers like the Kindle, Nook, Kobo or iPad are huge sellers, and some major newspapers are going behind paywalls. Is print on its way out? And if so, what does this mean for the future of the industries that depend upon it, such as publishing, magazines and journalism?
Area: Science & Technology, Web Media, Writing
Programming Team Member: Meagan McCartan
Panelists: Stephen B. Pearl – www.stephenpearl.comStephanie Bedwell-Grime – www.feralmartian.com/gallerysbg.phpNeil Jamieson-Williams – http://swill.uldunemedia.caJulie E. Czerneda (M) – www.czerneda.comKelley Armstrong - www.kelleyarmstrong.comTime: Saturday 2:00 PM - Newmarket
This moved into a discussion of how some of the big publishing houses are playing fast and loose with author contracts by exploiting e-publishing. Apparently in a lot of older contracts there is a clause that the publisher retains rights until the book is no longer available so they are letting a book go out of print but keeping it up on their website so they retain the rights.
There were also the standard arguments about emotional connections to a book and it being hard to autograph an e-book as reasons paper will stick around for a while.
I got to give one of my favorite lines.“Until a generation remembers being read bedtime stories by the glow of their parents e-reader print will have a place.”
E-books do have the advantage of weighing a lot less.
Taboos in SF/F FictionDescription: Science fiction and fantasy can be out there genres to begin with. Are there any hands off topics still to be conquered? Is it the province of science fiction and fantasy to do this? Area: Literature Programming Team Member: Vickie KosteckiPanelists: Stephen B. Pearl – www.stephenpearl.comIra Nayman (M) – www.lespagesauxfolles.caLisa Liscoumb – Site not found.Time: Saturday 4:00 PM – President’s Boardroom
This one went to a very different place than I had envisioned. We discussed how the taboos have changed over time and whether a thing like a birth was a taboo or simply not something you want to watch because it isn’t very pretty. (Birth is wonderful but truth is truth.)
We discussed how depictions of pedophilia can be handled and how some times editors get frightened by issues going beyond good taste to a form of economic censorship.
On this last item I recalled how The Hollow Curse was rejected by a publisher because a 21 year old women had a dream sequence where her 18 year old self was at her high school graduation and embraced a 40 year old man. The age difference is a pivotal feature of the novel and it was a dream sequence she was of age both in the dream and even more so as the dreamer. I since placed the book elsewhere but really.
Its Not Easy Being GreenDescription: How effective are the emerging ?green? technologies and products? Are they just a marketing gimmick? Are green technologies the future, or are there other scientific solutions to be found for the problems of global warming and environmental sustainability?
Area: Science & Technology Programming Team Member: Leisa Knapp
Panelists: Stephen B. Pearl – www.stephenpearl.comLiv Uhrig – I think - www.citeulike.org/profile/livuhrig/recommendationsDavid G. Stephenson – http://web.ncf.ca/ah728/index.htmlMark Offer – Can’t find site.Time: Saterday 5:00 PM – Unionville
This was an excellent panel talking about how some of the “Green” technologies are really more hype than not. I had feared an extremist polarization but everyone fell somewhere in the shades of gray area. Some good points were made
- Waiting on future tech that may never come is a fool’s game it May not developo and will have its own set of problems
- Applying present techo - Teething pains- Mercury in light bulbs answer · Personal responsibility in disposal
Current role of renewables
-Stretches out non-renewables allowing more time for development.
Then it was back to the table to pack up stow the stuff in the cell and grab a bite. We went for a swim hit the con suit then dropped in to observe Witchcraft and Wicca in Popular Culture.Panelists, Moria Scott: Can’t find site. Karen Dales : www.karendales.comThis was pretty good giving a more or less Wiccan view of the religion’s recent history and contrasting it to the depictions in media. Media stinks by the way. I can maybe think of a handful of books that have done a good job. This means they got the philosophy right. It’s one thing to jack the power level of magic but if you are going to call someone wiccan make them wiccan, they should express the philosophy as much as you would expect a Christian to express theirs or a Jew to express theirs.
It was then back to the cell. Let’s see, sheet was still the wrong size. Got to sleep shortly after twelve and was jerked awake at 4:00am by the fire alarm blaring. This kept up on and off until 5:30AM. The air conditioner started roaring, going back to its DC10 roots. When I went out to find out what was happening the desk clerk was so inundated with calls I only found out the details by listing to his side of those conversations. Apparently a man standing in a wet swim suit in the lobby is less important that a ringing phone and doesn’t deserve thirty seconds to explain why he was jerked out of sleep in the wee hours. I then went back to my room and explained things to Joy.
After the alarm stopped, about 5:30. I got back to sleep for a couple of hours. The one good thing about the alarm is it granted me time to video record the room’s short comings. You tube posting pending my discussions with Best Western head office but I’m getting ahead of myself.With the morning I ate, dressed and went to the front desk where Stephanie Bedwell-Grimes : www.feralmartian.com/gallerysbg.php was speaking to the women manning it about getting a discount for her inconvenience. They offered a paltry 15% and she asked me what I thought. My reply was, “I think I want to see the manager.” Directed more to the women at the desk that Stephanie who is a very nice lady by the by.
I then turned to the women and explained, “If I’m going to ream someone out it’s going to be someone who can do something about it. Now, I have other things to do, so he has 5 minutes to get here!”
The manager showed up, I’ll give him this it only took about two minutes, and I took him aside as a courtesy so that his staff wouldn’t be looking directly at us.
He stood there, arms crossed across his chest staring down his nose at me as if I was in the wrong. Bad move! I told him to uncross his arms. And he said.
“I am listing to you.”
My reply was, “No you are in a guarding posture uncross your arms now!”
He did. I then explained that for the three years I’d been coming to that Best Western every year there’d been issues and that I expected a free night for the next Polaris con. He waffled and tried to weasel out of it. One of his comments was that “We are fixing the place have you seen how nice the grounds are?”This statement is ridiculous. I’m not sleeping in your yard I am failing to sleep in one of your rooms.In truth, I suspect he didn’t have the authority to offer a free night. Because of this I took mercy on him and said, “I know you’re just the weekend manager and it’s a crappy position. I will give you until Friday to get back to me. If I am not satisfied with your offer I will be posting about this on my blog, Face Book and You Tube. He took my information and I got on with an exhausted day. See future blogs for how this plays out.
After this it was to the table. There was no time for a swim because of the night time disruption. I manned the table and watched some amazing costumes. Until my final panel.
5 Maker Culture - DIY FYIDescription: You might be aware of the growing culture of makers. Those who reuse, rebuild, innovate and create do so for all sorts of reasons. Are you a Maker? Did you attend the recent Toronto Maker Faire? Do you just want to know more?Area: Art, Models/Model Building Programming Team Member: Vickie Kostecki
Panelists: Stephen B. Pearl – www.stephenpearl.comVickie Kostecki – Cant find site.Time: Sunday 12:00 PM – Oakridges
This is just good old, down home, farm economy.
- New name for what handy people have always done
- Didn’t even know they’d renamed the movement until I saw this panel.
-At its most basic level it is the ability to see treasure in trash.
- Very reminiscent of the Tinkers in Tinker’s Plague.
-Anybody who’s kept an old clunker on the road through their own efforts is a maker.
- May not always be pretty but it will work if done right.
- Really reflects a desire to be independent.
- Corporations don’t like it because they want to sell you a new one.
- Makers reflect the desire to build.
Then it was back to the table to wait out the day. Finally it was time to pack up and help Joy collected the posters. I packed the table and loaded the car. The moment of truth had came. All the labors of the quest had reached their conclusion. I held the toothbrush in the convention center’s bathroom applied the past and brushed my teeth. Then mustering my will I looked at its compressed bristles and wet head. So long had I had it, what evil had it worked on my soul? I almost put it back with the toothpaste, but at the last moment cast it into waiting garbage turned and escaped the holocaust that followed. One of the urinals was trying to over flow it counts sorta. I then got to drive on some of the busiest highways in the country in an exhausted state for over an hour to get home. I’ve decided to subdivide this blog do to the fact that the Best Western is turning it into a major drama and not all of the Polaris people will want to follow it. If you want to follow this look at the blog entry, Sleep what sleep? That I will post starting soon.
Causes Stephen Pearl Supports
World Wildlife Fund, SPCA, Farley foundation, CNIB,