Mataglap SF

mataglap -- an Indonesian word meaning "dark eye" or, probably, "dilated eye." It is an indication that someone is about to go berserk and start killing people at random. Used in Walter Jon Williams' novel Aristoi as the name of a berserk form of nanotechnology that devoured the planet.

You can e-mail Mataglap SF at mataglap@yahoo.com


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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Worldcon day 5
 
Last day in Denver, and letís be honest thereís not a lot going on here other than your general outdoor activities. Still had a few panels to attend in the morning, including the one panel for the entire convention devoted to Doctor Who. Not that Iím who-centric or anything, but with two nominations in best dramatic presentation, youíd think thereíd be a little more representation. But thatís ok, ostensibly the topic was who is the best Doctor, but naturally the conversation ranged around a number of who-related topics. Paul Cornell was in attendance, too, the only actual Brit on the panel, to add some credibility. The last real panel was with Nancy Kress, James Morrow and Harry Turtledove talking about what people a thousand years from now will remember about the twentieth century. This conversation also went all over the place, but since theyíre all very opinionated it was a good discussion. I was hoping to get Ben Bovaís autograph after that, but he was a no-show at his scheduled signing, never did see any evidence of having rescheduled to an early time, but oh well, hopefully heíll live a while longer. Now I have two more paperbacks of his that I otherwise wouldnít have needed to buy here. I decided to forgo the last reading group session, this one on Methuselahís Children, as it didnít seem a suitable conclusion to the convention and that Hertz guy was getting on my nerves. Instead I stuck my head in a couple of other panels, including one about Heinleinís hugo-winning years, and then that was that, another Worldcon wrapped up.

So it was a long trip, more like two trips back to back, with a clear dividing line during that long drive through southern Wyoming on Tuesday. Next yearís Worldcon is in Montreal, much easier to manage, and 2010 is in Australia, so we can skip that one entirely. Lots to get through after this trip, lots of ideas, hope they stick long enough that something comes of it.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Worldcon Day 2
 
It was day two of Worldcon, and todayís panels were a little more interesting, although even though I got a good nightís sleep I still passed out for a few minutes during one of them. First I spent some time in the dealerís room and got a few paperbacks of Asimov and Silverberg, hoping to get the latter ones signed since the guy is 73 and Iím not sure how many more Worldcons we can count on. There are two dealers here who have cheap old paperbacks, and a couple of others who are asking $8 or $10 and up for most of theirs, some of which are admittedly collectable, but is The Alternate Asimovs really worth six dollars? Apparently yes, because thatís what I paid for it, Iíve been looking for it for a year and this was the first time Iíd seen it.

Saw four panels today. The one I dozed off at was not necessarily boring, since it featured Stephen Baxter and Connie Willis, two people who are always worth listening to, talking about first contact stories and the infinite varieties thereof. Willis looks much grayer since last I saw her in Anaheim, but she continues to impress with how well read she is in the field, referring to plots of random stories by William Tenn and others that tied into the topic. Mike Resnick was the marquee name in a panel on pulps, focusing primarily on the sf pulps of the 30ís and 40's, and told a few stories I hadnít heard before.

Ben Bova was featured in a panel of people who knew Heinlein, also including the guy who wrote the Heinlein biography, Bill Patterson, who knows just about everything there is to know. Hadnít seen Bova since he was guest of honor at the 2000 Worldcon in Chicago, heís definitely looking old too, so after the last panel I went back to the dealerís room and bought a couple of paperbacks for him to sign also, since unlike Silverberg he doesnít come to Worldcons that often. Lastly, Sheila Williams was on a panel that was supposed to be talking about trends in SF publishing, but ended up kind of wandering around different topics.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Worldcon 2008
 
The first day of the Worldcon had finally arrived and for once we were already in the city and ready to get started. I got going so I could register before the first panels started at 11:30.

Although I arrived at the convention center and found the right line at 10:45, it was almost an hour before I was through registration. I have no idea why it took that long, there were maybe 30 or 40 people in front of me and once I got to the front I was given my materials in short order, but it didnít bode well for the organization. This Worldcon won a close contest against other bids from Chicago and Columbus that were both considered more viable, I only picked Denver myself because it was the only one not on Labor Day weekend, which interferes with the kids school. Itís a completely volunteer-run event, so even though some groups do a better job than others of making you forget that fact, I at least am willing to put up with a certain amount of disorganization, and by and large things were ok. The convention center itself is vast, there was another convention going on in the front of the building that you had to walk through to get to the Worldcon stuff in the back. On Wednesday there wasnít much in the way of signs, so it took a little more initiative to figure out where everything was, but I worked it out.

Something else in short supply at this yearís edition were big name pros. Several people you normally see at Worldcons like Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Benford were not in attendance, and several others like Fred Pohl and Robert Silverberg were present but kept a low profile. Weíve lost a few major writers recently, Jack Williamson, Arthur C. Clarke, Algis Budrys and Tom Disch, to name a few, but they werenít regular attendees in recent years, so Iím not sure where everybody went. It was challenging in some time slots to find panels that had any significant number of pros that I wanted to hear beyond the usual NY/New England contingent that I see at Boskone and Readercon already. Most panels were populated either mostly or entirely of people Iíd never heard of, and I feel like Iím fairly well-informed about whoís who in the field.

One interesting new twist with this yearís Worldcon was a series of panels focusing on specific books written in 50 years ago in 1958, advertised as a sort of reading group and publicized in advance so you could actually go out and read the books ahead of time. I got the one I was missing at Readercon a few weeks ago, but unfortunately the order of the panels wasnít announced until this past weekend, so the book Iíve been trying to read all week while in the mountains of Wyoming was the last one on the agenda. But the first one for today was Blishís ďA Case of ConscienceĒ, which I finished on the plane coming out last week. The group was organized and run by John Hecht, a man of many opinions who ran the discussion with an iron first and monopolized the better part of the conversation, such that the hour went quickly. About 20 or so people were in attendance, a respectable number I thought. I mentioned to him afterwards how my classics group had picked Asimovís Foundation a few years ago and what a disaster that was since it was short on character and style, to which he strongly disagreed, so that conversation didnít last very long.

The other panels I attended were sub-par. Wil McCarthy gave a short, vague talk (with no visual aids) on programmable matter, a subject that should have been more interesting than his presentation let on. Usually the Worldcon is good for a fair number of science-oriented panels, this was certainly true in Anaheim two years ago and Boston before that, but this edition didnít seem to have much to offer. Later in the afternoon Elizabeth Moon and Larry Niven teamed up with GoH Lois McMaster Bujold and Robert Silverberg to talk about older protagonists in SF, which should have been more entertaining than it was.

A full day of panels are on tap for tomorrow.

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