After Ad Astra

So I’ve been mostly quiet for the past week. Though it took a while to screw my head back on afterward, we had a great time at Ad Astra. For our first science fiction convention, it went pretty well. Subscribing to Locus for more than 18 years really helped: I was not at all unprepared for what took place, how a con works, the general vibe and so forth.

Because we didn’t really know anyone, it wasn’t a social weekend for us, though we did talk up some writers and editors I didn’t know before (and bought a bunch of their books). I also didn’t take nearly as many photos as I thought I would (those I did take are here); it’s hard to be in the moment and take pictures of the moment at the same time, you know?

We did, however, spend a lot of time taking in the panel discussions. These were a revelation: the nearest equivalents in my experience were panels at academic conferences, which are dry, pedantic (by definition) and marvellous cures for insomnia. At a science fiction convention, however, the discussions were, for the most part, lively and animated, and the people crazy smart and very much into their subjects.

Here’s a list of the panels I attended:

  • Same Old Settings
  • World-Building: A Balancing Act
  • Modern-Day Conceptions of Fairies
  • Editing Your Own Work
  • Writing the Young Adult Novel
  • Putting the Science into Science Fiction
  • Hoverboy
  • Writing the Future
  • Writing and Time Management
  • SF for a YA Audience
  • Business Basics of Writing

I generally shot my mouth off with a question or comment in all but one or two of them, but I came to learn (Ad Astra has a lot of programming for writers and wannabes), and I took copious notes. Almost everything I attended had something to do with a story I’m working on or with writing careers in general.

One exception: the Hoverboy panel, which was Rick Green talking for an hour about the Hoverboy comic — a fake comic featuring a murderously fascist-McCarthyite superhero — and its ancilliary projects. Green had us in stitches showing off insanely funny comic book covers and action figures built from parts with boxes full of double-entendres, and telling us great stories about people buying the gag — Hoverboy is the no soap radio of the comics world.

Oh, and the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada had a couple of telescopes. During the day, we looked through a Coronado Personal Solar Telescope and saw a prominence in hydrogen-alpha for the first time. At night, a 10-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain that was going to be hooked up to a Mallincam — which is probably the only way to do outreach astronomy in the middle of a huge city and its light pollution — but the clouds rolled in. We talked shop with the astronomy guys all evening instead; we don’t do costumes or zombies, so what else was there on Saturday night?