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October 24th, 2011:

MileHi Con 43

Just got back last night from MileHi Con 43, held at the Denver Tech Center Hyatt. I haven’t been to a lot of cons lately, and my congoing skills are definitely rusty. One of these skills is new to me: Remember that your phone contains a camera. Duhh. My V530 camera jammed with the lens open so I didn’t get any photos, but I’ve requested some from friends and will post a few here as time allows.

What was a little surprising is how much a con in 2011 feels like a con in 1981. The big difference comes down to one word: smartphones. Nobody spends any time searching for friends at cons these days because everybody always knows where everybody else is, and if somebody wanders outside a general understanding of their whereabouts, well, it’s one tap and they’re back within earshot.

Costuming has also changed, though this may be old news. However well-done, the costumes were basically hall costumes rather than elaborate and fragile stage-show assemblages that you could barely move in, much less sit down. The con organized a zombie crawl around the 16th Street Mall on Saturday afternoon, and it got into the Sunday Denver Post. The Post also did a good job snapping most of the better costumes, and you can see them in a slide show on the newspaper’s site. I had never heard of absinthe fairies, but boy, there were a lot of them around. (And, later, “wingfic.” Yes, there is a subsubsubsubgenre called wingfic. It’s about characters who have wings. Beyond that, anything goes.)

I hung a lot with close friends Jim Strickland and his wife Marcia Bednarczyk, as well as Taos Toolbox colleague Sean Eret. Jim and I both did panels, and we shared a late-night author reading slot at 10PM on Friday. The reading was interesting for a peculiar reason: I did not get an email that the other five panelists apparently did, reminding everybody (but me) that the reading had been slotted late to allow for sex and violence. I was fourth of five in order to read. In quick succession we heard some bishonen fiction (there’s a descriptive Japanese word for the genre that I can’t find right now but sounds like “yowee”) and some heavy-duty mayhem (including a gripping section of Jim’s novel-in-progress, Brass and Steel: Inferno) plus a sex scene with Dr. Moreau’s squid-woman. Then it was my turn. “And now for something completely different,” I said, and began: “STORMY vs. the Tornadoes…”

They loved it. Comic relief exists for a reason.

Speaking of which: I had chosen STORMY because I was on a panel about writing SF humor the next day. The panel was great: We dissected the machineries of humor, and delivered quite a bit of it ourselves. (I sang a little of my 1976 filk from “West Side Story,” “I’m a Trekkie,” if you can picture that.) I was a little surprised that out of an audience of forty or fifty, only two people had ever heard of The Witches of Karres, which I was using as an example of that rarest of things, SF whimsy. Another person asked me to spell “Laumer.” Egad. I guess I’ve been away a long time.

My other panel was about robots, and once we got past some problems with definitions (Robots, to me, are “AIs in a can,” not cyborgs) we did some good things. Again, I was puzzled that so few people were familiar with AMEE, which I consider the scariest robot in film history. I was delighted to be sitting on the panel beside longtime SF writer Cynthia Felice, whom I had read years back but never met. She is gracious, interesting, and, well, tall. (She also grew up in Chicago and now lives in Colorado Springs, which I did not know.) At the end of the panel, the moderator took a quick audience poll, and we discovered that (within this microcosm, at least) Marvin the Paranoid Android is our favorite robot.

I hugely enjoyed it, and with Carol away in Chicago and all of the Pack except for QBit vacationing at Jimi Henton’s, I hope to use some found energy to make progress on Ten Gentle Opportunities over the next few days. I talked to people at the con who write four novels a year. I started work on Ten Gentle Opportunities in 1984, and it’s based on an (unpublished) novelette I originally wrote in 1981. Gotta pick up the pace a little, whew.