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Peace Through Superior Flier-Power

Julie At Chicon-350 wide.jpgWorldcon, Day 3. I spent a goodly chunk of today helping Gretchen and Bill at their tables down in the dealer room. Part of this involved distracting Julie (my younger niece, age 4) who was bored and making Gretchen a little nuts. Her sister Katie is old enough to go to the kid programming room by herself; Julie still needs an adult escort, and will accept no substitutes for Mommy. Mommy, alas, had a table to run.

We did our best. I showed Julie how to make a paper airplane from a sheet of green construction paper and two paperclips that had been hanging out in the bottom of my briefcase. We got us a decent airplane together, and I tried hard to persuade her that aviation is more finesse than brute strength. She had a tendency to want to wind up and throw the plane with all her might; after a few demos she seemed to pick up on the fact that a little thrust in a straight line will work better than a roundhouse discus hurl. The plane flew, Julie was delighted, and Mommy got some much-needed peace.

All in the greater cause of growing up. My older cousin Diane taught me to make paper airplanes as well as other things, like pumping a swing. I was older than four, too. My catalog of Uncle Jeff Tricks is both deep and broad, but most require a little more physical maturity than either Katie or Julie have just yet.

I did notice with considerable pleasure that Katie was building things out of mainstream Lego (not MegaBlox) in the kid programming room. There is a Lego hoard in a corner of my workshop, awaiting the proper time. That time is coming soon.

Again, much of a good con is conversation, and I had quite a bit of that. I even spoke briefly with Harry Turtledove at his signing for Every Inch a King. I stood in awe of Steve Jackson’s creation called “Steampunk Chaos,” which is a sort of huge Rube Goldberg marble-track thingamajigger with a steampunk flavor that Steve has been assembling now for several years. He evidently builds a core machine and then invites bystanders to dig into his boxes full of loose parts and extend it. Most of the extenders were young teen boys, and by all accounts they were having a marvelous time. I took photos but none really captures the geeky bronze (painted) awesomeness of it all.

The crowds at Worldcon this year seem a little thin, both to me and to others that I spoke to this afternoon. Rumor has it that the organizer of DragonCon explicitly pledged to drive the SF Worldcon into the sea by siphoning off younger congoers, and he may well be succeeding. The response, of course, would be to hold Worldcon a little earlier, prompting at least some people to attend Worldcon first and exhaust their resources before DragonCon. That may or may not work, but the graying of Worldcon was painfully obvious, and it would be well worth a try.

More visiting tomorrow, maybe a little more shopping, and a long-awaited chance to pitch Ten Gentle Opportunities to a major publisher. Stay tuned.


  1. Michael Brian Bentley says:

    Two days ago you’re worried about the crowds. Now you’re thinking the crowds are looking thin.

    What’s going on this weekend? Chicon 7 in Chicago; Dragoncon in Atlanta; PAX Prime in Seattle; Burning Man in Black Rock; Pacificon Gamefest down in the SF/San Jose area; AnimeFest in Dallas…

    My guess is that Chicon is the smallest of the big events by a factor of four. Burning Man draws about 45 thousand. Compared to every other event, Chicon is a relaxacon.

    1. Even thin crowds can give me the willies, and often do. I remember the Grant Park Bicentennial concert and fireworks in 1976, when I was 24. There were a coupla hundred thousand people milling around, and I was ready to crawl out of my skin.

  2. Tom R. says:

    Jeff, I don’t know about the age ranges at Chicon, but from the pictures on one of the local TV stations web site showing the Dragon*con parade here it looks like there are all ages downtown this weekend.

    Didn’t go this year. Maybe next.

    1. WAY too big for me, but the impression I’ve gotten from clips I’ve seen over the Web is that the group skews young.

      One impression I took away from this weekend’s Worldcon is that (alas) an amazing number of attendees were walking with canes.

      1. Michael Brian Bentley says:

        Jes, Worldcon and regular science fiction conventions cater to an older crowd. The folks at Dragoncon are *way* younger, as are attendees at anime cons. I haven’t been to Burning Man, but it takes a particular kind of hearty individual to go to those, and I figger not a lot of folks with canes attend.

  3. Rich Rostrom says:

    I played with SJ’s Steampunk Chaos for a while…

    And I have to say it is radically misnamed. It is not chaotic, it is deterministic.

    That’s that whole point of such devices – to establish a long and rigid causation chain.

    There’s one partial exception – the ball tracks can fork down, so a ball can go in one of two different directions. But that’s the only non-deterministic element that I could see.

    1. I don’t think he was using the word “chaos” in the strict mathematical sense. Almost no one does. What “chaos” means to most people is a kind of pandemonium, and there was plenty of that, especially if you stir in a significant number of 13-year-old boys. There were parts and balls and kids all over the place, and in the lowbrow sense, that was definitely chaos.

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