Okay, it was a short day for me at VCon today, but it wasn't that short!
I starting things off far too early in the morning (considering how late I was up last night reporting on the con and ranting about 'Yamato), stumbling in at 10 for the "World Building 101" panel, which featured a line-up of scientists from various disciplines talking about what science fiction writers need to consider (genetics, ecology, astronomical processes) in order to get their alien worlds right - or, at least believable enough from a scientific perspective not to sound dumb. They also discussed how the latest strange scientific discoveries and theories can also open up new creative frontiers for writers. One of the best lines of the morning - hell, one of the best lines I heard throughout the entire con - was from astronomer Dr. Jaymie Matthews (a venerable fixture at VCons, and also co-star of a Goodyear Tire commercial a couple of years ago) while he related a story about how James Cameron has been consulting with scientists about his Avatar sequel. According to Matthews, Cameron's thinking about combining his love of oceans with SF by setting the next movie on one of Pandora's neighbouring moons that's a giant water world. Matthews says that since astronomers have been able to tell Cameron that yes, aquatic super-Earths are possible, they have "given [Cameron] his wet dream."
After that I ducked out for a quick lunch, and when I came back I took in the last few minutes of the "Are Games Art?" session. Video game producer & designer Palle Hoffstein led the audience in a discussion about Roger Ebert's statement that video games are not art and never will be. From what I caught of the session, the audience consensus (not surprisingly) was that Ebert is wrong. Hoffstein noted that historically there's always a period of adjustment when new media are invented, with critics having been slow initially to accept photography, film and comics as art, and that video games are probably now waiting for their breakthrough moment to be accepted just as the other forms of media have. He also pointed out that one of the factors that's allowing this delay of acceptance to continue is a lack of evolution of written critiques of games beyond their value-for-money or quality of graphics and action - games are not yet being discussed for their artistic merit. Not being a gamer myself (or, at least, sitting down to video games only occasionally), I can't comment on the issue, but it was certainly fascinating to listen in.
From there, sadly, it became a chore to find something worthwhile to attend in the short time left before I had to leave the con. I'd really wanted to attend the "Podcasting" session to pick up some technical tips because I'm toying with the idea of occasionally melding my radio roots with the blog here with an occasional feature interview. More to come as - or if - it happens. Unfortunately, I hadn't bothered to look at the scheduling changes board earlier, and so hadn't seen that the podcasting session had been shifted to Saturday once the con got underway, and I'd unwittingly missed out.
As a backup, I'd wanted to go to the "How did that get on my book cover?" session featuring authors, artists and publishers talking about how cover art is chosen, but that too had been moved. Instead, that conference room had a panel talking about the benefits of exercise. Now, I've got a bunch of friends who are personal trainers, and despite my portly frame I do try to get a walk or workout in a semi-regular basis, so the last thing I need to listen to at the con is someone preaching about fitness. Rather than having a panel discussion sitting in a room talking about fitness, I think if the intent is to get nerds moving then the VCon organizers could have chosen a more creative and effective option: they could have taken the lead from the Montreal Worldcon in 2009, which, as part of programming, organized 1-hour walks each morning where fans could go out for a walk around the town with various authors in attendance, thereby combining exercise with the opportunity to chat with a favourite writer and see a little more of the host community beyond the confines of the convention centre/hotel/satellite ring of restaurants.
Bailing out on that panel fairly quickly, I wandered into the "Turkey Readings" for a little while. The Turkey Readings are a VCon tradition, where a panel of authors reads passages from a selection of painfully bad science fiction and fantasy novels (seriously, these rags are frequently the "literary" equivalent of Plan Nine from Outer Space or Robot Monster). Meanwhile, volunteers from the audience come up to the front to act out what's being read. The rest of the audience can then bid money to make the whole thing stop, or counter-bid to continue, with a fair amount of back-and-forth happening before someone finally bids enough to force an end. And then they start again with another selection from the trash pile. Money raised goes to the Canadian Unity Fan Fund which sends fans from one part of the country to attend cons in other provinces in an effort to bring us closer together.
But there's only so much of the Turkey Readings that I can tolerate before I feel my tenuous grip on sanity slipping away, so I fled that room after a while and spent a few minutes quietly reading from the new Tesseracts anthology in the hall.
The last session I attended was "Writing about Fighting", which is pretty self-explanatory. Didn't get to stay for the whole thing though because I had to get home to get changed and go to a friend's wedding later in the afternoon. The early departure meant I had to miss the infamous Elron Awards and the Closing Ceremonies, but I've been to enough of those over the years that, while they're entertaining, my con experience certainly won't be ruined by taking a miss.
So how was my VCon 36 experience? For the most part, pretty good. The programming selection may not always be full of "can't miss" sessions, but there's usually a panel worth attending, the movie room (with its constant bombardment of chocolate from Uncle Victor) is good to spend a couple of hours in, there are always great costumes to look at, and interesting and unexpected conversations with fellow fans. At the end of the day, I have to say the reason why I keep coming back year after year is that feeling I get when I walk in the door on the first day, look around at the other fans and the displays, and head for the registration desk: that feeling of coming home.