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First panel was 9:00 AM. So, that meant getting up early enough to get the brain in gear by 9.

Sun, 9:00 AM, Salon B, Writers We Don’t Understand
Moderator: Gayle Surrette. Panelists: J-F Bibeau, Michael Swanwick
Charlie Stross loads his stories with so much IT jargon it makes the head spin. A PhD in Physics is necessary to get full enjoyment out of a Greg Egan novel. China Miéville is best read with an open dictionary handy. Others create whole new slang vocabularies for the societies they create. Are these writers doing this on purpose? Are they that much smarter than the rest of us, or are we getting a year of painstaking research downloaded into us in a compressed format? Is there a good stylistic reason to confuse your readers?

Great panel. Areas covered were that sometimes you need to read a book during the right window in your life. That sometimes you just need to be in the right place and time to read some books. Other times you need to put the book away and try again at another time when maybe things will work to make you and the book click. Then there are writers whose books you need to work to understand and the work is well rewarded.

Then it was time to get some food and later sit at the Capclave table. My next panel was at 1:00 PM where I was to be a panelist. Hyperion and I made plans to go out after with a friend.

1:00 PM – Salon B – How To Read For Pleasure
Panelists: ??, Elizabeth Moon, Gayle Surrette (M), Paolo Bacigalupi, and Charles Gannon.
This isn’t about being a “better reader” but about how to really enjoy what you’re reading more!

Well, I missed the name of the gentleman just to the left of Elizabeth Moon but he added some very cogent comments as did all the panelists. I took on being the moderator as the moderator on the schedule wasn’t there. We managed to have quite an interesting discussion. Many of the same issues came up that we’d talked about in the 9:00 AM panel. How sometimes you need to just put a book away and try again later. Sometimes, you just have to give yourself permission to stop reading and give up. If reading a book isn’t fun — put it away. If you feel you must read it, try again later.

We talked about books we enjoyed and good places to read. The writers talked about how they read the genre differently — more critically and so read other genres for pleasure. That we understand book better the more we read.

Later we hung out with friends, sat at the Capclave table and called it an early night. Can’t believe how tired I feel.

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I wish we could have slept in today. Yesterday was really busy though, looking at what I wrote, it doesn’t really appear to be that much. Didn’t matter. I was tired when I got up. First order of business was to talk to programming about getting off one of the panels that I was on today. I’d been placed on an audience participation type panel that was game based — think What’s My Line or Pick the Real Definition of the Word type thing but different. It just was not my cup of tea and staying on the item would be a disservice to the panelists and the audience. Tracked down the right person and got replaced and gave a great sigh of relief.

Next we helped set up the Capclave table and spent some time talking to people about Capclave, WSFA Press, and our upcoming guests of honor — Catherynne M. Valente and Carrie Vaughn. Check out the website and consider coming to Capclave this October — it’s bound to be a lot of fun.

1:00 PM – Belmont – Favorite Shared Worlds. Panelists: Gayle Surrette (M), C. J. Henderson, Michael Hanson, Richard Groller, Neil Levin, Charles Gannon.
Description: Fans, Authors and Editors talk about their favorite shared worlds, old and new. And maybe even toss around ideas form some new shared worlds!

Unfortunately, this panel had a problem — the panelists and moderator showed up but we had no audience. Paolo Bacigalupi was scheduled to do a reading in Belmont at 1:00. Programming moved his reading to Chesapeake — unknown to us they also placed a very large sign outside the door that said that his reading was moved. This was a good idea and they’d told us to announce before our panel started that his reading had been moved. The sign outside the door however didn’t mention that another panel had been moved to replace the reading — our panel.

So, while we waited for an audience to show up, the panelists discussed shared worlds including the newly revived Heroes in Hell, Wild Cards, and Shad’aa. We swapped information and ideas on the topic while waiting. After about 20 minutes we said our goodbyes and went on with our day.

Having some time before my next panel at 4:00 PM, I met up with Hyperion and we checked out the Art Show which had some nice pieces way-way out of our range and some interesting new pieces we hadn’t see before. After that we took a turn in the dealer’s room checking out the offering there. Some beautiful items on sale. We each got a pocket watch with steampunk-ish finishes. We then checked out all the booksellers. You’d think with all the books we have that we wouldn’t need to buy any more for quite a while. After all, each of our To-Be_Read piles are really multiple stacks not to mention the eBooks on our eReaders. Nevertheless, we found several we’re considering for later in the convention.

4:00 PM – Salon C – How Plausible is Today’s Hard SF?
Panelists: Michael Swanwick, Douglas Fratz, Gayle Surrette, Brett Talbot, David Bartell.
Description: Past science fiction stories were either fantastic or built on known science. Now theoretical physics and accelerating developments in biology have led to more fantastic leaps of speculation in what used to be hard science fiction. Is the science in today’s SF at all plausible or is today’s SF drifting towards fantasy?

The conversation went very well between the panelists. There was discussion of physics, biology, classic writers and new, and how writers handle the science of their books. Interestingly, it was brought up the the more expert a writer is in a field the less likely they are to enjoy books with their field depicted in a book or to write about it themselves. There was also talk of how there are just some givens — you need to travel between solar systems so you have FTL and move on with no detail as to how it works other than to keep the time of travel consistent with distances. Many other areas were covered but now I can’t remember who said what or what was covered. Hannu Rajaniemi’s Quantum Thief was highly recommended as were other writers.

We then helped at the Capclave table until it was packed up for the night. We then attended a short WSFA Press meeting and went out with friends for dinner. Coming back to the hotel, we stopped in a couple of parties and called it a night.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a 9:00 AM panel — after which I hope to get to see some other panels. One can always hope.

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We had a few stops to make on our way to Balticon but we actually managed to get here at a reasonable time. We’d passed a long line of police cars along the major highway all lined up — some with their hoods up. We realized it was for the funeral procession of a state trooper.

It seems we were lucky. Later people were saying how the drive was the longest ever to get here. Some people ended up taking 3 hours to drive the last 20 minutes of the route here because of that parking lot that was the highway due to the funeral procession. Everyone was trying to put a good face on the delays because of the reason for it, but for many it was a very trying experience. If you’ve ever been on a major highway that suddenly turned into a parking lot on a 90+ degree day with humidity — I’m sure you’ll understand.

Anyway, we arrived and got our room. Walked around to find the Capclave table — no one was there yet so it wasn’t set up. Managed to get our registration materials. Then we went to eat lunsup (lunch/supper combination — too late for lunch, too early for supper). Once we got back marked my panels in the pocket program, we decided to check the Capclave table again. Now there were people and Dodo’s — the village dodos to be precise. I’ll try to get pictures up once I can get things set up for a download. We had people stop to talk and ask about our Dodo’s but no one bought a membership to Capclave yet.

At almost 6 PM, I headed out to my first panel, Luddites of Fandom? The moderator was Carl Cipra, who did a marvelous job of seeing we all got a chance to contribute and kept us on track. Panelists were Ray Ridenour, Grig “Punkie” Larson, and me (Gayle Surrette).

The panel description was: Why do some fans persist in doing things the old-fashioned way — not getting an email connection or publishing fanzines on paper instead of posting on the Web? Are the people who still use real paper a handful of misfit cranks who won’t get with the? Wait — did we actually SAY that? The real question may be what medium will serve best in a particular case: a phone call or a letter or a flower. (And maybe, too, how to get along while trying to figure that out.)

Turns out most of us while we’re comfortable with technology do have some hesitancy about some aspects of it. Discussion was wide ranging and covered some of the reason people are reluctant to let go of older technologies and some drop the old for the new immediately. Why do we save things?

One interesting thing was on the topic of books and ereaders. Book give a tactile pleasure when reading — the paper, the typeface, the smell, the look, feel, weight — etc. On the other hand eReader are just not the same tactile pleasure. Do we save books we never intend to read again as trophies or status symbols. It’s going to make me think about why I hold onto my books — even though I’ve decided we really need to cull our shelves at home.

9:00 PM — Fantasy Motifs in SF Literature. Panelists: Douglas Fratz, Gayle Surrette (moderator), Izolda Trakhtenberg, Michael Swanwick, and Bernard Dukas.

Description: Fantasy is about elves, and SF is about spaceships, and ne’er the twain shall meet, right? Or is it? It has even been noted that an “enchanted forest” exists in “Against the Fall of Night” but…but that’s SF…not fantasy! So what happens when SF uses fantasy motifs? Is it no longer SF, or at least not “real” SF? Is Yoda Merlin? AKKA the One Ring? How does a writer take a classic fantasy motif and make it SF–or it more than just dressing it in hardware? Are there any fantasy motifs which have not been used…or cannot be used? Why do hard sf writers bother to play with folkloric images: What do they get out of this miscegenation, (and why?)

I thought this went pretty well. The discussion was pretty wide ranging but on track. At the beginning, I mentioned Clarke’s Law that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. I then asked if magic in fantasy just became technology in SF. Of course not — it’s not a one-to-one substitution but it gave the panelists something to hang their own theories on. Discussion cover the tropes of fantasy and how they have been used in SF and to what degree. How folklore and folk tales get updated for space — I wish I could remember the details but I found myself enjoying the discussion and the various additions and exception and possibilities suggested by the panelists and the audience.

This panel just seemed to take off on it’s own — everyone was excited by the topic. If only all the other panels this weekend go so well and fuel the imagination so much.

Then we stopped in a few parties and now we’re winding down for the night.

If you’re at Balticon, (or even if you’re not), leave a comment and let me know what you think about the above topics and/or what you’re panels were like. When I’m here I can’t see or sit in on anywhere near as many items as I’d like to so I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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Here’s my schedule for Balticon 45 starting Friday, May 26 to May 30 in Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn, Baltimore, MD.

Fri. 6:00 PM: Salon B, Luddites of Fandom
Fri. 9:00 PM: Belmont, Fantasy Motifs in SF Literature

Sat. 1:00 PM: Belmont: Favorite Shared Worlds.
Sat. 4:00 PM: Salon C: How Plausible is Today’s Hard SF?

Sun. 9:00 AM: Salon B: Writers We Don’t Understand.

There may or may not be another panel — it was on one list I got and not on the others but I don’t have the final, final list yet. Anyway, I expect to have a good time and hope to meet many of SFRevu’s readers while I’m there.

I’ll also be spending some time at the Capclave fan table, so check there for me. Capclave is Washington D.C.’s local annual science fiction and fantasy convention held in October. Check the website for details. This year’s guests are Catherynne Valente and Carrie Vaughn.

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I really don’t know what’s got into me lately. It seems like I’m just dragging through the days in a fog. I’m sleeping a lot but never feel rested. I’d have thought by this time now that my Capclave was over, I’d begin feeling rested and revving up on all the things I had to put on hold for the past couple of months. Guess it will take a bit longer.

Meanwhile, I spent nearly a week entering all the books that came in between two days before Capclave and when we got back from World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio. We had a great time at WFC. It’s fast becoming one of my favorite conventions along with Readercon, Balticon, and our local convention, Capclave. I also enjoy Worldcon but haven’t been able to go recently since they’ve been out of the country (USA) this past year. Other conventions, as much as I’ve enjoyed them, are just a bit difficult to get to because of the economy and my husband’s lack of vacation/sick time (he’s a contractor and gets set back to 0 when the contract changes companies — sigh).

I’ve been trying to catch up on some knitting. During the foggy brain days of gearing up for Capclave, I stuck to my plain vanilla sock knitting and got 1 and 1/2 socks done. Less brain fog and I’d have expected to finish 3 pair in that time. I’ve finally got the first sock of the first package for the sock club I joined at the beginning of the year. It’s been sitting on the tray near my chair since then because — well, I sort of think I want to make the other pattern instead. I feel really bad about that because I ended up unraveling this sock at least 4-5 times trying to get myself to not over-think the pattern or go off without reading the pattern. I guess I picked this one because it seemed more challenging and it was. But, now that I look at the finished one — it’s not really the type of sock I’d wear and the other pattern is. So, as soon as I get my courage up, it’s the frog pond for this sock and starting the other pattern. I’ll take a photo before I pull it apart and try to post that soon (check back).

Meanwhile, just watched the second season of Fringe. There’s a lot to be said for watching an entire season over a week. The long term story arcs really jump out at you when doing that. I’ll post a review to SFRevu soon and let you know where to find it when I get it up. I’d like to hear what you thought of it also. Feel free to post comments.

Time to take a break and go read for a while. Have a good evening.

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I realize it’s now Wednesday and I hadn’t written up the last day of Balticon which was Monday, May 31st.  So, here goes…

First, we had a couple of items on our agenda for Balticon.  The top one was to not embarrass myself when on a panel.  I think I managed that except for the last panel   — the one on getting adults to read YA.  Big fibro-flare and lack of coffee and I might as well have been thinking though insulation.  Luckily, the audience was great and the panelists forgiving.  Much discussion and comments from everyone in the room — I even got a few titles to add to my TO BE READ pile.  So, maybe I didn’t do so badly after all.

Next, we needed to be at the Capclave table as much as possible and we hoped to get at least 20 memberships.  We did just that and got 20 new Capclave memberships.  We also explained and expounded on the joy of coming to Capclave to many people who live in the DC area and had not realized there was a convention there.  So, I think we did a fairly good job in getting the word out.  If you live in the DC area or would like to have an excuse to visit in October of this year, check out the Capclave website and blog for updates on the convention as we finalize the planning and get things up online.

So, Monday, we opened the table again at 9:30 am. And we pretty much just greeted people going up and down the hall. We had some good discussions about books, cons, parties, writing workshops, and other miscellaneous stuff. Finally, we decided to close the table at noon and head home. We gave a friend a ride.

Once home it was unpack the car. Hook up all the electronics and laptops back where they belong and start working on getting the zine up on time. Both SFRevu.com and GumshoeReview.com go live on the first of the month. We made it but we’re still missing a couple of my reviews which I really hope to get done and up tomorrow.

Basically, Balticon is a wonderful convention. It’s a big one and has several tracks. Because I’m this year’s Capclave Chair, I didn’t get to do as much as I would have liked as far as attending panels but I still had a great time. If you love science, Balticon has a terrific science track. Check out their website for programming and look under science to see what you missed — and think about signing up to attend next year.

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Today started early with setting up the Capclave table at about 9:30 am.  We were a bit late getting there at 9.45 a.m.  Once set up it was greeting people as the walked bay, explaining about our convention (Capclave), who the guest of honor were (Connie Willis, Ann VanderMeer, and Jeff VanderMeer) and what type of programming we will have. Of course we stressed our writers’ workshops, review workshop, and the WSFA Small Press Award Ceremony.

Hyperion used our Dodo puppet to good effect. He quipped with passers-by and kept up patter with those who talked to the Dodo. If this keeps up, he may even learn to do the dodo voice without moving his lips.

1:00 p.m. Ice Age. Panelists: Anthony Stevens (moderator), James Prego, Paul Melko, Peter Prellwitz, Gayle Surrette, and Paolo Bacigalupi.
Description: How would we handle it if the predictions of extreme cold conditions in our world, recently made by some scientists, were to come true? Would our technology be able to protect us from extreme cold? How would our bodies adjust? What would we eat? Would fat people have an advantage?
The panel and the audience had a bit of fun with this one. The concept was that something catastrophic happened and we found ourselves in a full-blown ice age within 10 years with the ice down to about the 45th parallel worldwide. How would we cope?
Since I was on the panel it’s a bit hard to be objective in reporting but basically we covered the issues of migration, political instability, social upheaval, transportation problems, food and food delivery/growing/availability, sanitation, energy, and die off of species, climate changes, ocean salinity, and so on. The premise allowed the panel to dismiss the chance of long range planning of solutions — but that didn’t stop us from a minor discussion of whether having time to plan would actually mean that we did plan.

Then it was back to the table and schilling for Capclave. Sitting at the Capclave table means that I’m missing chances to go to some great panels and science talks. Balticon, for me, is great for great for science programming and being able to listen to scientists from local centers talk about their areas of specialty. Q&A’s allow for clarifying the what ifs or to clarify concepts as they may apply to writing projects or ones own research.

I did take time today to walk through the art show. There were some outstanding pieces with prices way out of my range but at least by being in the art show, I got to view some really nice work from some very good artists.

Some of the art was humorous. Alan Beck does a series of masterpieces of art re-imagines with mice as the models. These are amazing reproductions of this iconic works and always make me smile.

Another artist had a piece called “Vincent’s Surprise” which from a short distance appeared to be Van Gogh’s Starry Night but if you stepped closer you’d see in the sky’s swirls alien attack vessels. (Unfortunately, I mislaid my note on whose work this was — if you know or are the artist let me know.)

The artist guest of honor is Howard Tayler of the online Space Opera, Schlock Mercenary. There were several panels of his art work. There was also a table in artist alley selling his books. Check out the link to his web comic if you’re not already familiar with it — you may find this comic just what you need for comic relief.

We also wandered through the Dealer’s Room. This area is where you can check for the latest books in the genre from independent booksellers or from the publishers. There are also clothing, games, and period specific sellers. I couldn’t resist purchasing a mechanical wind-up pocket watch from a dealer specializing in Steampunk accessories. While I admired the goggles, gas masks, top hats, and other items — I managed to step away.

The major problem with the dealer’s room is that there are always many difficult to find items available and one needs to prioritize what to purchase and hope that what you pass on this time isn’t sold out by the time you find the same dealer at another venue. Many of the items you find here are just not readily available especially if the specialty dealer doesn’t have a web presence.

9 p.m. Book Pushers. What’s mine should be yours. Party sponsored by: Laura Anne Gilman, Jeri Smith-Ready, Bejamin Tate, David J. Williams. These authors books were available for sale at the party and the authors were signing the purchased copies. There was checking of ids (if you wanted liquor) and soft drinks for those not of age. There was also an abundance of chocolate and interesting and varied conversations.

We had a great time and stayed later than we’d expected to. We took the Dodo and managed to get a number of people to have their photo taken with our Capclave Dodo. (They’ll be up in an online gallery soon — really, real soon now…). The authors, editors, agents, and fans were very gracious to hold a Dodo and pose for photos — some even had real fun with staging their photos.

Finished out the day at the Capclave table followed by a meal that was wonderful since breakfast had been a long, long time ago — or it seemed that way.

Tomorrow is another full day of Balticon goodness and Capclave table sitting with short interruptions to be on two panels.

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Managed to get the car packed and on the road at a decent time.  Then drove back to pick up the box we forgot.  Had to stop at the post office and then Kinkos to get copies made of the Capclave Registration Flyer.  Finally, made it to the metro to pick up a friend also going to Balticon.

Everything went fine once we got here.  Found the Capclave table and set up.  We actually managed to get one person to sign up for the Capclave.  Sold one of the books left from last year’s convention, and pre-sold a book we’re publishing this year.  Yeah.  Talked to quite a few people and had some really nice conversations about books.

4:00 p.m. Getting Published 1010: (R to L) Joshua Bilmes, Ally E. Peltier, Gayle Surrette (me as moderator),  and Jonathan Maberry.

I think the panel went okay.  I asked some question of the panel to get things going to cover some of the topics that I thought people who were aspiring writers would want to know.  Then opened it to questions early and we got some interesting questions.  The panelists were very good at fielding on such topics as whether you can send a manuscript to an agent and a publisher at the same time (yes), whether you need to do short stories before you do a novel (no), the importance of having a presence on the web (mixed), and the importance of understanding the need to not only know how to tell a good story but the importance of language, grammar, spelling, and following the submission guidelines, as well as treating your writing as a business (all extremely important).

After the panel, I returned to the Capclave table and later we went out to dinner with friends.

8:00 p.m. Opening Ceremony. This went very quickly.  The Guests of Honor were introduced (Writer Guest of Honor: Tanya Huff, Artist Guest of Honor: Howard Tayler, Science Guest of Honor: Dr. Thomas Holtz Jr., Fan  Ghost of Honor: Hal Haag.  Then the 2009 Compton Crook Award Winner: Paul Melko announced the 2010 Compton Crook Award Winner — Paolo Bacigalupi for his novel Windup Girl.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the book and it’s on my to be read pile. Windup Girl is also a nominee for the Hugo Award this year.

9:00 p.m. Hot fusion (Inertial Electrostatic); Tom Ligon. He did a presentation and showed us the model that he’d brought. The talk was very interesting and informative and it seems that this model’s a move in the right direction. He’ll have the talk on his website soon (tomligon.com) along with several links to more information and scientific papers on this and related subjects.

We then stopped in on a party and had some interesting conversations. Now it’s very late and we have an early day tomorrow.

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