Like any good con report, we begin the proceedings well in advance of the event. Several months ago I was invited to attend the convention as a panelist – technically my first ever panel appearance at a science fiction convention (though not my first public presentation by a long shot: I’ve presented for radio and television and live at everything ranging from military technology conferences to paintball tournaments). I was thrilled and flattered by Tony Smith’s (StarShipSofa) invitation and determined to come up with an interesting and exciting topic that would put Amazing Stories firmly on the convention circuit map.
My first choice was to do an interview with Fred Pohl, one of our best and brightest and a man who could speak knowledgeably about the history of science fiction fandom – mostly because he’s been through most of it personally. Alas, the technical challenges of interviewing Mr. Pohl remotely proved to be beyond our capabilities.
So I went with my second choice, a discussion of science fiction fandom, it’s current place in the universe and what, if anything, needs doing to keep that great engine of moral guidance and unfettered creativity going in the so-called modern era.
I’d been having an email discussion with one of the Amazing Blog Team contributors – Chris Gerwel – for several months regarding the generations of fandom, their foibles, differences, ways of conducting cross-generational communications and the like, which began once I discovered that Chris was from a younger generation of fan than myself (I represent the baby-boomer generation), that he had vast and considered knowledge of the genre and its fandom and some interesting thoughts on the subject. I invited Chris to join me for a dialogue on the subject, and he agreed.
I made my flight arrangements with Walker Airlines, a small outfit operating between Bedroom New Hampshire and Livingroom New Hampshire; it was, thankfully a short flight as air travel has not been all that much fun for the past decade or so. Thankfully, Homeland Security was not in much evidence and I wasn’t required to do a screening. I arrived in Livingroom shortly after leaving Bedroom (not even enough time for a package of pretzels on the flight!) and, not encumbered by luggage was quickly able to exit the airport and head for the hotel.
Check-in was about as smooth as I’ve ever experienced. The clerk behind the counter looked remarkably similar to my wife (something I’ll have to check up on later) and I was surprised to learn that check in was accompanied by a complimentary cup of coffee. I was also surprised to learn that they allowed dogs in the lobby. This being the first morning of the convention I was kind of surprised not to find any of the other guests or attendees hanging in the lobby. Lacking distractions of the chance-meeting sort, I decided to check out my room.
The room at the hotel was a bit small and spartan, consisting primarily of one of those office chairs (though quite comfortable) and a self-contained desk with complimentary laptop. The clerk that looked like my wife again put in an appearance, notifying me that the room’s television had been rendered silent in favor of the convention activity. Boy, talk about cooperative hotels and staff!
After not too long a wait, during which time I learned that Chris Gerwel had put in an appearance and was even then in his own cubbyhole hotel room, our Master of Ceremonies, Tony C. Smith of StarShipSofa fame put in an appearance via the video telecom monitor. Guests were arriving and he engaged in some pleasant chitchat with the convention’s GoH, Peter Watts.
Joining us for the event would be Amy H. Sturgis, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ted Kosmatka, Gregory Frost. Dennis M. Lane (whose plane never left South Africa, much to our disappointment), John DeNardo and SFSignal crew and John Joseph Adams with crew from The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy and, of course, numerous fan attendees.
Following the formal intro of Peter Watts, Amy Sturgis discussed the roots and origins of Fandom, happily mentioning Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories (and properly giving them their due for helping to start this whole crazy thing); Ted Kosmatka read from one of his latest works.
It was then back to Amy who was joined by one of her favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold. A lively two way conversation, accompanied by questions from the audience, followed.
Gregory Frost then performed his own reading of a current work and then it was time for Chris and I to take the stage.
I must say that the Green Room folks surely have their job down cold: I hate to admit it, but I’m a smoker and not only were there no “No Smoking” signs in the green room, someone had generously provided numerous ashtrays. My coffee cup was kept fresh (seems that hotel clerk that looks like my wife was working the con too) and I was not disturbed during my quiet time as I reviewed my notes and made those all important mental preparations.
Chris and I got pretty lively. After thanking Amy for her shoutouts to Amazing, we quickly delved into the subject: are there differences between generations of fans? Yes. Are those differences insurmountable? No. Chris and I could easily have talked for several hours but, alas, we were kept to a tight 30 minutes.
Then it was on to the Quiz Show (SF Signal vs Geeks Guide to the Galaxy in a trivia contest); I was rooting for Da Signal, but they lost out to the Geeks. Rematch anyone?
Peter Watts then delivered his keynote address and then –
It was over. Far too quickly. Not having any bags to pack it was off to the port, onto the plane and back home. Uncanny. It was almost as if I’d never left my home!
SofaCon 2013 was the world’s first International Online Science Fiction Convention. Amazing Stories is proud to have been a part of it and hopes that Tony Smith of StarShipSofa decides to do it again next year. Maybe this time I’ll get pretzels on the plane!