September 3, 1999 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The day started relatively early as mother got up early and walked to the Victoria Market, supposedly the largest market of it's kind in Australia. I slept in a bit later and had time to do a bit of laundry in the bathtub (though there did not seem to be any hot water, perhaps understandable considering the hotel is supposed to be completely booked – though not so understandable when you consider how much it is costing…).

I met mother coming back to the room as I was making myself to the first panel of the day…She had picked up some doughnuts and a (meat) pastie for me (very thoughtful, I was very grateful – otherwise, no breakfast). She indicated that the market was very good with a variety of booths selling many things including clothing (she picked up some socks and a sweatshirt she was quite proud of).

The Flight of Buran - Building and Flying the Russian Space Shuttle

This discussion was put on by a person I recognized from my first World Science Fiction convention in Winnipeg (Canada), he is living in Canada. He showed us a film that had been (somehow, don't ask how, or who, or why) smuggled out of Russia during the Soviet era about their Space Shuttle. The footage covered the assembly and testing of the shuttle (and rocket boosters). It was a bit difficult at times to make out the details and he had added commentary to the footage (he was also selling copies) which was very interesting, explaining each step of the way. The interesting thing I thought was that when it finally did fly it was completely unmanned – piloted by computers. Quite impressive. Actually, looked a lot like the american space shuttle with subtle differences (it did not have boosters of it's own, so no danger of lots of fuel exploding on the shuttle itself).

Anime 101

At a previous convention I had gone to a discussion of the same name and this turned into the same thing – people listing their favourite Anime (Japanese ADULT Animation) movies/series. It was quite good to hear the knowledge that the people had (who were really DIE HARD fans – the ones that listen to the original in Japanese). I got a few ideas and it also confirmed a few things that I already suspected.

Sweet Candy for the Eye - Flashy Computer Graphics

This was a rather short and disappointing discussion where the presenter showed clips from some major movies and a brief clip from the world computer graphics Expo (SIGGRAPH) but that is about it – only a bit of introduction and information about what we were seeing. Nothing that was new to anyone (except the SIGGRAPH stuff). This ended a lot quicker than the time allotted so I had a chance to head back to the Dealer's room (once again, buying nothing).

Fandom And The Internet

This discussion focused really on the history of Science Fiction fans on the Internet, using the various resources available (either 'above the board' or 'below the board' – whichever worked). It was interesting to hear about all of the different mechanisms for discussion and which are the ones that are currently being exploited (for those of you that understand the concepts – web pages are the current medium of choice for communication though newsgroups and mailing lists are still popular).

The "Science" in SF

This panel was very interesting. The focus of the discussion seemed to be on how much Science should be/is in SF. Generally, it was agreed that you should be as accurate as possible within your knowledge and research capabilities. If you make up certain factual elements such as names it was agreed that it was acceptable however using real names inaccurately was not acceptable. There were a few cases cited of books that seemed to have a complete disregard for the laws of physics, in these cases the panellists suggested that they were not SCIENCE Fiction but rather simply fiction (or fantasy). “If you do not follow the rules then you can't play the game.”

Babylon 5 - Londo's Story

J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) showed up earlier today after his air-plane finally left Los Angeles so he was able to show up for this panel. He wrote/directed/created the television show Babylon 5. I had seen him in a previous WorldCon so some of the information he imparted was not new to me. As expected, the room was packed for JMS. Some in the audience tried to ask questions different from the topic but were referred to the Sunday session where general questions and answers would be held. He had a number of interesting things to say about his 'story arc' that he put into the series. In many ways the show was about a tragic hero: Lando who, at times, is good and at times, is bad. He changes as the series progresses, much like real life, says JMS.

One interesting comment JMS did have to say was that it was up to people like him to “Pose the questions, NOT provide the answers.” He made a point that there is no “planned future”, no direction for the future from any government or other organization and perhaps this was up to the SF writers.

Space Exploration

Another interesting panel that had the whole room packed to listen to a two “hard SF” writers (that is, those that attempt to rigidly follow the laws of physics and our current level of understanding) and a physicist. They indicated about the problems of concentrating our resources on putting a space station up that perhaps could be spent on further exploration instead (though opinion was divided on this subject with a panellist suggesting that it is good to have a stopping post on the way to explore the solar system). They all suggested an optimistic future but suggested that NASA and other similar organizations need to change, perhaps direction from their governments would assist in consolidating their efforts (though with the push to get to the moon all other NASA programs where put in limbo). NASA was really hit hard by the group, suggesting that the organization was really corrupt and in need of revitalization.

Shared Worlds - What The Hell Were They Thinking

This panel was in discussion of the use of “Shared Worlds”, that is, a devised “world” with specific rules and design. People then write stories based upon these rules which are published in volumes. The world is expanded during this process and things change. The cited the problems that some of these pose including the problem where an author will damage another authors character (in the same world). It was actually quite interesting to hear about how these collaborations work. They cited the differences also between these ideas of shared worlds with the media-tie-in where the authors hands are effectively tied (if you write a book about Star Wars you will not be able to damage or in any other way drastically effect the basic story and characters) which limits what can be done. They also commented about so-called “collaborations” where an author “co-writes” with another famous author and, despite putting, perhaps, a large effort into it, gets little, if ANY recognition for their efforts. One example was given where someone co-wrote with a famous author and received NO recognition, though lots of money, and the only input the famous author had to the construction of the book was to suggest a locale for the story.

After the final panel we headed to Chinatown to find something to eat. We walked quite a number of blocks to find the area and ended up going to a quite good Japanese restaurant. We have found that all restaurants seem to cost around about the same amount of money to eat at although you can pay a bit more (by proportion) to get a lot better meal. So we have been figuring: Why not go for the best for only a bit more? Anyway, the restaurant served very pure and “clean” food (sushi and noodles was our “meal du jour”). We continued back to the hotel by walking south to the south side of the river and then along the southern bank to the hotel (as we normally do).

I ended the evening as I did last night: by watching a few Anime movies in the movie room until midnight…No parties tonight, though I am not all that keen on going to any since there are so few and so far apart that I cannot 'blend in' as I normally do (since I don't drink and don't know many, if any, people at the parties).

Another busy day tomorrow…

⇒ Continue to September 4, 1999 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia