Sunday, September 3, 2000 - Chicago, Illinois The 58th World Science Fiction Convention - Chicon 2000

Another lost first set of sessions due to sleeping…I will look forward to being able to get 8 hours of sleep again…

Session: Conversation: Joe W. Haldeman and Robert Silverberg

Joe Haldeman is a very famous Science Fiction writer (he has won many Hugos, the World Science Fiction Convention awards) and Robert Silverberg is a famous editor (and minor writing) for quite some years of a Science Fiction magazine. Together they have been friends for quite some time. Due to some problems, we were in a room much too small for the number of people that showed up.

I really enjoyed this discussion as it was just a random talk, barely talking about Science Fiction or writing at all. Topics discussed included: How they met, Mr. Silverberg's fascination with plants and fine dining, lizards in houses, travel, etc. It was an enjoyable time for all since they are both tremendous storytellers (which is why they are authors) and very adept at expressing themselves.

Session: The Making of "Toy Story 2"

This discussion was let by an editor for the movie which was created by Pixar which concentrates solely on movie production and special effects created by computers. It was interesting to see the various phases of the development of a “computer-generated” movie (I use the term in quotes since it is not so much the computers generating the movie but people telling the computer how to draw the characters and having the computer do the tricky bits with shading and surface generation, etc) showing us an example of the opening sequence repeated in the various stages. The first stage was basically the story-board put to music (sample music from other sources that match the mood of the scene) and dialogue (performed, very accurately, by people from the production team). Then they basically start filling in the details up until the final product, modifying as appropriate. They try to get most of the details down well before the final version is sent to the computers for final “rendering” (where the computer puts the final touches on the image, adding shadows, reflections, textures, etc. – this is performed by their “server farm” – a VAST room of computers dedicated to solely rendering images for the movie). It was interesting to hear the things that they do and the discussion of what the role of a “editor” is in this type of movie – basically they are involved at a MUCH earlier stage than with a normal, filmed, movie, making comments all along the life of the movie.

Session: Jack Chalker Explains it All

Jack Chalker is another older writer who has been writing for quite some years. He is very opinionated and talked at some length about his quitting smoking and the state of Science Fiction publishing today. He suggested that there are only a few big publishers now since they have gone and purchased all of the smaller publishers that were around for quite some time so dealing with one of their companies is like dealing with a massive company (which is interesting since a panel the other day suggested that there are still lots of different companies - preferring to see all the companies as separate entities instead of simply as divisions of a large corporation - or, at least, that was not even mentioned). He also suggested that it was politics that has started to drive the use of “metal racks” selling Science Fiction (fantasy, etc) in corner stores and gas (petrol) stations since the people involved did not like the distributors (???). It was interesting to hear him talk for an hour or so though I do not entirely agree with his politics (though, admittedly, I know far less about it than he does).

Session: Shoot for the Moon

This discussion focused on the idea of returning to the moon for many different reasons, including both commercial and scientific reasons. It seemed to be generally agreed that this would not happen within the next 10 years but the people on the panel seemed to be generally agreed that it WOULD happen. One of the panellists is actually president of a private company that is aiming to put a base on the moon (the Artemis Project). Money seems to be an issue, certainly not technology though there are problems with getting some basic elements for survival (including water - VERY dry on the moon though there are ideas about how to get water there). There are some plans to put some touristy things on the moon such as a remote-control rover that you can pay for by the hour to control though it was agreed that this would not go very far in furthering the exploration and exploitation of the moon.

The basic idea is to perform science on the moon but also to mine elements from the moon. The problem that much of the transport would be in the direction from the earth to the moon instead of the other way around would be only temporary until there is sufficient elements being mined.

Session: Nanotechnology and Clarke's Law

I think that many of the people that listened to this talk were pretty scared after it was over. Currently the limit of the technology (which is based upon using atoms to create machines) is being able to move atoms around but the creation of machines is not really possible. It was agreed, however, that this was inevitable. They noted that sometimes when you start moving atoms around you start to get into chemistry as opposed to physics.

  • Clarke's Law - Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

They all agreed that in the future it would be possible to have machines to do things such as: perform genetic modification, fight diseases, create larger structures (such as long strings of molecules for use in space, etc)…many other things I can't remember off-hand (all very much “magic”). The scary bit was the suggestion that this technology might be used in genetic (or worse) warfare or if a university experiment goes wrong and these things are loosed, uncontrollably, in to the world.

After this session I headed out for dinner with the people I had met here earlier this week (friends of my cousin). We headed across the river to the north to try to find something to eat though, being Sunday on a long weekend, most restaurants were very busy and, after not being able to eat at our (their) first choice, we waited for about 1/2 hour to get into an Asian restaurant (“Big Bowl”) - chatting out on the sidewalk. It was a good meal and the conversation was quite good (Dale actually reminds me a lot of my friend Victor – it is very odd…). They left their children at the daycare center that had been set up for the convention which was just as well as the restaurant was quite crowded and it doubtful that they would have had our patience (they are 2 and 6 years old).

After dinner I was able to relax for a few hours before heading out to watch a bit of the video program that had been set up for the convention. They actually had about four different rooms (two for Japanese Animation, one room for main-stream movies and TV, and another for classic movies and TV – all of the rooms were in another hotel just down the street – Swisshotel). The first show I went to see was the tail end of the Prisoner TV series (which I have seen many times) since they had a small session afterwards to discuss “what the heck it is all about” (if you have not seen the series, it is VERY strange and the ending is the strangest part of it all). A bit of information that they gave I was not aware of at all and did add a bit to the understanding of the movie (evidently, the last two episodes, the finale, was written by the creator in a single weekend in a hotel). The creator has never actually answered too many questions about the show which only makes it even more of an enigma.

I dropped into the biggest room to see Sleepy Hollow which I found quite enjoyable (a bit on the gory side). It was really something to see the movies that were playing here, basically all of the major Science Fiction movies in the last few years were played (though I have seen most of them so I really only found time to see this one).

Well, at 1:30 in the morning, it is probably best to try to get my 6 hours of sleep.

⇒ Continue to Monday, September 4, 2000 - Chicago, Illinois The 58th World Science Fiction Convention - Chicon 2000