Saturday, August 30th, 1997 - San Antonio, Texas

55th World Science Fiction Convention : LoneStarCon II - Day 3

If yesterday was busy, today was much worse. I never did really sit down except for the show later this evening.

The day began in search of an autograph from a favourite author. An interesting note is that he is well known for his books about the colonization of Mars (particularly interesting in this day of the Mars probes). He is well liked by the fans and good to talk to (as I did). That is part of the whole fun about getting autographs from these authors is that you get to talk to them and let them know how much you like their work.

Movie Previews with Jeff Walker

This day had a very tight schedule, I was planning on going to a discussion about “Defending our planet – from what?” but I decided to take it easy and attend a session that basically show previews of a number of upcoming movies, many of the previews had never been seen before by an audience. There were a lot of good Science Fiction movies shown. One in particular is based upon a classic Science Fiction book written by one of the best authors. It was interesting that some in the audience booed some of the sections since Hollywood has been pretty bad in their adaptation of novels (SF) to movies, altering the stories significantly. Since this is such an important novel to some people, they expressed their impression that this was another such movie. I like the comment that Mr. Walker made “You have not seen this movie - give it a chance”.

He also made a number of comments about the current state of affairs in movie making including the way many television shows are being turned into movies. “We are doomed to relive our childhood on the big screen.”

Babylon 5 Previews (J. Michael Straczinski)

This deserves a bit of explanation. Mr. Straczinski initially presented a television network with an idea for a series that would last five years (and only five years). He wrote an epic that has become extremely popular (to put in mildly) by many fans. The room he held his talk in held 3,000 people: it was full. He even had a standing ovation when he walked in. The reason people are so happy with him is that he listens to the fans and that he just got renewed for a final 5th season. There were lots of stumbling blocks in the way, including the fact that the company that produces Babylon 5 went out of business a year ago, however, due to contract issues they have been forced to continue with Babylon 5.

Really, his story is also the story of the underdog: No company, little money, opposition, odds against him (most shows like his die after 11 airings). He was forced to innovate, creating many of the special effects used in his series on essentially home computers (the effects are unbelievable).

He was interesting to listen to, however, I had to leave less than an hour into his two hour talk since I was after a few more autographs for my friend, Victor, in Winnipeg. I did get the autographs and picked up a few for myself at the same time.

After the Takeover: Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule

I had a bit of time, so I went to where my next panel was to be held. Luckily, they were discussing a topic that was of interest to me. Present were a few sociologists and interested individuals. I was surprised to hear how much their feelings echoed mine. They basically asserted that the Chinese government's attitude, though communist, differs from the former Soviet Union in that it is not expansionist. They agree that Hong Kong will basically be allowed it's protests and that things will continue as they do.

Much of the panel seemed to be in teaching many of the Americans (or so it seemed) in the audience about how big, yet in many ways, backward China and the area is. People here tend not to have any idea about the completely different ideals and philosophy in China.

They also mentioned that much of China is extremely jealous of the success of Hong Kong and China will have to be careful to present Hong Kong from being completely destroyed by the rest of it's citizens (either by a massive immigration or a civil war of some kind).

Access to Space: An Update

This started out very interestingly since there were three rooms each listed (at different points in time) for this panel. The panellists and the audience took about 15 minutes to figure out what was going on and decide on a course of action. Eventually the panel formed itself (with a few other members of the audience that provided significant input, but were not listed on the panel member list) and the discussion essentially focused on the use of single (or minor secondary) stage vehicles to get into space. The contentious issue was how they might be powered (one contended that we could use lasers to beam power to the ship wherever it went all the way into orbit the other “fire and brimstone” group continued to suggest the use of regular rocket fuels to get into orbit). It is very important that these technologies be developed to continue the exploration and exploitation of space. It costs so much to get things into orbit that new ideas and technologies are needed to keep the price down. The people on the panel were actually developing these technologies so the information was very good.

Demo of Life Support Systems for Mars or the Moon

I returned to get another autograph for Victor and then took my time showing up at this next session. This was really neat since the people that talked were from Nasa and were discussing the current experiments they are performing in “closed systems” where people are put into sealed environments for a period of 30-90 days at a time, using various air and water recycling systems. The presentation was very professional and informative. Of course, all of this research is directly translatable into various uses for the space station and a possible trip to Mars.

After this session, I then started getting very busy since I wanted an author's autograph, however he did not attend the convention (from what I heard he does not like fans, but prefers to stick to the “literary crowd”). I had to drive about 15 miles up the highway to get to where he was signing books (of course, since I am having the hotel drive me to the convention every morning, I had to catch a taxi to the hotel first). He read a bit of his work first, then answered some questions which was pretty interesting then he signed some books. I picked up a book (to be signed) for Victor and a few more for me. William Gibson is interesting in that he actually started a whole new genre of Science Fiction known as “Cyberpunk”, which is the idea of technology integrating itself into our society in such a way that we are essentially all a physical part of the whole (plugging ourselves, literally, into computers). I still don't know if I really like his work (or ideas) but he definitely knows how to write.

As he was sitting there talking, one of his co-writers was in the audience (but HE actually was attending the convention), so I managed to get his autograph at the same time on one of their collaboration books (so I was VERY happy).

Eventually, I managed to leave but on the way back I stopped at a place to have supper. Tonight I wanted to have a REAL steak, so I stopped at a very nice looking place just off of the highway, so I pulled in and knew it would be expensive when the valet parked my car (and here I was, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt advertising last year's convention). The food was absolutely fantastic and VERY filling (I did not finish). I had an 18 oz t-bone steak and the meat just fell off of the bones. I do not normally enjoy steaks (too much meat), but if they are prepared VERY well…I ended up paying a lot of money but I was very happy with the meal (and heck, I am on holiday!).

Eventually, I returned to the hotel and had them drive me back to the convention (well, the hotel where all of the parties were). From here, I proceeded to the second night of the chilli cook-off (yes, after eating the BIG supper) and sampled what they had.

Hugo Awards Ceremony

After a little while, I snuck into the ceremonies which were already underway. These awards are voted on by the attending membership and are the most important in the Science Fiction industry. It was really neat to see all of the famous authors, publishers, editors, directors, etc. there. Babylon 5 eventually won the Best Dramatic Presentation which made the audience very happy and the author who I had got an autograph first thing this morning one an award for his latest book (which he signed for me earlier). Now, I REALLY have to read it. The awards were really fun, it exposed me to a number of different categories and gave me a bit more of an appreciation as to the effort involved in many of the different areas.

After the ceremony many of us returned to the ConSuite to have a bit more chilli (yes, I was EXTREMELY FULL by this time) and wait for a playing of the Babylon 5 episode that won, about half an hour after the ceremonies finished. We did this and I had a chance to take it easy and simply enjoy.

But, after this, I did my second night of tours for the various parties around the convention, visiting the “Toronto in 2003” who seek to have the 2003 convention in Toronto. Evidently Winnipeg wanted to hold it but when Toronto said they were interested Winnipeg threw their support behind Toronto (since two places in Canada would split the votes). The party was to support their bid so I joined their effort as a “Supporting Member” which means that I offer financial support and, if they win the bid, I get a great discount on the price of attending. I also managed to pick up a t-shirt (because I thought it was unique). Another neat party was the group from Russia (they had some interesting Russian material).

As I was leaving, one floor had a bagpiper standing at the elevators (evidently you could hear him all throughout the hotel). There was quite a crowd (on every floor also) waiting, one of them was a famous author who was really getting into the convention by attending some of the parties. It was funny because he was standing right beside the piper and all of a sudden just walked away (obviously in pain), most of the people present, including the piper, broke up laughing.

Tonight was a big concert right downtown so catching a taxi was right out of the question, the traffic was unbelievable so I just walked home. This was not necessarily a good idea since it was already past midnight and the hotel is (literally) on the wrong side of the tracks. It was about a half hour walk and the last bit is through the cemetery. Luckily the walk is along a busy road, however, it did not really thrill me too much. I have not really ever had problems walking by myself but I have to admit I was a bit uncomfortable.

⇒ Continue to Sunday, August 31st, 1997 - San Antonio, Texas