Sunday, August 31st, 1997 - San Antonio, Texas

55th World Science Fiction Convention : LoneStarCon II - Day 4

Very difficult to get up today. I have been up fairly late, after the walk last night and writing this “exposé”, I got to be very late, and up relatively early. It was worth it.

Did the Dinosaurs Die With a Bang or a Whimper?

This was an interesting discussion and was originally intended to discuss whether or not the dinosaurs were already dying when the asteroid hit the earth that caused their extinction. The father of one of the people on the panel was the person who discovered the conclusive evidence of asteroid impact in a soil sample. The talk basically revolved around the issue of whether or not dinosaurs actually survived this impact. It was agreed that many insects, burrowing and deep-ocean creatures could have survived the time immediately following the impact (which would be like a “nuclear winter” where the earth was covered with clouds, drastically cooling the planet). I found it interesting that they have determined that the sequences of our DNA that were previously thought to be “garbage” are actually discarded genetic segments due to natural selection, and can therefore be used to trace species ancestry. Where the discussion was hotly debated was when it was suggested that certain species (such as birds) could have been derived from multiple ancestors (such as, perhaps, reptiles). There were many very knowledgeable people in the audience (as is typical here).

Next, I went in search of autographs from two of my favourite authors. I have both of their autographs already but I wanted some of their more recent work signed. I talked to both of them. One of the lines was shorter, only about half an hour, the other was for one of the most popular authors and it was about an hour and a half in the line. Mr. Niven is an interesting person, I saw him last night at some of the parties. He has a particular problem writing for long periods and he has been known to use a stamp instead of signing autographs, today he signed all the way through his allocated hour for an additional hour and signed all of the books. I mentioned to him that he was very generous to do so, he indicated that it is not his hands mostly, but his back that will eventually hurt. He really likes his fans is all that I can think of.

Mars Manned Exploration

This was an interesting panel, many of the panellists believed that we should first concentrate on perhaps going to the moon first to test out technologies to be used on Mars. One even suggested that we should first try the moon, then a close asteroid then finally Mars. There were many people on the panel, with many different degrees.

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll, and SF

I went to this discussion strictly out of interest for something a bit different since I don't really understand this part of Science Fiction. There are a few authors that have heavy psychedelic and sexual references in their books and I just cannot follow it (that is, understand what the books mean or are supposed to mean). The panellists did not really make this clear but did point out that this brought the SF field into a bit more of a contemporary feel, which I think I can agree with. The older style SF concentrated more on science and less on people, but the newer forms strike a balance between the two. I still can't follow the drug references…The panellists indicated that they were heavily influenced by the times in which they wrote, late 60's, early 70s. An interesting note was that one of the panellists who wrote MANY books like this is from Britain and he denied that his writing was seen as rebellion but rather as a different form of SF in Britain, where the people that wrote similar works in North America were seen as revolutionaries.

Space: Solar Power Update

This was another interesting talk, focusing on the problems with the use of non-renewable resources here on earth and possibly using large solar arrays in orbit to beam power to earth. They discussed that it would not be possible, with the current plans, to use this as a weapon since the concentrations being discussed were not much stronger than sunlight. While it was agreed that the power would be cheap, better mass transit to orbit systems were required for this technology and the capital costs are extremely significant and do not make this technology practical in the near future. The maintenance costs are also fairly significant.

After this I made my final trip to the Dealer's room and picked up a few more books (I have a box of books I am taking back with me to Calgary). I also managed to finally subscribe to a Science Fiction (Professional) magazine. I have always intended to subscribe but never got around to it. The magazine discusses various authors and events in the Science Fiction field. It will help me stay on top of what is going on. I was given a few sample issues and found them very interesting (even better to think that I have met many of the people being discussed). I hope to keep in touch with the field more over the next year, I have gotten way to involved with computers recently, I think I need something different to be involved in (if only reading for now).

Discovering New Solar Systems

This panel focused on the recent discoveries of planets around other suns (so far about 12 of them). It was discussed how these planets were discovered and what those planets might be like (how hot, how much gravity, etc). Many other types of Solar Systems were discussed and also the likelihood of their occurring. At one point a writer for, I believe, USA Today (or the New York Times, cannot remember) read off a list of suns around which planets had been found, the names were all catalogue numbers (eg. AB123) and she questioned whether the scientists had any imagination. This was a good talk and very entertaining.

Well, for my culinary adventure tonight I completely discarded any attempt at nutrition. I walked about 10-12 blocks in a rather bad area of town to visit what is called the “Jailhouse Cafe” because it is located right opposite the local jail. It is also located UNDER a freeway and in not exactly the best area of town (I passed quite a few people sleeping on the sidewalk on my walk over to the restaurant). However, once in the restaurant, it was very nice and very clean. It is best known for it's Chicken Fried Steak so that is what I had. It was enormous and had a cream sauce on top, I still get the shakes just thinking about it. Oh yes, it was good, but I don't think I could have another for quite some time now. The description in the program book for the convention describes the Jailhouse, “You can get chicken fried stead here big enough to give you instant heart attack.”, even better, the daily convention paper had a review that mentioned “Warning: the portions here are HUGE and many can be shared. In particular, nothing human can eat an entire Police Chief Special ($11.99) in one sitting – the quality of food defies description. On the unlikely possibility that there is room for dessert, Jailhouse has cinnamon rolls the size of the average fan's head” I thought that was rather amusing, no I did not have a roll. They are not kidding about the size of them though (unbelievable).

I decided that it would not be a good idea (for both the area and the state of my stomach) to walk back so I had the desk call a taxi which never showed up. Eventually I had to get her to call them again after waiting half an hour (it is a pretty bad area), by that time there were some other people there from the convention also needing a ride so they shared a cab with me. Funny enough some were from Toronto and made sure that I had supported the bid for the convention there (which I did last night). They seemed to be happy. It was fun talking to them (everyone I get to stand beside, sit beside, seem to talk and be very pleasant, I make sure I do talk to them).


About an hour after finishing my meal I finally got to the Masquerade and it was good that they had started later. Just to let you know, this is where individuals and groups organize to make costumes of a fantasy or Science Fiction nature. They are really quite good and it was fun to watch. This is something that is strictly fun and the auditorium was very full. Many of the costumes were very elaborate and must have taken many months to complete.

After the initial presentation we had to wait while pictures were taken and the judging occurred. I never did see the final results. Many of the 31 entries had cancelled (unfortunately).

I headed up to only one party tonight, and that was a “joke bid” party called “Z'ha'dum in 2260”. This is based upon a mythical place discussed in Babylon 5. They want to hold the 2260 convention there. They had really cool stickers to put on my name tag (to join the many other stickers already there from previous nights). It was fun and I picked up a few things (soft drinks, goodies, etc, though I was, and am, still pretty full from supper).

After this I headed down to the Riverwalk as I had a ticket for a barge tour that the convention had reserved for us (at half the normal price). This was really good, taking us all along the “river” in downtown San Antonio, pointing out various historical and contemporary locations all around the river. The river itself is of course, as I already described, a branch of the river that has been changed into a shopping and restaurant concourse. The “river” is only about 3-4 feet deep and is concrete (it is drained once a year and cleaned out, the most prolific things found is cutlery from the various restaurants that line the banks). Even the time we had the tour, about 11 pm to just after midnight, there were many people around and it was very interesting. There were quite a number of cyprus and palm trees that line the shores.

I was saying to someone I sat with on the trip that really there is not much in San Antonio (she REALLY liked Winnipeg when she visited a few years ago with the convention) but the river is really something else, the street level is pretty boring by comparison. Next time I visit, I will have to explore this area a bit more.

⇒ Continue to Monday, September 1st, 1997 - San Antonio, Texas