Monday, January 24, 2005

MY FIRST CONVENTION PANEL:

The good news is that it's over. I finally participated on the panel of a science fiction convention. ConFusion 31 in Troy, MI. The panel I was on was the Books: Why Bother? panel. I had offered to participate on a panel back in early December, but made it clear that I'd had only small press publications. I was under the impression that the panel would discuss various aspects of the small press industry.

Basically, the panel diverged laterally into a discussion of print versus e-books. The panel was fun, and it was a pleasure to meet my co-panelists, only one of whom I had met previously (and I doubt he remembered me). I felt that I held my own, although it was clear to me that I had less to contribute than others on the panel. As I said by way of introducing myself to the crowd, I was very much the novice of the group... and I felt it. Still, I was able to offer my own insights and comments to the discussion, as a techno-geek who yet resists the e-book revolution.

Mind you, I don't inherently have a problem with e-books in principle. In fact, in principle, I love them. I can carry around an entire library in my pocket with e-books! I should fall in love with something like that.

But, for whatever reason, it just doesn't do much for me. I've read some novels in e-book format, most notably Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. (For those who don't know, this is a legend in the e-book community. Cory somehow convinced Tor Books to let him co-release his first novel online as a free e-book. From what I've heard, it was a great success. He's since released many of his short stories and his second novel in a similar fashion and, apparently, is doing well with it. You can find out more about Cory's work at his website, Craphound.com)

The one thing that I wish had been explored more, and it was briefly touched on, was the ability of electronic media to expand on the conventional notion of a "book" and make it somehow more profound. One of the best exploiters of the internet to expand on the book, in my opinion, is Robert J. Sawyer's site. On it, he includes related information from his vast cache of internet information to expand on the ideas from his novels. Thus, the pages for his upcoming novel on uploaded consciousness cross-links to the transcript of debate he had over the possibility of whether or not uploaded consciousness could actually happen. Similarly, he occasionally has links to book reviews, interviews, or essays that are related to the work being discussed. I would like to see him go further, and link to more resources outside of his website... ultimately, this is what I would like to do with the Philosopher's Stone site. I'd like to turn it into a clearinghouse of links for ideas and theories that I'm interested in, preferably all cross-related through my own writings, both fiction and non-fiction.

Jordan came to the convention with me. It was her first, and though there were moments that she enjoyed tremendously, I think that she was overall frightened by the geek quotient. It is always distressing, although I like to joke that part of the reason I go there is so that I can feel cool. The truth is, of course, that I like to be among my own people... though I do think I have a bit more social savvy than many in fandom, though I think that's a relatively low bar to aim for.

My writing is going poorly. The weather in Indiana has caused a lot of commotion. I'm just on the verge of getting the house cleaned up following the several days of snow-induced depression over the last couple of weeks. There are still felled treelimbs from the freezing rain of 1/5/05 that I will probably have to spend this weekend clearing out, with the help of a neighbor's chainsaw.

Still, I was able to start today on a new project, a high fantasy story that I will hopefully complete in time to submit to an upcoming anthology of assassin-themed stories. Also, I am compiling a list of books for research on a new series of alternate history stories that take place during the Crusades.

Well, that's all I can think of for the moment. I do have some plans, as always, for upcoming modifications to the website. One of these is to start three new blogs: one for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror book reviews, one for Science commentary & announcements, and one for Political/World events commentary & announcements. This one will remain for random chatter, of course. Whether or not this plan actually gets implemented remains to be seen, but I think it would motivate me to find more to talk about if I had several blogs with well-defined purposes like that.

Probably, such an attempt at revision would be accompanied by a wholehearted attempt to fundamentally redesign the website.

Does such ambition exist? We shall see!
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