The Rambling Writer at Westercon/Gearcon

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Over the July 4th weekend, Thor and I ventured south on I5, braving horrendous traffic to arrive in Portland for Westercon 69 in conjunction with Gearcon (a Steampunk celebration). Since Thor already had his costume from his “Wizards of Western” dinosaur presentation for Western Washington University, and I had my Medieval Faire outfit, we dressed up for costume night. Since almost everyone else was dressing for the Steampunk theme, we were our usual anachronistic selves. And, as usual on the pro discussion panels — this time I participated in the “Is Technology Neutral?” and “Virtual Reality” presentations, among others — I was one of the few voices advising caution when adopting new tech. Like Miniver Cheevy, I may have been born to the wrong era.

This delightful couple sported appropriate Steampunk attire:

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But the Mermaid contingent flouted all boundaries, and held demo swims in the hotel pool, undulating gracefully through the water with their fins.

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My favorite couple visited the autograph table, dressed as the sweet aliens from “Galaxy Quest.”

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Book View Cafe’s own David D. Levine was the Fan Guest of Honor, and I enjoyed finally meeting him in person during our panel on “Toxic Masculinity in SF/F” and later at a dinner with other Book View Cafe members. And kudos to our probational member Mark Ferrari, who won Artist Best of Show! Here is the beautiful trophy:

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Taking a break for some mundane reality, Thor and I hopped on one of the terrific mass-transit trains into central Portland for a walking tour. Since we had left our sweet Bear dog to the care of his “Aunt Brenda” back home, I had to content myself with petting this denizen of a local park:

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We didn’t need these facilities situated on a sidewalk, but appreciated the city planning:

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No visit to Portland would be complete without dropping in to Powell’s Books, but we resisted loading up on too many books, as I already had started a pile at the con. Wandering through Chinatown on our way to the outdoor Saturday Market full of arts and crafts, we spotted these elegant elephants.

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Portland is a city of many bridges over the rivers, and some striking architecture, the new…

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…and older. The 100-year-old Pittock Mansion overlooks the city, with lovely views and design.

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The designer had some forward-thinking ideas for the time, including this high-tech “Steampunk” shower with adjustable sprays from below and surrounding sides:

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One last glimpse of the con — this elegant judge of the costume contest informed me that her outfit was created by the same designer who made costumes for David Bowie and Madonna. She was the “custodian” of the costume, allowed to wear it for special occasions. Check out the headpiece!

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Now, back home with our critters, time to dive into that stack of new books….

Speaking of reading material, all of my Book View Cafe ebooks are discounted as a Westercon Special for the month of July — $2 off regular price, if purchased from the www.bookviewcafe.com online bookstore. Use the code $2-OFF-STAMEY-WCON

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You will find The Rambling Writer’s blogs here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest from Book View CafeAriadneThumbnail was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.

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The Rambling Writer at Westercon/Gearcon — 9 Comments

  1. I took a picture of that same elephant last time I was in Portland! Looks like you all had a lovely time.

    And I’d love to hear some of your ideas of caution in adopting new tech.

    • That elephant is gorgeous, is it not? I’ll fill in a bit more tomorrow about the panel discussions of changing technology — very interesting.

    • Yes, Phyl, great to finally meet you in person, too — and the others from Book View. It was a fun con.
      How did the Monday coop panel go? Sorry my neck issues made me skip out early — but looks like the docs have a procedure to help. (Fingers crossed)

  2. Hey, Nancy Jane, re the technology and human values angle: My novels often have a theme about the downsides of adopting new tech without thinking through the side effects — like the classic anthropology example of introducing metal hatchets to an indigenous group that had only stone axes, which were a symbol of authority by the elders. When everyone had shiny new metal hatchets, the whole social structure was thrown into chaos. Of course, we can all think of many more examples. In my latest novel THE ARIADNE CONNECTION, I extrapolated possibilities of virtual reality by letting people “link in” via direct neural connection, and where that might lead in terms of addiction and distancing from “mundane reality.” The two scientists on the panel presented fascinating new developments in virtual reality, and I admit made me curious to try it, though even the experts admitted that it was so good now that it would probably become addictive for many, once it became affordable (soon).
    In the panel discussion about “Neutrality of Technology versus the Amish caution” (not the exact title), I was definitely in the minority in questioning human ability to adapt and survive the extremely rapid rate of technological change lately. I referenced the recent nonfiction title THE SHALLOWS that cited studies showing frequent use of multitasking online versus traditional reading created physical changes in the brain. Essentially, lots of online time created “shallow” short-term memory that skims a lot of data versus deeper longterm memory created by traditional reading and pondering, which is necessary for conceptual and creative thinking. (This is simplifying the complexities). Most people in the discussion seemed to dismiss downsides because basically people will just adopt the latest thing for instant gratification. And, of course, I did agree that regulation of technology is difficult and problematic politically. Once Pandora’s box is opened….

    • Thanks, Sara. I was listening to Sherry Turkle on the radio last night discussing the problems with our obsessive phone use. She suggests it is interfering with us learning how to be alone and even how to deal with boredom on our own. But she also said she thought some of what was going on was the shake-out period of adapting to a new technology, and she thought it was possible for us to change some of the rules. OTOH, I know that humans became less adept at memorizing as reading and writing became widespread. So tech will change us. Lots of meaty material in those subjects for fiction, essays, academic discussions ….

      • Yes, it’s so complicated, we could on and on. Just had a meal with friends and their 19-year-old technie son, who is involved with the new Pokemon activities. He made the point that at least it was getting “couch potatoes” out walking –even if some walked into traffic while glued to their Iphones…. What a weird juxtaposition of real and virtual realities!