Friday, August 29th, 1997 - San Antonio, Texas

55th World Science Fiction Convention : LoneStarCon II - Day 2

It was a long day today, I learned a lot, spent a fair amount of money and I am very tired.

After talking to a few people, including cab drivers, who, by the way, seem to be very easy to talk to here, they indicate that the weather is very changeable, I guess my definition differs. Here, changeable means the difference of about 20-30 degrees. Changeable that I am used to is about 20-30 degrees…Celsius. It has been very hot and continues to be hot today.

Writing 101: Basics for Beginning Writers

The first discussion was good, where a few beginning writers as well as more professional individuals (and an editor) discussed how to write and, more specifically, how to get published. I attended this discussion because I have been tossing around an idea of writing a few stories, just to try it. I have a lot of time on my hands out in Calgary and I might as well do something with it. I can't just sit there, though now I have a LOT of books to read (a whole box full, after today).

They had a lot of very practical things to say, mostly about how to present yourself (what NOT to do to get published). I found it very helpful though a bit premature for me (seeing as I am only interested right now). Perhaps I will give it a shot, it would not cost me a lot and I might like it. No doubt I could never make real money but it would be neat to have at least an article published. I was really happy when my write-up about Blue Sky Community Networks (where I volunteer) got placed in our company newsletter. I was very proud of it, it was well written, I feel, and concise, though still a solid page of text.

Silicon Gulch: Texas Computer Game Companies

This discussion I attended simply because I was interested in what is involved in being a computer game programmer and designer. The discussion was very new to me but very informative. The companies, even the big ones, are surprising small compared to other computer fields, the biggest was reported to be about 200 people (300 people when at their peak).

It sounded like they have a lot of fun, this is something that has also always been in the back of my mind, so I thought I would attend. It also sounds like it is very difficult work, though I kind of like the idea of being able to use your imagination and artistic skills, I don't know if I have any…It would be fun to find out. It is also refreshing to see that the same politics are involved in this business also.

Terraforming Realities

The panel before this was very popular, with people sitting in the aisles for the discussion (the names on the panel were very big and topic was very good). Periodically this happens with the convention where they mis-judge how popular something is and put it in a small room. Because of this the room was very stuffy for our panel, which is unfortunate.

The discussion was very good, but I had trouble concentrating (literally) because of the heat. They concentrated a lot on the various methods of changing an atmosphere to support life. A neat part was that the Science Fiction author that originally proposed Terraforming was present and discussed the origins and original ideas involved.

The simplest suggestion was that techniques be applied to our planet (specifically the desert areas) to try them out before other planets, but then the moon.

The next little while was spent in the dealers room (again), I managed to get a couple of autographs and pick up a few more books (for free) from the Del Rey booth (I like their booth the best! I am getting lots of different books that I may not have bought, and I can try them out, but I think that is exactly why they are giving them away).

A few years ago in Glasgow I felt really bad when I ran around to find a book by a particular author that I like, only finding one that was essentially in the middle of a series, and had him sign it. The thing I felt bad about was that as I had the book signed he said, “You know this is not the first book in the series” and I was taken aback I guess, as well as tired or simply in a bad mood I guess, so I said “Yes, I know” (in a smart-alec type way). It may be silly, but I have always felt guilty about this so I finally had a chance to make it up to the author today, I got the book signed that I really wanted signed (my favourite of his) and one of his newer books. I had a brief discussion with him about how much I enjoyed his older book and he indicated that he had fun writing it and that I will enjoy his newer book. Authors are real people, that is for sure.

Waiting in line was interesting, I was commenting that there are always those in the line that have 10-20 books to have signed which REALLY slow things up and seem to be a bit unfair. The guy behind me and I were saying that we like to have books signed that actually mean something to us (whether it is the first book we read by the author, or simply our favourite), he had one short story he wanted signed and I only had two books, the two guys in front of us had a bag each.

Computer Gaming: Best, Worst, Guilty Pleasures

This panel was simply for fun, I thought it might be neat to hear from the people that write the games, which ones they think are the best, the worst and what is good that is coming. I found it funny to hear that sometimes, during the development of a computer game, they will get “letter bombs” from other computer game companies, that is, copies of the competing company's games. They are called “letter bombs” because the company will start playing them and not work on their own projects (they attribute one such bomb as having pushed back the release date for a software title weeks, if not months because everyone at the company was playing it).

Europa: Our Last, Best Hope for Finding Other Life in Our Solar System

This final panel I attended today discussed the moon of Saturn and the possibilities with water being on Europa. The discussion focused mainly upon future probes that will circle around the moon and possible future trips to touch down on the moon. This was a mainly scientific discussion that I found fascinating, with many of the people deeply involved in the efforts present on the panel. One was saying that they recently had a conference to discuss the exploration of the “oceans” on Europa, which served to bring together the astronomers, geophysicists, and oceanographers to discuss the issues.

Europa, as far as can be determined, is the best choice for life in the solar system since it seems to be covered with a later of ice (the photos indicate cracking indicative of ice cracks) with water below it. The ideas are to place a probe on the surface and have it melt it's way to the water then release a submarine for exploration. This idea was reported just today in USA Today. This seems like REAL science fiction to many, but it is REAL science.

Well, after all of this, I thought it might be fun to go to a place I heard about to go for supper (described as being “downtown”, much like the way the airport here is “downtown”, if a 30 minute taxi ride can be called “downtown”). So, I set off only to find out that the downtown was about 20-30 blocks away. I figured, since I was already walking down the street I would visit Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe as it was right there. I found the real “river walk” that runs though the city. It is really interesting, there is a river that flows through the city (the “San Antonio”), but they have taken a bend in the river, and essentially separated it from the real river and they have built all around it, there are restaurants and water tours all along it. It is very nice down there, it is always a bit cooler (very nice today).

I caught a taxi to Bill Miller's BBQ, a local chain. The taxi ride cost almost as much as the meal, very reasonable the food was very good. Evidently they raise their own cattle and they have their own smoke-house. It was very good and filling.

The problem was it was not exactly in the best area of town, so catching a taxi was very difficult, so I started walking, figuring that I would stop a taxi as it went by. I walked for a while, getting VERY hot, in not the best area and finally stopped at a gas station and had the attendant call a taxi for me. An interesting gas station for me, it had what can only be called a cage around a few coolers with regular corner store items (milk, soft drinks, beer, booze, etc.). It was at this point that I decided I would really not want to visit here again, at least for a long time, I was VERY uncomfortable waiting for the cab to arrive, as I said, the area was not the best. Even the taxi driver was extremely sexist, perhaps acceptable around the area but not exactly endearing.

Chilli Cook-Off

The next event was to go to the Consuite were the “Chilli Cook-Off” was held at 8:00, I waited around for it to start, continuing eating and drinking (I am VERY stuffed). The chilli was quite good, with the 25 cents for each sample being donated to the San Antonio Library. One of the four contestants was from next year's WorldCon in Baltimore, Maryland, they had a chilli made of crab, it was not really chilli, but more like a stew (it was good though).

Well, after this, I wondered around to some of the various parties occurring in the hotel, it was pretty fun trying all sorts of different foods (candies, etc) and talking to a few people.

That is the thing, at most of the events I have attended, I have been able to talk to many people. They have all been friendly, after all, we have lots in common, with the convention. It is always interesting to find out where people have come from and why they are here, how many times they have attended.

⇒ Continue to Saturday, August 30th, 1997 - San Antonio, Texas