I spent Thanksgiving weekend at a science fiction convention.
No, no, no...not like the one in Galaxy Quest. Well, not exactly like it. Although there were costumes, and silliness, and a good deal of fun. But as far as I am aware, there were no aliens who believe that a Star Trek-like show was real life.
As far as I am aware.
Part of the difference is that LosCon is more of a writers and artists con than a media con. That means that many of the panelists are writers and artists rather than actors or producers of science fiction and fantasy films and television shows. Although some of the writers write for those media as well as writing books and short stories, and some of the organizers and participants do sometimes act and work in other aspects of film and television. It's just that the emphasis is a little more literary.
Which makes sense. LosCon is presented every year over Thanksgiving weekend by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), which bills itself as the longest running science fiction club in the world. Which it very likely is, having had its first incarnation in the 1930s. It has been operating under the current name since March of 1940. Some of the biggest names in the genre have been active in the Society, as have a few of the most infamous.
They put on a great gathering...part literary discussion, part gathering of like-minded souls, part party. This was the fifth time I have attended LosCon since 1998, and each time I have had a great time.
Some of the highlights this year for me were the panels. No mere human can get to all the panels, and no one would probably want to because they cover a wide variety of subject matter from science fiction to fantasy to horror to anime to science to...oh, to lots of things.
The first panel I attended centered on the topic of "Horror and Religion". There were interesting perspectives, especially since one panelist was a Baptist minister and another is a Buddhist...his take was that horror and Buddhism is a non-sequitor, since the most horrible thing in Buddhism is delusion. The consensus of the panel seemed to be that it isn't the gore that makes horror horror, but that what is horrifying has more to do with the violation of the moral order of the universe and the relinquishment of control. It isn't the blood that is shed, but the soul that is stolen that creates horror, at least in the Western way of looking at things. There was also some discussion of the horror of H. P. Lovecraft and his portrayal of an uncaring universe and ultimate nothingness.
Attendance at that panel has spurred me to pick up Stephen King's Danse Macabre for yet another perspective on the effect of the horror genre on culture.
Another panel, a discussion of what books should be in the canon of the science fiction greats was interesting, not the least for the fact that it went from zero to argument in almost nothing flat when one gentleman in the audience took exception to the suggestion that A Canticle for Leibowitz belongs on the list. A lot of names of authors and books were presented, very few concrete conclusions were made, and I now have a much longer list of books that I need to find and read.
That is another consequence of attending these cons...I always leave with my list of books to find and read having been about doubled from what it was before I arrived.
My favorite panel of the weekend, though, was a discussion of world-building. That panel consisted of David Gerrold and Harry Turtledove riffing off each other for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I left inspired to get back to work on that novel, and with a lot of new perspectives to bring to it.
It was a good weekend. I bought a few books, I got a book I took down with me signed by the author, which is cool because he is one of my favorites. I had a lot of good conversations with interesting people.
And I came home with a cold, apparently, since I woke up with stuffed sinuses and a runny nose this morning. A souvenir of the weekend, I suppose.