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Montreal and everything up to.

Well, Constitution went well and we even received some nice emails from people saying how much they enjoyed it. I'm not sure when any of them found time to write those emails because the defining experience of Montreal was meeting half the bloody con there again. Also in accordance with prophecy I only got to see the bits of Constitution's programme that I was actually on, Friday was taken up with running stuff, Saturday was the five programme items I'd ended up scheduled in on that day plus nice Vietnamese food with big Ian and little Ian, and Sunday seemed to entirely consist of the auction and Unicon charter reform. I think I made it to Steph's guest of honour thing, but that's about it really. I must go to a con that Clare is programming and I'm not involved in because they sound really fun.

Banking and suchlike took longer than expected on the Monday due to the amount of tea that had to be consumed before simple arithmetic was possible, but it all got done and somehow I managed to get everything I needed clean and dry enough to go into a suitcase, and actually put it there. I'm very glad I ended up stumping up for a taxi to the airport as I fell asleep twice on the way there and I think London public transport would have been well beyond my mental abilities. Terminal 5 is surprising nice as airports go, most of the signs are clear (even if some of the electronic signage could be done better) and it seems to be big enough to do the whole funnelling of people to the correct flight thing. Airport shops are still just as weird as ever though, why sell luggage in the security zone which is too large to be taken on most flights as hand luggage? Who in their right mind would want to buy a Harrold the Bear (don't answer that, apparently it's where a lot of Harrod's profits come from), and why is it so hard to get a good coffee?

Anyway the flight itself was uneventful, and the weather too cloudy to see anything very interesting out of the window. Terminal 5's baggage handling all seemed to work even if half the plane ended up waiting at the wrong conveyor belt for their bags, and I discovered that if I've started with few mental faculties then making it two in the morning (as far as my body was concerned) was an excellent way to make following the signs for the taxi a real challenge.



Wednesday


Went walking along Rue St. Catherine in Montreal and it was fascinating to see the juxtaposition of churches, restaurants, and dancing girls. The west end of the street may veer into respectability but there is something pleasing about seeing churches and cafes all clustered together at the east end with a load of stairways alternately promising food or girls in roughly equal amounts of neon. It's not the sort of thing you see in a British city and along with the American style truck cabs and the pathological distaste for jay walking help drive home that I really was in a different country. Also they have Häagen-Dazs choc-ices everywhere which I had to resist eating all the time.

Went into Parc Mont Royal that afternoon and wander up to the viewpoint which looks out over downtown. The whole park reminds me somewhat of Myst as it has an unusual collection of objects and buildings scattered around it, odd bits of sculpture, the cross of Montreal (which looks so utilitarian I wondered if it was some sort of radio mast), this was reinforced later when I saw some of the underground city.

The Farthing Party Party was where I started to wonder if I'd ever left Cambridge, half of Constitution seemed to be there, and there were lots of interesting people I hadn't met before to talk to. Dave Clements proved himself to be either insane or a man of character by turning up having only just got off a plane, Cafe Cherrier did an excellent job considering the late change of venue and not really knowing what they were letting themselves in for.

The hotel itself was surprising quiet given it was built in the middle of downtown Montreal, I'm not sure quite how high up it was as the only way to reach the lobby was via the elevator which wouldn't stop on intermediate floors, but the hotel itself was constructed as four wings of rooms round an extremely nice roof garden. I almost wish I had more time to just laze around there because there were some absolutely perfect reading spots near some of the little water features.


Thursday


So the convention itself started on Thursday. Got my badge and stuff from registration and congratulated myself on not being a programme participant (more on that later) discovered that the art show and dealers' room weren't open quite yet and sat down with people to try and work out what to go.

I think on Thursday I went to
  • The Werrewolves of Brigadoon

    A nice panel about people writing fantasy and what they got horribly wrong from a historical point of view. The point did get raised that such inaccuracies don't matter, and sometimes they don't but I think it's a matter of suspension of disbelief. If you're a good enough writer it may not matter, but it can be the last nail in the coffin if you're already having doubts about a book.

  • One Genre or Many

    Extremely good panel with a bunch of horribly bright people in need of amplification.
  • No More Soldiers

    An interesting panel that I can't talk about much since some of it was under Chatham House Rule. Interesting points from Jon Courtney Grimwood on what the introduction of autonomous infantry drones would mean as far as unequal warfare is concerned. I didn't even turn round and swear at the arm chair warmonger just behind me who seemed to think that anybody in Afghanistan must be a member of the Taliban or al-Qaida.
  • The Life and Work of John M. Ford

    Mike Ford was a genius, and this panel was a great way for a whole pile of people to talk about how he was a genius. It didn't even matter that a large chunk of the audience seemed to be there simply because Neil Gaiman was on the panel, most of them stuck around and hopefully some of them went out and hunted down some of his books.
  • The World is Large & Strange.

    I'm sure this was a good panel but I honestly can't remember much about it.

Had middle eastern food, i.e. more grilled meat than the mind can comfortably imagine and went to the Tor room party which was very crowded, very noisy, and involved dicing with frostbite if you wanted a beer. Only stayed for a couple of drinks before retreating back to the hotel and collapsing in bed.


Friday


Felt rotten on Friday morning, initially thought it was due to all the circadian rhythms to do with metabolising alcohol being out of whack but as the day wore on I realised I'd caught some sort of cold. Unluckily I went through pretty much all the symptoms, luckily I did it all in a day. It's a very strange experience when you think, "Ah, it's a couple of hours later so it must be time for aching joints… Oh there we go." As I say I managed to shake it of mostly within a day but cold air conditioned rooms combined with humid Montreal summer weather didn't really help with the cough which is still with me.

Programme items for Friday
  • What Fans Don't Know About Publishing part 1

    Turned out to be pretty much a monologue by David Hartwell on the publishing process, how long it takes, what pitfalls it has, and how editors set about attacking the huge pile of manuscripts they get sent. I knew most of this from other sources but it's always good to hear David monologue.
  • Relativism & the Superhero

    A chance to discover yet another person both at Constitution and Anticipation (Rhodri) and that things haven't advanced much since the step change in the later 80s and early nineties when we got things like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. The thing I hadn't realised is how poor a lot of the comics not designed for a teenage and older readership have become. The great thing about comics when I was a kid was that there was stuff that hadn't been sanitised but was suitable for a young audience, and then there was stuff to move on to as you grew up. If those lower rungs of the ladder aren't any good these days then I think the whole comics genre will eventually wither, and that would be sad to see.
  • What's new in Astronomy

    fivemack had his chance to shine eloquently describing some of the stamp collecting in modern astronomy and why it's so interesting, while others fussed over the care and feeding of projectors so they could do their own presentations. Even if he had had the time and resources to produce a power point presentation I think being able to wing it and be entertaining is an excellent skill to have, and one he exhibited brilliantly. Also interesting talks on extra solar planet detection, x-ray astronomy, and stuff about radio galaxies.
  • Modern Grahpic Design in Publishing

    Personal conclusion: Most Americans wouldn't know it if it hit them round the head with a Pantone book.
  • Paul Kincaid talks with David Hartwell.

    Big brain talks to other big brain, smaller brains in audience shrivel up in the emitted light. Okay, there was a lot about how David got started in book collecting and editing, and stuff about The New York Review of Science Fiction, and all sorts of other things like that, but it still all added up to him being a genius and those of us in the audience being painfully not.

    Though on the bright side I don't think any of us in the audience subsisted on baloney sandwiches for a year—I don't care how many different kinds of mustard you used, you still ate baloney sandwiches FOR A YEAR!
  • Folklore, science fiction and fantasy.

    Excellent panel on everything from midwifery to milk bottle tops, what folklore is compared to what folk tales are.

Dinner was a pretty good Vietnamese place, though I think beef with lemon grass is best done as a side dish rather than a main one because—delicious as it may be—you only want so much. Went to the UK and Irish fan party that James Bacon had organised, which like the Tor one the previous night was very full and very loud.

Found I'd been left a note via the voodoo board which had a signature that neither I nor anybody we knew could decipher into the name of anybody we knew, this puzzled me for much of the day until fivemack asked me about the talk on the Rap Rep I was giving. Minor panic then ensued until we determined that I had an evil twin (who couldn't spell his surname propoerly) at the convention, and the note and the talks were entirely to do with the other one. Left a note for Gerald Nordley (who my dad is friends with) but we didn't manage to meet up in the end, I'm rubbish at mornings, and north america is rubbish at phone networks.


Saturday


I had at least partially recovered from my cold on Saturday, not enough to make it to Gerald's programme item at 9, but then I rarely make it to programme items at nine in the morning anyway.

So… programme items
  • Science fiction film

    Couple of academic presentations, one comparing science fiction films with westerns as a model of social critique, the other on how time travel is portrayed in film (i.e. often badly and inconsistently).
  • How are we getting on towards the singularity?

    Fun panel on what we mean by the Singularity with a capital S, whether it will ever happen, the important differences between Socrates and a goldfish, and various other things. Somebody on the panel mentioned that they didn't believe in the singularity because if you were writing fifty or a hundred years ago about transportation you might posit a transportation singularity where we can move so fast that distance becomes irrelevant. I wish that discussion had gone further because I'm pretty sure people have in the past written about transportation and energy singularities, and I think the modern trend for the information or AI singularity is just the latest of these. Still a fun panel though.
  • The Middle Ages, Getting it Right.

    Lots of people being interesting and informative about what life was really like and our misconceptions concerning it.
  • Our Long National Nightmare of Peace & Prosperity Is Over!

    Jon Courtney Grimwood and others discussed the waning of American influence and the effect a certain president may have had on this process, and what the changing nature of our world has had, or will have, on science fiction.
  • Aunts in Spaceships

    I was hoping for a good discussion on why they are so few older female characters in s.f. who aren't mothers or grandmothers, but it mostly became a list of the examples the panel could think of rather than any discussion of why they were lacking in other books.
  • Assistive Tech., or When is a Cyborg?

    Reasonably good discussion about what sort of assistive technologies somebody would have to have before we would class them as a cyborg. The answer seemed to be that things like insulin pumps won't count until they are self regulating closed loop systems, and when we have reached the stage where those things exist and are allowed and we have artificial limbs better than natural ones in some respects, then we still won't call people cyborgs because those things will just be normal.

Met up with fivemack, papersky, and zorinth for more Vietnamese food, the soup definitely seemed to help with the cold. We tried to go to some parties but ended up waiting so long in the queue that I certainly gave up.


Sunday


I made it to a programme item at ten in the morning! Still too late to see Gerald, but hey ho.
  • Canadian English language small press

    Interesting discussion by three people involved in small presses, especially amusing on occasions when US audience members spluttered at the mention of grants, and interesting to hear the different strategies taken on print runs and bindings (rip and strip seemed to be common practice, whereas I get the feeling UK small presses tend to number the hardback books to make them more collectible rather than turning simply them into paperbacks when they don't sell. Also interesting to here the print run numbers.
  • Atheism in the Renaissance.

    Brilliant talk on what atheism meant in the Renaissance period, who was featured on common lists of atheists, epicurean physics, and the marginal notes found in copies of Lucretius. Ada was a brilliant speaker and I salute anybody who goes to Texas to teach the history of atheist thought.
  • Concert.

    At rysmiel's suggestion I think I went to see Ada and friends singing some brilliant a cappella pieces, including one for two parts, Odin and Loki.
  • Adapting Alan Moore

    An okay panel about attempts to adapt Alan Moore's creations to the big screen, I think there's been better discussion along those lines at Eastercon.
  • The Herschel Space Telescope

    Dave Clements gave an excellent talk on Herschel, it's instruments, what it's designed to study, and how it was built. He also demonstrated quite nicely that he still hadn't worked out I had an evil twin by asking me whether I'd need a projector for any of my talks. Very interesting to see the first images even if they weren't calibrated and so weren't of any real scientific use, it's still interesting to see the discover image of the infrared background.

Went for dinner with fivemack, my duck leg salad turned out to be two rather large duck legs and a salad roughly the size of Belgium. I had to assure the waitress that it had been fine, and there hadn't been anything wrong with it, it was just huge. Got back in time to hear the Hugo announcements—various people were robbed, and various other people announced that they would not accept future nominations and that people should really go and vote for somebody else. I think if Wall-E of The Dark Knight hadn't won the dramatic presentation long form award I would have gone out and bought a hat just so that I could have eaten it, but luckily that category was sane this year. I don't think we even tried to go to parties that night.

Monday


Only went to two programme items, a discussion between Paul Cornell and Tore A. Høie about why we don't have a world government, and why it's so common in science fiction, and at what level it is sensible to make decisions—trust me, it was a lot more interesting than it might sound. The other programme item I went to was about the Drake equation and the Fermi paradox, and was so good and popular it had to move rooms (thus leaving any late comers to find a mysterious lack of a panel on the mysterious lack of aliens). Went for dim sum for a whole horde of people and emerged to see Frank Wu still being very pleased about having won a Hugo. Went for a walk down along the river front and failed to do various bits of site seeing due to them being closed to the public or us being just too late to see them that day. Had coffee and caught up with things, and then went for dinner at Restaurant Vallier which was excellent if slightly slow.

Went and had drinks with papersky, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, a Jewish archaeologist whose name escapes me (Alter, dhole on LJ, thanks fivemack.), Jon Singer, and a whole load of other people. Then we went to the dead dogs' party where I met Dave again, and we determined that neither of us had actually seen my evil twin at any point, so they might have been a typo for all we knew, took liberal amounts of medicinal whisky for my throat, and watched unsuspecting people try Stroh for the first time. How I managed to pack for the train the next day I'm not entirely sure, but apparently I managed it.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
fivemack
Aug. 21st, 2009 08:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for the report, you seem to have been at very much the same con as me.

The archaeologist on Monday was Alter, dhole; [PT]NH spell their surname "Nielsen Hayden"
aardvark179
Aug. 21st, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, and I know but I didn't notice that mistake until I was almost out of wireless.
major_clanger
Aug. 21st, 2009 09:52 am (UTC)
under charterhouse rules

I think you mean the Chatham House Rule, unless there's another rule about unattributable discussion named for a public school near Godalming :-)
aardvark179
Aug. 21st, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
I did, and I even googles it, but apparently the Internet is full of wrong. :-(
techiebabe
Aug. 21st, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC)
And in the middle of that you managed to send postcards! Thank you, glad you have enjoyed it.
bugshaw
Aug. 21st, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for postcard! bear ~= hamster
rysmiel
Aug. 21st, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
Went walking along Rue St. Catherine in Montreal and it was fascinating to see the juxtaposition of churches, restaurants, and dancing girls.

You can tell how Anglophone an area is by the proportion of US-style strip clubs to topless breakfast bars.


* The World is LArge & Strange.
I'm sure this was a good panel but I honestly can't remember much about it.


The governing system of the Florentine Republic ?
ceb
Aug. 22nd, 2009 10:04 am (UTC)
I must go to a con that Clare is programming and I'm not involved in because they sound really fun.

Eastercon! Well, bits of it.
sphyg
Aug. 22nd, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
I should go to more cons. Sorry if the cold you got was mine ;/
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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