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My Boskone 48 Schedule, or, How To Avoid Difficult Questions

February 13, 2011 at 2:20 am

I haven't been attending Boskone very long, only two or three years, but it has quickly joined the list of conventions to which I look forward each year.

And Boskone 48 is coming up very soon!  (In fact, gosh, by this time next week I'll be in Boston.  Barring another epic snowstorm.)   And, as always, the programming folks at Boskone have done a bang-up job.  My schedule is posted below the cut.

Saturday, February 19

11am: Meeting with my editor

1pm:  Workshops: Compare and Contrast

James Patrick Kelly (moderator), Jeanne M. Cavelos, James D. Macdonald, Ian Tregillis

2pm:  Meeting with my editor

4pm:  What is Time Travel Good For?

Karl Schroeder (moderator), Michael F. Flynn, Ken Schneyer, Ian Tregillis

Sunday, February 20

10am: Nanotech or Nevertech?

Mark L. Olson (moderator), Karl Schroeder, Ian Tregillis

One could argue that twenty years ago, magic moved from fantasy into SF with the wizard's staff transmogrifying into Nanotech. Nanotech could do anything from curing disease to building impossible machines to turning a biosphere into gray goo in days. What is the reality? What is nanotech like today and what seems likely to be coming down the road?

Noon:  Lunch with awesome friends.

2pm: Futureproofing SF and Fantasy

Robert Kuhn (moderator), Michael Kabongo, Leonid Korogodski, Allen M. Steele, Ian Tregillis

Certain works - including some earlier hailed as classics - are so bound to the time of writing that they're unreadable today. Is it a question of writing style? Of not so much outdated science as different ideas of what questions are interesting? Let's discuss examples. And speculate about how to make today's speculative fiction timeless.

I'm excited about my program.  The science-track programming at Boskone is always a blast.  (At least, it is for those of us behond the table.  I hope the audience enjoys these panels, too.)  I feel badly for Karl Schroeder and Mark Olson, though, because they're always stuck on technical panels with me.  They have the unenviable job of making up for my dead weight.  But I'm always sure to learn something from them.

I'm also jazzed about the workshops panel.  I'm a huge fan of workshops.  As I often tell people, with all seriousness, Clarion changed my life.  I'm also looking forward to meeting Jeanne Cavelos, who created and runs Odyssey, as well as meeting the Jameses, neither of whom I've met in person.

How To Avoid Difficult Questions in 5 Easy Steps

Since I rarely have anything truly insightful to say on panels like these, I have devised a strategy for making it look like I'm ready to say something really entertaining and enlightening.  It works like this:

1) An audience member tosses a question in my direction.  It's a thoughtful question, but something I can barely understand much less answer intelligently.  Therefore I--

2) pretend to get very excited about the question.  "That's a great question," I say.  "I'm really glad you asked, because I was hoping this would come up."  And I wave my pen as I do this, because I tend to talk with my hands anyway.  "I'm not an expert by any stretch," I continue, pretending to warm to the subject, "but it seems to me..." at which point I--

3) "accidentally" drop my pen under the table.  "Oops," I say.  "Excuse me a moment."  I duck under the table to retrieve my pen.  And then I--

4) never come back out again.

5) Two seconds pass, and everything seems okay.  Five seconds pass.  At fifteen seconds, people begin to wonder what's taking me so long.  Around the one-minute mark, somebody else on the panel will lean over to look under the table and see what's wrong.  That's when I wave them off:  "Shhh," I whisper.  "Tell them I'm not here." 

At which point, it just becomes more and more awkward, until the entire room agrees through some sort of nonverbal consensus that everyone will pretend it never happened and that I was never there in the first place.

And I stay under the table until the hour is up, and people start filing away for the next panel.  I emerge from my hiding spot, brush myself off, and go on my merry way, happy in the knowledge that what I've done has been less humiliating than what might have transpired had I attempted to answer the question.

Feel free to adopt this strategy in your own life.  (No, no, don't thank me.  I enjoy helping people.)

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