WorldCon 2016: Oceans, the wettest frontier


Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Christopher Weuve (moderator), Patricia MacEwen, James Cambias, Alyx Dellamonica, Laurel Anne Hill

oceans

Yeah, I know this was supposed to be up yesterday, but yesterday, I finished off my Christmas shopping and then went to a friend’s party (at which I got hammed—don’t worry, it’s a rare occurrence; I think I just had to get some post-shopping/renovation celebration in 😉 ) so I didn’t get much writing done at all.

Life happens.

CW: There’s more space-based science fiction out there than water-based science fiction.

JC: But there are more people who will know if you get it wrong under water than in space.

CW: What, or who, was your inspiration? Frederick Pohl was one of mine.

PM: Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.

AD: Alan Dean Foster. Peter Watts’ Starfish.

LAH: Starfish impressed me with this sentiment: the underwater world is so compelling that even if it scares you, you can’t wait to go back.

JC: There was a boom in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I didn’t enjoy most of it. The contemporary non-fiction on the topic was fascinating, though.

PM: Jacques Cousteau’s grandson has a new book out.

LAH: I met Jacques Cousteau. He was my idol. Few women dove in those days.

CW: James, what was it that left you wanting in the fiction?

JC: The inherent contradiction that the solution to overpopulation was to exploit the continental shelf.

PM: They weren’t talking about the future health of the oceans, or the extinctions that were already happening.

AD: I’m working on a series in which the crisis is the deoxygenation of the oceans.

PM: Canfield makes dire predictions about the future of the oceans.

LAH: Stung!, by Lisa-Ann Gershwin is about the jellyfish overpopulation and what it’s doing to the oceans.

AD: I’ve never had a distaste for ocean-based science fiction. I grew up in the prairies and then moved to Vancouver. I was captivated. The ocean is the connective tissue of planetary economy.

PM: I had no trouble buying into the ocean-based science fiction I’ve seen, but there are things missing. Other sensory systems are a fascinating area. If there’s life on Europa and it has magnetic sensing organs, they’d feel god [Jupiter] passing by every 36 hours. There wouldn’t be a single atheist among them.

CW: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a seminal influence.

LAH: It was impressive. There was a 1945 movie made from the novel.

PM: Verne based it on a real French submarine. It was even called the Nautilus. In the 1800’s they had one they called the turtle. It was intended to scuttle ships, but couldn’t drill through the steel hulls.

CW: there’s no physical evidence that the turtle ever existed, though.

JC: The drive design in The Hunt for Red October, the caterpillar, was more plausible.

AD: I’m as interested in sailing, in the romance of rigging and sail, as I am in the underwater aspect.

JC: The translations of Verne’s work left out the technical aspects of submarines, how they worked.

LAH: His Majesty’s Dragon from the Temeraire series has some good naval battles.

AD: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series.

PM: One of the things people tend to gloss over is that when you’re living on board a ship, you’re living in cramped quarters.

AD: It’s a great opportunity for character development and conflict.

JC: The Last Ship is a current attempt at ocean-based science fiction.

PM: Stephen Baxter’s Flood and Brin’s Uplift.

[Very sorry. Not sure who said the following. The ideas were coming fast and furious, but they were interesting ideas, so I had to get some of them down.]

  • Alternate means of communication underwater. Hand signals make sense, but chromatophors would be better.
  • Sub-harmonic or sonic communication.
  • Phosphorescence.
  • Infrared.
  • Plastic garbage is killing off the plankton, which is the basis of the oceanic food chain. They’re developing bacteria that eat plastic. They’re also looking at harvesters that collect plastic and convert it to diesel fuel.

And that was time.

Next Saturday is Christmas Eve, but I’ll still attempt to get my post out on time. Here’s the title for a teaser: Beyond, fantasy creation for the bold.

Be well until next week!

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