WorldCon 2016: Terraforming Terra

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.

Terraforming

Panellists: John DeLaughter, Elizabeth Moon, Laurel Anne Hill (moderator), Gregory Benford, Patricia MacEwen

Joined in progress …

LAH: Haw can we reduce carbon dioxide, or eliminate excess carbon dioxide?

JD: Increase conservation.

LAH: It’s difficult to motivate large numbers of people to conserve, though.

PM: Hit people in the wallet.

EM: Stop killing plants to put in asphalt. Plants eliminate carbon dioxide.

JD: Green roofs.

EM: Green roofs are a good idea, but existing structures can’t support the extra weight or handle the water. Support the creation of parks, green space, city gardens as part of urban planning.

GB: The US is the only country in which tree populations have risen. It’s also the only industrialized country that’s reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

JD: Going for a clean energy solution means more nuclear power.

LAH: What about ocean iron fertilization?

JD: Life growth is based on the amount of the rarest nutrient in the ocean. That’s iron. So far, things haven’t worked out as well as they’ve hoped.

PM: California has lost an entire youth class of sea lions for three years running. It’s happening all over. Stop over-fishing. Lower polution.

LAH: There’s a great book, Stung, about the unprecedented increase in the numbers of jellyfish. They could be a vehicle for carbon capture and storage.

GB: Thirteen years ago there was a study done on farming waste and disposing of it underwater. There’s a place, 3.2 kilometres down just off Monterey Bay. CO2 is trapped in particles. Crabs eat them and it gets bound in their shells.

JD: In Louisiana, they burn their excess silage. They have ash fall. They call it “Cajun snow.”

GB: There is no will to do the necessary research.

JD: It’s going to take a long time for global warming to become serious enough for people to care.

LAH: Are efforts to reflect sunlight back into space effective?

GB: DARPA has a project. They want to pump sulphuric oxide into the atmosphere over the arctic. It will screen out enough of the sun to slow the melting of the polar ice cap. There is no will to proceed.

PM: There are 50 to 100 mile wide gaps in the ice in the arctic. We’re heading for a crisis.

JD: NASA is involving student observers in their S Cool project.

GB: They could also look into reflective paving materials and roofing mats.

PM: 95% of our living reefs are disintegrating.

And that was time.

Next weekend, I’ll be sharing the notes from my final WorldCon 2016 panel: The state of feminist fantasy.

Until then, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends 🙂

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WorldCon 2016: Science fiction as epic

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: Frederick Turner, Walter Jon Williams, Cynthia Ward, John Kessel (moderator), Elizabeth Moon

kcpubliclibrary

The Kansas City Public Library

Quick note: What’s with the non-panel pictures? In the first day, I wasn’t sure if it would be acceptable to take pictures without first asking permission. So I’m sharing pictures from Kansas City, which hosted WorldCon this year, because I took walking tours of the city Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. Panel pictures will arrive with the Friday sessions.

Joined in progress.

FT: The classic epics were the science fiction of the past. They shared common themes and fundamental elements. They were from the oral tradition (storyteller). They featured a creation myth (cosmology), a hero, a quest, kinship and kinship troubles, the interplay of nature, culture, and the supernatural, descent into and emergence from the underworld, and/or the founding of a city.

EM: The SF epic can be set in a different world. One of the features in that case would be the technological difference between our world and the other one.

JK: Does scope equal epic? Northrop Frye espoused the high mimetic (imitative) as central to the epic form. Is there no everyman in the epic?

EM: The genius has epic intellect. The protagonist must be exceptional in some way.

CW: Walter Mitty is not epic.

FT: Many heroes start out as foundlings or shepherds.

WJW: Dune is a science fiction epic. Zelazny’s Lord of Light is an SF epic.

JK: Star Wars is an SF epic, a space opera. Edith Hamilton and Joseph Campbell have both analyzed it in their work.

CW: Foundation is an epic.

FT: Epic goes to the edge of the world, or humanity, or the universe. The world has to change as a result of the story.

WJW: So Epic science fiction is about man’s place in the universe.

FT: There’s an emotional, almost musical resonance.

EM: Modern readers need humour. That’s the secret spice in the stew.

JK: Economics doesn’t seem to be a factor.

CW: Not everyone appreciates an empire. Post-colonial narratives.

FT: Mad Max is dystopian and epic.

Aud: Wilson Tucker coined the term space opera in the early 40’s. It was meant to connote second rate science fiction that focused on adventure. It’s from horse opera, which was a pejorative term for a western.

Other epics were proposed by the panel and the audience: C.J. Cherryh, Leviathan Wakes, Hyperion, Babylon 5, Sagan, Clarke, David Brin, Gene Wolf. The theme of faith and religious belief was also proposed as another feature of the epic.

And that was time.

Next week: Mythology as the basis of science fiction.

Be well until then 🙂

Ad Astra 2014 day 3: Biotech, identity, and personal freedom

Panellists: Alison Sinclair; Shirley Meier

SM: Everyone is terrified of the loss of control. We use plague zombies to explain our fear. Dracula was about the fear of women’s power and blood magic. One of our biggest fears in biotechnology. There are a couple of good TED talks on the subject (Mel’s note: I found this one and this other one). Chemotherapy can be delivered directly to the tumour.

AS: Spider Robinson wrote about electrodes implanted in the pleasure centre of the brain. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Crossroads,” the Federation becomes a dystopia. The Borg are biological machines. In Star Trek: Voyager, 7 of 9 and Hugh explore these ideas.

SM: The essential questions are: Who am I? Who owns my thoughts?

Q: In Brave New World, what was horrifying then is common place now. People fear science. What’s the positive side of biotechnology?

SM: In my books, MOM (the medical override module) is corrupted. Technology is what saves people, frees them from the villain, Prime. Pets are modified into true companions. Of course, then you have the issue of old age, disease, and how you can justify putting the dog down. They rejuvenate animals, mammals specifically.

Q: What about clones? Currently they age rapidly to the age of the animal they were cloned from.

AS: Medical technology is always advancing. Right now, they’re working on cloning the heart. The brain is still too much of a mystery. Is it ethical to “treat” mental illness? How does the process impinge on personal freedom?

SM: Heart surgeons have noticed personality changes after bypass surgery. There is a distinctive decrease in, or complete loss of, empathy.

Q: Who should be afraid of biotechnology? Who will suffer?

SM: We add to our knowledge; we don’t replace it. The old doesn’t disappear. Norms shift.

Q: Do you have statistics regarding the percentage of personality change in heart transplant patients?

SM: It was in a Smithsonian Magazine article. The percentage isn’t certain. They’re not even sure why it happens. It might be a drug interaction.

Q: If we look at biotechnology rationally, our fear is relatively low. Irrational fear is automatically high, however. People forget our own criminal predisposition.

SM: Look at the military. They have drills for the nuclear fighter jets frequently. They have to make sure that all is in readiness in case the worst happens. They don’t run in these drills. They walk slowly. If the jets take off, the world will probably end. The ground crew is assessed. If they don’t react appropriately, they will be removed. When we write SF, we are troubleshooting. What if? Utopias are boring. Consider the controversy over stem cells.

AS: But what about the cost? We need to invest in quality control. In our society, who can afford it? In Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, the main character is autistic and offered a cure. Who chooses?

Q: What do you consider “you”?

AS: My mother has Alzheimer’s. Her personality hasn’t changed yet, but layers of memory get stripped off.

SM: Treatment is not the same as a cure. It makes illness tolerable. There’s a loss of dignity in Alzheimer’s that’s difficult to deal with. In the early stages, patients can be mistakenly addressed as if they are in the advanced stages. They don’t need that.

Q: There’s a tension between internal and external identity. Who we are vs. who others think we are. Is it the same person? I’m thinking of Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.

AS: Do we have a problem with free will?

SM: Yes. Our monsters steal our free will. Truth, justice, and the American way vs. the New World Order.

Q: What about mind control?

SM: Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent is a fascinating look at mind control and possession in our society.

AS: There’s also a struggle between personal and medical personhood.

SM: Why do things not work? We’re essentially monkeys. Would you give a monkey “the button”?

AS: Technology both reinforces and subverts existing power structures.

And that is the last session I attended at Ad Astra this year.

I’ll save the wrap post for next weekend.

In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, my writerly peeps. I’ll be back on Tuesday with my regular Tipsday curation.