Harlan Ellison died today.
I was fortunate to have met him at Dragon*Con ’99 in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite his public controversies and cultivated abrasiveness, he demonstrated there how invested he was in his fans throughout the convention–at his readings, signings, and public performances (the Atlanta Radio Theater Company’s on-stage production of Heinlein’s “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants” with Anthony Daniels and introduced by Ray Bradbury).
I took the photo above while he was signing one of his collections for me. After his talk and before his signing, he vowed that no fans would be turned away and all would have a chance to talk and receive autographs. I thought that he was crazy considering how many people were there for him. Nevertheless, he was true to his word.
On Sunday, the Science Fiction Research Association was represented by Lisa Yaszek, Doug Davis, Jason Embry, and myself at the 11:30am Dragon*Con panel in Atlanta, Georgia titled: “What Does Science Fiction Mean? A Conversation with the SFRA.” SFRA Publicity Director R. Nicole Smith coordinated with the Dragon*Con Sci-Fi & Fantasy Literature Track planners to make the panel a reality.
The panel was attended by approximately 20 Dragon*Con members, and the ensuing conversation between the panel and the audience was electric. We received comments from long-time science fiction fans who had taken classes in the 1970s, and we received questions from educators and creative writing teachers about the use of science fiction in the academy. As part of the conversation, we also shared the history of the SFRA and our own unique histories as SF scholars with the audience.
The session was a great success, because we had a delightful conversation that ran over our allotted time. It was a fulfilling experience to connect with Dragon*Con SF and fantasy fans, because they had compelling questions and unique experiences to share with us. The panel was also a success on another level, because it increased the visibility of our organization and the work of its members in an audience that should be a continuing part of our discourse in the SFRA.
Many thanks to the audience members who attended the panel!
Y dropped me off at CLE and I accepted the TSA’s mandated security theater and body scan. My odds for future cancer potentially ticked up thanks to a lack of transparency. John W. Campbell Jr wrote about a similar problem with transparency related to the development of the atomic bomb. He wrote that it was ludicrous of the government to restrict free speech and education at the beginning of the Cold War. Open discussion, he argued, will yield results while no discuss simply impairs our ability to develop plans, countermeasures, and new technologies. Burying our heads in the sand of authority and not openly discussing how to effectively oppose terrorism without trampling privacy and personal health will continue to lead us down a dark path.
Boarding for Atlanta begins soon.
Actually, the Science Fiction Research Association isn’t really “invading” Dragon*Con with ray guns drawn, but we will host a panel titled, “What does Science Fiction Mean: A Conversation with the SFRA” on Sunday morning in the Hyatt’s Fairlie room at 11:30am. Thanks to the SFRA’s Publicity Director R. Nicole Smith, several SFRA EC members (Lisa Yaszek and myself) and SFRA Review editors (Doug Davis and Jason Embry) will hold a panel to let convention goers know a little bit about what we do in the SFRA. We will also invite attendees to join the SFRA and participate in the 43rd annual conference in Detroit next year. If you are attending Dragon*Con, stop by the panel and join the conversation. If you aren’t going to Dragon*Con but are in the Atlanta area and what to talk shop, drop me a line [dynamicsubspace now-what-goes-here gmailcom]–I will be in town from Friday until Sunday.
Last night, I caught the one hour documentary Four Days at Dragon*Con. It is a brief snapshot of the fandom and programming at the growing Atlanta science fiction, fantasy, horror, and gaming convention.
It was interesting to see how Dragon*Con has changed and developed since I was last there for the full convention (2000), because this documentary presented a time capsule view of the con from one particular point in time.
The emphasis of the program is on the fans and the idea that the convention is driven by fan interests. Essentially, the program argues that Dragon*Con is a convention that is more fandom generated than any of the other large conventions in the United States. As a result, the documentary focused on cosplay and robot wars, which are two of the strongest emergent fan-creative aspects of the con in recent years.
Perhaps in a longer or future documentary, it would be more interesting to see a historical approach to the Dragon*Con phenomenon. Four Days at Dragon*Con is a synchronic snapshot of the con at a particular point in time.
I want a diachronic documentary on Dragon*Con. I would like to see more about how the convention progressed from its inception to the present. There are obvious controversial topics such as Dragon*Con’s founder Ed Kramer’s arrest and extended wait for trial that deserves investigation. There are also mundane issues such as when certain tracks entered the con’s ever-expanding schedule.
If you study fandom or enjoy seeing what folks do at cons, I suspect that you would enjoy spending an hour with Four Days at Dragon*Con.