Oasis 17 '04
Con Report by Pagadan
Oasis 17 Con Report
by Joy V. Smith
Oasis 17, an SF literary convention, is held on Memorial Day weekend (May 28-30 this year) in Orlando, Florida, which is about an hour's drive for my sister and me. (I love this con and go there every year.) We arrived at the hotel about 1 PM Friday and checked in. After unloading, I dropped off fanzines, etc. at the freebies table, and we registered and picked up schedules, programs, and freebies--always a great selection, with new stuff continually added.
Registration, the dealers' room, the freebies tables, the art show, and the gaming and panel rooms are all on the second floor--very convenient. I made it to a 2 PM panel, Rx for a True SF Fan, though some of the panelists were late. They discussed favorite authors, including Jack Williamson, Laura Resnick (Mike Resnick's daughter), Eric Frank Russell, L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov (End of Eternity), Michael Flynn, H. L. Lovecraft and Owl Goingback (both horror), Doc Smith, John Campbell, Neal Stephenson (cyberpunk), Michael Moorcock's Elric books, Samuel Delaney (some of his are hard to read), Philip K. Dick (Man in the High Castle), Frank Herbert (Dune), David Weber (Honor Harrington), Tanya Huff (the Keeper books are fun), Piers Anthony (Macroscope), Harlan Ellison's collections, China Mierville [sp] (Perdito Street Station--hard to read), Allan Steele (Coyote--Little House on the Prairie in space), Robert Tevis (?) (Alas, Babylon), George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke (Rendezvous with Rama & Childhood's End), Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness and Dispossessed), Alfred Bester's short stories (To the Stars, Demolished Man), ... Mother London (London's the character), Virginia Wolfe's Orlando (the movie is better), Michael Crichton, Resnick's Santiago (collection of short stories), John Varley's Gaia trilogy, Gene Wolfe's sun stories (too erudite, but the first two are excellent), Zelazy's Lord of Light and Amber stories, Jack McDevitt, Haldeman's The Forever War, ... Great short stories include Heinlein's Howling Zombies, Ellison's The Death Bird, Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains, Repent Harlequin said the Tick Tock Man, Arena by Frederick Brown, and the last man on earth story--the one with the knock at the door,
Allen Steele came in at the end with a book he just bought, Heinlein's Rolling Stones. Rocket Ship Galileo is good; also Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. [There are a few for your reading list, folks.]
The Dealers' Room has lots of books (I bought a few), and many of them are signed, also jewelry, tee shirts, temporary tattoos (done with stencils) and massages; and there was a table with beautiful fantasy collectibles and artwork by a variety of artists and collecibles companies (Enchantica, Tudor Mint, etc.) [You can check out their griffins, dragons, castles, etc.at http://www.griffinsgrove.com/
The art show is full of fantastic art--all media, including sculptures. There seemed to be more naked women (tastefully draped) and less furry art this year, and fantasy artworks outnumbered SF.
At 4PM I went to the Writing SF panel: Can any good writer write SF? Robert Sommers was the moderator. Panelists included Allen Steele, Jack McDevitt, Glenda Finkelstein, and Linda Evans. McDevitt said that he was once asked--Why don't you write something serious? (The person asking wrote only about the Civil War.) Steele said, referring to Margaret Atwood, Stop her before she commits SF again. McDevitt & Steele say--It's a special kind of writing. Not a backdrop, says Steele. A non-genre writer once said--I don't have the imagination to write it. A panelist said--You can't write in the genre without knowing it. Finkelstein said--It's not like special effects. McDevitt said that he thinks SF writers are more curious.
Since Joyce, literary novels turned inward, said a panelist. Finkelstein said--SF isn't limited; you have forever. Dune's first 100 pages is world building. Allen Steele said that so much current SF is read by hard SF fans. Is SF insular? Possibly inbreeding from writing workshops. [Hmm.] Fantasy is for fantasy fans with stock characters. Is that true in mystery fiction too? Robert Sommers said--Read Gone with the Wind for characterization.
Accessibility. It's too scientific for most readers. McDevitt mentions that he's an Engish major on a panel of physicists. Steele--Don't use SF trappings as a crutch; write about people. Woody Allen writes SF. (He wrote about relativity and got it right.) SF writers can make a difference. [Another great panel.]
I got a sandwich at the con suite and went back later for the chili contest. Wolfe Red is hot! The winners of the chili contest were Colleen O'Brien for Colleen's Black Bean Chili as Fen Choice and dealer Larry Wolfe for Cthulhu's Colon Cleanser as Cthulhu's Choice.
The opening ceremonies were at 7 PM. Terry Dahl and Jim Rogers were the con chairs. Allen Steele the author GoH, H. Ed Cox the artist GoH; Michael Longcor the Filk GoH, Jack McDevitt special author guest, and Rebecca Shumacher special artist guest. The theme of the con is Working Stiffs in Space. Someone had to find the Andre Norton scholarship winner (Wilquins Charleston) so he could be introduced. And this year they also have another charity, Journey's End, an animal sanctuary. The ceremony was brief, as usual. A man sitting next to me was surprised at how short it was. [I've read about opening ceremonies that go on and on.]
At 7:30 PM I listened to filksongs by Longcor (my favorite filker). He sang (and played) such songs as My Seeing Eye Dog and I Don't See Eye to Eye, Van Helsing, Bob's Obedience School and Taxidermy Shop, For the People (written for a movie that wasn't made), Lycanthropic Low Down Silver Bullet Blues [great howl at the end], Only Son [a Kipling poem; I love this one], a soldier's ballad for Memorial Day (friends are all you've got), the first world con song [another favorite of mine], Like a Shooting Star (a Columbia tribute; it won a Pegasus award; it's fantastic), and others. They are fun and beautiful. [I have a CD of his Kipling poems set to music.]
8:30 PM and it's time for my favorite panel: Alien Artifacts (xenoarcheology). Jim Rogers is in charge of the panel and handing out the artifacts. The panelists are Allen Steele, Jeff Mitchell, Mike Conrad, Ed Cox, and Rebecca Schumacher with a variety of personnas, including the Brothers Sand of Temporal Engineering. Yep, the Sands of Time.
The first artifact is a metal thingie [a vise, I think]. Cox: For neutering farm animals. Someone else thinks it's a Martian ear piecer. (They have long, tubular ears.) Next is a porcelain towel bar holder. Suggestions: A capacitor. A brain inhibitor, says Conrad, who's great at physical humor... Mitchell suggests rockets/nozzles. Steele: Part of a radioactive experment with a spider. He holds up a photo of Spiderman. Then comes a strainer insert... There is always clever and funny interplay among the feuding scientists (panelists).
After the panel and some wandering around, I stopped at the con suite for a snack before denning up.
Saturday we have breakfast in our room. (We always take drinks, fruit, snacks along to save money.) At 9 AM I'm first in line at the trivia contest. There are just enough of us to make three pairs. The trivia contest is similar to Jeopardy; there are categories and we have to buzz in. Juan Sanmiguel is the moderator and thinks up the questions. My team came in second, thanks to my partner, Roger. (I got a couple right that happened to be higher amounts so I wasn't totally embarrassed.) I love winning those dealer bucks. I spent them in the dealers' room on books.
Then I stopped at the Art Show room again and voted for SF, Fantasy, and Best in Show. The next panel [I went to] was Alternate History at 1 PM. [There are two tracks of panels, filking, readings, art demonstrations, etc., along with book signings in the dealers' room.] Sanmiguel was the moderator. The panelists were Matt DiPalma, Glenda Filkenstein, David McDaniel, James Bassett, and Steve Antczak. AH was around a long time before it became known as AH. It's What if... . the butterfly effect; it's social SF. AH is the new trend after cyberpunk. Someone mentioned that cyberpunk is usually dark, for instance Matt Headroom. Another good AH TV show is Early Edition. There was a comic book in the '80s--Captain Confederacy. Sanmiguel recommended The Years of Rice and Salt. And there's 1633. Larry Niven wrote two AH: The Return of William C. Proxmire and one where the Nazis didn't invade Poland. There's Harry Turtledove's The Two Georges, among others; and he wrote about the Confederacy because of a cover of General Lee with an Uzi. The panelists discussed 1633 and 1634. Michael Flynn (who was in a trivia contest question, btw) collaborated on Fallen Angels with Niven and Pournelle. SF is alternate futures, or the way the future was (Pohl).
The charity auction was at 3 PM and ran till about 5:45. I usually donate a few items to the auction. Often there's so much that they sell some of the books separately at a table in the hallway.
We stopped at the con suite and then denned up in our room until the costume contest at 7:30. Conrad and Longcor were the MCs. While waiting for the entrants to get ready, the art show winners were announced. Fantasy: First: Schumacher's Hagreth, Sister of Sorcery (sculpture, I believe); Second: Paul Vincenti's Maiden; Third: Jean Pierre Targete's Guns of Avalon. SF: First: Targete's Forge of Mars; Second: Cox's The Scar; Third: Conrad's World of Records. Best of show: Targete's Thieves' World: Turning Point.
Then Longcor sang an intro: The Masquerade Song. The judges were: Richard Byers, Steve Parady, Craig Caldwell, and Rebecca Schumacher. The contestants: Sword Gypsy (little girl), Kindergarden fairy (little girl), The Doctor (Who), Hogsmead Visitors, Delegate from Alpha Centauri, A Little Class, Superman's Secret Identity (the Big S), Rose Liaden (sp), Lilith (belly dancer with knives and lights who did really well despite the fact that her music died. While the judges decided, Longcor sang Good Luck, Mr. Corsky and The First World Con. (I love his swashbuckling outfit.)
Judges' decisions: Cutest costume: garden fairy. First: Lilith; Second: Hogsmead Visitors; Third: A Little Class (The Raven). [Sorry. Now and then I have no idea what my notes mean.] Best in show: Delegate.
Longcor was next (8 PM, though we started late. That happens a lot; people are having so much fun, they hate to stop.) He sang, among other things, Dangerous Heroes, a Korean war song, In Another World I Would Still Love You, The Swordman's Dance of Death, and songs about a truck-driving vampire, the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Cajun Space Song, and more. He closed with Like A Shooting Star (the cool green hills still call...)
There were always other things going on: panels, gaming, videos, parties, ... I met Guy Lillian and his wife, Rosy, at their party in the con suite Saturday night. (I've known him for years through his great fanzine, Challenger.) It was a real pleasure meeting them both, and she gave me a string of beads from New Orleans! Then I rushed off to the panel: Would You Buy This Book? aka Artists' Revenge Part II: Authors chose cover art (created by artists Friday) and give it a title and synopsis. (It will all be auctioned off Sunday to benefit Journey's End.) Steele: "Bring Me the Head of Walt Disney" (the aliens have arrived and they're not waiting in line). Diana Bennett: Manifestation: They Will Come (Will you be ready when your gods come?). Linda Evans: "When Mice Go Bad" (good ship Oasis...tourists...carpe et diem) [Very good.] And "Something I Ate" by Steve Antzak, "The Mitsubishi Interstice" by James C. Bassett, "A Multiversal Christmas Carol III: A Mollusk and the Dark Knight Visitors" by Richard Lee Byers, "The Alien Fleet" by Adam-Troy Castro, "Day of the Heroes" by Matt DiPalma, "The Return of Crestor the Mighty" by Robert Sommers, "Of Man and Mouse" by E. Rose Sabin, and "Generation Gap" by Jack McDevitt,The winner: The Mitsubishi Interstice by James Bassett. [Terry said that there might be a print out of these story premises, which I'd love to see.]
Before going to our room, we stopped at the video room and saw the end of The Phantom Planet (old black & white SF movie) and Fall of a Saga, a fan video (A Film by Earl Newton, c 2003/by Southern Ronin Productions) [well done; a good actor played Lucas] and an anime music video, including A Tribute to Robotech. [I love those anime music videos--beautiful and fun. I was sorry I didn't have time to fit in Dr. Who and Cowboy Bebop: the Movie.]
Sunday morning we read the complimentary paper left at our door and later loaded the car with our luggage and freebies. At 10 AM I went to the space ship demo by Conrad: Building a Better Space Ship. He showed slides of ships he'd built over the years (his early ones were unfortunately lost); he used kits, but combined them and used things such as whiffleballs. He also made rockets, but never bought a kit--just the parts and designed his own; he won some contests. His goal: stuff that looks cool. The basic shapes were based on things we saw then--30s to 50s--dirigibles, artillery shells, rockets, bubbles, pie plates, wings, birds, bats, boomerangs, kites, ...
What kinds of shapes work and look good? Jets suck air; that affects their shape. Rockets have to be economically viable. Why a cylinder? Why disks? Otherness and agility. You can't use rocket engines in a disk. There are limits. Why wings? Familiar, but there are different wings; they can look sleek, but they don't look good on spheres. (E.E. Smith used spheres.)
Exploration in the new millenium... He did an exhibit for NASA... There are different types of ships. In 2001, the movie, the ship was shaped like a sperm (analogy re: populating the universe). There are similarities between space ships and submarines. (Nemo's ship in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was ridiculous.) [Now I have to see that move.] There's a fine line between believability and cool look--the wow factor. Use the familiar in unfamiliar ways.
He showed the evolution of Star Trek's Enterprise. It was upsidedown at first; it's much cooler with the disk on top. Others copied that until Star Wars. [Lots more fun background and then he gave hints on how to build your own ships.]
Then we had lunch at the con suite--great chili. They had delicious pork earlier, as they did last year. After checking out of the hotel, I caught the 12 o'clock panel: Writing What You Don't Know (Steele, McDevitt, Joe Green (retired NASA and writer), David McDaniel, Will Ludwigsen (writer--mostly horror), and Finkelstein. Guesswork (Green). Write what you know is misinterpreted (Steele). Some writers write too much what they know--growing up poor in Alabama... And some people eke out a living writing knock-offs of Star Trek and Xena.
Research...your life experience...extrapolate...write about humans...don't be too far out...have a vulnerable hero. When writing villains, give them motivation. Goals. Both characters can be right. Bad story: man fell off cliff and sprouted wings.
At a con, there's so much to learn and do, people to talk to everywhere, including writers, the con suite (remember those great desserts Saturday night), but now it's time to go and to thank the con committee for working their tails off for us and being there to cope with challenges...