As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, I was at the inaugural SFContario last weekend. There were some excellent panels on Saturday. First thing in the morning, I took in the “Is Extinction Really Forever?” talk with Peter Watts, where an interesting question was raised about the identity of species: What difference between Heck Cattle and Aurochs?
Tea time was held at the Tor.com kaffeeklatsch with the Neilsen Haydens, who regaled us with fantastical stories of life in the Flatiron Building. As a brief aside, there were a few years where I worked as a bicycle messenger in Toronto. As a result, I am intimately familiar with most of the significant buildings in the city, including the grand old ones like Victoria College and 299 Queen West and Old City Hall. I have ridden in some ancient and terrifying elevators in my day, but my conception of “terrifying elevator” underwent a substantial reevaluation after listening to PNH and TNH talk about the Flatiron Building.
Later in the afternoon, I attended another panel that Peter Watts was on. This time the topic was “Biotech: Friend or Foe.” The conversation was riveting, but perhaps the most remarkable thing was the inability of the panelists to come up with a good working definition of biotech. I don’t think this speaks to any failing on their part, but it does raise the question of whether the category of “biotech” is even one worth talking about. Do penicillin and human cloning really have anything meaningful in common? Worth noting is that the nearest definition people could agree upon was ultimately rejected because it failed to exclude the first ox to pull a plough from being an instance of biotech. It seems that all conversations with Peter Watts naturally turn to ancient bovids, given enough time.
And then, in the evening, there was the session I was most looking forward to, entitled simply “Canadian Science Fiction.” Sadly, the panel had a few substantial problems that aren’t worth dwelling on but did cause the conversation to flounder for quite a long time. Fortunately, Robert J. Sawyer was there to steer it back on track. One thing that Rob seems to be quite good at is tossing out quotable quips. Perhaps the best was: “American science fiction has happy endings, Canadian science fiction has sad endings, and British science fiction has no endings at all.”
In all, it was a fantastic time. It seemed to be a very competently run conference, particularly for a first effort. I look forward already to attending in 2011.