Yesterday I spent most of the day at the Lunacon convention in Rye Brook, New York. I traveled up with Mercurio and Alaya Dawn Johnson; it’s not very far from New York City where we all live. The con is held at the Rye Brook Hilton, a modest hotel much like the one for Readercon. Last year, I remember seeing more familiar faces, but this year it felt like the usual New York crew was conspicuously absent. I did have a nice conversation by the bar with Neil Clarke, however, the editor of Clarkesworld Magazine.
The panels went well, although twice the moderators didn’t show up so the panelists and I had to make due. My first panel, “Monsters of Modernity,” talked about the monster as metaphor for our fears. While I thought the premise of the panel was pretty basic (I believe most people understand this connection intuitively) we ended up having some very interesting discussions on the origins of vampires, werewolves and what the monsters of the future might be like. Bram Stoker brought vampires to the mainstream, George Romero did the same for zombies, James Cameron and William Gibson for monster AIs. What will be the next beast that haunts our dreams? Golems? Tax men?
The second panel (which I almost missed because I was ditzy after donating blood) was on the year’s discoveries in computing. We had our geek moments, and I was afraid of losing the audience as Robert Rosenberg and I went off on a technical discussion of IPv4 vs. IPv6. But the discussion turned interesting in the end as we talked about some of the privacy and civil liberty concerns that some of the new technologies will bring. The salient discoveries that I mentioned during the panel: Microsoft’s Pivot Application, HashCache, the iPad, Google Maps street view with “view user pictures,” depositing checks by photograph, and the BioNanomatrix’s Nanofluidic Chip. I’m too lazy to link them, so you’ll have to Google. My favorite, though, seems to be MS’s Pivot App, which I hope to use soon.
The last panel discussed print versus E-books. We talked about the benefits and limitations of each technology, how the multiple formats of e-books and the lack of standards is a headache for publishers, and how the technology can be expected to morph over time. I found this discussion the most interesting for many reasons, but mostly because I felt the audience had a direct interest in the outcome of the book industry (what else would we expect at a con?). About two-thirds of the audience members said they had bought an e-book and most people seemed very open to the idea of reading books on a pad-like device. But one woman came up to me in the end and told me how she prefers the visceral feel of a book in her hands. I know what she means. For me, it’s the smell, especially with old books, as many of the seminal books I read as a kid were second hand.
Overall, my experience was fun, but I felt something was missing at the con. Perhaps I was just missing my usual circle of friends, who as I said were conspicuously absent. And, sadly, I didn’t buy any books. Though Alaya did buy some smoked salt which smelled fantastic. Yes, they had a spice trader in the dealers’ room. The spice must flow.