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Boskone 49!

February 23rd, 2012 No comments

I’m not sure how I’ve lived in Boston for seven years and had never been to Boskone before this year. Maybe the frequent laments from the fan community that this con ain’t what it used to be kept me away. I shouldn’t have listened. Boskone still attracts some people you really want to hear sharing their ideas, as evidenced by the day of panels I went to on Saturday, February 18.

The Highest Frontier (cover)

The Highest Frontier (J. Slonczewski), a Luna-as-Ark novel

First up was Occupy Luna with Vince Docherty, Allen M. Steele, Ian Randal Strock, and Alexander Jablokov. The panel topic was how to create a progressive, non-coercive society on Luna. I had high hopes for this one, and while it was a really interesting panel, it didn’t generate a lot of discussion of the central topic. It touched a little on anarchocapitalist/libertarian versus anarchosyndicalist/anarchocommunist ideas about what a Lunar society could look like (Lunar offshore banks vs. energy collectives, for example). But the discussion got bogged down in correcting misconceptions (mostly voiced by the audience) about the technical details of founding a Lunar colony.

As someone who’s spent a lot of time learning about this, I found the discussion of topics like why doming Lunar cities wouldn’t work to be kind of a snore. I’d like to see a discussion like this again — maybe with the moderator working more to keep it on political topics.

I did catch one interesting book mention: Joan Slonczewski’s The Highest Frontier (right), a post-climate change Luna-as-ark novel. (Slonczewski was on a panel about climate change later in the day; read on).

The next panel was The Year in Astronomy & Physics with Mark L. Olson, Jeff Hecht, and Guy Consolmagno. Topics ranged from FTL neutrinos (debunked two days later!) to the recent banquet of exoplanet data we’ve been getting from the Kepler and other sources.

The data on exoplanets we’re not getting disrupts current models of planet formation. The long-held model of how Earth’s solar system formed from a stellar accretion disc explains why we have small terrestrial planets and metals close to the sun, with gas/ice giants, silicates, and water ice farther out. Finding exoplanetary systems that look nothing like this has called that model into question. At the same time, it offers tantalizing possible explanations of  things like why Mars is so small and why Uranus and Neptune have unusual orbits. Astronomers are only in the first stages of puzzling out what it all means, though.

Brother Astronomer, by Guy Consolmagno (cover)

Brother Astronomer, by Guy Consolmagno

My favorite person on this panel was Guy Consolmagno, curator of meteors at the Vatican observatory, so later in the day, I went to his solo talk, Discarded Images: Astronomical Ideas That Were Almost Correct. Wow. If you ever get a chance to see this guy talk, jump at it. He’s a font of knowledge, from stories of bartering with shadowy European collectors for access to their privately held meteorites, to tracing the winding path to a heliocentric view of the solar system. He’s also a Jesuit, and by the end, I wanted to go up and wish him Good Apert to see if he got the joke.

Next up was How Not to Produce an E-Book with Stephen Segal, Neil Clarke, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. This panel was mostly a technical download, and while I could have learned a lot of this stuff if I got off my butt and googled it, it was good hearing opinions on the various technologies out there from people who’ve been doing it successfully.

I’ll post what I learned on this panel next week. Clarke in particular had a lot of good info to share.

Under the Moons of Mars (cover), edited by John Joseph Adams

Under the Moons of Mars, edited by John Joseph Adams

After lunch, I hit up John Joseph Adams’ reading from the new Under the Moons of Mars anthology. I’m a sucker for this one; I loved the John Carter stories and went back to them when I was working on Mars for Eclipse Phase. This antho will definitely be on my to-get list (it’s got a Peter Beagle story!), although unfortunately it wasn’t on sale at the con.

Adams chose to read the story Three Deaths by David Barr Kirtley. It’s a tale told from the perspective of a green Martian who loses a fight to John Carter, and it’s pitch-perfect.

After that was the panel Environmental Rearguarding: What to Do After It’s Too Late, with Alexander Jablokov moderating, Jorin T. Kare, Jeff Hecht, Tom Easton, and Joan Slonczewski. The topic was great: how do we adapt, and even profit, if climate change gets completely out of control? Unfortunately, both the panel and audience seemed more interested in talking about ways of stopping climate change. Hey, I love the progressivism of sci-fi, too — but I wanted to hear more about evil profiteering! Jablokov kept trying to steer the panel back that way, but it didn’t take. Oh well. I learned some interesting stuff from the engineer on the panel about proposals for seeding clouds with various albedo-raising substances (some of the proposals were crazy — pipeline to the clouds, anyone?).

The audience for this panel tripped one of my pet peeves. Please, don’t be that person who sits in the front row and tries to have a dialog with the panel. It’s just rude, both to the panelists, and to the rest of the audience. I don’t care how knowledgeable you are. And if you’re a panelist, don’t enable this behavior. You might think you’re being nice, but you’re not doing anyone any favors.

I finished off with Creating Worlds for Online Gaming, with Brianna Spacekat Wu moderating, Melinda Snodgrass, Walter H. Hunt, Timothy P. Szczesuil, and Margaret Ronald. I’d meant to avoid gaming panels (especially a month before PAX), but the panel I was originally going to had really loud filk right next door. (A pox upon filk — and also upon anime credit music singalongs, which seem to be the younger generation’s equivalent). Although I picked up a lot of interesting information about the gaming biz, my favorite part of this panel might have been Hunt, a voice actor, discussing how he had one recording session that was nothing but him grunting thirty different ways to simulate the character getting beaten on in combat.

Beyond panels, the con had a decent-sized huckster room, where I somehow managed to contain my book addiction long enough to make it to the door.

So I’m not sure why rumors of this con’s demise still circulate. It might be smaller than it once was, but I won’t be missing it next year.

 

…and a fine Gen Con was had by all!

August 10th, 2011 3 comments
Panopticon cover

"Two uplift enter, one uplift resleeve!"

Thing with Gen Con: it’s always been too damned short. When I was a kid, it always seemed like Sunday came too soon. And now that I’m going as a game designer, ironically, it seems even shorter (you’d think all that work would make it seem longer, but no!). I didn’t see even half of the people or things I wanted to, but it was a blast all the same.

The biggest news from my court was the release of the latest Eclipse Phase hardcover, Panopticon: A Focused Eye on Transhumanity, Vol. I. We had pre-release copies of the book on sale in the Posthuman Studios booth for those lucky enough to be at Gen Con.

Like every Eclipse Phase book to date, it’s gorgeous, with yet another Stephan MARTINIÈRE cover icing the cake (I’ll capitalize his last name, because he’s French, and that’s how they roll). The writing ain’t too shabby, either, although as co-author of the section on space habitats, I’m clearly biased. The other two sections of the book deal with uplifted animals and ubiquitous surveillance. No street date yet, but EP fans may be assured that we’ve delivered the goods on this one. Can’t wait to see the forum threads on how people use these imaginings in actual play!

ENnie 2011

Posthuman be bringin' home ENnies.

I also finally got my hands on a physical copy of Gatecrashing, and it, too, is pretty darned sweet. And Posthuman won another Gold ENnie, this one for Continuity, Marc & Leah Huete’s excellent scenario from last year’s Gen Con. Congrats to them on taking one of Eclipse Phase’s core concepts — body-hopping — and building an intense scenario around it.

Other acquisitions this year included one of Dragonchow’s beautifully made limited edition Eclipse Phase dice bags; Pathfinder: Ultimate Combat (congrats to Jason & team on another great rulebook); and, from the ENnies benefit auction, a bundle of everything currently available for the Dragon Age tabletop RPG. I have to admit I’m always suspicious of RPGs licensed from a big non-tabletop RPG product, but if you look at the names in the credits (Pramas, Kenson, Kulp, Tidball, to name several), it’s clear Green Ronin wasn’t relying on a franchise name to carry this line.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend grabbed a copy of Don’t Rest Your Head RPG and its companion volume Don’t Lose Your Mind and is threatening to run it, a development I’d welcome. We gave this game a spin at Paizo Con back in June, and it’s a great little design.

Additional awesome things I did or saw, in no particular order…

Giant Robo Rally

Giant Roborally with Mindstorm Robots. Squeee!

Some brilliant genius/maniacs who apparently live at the sweet spot between Maker Fair projects and extreme geek love brought a giant Roborally board to the con and had huge Lego Mindstorm robots tooling around it. I was running by on my way to the Posthuman booth when I spotted it, but Father Fletch (of PAX Tabletop Enforcer fame) was nice enough to let me borrow his photo of it, so that y’all may know this awesomeness wasn’t just something I hallucinated after 3 days of Gen Con sleep dep.

I ran a lot of Eclipse Phase, as Posthuman was short on GMs this year. Last year I spent almost all of my time in the booth, pitching the books, so it was great to get out and game with the fans. I mostly ran Xenovore, the fan-inspired scenario I wrote and ran at East Coast cons earlier this year. Hopefully I’ll get it published some time soon.

Jesus Store

Welcome to Indianapolis, Land of Jesus Stores & Ranch Dressing

And I pitched a board game designed by Nathaniel Dean & I. Far too early to talk about what the project is, but we felt the pitch went well. It was my first experience pitching a new game of my own to a serious potential publisher, and I think my co-designer and I took a lot away from the experience.

On Saturday, advance copies of Degenesis showed up at the Posthuman booth. Gorgeous art; weird, weird setting. I was joking with booth visitors that we only do RPGs about the end of the world. Davidson & Seth, the line developers, took a really tough translation project and made it sing. Unfortunately, I forgot my copy at the booth when I rushed off to the airport, so I’ll have to wait to read it!

Some people say Gen Con leaves them exhausted. True for me, physically, but on a creative level, I find it incredibly energizing. I went home very much revved up for another year of writin’ and schemin’.

Panels at TotalConfusion (Massachusetts, Feb. 26)

February 17th, 2011 No comments

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get Eclipse Phase onto the schedule for TotalConfusion this year, but I was asked to sit on a few of their panels on Saturday, 2/26. So I’m going to be placed at a table with other RPG writers, where we will hold forth on the following topics…

Making Great Adventures, Saturday 11:00-Noon

Our panel of esteemed guests will discuss adventure design. Listen in as we discuss the success and pitfalls of adventure design and learn what it takes to make epic adventures. We will cover everything from the one-shot to the epic campaign. Don’t miss this opportunity to get access to some of the greats. Audience participation is highly encouraged, so bring along some questions for our panel.

Gaming and the Media, Saturday 3:00-4:00pm

Game design is only the beginning of any company’s efforts to be successful. Once the product is out, it needs to be promoted and supported. This has changed vastly over the years from primarily print to primarily electronic. Join our panelists as they discuss how the process has changed over the years. Come to enjoy the “war stories” from the trenches of gaming media and get great insight on what works best for promoting your own product. We’ll be discussing print magazines, the evolution of the pdf model, webzines, podcasts, and more. Audience participation is highly encouraged, so bring along some questions for our panel.

Overcoming Gamer/Geek Stereotypes (with Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks)

What does it mean to be a geek? This seminar tackles that question with strength and dexterity. . . . part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky … playful … funny and poignant … It’s a fun ride and it poses a question that goes to the very heart of fantasy, namely: What does the urge to become someone else tell us about ourselves?”

I’m especially excited about this last one. I haven’t gotten to read Ethan’s book yet, but it sounds like part Napoleon Dynamite autobiography, part journalism, part soul searching.

Hope to see some folks at TotalCon!

Eclipse Phase at PAX West

August 28th, 2010 No comments

Schedule of Eclipse Phase events at PAX West. I won’t be making it, but developer Brian Cross will be there. I highly recommend checking it out if you’ll be there. Not sure if he’ll be running my scenario from Gen Con, Doctrine, but I hope so!

Categories: Eclipse Phase, Events, RPG Tags: , , ,

Worldcon: the Quick Version

August 10th, 2009 2 comments

(This was mostly written last night.)

 

In an hour I’m heading to the Hugo Awards, then driving home to Cambridge immediately afterward. (Holy gonna be cracked the frak out at work tomorrow). I’m excited to be going to sci-fi’s version of the Academy Awards; hooray for being in a field where this kind of stuff is accessible to anybody who wants to show up! My head’s spinning with all I’ve taken in during the last few days, so this post is an attempt to assimilate some of it.

 

First off, I’m incredibly happy I came and feel very fortunate Worldcon happened to be nearby in one of my favorite cities this year. It made traveling up and giving it a shot with no real idea what to expect a much easier leap to make. My entire experience of cons to date had been with gaming conventions (Gen Con, Origins, and a few minor ones), and while there are similarities, Worldcon is a very different animal (and I gather the same is true of SF cons generally). Sci-fi fandom is a more cohesive, close-knit subculture than gamers, with a lot of traditions and odd little rituals. (Example: They have a thing for collecting as many stick-on ribbons as possible and hanging them from the bottom of their con badges, which are kind of huge to begin with. At Gen Con, you get to be awesome if you have an exhibitor’s badge, and that’s about it).

 

This was a working trip for me, but it was fun work. I went to a lot of panels, took voluminous notes, gave away a lot of chapbooks, visited all of the publishers in the dealer’s room, schmoozed, and listened to what a lot of sci-fi editors had to say. So. Much. Information. As far as the writing and editorial panels, the one person I didn’t get to listen to that I regret missing was Gordon van Gelder from Fantasy & Science Fiction. I also didn’t go to any of Tom Doherty’s panels, but I’m not trying to sell novels yet, so I can live with having missed that. I was hoping to see more workshops about electronic publishing, but the one I did sit through was excellent. Bottom line: if you’re a writer, go to a Worldcon or another major SF con that has all the wheels doing panels. I feel like my knowledge of what’s really going on in the field is parsecs ahead of where it was five days ago.

 

The science and culture panels I went to were uniformly outstanding, and I wish I’d been able to go to more of them. Too often, though, they either conflicted with each other or with editorial panels I needed to attend. Get a bunch of sci-fi writers and fans with the appropriate real world credentials talking, and, well, how can it not be awesome? I’m going to devote another post to the panels (hopefully later this week, although Gen Con preparations might contravene that).

 

Finally, I met some really excellent people (which I figured I would, I mean, they’re SF fans, they’ve gotta be cool, right?). I finally got to meet Jacob Weisberg of Tachyon, whose web site I redesigned several years back, although his awesome managing editor, Jill, wasn’t there. My roommate, David O’Neill, who I met on the internet at the very last minute, turned out to be an excellent fellow. He’s doing a cell phone startup out in Seattle; if I were a rich investor, I’d trust him to do good things with my money. I met James Bacon, a charming Irishman who seems to be something of a mover in British fandom. And I got shnoggered Saturday night with the absolutely delightful Camille Alexa, who edits flash fiction for Abyss &  Apex. I haven’t gotten to read her writing or anything she’s edited yet, but I’m now very eager to do so. I’m going to take a risk and say that you should go out and buy anything with her name on it, anyway, because after hearing her talk in panels, I highly doubt it sucks.

 

I met a zillion other nice, awesome people, too, and if I yammered on about all of them, this post would get really long, so I’m going to stop now.

 

In summation, yay Worldcon! Now I just have to figure out where the hell I’m going to get the energy to make it through Gen Con next week. Ha. Who am I kidding? I’m already vibrating with excitement for Gen Con, which is good, because I need to stay awake for a five hour drive after the Hugos.

 

Aujourd’hui Montreal, Demain la Système Solaire!

 

I Twittered the Hugo results as they came out. If you haven’t seen them yet, they should be visible on my Twitter feed if you’re reading this within a few days of posting.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,