© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
CanVention 22/ ConVersion 19
Guests of Honor:
GoH: Guy Gavriel Kay
To Boldly Go and Mangle Luggage
Sometimes you wonder about cosmic coincidences while other times, they pretty much bash you over the head. No sooner do I get on the airplane and pull out the in-flight magazine but there is Captain Kirk staring me in the face before I even leave the gate. You can check out his comments on immortality in En Route Magazine. The other surprise awaited me in the Calgary Airport. Some enterprising marketer had decorated usual plain baggage claim area with exhibits touting the local attractions. The one for Fort Calgary was nice, but the one for the Royal Tyrrell Museum, with dinosaurs ripping through luggage was compelling and hilarious. Makes me wonder if baggage handlers did survive the mass extinction after all. Although Alberta contains one of the biggest caches of T-Rexes in the world, the museum is located two hours away in Drumheller.
Welcome to Calgary Ė Weíre Not Toronto
People kept saying that although Toronto thinks itís the Center of the Universe, the rest of Canada doesnít. I wonder why they are trying to be so much like them then. I offer up proof: The Calgary Tower isnít quite the CN Tower and the downtown area, for all its fancy "Trees" sculpture and Eaton Centre didnít fool me for long. However, the cowboy hats on the hotel bellhops were a nice touch, although it was still disconcerting to headgear like that in the North, and a great reminder of what Calgary is legendary for: Stampede.
CanVention = ConVersion + ConSpec
As a female, it doesnít take long to realize that speculative fiction is dominated by men writing science fiction. No where was this more apparent than at the Opening Ceremonies. It was rather strange that all the American guests seemed to give a laundry list of every single time they had visited Canada. Alan Steele did tell a funny story of flying in on a turboprop and at the last minute, having the pilot pull up from his descent, going 40 miles out and coming in for another landing. Upon deplaning (because you can talk to the captain of the turboprop in a way you canít in a 747) he found that the reason was a flock of geese were on the runway. The point was that only in Canada would they care.
To say the least, I was shocked that only one Aurora recipient was present to accept his award in person. I canít imagine that all the winners were too busy on a Friday night in the middle of summer to be in Calgary. This isnít a minor award. This is something that book publishers put on the front of jackets and authors in biographies. Not only that, it is an affirmation from peers and countrymen. Did I also mention the Aurora also comes in a new, convenient, packable format, suitable for traveling? The banquet was highlighted by Ed Willett singing selections from Donald Swannís The Lord of the Rings and Eric Donovanís presentation on the scientific phenomenon of the aurora. For more information on the awards, go to Prix Aurora Award website. Kudos go to Don Bassie for making his supplement page so that everyone could view selections of the nomineesí work.
While men might control the writing end of the business, women are certainly still predominant in the schools, and it is the few who appreciate SF that are passing it on and exposing children to it. One of the major comments from the panel was that literature in general looks back whereas SF looks forward. Even the schools that do pick SF as part of the curriculum choose the most conservative backward-looking SF. After all, the people at NASA were the ones who grew up reading SF in the 30s and 40s while imagining the possibilities.
Magic realism is a topic that defies general rules for classification. Originally used as a term for describing visual art, it was quickly taken over to describe literature, currently and most notably by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers. Candas Jane Dorsy had the best line when she asked "Where do all the butterflies come from?" elaborating that the profusion throughout various works symbolized freedom. In part, a reaction to postcolonialism and the marginalization of cultures like First Nations, Caribbean and African. The theory is that postcolonial political elements break up the native structure and with the defamiliarization, non ordinary reality intrudes. Therefore, magic is part of reality and to access it is normal. Most felt that it was a construct that was for the purpose of keeping university professors employed where the need for organization is greater, whereas centuries ago all fiction used to be fantastic and such semantics were nonexistent. Others felt that magic realism was a cross-genre technique marrying the rational and irrational. However, the shelving system of the bookstore was brought up and led to a discussions of whether or not fiction should be broken down into genre or not. One step further and they would have been bleating, "Genre ba-a-a-d, literature go-o-o-d." In the end, some felt that the method of putting everything on tables (covers face out) would be the way to negate any discussion of classification.
U. Calgary now on SF map
The news has been making the rounds this month in the major Canadian papers that the University of Calgary was just given a donation of one of the largest private science fiction collections in the world from collector Bob Gibson (1908-2001). The library staff was kind enough to bring along a small sample of the 30,000+ items to show off (and even nicer to let me near it with a camera and flash). They noted that the dry Calgary air has helped to keep the acidic paper from deteriorating as rapidly as expected. The librarians say the publicís biggest concern is that the they wouldnít be able to walk into the library and have immediate access, which is false. Current projections call for a large part of the collection to be available for viewing within the year. No hall monitor or student ID required. The libraryís biggest worry? They will need a lot of funds to be able to archive and preserve the collection as carefully as they want to. For further information, head to the University of Calgaryíswebpage.
Obviously not SF fans but arguably the three best dressed men at the con were those hosting the Disposable Life party. The guys promoting the slacker comedy "Disposable Life" know how to party. Tom decided to have some fun and take my picture while I took his. Our split second timing and coordination ensured our flashes didnít blind each other out (or was it just blind luck)?
Well, I have to say Iím still catching up on sleep from the time difference, but looking forward to Toronto in 2003 and another triple duty Ė WorldCon, CanVention and TorCon all rolled up into one. Hopefully the Auroras and all Canadian SF fans will have a chance to shine brilliantly in the northern sky. - Asta