Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

From the blog team:
Betty Hull

This weekend, Betty is attending Windycon 42 this weekend in Lombard, Illinois. The convention runs from Friday November 13th to Sunday the 15th.

She is appearing at these events:

Friday 6:00 pm
Anniversaries (Lilac B): 2015 is the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, the 50th anniversary of Dune, the 45th anniversary of Apollo 13, and the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future. Why do some books and films deserve to be recognized on their anniversaries and others don’t? What is the cultural significance of long ago literature and events on our modern community?

Saturday 10:00 am
A Look Back at Fred Pohl (Lilac A): Frederik Pohl was a mainstay of science fiction from its beginning, and especially in Chicago, where he lived for so long. His presence is still missed. Michael Page has just published a look at
Fred’s life and work. Come and hear about the Fred Pohl you knew, or didn’t know.

Saturday 11:00 am
Synopsis vs. Review vs. Critique (Lilac A): A discussion about the differences between the different types of reviews, what they are trying to do, and who the audience is for each. When is each type of review appropriate?

Saturday 4:00 pm-4:25
Reading (Boardroom)

Sunday 11:00
Autographing (Hallway)

From the blog team:

Elizabeth Anne Hull

    Elizabeth Anne Hull

This weekend, Betty is attending ICON 40 in Iowa City, and appearing at these events:

Friday, 9 p.m.
“Harassment in Fandom and Life”

Saturday, 10 a.m.
“Cosplay Is Not Consent”

Saturday, 7 p.m.
“Is There Such a Thing as Being ‘Well Read’ in This Day?”

From the blog team:

Elizabeth Anne Hull

    Elizabeth Anne Hull

Safe travels to all you fen headed for the World Science Fiction Convention, Sasquan, in Spokane this week! Betty’s winging her way there, too. (Sadly, the rest of the blog team will have to follow con highlights from Chicagoland via Facebook.)

Those of you lucky enough to attend Sasquan, be sure to stop by and see Betty at her autographing, Sunday from 11 to 11:45 a.m. in Exhibit Hall B, and take a look at this panel:


Not Always Far Apart: The Mainstream Intersection with SF,” at 11 a.m. Thursday in Bays 111C, with Elizabeth Anne Hull, Robert Silverberg, Rich Horton, Rick Wilber and Gary K. Wolfe:

“It used to be that science fiction was considered the outlier. Now, it seems to be part of the mainstream. Is this good for science fiction? Is science fiction still a long ways away from mainstream topics?”

Sounds fascinating! (Not as fascinating as this year’s Business Meeting will likely be, perhaps, but no one there’s apt to start throwing punches, either. Stay safe!)

Prof. Betty will spend Thursday afternoon on a busman’s holiday, as one of the coaches in the writers’ workshop. If you’re an entrant, they probably told you when and where it is.

Have fun, everyone! Don’t let the Kolektinbugs bite … much.

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Here’s the schedule for Elizabeth Anne Hull’s upcoming appearances.


How will the Supreme Court’s decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning affect democracy?

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Anne Hull

When Pope Francis named 19 new cardinals to be installed in February, it underscored the efficiency of a nondemocratic government. The elevation of Les Cayes Bishop Chibly Langlois (at 55 the youngest of the appointees) from Haiti, shows how much can be done very quickly by an autocrat, in this case, to implement Francis’s agenda of ministering to the poor of the world. Bishop Langlois’ youth makes likely he will still be around and under age 80 when the time comes to vote for the next pope. All this in less than a year since Francis became the pontiff.

I likewise saw how efficient the totalitarian government of China could be in clearing the roads blocked by a landslide after a great rainstorm in 1991, when Fred and I were stranded for an extra day in the Tibetan foothills while visiting the Panda Breeding Station.

With us were Charles Brown, Brian Aldiss, Brian Stableford, Malcolm Edwards, and a couple of dozen others from outside China for the occasion of the World SF meeting in Chengdu, Sichuan. The authorities were not going to let their honored guests be inconvenienced one more day than absolutely necessary!

It’s an old joke that at least Mussolini got the railroads to run on time during World War II.

Contrast this with our seemingly dysfunctional Congress in the United States where democracy rules. Well, actually we have a representative democracy, which means we have established checks and balances that are supposed to preserve the basic rights of minorities and prevent too hasty decisions from being implemented by well-meaning people who fail to see potential unintended consequences of their agendas. But for the sake of brevity, we call it “democracy” and are quite proud of it.

Democracy as we practice it is, undeniably, a much slower and more cumbersome way to reach decisions and implement change. And it’s an equally self-evident logical principle — sorry, those who want to maintain the old ways no matter what — that situations can not ever be improved without making changes. But democracy (we’ll call it that for shorthand) has one big advantage over totalitarian, top-down management. That is, when everyone can have his or her say before a decision is finally reached, the decision is likely to be fairer and last longer before it too needs to be changed. Americans don’t like having stuff shoved down our throats.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the question of whether the president has the right to make interim appointments to key positions, including judicial appointments, which in turn may lead to appointments to the Supreme Court itself. We do live in interesting times!

Rubik"s Cube

He was English, the fellow in the lobby. He had come from London the day before to see some kindred enlightened souls in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now he was on his way to certain other centers of adepts before reaching the Grand Canyon focal point of the Harmonic Convergence. (Not, thank God, on my flight.)

This flake was the kind I like least. He had learned every buzzword there was in every discipline known to man — his conversation was full of Descartes and expert systems and quarks — and had managed not to understand any of them. And when I managed to point out to him, for example, that “Cogito ergo sum” did not imply the existence of a Divine Being, he responded every time by shifting the universe of discourse to another subject, from molecular biology to Rubik’s Cube. (Lots of people, he told me loftily, could solve Rubik’s Cube; there was nothing remarkable in that. But when you had evolved as far as he had you could do it in your head. Actually, that sounded like a pretty impressive feat to me. But when I asked him if he could then take a real cube and quickly match up all the colors so other people could see, he looked at me with pity. Of course he could do that. But he would never bother. It would simply be too boring to him.)

There was another odd thing about him. I had noticed he was wearing earphones. In those pre-iPod days, I assumed it was some kind of industrial-strength hearing aid. It wasn’t. After a while I saw that he kept fumbling with some sort of gadget in a pocket, and discovered that he was taping everything we said. But before I could find out why he was doing that my transportation arrived, and I was out of there.

Of course, all of this is nonsense. I am not about to believe that when the ancient Mayans devised their calendar they were somehow able to foretell that a hot, wet Sunday in August would be the turning point for mankind. (If they were so smart, why did they let Cortes wipe them out?) I think the whole thing is pretty blackly, depressingly comical.

I also think it’s sad, though, because, my God, here are all those people who believe this nonsense, What’s more, they act on it. According to the papers some hundreds of thousands of people took anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks out of their lives simply to chant and relate to each and go, “ooooom.”

And if it happened again today, they’d do it again.

These aren’t bad people. They don’t blow up abortion clinics or sell handguns to teenage gangs. They don’t even put “Sarah Palin for President” bumper stickers on their cars; a lot of them don’t even drive cars, because they don’t want to add to the burden of carcinogens and acid rain.

All they want is to make the world peaceful, loving and as nearly stress-free as a human world can get and, gosh, I’m for all those things, too.

Even the airhead and the Brit, although their grasp on reality was tenuous, seemed sincere in saying that they wished no human being any possible harm at all, only the best of all that’s possible for everyone in the world. And if you add to them the Scientologists and the ests, the Moonies and the Hare Krishnas, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the transcendental meditators — all the people, in the aggregate the many millions of people, whose deepest desire is to clean up the mess in their own heads and then go on to help others to do the same — what a dedicated work force we are allowing to piddle away its energies on fantasies!

Just imagine what it would be like if each one of them would, say, expend all that energy on some worthwhile social project (by which, of course, I mean one I approve of) — for instance, teaching remedial English to American high-school graduating classes, so that the kids would learn how to spell, punctuate and parse and my wife wouldn’t spend her time swearing to herself as she corrects their freshman compositions. Illiteracy would disappear overnight.

And we’re letting them go to waste.

Do you see what I mean about reality being less plausible than science fiction? None of us would dare make up a race as lunacy-prone as Genus homo for a science-fiction story. No editor would buy it. No reader would believe it.

The Harmonic Convergence wasn’t the only thing of interest in that summer’s Chernobyl. book tour.

Continue reading ‘Through the Harmonic Convergence, Part 3’ »