Thursday, August 07, 2008
My Denvention, Thursday, part II
A panel on "Aliens – writing what you don't know" was fascinating. Larry Niven and LE Modesitt, moderated by Jetse DeVries, discussed how to get the "other" into aliens. I'm tempted to snark that three older male Westerners probably have more aliens to study than most. 94% of the world already looks and/or acts differently from them so they have lots of models. Modesitt was erudite and charming and indeed says that he gets his "aliens" from the range of human behavior he sees around him. Niven builds aliens mechanistically. He starts with the strange chemistry, physiology and morphology, builds a set of thought patterns based on that, and a culture based on those thought patterns. Then he brings in the humans and has the 'natural' reaction take place. They agreed to disagree. Modesitt remarked that The New Scientist recently had published something showing that men and women were physiologically so different that they really were alien to each other. (New Scientist keeps publishing this 'news' and although I haven't read this one, I think that a good re-read of "The Mismeasure of Man" should take care of any lingering doubts that it's made up.) It was good to see two greats of the field discussing one of the most important techniques in SF – creation of 'the other', the 'monster' that acts as a mirror of our human values and is a primary tool in making SF interesting.
Then a panel on Fan Fiction. See if you can spot a difference between this panel and all the previous ones:
Also, the audience was at least 95% female, and, very cheeringly, about 90% under 40. Since everyone in the room was a practitioner, rather than a consumer listening to the producer, the conversation was very different from the previous panels. No resolutions to anything, of course – panels are a sort of live-action blog comments section with the main difference being that there isn't a rule that everyone has to start arguing over the plural of octopus.
Last meeting before suppertime was "Torchwood: Doctor Who for Grown-Ups?" which was packed, and very vociferous and included a number of people, gay and presumably straight, who liked it for the gay sex. Ah, teh gay sex! It was almost like being back on line again, with my people, instead of out in real-life fandom.
On the way back to the hotel, there was a live band playing in a tent on the street to a couple thousand drunks being canvassed by the army recruiters. Don't know what the gig was, but as we walked by, the song they were playing was about a "Cougar call". "They look good, but something's not right," the band sang about "cougars" (older women who are cruising for men). It's interesting that outside the convention it seems everyone is pretty decided on 'the other", "the alien", "the monster" – it is women over 40 who want a man. This desire is apparently so unnatural that it triggers the humor response (humor being related to the attack response in that it is a short circuited version of the same thing) when played to drunks.