Monday, August 18, 2008

MY WEEK IN DENVER (not at the DNC )

In some ways it's hard to know what to talk about. Maybe I'll start with something no one would have expected: The campaign to bring the 2012 Worldcon to Chicago. The site of each Worldcon is chosen by voting at the one two years previously, and groups and cities compete for the right to devote two years of their lives to making it happen. This is in fact very much like a political campaign except that instead of going out and knocking on people's doors you throw parties (hotels prefer the term "hospitality suites") at conventions so people come and give you a chance to talk to them. I actually spent the bigger part of the first day helping prepare for the party that evening. The party seemed to go very well, with people enjoying the all-fruit smoothies we served. These were non-alcoholic due to hotel rules, but we expect to offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions in the future.

I was also on three panels, all appropriate for me and yet all totally different. One was on "Technology for the Visually Impaired," one was on "Politics and the SF Fan," and one was on "Future Health: Living Longer in the 21st Century" (we concluded that, while we might be healthier longer, there would be no major life extension in at least the first half of the century). The panel on "Politics and the SF Fan" struck me as a bit schizophrenic. A couple of us wanted to talk about how SF fans relate to electoral politics while the others wanted to talk about how SF stories relate to and perhaps influence political issues.

I went to other panels as well. "A World Made of Birds" was an interesting discussion of what if the Cretaceous meteor had not driven the dinosaurs extinct. (Actually, of course, some dinosaurs did survive. We call them birds. Hence the title.) "SF as a Tool for Social Change" mostly concluded that SF does not bring about social change. It's a way to discuss the implications of change, especially technological change. Some didn't think that technology leads to much social change, but I pointed out from the audience that thanks to the internet I have friends I've never met. I don't think that any are of the canine persuasion, but I could be wrong. And at the panel on new reading technologies I found that there is a portable e-book reader (Bookeen) that will display the type at a large enough size for me to read.

The convention was over mid-afternoon Sunday. Early Monday morning (which happened to be my 72nd birthday) we left on a one-day tour to the south of Denver. First stop was the Air Force Academy, which both Penny and I would have been happy to skip. Although the view from the Chapel Trail was nice. Then on to Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods, which I was surprised to learn is a Colorado Springs city park. As most know from photos, the rock formations are spectacular. Lunch in the Trading Post, with Penny being disappointed there wasn't time to fully check out the gift shop. A few miles more brought us to Manitou Springs and the Manitou and Pikes Peak cog railway. An hour and a half ride to the summit. Hard, cramped seats but spectacular scenery. One view was the inspiration for "America the Beautiful" (the words had never made real sense as a description of America, but they fit that view perfectly). At the summit Penny bought a couple of hats for Marc and I tried unsuccessfully to make a cell phone call home, which didn't leave me time to get to the observation point. Then back to Manitou Springs and Denver, and home the next day.

- Bill Thomasson

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