Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ICFA Con Report

A week after the trip to San Francisco, I took off for Fort Lauderdale and the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. I got a window seat this time. The Twin Cities were overcast. Once we got above the main cloud layer, the sky was blue, filmed with high, thin clouds; and there was a large, pale, crescent moon. The plane rose higher; and there was only blue sky, contrails and the moon. It is so nice that we have a companion world!

I took a shuttle to the conference hotel and stayed in the hotel for the next four days. All I saw of Fort Lauderdale was freeways and palm trees. The trees look healthier than the palms in San Francisco, which must be at the edge of their range.

The conference has a lot of graduate students, which is very pleasant – young, bright, good looking people who are interested in SF. What else could an SF writer ask for? – More people of color. More people interested in class.

I was on a panel on the works of Melissa Scott, with Melissa in the audience, and I talked about her treatment of class. This is one of the reasons (I think) her work feels so physical. She writes about people who do work that is (in one way or another) physical, though it’s often also very high tech work. She’s the only SF writer I can think of who regularly, casually talks about unions.

It’s unlikely that working people will vanish from the future, leaving only the underclass, the rich and upper middle class professionals. A lot of physical work is likely to remain – construction, plumbing, sewer maintenance, farming, as well as a lot of “unprofessional” white collar and service work; and there are likely to be workers doing it; and they are likely to be different from the rich and the upper middle classes.

Could robots do this work? Maybe, though so far we haven’t been able to produce robots who can think like humans. We have a lot of humans already, and they are comparatively cheap. Why not use them?

I hardly ever go to the conventions outside the upper Midwest, and I felt off balance during this one. But it was certainly worth attending. The last day of the conference, I finally got out to the hotel pool, which is outside and surrounded by palm trees. There were lots of doves, which Katherine Cramer identified as ring-necked doves. I checked my bird book when I got home. Ring-necked turtle doves are Eurasian, but have been introduced to warm places in the US, including Florida. I also saw lots of boat-tailed grackles, which I identified on my own, without a bird book. They look like common grackles, except they are taller and rangier and have longer tails. It pays off to spend a certain amount of time leafing through one’s Audubon Guide and looking at pictures of birds that are not local to Minnesota.

On the last day of the conference I got a call from my brother. Our cousin had died -- six weeks after the first signs that something might be wrong, and three weeks after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. I'm still feeling stunned by this. Enjoy life while you can, and do the things you consider important.

2 Comments:

Blogger Theresa said...

Warm climate in late winter is a good thing.
My sympathies on the death of your cousin. It is never easy to lose a friend or relative but suddenly is even more difficult.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Sean M. Murphy said...

Eleanor, my condolences on the loss of your cousin. Family is such an odd assortment of connections--like the wires of a computer, one is never sure how they all work, only whether or not they are still connected. Let me know if you need anything.

9:35 AM  

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