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Last weekend was Dragon*Con - the largest Science Fiction / Fantasy / Comic / Anime / Gaming / Media convention in the southeastern U.S. For those of my readers not familiar with Dragon*Con, but who may have heard of San Diego's ComicCon, Dragon (or D*C) is a bit smaller... "only" 45,000 in attendance. Whereas ComicCon is essentially a tradeshow, originally about comics and graphic media, it grew to be the premier "trade" show for SF and Fantasy TV shows and movies.
On the other hand - D*C is about fans - yes, there were panels filled with the stars, writers, directors and producers of TV and movies - but there were also tracks for anime, producing animated music videos, costuming, writers, survivalists, dark fantasy, noir detectives, alternate history, SF literature - and yes, science. These tracks gave a chance for interaction between fans, writers and all interested parties. THis is the first of several blogs regarding D*C, but the only one to run exclusively in this blog space, so I will concentrate on giving an overview of the "Science in Science Fiction" nature of the panels I experienced at D*C.
To start with, I participated in panels in the SF Literature, Apocalypse Rising and Science tracks. Panel titles included: "Year 2" (rebuilding civilization after the apocalypse), "Science and Science Fiction" (how science informs the arts and how art informs science), "Global Insurgency" (how wars will be fought - and survived - in the future) and "Zombie Science" (a look at fact and speculative fiction about zombies).
For "Science and Science Fiction, my co-panelists included Stephanie Osborn, Les Johnson, and Chuck Gannon. Steph and Les are real rocket scientists and Chuck is a professor. All three are published Science Fiction writers, so we really did know what we were talking about. The panel subjects discussed how good science fiction relies on believable science (and sometimes on just so-so science) so as not to be fantasy in reality. We discussed how much can be left to the reader, what needs to be explicitly explained, and when the accuracy of science has to make way for good storytelling. One of the most notable outcomes of the panel was the revelation that so much of what we take for granted in modern society - wireless telecommunications (cell phones and satellites), realistic broadcast entertainment (HD TV), weather forecasting (satellites again), transportation, personal computers and even voice-sensitive computers you can carry in your shirt pocket (smartphones) have been inspired by science fiction.
In the Apocalypse Rising panels "Year Two" and "Global Insurgency", SF writer and SurvivalBlog contributing Editor Michael Z. Williamson scared us all into realizing that urban environments are not conducive to survival after the fall of civilization. On the other hand, they'd make great resource areas (if they can be reached and aren't picked clean) for rebuilding civilization. Conversations on these panels included such topics as rebuilding the sciences, what trades and knowledge are essential for survival, how to find information on basic medical care/first aid, and how to prepare for "everyday" emergencies such as storms, floods, fires, and earthquakes.
Finally, in "Zombie Science" we discussed the real science behind zombies. The undead represent fear of the unknown, the psychological uncertainty of "the other," and a pretty good metaphor for disaster preparedness. With 4 scientists and 2 writers, we discussed where the zombie myth comes from, dissed the various fictional settings and sources of zombies (Parasites, Yes! Radiation, No.) and talked about actual biological parallels to the "mindless" behavior that is one definition of zombiehood. We also used biology and physics to come up with the best means of defense and dealing with zombies (thermobaric explosives for the win!).
All-in-all, Dragon*Con is a great place to talk science and science fiction, not to mention engage in some great conversations (such as the one mentioned Monday where regarding things that go Boom! and the fun of model rocketry gone awry!). I'll be writing some more blogs to be posted in other venues, but I'll link them here when they are up. I'll also post links to videos and podcasts of the panels as I get them prepared.
Up next - Mailbag posts where I *finally* answer those questions you've mailed in.
Until next time - take care of your brain - after all, the Zombies will if you don't!