David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Penguicon 5.0 Wrapup

For me, the defining moment of the Penguicon science-fiction-and-open-source-software convention this past weekend came on Saturday night in the bar. Nick Sagan and I wandered in already fairly blitzed from boozing in another bar, and were quickly joined by Tobias Buckell and his wife Emily. People started streaming in. And at one point, I found myself sitting halfway between a) Charles Stross talking about the socioeconomic policy failures of the John Major administration, and b) John Scalzi and Elizabeth Bear talking about Rob Sawyer in taffeta.

So there’s Penguicon in a nutshell, from my perspective: one part serious business, two parts goofy SFnal fun.

The programming seemed slanted towards the science fiction side of things, with relatively little in the way of crossover. There were panels on Explaining PostgreSQL and panels on Pirates, Ninja, Jedi, and Dwarves, but not a huge amount of mashup between the two. Luckily most of the SF authors on hand were technogeeks themselves (e.g. Charles Stross and Karl Schroeder) or at least pseudo-technogeeks (e.g. me).

Jay Maynard, the Tron GuyBut the folks wandering the halls seemed to lean heavily towards the SF fanboy (and fangirl) sphere. You had the Chubby Guy Who Dresses Like a Character from Tron (pictured to the right), the Chubby Guy Who Dresses Like Zorro, the Chubby Guy Who Filks Like a Zen Master, the Not-at-All-Chubby Guy Who Dresses Like a Jedi, and the Attack of the Thousand Chubby Women Showing Enormous (And Occasionally Inappropriate) Amounts of Cleavage. As for the technogeeks, occasionally you’d see some scrawny, bespectacled soul with a Linux advocacy t-shirt huddled over his laptop in the corner.

Of the half-dozen cons I’ve been to in this past year, Penguicon certainly seemed to be one of the most organized. The ops booth was clearly marked and continuously staffed, and the programming went off pretty much where and when the program book said it would. If there were glitches — and Programming Wrangler Matt Arnold assured me there were some of those — they were largely invisible to me. It definitely helped that the Troy Hilton was very accommodating. Penguicon seems to have taken up pretty much the whole place, and a number of rooms at overflow hotels as well. Which means that just about all of the programming took place in one long, curving hallway, with the room parties and the con suites one quick flight of stairs away. The only obvious snafu I could see was the fact that there were loud anime movies screening right next door to quiet discussions about Technological Singularities, and the panelists would have to speak up to be heard.

Among the folks I got to spend a lot of time with were John Scalzi and his wife Krissy, the former of whom is about to embark on a 492-city tour for his new novel The Last Colony; Tobias Buckell and his wife Emily, the former of whom is on Locus’s shortlist for Best First Novel; and Nick Sagan, screenwriter, SF trilogy novelist, and just fabulously and terrifically nice guy.

I got to listen to Charles Stross discuss everything from politics to sociology to airships on Venus. Karl Schroeder earned my eternal enmity by dashing just about everything I know about neurology to pieces within the first sentence of his “Brain as Computer” panel, but damn if he didn’t turn out to be a very nice guy anyway. I also got a chance to share a panel on Techno Thrillers vs. Near Future SF with Elizabeth Bear, and was so engrossed in our 2 1/2 hour-long conversation at the airport (with Nick Sagan and 3D printing guru Sebastien Bailard) that I very nearly followed Bear on to the wrong plane.

I also met a nice and ambitious Lulu-published author named David Crampton (author of The Remembrance); shared some book marketing chat with him and Sarah Shetterly; gabbed about writing, critiquing, and publishing in Anne Zanoni and Michael “Freon” Andaluz‘s writing workshop (also present: Baen novelist extraordinaire Michael Z. Williamson); got to congratulate Sarah Monette on her Campbell Award nomination; gave away 50 promotional Infoquake CDs; and to top things off, got taken out to breakfast by Penguicon organizers John Guest and Matt Arnold.

And best of all, I got through most of the weekend without having to explain my ambivalent feelings about open source software and the fact that I run Windows Vista on my desktop.

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  1. Wolfger on April 23, 2007 at 5:10 pm  Chain link

    Vista?!? Eww!

  2. Soni on April 23, 2007 at 8:22 pm  Chain link

    Vista? Well, I guess somebody has to buy it, just so Bill Gates doesn’t get all sulky and blow up the world or something.

    I got dragged kicking and screaming into XP only because my level of geekery and Linux’s level of user friendliness hadn’t quite managed to merge at a single data point.

    With versions of Ubuntu getting more and more user friendly (and me getting more and more geeky), however, this time I won’t be settling for the latest MS full-bore colonic when my XP becomes less functional than required (which should take some time yet, as I’m a very basic needs user.) I’m going OS, peeps! Wooohoooo!

    Ahem. That’d be the new pomegranate wine that I’m trying out speaking. Tasty stuff, for a sweet red.

  3. David Louis Edelman on April 23, 2007 at 9:52 pm  Chain link

    Do keep in mind that I haven’t actually paid for Windows Vista. One copy came with the computer my work bought for me, and the other came as a free review copy.

    Some more of my thoughts on Vista in earlier blog entries Don’t Worry, Vista Will Handle It, Windows Vista Frustrations, and Windows Vista and Easy Security. I’m not all that ecstatic about the new OS, though I don’t hate it either.

  4. Josh on April 24, 2007 at 8:50 am  Chain link

    So…Dave…what was your costume? Did you show much cleavage?

  5. David Louis Edelman on April 24, 2007 at 9:02 am  Chain link

    You don’t recognize me in that Tron costume…?

  6. Yanni on May 2, 2007 at 10:55 am  Chain link

    I appreciated getting your feedback on the Con on Sunday. Do you think you’ll come back next year?

    ~Yanni

  7. David Louis Edelman on May 2, 2007 at 11:40 am  Chain link

    I’ll definitely consider it. My con schedule next year will probably be determined by my budget… but if you can pull together a group like you did this year, Penguicon will be in my top tier of cons to attend.

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