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InConJunction XIX

Copyright 1999 by Leigh Kimmel

Permission is granted to reproduce this con report in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.

InConJunction XIX was held over the weekend of July 2-4 at the Marriott in Indianapolis. InConJunction is sponsored by the Circle of Janus, a local organization of science fiction fans which meets on a monthly basis at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. InConJunction has lots of interesting panels, a good con suite with plenty of munchies, and a huge area where gamers can play.

Because the weekend was going to be unusually hot and humid, we made a special effort to get an early start on unloading for the dealers' room. When it opened for dealer set-up, the air was already painfully humid. Fortunately we were able to get things unloaded relatively quickly, since we got a spot right by the main doors that led straight into the dealers' room. Then we got everything assembled and arranged well before the dealers' room actually opened for business. We also got Author GOH Bill Forstchen to sign two of his books in our stock, in hopes that it would make a sale more likely. I was also able to get my artwork on the art show, although I ended up not showing one piece I'd intended to (a mirror with two ceramic dragons -- the tail of one dragon got broken and would need repair).

That afternoon we had some fairly good sales, although we were careful not to get too excited or happy about it lest we jinx the rest of the weekend. We also saw a lot of fannish friends we hadn't seen in a long time, including FOSFAX editors Tim Lane and Elizabeth Garrott.

At 6PM I was in a panel called "Alternate History Without War?" This was a discussion of possible breakpoints to alternate timelines which didn't come out of the usual military-history questions like "What if the South won the Civil War?" etc. I got the ball rolling by mentioning how Edison disregarded the "Edison effect" (the flow of electrons from cathode to anode in a vacuum tube) as a useless curiosity, which meant that the basics of electronics would be delayed for many years, until Lee DeForest developed the triode. Suppose instead Edison had followed up on it, or word of it did get out to someone else who was interested in following up. From there we discussed a wide range of scientific, technological and social changes that might have happened differently.

After supper, we made the rounds of the parties. There was the Babylon 5 suite, where they were showing various episodes on videodisc. I got to see the Hugo nominated final episode, "Sleeping in the Light". Dramatically speaking, it is an excellent show, but there was one notable scientific flub. It's necessary to the dramatic closure of the series to have the Babylon 5 station be closed up and destroyed (it's incredibly poignant to see the rooms and corridors that were once so bright and full of activity to have become dark and dusty, and then to have the whole place demolished), but the whole "hazard to navigation" explanation wasn't given much scientific thinking-through.

There was the "bread and water" party, at which only bread and water was served -- but what bread and water. There were three or four different kinds of fancy breads (there may have been more, but we came in near the end of the party, after a lot had already been eaten) and several flavors of bottled water. After that, we decided that it was time to turn in for the night.

Saturday started fairly early, although not so painfully so as Friday. We got to the dealers' room and got things uncovered and ready for business. Then I had two panels back to back. The first was "Predictions for the Millenium," in which we tried to predict the possible course of the next millenium. All the panelists agreed that it was probably impossible to predict what the year 3000 would be like, simply because we lacked the conceptual framework to understand it. This led us into a discussion of paradigm shifts and what Vernor Vinge called the "singularity point."

The second panel was "Alternate History of Current Events," in which we discussed the kinds of alternate histories that could have grown from different developments of recent events. Political and military history seemed to be the most fertile area for speculation, because almost everybody agreed that most of the scientific and technological developments of the last two decades were "in the air" and would have appeared in one form or another no matter what happened, barring massive catastrophe. For instance, the Internet would have appeared in one form or another, simply because the utility of being able to share data between widely separated computers was becoming too important to the scientific and business culture.

The rest of the afternoon I spent in the dealers' room, sitting table. I did get to check the art show a few times. I did get two bids on my small stuff, but I noticed that a lot of good art simply wasn't getting bid upon. When I was there at the close of the art show, I talked to the art show director and he agreed that it was a very disappointing activity level.

Then I had another panel, "The Best and the Worst People, Events and Inventions of the Millennium." We had some interesting moments trying to define what we would consider the criteria for judging the good or bad. Almost everyone was quick to name Hitler, Stalin and Mao as among the worst people of the millenium, but Bill Forstchen then pointed out that all three were either reactions to or developments of the methods and philosophies of Lenin, and suggested that Lenin should be placed above them on the list of the Worst. Trying to figure out the worst inventions of the millenium was probably the most difficult, since so much of the bad of an invention is not in itself, but in the uses to which it is put.

Once that panel was over, I hurried over to catch the last few minutes of the art auction. They had only eighteen pieces to auction off, which made it one of the smallest art auctions I've ever seen for a con of this size. The bidding was also very unenergetic and disappointing.

After supper, we made the rounds of the parties. There was a second Babylon 5 party, a sort of "intercultural buffet" that featured various foods mentioned in the series. The Babylon 5 suite was playing "Severed Dreams," the episode that won the Hugo in 1997. We came in right as the climactic battle was beginning, and stayed all the way through Delenn's arrival with the Minbari fleet.

Sunday morning we headed over early to get stuff ready when the dealers' room opened. Then it was time for me to hurry off to my next panel, "Publishing on the World Wide Web." We started by talking about various kinds of electronic publishing models (the subscription model versus the advertising-supported model) and the development of pro-level Webzines. That led to a discussion of electronic rights and copyright protection, which developed into a discussion of publishers' grabbing excessive numbers of rights, and ultimately to the Yahoo takeover of Geocities and the odious Clause 8 in their new Terms of Service. Almost everybody agreed that it needed to be challenged, and that people who had materials on Geocities sites should consider immediately removing anything original. (NB: Yahoo has since changed the TOS, denying that they are claiming ownership of members' materials and limiting their claim of license that had previously been unlimited and permanent).

After that, I hurried over to the art show to pick up my unsold art. It was a little disappointing to have so little sold, but there wasn't much to do about it.

Then it was time for my last panel, "Y2K Reality Check -- How Bad Will It Really Be?" The general consensus was "we don't know and we can't until it actually happens." Almost everybody agreed that there were simply too many factors, interacting in too many complex and unpredictable ways, for us to know whether Y2K would be a minor aggravation or a major disaster. However, everyone did agree that the human factor would be one of the major determining points -- whether people pulled together and kept things running or pulled apart and each tried to save their own little areas, with the rest of the world going to hell. Also, several panelists noted that the US is fortunate in being near the end of the progression of the new day around the world -- we will have almost twenty hours of warning between the time it becomes January 1, 2000 in New Zeland and Australia and when the new year comes to the East Coast. If it turns out to be a disaster there, we'll be able to do some last-minute shoring up of our own defenses (provided that we don't wind up with a panic instead).

After that, it was back to the dealers' room to break things down and pack them for loading. We were getting small, sporadic sales all the way to the very end, although there was nothing really spectacular. Carrying all the stuff back outside in the heat and humidity wasn't exactly pleasant, but at least we were able to get the van right up to the doors, so we didn't have to haul cartloads of books across a baking-hot parking lot like we've had to at some conventions.

After everything was out of the dealers' room, we headed over to the con suite for the dead dog party.

Copyright 1999 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

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