Dispatches from the Campbell Conference


So, the writing workshop is definitely over now, and since Thursday evening or so I’ve actually spent a lot of time going to events affiliated with “The Campbell Conference.” This has been interesting – I’ve been to fandom conferences, and conferences that have a lot of stuff for writers and general science fiction/fantasy fans, but this has been a bit like a low-key convention devoted to science fiction (and sometimes fantasy) literature.

Like the workshop, it’s served to underscore just how little I actually know about science fiction literature, and thus been fascinating and annoying at the same time. 😉

Thursday evening was the library reception for the donation of the Theodore Sturgeon papers to a University of Kansas library, which was pretty cool, even though the speeches got a bit long and dry. It was really cool to look at the letter that he got from Isaac Asimov, for instance, or the one-page summary for “Spock Blows Top”, an episode idea for the original Star Trek TV series. It was eventually named “Amok Time” – the first episode to feature Pon Farr, “Live Long and Prosper”, and the Vulcan salute.

EDITED TO ADD: There was something that I’ve overheard bits of, both at this reception and earlier, and I haven’t got up the nerve to ask anybody for the full context yet, so maybe I’ll ask my followers. Something about a woman who was writing under a male pseudonym during the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and a prominent male author who said that “No woman could have written those stories.” Does anybody know who was being talked about?

Yesterday afternoon, there was an event that was partly conference and partly a workshop wrap-up, a question and answer session with some of the conference guests, including the Asimov’s Magazine editor-in-chief and several distinguished authors, including the one who was about to win the Sturgeon award for “Sultan of the Clouds,” who discussed some of how he’d gone about writing the story. They also discussed cover letters and how good science fiction makes you see the world differently, among other topics.
Yesterday evening was the awards dinner, with the Sturgeon award and Campbell award for best new science fiction novel handed out, which was kinda fun too.

Today, all the events were down at the Kansas union, pretty much all the way across campus, and I ended up walking there, hiking onward to downtown Lawrence for lunch, walking back for the afternoon program, and then walking back to the dorm when I couldn’t find anybody to give me a ride back. Whew!

In the morning, I attended the round-table discussion about the present and future of science fiction, which was somewhat interesting, though I felt like some of it was over my head. At least I know a few more things to be looking into when I have time.

The afternoon programming started with a book signing – I couldn’t pick up everything, both on account of money and suitcase space, but I picked up the lighter side of Brad Denton – ‘Lunatics’, and a best-of anthology from Asimov’s magazine signed by editor Sheila Williams.

And there were readings of short stories from Fred Pohl all afternoon, which were great – I haven’t read much of Pohl’s work, and none of these were familiar to me, but I loved them all, especially “The Meeting.”

That’s pretty much it for Campbell conference stuff for me – there’s a further round-table at the dorms tomorrow morning, but I may well be too busy packing for my flight to listen to much of it. In approximately 24 hours I’ll either be back on the Canadian side of the border or close to it.

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