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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back from Convergence


We actually took the weekend off - and a bit of the two days on either side of it - to attend Convergence 2, the 2007 National SF Convention, here in Melbourne. Well, to be quite truthful, although we stayed in the convention hotel, we did sneak home for a little bit of Saturday and Sunday, partly to check up on Felix the cat (whom we'd left by himself), and partly because I did want to get just a little bit of work done on the thesis, which I'm racing against time to finish. I have a self-imposed deadline of the end of June for the first "real" draft, and other things don't stop happening in that time - e.g. I have a huge pile of exam marking to do next week.

Meanwhile, we were also a bit worried about our families, up in Newcastle, which was hit by floods over the weekend (they're okay, but more about that in another post).

Convergence itself was enjoyable, though I got to very little of the programming, except for the couple of panels on which I was scheduled: one about Second Life, and the other relating to whether there is any distinctive voice in Australian science fiction/fantasy, or whether we are like the 51st state of the USA. As to the latter, we all doubted that there is any need for a distinctive Australian voice, as opposed to distinctive individual voices. We also challenged the idea that Americans are all alike, either. That's not to deny that there are some "Australian" characteristics that people are more likely to be socialised into here than in some other places (perhaps a certain sense of irony and humour), but if those influence our writing it will happen unconsciously. There's no reason to force it. Hmmm, what I just said is really my own view, I suppose, but everyone else - Jack Dann, Donna Hanson, Stuart Mayne - seemed to be making points that were consistent with this, and there was a lot of agreement on the panel.

For some reason, I don't find myself hanging out with the Melbourne science-fiction fans from day to day, and in fact several of my closest Melbourne-based, sf-involved friends are actually not Melbourne-based anymore: Damien Broderick is living in Texas, these days; Janeen Webb and Jack Dann are down in Gippsland; and Alison Goodman has moved up to Brisbane. As a result, not many of the people with whom I am likely to hang out in an ordinary week are actually sf professionals or fans (and even those people - such as Paul Collins and Meredith Costain - are not immersed in organised fandom).

I often feel a bit disoriented when I first wander into an Australian sf convention, not knowing a lot of the people, and not having caught up for a long time with a lot whom I do know from back in the day. With people like Janeen and Jack, who were there (we went out to dinner with them on Friday night), we pick up easily from where we left off. With others, there's a bit of ice to be broken (oh, to be a bit less shy and not have that initial feeling!). But as the con goes on, the initial feeling passes, and I settle back in. By the end, I was really enjoying the convention, the company of old friends, and the chance to meet some new people.

Back to work now - there are books that must be read if the thesis is to get done, there's a stray review to write, some marking and admin crying out for me to complete (some students will submit late essays), and so on. I'll be fairly submerged in work for the next three weeks, and then it's off for two weeks to Armidale (for a philosophy conference) and Newcastle (to see family and friends).

2 comments:

Terry said...

Glad you enjoyed the con, and again thanks for doing the panels for us. Personally I would have liked to hear more of you on the 2nd Life one, and the committee learned that a moderator might have been a good idea there...

Terry F.

Russell Blackford said...

Pleasure, Terry.

Yeah, there's a lot to be said for having a moderator to give a panel some structure. Since a panel is only 50 minutes, no one should really speak for more than 10 minutes if there are three people. That leaves 20 minutes to throw it open to the audience. Without a moderator, people won't necessarily police themselves or make good judgments about how long they are taking. I've been guilty of this myself, though I think I'm better about it than most.

If Paul's reading this, though, I think his presentation was really good, so good that it probably deserves a slot of its own, since he has nearly half an hour's worth of excellent slides. Maybe he should do it as a stand-alone session next time.