Loscon 35
November 28-30 2008, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Loscon
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Culture Panels



ALTERNATE HISTORIES IN REALITY Science fiction is filled with “alternate histories”. But so are history books. “History is written by the victors,” wrote Machiavelli. Time does its part for re-writing history, too. Alternate histories abound. Think American Indians were noblemen of the plains who all lived in harmony with the land? Guess again. Then there’s Disney’s version of Pocahontas. And don’t forget Shakespeare’s rewriting of Richard III.

BLOGS & THE MEDIA Over the last few years, blogging has exploded. Not just for geeks anymore, even commercial sites now frequently have blogs. There are blogs on every subject and the media has started using blogs not just as marketing tools but as sources for news stories. Vox populi and all that but is this a good thing?

CREATING LANGUAGE Language and culture are linked. What concepts need words? How does the environment affect the language? What does it take to create a realistic, usable language?

DID THE REVOLUTION OF THE ’60s SUCCEED? Whatever it was, it was one of the most undigested movements in America. Has there been a lasting effect? What have we learned?

DO WE NEED A NEW DEFINITION OF LITERACY? In the next ten years, what will the word “literacy” mean? Can you truly be literate in tomorrow’s society if you can’t use a computer? Are computer icons replacing the need to read? What’s the future of libraries and bookstores?

DOES SCIENCE HAVE A FUTURE? With science budgets declining, does non-applied research have a future? What does this mean for researchers? For research? What will a world without basic research be like?

THE ETHICS OF CLONING At some point, it seems pretty likely there will be clones. Body parts at first but, eventually, cloned beings. What rights would they have? What rights won’t they have? What about for robots or androids?

THE FUTURE IS NOW! Flip-open communicators and the global central computer were science fiction twenty-five years ago. Today cell phones and the internet are ubiquitous. Technological advance keeps turning science fiction’s starry eyed dreams into reality — almost. This panel discusses SF dreams come true, and how the reality has turned out to differ from the vision.

THE FUTURE OF CITIES Growing seemingly beyond their ability to sustain, is there a future for mega-cities like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Mexico City? What about smaller cities? Their budgets are stretched to the point of snapping, too. What can be done to save cities?

THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION It’s a system we all know is broken but what really needs to be done? What can be done? Our panelists share their thoughts with audience participation encouraged.

THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE Medicine is evolving at an amazing pace. New discoveries, technology, etc. are announced every day. What will medicine be like in 100 years? Will we have tricorders and neuroscanners like in <i>Star Trek</i>? How about growing or cloning organs? Will we be using organics to solve problems instead of nanobots?

THE FUTURE OF RELIGION What should we expect from our many religions as we enter the new century? If we ever leave Earth will we take our religions with us? Should we?

THE FUTURE WE DIDN’T EXPECT Who would have thought that we would live to see an international plague, the fall of the Iron Curtain, or the virtual end of the Space Program? What’s next that we aren’t expecting?

LITERACY & SCIENCE FICTION There was a lot of fuss made about the sales of the Harry Potter books and what it said for children’s literacy and reading. Did it encourage kids to read? Will it have any long term positive effects? What can we do to encourage reading?

A LOOK AT PAST FUTURES Science fiction has always been a medium for prediction: what will the future be like. Well, gang, the future’s here. What did the science fiction of the ’30s - ’70s say about the turn of the century? Were they accurate at all? Which predictions do we wish would come true? Which are we glad haven’t come to pass?

MISTAKES FUTURE HISTORIANS WILL MAKE ABOUT OUR TIME If we were to read a story written in the 23rd Century but set in our time, what might we find wrong with it?

OUR FASCINATION WITH EVIL Before there was writing, people were telling horror stories. Today, tales of horror, of vampires, of slasher killers, of nameless things that go bump are amongst the biggest selling books. What is it about us that makes us want to be scared to death?

POLITICS & SCIENCE FICTION Which political ideologies from science fiction novels could and/or do work in real life? Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress> or Starship Troopers? Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale? The whole Star Trek universe?

RACE & RACISM IN SCIENCE FICTION Why is science fiction so white? The characters seem almost all to be Caucasian or Alien. Is this simply because so many of the writers are white? (And why is that?) Or are there marketing concerns at work? Should we care whether Kimball Kinnison or Teela Brown is Black, White or Hispanic?

RELIGION IN SF BOOKS & MOVIES Religion is frequently ignored in science fiction and fantasy. But sometimes it isn’t. How is it treated? Do we see standard Earth religions or all-new ones? Or ones that just think they’re all new? Some authors seem to think that, come the future, all people will just abandon their religious beliefs. Does that seem likely?

THE RISE OF THOCRACY Was Heinlein right? Is this our future? Who will be Nehemiah Scudder?

ROBOCOP VS. REAL COP: FUTURE LAW ENFORCEMENT The crime labs of today make any major police department into a Sherlock Holmes. What will the future bring? Criminologists and others discuss what changes they’re already seeing in their work and what they expect for the future.

THE SLYTHERIN QUESTION J.K. Rowling paints a negative picture of Slytherin House, its principles, and its students. Why would Hogwarts even have a house for teaching evil wizards? Isn’t putting them together likely to end up just reinforcing their evil ways? Or will the final book in the Harry Potter series show us, somehow, that these characters aren’t, um, lost to the dark side?

WHAT IS EVIL? Novels seem to always pits good versus evil, the hero/heroine (who must do battle, sacrifice endlessly, travel to the ends of the earth to save the world) and the evil protagonist. Sounds simple. But how do you define what is truly evil? And are your characters black and white or many shades of gray? How bad is the bad guy? Is evil marked by character, action, the enormity of destruction, the totality of deceit, or is it possible that evil is in the perception?

THE WORST FUTURE YOU CAN IMAGINE Novels seem to always pits good versus evil, the hero/heroine (who must do battle, sacrifice endlessly, and travel to the ends of the earth to save the world) and the evil protagonist. Sounds simple. But how do you define what is truly evil? And are your characters black and white or many shades of gray? How bad is the bad guy? Is evil marked by character, action, the enormity of destruction, the totality of deceit, or is it possible that evil is in the perception?