Daily Archives: February 19, 2007

Hitting the Target

The Gender Genie is a Web site which purports to be able to guess from a text (preferably of more than 500 words) whether the writer of the text is male or female (some algorithm is involved). Well, I was curious how “The Sagan Diary,” which is “written” by a woman, reads to this algorithm, so I fed in the text. The response:

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

Just to be sure to it doesn’t think I’m natively girly, however, I also fed it the first chapter of The Android’s Dream, in which, as you know, someone farts someone else to death. The result: The algorithm believes the author of that passage is male.

I’m authorially hermaphroditic! Cool.

Boskone 2007 Recap

athenatribble.jpg

The object that Athena is regarding with such protean terror is not Donald Trump’s hairpiece but a tribble, which I bought at Boskone, the guest of honor this year at which was David Gerrold, who wrote the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” from which these little fuzzy things were born. David Gerrold, incidentally, must have been 13 when he wrote the episode, since he does not look nearly old enough to have written something 40 years ago (he was apparently actually a college student when he wrote the episode).

Speaking of Boskone, herein follows my comments on the convention.

* First off, I had a lot of fun, as I did last year, and Boskone is on my A-list of conventions to attend (and indeed Boston seems like a hot bed of SF convention goodness, as I really liked Readercon as well, although I won’t be able to attend it this year because I’ll be at the Heinlein Centennial). What really impresses me about Boskone is that NESFA, which organizes and holds the convention, seems incredibly well-organized and competent when it comes to con-running. It makes a real difference in the overall quality of one’s con experience. For those folks who might ever want to run a science fiction convention, first, you’re probably crazy, and second, I suspect you could do a lot worse than to pick the brains of the NESFAns on how they do it.

* The convention was at what I understand was a new hotel, the Westin Waterfront, which is in South Boston. The hotel itself is brand-spankin’ new and very modern and clad in muted wintery earth tones. I thought it was a very nice hotel with a pretty good layout for all the conventioneering that went on. I’m not entirely sure about the location, however, since there appears to be a whole lot of not much around it, and I suspect most people ended up confining themselves to the hotel whether they wanted to or not. The hotel had a Starbucks and a more-expensive-than-it-needed-to-be restaurant, and the con suite was amply packed with snackables, so there was no worries about actually starving. But it would have been nice to have more stuff within walking distance. The hotel Boskone was at in 2006 had its plus and minuses but one of the pluses was it was attached to a mall and it was downtown, so there were ample places to eat that were not at hotel-hostage prices.

* I had seven programming events (including an autographing and a literary beer) and I wanted to spend a little time catching up with friends, so I didn’t actually manage to get to panels I wasn’t on, which was a little sad for me. The panels I was on however, were more than sufficiently interesting, particularly one on consciousness and AI that featured world famous AI researcher Marvin Minsky. I was the moderator on that one, and as we got started, I said “Welcome to the panel on consciousness and artificial intelligence, or as I like to call it, ‘We’re all going to shut up now and listen to Marvin Minsky.’” Minsky indeed was brilliant and fascinating, although to be fair the other members of the panel (Karl Schroeder, Matt Jarpe and Jeffrey Carver) were rather more than spectators on the panel.

I do have one piece of advice for con programmers, which that I think it’s well past time to kill either kill or drastically rethink panels on blogging. Blogs are no longer anything close to a novelty and SF con audiences in particular, I think, have heard most usable permutations of the “what does blogging mean for SF” question by now. We got through this year’s “Blogging and SF” panel by more or less attacking the premise of the panel, kicking it in the face a few times, and then tossing it out the window and celebrating when it went splat on the pavement (with panelists like Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Kathryn Cramer and Jim MacDonald, you can pull this off). But, seriously, con programmers: Unless you can come up with something new to do with blogging panels, consider not putting them on the programs here on out.

I will say I was very pleasantly surprised to see so many people at my literary beer; my kaffeeklatch last year had two people at it. Two quality people, to be sure (Hi Lanna and CKD!), but just two nonetheless. This year we had, uh, more than two. I personally credit Toby Buckell, my co-Literary Beer person. I’m not entirely sure we were supposed to combine forces for one co-hosted literary beer, but we did anyway and I think it worked well for everyone involved. Thank you to everyone who came to see us blather on the Sunday afternoon of a con (i.e., when most sane people have already left) — you guys rock. I hope you had a good time, because I know Toby and I did.

* One of the nice things about Boskone is that lots of folks I really like show up to it, so I got to geek out and spend some time with lots of friends and colleagues like Allen Steele, the Nielsen Haydens, Elizabeth Bear, Lou Anders, Chad Orzel and Kate Nepveu, Shara Zoll, Karl Schroeder, the aforementioned Toby Buckell, Nick Mamatas, Meg McCarron, James Cambias, and lots of other people whose names I am blanking on at the moment because clearly I am both evil and lame. Sorry, folks, you know I love you. A special treat for me was meeting Joe Hill and his wife Leanora for the first time; we’ve been friendly online for some time now, so it was very cool to catch up with him in the flesh and spend some time chatting face-to-face. Not only is Joe a fabulous writer, he’s also one cool dude, and his wife is even cooler.

So, in all: another excellent Boskone. I recommend going.

TSD Review on SFReviews.net

SFReviews.net weighs in on “The Sagan Diary,” liking some parts more than others but ending up generally positive in the end:

Quibbles about style aside, The Sagan Diary reinforces the humanism of Scalzi’s earlier books, and leaves you with a simple message. This is your life. Live it.

Indeed. The review is here. Also, thanks to the last line of the review, I have this song running around in my brain. Ah, the early 90s.