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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Ad Astra

Toronto's Literary SF con, Ad Astra, was the past weekend. Thoughts on it in no particular order...

It was held at the Days Hotel at the 400/401, the site of Anime North's 1999 and 2000, back when it was a Ramada. This lead to some nostalgia on my part, remembering how we had laid out the con. It's pretty good space for a con of up to 1000 people, with all the function space on one level. The biggest problem is that the hotel rooms are in two separate blocks on opposite sides of the function space, so if could be a long walk between room parties. It's also a stealth hotel, because it's set back from the street inside some trees, without any large signs, so you can't see it till you're right on top of it.

Highlight of Friday night was Jason Taniguchi's one-man-show, this year his version of Spider-Man 2, which was of course very funny, and not very kind to Kirstan Dunst. But let's face it, there was NO chemistry between her and Maguire at all.

Dealer's Room was full, which was good, but I've had my fill of collectables over the years. Picked up a few cheap used paperbacks (as opposed to costly used paperbacks, which were there as well), and two books from Apogee Books, Deep Space - The NASA Mission Reports a collection on the Voyager, Pioneer, and other probes sent out to Jupiter and beyond, and Rocket Science, not directly related to the wonderful Discovery channel series of the same name (which I have as well), but still a good companion to it.

The Masquerade had 32 entries, the most Ad Astra has had in several years, and a good sign for the con. Some quite good costumes and presentations, but the best moment (for me) was right at the beginning when a woman came out and introduced herself as "Hi! I'm Amanda, the Masquerade Director for Anime North ... I mean Ad Astra!". Second best point was during a moment of technical difficulty, when the MC summoned the stage ninjas out to dance and amuse us.

There was good telescope viewing in the parking lot Saturday night, with several excellent telescopes (one of them provided by nexstarman) providing views of Jupiter and Saturn.

Room parties were good on Friday, less so on Saturday (fewer of them for one thing), although Saturday had the Montreal Worldcon bid people throwing a party with smoked meat, which I got nearly the last of.

Local SF author Peter Watts had a wonderful off-kilter presentation on vampires, or rather the re-creation of them by a fictitious Big Pharma company thru gene expression. His entire talk was structured via Powerpoint as a company talk on initially the testing of a anti-autism drug with minor side effects (like the patient dying), but the discovery that it could trigger vampire-like characteristics, the further testing of the drug (on Texas death-row inmates), and the uses of vampires in the future.

I'm making it sound weird, but Peter's completely straight-faced presentation, and the increasingly Orwellian company slogans on the slides ("Flexible ethics for a complex world") were real genius, not to mention his explanations of the "true" basis for vampire tropes. (Fear of the cross is actually a form of epilepsy brought about by the sight of right angles, which are not found in nature).

Peter S., one of the co-chairs this year, looked pretty relaxed the whole weekend. Attendance was maybe 400 people, well down from the con's heights several years back, but apparently at least what the committee was hoping for, or so I heard.

Anyway, I had fun, saw some people I hadn't seen in a while, and got a lot of Anime North business done (con is in seven weeks now).

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I would have totally been there had I not had to work all weekend. Ugh.

(Fear of the cross is actually a form of epilepsy brought about by the sight of right angles, which are not found in nature).

I can't recall if it's ever been done in a story, but it seems to me that Lovecraftian entities could be warded off by a cross, again not because of religious symbolism but because right angles are anathema to them.

Penny Arcade's take on Kirsten Dunst and the Spiderman franchise.

She shot part of Dick at my high school, and I missed my chance to stop her from taining the Spiderman movies. There was no way I could have known!!

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