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Science Fiction Futures Now at Boskone 59

by gmoke Wed Feb 9th, 2022 at 06:44:52 PM EST

Boskone is the annual science fiction convention of New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) and the oldest science fiction/fantasy/horror [SF/F/H] convention in New England.  Boskone is an entirely fan volunteers operation.

Boskone 59
February 18-20, 2022
Westin Boston Seaport District
$70 - $10
RSVP at https://boskone.org

Here are some of the talks and panels that caught my eye.

Friday, February 18, 2022
2:00 PM
VIRTUAL: Climate Change Mitigation
Arkady Martine, Karl Schroeder, Les Johnson (moderator), Thiago Ambrosio Lage, Vandana Singh

What real steps can we take to slow, then stop, the climate catastrophes already wrecking our civilization? Fossil fuel enthusiasts cheerfully propose humungo geoengineering experiments on the only planet we have: like injecting sulfur dioxide (a major pollutant) into the upper atmosphere for (temporary) cooling. (Opponents call for injecting fossil fuel executives into the atmosphere instead.) Will mega-scale investment in energy-efficient technology and renewables, plus planetary remediation of forests and oceans work instead? If not these, what? If not now, when?

VIRTUAL: New Ways to Think About Media Rights
Ada Palmer, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Cory Doctorow, Malka Older, Scott Drakeford (moderator)

Creatives have been conditioned to seek copyrights on everything they produce, attempting to tightly restrict their use. However, some non-copyright media rights approaches may still hold value for creators -- while also actually improving their share of the income generated by their work. We take a look at what these approaches may entail, and how they might mutually benefit creators, publishers/studios, and readers/viewers/fans.

3:00PM
VIRTUAL: OneHome: Experiencing the Sight of Earth as an Astronaut
Jean Pierre Goux

Astronauts in orbit have experienced a profound love for the Earth and felt that we all share one home. It is called the "Overview Effect" and it changed them forever. Using unique Earth images taken from 1 million miles away by NASA, the idea is to bring the overview effect to millions of people.

5:00 PM
VIRTUAL: Uplifting Dystopian Fiction?
Carrie Vaughn, Cory Doctorow, David McDonald, Kelly Robson, Sarah Pinsker (moderator)

Dystopias unfurl charts to navigate around real abysses -- social inequality, authoritarian governments, violence against minorities, scientific denialism, etc. Even at their darkest, moments of utopian bliss unveil themselves to push the story forward. Julia's love note to Winston in 1984; the poetry in Parable of the Sower; the power of friendship in the Broken Earth trilogy. What function do these serve in their stories? In this third year of the Plague, what other examples might bring us a little hope?

VIRTUAL: Facts Behind Folklore
Fran Wilde, Greer Gilman, Jane Yolen, Marie Brennan (moderator)

There is usually some authentic foundation to folklore -- a true story, a common belief, an insight into the human condition. This starting point becomes transformed through the storytelling process into the familiar tales we hear from parents or fairy tale books. How can we dig into these stories to find their center? How can we use that knowledge to craft stories that take on a life of their own?

7:00 PM
VIRTUAL: Apocalypse Now and Then: Pandemic-Inspired SF/F/H
D Burton, Faye Ringel (moderator), Henry Jenkins, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Tabitha Lord, Vandana Singh

How will the ongoing COVID-19 catastrophe inform apocalyptic fiction in our genres, moving forward? What will writers do with all their new material -- from greater knowledge of epidemiology to personal experiences of loss, sorrow, anger, fear, or determination to increased optimism or pessimism about the human future?


Saturday, February 19, 2022

9:00 AM
VIRTUAL: Can Quantum Computing Explain Everything in SF?
Elías Combarro

Science fiction characters often use hand-waving "quantum sciences" -- particularly quantum computing -- to explain the inexplicable. What is quantum computing? What could it be? Does "quantum supremacy" mean it beats calculations from boring regular computers? Dr. Elias Combarro, an SF fan who happens to work as a computer science professor and advise CERN on quantum technology, discusses definitions plus news on the latest developments.

10AM  
In Person:  Climate Change -- Global Impacts
Ana Rusche, César Santivañez, Robert V.S. Redick, Vince Docherty (moderator)

We know generally that catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is already here. But let's review some facts on the ground (and in the waters and skies). How many species are changing habitats and migratory patterns? Where are all the new (and very old) pathogens coming from? Are rising sea temperatures shutting down the Atlantic Current? How many days a year are the Boston, Miami, Venice, and Mumbai waterfronts now their underwaterfronts? How many plants and animals are simply due for extinction -- and are we among them?

11AM
What's Delaying Self-Driving Cars?
Erin Underwood (moderator), Ian Randal Strock, Mark Olson, Ted Chiang

Our cars were supposed to drive us to the con by now. But we're all still waiting at the curb. Why? We'll discuss a few issues such as safety, sensor and AI technologies, cars versus taxis, space, weight, intercommunication, infrastructure, security, legislation, costs, preconceptions and perceptions, and the old clunker in the next lane whose most dangerous car part will remain the one behind the wheel.

1PM

VIRTUAL: Learning from Indigenous Experience
César Santivañez, Gabriela Damián Miravete (moderator), Hugo Espinoza, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Modern civilization has acquired much knowledge from Indigenous people. We've learned elements of pharmacology from Amazonians, navigation from Polynesians, and nutrition from people who ate the original all-natural diet. Now, can immersing ourselves in their experience of managing biodiverse regions and agroecological systems help manage humanity's future: protecting from infectious disease and climate catastrophe? And what other lessons might their wisdoms impart?

2:00PM  
VIRTUAL: Is Social Media Here to Stay?
Cory Doctorow, Henry Jenkins, Julia Rios (moderator), Kate Heartfield, Paul Di Filippo

Will they have Snapchat on starships? And right now, how are social media apps affecting relationships among SF/F/H readers/fans and writers? Finally, since Jennifer Egan's awesome 2012 futuristic spy story "Black Box" (composed entirely of tweets on The New Yorker Twitter account) -- how has social media affected genre fiction? Has it generated a wave of new plot twists, new characters, new forms? If not, why not?

3:00PM  
VIRTUAL: Inclusive Design For the Future
Ace Tilton Ratcliff, Ada Palmer (moderator), Elsa Sjunneson, Fran Wilde, Karl Schroeder

Science fiction set in the future often assumes every disability will be cured -- a problematic assumption. Is it realistic for every disabled person in tomorrow's world to have individual accommodations? What does it look like when SF instead depicts inclusive design? Can we imagine a more accessible starship than the Enterprise-D?

5:00PM
In Person:  The Future of Astronomy
Jeffrey A. Carver, Mark Olson (moderator), Martin Elvis, Steven Popkes

What's in the works with worlds, stars, galaxies, and more (or less, when you count black holes)? A noted astrophysicist and his enthusiastic amateur sidekicks plumb the latest secrets of the universe, then fearlessly predict where it's all going.

6:00 PM
In Person:  Power Grid

Manage your resources, manipulate the board -- and the other players -- to build up your network of power plants, and rule the land! [6 players, intermediate, 11+]

Is Science Losing? Improving Science Communication
Allen M. Steele, Andrea Kriz PhD, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert (moderator), Tom Easton

Though it's needed more than ever, our world may actually be backsliding in terms of science literacy, as well as in communicating scientific truths -- and their implications -- to the public. What's causing these problems? How can professionals and educated citizens become effective science communicators? How can society as a whole improve its scientific literacy?

10:00PM  
In Person:  Haunted: Horror as a Way to Heal Trauma
Jennifer Williams (moderator), Julian K. Jarboe, Justin C. Key, Tonia Ransom

They can be exploitative -- but many horror stories instead tackle traumatic themes with nuance and complexity. Whether you are consuming it or creating it, horror can become a vehicle for power when you feel otherwise powerless. What is the value in seeing our worst experiences writ large? How can these kinds of stories help us to heal?

Sunday, February 20, 2022
10:00AM
In Person:  Diversity, Genetics, and Myths
Andrea Kriz PhD, Dr. Stephen P. Kelner Jr. (moderator), Jason Comander, Justin C. Key

Did you know that "race" has no biological basis? How about the fact that gender is a continuum, not a binary? Or that a group of just 100 humans retains 85% of our genome's variability? Let's talk about the science!

In Person:  Architecture in Speculative Fiction
Dave Seeley, Gary Ehrlich, William Hayashi (moderator)

From Victorian houses to stone mosques to glass skyscrapers, structures play important roles in creating atmosphere, developing the setting, and inspiring feelings associated with that space and place. We look at well-known structures in fiction that serve as iconic examples of how built spaces can impact the story, connect with characters, and convey backstory purely through description of their design

11AM
In Person:  Future of Education
Tamsyn Muir, Tim Griffin, Tom Easton (moderator)

Our Special Guest Tamsyn Muir and Musical Guest Tim Griffin both have extensive teaching backgrounds. What do they think about the future of education -- public, private, charter, other? Is "education by Zoom" just a COVID-19 patch? Or will it be an important part of pedagogy going forward? Will technology help or hinder education? How about long-term: VR classrooms? Sleep learning? Nanite injections?

VIRTUAL: Civic Imagination Workshop
Henry Jenkins

Join this hands-on workshop for social change, that teaches attendees how to borrow principles from areas of fandom and apply them to real-world activities to help generate lasting, positive change. The workshop will apply ideas from activities such as speculative worldbuilding and fan fiction writing.

12PM
In Person:  The Future of Us
Martin Elvis, Rich Larson, Suzanne Palmer (moderator), Tom Easton

Imagine that in the far future we've destroyed the planet, leaving the climate in chaos -- and humanity is on life support. What comes next? Is there a way to start again? If so, how might humanity survive and evolve? And without the overwhelming presence of humanity's current population levels, how might other creatures adapt and evolve?

In Person:  Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition
This is the latest installment of Terraforming Mars. It's a card game at heart -- but the board is just as important. [4 players, intermediate, 12+]

In Person:  Mother Nature's Sense of Humor as Expressed Through Animal Procreation Techniques
Chris Panatier (moderator), Jennifer Pelland, Priscilla Olson, Steven Popkes

Did you know that the lonely male angler fish attaches to the female and becomes part of her -- living out the rest of his life as an on-demand sperm satchel? Did you know giraffes drink each other's pee to see if it's business time? Did you know some snails have both male and female organs and repeatedly stab each other with "love darts" until they both end up pregnant or DEAD? Learn about how they do it ... and speculate how this could be applied to aliens.

In Person:  Human Genetic Engineering: A Look at What's Happening
Andrea Kriz PhD, Jason Comander

VIRTUAL: Multiple Versions of the Future
Ana Rusche (moderator), Arkady Martine, Karl Schroeder, Larry Niven, Malka Older

Since even before ancient astronomers scanned Sumerian skies for clues to coming events, we've tried to imagine the future. Certainly people have entertained myriad pictures of possible tomorrows. But what broad agreements do we see among the futures described by diverse SF writers? On the other hand, what singular or contrarian visions do we find most arresting? Whose futures are the most multilayered and complex? Which is most likely to come true?

1PM
In Person:  Is This AI?
Dr. Stephen P. Kelner Jr., Edie Stern (moderator), Erin Underwood, Mike Squatrito Jr, Ted Chiang

Panelists consider technologies both real and imagined, discussing which are actually artificial intelligence and which aren't. Goal: a realistic sketch of our current understanding of AI: what it is, what it can do -- and what we might expect (hope? fear?) it could become.

VIRTUAL: Terraforming Terra: for Good or Ill
Jeff Hecht (moderator), Jennifer Marie Brissett, Julie Czerneda, Les Johnson, Scott Drakeford

A major engine of climate change: burning fossil fuels, which generates carbon dioxide, which retains heat, which raises atmospheric temperatures. In other words, we've been terraforming Earth already for more than 140 years. On a smaller scale, Dutch dykes change sea to land. Altogether, what have we done to make Earth uninhabitable? What have we done -- or might we do, for instance with techniques like geoengineering -- to make Earth more habitable (again)? And can we control the consequences a little better this time?

VIRTUAL: Love and Sex with Robots
Charles Stross, Laurence Raphael Brothers (moderator), Malka Older, Ted Chiang, Thiago Ambrosio Lage

Sexuality presented by robots and AI characters is commonplace in SF books and films. What does this say about human society, and what are the implications in the near term for technologically plausible sex machines as well as in the future for AGI persons designed to be human romantic partners? Our panel may touch on topics ranging from technology, sentience, and AI to philosophy, ethics, legality, and psychology.

Poll
More science fiction futures now?
. yes 0%
. no 0%
. not yes 0%
. not no 0%
. neither yes nor no 0%
. both yes and no 0%
. don't understand the question? 0%
. none of the above 0%

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