Sunday, September 12, 2010

ArmadilloCon 2010: Time travel meanders

Some discussion panels go disappointingly off-topic, turning into a free-form chat between the panelists that has nothing to do with the stated purpose of the discussion. Such was the "What do you bring on your time travel" panel. Based on the title, I was hoping for some fun brainstorming on what necessities you should bring with you to increase the odds of your survival in the past or the future. But it was nothing like that. Instead the panelists spend a good chunk of time debating whether they would want to know the date of their death. Then some of them turned it into "how things were better in their youth" gripe session. One panelist, who I already knew was conservative, criticized women's liberation for enabling girls to be as foul-mouthed and crude as boys. According to him, it's not progress if it makes it acceptable for women to engage in the worst behaviors of men. Gotta love the ole' double standard! Boys will be boys, but women are supposed to uphold civilized behavior. Blech.

To be fair, he also told entertaining stories about his Italian childhood, to illustrate how some of a modern person's basic cultural assumptions wouldn't hold up even as little as half a century back. In his mother's day in Italy, you were not supposed to chat with store clerks. If a clerk behind the counter tried to make small talk with his (the panelist's) mother (even here in the US?), the mother would grab her purse and hold it tight, because she assumed the only reason the clerk would do that would be to distract her and pick her pocket. This was a typical example of the attitude of the middle class towards the working class in Europe, he said. "People like my mother and her class is what makes lower classes want to be communists."

(As the reader may notice, I'm not naming any names. While I know that some people I'm referring to will find this blog post anyway, I still don't want search engines to link certain names with the critical stuff I'm saying here.)

At some point a guy from the audience tried to bring the panelists back on topic. He said that even if you brought all the right clothes and money, you wouldn't last an hour before people figured out you were alien. Well then, I guess, case closed? There is nothing, really, you can bring on your time travel to make it go smoother? I guess the obvious things, like antibiotics (if you are traveling to the past), or a wilderness survival kit if you happen to drop into the paleo era, were too trivial to talk about.

This illustrates why there is a disadvantage of having the same panelists at every convention -- many of them don't seem to think they should prepare for discussions, or stick to a discussion plan (and how would they if the moderator doesn't bother to create one?). Some of those "veterans" act like they think the audience has come just to hear them shoot the breeze. New people would be more likely to prepare to speak on the topic.

Pictures from Armadillocon 2010 are in my photo gallery.

1 comment:

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel said...

The truth is, other panelists will generally not challenge the moderator unless they know the moderator and came with specific ideas to talk about. I had no idea why I was on that panel, and had warned the programming people not to make me the moderator anywhere this time, for specific reasons.

Next time, it's okay to get your hand up and ask if any panelists had suggestions for time travel -- because some of us did. I put some of them in the steampunk story I just finished! ;^)

I know, we should have tried to grab the reins back from him. But sometimes, that just isn't going to happen. And the Mom stories will definitely go into world building somewhere, sometime.