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Archive for November, 2009

Windycon – Dystopia, Space, and Art

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Windycon Art Show
Windycon Art Show web page

I’ll be spending this weekend at the Windycon 36 Science Fiction Convention. If you haven’t heard of Windycon it is one of the Midwest’s largest regional science-fiction conventions with an average attendance of over 1300.

I will of course be participating in the art show. Kerry Kuhn (aka Trouble) will be running the art show again this year which means that everything will go smoothly. I always enjoy touring the art show and seeing what the other artists are up to. I especially enjoy the Friday night wine and cheese reception which allows the artists and potential buyers to mix, mingle, and make merry. Another feature of the art show is the art auction held Saturday night and run by Bob Passovoy. It’s probably one of the most entertaining art auctions you’ll ever attend.

I think that I’ve attended most of the Windycons over the last 20 years and this one certainly has the lightest personal workload. I typically give one, maybe two, presentations and participate in a few panel discussions. This year I offered no talks and was assigned to a single panel. But that panel is a good one. Titled Dystopia Begone, the panel’s description is:

Does the future have to be so grim? Is our future really overcrowded, polluted and unequal? What books are interesting, good to read, and have a positive view of the near future? Or is there a positive view? Our panelists discuss the world of the next 100 years.

The panelists will be myself, E.E. Knight, Michael Williamson, and Gene Wolfe.

When it comes to science fiction and dystopian views of the future, I must say that I find the subject appealing. Looking over this Wikipedia list of dystopian literature, I find that I have read and enjoyed quite a few of the novels listed.

Based on memory I would have to say that of the ones I have read, my five top favorites are:

  1. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein – 1966
  2. 1984 by George Orwell – 1949
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – 1932
  4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 1953
  5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – 1962

For my money, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and 1984 are far out in front of the other three on my list.

And in getting back to the future, I will also be participating in a planning meeting for the 2010 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) – being held Saturday morning at the hotel. The International Space Development Conference is an annual conference sponsored by the National Space Society for which I am a director. I tried to avoid becoming deeply involved in the ISDC for fear of being stretched to thin. However I failed miserably. In addition to now being the official photographer for the 2010 ISDC, I am also managing the Call for Papers and find myself to be the Web Site Coordinator. You’ll be reading more about this in the future.

But for now, for more information about the Windycon Science Fiction Convention, go to For the Windycon art show, visit Windycon Art Show page.

If you’re attending Windycon, keep an eye out for me and don’t forget to visit the art show.

Ad Astra, Jim

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Space Art and Astronomical Art for Mensans

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Mensa audience at costume parade
An audience of Mensans at the costume parade

Last Halloween weekend I attended the Chicago regional Mensa gathering known as HalloweeM. Held at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights, this four day event brings together Mensans and features presentations, games, food, drink, and a costume parade.

This was the second HalloweeM that I’ve attended as a speaker. At last year’s HalloweeM I gave two presentations. One was my The Universe According to Monty Python presentation which deals with a range of astronomical and cosmological topics. My other presentation was Algorithmic Art: Where Art Meets Math – a personal favorite of mine as it deals with a topic that fascinates me. You can read more about my exploits at that HalloweeM at Mensa, Algorithmic Art, and Monty Python.

My original schedule called for me to speak Friday night. My presentation that evening was Art And The Exploration of Space which is a history of the evolution of space art and the ways in which art has been used with respect to space exploration.

Later that evening while thoroughly enjoying the ample quantities of food and drink served up to the attendees, I was approached and informed that one of the speakers for Saturday had to cancel and would I be interested in coming back and giving another presentation. I promptly said yes and then proceeded to scratch my head trying to decide which talk to give. I did not want to repeat either of the presentations that I had given last year. I finally decided on giving one of my newer presentations – The Art of Astronomy, a talk I had recently given at the Hinsdale Public Library. This presentation deals with astronomical art as opposed to space art. Think of astronomical art as being about nature and space art as being about the human exploration of space.

In addition to my presentations, and lots of eating and drinking, I also attended a few other programs. The most interesting, and which I unfortunately missed the first half of, was That We May Never Forget: Chronicling the Life and Experiences of a Child Holocaust Survivor by Paul Argiewicz, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. His was a moving story. One thing that particularly struck me was his deep love of the United States. I feel that this man has a far greater appreciation of our country than many of our native born citizens who have known no other way of life.

Ad Astra, Jim

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