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 V.25 No.34 | August 25 - 31, 2016 

Culture Shock

Building New Worlds at Bubonicon

The change-making scope of science fiction and fantasy

Bubonicon 48 logo
Bubonicon 48 logo

“I think we're in the Golden Age of science fiction,” David Gerrold wrote to me. I mentally scanned the titles that I'd picked up in the genre in the past several years—Ancillary Justice, Annihilation, The Three-Body Problem to name a few—and roundly agreed. “Thousands of new writers all over of the world [are] coming of age all at once, each one reinventing and redefining what's possible in the genre,” he continued. Gerrold's insights into science fiction are some I happen to trust—with writing credits that include well-loved episodes of the original “Star Trek” series, “The Next Generation” and “The Twilight Zone,” and the novelette The Martian Child, which won both the 1995 Hugo and the 1994 Nebula Awards—his career offers scope.

Gerrold, along with a host of others will bring their amplitude to Bubonicon 2016, the rat-centric, ever-expansive and always-inclusive sci-fi and fantasy convention firmly rooted here in Albuquerque. “Bubonicon is my favorite convention,” Melinda Snodgrass told me, her voice carried thousands of miles via telephone from her hotel in Kansas City, where she was attending Worldcon. “If you come to Bubonicon you're going to have the opportunity to sit at the bar and chat with writers whose books you've read and loved, the panel discussions are great [and] you're going to find a very welcoming group of people. … You'll see stormtroopers going down the hall and across the room there's Klingons. It's very, very fun.” Snodgrass—author of numerous books, including several in the Wild Cards series (she also edits these along with George R.R. Martin), which is being turned into a television show that she will produce, also editor of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” seasons two and three—will be at Bubonicon, hosting workshops, moderating panels and hopefully being among those writers at the bar up for a chat. This year's Bubonicon also welcomes Rachel Caine, author of nearly 50 fantasy and sci-fi books including those in The Great Library series—a chronicle that supposes what the world would be like if the Great Library of Alexandria never burned.

“If you come to Bubonicon you're going to have the opportunity to sit at the bar and chat with writers whose books you've read and loved, the panel discussions are great [and] you're going to find a very welcoming group of people. … You'll see stormtroopers going down the hall and across the room there's Klingons. It's very, very fun.”

If this all sounds like some unfathomable magic—consider that George R.R. Martin, Jane Lindskold, Darynda Jones, Victor Milan, S.M. Stirling and more will be on hand, and panels broach topics like “Deus Ex Graphica: Role of Mythology in Comics,” “The Importance of Preserving SF History in Libraries and Archives,” and “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: Writing Fiction.” “As much as I love Comic-Con and and great big festivals, it's easier for [books] to get lost in the shuffle. Books are front and center at Bubonicon,” Caine remarked as we spoke over the phone when I asked her what she was most excited about at the convention. A beat passed before she added, “I'm looking forward to looking at mountains again, too.”

George R.R. Martin
Craig Chrissinger
George R.R. Martin

Caine's origins lie in the shifting dunes of White Sands Missile Range—seriously, she was actually born there. Having spent most of her life in West Texas and El Paso, her current home in bustling Dallas doesn't offer the expanses she craves. “[The desert] had a huge impact on me—the giant open spaces, the loneliness of the terrain,” she said. In fact, she even set her Morgansville Vampires series in the most unlikely of places for such a gothic tale—far West Texas. “In order to do that, I challenged myself to come up with a reason why that town was there. I did come up with a reason, but I didn't reveal it until, I think, book 11.” Even this offhand comment evidences the breadth of Caine's career. This year alone, she is on-track to write six books, some installments in ongoing series, some totally new works of fiction.

Snodgrass is also from New Mexico—she was born in Albuquerque and now makes her home in Santa Fe, though she lives part-time in LA to support her producing and screenwriting work. “There's a reason they call it the Land of Enchantment. I will never be able to give it up completely. No matter what's going on in my life, I will always, always come home to New Mexico.” Not-so incidentally, the Wild Cards series also synergistically sprung from this place. As the lore goes, one year writer Victor Milan gave George R.R. Martin the game Superworld for Christmas. “We were playing it obsessively, two or three nights a week until two or three in the morning,” Snodgrass said. “George started running the game for us, creating hundreds of supervillains. … [He] would drive down from Santa Fe to run the game, and obviously didn't want to drive home that late, so he'd stay over.” One day over breakfast, Martin suggested, “There's got to be a way to make money off this obsession.” It was then that the shared world of Wild Cards was born. The story takes place on a post-World War II Earth in which an alien bomb has disfigured some of humanity, and endowed others with superpowers.

Some epic cosplay
Craig Chrissinger
Some epic cosplay

Despite the sometimes desolate landscapes Snodgrass and Caine grew up with, it is the aspiration of science fiction—the innate possibility of the genre—that speaks to them. “I love the hopefulness,” Snodgrass said, “the idea that we're going to get smarter and better and that someday we're going to go explore the stars.” Far away, Gerrold echoed the sentiment in our correspondence. “Science fiction is the only truly subversive literature, because it says 'The way things are is not the way they have to be.' It postulates possibilities—and when we consider those possibilities, we compare them to the reality we live in. And if the possibilities are exciting enough, we start to build them. Science fiction is a catalyst for change in the world.”

Start building a new world, or just create a better one, at Bubonicon 2016 from Aug. 26 to 28.

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