Kage Baker really liked moderating panels. It gave her a sense of power, or so she always claimed. I think it actually just gave her a method to insist upon order, clarity, and sticking to the topic – things that, when neglected, always made her insane.
Some folks like to moderate because it gives them a bully pulpit. Some like it because they feel it means that don’t have to do any work – just let the panelists carry on. Some folks are inveterate lecturers, or friends of the Con Committee, or own the only working microphone …
I, personally, don’t like to do it at all. I am rarely inhibited about speaking, and so don’t usually need help in contributing to the flow of conversation – and I hate being pointed out like a child in school, with someone else deciding it’s my turn. I don’t like running the topic. It’s usually an exercise in cat herding, and I get to do quite enough of that in real life. Authors are hard to control, and so are fans – but actors, freaking actors, are the very most difficult …
Nonetheless, it’s my turn in the barrel. I am off in a few minutes to moderate a panel on “The Last 50 Years of Exploration on Mars”. I have a sinking feeling that I was chosen as moderator because Kage and I made fun of the problems NASA has had with metric measurements – that contributed to the loss of at the Climate Orbiter satellite, and led directly to Kage writing The Empress of Mars …
Really though, the reasons we chose that incident was because it was so out of character for NASA – which has otherwise had a splendid track record with Mars missions. And so many,many missions to Mars have come to grief, far more than any other catgory of space exploration. It makes the loss of one to mis-measurement and poor translation pretty funny.
Still – something eats Mars missions. It cannot be denied. We’ve sent out a lot of them from Earth in the last 50 years; inordinate numbe rs of them have crashed, missed the entire planet, landed and vanished, landed and gone inexplicably silent … it’s peculiar. Even more of them have never even made it out of Earth orbit. The Russians alone have launched over 2 dozen missions – only 2 even made it to Mars orbit, and they failed in situ. Very strange, tovarisch.
Makes you take H.G. Wells a little more seriously. Maybe. I’ll let you all know later, when the panel is over.
Well. Here I am on my afternoon break, between the Last 50 Years on Mars, and the Next 50 Years. And no, noone at the last panel was worried about H. G Wells. They were a very serious audience, sober and respectable people; my attempts at humour fell pretty flat. My antic moods are not for all markets … also, we were down a panelist, and the 2 of us who made it were both female. I think that offended some of the males in the audience; because, you know, GIRLS. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good panel, we were thanked by several members of the audience, and I am done moderating.
The next panel will be more fun. “The Next 50 Years Expoloration On Mars” ought to bring the alien conspiracy folks out. I kind of hope so – they can be fun.
Me and the entourage are now safely back in our room, full of a nice dinner and self-satisfaction at a Con well-managed. By us, anyway – due to circumstances beyond all control, the whole circus had to drop the poles and clear out tonight. All the Sunday evening goodies and the Monday panels were re-scheduled or lost … but it was not BayCon’s faujlt, not really, and the Con was a good one.
My last panel was scary, but exciting. “The Next 50 Years of Research On Mars” was moderated by a gentleman who is both a writer and an astronomer; another panelist was an areospace engineer, and a third was not only an engineer but he works for Elon Musk! I am a mere writer who is interested in Mars, and likes to research her stories as accuratgely as possible. I felt myself definitely out-ranked and out-classed.
However, all 3 of the gentlemen were charming and courteous, and did not scorn me for my lesser database and goals. They outclassed most of the audience, too … and I was able to pull my own weight on the questions and discussions. (I did my research on the topic, too, and was ever so glad I had.) Most of the questions were good, and even when the face on Mars and Richard Hoagland were brought up – as they inevitably were – things were interesting and informative.
Turned out one of my fellow panelists has met the bizarre Mr. Hoagland, and his frank opinion of the man was hilarious. I hope I do not offend any of you, Dear Readers, by expressing my opinion – which is that Richard Hoagland is a raving nutcase – but, you know, he just is.
There are legitimate mysteries on and about Mars, that need to be looked at. Why is the electromagnetic field patchy? What did blow the atmosphere off? What causes the odd flashes of light seen in the Edom Promontorium? When can we get a good look through the “skylight” of a lava tube? Will the Russians ever get a lander to Mars?
These are weirder than anything on Earth; they are weirder than anything we have invented or speculated about Mars. We don’t need spurious faces or pyramids or jelly doughtnuts (check it out on space.com) and other examples of rampant pariedolia to inspire us with the mystery of Mars. It’s got more than enough on its own.
So I quite enjoyed my panels today, and my stint at BayCon in general. Neassa and Michael have taken excellent care of me – retrieved my cane and my room key, got me to my panels on time, read the maps for me. Tonight we are all having a quiet evening to rfegenerate our everyday brains, and tomorrow we will go on our ways to more mundane locales.
For a while, anyway … next week, Neassa is helping out at a Dulcimer Festival. Michael and I haved yet to make it back to Los Angreles. And In August is the WorldCon in Spokane, whence I am bound to carp from the mezzanine.
Just no end of fun in the life of a writer!