So people have been asking me “What are you talking about at Dragon*Con this year?”
Here’s the deal. Dragon*Con has a limited number of official Guest memberships available, and most of those get reserved for the media tracks… that’s where people stand in line for hours to see Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura) or James Marsters (Spike, from Buffy and Angel) or Stan Lee (creator of The Avengers, X-Men, and Spider-Man). Although not primarily a literary SF convention, DragonCon is big enough that they’ll even toss a few Guest memberships at major print authors like John Ringo and Steve Stirling.
But over in the Hilton are a handful of tracks for a different kind of fan… those who want to build science fiction, not just read about it. The Space and Science tracks (joined by Skeptics, EFF, and Podcasting) are almost a con-within-a-con. A few hundred people spend their entire weekend in the Hilton, only adventuring out to the other hotels for a quick whirl through the exhibition halls and to stare dumbfounded at the hall costumes.
These tracks don’t get handed many Guest passes. And they ones they do get, they like to reserve for luminaries like NASA astronauts and DARPA program managers and genetic engineers.
Years (and years and years) ago, I bought a Dragon*Con Eternal Membership, which means I get in free — and don’t have to stand in registration lines! — for the rest of my life. Back then, it cost a couple of hundred bucks. (Today, it’s $2000. Ouch!) So I can help out on various Space and Science tracks, and they don’t have to use one of their scarce Guest memberships on me. This is a Good Thing™.
The only drawback is that, given the way the Dragon*Con database is set up, only official Guests are listed in the Program Guide. (Which, this year, is available electronically for your iPhone — App Store link here — or Android. Much better than the smeary newsprint versions!) So there’s no easy way for anyone to find out when and where I’m speaking.
So, to placate my clamoring fans (both of them), here we go:
To Boldly Go – Where?
Friday, September 1st, 11:30am
Panel & audience discussion on where our next step into space should be. The Moon? Mars? The Asteroids?
—A. C. Charania, Kim Steadman, Mika McKinnon, Stephen Fleming
Sunday, September 2nd, 4:00pm
Regency V (Hyatt)
Mining for metals & other substances can destroy the ecology of our Earth. Why do that when there are huge resources floating around in space? This will be a first-of-its-kind simulcast with participants at DragonCon in Atlanta and at WorldCon in Chicago!
—Dr. June Scobee Rodgers (Moderator),Richard Garriott, Les Johnson, Stephen Fleming, Story Musgrave (WorldCon), Sy Liebergot (WorldCon)
Turning Sci-Fi into Reality: Who Funds the Research?
Sunday, September 2nd, 10:00am
Modern research requires big labs and bigger budgets. With spending cuts and redirected priorities, who funds the next wave of inventions?
—Dr. Tedd Roberts (NIH/NSF), Richard Guidorizzi (DARPA), Stephen Fleming (Georgia Tech)
Commercial Space Update – The Dragon Has Landed!
Sunday, September 2nd, 8:30pm
Commercial Space is flying! SpaceX docked w/ISS, the first non-government craft to do so. XCOR, Orbital & Sierra Nevada, etc. are not far behind! [That's the official track description. Please forgive the hyperbole from the track director. The panelists will be a lot more skeptical and will bring lots of facts and attitude.]
—Stephen Fleming, Michael Mealling, Ethan Chew
NASA Cuts – What Are We Losing Now?
Monday, September 3rd, 2:30pm
Whenever there’s a budget crisis seems the first thing cut is the NASA budget. Even at only 0.5% of the total Federal budget, it’s taking a hit again.
—Dr. John E. Bradford, Stephen Fleming, James Schier
So that’s my “officially un-official” participation this year. In between, I have to find time on Saturday to run out to Decatur to introduce Richard Martin, author of Superfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future, at the Decatur Book Festival. And maybe catch up with some old friends at the rest of Dragon*Con. It’ll be a busy weekend… I hope to see you there!
Update: My slides (from the three panels that used slides) are online here.