Thursday, July 15, 2010


The day before WesterCon we took a tour of Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s Space City, California -- with lots of huge liquid nitrogen tanks and its own police force -- a NASA installation founded by rocketeers that’s becoming more like Disneyland as time goes on. Could a space theme park sponsor its own interplanetary explorations? The clean room where they were building the next Mars Rover with its Chuck Jones/Wile E. Coyote landing system and mission control were part of both history and the future.

After that, I felt ready for a science fiction convention.

The lobby was a Free Wi-Fi pit. There I talked to guest of honor Rudy Rucker. He put the idea in my head of writing a story about SB 1070 in Arizona. It took root and started growing . . .

The Martian jungle-ish Desert Garden of the Huntington Museum was a science fiction experience. “This is like being on Mars!” blurted a young man. Later we went back with Rudy and his wife Sylvia. This time Em brought her camera. Rudy took some pictures of us.

Old Pasadena -- pre-Deco architecture peeks through post-modern pretensions with the occasional boarded-up business reminding us of the decaying economy. The architectural time warp of Colorado Boulevard has plenty of café/bakeries. We found Indian and Mexican food far better than the overpriced snacks at the hotel.

There were not many books in the dealer room, though I did buy some Michael Moorcock and Norman Spinrad paperbacks out of nostalgia for the good old New Wave. I did a lot of reading at this con -- Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (La Fiestia de San Fermin began the day after), and David Hatcher Childress’ Yetis, Sasquatch & Hairy Giants (there are still mysteries to search for).

Later in a nearby antique mall, I bought Ray Bradbury’s essay collection Bradbury Speaks (some of that old excitement), and Roger Corman’s How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (inspiration on how to do my evolving business).

People from India were partying in their colorful ethnic clothes, and dresses from a quinceañra dance dazzled. The fans in steampunk costumes seemed drab by comparison.

A 19-year-old man was killed in a pre-San Fermin bull run in Zamora, Spain. PETA’s opening ceremony this year was to have the now traditional pseudo-naked protesters lie down in the shape of a giant, bleeding bull. Science fiction needs something like that -- rituals to awaken our inner wildness, that we need while exploring the universe

Rudy’s talks were well attended by enthusiastic crowds. He spoke of quantum loops. Later, in a café on Colorado Boulevard, I saw a Latino write, “I can make a quantum loop,” on his laptop. Science and fiction are intruding on reality -- as it should.

Beyond San Bernandino, still under the smog, in the desert, datura blooms alongside I-10, like something out of the story that was growing in my brain . . . science fiction intruding . . . maybe there’s hope . . .

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