« What have the Romans done for us ...? | Main | Guesswork »

Worldcon schedule

(UPDATED: see below)

Early next month I'm going to be in Montreal for Anticipation, the 67th world science fiction convention. Here's my more-or-less final schedule. (Yes, there's a missing item: my book signing slot clashed with another event, so it's being rearranged. I'll post an update here when I know what time and day it's been moved to.)

Thursday August 6th, 9:00pm (Location: PENDING)
Title: In Conversation: Paul Krugman and Charles Stross
Description: 90 minutes of Charles Stross discussing SF, economics, and other topics with Paul Krugman.
NOTE: This item was previously scheduled for 5pm. Now updated. (I'm also trying to arrange for it to be recorded for subsequent podcasting/YouTube hosting.)

Friday August 7th, 12:30pm (Location: P-511CF)
Title: Legal Systems, Past and Future
Participants: Bradford Lyau, James Morrow, Kate Nepveu, Charles Stross
Description: A place's legal system tells us a lot about its values. Laws are made by culture and make culture. A discussion ...

Friday August 7th, 3:30pm (Location: P-512AE)
Title: Author Reading
Description: I'll be reading a selection of my work. So will Cory Doctorow and Connie Willis; it's a 90 minute session so I think we're going to have half an hour each.

Saturday August 8th, 10:00am (Location: P-511BE)
Title: Alternate Power: Its Political Implications
Participants: Tom Doherty, Bruce Lindsley Rockwood, Nina Munteanu, Peter Cohen, Charles Stross
Description: Power and Energy are political and economic issues. They have social implications. What new technologies are available and what are their political social and economic consequences?

Saturday August 8th, 2pm (Location TBA)
Title: Kaffeklatch
Participants: Charles Stross
Description: Sign up in advance (seats are limited) for a chance to have an hour-long chat with Stross over a cup of coffee.

Sunday August 9th, 3:30pm (Location: P-513B)
Title: SF and Economics
Participants: Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin, Hayden Trenholm, Karl Schroeder, S.C. Butler, Charles Stross
Description: How does a writer incorporate events like the past 12 months into their future society? How does a writer extrapolate economic theory into far future societies?

Monday August 10th, 11am (Location: unknown)
Title: Book signing
Participants: Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Julie Czerneda
Description: bring us books, we'll sign them until our hands fall off!

In addition to these discussions, panels, and readings I'll probably be assigned a signing slot and I'll be around the venue for the entire duration of the convention. Oh, and I'll be poking my nose in at the Prometheus and Hugo award ceremonies ...




Charlie, will the session with you and Krugman be recorded, or otherwise made available to non-attendees? I'm an econ student and enjoy reading a lot of Krugman's "speculative economics" ideas.


Wow. I hate cons (my problem, not cons') but that is a very strong schedule. I should maybe revist my bias against more than 5 people in a room.


Haar: I don't know if it's going to be recorded or not (but I may bring my iphone along as a voice recorded, just in case. That or the Flip camcorder.)


Are you looking forward to your chat with Paul Krugman? For all of us who can't see attend but see this as a sort of geek Ali V Foreman: Is there any chance it will be webcast or a recording made available after the event?


Keith: Yes, I'm looking forward to it. No, it's not going to be Ali v. Foreman: at least, I'm not planning on punching anyone out! Think fireside chat, not boxing match.

(NB: I'm a little worried that I'm going to be intellectually out-gunned. On the other hand, there's no shame in being out-gunned in the right company. Several years ago my wife and I went to a friend's birthday party in Boston. After we got home she told me she felt slightly stupid -- until I reminded her: we were the only people at the party who weren't MIT post-docs!)


I'm going to have to make the Economics talk, I should be free from Tech at that time. ;-) The investment banker side of me has always had issues with how finance is dealt with in Sci Fi.


charlie@5. No need to worry about PK as long as you don't try to "do economics". PK is the absolute expert in this domain, so the conversation should be a lot more about exploring ideas and implications and PK providing the intellectual firepower to explain what might or might not work. What sort of ideas - you name it? Implications of n doublings of computing power on the economy x years ahead and are there any possibly dislocations or phase changes; the impact of virtual reality currency generation on real world money supply and can virtual world bank runs impact real world banks (hist PK's expertise on currencies and crises), etc, etc.

I too really hope this session is recorded for our viewing pleasure.


So bummed I'm not going, but especially bummed to be missing the panel with you & Paul Krugman. Here's hoping for video ...

And there truly are worse people in the world to be intellectually outgunned by than Krugman.


@Bethanne: If you can find it, Paul Krugman wrote a paper in the late 70's on the possible organization of a bond market in a STL inter-stellar travel enabled economy. It's a good read. The only thing that could make that talk better would be to include Iain M. Banks to toss ideas on the long horizon and Charlie tossing ideas about the near horizon.


I'm curious about the "Power and energy" panel. What are you planning on talking about? Will it be recorded?

Yes, I'm trolling for case ideas.


Agreement with Haar. Some kind of recording of the Krugman talk would be most welcome.

How did that pairing occur? Did you and Krugman get together and think of it? Was it pitched to both of you by someone else? Was it Paul's idea?

It would be amusing if one of the "Other Topics" was Paul pulling a Chris Farley routine. "Remember in Jennifer Morgue, when Bob [insert non-spoilerific event here]? That was awesome."


Holy crap. I may, years from now, forgive the committee for scheduling me on a panel (about the life and work of John M. Ford) directly opposite your Krugman dialogue.


Either the dates are correct, or the days of the week are wrong! (4 August is a Tuesday this year.)


Whoops, dates need fixing. Will fix.

Patrick, the Krugman chat was originally scheduled for Saturday -- he had to leave early, hence this is a last-minute adjustment.


It all sounds very interesting. Like a lot of others here, I'm particularly curious as to how the talk with Krugman will go-and the one on alternate power as well.

Anyway, in case anyone's looking for the link to the FTL paper, here's a link to a PDF version at Krugman's page over at Princeton's web site:



Haar/Nader - the PK paper on interstellar trade is very amusing. All the usual economic assumptions are disregarded for the purposes of this very tongue-on-cheek analysis. Even ignoring the costs of such a trade for physical goods, the value of such goods might be marginal given how obsolescent they would be if traveling at c.

Now what would an analysis look like with time instead of space travel?

I think there are a lot more substantive topics to cover, especially ones that might be of value to Charlie's interest in "near future" SF.


or Charlie's near future sci-fi might be of interest to Krugman. Sounds like he pretty much called Madoff.


Some sort of recording of the Krugmann chat could actually be a very nice test case for the proposed multi-media-enhancement of this blog - I would look forward for it.


Charlie, do you have someone at the con to contact? Maybe you can ask them to ask Krugman and see about recording the talk.


Oooh. Squeee! I am thrilled, very very thrilled, by this panel listing.

(And DH who has a bachelor's degree in Econ may also be rather interested, as well)


Ah, too bad, I can't be there for several reasons. But, as a consolation (to me, anyway), Real Soon Now has become now; I have just posted the book review of "Palimpsest" I've been promising on my blog, http://rumblingsfromthespeaker.blogspot.com/ . If you haven't read the story yet, don't read the section headed "Here Be There Spoilers", because there really are.


I wonder if you'll meet some particularly interesting people at that convention panel. I am especially interested in whether there is somebody out there that understands logistical and capacity constraints on reindustrialising America post currency and balance of payments renormalisation, for when we actually have to start paying for things instead of getting them for free.
I know that the only fast (less than a year) increase in American electricity production will have to come from concentrating solar photovoltaic displacing natural gas from day peaking power into night baseload power since it's the only physically possible method using domestic capacity and logistics constraints, but what about the second year?
Who's working on that problem?
I see lots of books about the economic crisis in general, and the oil crisis in particular, but nothing about possible post currency collapse plans and assumptions.
Somebody has got to be working on that. I need to know who they are and where they are posting or publishing.


> but what about the second year?



Including, presumably, comments on the future catching up with us, in "Halting-State" fashion, or perhaps ...
More like Accelerando

I wonder how that will play with the "Strong AI can't be done" crowd?


Krugman + Nobel Prize winner = You have arrived Charlie!

If he's talking about the future, I wonder if he has any ideas about 'How disorganised democracy might beat organised greed?' Just finished reading

Matt Taibi "on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression."



WOW I so want to go to this, but I have plans with family. :-(


Will you and Krugman talk about Hari Seldon, I wonder? He's on record as being a childhood fan of the Foundation series.

And if this 'birther movement" in the US is still getting press, maybe you guys can speculate on how Seldon and his cohorts would have managed to select a future President of the US a half century in advance, as the guy was being born, in order to falsify records in Hawaii?

Or is Obama a time-traveling Mule?

(On the other hand, you and Paul Krugman are adults, and may totally ignore the temptation.)


That could happen. I don't know that it's impossible.
I just think that because of the logistics of transporting coal from where it is mined to where it is burned it isn't going to happen in less than the several years required to build new coal moving railroads and new coal generating plants and new coal mines. Probably also involving the construction of factories to make coal burning power plant, locomotives, mining machinery, etc.
We do have some manufacturing capability left and we could easily build hundreds of factories and plants. It's just that we are going to need to build a lot more of them than has been usual in my lifetime. It's not just about ramping production up by a mere ten or twenty percent.
There has to be someone out there that knows not just about his own narrow slice of industry, but about all the other narrow slices of industry that support and enable his narrow slice of industry.
Maybe somebody that studied the American reindustrialisation drive between 1939 and 1945? It's the closest analogy that I can think of.


wkwillis: burning coal is a lot worse in terms of carbon emissions than oil or natural gas. Perhaps if you're going to exploit coal the best way to ramp up quickly would be to go for underground gasification -- build pipelines from the deep coal seams to power stations near cities and use the coal gas (generated 1-4km underground) to drive gas turbine generators. Gas turbine plant can power up relatively fast -- this would be very useful as a tool for evening out base load fluctuations caused by solar/wind inputs varying. (A recent report suggests that in the UK, the amount of energy from wind/solar sources can vary by as much as 22% from year to year -- that's no way to run a grid!)

But really, this stuff is not good for our long-term survival prospects as a species. We really need potloads of cheap, fail-safe, proliferation-threat-free, recyclable nuclear plant, and we need it now. Either that, or orbital power sats, but they have their own proliferation/militarisation threats and I haven't yet seen any sign of folks questioning their carbon footprint (all those big boosters you need to launch them have to have some kind of environmental impact) ...


Charlie@29: "or orbital power sats, but they have their own proliferation/militarisation threats and I haven't yet seen any sign of folks questioning their carbon footprint (all those big boosters you need to launch them have to have some kind of environmental impact"

As O'Neill pointed out in the 1970's, the materials could be sourced from off-earth, in his case, the moon. Solar power sats are mostly silicon and metal both of which are quite plentiful and relatively easy to manufacture off planet.

Conversely, doesn't the mining of Uranium/Thorium on a large scale cause it's own environmental damage?


All those panels look excellent. Re#3, good that you'll record. I, for one, wish that someone in each audience would likewise record or at least blog the highlights of intelligent discourse. So far, your schedule makes me wish I did not have to miss Montreal more than anything else I'd seen about the Worldcon.

Slightly related (in that Worldcon is a hub for the Pro/Fan social network) I thought of your informed rejection of Facebook this morning when I was summarily (and I think without human intervention) subject to account termination. FB does not tell one WHY they do this; they just point to an extremely vague FAQ. They also contend that users do not have the right to see what content was deemed to violate Terms of Use. I emailed an appeal, which they auto-acknowledge. And then I was deluged with emails from some of my 340 Facebook friends asking WTF. Which, of course, I can't answer. I suspect a False Positives scenario, similar to the Stross analysis. One rumor is that too many siblings link to each other on FB, a default assumption is automatically made that there is a false identity issue. But I Don't Know.

Anyway, thanks for the exciting pre-briefing on Anticipation. I stand by to hear a Briefing at the proper time.


On the uranium mining environmental impact question: it's a damn sight better than coal mining, I'll guarantee you that. The volume of ore involved in uranium mining is laughably tiny, on the scale that includes coal.


Forgive my ignorance but why is the chat with Paul Krugman so anticipated? I don't think i've seen his name mentioned anywhere but this diary as i do not follow economics so is there some bad blood? What is the link between a science-fiction writer and an economist anyway?


The European Union ExternE studies put numbers on all of this on a per KWH basis if you really want to know - and basically, counted on a "per terawatt produced" basis, nuclear doesnt polute - all its externalities have been internalized.


The European Union ExternE studies put numbers on all of this on a per KWH basis if you really want to know - and basically, counted on a "per terawatt produced" basis, nuclear doesnt pollute - all its externalities have been internalized.


arrgh, double post. Anyway.
*finds the relevant paper*

More detail than you would ever want.


Charlie, I will be bringing a mini audio recorder to the con and will be happy to provide it for the recording of your and Paul Krugman's session. I will also be happy to make the audio freely available post-con (with your and Paul's agreement, of course), and host the files themselves.

Also, I see you're not doing a kaffeeklatsch this year. Deliberate choice or scheduling omission?


Alex Tolley @ 30:

If you go to the moon you have to pay the piper for the carbon from the boosters that put all the hardware for that into space. And you have to pay for the lost opportunity: one power company, PG&E in California, is backing an initiative to have a powersat running by 2015-16; Constellation can't get back to the moon with a single manned spacecraft before then (and probably not by then either; it's already showing severe signs of Shuttle-itus).


Bruce@38 "If you go to the moon you have to pay the piper for the carbon from the boosters that put all the hardware for that into space"

Of course, but we are talking about the net effect. If we use boosters to put mining and manufacturing in space and build the solar power sats there, there should be a net benefit of that approach. The more you bootstrap, the higher the net benefit. Whether teh PG&E sponsored effort is anything more than pie in the sky, we'll see. The industry doesn't seem to believe the contractor can do it. Time will tell. However, there can be little doubt that solar power potentially dwarfs all other power sources (in the solar system) - and should fairly safely run for another few billion years. Enough power for all solar system activity.


To divert the conversation from Krugman for just a moment (and don't get me wrong, I'm a Krugman fan as well as a Stross fan), I thought I'd drop a note from last November's LOSCON in Los Angeles. I observed a panel with Eytan Kollin in which the subject turned to the economy. (Which was in critical jeopardy at that time.) He went off in an arm waving spittle flecking rant of extreme radical and brutal libertarianism. I think everybody - panel members and audience alike - were shocked by the tirade, as it was out of character. During the same panel he also unloaded on another panelist who had some teaching experience about not just the state of education but the entire structure of the U.S. educational system. He had people walking out. I'm not saying it will happen in Toronto because it certainly was out of character (I saw him in other panels and in previous years and he is usually rational and well spoken, if passionate), just saying you might want to study up on libertarian theory.


Dano: I'm well-acquainted with libertarianism and its proponents.

It seems to me to suffer from the same critical flaw as Communism; it's an elegant, attractive, clean theory of how we could build utopia on earth, if only those damned pesky human beings would learn to behave differently. Alas, the behavioural quirks they've got trouble with are very low-level emergent functions of primate socialization, and the elegant, attractive, clean theory breaks when you try and apply it to members of this species. With the usual consequences: sooner or later a frustrated authoritarian tries to fit the screaming naked ape to their procrustean bed of ideology, with bloody results.

Luckily for us, Libertarians are less inclined to collective organization than Communists, making it relatively unlikely that they'll ever get to build pyramids of skulls. (Unless they get their ideas deeply enough embedded in the members of a major political party that they can begin to implement a program of shrinking government until it's small enough to drown in a bathtub. But that could never happen. No, wait ...)


Charlie@29: Do you mean "recyclable nuclear plant" the same that Areva execs do --- more often called "reprocessing" --- or do you mean something else?

The word "plant" throws me.


Re#41, there's an interesting book by my friend Paulina Borsook about the fact-denying number-obsessed inconsistent predominant libertarian philsophy of Silicon Valley software geeks, who seem unaware that massive Federal (Defense/Aerospace industry) and California (under Governor Pat Brown) state funding of infrastructure (including freeways, dams, aqueducts, and the 3-tiered university/college system) built the cozy worldlet in which they live. That system is being rapidly demolished in California. "What have the Romans done for us?"


tim: Forgive my ignorance but why is the chat with Paul Krugman so anticipated? I don't think i've seen his name mentioned anywhere but this diary as i do not follow economics so is there some bad blood?

Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize winner and easily the most recognizable and famous economist (to non-economists at least) in the country and probably the world. He is also obviously familiar with SF and at least used to be a reader; I have no idea if he still is but given he seems familiar with Charlie's work...

I'm having trouble coming up with a proper analogy. Krugman is a rock star.


Um, Charlie is also a rock star. Sorry! I didn't mean to imply otherwise, it's just that an SF fan is usually much more likely to see Charles Stross for 90 minutes than Paul Krugman.


I would love to see the Krugman/Stross pairing as much as the next fellow, so I am eagerly awaiting whatever recording of the event finds its way out into the sunshine, but I'm more interested in the "Alternate Power: Its Political Implications" panel discussion. Any chance it might end up recorded as well? I'd love to hear this conversation but I just don't think I can scrounge up the clams for trip and ticket right now...


Recording? YouTube? How twentieth century!

I want a transcription so I can read it!


#44 Thanks. Now i seem to vaguely recall an article that mentioned he'd read and liked the merchant princes series. I'm guessing there are ecomonics in them as i've not read any: link established.


JDC, @2: ":
Wow. I hate cons (my problem, not cons') but that is a very strong schedule. I should maybe revist my bias against more than 5 people in a room. "

Charles is available for private discussions; just bring a big ol' stack of those new 500-Euro notes (used, unmarked, non-consecutive serial numbers).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @12:

"Holy crap. I may, years from now, forgive the committee for scheduling me on a panel (about the life and work of John M. Ford) directly opposite your Krugman dialogue."

I always just tell people that my highly communicable skin infection is flaring up; nobody has insisted that I stay after that :)


Alex @39: solar power satellites would require a massive reduction in LEO launch costs; Moon-based mining would require still more.


tim @48, you don't think it's possible that Krugman just likes SF?


Of course i do but i was curious as to the specific link with charlie that has resulted in the anticipation. Which nobody has been able to answer yet. Just why is this particular one-on-one so looked forward to? Just curious. Would help if i'd even heard of him previously of course.


Tim: Krugman is my most famous fan. He's written about my work in his NYTimes blog column. (As for the Merchant Princes books, (a) they're SF rather than fantasy (despite the cover art) and (b) economics plays a tragic and central role in the plot.


Ahh yes, thanks, i knew the merchant princes were in there somewhere. I'll put my bid in for any recording shenanigans for this event, or a 21st century option as ken#47 rightly suggests.


I have Professor Krugman's permission to record/podcast the event, and it's a good enough excuse for me to blow some money on a nice solid-state recorder. I'm waiting for confirmation that the worldcon are okay with me recording the chat for reuse, and it will not happen until after I get back from the worldcon (i.e. not before the 15th of August).

There may be a video, but for a two-person chat with no graphics I'm not sure it would add anything useful.


The con is planning on recording the session -- when I mentioned it to the tech director, he asked if I would run a camera. I may be doing so.