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Upcoming Appearances: Washington DC and Baltimore

Upcoming events

Next week I'm going to be in Washington DC and Baltimore. The primary reason I'm going is because it's the 50th Balticon SF convention this Memorial Day weekend and, as a previous guest of honor, they've invited me back. (I'm not the real draw: this year the guest of honor is George R. R. Martin, with a side-order of John Picacio (artist guest of honr), Bill and Gretchen Roper (music), R. Shirley Avery and Martin Deutsch (fan guests of honor), Alexandra Duncan (Compton Crook Award winner) and Kim Stanley Robinson, just because they can. Oh, and they've also got Harry Turtledove, Joe Haldeman, Jo Walton, Larry Niven, and a bunch of other previous guests.

(I'll update this blog entry with my program items when I get a finalized schedule.)

But that's not my only appearance. The Open Technology Institute in conjunction with the ACLU have kindly invited me to an evening event on Tuesday May 24th, 5:30-7pm:

What Can DC Learn From Sci-Fi? A Conversation With Author Charles Stross

In a world where cars drive themselves, everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket, and billionaires are building their own spaceships, where can policymakers and citizens turn to make sense of it all? Perhaps they should talk those people whose entire careers are devoted to imagining the future: science fiction writers. From the White House to think tanks like the Atlantic Council and Data & Society to tech commentary outlets like Slate's Future Tense, more and more policy thinkers are turning to science fiction writers to help them understand our futuristic present--and now you can too. Join us for a conversation over drinks with one of the 21st centuries most influential science fiction authors, Charles Stross. Interviewed by two tech policy experts (and science fiction fans) from New America's Open Technology Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, the prolific Scottish novelist and blogger known for modern sci-fi classics like Accelerando, Singularity Sky and many more will talk about the future of surveillance and privacy, why the idea of space colonization is unrealistic, whether or not we are in the midst of a technological "singularity", and what science fiction can--and can't--teach us about how to live in the 21st century.

Take part in the conversation online using #SFinDC and following @OTI.

Beer and wine will be served along with some light snacks.

(And if you want me to sign books I'm happy to do so after the talk.)

The event will be held at New America's Open Technology Institute, 740 15th Street NW, #900, Washington DC, 20005 (not far from the White House) and you can find updates online at Open Technology Institute > Events.

UPDATE (because you clicked through): There will be a Beer meet-up in DC on Monday evening, from 8pm, at Bier Baron. All welcome.

Don't be surprised if I'm up to half an hour late arriving -- got to eat, first -- and in a zombie-like stupor (our first flight takes off from Edinburgh at 6am BST, i.e. 1am EST, and we need to be on our way to the airport two hours before departure). Plan is to stay awake with bright lights and conversation until at least 10:30pm, so I can wake up on local (DC) time the following morning.



Balticon "because we can"? Sorry, but we've been going crazy for the better part of a year fundraising for this. Since it's the 50th, it was decided to try to invite as many as possible of our previous GoHs.

We did our best, and a lot of us will be glad to see you, Charlie.

mark, BSFS member, will be working consuite late night


"Because we can" insofar as that's an impressive list of past guests of honor! Not many SF conventions make it to the big five zero anniversary ... so you get bragging rights.


Happy 50th Balticon!

Excellent line-up ...

So do SF/F authors bring along dog-eared books for their fave authors to autograph? And what do SF/F authors talk about over drinks during election year?

Lastly ... hope your speech/interview will be posted on YouTube or similar for them's as can't make this fete.


Okay, now I have this really interesting visual in my head.... CS talking to a bunch of DC policy makers about the sorts of things we discuss here...

Nearly all policy makers, when they think about the future or science at all, are deeply interested in receiving reassurance that they themselves, and their appointed committees of advisors, can understand what's coming and possess simple and obvious means of preparing their constituencies for it.

It occurs to me that Charlie is highly qualified and well prepared to directly and precisely subvert those expectations. I wonder if they have any idea what they are letting themselves in for?

"Agriculture breaking?? Die off?? Panopticon?? Whaaa?"

Then again, I just checked out the Open Technology Institute's website, and they seem like pretty smart guys. I esp. liked the article discussing the relationship (or lack thereof, rather) between encryption and terrorist attacks like the one in Paris.


Policy makers only make policy on what has already hit them in the face. When it comes to scitech it's SF until it's history. Nobody legislates using SF as a guide to the future. Which is probably a good thing.


So do SF/F authors bring along dog-eared books for their fave authors to autograph?

Sometimes, yes. (Nobody goes into this particular field expecting to get rich; we're all fans at some level.)

And what do SF/F authors talk about over drinks during election year?

What election year? Next general election is probably in May 2020, unless David Cameron screws the pooch over Brexit so badly that he ends up winning but provoking a rebellion in the 1922 Committee, a split in the Tory party, and a vote of no confidence.

(Hint: /snark.)


Any chance of a random social evening at a pub/bar in the area? I recall you advertising these on other trips, but obviously that depends on your schedule while you are down here.


Nobody legislates using SF as a guide to the future. Which is probably a good thing.

Legend has it that the CFAA (in the US) was legislated based on the movie WarGames... neatly illustrating your second point.


There's also the story that Reagan's Star Wars program was heavily inspired by Jerry Pournelle and others


Based on what I've read and my experience I suspect the key factor was almost all due to Edward Teller's persuasion of Reagan.

I was in a room of about 30 people where ET gave a talk back in 82. I can't remember a more persuasive speaker. And I can't ever remember the topic. But he had everyone convinced that his point was great. As the saying goes he could sell ice to Eskimos.

I was in the room by accident. The rest of the people there were PHDs or candidates in nuclear/physics/etc... at LLL.

As to inspiration, I don't know about that. :)


Ok, ObDisclosure: I'm in BSFS now... but spent something like 21 years in the club in my hometown - Philly. Philcon, first con ever (Leeds, I was my private parts in your general direction!), 1936. Our 75th was a few years ago (con was on hold several years during the War).

But, yeah, a lot of cons don't make it.



Raygun's SDI... as much as I dislike Pournelle, personally, it would have been better if it had been him.

Unfortunately, I know *exactly* where it came from: it was well-known, in the mainstream media, that Reagan would actually hang out with his buddies in the White House kitchen, and they'd watch TV.

Fall of '83? '82?, I think they were reruns, of Cattlecar Galaxative, which my daughter was watching, the Galactica finds a planet with two superpowers, at the edge of nuclear war, and the Galactica waits until they both push The Button, and zaps all 30,000 nukes (notice the number, which, oddly enough, is how many we and the Soviets had).

He announced it - odd, I remember it being in a State of the Union speech, not just an "ordinary one" - at any rate, go look up all the papers, all the way up to the paper of record, and for a *week*, the Joint Chiefs, his Science advisers, and everyone said, in public, and I quote, "huh? where'd this come from?"

So call it what it should correctly be called, not Star Wars, but Battlestar America.

mark "and it still doesn't work"


This is a very short trip, so pub meets are problematic.

I fly in on Monday but have a 4am start, so I'll be blitzed on jet lag and bad company that evening. Tuesday is earmarked for the OTI event. Wednesday might be practical, but I'm not sure yet. Thereafter, it's all Balticon all the way until I fly home.


I wish I could go to those conferences.

Going to an aside - when I think of flying into D.C. or Baltimore, I think of the movie Die Hard 2, which has a plot based upon the premise that D.C. only has one airport. They could have picked a different city just as well - in fact a scene was shot in Denver's airport. But picking a city with three international airports?


Cmt 14, Howard Brazee

Why can't/don't you go? There are cons around the country, around the world. And in the US, the Real sf cons are all run by 503(c)3 not-for-profit organizations... so they're also not that expensive (esp.if you buy your membership early in the year, or the year before). Commercial con, like some Trek cons, for example, are $50-$75 (from what I vaguely remember hearing) for a ->ticket

Real SF cons, you buy a *membership*, you're *part* of it (and if you volunteer to gofer, and do enough hours over the course of the con, you usually get either comped for it, or next year's free). At-the-door usually runs around $50-$60... and that's for ->the entire weekend

'Course, fen these days are all wimps. Why, when *I* was a young fan, if the only party going at 03:30 was the consuite, it was a *slow* con....

Do come. And check out Filthy Pierre's con list, for cons around the country, around the year.



Have you tried pricing hotel rooms in major cities. Even if you pick 2 stars on a scale of 1 to 5 you're typically looking at $200 or more per night in the DC area. And maybe with parking at $10 to $30 per day. (Free parking tends to come with $300 per night rooms.)

And yes you can get cheaper rooms. But typically only on days when there is no "reason" for people to be in the area. Or if you don't mind your feet sticking a bit to the carpet as you walk across the room.


Cmt 16, David L: hotel room prices. Um, have you ever gone to a con website and looked at hotels? The most expensive room I ever had was in London in '14, which, IIRC, was something like #132/night. I know that it was more in London, because my stepson was with un, and he was over 16 then.At Philcon last year, for a party, for one night I bought a parlor, and that was $300.

Prices *have* gone up, but normal is somewhere between $98 and $129... and in the US, that's 1-4 people, period, flat rate, negotiated into the contract. No extra charges until you go over that (and if you're squeezing a bunch of folks into one room, including using the floor, are you *really* going to tell the hotel?)

And I've only *not* had someone else in the room once or twice in most of a lifetime of going to cons.

Of course, the hotels are willing to give us those rates, and room nights gives us comp for function space... because at any larger con, we *fill* the hotel. Hell, for this year's Balticon, the room block is full, as are most of the room blocks in the overflow hotels....

And the hotel *chains* used to pass around folders as to what to expect of different kinds of conventions. SF cons were listed, I understand, as "weird people, but mostly harmless". More folks spend more in the hotel than when I was younger, but a lot of younger folks graze, or eat their meals, in the consuite.



I'm thinking that after eating, on arrival, we should keep ourselves awake at Bier Baron. Has real ale, both cask and bottled, and few hundred inferior brews.


Hmm. Let us say, provisionally, Beer (and food) meet-up in DC on Monday evening, from 7pm, at Bier Baron. All welcome.

Don't be surprised if I'm up to half an hour late arriving -- got to eat, first -- and in a zombie-like stupor (our first flight takes off from Edinburgh at 6am BST, i.e. 1am EST, and we need to be on our way to the airport two hours before departure). Plan is to stay awake with bright lights and conversation until at least 10:30pm, so I can wake up on local (DC) time the following morning.


It is a legend, or at least truth badly distorted. CFAA was a reaction to the first large-scale hacking incident in 1983:

The hackers, all of them teenagers, broke into a number of computer facilities, were investigated and arrested. But to their embarrassment, FBI found almost nothing to charge them with, as there were no laws on books to address that sort of things. Hence CFAA.

The 414's claimed to have been inspired by the movie "War Games", so there is some connection, but not much. CFAA certainly would not have happened only on the basis of the movie.


May drop in if I can. Sounds fun.


Heh. Not much later, for my senior year of high school my locker was number 414. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in the school who spotted the allusion.


You went to school recently enough that the world wide web -- or TCP/IP, for that matter -- was a thing? Youngsters these days!


I recently read 'Shaping the Future' from the sidebar, and found the retro-futurism in the talk and comments very interesting: I think our Host did a much better job than the commentariat in the short term, at least. I'd love to hear what people think now about what they said then, if they're still hanging about.

I hope your new talk is as thought provoking. :)


Well, that was a happy fun time. Nice to meet Charlie and Feorag, as well as Roger, Zak, Henry, and the several others whose names I either didn't get or forgot already.

Seriously, anybody wanting to talk pond scum (algae!), just use A at B dot C, where A is calahans, B is si, and C is edu*.

If I didn't already bore you to tears with that already.

*Pseudo-obfuscation technique courtesy of Jon Singer.


And I was stuck at home roasting a chicken for my stupid weiner kids. Thanks, reproductive biology.

Sorry to have missed the gathering. Sounds like it was a hoot.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 17, 2016 1:11 PM.

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