Convergence gets good press


Look at that: the Mary Sue talks about Convergence Improving Diversity and Creating Safe Spaces for Geeks. It really is a delightful conference that way — 7,000 Social Justice Warriors all wanting to talk about science and books and movies and games, with a simple set of humane rules to help everyone get along.

We’ll be there again next year, and you should make plans to come out to Bloomington, MN, 30 June-3 July for Convergence. The theme for 2016 is …

…And, How do we get there? celebrates methods of travel in science fiction and fantasy. It is all about getting there in style! It could be a souped up muscle car lovingly dubbed “Black Beauty” used to race across town and fight crime. Or maybe it is a 1960’s police call box that is bigger on the inside used to race across space and time to fix problems. Or maybe even a white telepathic horse that is an avatar to dispense justice. The methods of travel can make or break a story.

As Dr Emmett Brown said, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” The vehicles used can be subtle, flashy, outrageous, or seemingly impossible. One thing is certain, the method of travel is just as much an integral part of the story as the characters themselves.

So bring forth the flying carpets, light-cycles, hovercraft, magical animals, incredible spaceships, crime fighting helicopters, supernatural shoes, teleportation devices, and suspended animation pods! When we stand and say, “Let’s go!” it is time to ask, “… And, how do we get there?”

Uh-oh. I’m going to need some help here. We put together a great big block of panel ideas that we submit in the Fall — and this theme is more technology oriented than a lowly biologist is used to thinking about. Give me ideas. I’ve got a few: I might propose a “Great Voyages of Discovery” panel to talk about things like the voyage of the Beagle and the H.M.S. Challenger; maybe a second one to discuss space probes. I’d also like do a science panel on organismal locomotion. Make suggestions! Come out and sit on a panel you propose!


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    since you asked:
    – critique Fantastic Voyage for all the biologic errors of whitecell attacks, etc. Disregard the physics problems of shrinkage and mass reduction, etc. And don’t just list the errors in the original, propose ways to portray the medical issues more properly with acceptance of the pseudophysics as a given technology available for the medical procedure.

  2. Kengi says


    Well, there’s always the biology of Star trek transporters. Or the real impacts of space travel as we currently do it.

  3. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    “Is there a neurological explanation for that thing people do where the light turns green and they just sit there with their mouths open for three seconds before they start moving?”

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    “If you are the first person in a left turn lane at a traffic light, why can’t you quickly accelerate through the turn and allow more cars to turn left behind you because of your prompt actions.”

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 5:
    *raising hand*
    I do that “pause” when the light turns green, out of paranoia that some miscreant will try to “beat the light”, but miss the timing a little bit. So, I justify that pause, with: it’s better to piss off the people behind me by waiting a brief moment than to be dead even though fully in the correct.

  6. methuseus says

    Just off the top of my head, and probably not even a good idea, but:

    “The viability and speed of biologically based man-made computing devices. This talk will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of such systemsthat are featured in such science fiction titles as Star Trek Voyager, Babylon 5, Farscape, and others. (I can’t think of anything newer at the moment)”

    I do not know if there is even enough research in the field to create a talk other than to say “no, it is not feasible at this time. Good bye.”

  7. brett says

    If you want to get a packed crowd, do a panel called “Discovering Alien Life: Robots Good, Humans Bad”. Or one on Forehead Aliens.

  8. says

    I dunno, I’m pretty disturbed by the whole concept of this happening:

    I mean, there’s a ton of stuff I’d love to see recreated. I spent a fair amount of time in my teens and 20s recreating scenes from Star Wars, Princess Bride, Highlander, etc..

    Recreating Cersei’s Walk of Shame just points out that no matter how much work we do to create a safe space that there’s always going to be a whole bunch of people who will go to great length to show that they don’t care about any of that. Parading an abused and tortured woman naked as some kind of a pleasant diversion is just a nadir of Rape Culture I hadn’t really expected to stumble over.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re “Cersei’s Walk” @10:
    brings cosplay to a whole ‘nother challenge. How to costume-play when the character is explicitly minus a costume? Really have to emphasize the characterization without dependance on costuming.
    Like MarySue asked, the question remains: Why choose this scene for one’s cosplay performance? Sorry, I. just. can’t. say.

  10. says

    I think talking about old sailing ships would be a cool idea. Really, they were amazing pieces of technology that had to solve all sorts of problems in aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, strength of materials, structural engineering, life support, against an environment that could be pretty damn hostile at times (no, they didn’t have to worry about breathable air, but still). And they were all alone out there. Contrast that with 20th century spacecraft, in which a few individuals are kept alive in orbit, backed up by a massive ground support team.

  11. generallerong says

    Why the invention of mobile engines was such a boon for horses that are no longer starved, beaten, and worked to death.

  12. michaelvieths says

    ‘How do we get there’ can be a question that goes beyond travel. Science fiction comes up with concepts like nanomachines that can repair your body, cures for all disease, genetic modifications, etc. that, at least on a surface level, seem plausible. A panel discussing the missing pieces we need to get to those technologies could be interesting.

  13. Tethys says

    I think it would be interesting to explore why we go on voyages of discovery in the first place. What compels people to colonize every bit of land, generally to the detriment of the native populations?

    NelC ~ The biology of domesticating horses?

    There is an award winning young readers book that spends quite a bit of time on the real life breeding and bloodlines involved in the modern thoroughbred via the Godolphin Arabian. King Of The Wind The author Marguerite Henry also wrote the ‘Misty of Chincoteague’ series. It would also be interesting to talk about the evolution of the horse. Most fossil fans are aware of the evolutionary record from Merychippus to Equus, but I’ve always wondered , Why did it go extinct in North America, but not Eurasia?

  14. says

    re “Cersei’s Walk” @10:
    I found the whole thing very loud and disrputive, it was through a relatively quiet area where people were playing games like trivial pursuit and just chatting. The location was not an explicitly quiet space , but I was really startled, annoyed and distressed by its loudness, the banging, yelling and ringing seemed really rude for a public area. the content was also unsettling. it was the main reason my companion and I left for the night although we had been enjoying ourselves. I also having avoided Game of Thrones for my own reason was unaware of the context, so it just seemed like people yelling and making noise and it was very loud and saying rude things.

  15. athyco says

    If the future goes dystopian, there may be a need to return to low tech things with perhaps a few high tech twists. Things like the Chinese wheelbarrow (amazing compared to European models), aerial ropeways, trolley canal boats, and gravity/water-powered cable trains are discussed in Low Tech Magazine.

  16. =8)-DX says

    @5 Nerd
    Because that is irresponsible and dangerous. People who think driving is some kind of competition shouldn’t be on the road. If you don’t have the patience to wait for oncoming traffic to pass through, please walk.

    Is orgasmal locomotion when you find out the bed has moved half a meter?

  17. Moggie says


    “The viability and speed of biologically based man-made computing devices. This talk will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of such systemsthat are featured in such science fiction titles as Star Trek Voyager, Babylon 5, Farscape, and others. (I can’t think of anything newer at the moment)”

    Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem contains a hilarious biological computer, the Qin 1, built from thirty million soldiers, who passed signals by waving coloured flags. Malfunctioning components were beheaded, which reduced the probability of further errors.