As long as I’m mentioning science fiction…

The theme for next summer’s Convergence, has been announced, and it’s a good one: To Infinity & Beyond!


Set on a grand stage of sociopolitical intrigue, melodrama, and conflict, space operas have woven worlds of fantastic adventure and romance to capture our imaginations since the 1930’s. CONvergence 2017: To Infinity & Beyond is a celebration of all things space opera. Whether the hero is fated to a mythic destiny through blood or prophecy, or simply an average galactic citizen caught up in incredible circumstance, their adventures satisfy our hunger for the optimistic triumph of the individual and the common good.

Follow Yale athlete Flash Gordon’s strange odyssey towards interplanetary hero and uniter of planet Mongo, Rey escaping Jakku to join the resistance and realize her connection to the force, or Barbarella’s journey of personal discovery during her mission to rescue the scientist Durand Durand—when we dive into a space opera, we are truly along for a ride of epic proportion. Lovers Alana and Marko struggle to stay together as the battle between the technologically advanced Landfall Coalition the magic-using people of Wreath threatens to tear them apart in Saga. Paul Atreides dodges conspiracy to explore his destiny as religious leader of Arakis’s warrior Fremen in Dune. An Imperial Radch AI embarks on a desperate mission to uncover the truth behind her lieutenant’s murder in Ancillary Justice.

Ah, good old space opera. I will be entertained. Let a thousand Iain Banks panels bloom.

Meanwhile, in not-science-fiction, even more extrasolar planets have been identified, and some of them even look semi-habitable, maybe.

One of the most interesting set of planets discovered in this study is a system of four potentially rocky planets, between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a star less than half the size and with less light output than the Sun. Their orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience radiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth.

And meanwhile, in not-exactly-space-opera-but-is-it-really, there’s been a lot of appreciation for Octavia Butler lately, with people noticing the peculiarity of her fantastic stories not getting their deserved attention from Hollywood. And that makes me wonder if our vision of what is space opera is always seen through a white person’s lens. I hope we can see more “science fiction worlds from a hyper-marginalized lens”. Butler wrote classic sci-fi about aliens and space travel, but always from a weird and often curiously biological perspective — it wasn’t about space empires and space colonialization. Nnedi Okorafor also writes great SF, but with central characters who aren’t modeled after Flash Gordon. You’ve all read Binti, right? And then there’s Samuel Delany — amazing stuff from a gay black man.

So I’m a bit enthused about the prospects for next summer’s con — the topic is wide open for some real science, some standard popular tropes, and for an opportunity to expand our minds. I’m going to have to think about some panel suggestions, but you’re welcome to suggest some, too.


  1. davidnangle says

    I always liked the inertia-less drives of the Lensman series. That technology actually makes the Star Wars dogfights in space possible… even with a “twin ion engine” design, with fuel tanks that could fit inside a TIE fighter.

    A tiny amount of thrust, and you’d go quite quickly in the precise direction you’re pointed in. Turning would work, just as in the movies.

    The peeling-the-onion layer upon layer of bad guys was a fun progression to work through, in the plot, too. The way the Lens could offer previously unknown powers, and some individuals could progress to mystical levels of power… That universe is ripe for a MMORPG.

  2. brett says

    Meanwhile, in not-science-fiction, even more extrasolar planets have been identified, and some of them even look semi-habitable, maybe.

    They’re orbiting a red dwarf star, which is automatically a big question mark in my mind. They have long pre-main sequence periods where the star’s luminosity is more than double what it is on the main sequence, so any planets that are receiving Earth-like solar insolation now would be roasted early on into Venus-style planets.

  3. Moggie says

    Octavia Butler: I just read Bloodchild. Creepy, but in a good way. One to avoid if you can’t deal with botflies.
    Nnedi Okorafor: Binti is in my to be read pile – I think on recommendation from Nora Jemisin.
    Samuel Delany: although he has Hugos and Nebulas (Nebulae?) to his name, I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves. Babel-17 doesn’t read like something written 50 years ago.

  4. lepidoptera says

    Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors. And I agree with the OP that it is great to see that she is getting much more appreciation. She certainly deserves it.

    From Wikipedia:
    The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction called her examination of humanity “clear-headed and brutally unsentimental” and Village Voice’s Dorothy Allison described her as “writing the most detailed social criticism: where “the hard edge of cruelty, violence, and domination is described in stark detail.”

    She also received multiple well-deserved Hugo and Nebula awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”).

  5. whheydt says

    “Since the 1930s”? Please… Edwin Abbott’s _Flatland_, published in 1884. If you want it to be in space, E. E. “Doc” Smith’s first interstellar space opera (and he was the first the use an inter*stellar* setting) serialized in 1928, but actually written about a decade earlier.

  6. corwyn says

    “some of them even look semi-habitable, maybe.”

    Venus and Mars qualify under those criteria, so…

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Meh. Our “strong AI” descendants will be comfortable with worlds even less habitable than Mars or Venus.

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

    indulge me, allowing me to shill for Brin’s Existence, as a plausible way we end up in space, as uploaded consciousnesses within a crystal gem, that ends up becoming a [ ! ! spoilers ! !. redacted]
    Seriously, an interesting story with a solid lead up to the ! ! spoilers ! !. Worth reading.

  9. whheydt says

    Re: slithey tove @ #9…
    I liked Brin’s first three Uplift novels, but the next three…not nearly as good. I sometimes think the ease of using PCs to write is bad for writing, if only because it makes authors run off at the keyboard.

  10. John Morales says

    slithey tove, you find ending up in space as “uploaded consciousnesses within a crystal gem” plausible?!

  11. InitHello says

    I quite enjoyed Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler. I should read it again, though, some of the memories are blurring.

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

    re 11:
    um “plausible” referred to the overall story, not that particular detail.

  13. John Morales says

    slithey tove, ah, no worries. Yes, internal consistency is important to me too.