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March, 2006 : Con Report:

Sunday at Boskone 43

Boskone takes place each year on President's Day Weekend; it's a regional convention run by the New England Science Fiction Association. It is a fairly "bookish" con: while it shows anime and videos and has a gaming schedule, it does not have a Masquerade and the number of people in hall costumes is low. It does have more social events than (for instance) Readercon, including a themed party/carnival on Saturday night, similar to Noreascon 4's "First Night." I've been attending Boskone since 2001, and have always found it to be a smoothly-run, ineresting con. (I understand that there were minor glitches with programming this year because of medical issues, but they were not apparent to me as an attendee.) Unfortunately, other commitments kept me away from the con for most of Friday and Saturday, but here's a one-day snapshot of Boskone 43.

My Sunday began with John M. Ford reading from The Fellowship of the Woosters, a funny and affectionate parody of The Fellowship of the Ring in which Bertie Wooster, accompanied by Jeeves, takes the role of Aragorn. (A very short snippet can be found online at Making Light.) Mr. Ford states that Dreamhaven Books is to publish it as a chapbook.

After the reading, I attended two panels, "Audio Books" and "SF as Literature?" and one talk, "Weird Quantum Phenomena." What follows are closely-paraphrased reports on the discussions, as complete as I can make them, based on notes I took with a PDA and wireless keyboard.

Panel: Audio Books

The audio book panel had the following description:

How should a book sound? Should it be abridged? Dialog (and even descriptive narrative) are fairly easy (are they?), but what can you do about footnotes? Pictures? Weird punctuation? Charts? Discuss the present world of audio books, from straightforward narrations, full cast, dramatizations, text books for the blind....Where is it all going? Has the market changed significantly to encourage the production of more of these products? If so, what's driving it all?

Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency moderated. The other participants were Bruce Coville, founder of Full Cast Audio; Timothy Liebe, who previously worked in radio drama and who acts in many of Full Cast's productions; and Alicia Kestrell Verlager, a fan who lost her sight (unfortunately, I missed the introductory comments, so I do not know how long ago).

When I entered the panel, Wood was asking the panelists when an abridged audio book isn't a disaster. Coville's response was, in a word, "yuck!" More substantively, he stated that abridgments started because publishers didn't trust that audiences would (a) sit still through the entire work or (b) pay as much as an unabridged work would cost. However, abridgments sometimes work for technical or business works, which are often just jumped-up magazine articles. Liebe wondered if a business book ought even be an audio book in the first place; Kestrell Verlager stated that how-to books on advertising, in particular, are very popular, being mini-workshops during a commute. Kestrell Verlager also disagreed with Coville that abridgments are always bad: listening to an audio book is not the same experience as reading a book, since actors and extras like music bring something unique. She cited two abridged productions of Anne Rice novels, Tim Curry's performance of Cry to Heaven, and Richard Grant's of Lasher, as audio books that excelled beyond the written story.

Liebe asked about audio adaptations, those performances that are more like radio dramas than straight readings. Coville responded that radio dramas are a very different kind of animal, even though his Full Cast productions look similar on their face (Full Cast casts separate actors to read all the major characters of a novel): true radio theater aspires to tell the story through dialogue and sound alone, and narration is a sign of artistic failure. While the BBC does adaptations very well, their productions are still abridged by their nature. (He later noted that as a result, original works might be a better fit for radio drama.) Wood agreed that radio drama is a very different experience, and found those she'd tried a little clunky and overdone (very loud clip-clop of horses' hooves, for instance), though fun in a campy way. Liebe pointed out that those kind of sound effects are a stylistic choice and not a requirement; in the 1980s, he worked in a company that attempted to bring radio drama into the modern age.

(Reporter's note: for those interested in trying radio dramas for free, BBC 7 streams its programming online for a week after it first airs.)

The panel then moved into technology and the evolution of the medium. Wood noted that technological changes have allowed all different sorts of audio experiences: seminars on the iPod while on the way to business meetings, podcasting, and so forth. Kestrell Verlager remarked that podcasting allows for the production of personalized audio books. When she first lost her sight, there were many fewer audio books available, so her friends would send her the most awful stuff because they just bought whatever they saw. It was more interesting to see what her friends would choose to record for her (the first thing she received was Neil Gaiman's "Chivalry"). Coville suggested that as a medium, audio books are at a point in their evolution equivalent to where print was at 50-100 years post-Gutenberg: those making them are still finding out what's possible. The industry runs all the way from Recorded Books, which puts out 700 books a year, recording single-narrator titles in a row of booths, to Full Cast, which aspires to creating a movie in your mind while staying true to the author's text.

Wood asked the panel about readers. For single-voice audio books, she said, the reader can matter enormously, to the point of being a deal-breaker when selling the rights (using the example of Grover Gardner and the re-sale of rights to Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books). What does a reader do, and how does he or she bring a book to life? Liebe mentioned his experience in working on the Full Cast recordings of Tamora Pierce's books. Pierce narrated all of these but one; when her voice gave out on one, Coville took over the narration, and it was very interesting to hear someone other than the author interpret the text. Coville said that he stumbled a lot on Pierce's text because her rhythms, while perfectly good, were not his own, and he was used to reading his own fiction. (Liebe added that it didn't help that Pierce kept putting in a lot of "weird foreign words.") More generally, Liebe stated that narrators get identified with a particular series.

(Something the panel didn't get into is the situation where a book or series gets recorded by different companies who employ different narrators. Fans can get very passionate in preferring one narrator over another.)

Wood asked Kestrell Verlager about her experience with Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. Kestrell Verlager said that the organization has a lot of wonderful volunteers who work very hard, but she finds that the lag time to release is too much for her, and some readers leave out footnotes ("blasphemers!"). She also finds its digital rights management (DRM) system incredibly complex and stupid.

This led into a discussion into intellectual property rights, DRM, and audio rights. Wood asked Coville what Full Cast does about DRM. He said their CDs are just like any other CD. However, there is a perception that DRM is a greater concern when works are available for download, such that there have to be greater restrictions on works available through or similar services, otherwise it is harder to get the audio rights to books. Kestrell Verlager added a clarification that authors often don't control these rights and couldn't make things available to their readers in different formats even if they wanted to. Wood followed up by saying that it's one sign of how much more successful audio books have become, that publishers are increasingly more aggressive about trying to control the audio rights in contracts. Coville said that the major publishing companies are starting their own audio production companies, making it even harder for third-party companies to purchase rights: the publishers have to run the sale of audio rights past their audio divisions, and if those divisions think they might record the book, the rights won't be sold—even if the book never gets recorded. This is, of course, suboptimal because the author's out a sale and the listener's out a book. Wood stated that one way of getting around this is selling rights for a limited time, to revert if the publisher doesn't record within that time.

The panel then talked briefly about the history of audio recordings. Liebe introduced the topic by mentioning that the early adopters in the market were basically the blind and truck drivers, which is why today the audio book market still includes a higher proportion of Westerns, men's adventures, etc. Wood added that Blackstone Audio has told her that SF goes over well with truck drivers. Coville pointed out that the common thread there is that authors in those genres are all storytellers. He stepped back into the history of audio books; in the 1930s, very long-playing records were created for the blind. (Kestrell Verlager chimed in that because the programs grew out of services to veterans, the initial audience has always been masculine.) According to Coville, the first commercial recordings were made by Caedmon, which is now owned by Harper, recording Dylan Thomas's reading of "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Listening Library was begun by a family whose father was losing his sight. When they started, their only market for their unabridged recordings on vinyl were libraries; they just celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with Jim Dale (who reads the US editions of the Harry Potter books) re-recording Around the World in 80 Days, their first recording. Abridgments were standard for the retail market.

(Reporter's note: I stated from the audience that had "A Child's Christmas in Wales" available for download. This appears to no longer be the case, though a short excerpt is available.)

The mention of abridgments brought the panel around to the perception that listening to books is "cheating." Coville pointed out that the most passionate listeners are readers: this is a way for them to fit more books into their life. Kestrell Verlager found interesting this idea that nonprint equals cheating, and also the idea that people are all born readers; this is not true, and adults who feel insecure about being slow readers shouldn't be discouraged. Liebe contributed an anecdote about his brother who is a truck driver, who was a misdiagnosed dyslexic. Wood wrapped up this portion of the discussion by noting that she enjoys listening to books that she's already read; it's not an either-or situation.

(Editor's note: For more insight into the world of audiobooks, see also John Joseph Adams' interview with Stefan Rudnicki.)

Audience comments:

  • One audience member cited ZBS as a creator of radio drama; Coville: Yes, and they're still around.
  • Another stated that they had no idea how sinister J.K. Rowling's world was until they listened to the books. Coville: Listening to books causes you to be more deeply engaged and live the book in a different way. His assistant at Full Cast says it has helped him become a better reader.
  • Another member asked how audio books have made people a better writer. Coville: He takes speech tags out of Full Cast's scripts, and has found that a lot of times they aren't necessary even in print, so he's reducing their number in his writing. Also, he's never had an author narrating their own work who at some point has not said, "Who the hell wrote this shit?!" or asked to fix something. (He won't let them unless it's an actual error.) Liebe: Tamora Pierce is starting to get into writing in the first person as a result of her experiences with audio books.

(Reporter's note: Pierce has a lengthy essay on the recording experience generally at her web site).

With regard to becoming a better reader, I noted a bit later that there's a set of books that I can only enjoy through listening, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin books. In text, all the naval stuff makes my eyes glaze over, but in Patrick Tull's readings, suddenly all the naval stuff is comprehensible and fun and the books are fabulous. Coville responded that audio books have taught him how to read Dickens's sentences; Wood thought that it was often a shame that our parents have stopped reading to us! Another audience member agreed, and talked about being read to while recuperating from surgery, and reading back to a parent in the later stages of recovery; another mentioned learning to read with recordings that would "bing" when you were supposed to turn the page. Kestrell Verlager remarked that the cultural pressure to read also includes the pressure to read for yourself. She stated that her now-husband first got her to go out with him because he offered to read her comics. She urged people to read to their significant others, thereby avoiding the standard geek complaint that their significant other feels ignored in favor of reading: "You can seduce someone by reading to them." Coville immediately remarked that publishing needs to adopt that as a slogan.

Coville wrapped up the panel by playing three samples of ways to deal with textual problems.

  • David Lubar, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie: this is basically a geek's year as a freshman, in which the narrator occasionally stops to make lists, which need to be set aside. The narration of the lists is given a slightly different sound by cutting the top and bottom of the wave (I thought it sounded a bit hollow); a short piece of music also introduces each list item.
  • Kathleen Karr, Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free: this tells the true story of a production of Pirates of Penzance in a women's prison in 1914. The section describing the chorus's first concert starts with just the narrator's voice describing the concert, then has the instrumentals and the vocals come up behind the narrator's voice as she continues to narrate, then plays the concert alone, then fades it back down for the narration to continue. Coville said that the music was performed by fifteen actresses triple-tracked in the studio to give them a full chorus.
  • Bruce Coville, Thor's Wedding Day: an example of writers including songs for which no music exists, so it has to be made up. Also an example of where that comedic extra touch is needed, in this case hand-farts. I believe that Coville said one of the people who worked on the production is listed in the credited for "disgusting flatulence effects."

And on that silly note, the panel broke up.

Panel: SF As Literature?

The next panel I attended was on that perennial topic, SF and literature, with the following description:

Is it ever? What makes it so? Does intent matter? Who decides? Why do we care?

James Patrick Kelly, a writer and faculty member at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program, moderated. The other panels members introduced themselves as follows: William Hartmann, whose writing has ranged from textbooks, to popular nonfiction, to novels; Lenny Bailes, who once taught high school English and is an SF reviewer and critic; F. Brett Cox, who writes, co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (he later noted that the subtitle was not the editors' idea), and teaches at Norwich University; and Chad Orzel, who writes a booklog and also a science-oriented blog (full disclosure: he is also my husband).

Kelly started the panel by commenting on the title, with its question mark that encapsulated the continued self-loathing of the field: SF is looked down on by the mainstream and those who have escaped, and those who remain have internalized this disdain, priding themselves on being the best escapist crap you can find anywhere! Bailes wanted to change the question of the panel: should there be a self-appointed committee to go into bookstores and put gold stars on books? I'm afraid that I interrupted him with my immediate reflexive reaction, which was "Yes! How else am I going to find good books?" Bailes rephrased to ask whether there was really a quality issue in what's designated literature, rather than the decisions of a pretty small group.

This led Kelly to the "defining moment" of the panel, that is, the question "what is literature?" Hartmann asked whether anyone had a negative association with "literature." Orzel cited the reverse loathing that is sometimes found when you mention literature around fans: "boring stories about Southern families and incest." (Cox: "Hey!") Cox reported that there have been two critical approaches to SF as literature: (1) we don't do that (he cited the idea of SF as power literature and essays of Samuel R. Delany's); and (2) we can do that too. It's a never-ending argument, and you do find fans who have an negative response to the idea of SF as literature, or at least as something to be studied, parsed, and analyzed. In academia, his generation of scholars saw SF appropriated by cultural theorists, and those theorists (Marxists and so forth) are analyzing works on other levels than literary quality. However, recently the image of SF in academia is undergoing a generational change, though more slowly in creative writing programs than literature programs.

(This led to a brief digression on the relative hierarchies of genre in academia. Cox reported that Stephen King has said that SF is one rung below mystery, one rung above Westerns, and two above romances. [Reporter's note: I didn't hear horror mentioned in this hierarchy.] Kelly stated that the MFA program where he teaches still hasn't admitted a romance writer [as an instructor, I believe the context was], though Cox stated that the chair of his graduate program wrote romances on the side.)

Kelly asked the panel again, "What the heck is literature?" Bailes had Googled "literature," "popular fiction," and "definition" beforehand, and reported that the first two pages of hits were all about whether SF was literature or not, which just showed that there really is an obsession over this issue with SF. He read a definition that he liked: "the body of written works of a language, period, or culture, especially those of recognized artistic value." The broadness of the definition was remarked on. Cox commented that values are constantly in flux: we do have a generation of writers who grew up with para-literature and are happy to incorporate it, citing Michael Chabon, the author of Big Fish, and some other names I didn't catch. Hartmann asked whether there isn't a reason for making a break between literature and romance or mystery novels, since at least for a while, novels in those two genres consisted of specific formulas one needed to meet. He contrasted this with his definition of literature, which he's come to over time: literature is done to express something the artist felt (he also used the visual example of art vs. illustration). He added that when SF is literary when it deals with ideas and new thoughts. Bailes cited another Googled definition, that literature focused on more style and depth of character, and less on plot. Cox called that a description of certain kinds of twentieth century modernism. He liked the inclusiveness of a description in a recent New York Times article on Battlestar Galactica, which said that SF was interesting because (or when) it had some life to it beyond the mechanics of just creating an imaginary world.

(Reporter's note: the only NYT article I found didn't have any explicit statement to this effect, though it might be inferred from its third paragraph.)

The panel then moved to the apparently vexing question of authorial intent, with Bailes asking, what if a commercial work product is really good? Orzel said that literature is what he points at and calls literature, the same as any genre. He thought that it came down to having depth of character, characters acting like humans actually do; one's literature and the other is a fun way to kill time over lunch. Bailes questioned whether "literature" is even a useful distinction, since there are things that are considered "literature" that are badly written. Kelly argued that there's no Platonic form of literature, since works move in and out of the canon all the time. (This definitional issue got taken up later in the panel.) He rephrased the question as, can a writer set out with the intention to write literature? Or is being literature something that gets recognized afterwards? Hartmann said that was exactly his question—he's trying to write literary SF and then feels guilty about being pretentious. Kelly thought that SF writers were inherently uncomfortable with the "a-word" (art), but if art means anything, it means creative effort. Hartmann said that he's hanging out with a writing group that's mostly mystery authors, and they mostly talk about whether a particular editor will accept a certain thing; they don't quite say that they're straying from a formula, but...

(At this point I wanted to raise reader expectations, which one can certainly violate, but at one's peril, but the panel was moving fast.)

An audience member agreed that there was no intentionality requirement for literature. He cited Paul Park, a novelist who teaches at Amherst, who gives his exposition classes SF stories as examples. He said that there's no question that Robert Silverberg, Dan Simmons, and Gene Wolfe write literature, and this is not a bad thing. (However, later people did question whether Simmons is literature.) Bailes jumped back to his prior objection to the definition of "literature," saying that he didn't like the use of the term to mean the better non-boring stuff. My understanding was that he found the term had too much baggage to be useful and was too exclusive; he wanted labels with more precise descriptive content. Going back to the intent question, Orzel said of course it matters whether people are doing hackwork or not, but intent is neither necessary or sufficient. An audience member asked whether authorial intent wasn't missing the point: James Fenimore Cooper is only read these days because Mark Twain kicked his writing in the butt, so isn't relevance among writers important? Hartmann said that a great example of this is Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, who were writing pulp and became literature because Hemingway picked up their style. (Cox said that James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice has the best opening line ever: "They threw me off the haytruck around noon.") Going back to Cooper, Kelly and Cox mentioned that there are other reasons to read him now, such as historical studies and environmental themes.

Back to intentionality and the pulps, Kelly pointed out that Chandler and Hammett didn't flood the market with a bunch of crap; they did write stuff that they could be proud of. He also cited Terry Bisson as a good writer who has also done a lot of novelizations, going back to Orzel's point about intentionality being neither necessary or sufficient. Bailes said that the flip side is giving someone credit for having a pure heart, which is also not useful. He then went back to the point about the baggage of the term "literature." Kelly asked, somewhat in jest, whether renaming would help; in n years, will we be having panels on "Is SF Smerp?" I remarked that I had heard it said that literature is simply a genre like any other; another audience member corrected my poor recollection, literary fiction is a genre, not literature. Kelly pointed out that "literature" variously means, "literary fiction," "the canon," and "what the academy points at," which makes conversations difficult.

The discussion then turned to academic choices regarding what's taught, starting with an audience remark that in high school classes, people look for books with a big flaw to give something to talk about. Orzel remarked that he'd heard his colleagues talk about assigning one really bad book so that they would know what the class discussions would be on. With regard to good stuff, Cox said that at the college level these days, one of the most widely-anthologized stories is Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"; Clarke's "The Star" and Dick's "Minority Report" are also appearing a lot. Bailes pointed out that filmmakers have more whuffie than critics, since "Minority Report" is not the best of Dick's stories. (As a later sidebar, Cox mentioned that Dick's reputation has kept rising, while that of his contemporary, Sturgeon, hasn't; he recently re-read a lot of their works and found that Sturgeon feels precious and dated in places, while Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? still works.)

Kelly asked the panel to name two people who write SF that they would defend as literature, amending the request to include works after the panel and audience objected. Hartmann chose Ray Bradbury and John Crowley. Bailes said that the finest SF ever was Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Cox named Karen Joy Fowler and James Morrow (and later added Michael Bishop). Orzel cited two books, Robert Charles Wilson's Spin and John M. Ford's Growing Up Weightless, and an author, Kelly Link. An audience member asked about Dan Simmons; Orzel and I simultaneously said, "But he can't write an ending," which just shows that we're married and talk about this stuff; Bailes said that Simmons' works don't stretch his mind as much. Kelly named Le Guin, and then asked about a controversial figure that gets argued on both sides, Stephen King; the audience seemed generally in favor of putting him in the "literature" camp.

The panel wrapped with a remark from the audience that humor writing is actually the number one prejudice. (I was reminded of the title of an essay collection, Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature.) Kelly said that humor was the secret bottom rank, even below romance; he also noted that people who are funny, like Vonnegut and Connie Willis, are not cited for their funny works. Orzel noted that The Eyre Affair has got some attention because it's riffing off literature; Cox pointed out that humor gets valued in essayists rather than novelists.

Weird Quantum Phenomena

My last panel on Sunday was Chad Orzel's talk on weird quantum phenomena, described thusly:

From "God does not play dice" to "spooky action at a distance," from wave- particle duality to wavefunction collapse.... Quantum Mechanics is one of the strangest and most powerful theories in the history of science. What's all that weird stuff about, and what is it good for?

Orzel teaches physics at Union College (and if you skipped the literary panel report, I'll repeat the full disclosure: he is also my husband). As a single-person program item, it was nominally thirty minutes, but since there was nothing in the room after, it ended up being an hour. (Thanks again to the kind soul ran to Program Ops and got whiteboard markers, saving me from making the trip.)

Orzel posted notes on these topics on his blog, Uncertain Principles, before the con, and those posts very closely track my own notes on this talk. Rather than retype all my notes and possibly introduce errors based on my limited understanding, I will refer you to those links and annotate them where needed. The first post briefly covers the four basic principles of quantum mechanics and then discusses the fourth, that measurement changes the wavefunction of a system. It includes a description of the famous double-slit experiment; when this was discussed at the panel, an audience member asked whether there was any difference in doing the experiment with three slits rather than two. Orzel responded no, there isn't; people do them with two because it's an easy (or easier) thing to get your mind around, but you can do it with three, three hundred, or a near-infinite number (that last is a diffraction grating). The basic idea is that as you add slits, the pattern becomes more pointy—that is, the spacing between the peaks stays the same, but the peaks are narrower. But the quantum particle goes through all of the slits at the same time, no matter how many.

The second post continues the discussion of how measurement changes the system's wavefunction, and in the case of the double-slit experiment, changes the results from an interference pattern to a classical distribution—changing it so that the quantum particles only went through one slit, not both. In point VI of his post, Orzel discusses how you can get the interference pattern back after you've destroyed it, by doing something that destroys your ability to distinguish which slit the quantum particle when through (these are known as "quantum eraser" experiments). As he says there, "If you want to be really tricky, you can even decide which sort of detection you're going to do while the photons are in flight, and past the slits..." He elaborated in the panel that this can be extrapolated out as far as one likes; one could imagine an quasar, a spiral galaxy, and Earth, all in a line; photons from the quasar would have to go around the galaxy to get to Earth (gravitational lensing), and you could still determine here on Earth, billions of years after the photons left the quasar, whether to measure them as going around both sides or just one.

The second post also describes the competing theories about why this all happens. In discussing decoherence, the first listed theory, Orzel and the audience went back to the galaxy example described above, where there's gravity, other stars, and a million other things acting on the photons other than the three bodies in a line.

After the material described above and in the two blog posts, the audience asked questions. One was whether there's any argument against the idea that quantum mechanics is just an approximation of something we don't understand, and when we know more, we'll have a completely deterministic model. Orzel said there really isn't one; this model works very well, but there are people who argue that there's something deeper underneath; he cited a physicist named 't Hooft as a proponent. He thinks it's a philosophical preference only.

Another asked what his opinion of SF writers was. Orzel said that there are a lot of different approaches, most of which are wrong in some respects, but that's true of anything. Examples he described were Greg Egan's Quarantine, in which some special property of the human brain collapses the superposition and aliens have shut off the Earth because they were perfectly happy going around in uncollapsed states; Robert Charles Wilson's story "Divided by Infinity," a Many-Worlds take; and Charles Stross's Singularity Sky, which uses the EPR thought experiment to handwave its instantaneous communication system (which is wrong, but entertainingly so).

An audience member mentioned Professor John G. Cramer's view on QM, reporting that he's disturbed that there's no good physical picture of what happens when one's measuring; as a result, he advocates the "transactional interpretation." Orzel said, on the other hand, you could say that it's very cool that the world is just this weird. It doesn't keep him up at night (me, sotto voce in the audience: "Very little keeps him up at night.").

Someone asked about "quantum teleportation," so the panel closed with a description of that. (There's a longer and more detailed description of this at Orzel's old blog site.) The short version as given at the panel: there's a QM theorem that if you have a quantum particle in a superposition state, you can't duplicate it perfectly, because if you measure it fully, you've destroyed the superposition. But if you've been handed a quantum particle in a state of superposition, your friend in Poughkeepsie needs it, and for some reason you can't just put it in the mail, then you can do the following:

Suppose your Poughkeepsie friend has the same system (say a photon) which isn't in the right state (say, polarization at a particular angle). You take two entangled particles (described briefly in the second post, under point VII, the EPR thought experiment), and measure a joint property of your photon and one of the entangled particles (note: this joint measurement destroys the superposition state of your photon). Then you send the other entangled particle to your friend, and after he gets it, call him up and tell him the result of your joint measurement. At that point, he can do a particular operation on his photon and entangled particle, and get the same state as your original photon. Except that your photon is no longer in the same state because of the joint measurement, so in some sense that state has been written into your friend's photon in Poughkeepsie.

Of course, at the beginning there was a photon with you and a photon in Poughkeepsie, and at the end there still is a photon with you and a photon in Poughkeepsie, so it's very much not Star Trek teleportation: not the photon but the state of the photon gets "transmitted." Also, beyond that problem, it's probably not the case that a person is a quantum wavefunction; and measuring the quantum state of a person might hurt.

That concluded my Sunday at Boskone 43. Next year, the con is at a new hotel—literally, the Westin Waterfront is currently under construction—with Guest of Honor David Gerrold.

Copyright © 2006, Kate Nepveu. All Rights Reserved.

About Kate Nepveu

Kate Nepveu writes about individual books, with varying degrees of formality, at her booklog Outside of a Dog. She also writes about books, fandom, her dog, and whatever else comes to mind, at her LiveJournal.


Mar 13, 15:38 by IROSF
Thread for the discussion of Boskone.

Kate Nepveu's report is here.
Mar 14, 12:14 by A.R. Yngve
Argh! These ENDLESS debates on the "literary status" of SF... if I had a nickel for every time someone dragged out that old horse from the glue factory, I'd be rich.

W-h-o... c-a-r-e-s...? If you want to write "literary" SF, then do that. If you want to write "entertaining" SF, then do that. YOU CAN WRITE WHATEVER YOU EFFING WANT! That's called "creativity".

Do critics hand out permits to writers? "Culture Inspector! Show me Your Literature Permit, sir, or step off the Culture Bus."

I need the approval of the NY Times Review of Books like I need a second appendectomy.

And if there is a hidden agenda at work in these debates, such as: "SF writers need critical acceptance to sell more books", then I assure you this is a delusion. J.K.Rowling's success had nothing to do with critical approval.

Mar 14, 16:39 by Kestrell Verlager
A Boskone audience member asked me for specifics in regard to my statement that my earliest experiences with audiobooks resulted in my reading things I wouldn't normally read. I was at a loss at the time, but about a day later, the response came to me, and it's been driving me crazy, so I'm going to get it off my chest here. The answer is:
Star Trek novels.

There, it's out.Thank you, and thanks for the great report, I intend on writing some more on this topic soon, since the panel gave me more to think about in regard to audiobooks.
Mar 21, 04:59 by James Kelly
Excellent report on the lit panel, Kate! And the reason why this panel gets done over and over is that it's inevitable that there be spillover from how the world perceives us to how we perceive ourselves. Protesting that it's only the story that matters and not how it is received ignores a fundamental human (and we skiffy writers are human, more or less) impulse: we want the children of our hearts to be loved and appreciated by the world.

Jim Kelly

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