ArmadilloCon 42 Blasts Off Into Cyberspace
Even on Planet COVID, the long-running Texas fan convention keeps celebrating science fiction and fantasy
Are you tired of this dystopian sci-fi world we're living in? Well, you're in luck. This weekend, you can swap it for a different dystopian sci-fi world. Or several dystopian sci-fi worlds. Or maybe a utopian sci-fi world. (They do exist. Hey, it's an infinite multiverse.) This smorgasbord of alternate realities is yours for the sampling because ArmadilloCon is back in town – well, back in your computer. Yes, thanks to the coronavirus, even the second-longest-running science fiction convention in Texas has been forced into cyberspace. (How do you like it now, William Gibson?)
Sure, we know as well as you do that the transition to online events has been 50 shades of awkward for most organizations. But if any group should be prepared for a transition to the digital plane, it's fans of speculative fiction, who have been immersed in synthetic lifeforms, alien worlds, next-wave tech, and cyber-realms for years. No need to be skeptical about ArmadilloCon 42's virtual nature; these folks are hardwired for it.
More importantly, the ArmadilloCon team is still inspired by the same spirit of community and love of the genre that was shared by the 300 or so fans who gathered at the Villa Capri Hotel in May of 1979 for the first con. That means not just celebrating the futures of the past – those imagined by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, and their peers – but also the futures of the future: those being conjured by writers breaking into the field. The con's 42-year mission, to borrow a phrase, has always been to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new writers and new speculative fiction, to boldly go with them where no fan has gone before. You can count on ArmadilloCon to continue that mission online in the same way it always has IRL.
Just look at the three featured writers among this year's guests. Cadwell Turnbull already had his short fiction included in a pair of "best science fiction and fantasy of the year" anthologies, then last year his debut novel The Lesson – a first-contact tale in which aliens invade and colonize the Virgin Islands – earned him nominations for a SOVAS Award in fiction, an Audie Award in Science Fiction, and an AAMBC Literary Award, as well as spots on some prominent "best books of 2019" lists. Writer/editor/translator Libia Brenda edited the bilingual anthology A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction From the Bicultural Margins / Una realidad más amplia: Historias desde la periferia bicultural in connection with the Mexicanx Initiative started by artist John Pocacio, and when it was nominated for a Hugo, she became the first Mexican woman to be nominated for that award. Catherynne M. Valente is one of the 21st century's masters of the mash-up, whether it's fairy tales and Westerns (Six-Gun Snow White), Russian folk tales and U.S.S.R. history (Deathless), absurdist sci-fi à la Douglas Adams and Eurovision (Space Opera), and it's led to her winning just about every award available to a science fiction and fantasy writer: Hugo, Locus, Prix Imaginales, Mythopoeic, Andre Norton, Sturgeon Memorial, Tiptree Literary, plus the Lambda Literary, Eugie Foster Memorial, Rhysling, Million Writers, and Romantic Times Critics Choice awards. These are people who are moving the field forward.
As of press time, this year's schedule had not been released, but the con has announced the guest of honor: Tobias S. Buckell, prolific short story writer ("Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance," "The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex," plus about a hundred others) and creator of the Xenowealth series. His 2019 novel The Tangled Lands, co-written with Paolo Bacigalupi, was nominated for a Locus Award and won a World Fantasy Award. Other major guests include artist Priscilla Kim and Texas fandom stalwarts Clif and Margaret Davis. And one session will be devoted to the World Building for Masochists podcast hosted by Marshall Ryan Maresca (subject of this week's Arts & Culture feature), Rowenna Miller, and Cass R Morris.
So you don't have to settle for Planet COVID's apocalyptic afflictions. Other worlds await you, with wonders and mysteries beyond your imagining. No starships necessary. To escape, just log on.
Aug. 28-30, Fri.-Sun.