Most of what was great about this week in Australia was personal stuff — seeing (however briefly) old friends, spending time, meeting new cool people, and of course having a brief bit of time outside of Korea, because it was about the time when I was needing a break. Also, Melbourne has some really good beer, and I highly recommend the Belgian Beer Cafe Eureka, which is down near Dockside. It was amazing. (More about that latter place in posts yet to come.)
Most of what was good about the conference and convention had to do with regular conference/con stuff: chatting briefly with people like Alastair Reynolds and Peter Watts and Kim Stanley Robinson, learning how to moderate a panel on the fly, and of course being in a place where people get it about how SF matters. Also, it was really very midblowing to me to be walking around and seeing people being so nice. Not just respectful, not just polite, but actually nice. People say Canada’s like that, so maybe it was just the contrast with Korea that got me, but people seemed to really go out of their way to strike up conversations and always seemed to be happy to offer help, advice, or a friendly smile.
Most of what was meh or annoying was to do with things that are either a matter of cultural difference (such as the scarcity of free wifi connections in Melbourne) or planning (like the scarcity of water bottles for the first few days of the con) or stuff nobody could control, like the crazy weather. I wasn’t really ready for winter, but Melbourne’s winter apparently was ready for me. With a vengeance.
As for my own papers and panels:
The paper at Monash’s Utopias 4 conference (on The Host) was alright, but I had to lop off the very end, and because I was just speaking (not reading) I got stuck once for a few seconds, trying to remember the specific word I wanted to use. It was okay, but I wasn’t overall too happy with how I did.
The paper at WorldCon (on using SF in Korean classrooms) was quite successful. The audience seemed quite interested in what I was talking about, I got a lot of questions, and I felt good afterward.
The panels: well, it’s a lesson in know your place, I guess. I don’t think I’ll sign up for panels too much anymore till I am in a position where people are, you know, there to hear what I have to say. It’s good to know when to step aside and let the panel be what it will be — for example, a soapbox for one person — but it’s much harder to know how much to step in and talk yourself in such a context. Meanwhile, I had wildly different experiences moderating panels: one, I felt, I actually was moderating, while the other I barely got two words in edgewise. But I can see now why a lot of people are less interested in panels, and more interested in the drunken conversations at the parties or bars.
All in all, it was worth it to come to Melbourne, to come to both the Monash convention and the WorldCon that followed it. I have a renewed curiosity about the work of Kim Stanley Robinson (who was a Guest of Honor at both events) and I’ve got a pile of Aussie SF books to add to my shelf.
Of course, the weekend of the Con was also the weekend I found out I’ll likely be looking for a new job this fall (unless by some magic I manage to publish 1.5 papers in the next four months), but since I don’t know what else to say about that, I’ll just close this post out.