Sunday, August 30, 2009

Toulouse and Nina Go To Montreal—in Anticipation of the 2009 World SF Convention

“We want to see a hero who works to achieve an environmentally sustainable world through innovation and creative technology,” said Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor Books, beside me at a panel on alternate energy. I was delighted to hear that Tor was officially embracing a new kind of hero along with a new paradigm for storytelling. One based on intelligent innovation, creativity and cooperation.

So, what was I doing sitting next to Tom Doherty at a panel on alternate energy? Truth be told, it was Toulouse’s fault.

Several weeks ago, Toulouse enticed me to embark on a book/convention tour that would last a month. The starting point was Montreal, Quebec (my old digs when I went to university). We went there to participate in the 2009 World Science Fiction Convention. These guys put me in a pile of cool panels on top of doing readings and signings for my latest books, Darwin’s Paradox and The Fiction Writer (Darwin’s prequel, Angel of Chaos, is still in pre-production, so I didn’t even have a cover for it yet to show). I participated in science/ecology, writing and SF panels with rock stars like Tom Doherty, Julie Czerneda, and new faces like Bruce Rockwood, David B. Coe, Peter Cohen, John Kessel, Jason Tuell, Kristin Norwood, Bob Sojka, Mike Gallaher, Michael Sestak and many others.

On the alternate energy panel, besides Tom and I there were science experts Bruce Lindsay Rockwood, Peter Cohen, and Charles Stross. The panel was hot with intelligent and lively discussion as we pursued topics that included solar and wind power, nuclear power and alternatives to hydro-electric power. Tom brought up Craig Venter and Shell Oil’s current venture with genetically modified algae to produce diesel oil, which fueled further debate on future ethical questions.

The other panels were also lively, contentious in some cases, erudite and fun. What struck me about the science panels at this particular convention over previous cons I’ve participated in was the level of commitment and knowledge shown by both panelists and those who attended.
I measure the success of a con through its surprises as well as by how many old friends I visit with and new friends I make. This one was a resounding success because I met so many weird—eh—wonderful people and encountered many thrilling surprises. The list is too long to give here but I’ll include some unexpected highlights.

  • • The rockin’ Tor party (held at a penthouse suite in the Delta Hotel): where the bathroom had been converted into a wine and beer cellar…
    • attending another one of Robert J. Sawyer’s awesome readings (Woot!)
    • meeting L.E. Modesitt and his wife at the rockin’ Tor Party; they had to be the most elegant couple there (more on him later)
    • sharing an awesome world-building panel with Julie Czerneda, who’s joy for the craft, boundless energy and humor made the workshop fun as well as instructive
    • the rockin’ Tor party (where rumor has it that the bathroom was raided by strange ladies intent on having a shower AND a beer, possibly at the same time...hey, I'm just reporting what I hear, folks)
    • seeing Cory Doctorow in a tux (for the Hugo Awards)
    • getting “abducted” by a group of Romanian writers who took me to an ”Old Montreal” cafe to interrogate me using devious means like roasted wild duck and local cider (they were successful, btw)
    • meeting Gabrielle Harbowy, editor at Dragon Moon Press, who I hope to work with on a book soon. We explored Old Montreal and shared an awesome meal with local cider and she even laughed at my jokes (bonus!)
    • the rockin’ Tor party (where someone who shall remain nameless jumped on the bed and didn’t spill a drop of his drink!)
    • doing the rounds at the Con parties and slumming through old haunts in Montreal with cool dudes and old friends like Hugo and Nebula Award winning SF author Robert J. Sawyer, poet Carolyn Clink, Virginia O’Dine and Dominic McGuire of Bundoran Press , Karl and Stephanie Johanson of the Aurora Award-winning Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, SF author Alison Sinclair (Darkborn), Rick LeBlanc (photographer), fantasy author Marie Simonne Bilodeau , SF author Michele LaFramboise, Heidi Lampietti of Redjack Books, Diane Walton (On Spec), Claire Eamers, Peter Halasz and other members of the SF Canada crowd
    • the rockin’ Tor party (…well, I won’t go there–you’ll have to attend the next con to find out for yourself!)
    • sharing a reading with John Kenny, of Albedo Magazine out of Ireland who gave a stirring reading from his short story, Encore, from the anthology Emerald Eye
    • seeing Julie Czerneda navigate her way through an all-French panel: merveilleux, Julie!
For more adventures with Toulouse, check out his very own blog: Toulouse LeTrek, the COOL Travel Cat!

1. Tom Doherty, Nina Munteanu and Peter Cohen discuss alternate energy (photo by Karl Johanson)
2. Montreal Convention Center (photo by Nina Munteanu)
3. L.E. Modesitt, Jr. and his wife, Carol Ann adding class to the Tor party (photo by Nina Munteanu)
4. Marie Simonne jokes with Larry Niven at the Tor party ... before the bathroom incident (photo by Nina Munteanu)
5. Aurora Award winning author Michele LaFramboise shows Toulouse her cool books (photo by Nina Munteanu)
6. Cory Doctorow wears his tux to the Hugo Award ceremony. You should do it more often, Cory! (photo by Nina Munteanu)
7. you guessed it, the Tor party crowd...before the bathroom incident (photo by Nina Munteanu)
8. those Romanian rascals take Nina to Old Montreal for food and cider: from left to right are Calin Giurgiu, Elena Rusu, Vali Gurgu, Costi Gurgu and Nina Munteanu

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Evoking Hitler

In a recent NewsWeek article (August 24, 2009) entitled "Hitler and Health Care Don't Mix" Jon Meacham suggested that "playing the Nazi card is a bipartisan sin." Citing Churchill, Chicago Mayor Daley and Gloria Steinem, Meacham warns that "deploying Nazi imagery as a matter of course diminishes one of humankind's most potent lessons of its meaning and its power." He suggests that "we are in danger of turning evil itself into a triviality when we draw on the images of Hitler's Germany to make political points in debates that are in no way comparable to the terrors of Nazism." But how does one determine what political points are or are not comparable? With the subject of President Obama's health-care plan being openly compared to Hitler's Fascist policies (see Rush Limbaugh's particular vivid diatribe), Meacham suggests that "it seems reasonable to suggest a moratorium on the deployment of Third Reich imagery and language in domestic political conflicts that, while important, fall immesurably short of Hitler's territorial ambitions and his Final Solution."

I strongly disagree.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Minimalist Golf: A New Face on an Old Line

I prefer a man with rugged good looks; you know… the firm jaw, confident sensual mouth, twinkling eyes creased with laugh lines, thick animated brows, and a tanned face sprouting a day-old beard. A man more concerned with what he does than how his hair is combed. A cross between Hugh Jackman and George Clooney, I guess.

What does this have to do with golf, you might ask? LOL! Well, something cool is happening to golf course design these days. Golfers are enjoying a new breed of golf course. I’m talking about unmanicured, rugged and ungroomed courses with roughed up links. Designers are purposely leaving in creased and crinkly surfaces that lead to unexpected bounces and rolls and even seeding their fairways— and greens— to fescues rather than the common blue and bent grasses.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Prepare Yourself: “Shocking Weather Has Just Begun”…

That was the clever headline the Vancouver Sun chose for its front page Monday, July 27th final edition after a spectacular lightning storm held our attention practically all night and almost stole the show at the annual summer Vancouver fireworks. I don’t normally read the newspaper (shocking?), preferring to let the REAL news percolate to my attention via alternate, often more reliable and objective means. But the headline picture of a lightning strike that spanned the entire horizon of Vancouver’s night sky caught my attention and took me back to last Saturday.
According to Vancouver Sun’s Rebecca Tebrake, Environment Canada recorded over 1,000 lightning strikes last Saturday in British Columbia’s lower mainland. The storm failed to prevent Vancouver’s summer fireworks show from happening, though. In fact, the storm enhanced the show according to some who participated.