Thoughts on OryCon

So, last week I was down in Portland for OryCon, a writer-heavy sci-fi/fantasy con (this was #39) that is my favoritest and the one I consider my home con. (There are personal reasons I avoid certain conventions in the further PWN.)

This year, I got in early and applied to be on panels, and offered some ideas of panels I wanted to be on. I have a vague background in science, having done all the nerdy science things when I was kid: Science Camp, Space Camp I and II, etc. I write SF. So they put me on the Science track.

Lovely, and wonderful. However, lemme tell you about this one panel I was on. I didn’t speak for the whole panel, and nobody noticed, because I had two full on astrophysicists, plus two other hard-core astronomy experts up there with me. I learned a lot. And really didn’t have anything meaningful to add, because they were rather more interested in grinding axes, but it was fun.

On other panels, I contributed more, because I got to take the position of the damned, dirty hippy, living in the woods, working on putting my whole farm on solar power, living off a well and septic, and growing fruit. Nowhere close to self-sufficient, but more than enough research and experience to hold my own with two experts on a panel called “Backyard Survivalist.” They wanted to take people completely off the grid, living in the back yard rough. I was talking about passive solar heating, growing herbs in window boxes, and inside planter boxes for things like tomatoes and peppers. Damned, dirty hippy, off saving the world and all that.

Also, the importance of all the fruit I grow: “Fresh fruit lasts for days. Dried fruit lasts for weeks. Canned Fruit lasts for months. Fermented fruit lasts for years.” And I got to explain to people how to make dish-washer jam.

  • Put your fruit in the pan, along with your lemon juice.
  • Start heating it up and then add your sugar or honey in my case.
  • Stir continuously while heating slowly.
  • Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil and hold it there for a while.
  • Decant into your freshly-cleaned jars.
  • Seal the jars up and put them in the dishwasher.
  • Run it overnight on the longest, hottest cycle you can, with the longest steam cycle.

Not as good as a water bath or a pressure cooking, but the fruit will last for several months without problem in the fridge, and I usually bribe people with it anyway, since I consume so little bread these days. And my joy is the “whatever’s ripe this week” process of making jams and fruit butters.

Let’s see, what else? Did panels on all sorts of science topics. One panelist made the case for a dedicated, long-term series of missions that culminated in a Mars base. Another made the case for asteroid mining. So, of course, I went snowballs, explaining how you should colonize a comet, where you ended up with giga-tons of available water, so you could crack it for oxygen, burn the hydrogen for heat and low-level thrust to move your new home around, and purify the rest to run through a full hydroponics system so fishes will clean it and you can grow vegetables. (Seeds and fish eggs are amazingly small and light to launch to orbit). Then I can trade water to the asteroid folks for metals, and to the Martians for exotics that they can mine. You end up with a full solar economy. Plus people started using my term “homo solaris” to describe people who live in permanent low-grav situations, rather than returning to the Earth. Imagine a woman roughly three meters tall, all fingers and toes, like Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees.

The rest of the time, I got to catch up with friends that I only see at OryCon, and if they come to CampCon with us in June. Met with an unindicted co-conspirator for a secret project next summer, working out details.

Planning to go back next year. Hopefully I’ll see some of you then. Or if you are a writer in the PSW, do you like camping? Isolated campground in June. Long weekend. No interweb access. Sit down, shut up, and write. Kinda awesome. You should come.

shade and sweet water


West of the Mountains, WA