Monday, February 21, 2011

What I Leaned from Radcon 5c

What a great Radcon this year! I think cons are often what you make of them, and this year I was assisted at the task of "having a good time" by my wonderful fiance.  I also think my experience of cons is enhanced when I'm attending with my writer's goggles on.  Not literally.

Not only that, but the Friday batch of Toxic Waste® at the Official Radcon Room Party® tasted mighty fine.  I heard they found a new source for depleted U-238, so I'm sure that had something to do with it.*

In addition to the parties, admiring the costumes, meeting new people, saying hi to old friends, and absorbing the general vibe, I attended a few panels.  I tend to forget how interesting they can be.

Monster Hunting kept devolving into Zombie Apocalypse Escape Planning, but I learned a few great tips for hunting monsters.  For starters, I they discussed some of the things I've already considered for my faerie hunters in When Prey Hunts.  Like how does your hunter make a living?  Those weapons cost a lot of money, after all.  And what do you do with the bodies?  How do you dodge modern-day law enforcement, when they're not likely to believe you've imprisoned, injured, robbed, or killed this guy because he's a vampire, werewolf, zombie, or faerie.

They also discussed the use of dogs or other animals to help counter-balance the monster's supernatural senses.  If you're hunting through the woods, horses make great pack animals and can sense an approaching monster, especially if trained.  You should plan to bring a lot of people -- one to pursue and track, one to ambush, and a reserve group to deploy as needed.  They also pointed out that when fighting groups, deplete your enemies resources by shooting to wound, not kill.

There was a lot of interesting discussion on the Build a Better Villain panel.  But not much I haven't already heard or thought about myself, so I didn't take notes.

The Neuroscience panel was education and interesting.  The physics student in me loved hearing about how an fMRI works.  A magnetic field lines up the spin of the atoms in your brain, and then turns off.  When the atoms snap back to their previous random positions, they release energy.  Doing this, they can tell how much oxygen is in your blood in various places.  Based on the assumption that active areas of the brain are using oxygen, they can take a moving image of those active areas while asking you questions or having you perform various activities.

I'm a big fan of fMRI studies in the news, and always find the results fascinating.  So I loved seeing the union between two of my favorite fields, physics and psychology.

Contrary to popular belief, the processing areas of the brain for specific tasks are not limited to one location.  For example, a simple version of the task may be in one spot, when when the same type of task becomes more complex, that area will call upon various backup areas to process sub-tasks.

Less efficient readers process in their frontal brain, while efficient readers process words in the back. 

By far the best panel I attended was "Make a Living by Writing".  I learned enough there that it deserves its own post.

As always, Radcon proved to be the best con in its class (general sci-fi fantasy with slight focus on tabletop games and fiction).  If you live in the Pacific Northwest, consider driving a couple of hours to the middle of nowhere next February to attend Radcon 6!

* Just kidding about the Uranium! It's bad for you, kids!

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