Thursday, October 08, 2009
Back in Melbourne - for now. And a miscellany ...
I arrived back in Melbourne earlier today and am now catching up with various small tasks. The big AAI bash in Los Angeles was great, and not at all a bunch of mean-spirited, snarky people as suggested by Andrew Sullivan in a rather mean-spirited and snarky manner over here.
Quote: "They're really charming, aren't they? It is as if everything arrogant about the academy and everything sneering about cable news culture is combined into one big snarky smugfest. Maybe these atheists will indeed help push back the fundamentalist right. Maybe they will remind people that between these atheist bigots and these fundamentalist bigots, the appeal of the Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun."
Yeah, Andrew. Thanks for those kind words about a gathering of 700-plus people whom you haven't met. You may have met one or two of them, or even a few more, but I'm betting that you have no real sense of the ambience. The speech by Daniel Dennett that you object to so much was penetrating and critical, but delivered in more civil and good-humoured tones than you seem to have managed in reacting to it. And need I note how dangerous such accusations of bigotry are? It suggests that we are motivated by hatred, and once you suggest that about people you start to lay a foundation for persecution. Accusations of hatred or bigotry have their place - when they are made correctly and justly - but should never be plucked out of the air.
(In a spirit of atheistic charity, however, I must report that Sullivan gives a sort of obscure apology for his nastiness here and publishes some very cogent dissenting letters here. In each case, let it be recorded, this is to his credit. But still ...)
The AAI convention was possibly the best convention of any kind that I have ever been to. Where else would I get to see presentations by Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Carolyn Porco, Jerry Coyne, and others all in one day - not to mention the other days (with speakers of the calibre of PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott (whose talk was excellent), and on and on)? If I could afford it, or somehow got some funding, I'd definitely attend future conventions put on by this organisation. Next year, this annual convention will be in Montreal ... with big conventions that have AAI involvement in Melbourne, Copenhagen, and (so I hear on the grapevine) Rio de Janeiro.
Fortunately, as I've mentioned in an earlier post, my own presentation went very well (I felt in the zone as I gave it, and have received a lot of positive feedback). So I don't have to hang my head in shame, or anything of the sort. Quite the opposite, actually.
But all that said, it's great to be home with Jenny and Felix. All is well in Melbourne, though I've just read the manuscript of a new story by Jenny that is so good, but so sad, that it brought tears to my eyes. Now she just needs to find a publisher for it.
Meanwhile, I'll be catching up a little over the next two to three weeks before flying to the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose at the end of the month. Jenny will leave a few days before me to get acclimatised. This is an important gig for her in her role as one of the judges of the World Fantasy Awards (the outcomes of which will be revealed at the convention).
Thanks to Charla for taking a great photo of the moment when I met my e-buddy, Jerry Coyne, in person. (Jerry on the left, me still on stage at the right ... for anyone who doesn't recognise us.) And thanks to official photographer David Diskin for the shot of me with the mammoth at the La Brea tarpits.