Stranger than (Science) Fiction at Balticon
I have been to many conferences and conventions. However, the one I attended today is the first that had (or needed to have) the following disclaimer on its website:
Costume weapons must be inspected and peace bonded. Taking costume weapons outside the hotel will create conflict.
The conference was Balticon 46, the annual convention of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.
Attendees included science fiction writers, engineers, physicists, and other scientists. To my great surprise, I was envious. No, I did not have any interest in dressing like Mr. Spock, a troll, or Supergirl. But just as Susan Orlean observed true passion through the eyes of John Laroche while writing The Orchid Thief, I felt the fervor of the Balticon attendees. They are deeply passionate about science, they embrace their inner geek, and they devote themselves to learning so they can write science fiction that feels real.
In a word, it was awesome.
I found myself hoping to someday be as passionate about something — anything — as these folks.
I was invited to Balticon to give a humorous math presentation that I call Punz and Puzzles. Outside the room where I was presenting, there was a sign listing the day’s events and times. It read as follows:
0810 – Sunday Cooperative Shavuot Service
1000 – Sucking and Swallowing
1500 – Punz and Puzzles
1700 – Improved Long-Term Therapy to Prevent Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks
That sign alone made my attendance worthwhile. It would appear that the conference is attended by lascivious, orally fixated, math-loving Jews. That’s an interesting demographic.
At the end of my presentation, I asked if anyone had a math joke to share. One gentleman stood up eagerly and said, “Yes, I have some.” Uh-oh. Here’s a guy who wants to occupy the stage for a while. His first joke (below) was reasonable. His next five were not… but I’ll spare you the pain.
What is this?
Hilton + Wilding + Todd + Fisher + Burton + Warner + Fortensky
A Taylor series (specifically, the Elizabeth Taylor series; those are the last names of her husbands)
When it was all over, it occurred to me… perhaps math jokes are my passion? (Shudder.)