Drunk at the bacchanal.Posted: March 23, 2015
TED felt like an alternate dimension.
The abstract was made flesh. Like, you hear about powerful influential figures on the news, and here they are, driving their soft meat-cars around, Al Gore in line for a latté, Jeff Bezos on his smartphone, Bill Gates on the escalator. On the first day, I was confused about my badge status—we science fiction writers were only issued day passes instead of full conference badges, which meant our access to certain parts of the conference (the main hall, the coveted “gift cave”) was restricted at first. Which made me feel angry and entitled in a way I wasn’t proud of. Even as I knew most men wouldn’t hesitate to push for more access, so for that reason alone, I did, too. I imagined the convention center as a Borgesian space of ever-upper-levels, ever-innermore chambers, ever-briefer conversations, ever-higher-status badges, ever-more-exquisite hors d’oeuvres.
It also felt wonderful, like getting drunk and lost in the woods at a bacchanal. I didn’t sleep much. Every morning I woke up, it didn’t occur to me to do anything but get to TED. See the talks. Meet the people. Eat the food. I walked fast, everywhere, even when I had nowhere to go. Every talk set off neural fireworks in my head; things I needed to consider anew, see anew, write anew, in all of my projects-in-process. Things that are inevitable: sea level rise, 3D printing, animals as people, driverless cars, the redefinition of marriage. Things I needed to incorporate into my reality. Waves already breaking over our heads.
The story that I eventually read on Thursday night, “Blue Nowruz,” got a standing ovation. It’s about a new form of nonviolent protest—“border picnics”—that originate in Iran and spread to the rest of the world. But in a broader sense, it’s about arbitrary designations of power and access, an irony that was not lost on me, given where I was.
I want to go back.
I have much more to say.