I am in Florida for both the University of Southern Florida's Conference on the Apocalypse and then, later in the week, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). It will be a very full week, which I kicked off by flying from Buffalo to Florida at an insanely early hour of the morning. This was not helped by an overly cheerful sign in the Buffalo Airport: "Keep your smile in the upright and locked position!" Ugh.
Tampa, however, was lovely. I had lunch with Rick Wilber, who is organizing the conference, and Joe and Gay Haldeman. Next we toured the Lettuce Lake nature preserve, in which high boardwalks hold visitors safely above swamps, keeping tourists and alligators apart. Here are Gay, Rick, and Joe at the start of the nature walk:A lake filled with wildlife and an amazing number of birds, all of which Gay could identify. Also alligators (I saw two!), turtles, snakes, and perhaps a Swamp Monster (not seen, but a good candidate would be the Burmese python, which has lately infested Florida. It can grow to 30 feet long and has teeth):
Eventually we all had to get to work, visiting a classroom of Rick's students, followed by dinner. Tomorrow (Tuesday) are more classroom visits and readings. Wednesday comes a panel on various types of apocalypses, including fictional (Joe and me), environmental (a USF chemistry professor), and religious (a professor of religion). I'm looking forward to that. Any good apocalypse worth its name should first take out that sign in the airport.