SATURDAY 12 July 6:10 PM
The day starts off a little bittersweet to be honest. My ReaderCON experience this year will end today—I won’t be attending on Sunday for personal and “day job” reasons. I try not to dwell on this thought as I climb into the car to make the trek to the Burlington from Boston. By the time I hit the lot, my mood is better and I’m determined to enjoy the day to the fullest.
I’m early and let Glenn know I’m in the lobby. I settle in with my kindle with a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks (when did I become a fru-fru coffee guy?). I run into John Chu and we chat for a minute or two then Glenn and I head off to our first panel.
Imaginative Resistance. Matthew Cheney, Felix Gilman, Kameron Hurley, Anil Menon, James Morrow (leader), Paul Park. In Mimesis As Make-Believe, Kendall Walton describes a reader’s “…curious reluctance to allow fictional worlds to differ in fundamental moral respects from the real world as we understand it.” This reluctance, now called imaginative resistance, manifests when a reader is wiling to accept fantastical claims as long as they don’t violate a personal belief. Even readers who accept the logic behind the decision in “The Cold Equations” (which not all readers do) will balk at the inevitable conclusion. How does this resistance affect the inerplay between reality and fantasy when it comes to morality? Why are we comfortable with dragons, but not with lovable murderers? Do authors have enough control to overcome this resistance?
A very lively discussion ensued—especially over novels written that had a significant impact and created significant resistance—think Satanic Verses.
Melissa King joined us during the panel and we moved from the philosophical to the technological.
Life in Space: Fact and Fiction. Saira Ali, Cecil Castellucci, Tom Purdom, Allen Steele (leader), Gayle Surrette. Life in space has been a backbone of science fiction from the beginning. More recently, works about space have focused less on the glory/excitement of the experience and have instead focused on the practicalities: politics (Kim St
anley Robinson’s Mars series), neglect (J.G. Ballard’s Memories of the Space Age), or outright disaster (Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity). What has caused this shift from fiction to fact? Has the passing of the Golden Ages of both science fiction and space exploration played a role in how writers approach their subject matter?
After a brief lunch and a cocktail (or three) I went to the first reading of the day. Old friend, mentor and brilliant mind—James Morrow. Jim read from The Madonna and the Starship. And the laughter could be heard across the hotel.
From a 1950’s alien visit, to the zombie apocalypse then!
The Shiny, Candy-like Zombie: Commoditizing the Undead. Dale Bailey, Scott Edelman, Catt Kingsgrave, John Langan, Sarah Langan (leader). On Twitter, M. John Harrison wrote about the appeal of zombies: “You can hate them without feeling wrong. You can kill them like eating sweets. Then you’re hungry again & you can kill more. They’re fully dehumanized. There’s no off-season, no moral limitation. They’re the *enemy*. What’s not to love? They’re what we really want.” So do we like zombies because they’re the consumer-friendly, ambiguity-free face of implacable evil? Are they, in fact, the most perfectly commoditized monsters?
From the comedic, we go back to a discussion of technology.
Educated Guesses: Tech Pros Writing SF. Saira Ali, John Chu, Jim Freund, Barbara Krasnoff, B Diane Martin (leader), Walt Williams. In response to a Silicon Valley technologist frustrated with the current state of science fiction, blogger Andrija Popovic wrote, “Change the question from ‘Why are people not writing about the future I’m making?’ to ‘Where can I find and support people who are writing about this future I see coming?’ Or better: tell your story.” Tech professionals like Ramez Naam, Brenda Cooper, and Daniel H. Wilson are doing just that. What do their portrayals of the future say about our present, and conversely, about the visions of the future that are driving today’s technological development?
At the end of the panel, that’s when it hits. ReaderCON, for me, was almost over.
Dark Fantasy and Horror: What’s the Difference?. Jeanne Cavelos, Ellen Datlow (leader), Gemma Files, Jordan Hamessley, Jack Haringa, Steve Rasnic Tem. “As an editor of both dark fantasy and horror,” Ellen Datlow writes, “I’ve been struggling with differentiating the difference for the last couple of years, particularly when editing the Best Horror of the Year, but also when reading for the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare magazine.” This panel of editors will discuss how they draw the line between horror and dark fantasy when selecting stories for publications that are firmly in the horror field—or vice versa.
A great discussion of the impact of cinema to the horror genre and what the lines are (if any) between Dark Fantasy and Horror.
And my fifth ReaderCON is over…as always, this convention goes so fast. I say goodbye to friends I probably won’t see again until next year. I was heading out the door, keeping my emotions in sharp check when friend and author Peter Dubé. Stopped me. He presents me with an ARC of his upcoming short story anthology, Beginning with the Mirror. “I wanted you to have a copy because there is a story inside I started to right for your anthology” (the ill-fated Winter in the City).
Suddenly, I have something in my eye.
Until next year, dear friends.
FRIDAY 11 July 7:23 PM
What a day. ReaderCON isn’t over yet, but I’m wiped! Back to Boston to take care of my regular life, but what a close out for the day! I think—for the first time ever—I may have gone to more readings then panels so far. Let’s check out the rest of the day:
More Magic ensued with When the Magic Returns. John Chu, Max Gladstone, Daryl Gregory, Lev Grossman, Victoria Janssen (leader). The “return” of magic into a mundane world is one of very few ways in which we see fantasy set in the future. Why is this? What makes fantasy and futurity so incompatible? Why is the return of magic so often associated with apocalypse, while its banishment is usually the consequence of scientific or industrial progress? From Aarne-Thompson tale types like Richard Corbet’s “The Fairies’ Farewell” to Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, panelists will talk about the ways in which magic-as-technology can be explored.
The iPhone was both hailed and cursed as “magic-like” technology. I think some Android users would argue the point but there you go.
Stayed for the first half of the next panel– Plot Without Conflict. Liz Duffy Adams, F. Brett Cox (leader), Samuel Delany, Eileen Gunn, Shira Lipkin, Anil Menon. In Western writing, conflct is considered essential to plot. The classic three- and five-act structures taught in writing courses and workshops revolve around a central conflict. But does plot require conflict? The Japanese kish?tenketsu structure is built on four acts: introduction, development, twist, and reconciliation—best known to Western readers as the structure of four-panel manga. Deep and rich stories are told within this structure, which, by comparison, shows the three-act structure to be fundamentally confrontational. What can writers steeped in Western notions of plot conflict learn from a careful analysis of alternate structures?
Then attended a Scott Edelman Reading which was bloody brilliant followed by Allan Steele reading his upcoming “The Prodigal Son”, an upcoming novella in the Arkwright series being published in Asimov’s Science Fiction.
Spent time perusing the book store (as always), had a lovely dinner with Glenn Skinner and back to Boston to see my beautiful bride.
FRIDAY 11 July 1:49 PM
Already been a great morning! Of course in the bar grabbing a quick adult bevey and some food.
Started the sessions with a reading by one of my favorites—Elizabeth Hand!
Spent time after chatting with her and I have to say she is as delightful as I remember. Also saw John Clute who stopped to say hi where we took his first “selfie” with me…I think he was pulling my leg but we had a great chuckle over it.
Next I went with dear friend Melissa King to our first panel of the day:
The Past Is a Terrible Place. K. Tempest Bradford (leader), Christopher Cevasco, John Chu, Adrienne J. Odasso, Walt Williams. Compared to the present day, the past was filthy, bigoted, stratified, polluted, violent, and crude—whether thousands of years ago or yesterday. What possible appeal could travel into the past have? How does it vary based on your current socioeconomic status, or on the status you have (or can acquire) in the past with your knowledge of history, technology, and sociology? We’ll discuss various depictions of travel into the past, including Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, and Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire series.
A wonderful discussion of the pros and cons of living in the past as a modern 21st century human.
Next up was a talk on magic & science the the differences between them (a critical theme running through my series):
The Difference Between Magic and Science . Max Gladstone, Lev Grossman, Andrea Hairston, Kenneth Schneyer (leader), J.M. Sidorova. In an interview with Avi Solomon, Ted Chiang proposed that “The difference between magic and science is at some level a difference between the universe responding to you in a personal way, and the universe being entirely impersonal.” How can we complicate this statement? Are there magic systems that are entirely impersonal, and if so, are they indistinguishable from science and technology? Is science only possible in an impersonal universe? How do we make allowances for the personal applications of science and the impersonal applications of magic, and where do the boundaries between them lie?
FRIDAY 11 July 6:06 AM
The Thursday evening program for ReaderCON is, historically, an “open to the public” night. A good mix of panels and readings are scheduled and they are free for anyone to attend.
But Thursday is more important to those of us who have attended a few cons. It’s a chance the reconnect with people you may not have been in contact with since the last ReaderCON. I ran into Yves Meynard (newly married, by the way), Scott Edelman, Shira Lipkin (who I brought a bottle of rum for—you know, those readings can be nerve wracking. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), Peter Dubé, Greer Gilman, Leah Bobet and of course my old compatriot in arms—Glenn Skinner.
The Burlington Marriott has been updated since last year—there is a new bar and restaurant in place of the old Irish pub (and just for the record–Steve the bartender recognized me, remembered my name and my drink). The Conference rooms have all been revamped (and renamed which should cause some entertainment and consternation for the first official day of the con) and the lobby has been completely refreshed.
Took a little time to find the renamed conference room for the first panel, but find it both Glenn and I did.
The Map and the Story. Jonathan Crowe (leader), Chris Gerwel, Greer Gilman, Shira Lipkin. Maps are a familiar sight in our field, but lately a number of stories have placed maps and cartography at the core of the story itself. Maps serve as portals to other worlds, cartographers remake the world in a map’s image, and mapmaking itself becomes a means to discuss the distance between perception and reality, between the map and the territory. Panelists will discuss the ways in which maps and cartography have escaped from the endpapers in recent works of fiction.
I found the discussion around the role of the map in various genre stories fascinating—and I have a new list of stories to read and a new short idea I’ll explore later today.
Meant to go to Shira’s reading right after (Sorry Shira!!), but had to head home to take care of a minor family issue. But all is back to normal this morning so I’ll be heading back up to Burlington for the official start of ReaderCON later this morning.
People, friends, laughter and above all—I get to spend the next few days with story lovers from all walks of life.
I’m…just not ready yet!
Tonight kicks off one of my favorite conventions—ReaderCON. This will be the fifth time I’ve attended and normally there is this build up of excitement before hand.
This year, with the new gig at National Grid, I’ve been working so hard and traveling so much that suddenly ReaderCON 25 is here and I’m not prepared.
Where is my new set of witty t-shirts? What about a new hat? By now, I’ve usually spent hours going through the schedule—lamenting about panels occurring at the same time my favorite author readings.
Nah. Not Funny Enough
I don’t even know which kaffeeklatschs I want to attend.
And I haven’t even setup a “meet & scotch” with any of my friends who I haven’t seen since last year.
But perhaps that’s okay. Maybe this year I’ll wing it and see what happens.
This post is the first of this years “semi-streaming” blog for the convention.
I’m exited. Currently wrapping up a long few months on a new gig so I can hang up my “Day Job” moniker in favor of my passionate calling. See, I maybe many things—but what I am proud of most beyond wife and family is the fact that I am a writer.
Passion comes in many forms. This weekend, it’s ReaderCON.
Somtimes, I have other passions.