Readercon 27

Note: I tend to separate various entries by timestamps.  They are in reverse order, with the latest posting at the top. ALSO Note that it has taken me a couple of days to put this together.  As my first time out in public for months post-strokes, the entire experience was…overwhelming to say the least.

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Sunday 10 July

It’s over and I’ve driven home. The sadness that always follows the end of a Readercon will come tomorrow.  For now…for RIGHT now, I’m exhausted. I will always go back to Readercon.  Not because I have to.  But because I’m drawn to it by some immeasurable force.

Magic! In! Spaaace! Chris Gerwel, Mikki Kendall, Matt Kressel, Sioban Krzywicki (leader), Bethany Powell- It was only during this panel that I heard about a controversy at Readercon this year.  Mikki Kendall addresses it on her blog HERE. However, she was the consummate professional on this panel and–having not witnessed what had happened directly–never would have known about the issue.  Mikki was her normal, witty and very funny self (even early on a Sunday morning). The Panel was a discussion of Magic and Sci Fi–a blending of two genres normally kept very separate.

It was the only panel/reading I attended on Sunday.  I’d hit my limit and it was time to head home.  Even as tired as I was, I had an enjoyable time.  Knowing how well the Readercon folks eventually handled the crisis a few years ago, it’s my hope they will turn their eyes to fixing the  lack of diversity brought into sharp relief this year. After all….a Con is supposed to be a fun experience for everyone.

Saturday 9 July 1:00 PM

To start the day, I had a conundrum. See, on the one hand I wanted to hear Jim Morrow read from his work in progress.  On the other was a panel on the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein-on the panel was Jim’s wife Kathy and FB friend Theodora Goss. What to do? Well Glenn Skinner and I decided to split the difference.  So I went to the reading, and he to the panel.

2016-07-09 09.56.59Reading: James Morrow-Jim read from his work in progress “Asylum of Dr. Caligari” which, if you will, is a literal translation of the events before the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) takes place. Jim’s story has art, intrigue, travel and fantastic set-pieces as well as a morality tale about what’s happened, and what yet may occur should we not heed the warnings of history. Marvelous stuff!

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Engineering in Fantasy. Scott Andrews, Richard Butner, John Chu, Ken Liu, Fran Wilde (leader)- This is the kind of panel I would LOVE to see more of at Readercon. I think this subject could have easily been 5 or 6 different panels. Multiple engineers addressing “the machine” underlying all speculative fiction.  From logistics and social engineering challenges, to the actual building of infrastructure, the panel (lead with a very sweet, iron hand of Fran Wilde from Tor) barely had enough time to scratch the surface.

Enjoyed a bit of lunch after with Glenn Skinner, Melissa King and Melanie Meadors from Ragnarok Publishing…

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Startling_Stories_1950_Jan_coverReading: Allen Steele- It was good to see Allen.  Not quite recovered from his surgery, but in good form.  Like Jim’s passion with old movies, Allen has a similar feelings for the pulp stories of the 40’s and 50’s. Along with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, there was a hero called Captain Future. Allen, with permission of the owners of the character, is rebooting Captain Future into a more 21st century type of story. From what I heard, this will be a marvelous set of books!

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David Hartwell Memorial Panel. Robert Killheffer, Ellen Kushner, James Morrow, Sarah Smith, Gordon Van Gelder and many others.

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It is safe to say that Readercon would not exist in its current form today if it weren’t for the late, great editor David G. Hartwell. Preferring to operate behind the scenes, one of the most generous men with his time in this speculative fiction industry passed earlier this year. My personal story of him goes from teasing him about his tie (he LOVED his ties) to a realization of who he was to a most brilliant discussion of Science fiction story telling. He spent over an hour with me. This panel–made up of some of the most influential people is Science Fiction in their own right, was funny, beautiful and touching. His favorite tie will be framed and memorialized in the book dealer room from next year onward. I encourage you to read about David–start with his Wiki page and go from there.

After this panel….I was done, emotionally for the day.  I spent the next few hours with close friends discussing ways that my next book could be improved and discussing stories and writing in general.

Friday 8 July 11:50 PM

Exhausted.  Need to put some notes together, but it is now obvious to me that I set a task upon myself that was a bit lofty. It looks as though I will need to finish these notes in the coming week.

2016-07-08 15.01.51Reading: Elizabeth Hand. I adore Liz Hand. I have read pretty much everything she has written and her Cass Neary series has one of the most deliciously flawed main characters I’ve ever gotten to know.  She read from her upcoming forth book in the series. It’s funny–Liz does such a wonderful job with Cass’ voice, that’s what I hear now when I read them.

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Harry Potter Goes to Grad School and Gets a Job. Jim Freund (leader), Max Gladstone, Josh Jasper, Ellen Kushner, E.J. Stevens. –The Concept of this panel was wonderful–what sort of jobs are available for wizards?  We all know Hogwarts didn’t really prepare students for life after school (where was the ‘building a Time-turner class?’).  But unfortunately, the topic meandered a bit and lost the focus.

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Clockwork Phoenix 5 Group Reading. Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Keffy Kehrli, Barbara Krasnoff, Cameron Roberson, Sonya Taaffe, A.C. Wise- Ah.  Now THIS was a real treat! I meet Mike and his wife Anita at Readercon years ago.  Liked them then, love them both now.   They are talented and genuine “salt of the earth” people.  Brilliant, funny, talented and both have a darker side that is just tasty.  I’ve picked up Mike’s latest short story collection (The Spider Tapestries) based on his work with the Clockwork Phoenix series of anthologies. That, and I like him. He had a few of the authors in the series participate in the reading.  Was well handled and well done.

2016-07-08 20.03.04Stupendous Machines or Rat’s Nests: The Wonders of Cells and Why They Are Not Perfect but Just Good Enough. J.M. Sidorova- A Scientific presentation on the human body and a fascinating discussion of the ‘vampiric,’ ‘zombie-esque,’ and ‘immortal’ cells of the human body. A lovely talk on what is beautiful and the flaws of the human body.

Kaffeeklatsch. Elizabeth Hand-Ended the evening with Liz at a wonderful discussion with a group of us about her work and her life. Was so tired at this point, made a bit of a fan-boy of myself.  Fortunately, Liz is rather gracious!

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  I look like death warmed over.  Or an extra on "The Walking Dead."
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I look like death warmed over. Or an extra on “The Walking Dead.”

Friday 8 July 3:00 PM

A discussion of the “Warm and fuzzy” dystopia of Harry Potter and similar YA fantasy works.  From the program:

2016-07-08 14.01.40Cozy Dystopia. Gili Bar-Hillel, Bart Leib, Shariann Lewitt, Kenneth Schneyer (leader), Sabrina Vourvoulias. When we think of the world of Harry Potter, what comes to mind rst—the magic
and childish delights of Hogwarts, with its cozy dormitories and feasts and ying lessons, or its numerous, creeping dystopian elements (even discounting Voldemort!), from the enslaved house elves to Umbridge to the Dementors, which are, frankly, the tools of a fascist state? Can we make an argument that HP is actually more like a dystopia than a fantasy? Even if we’re half joking, there’s still an interesting discussion here: how do these two sides of the wizarding world play off each other, and how do they compare with other dystopian YA? Maybe we need a new subgenre: Cozy Dystopia.

2016-07-08 11.02.30Attended my first panel of Readercon this year. From the Program: Background and Believability- Danielle Friedman, Carlos Hernandez, Kathleen Jennings (moderator), Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Sarah Smith. When a reader calls a story “implausible,” what they often mean is “I’ve never experienced that” or “I’ve never known anyone like that person.” Writers creating their own wish-ful llment stories (e.g., wielding a shotgun to rescue a woman from zombies) may fail to connect with readers who don’t share those wishes (e.g., paci sts, women who want to rescue themselves, oppressed minorities who’ve been threatened by authority gures with guns). How do we bridge the believability gaps within ourselves to connect with stories stemming from experiences we’ve never had, and to write for readers whose ideas of possible and plausible don’t match up with our own?

The Second panel was on a subject I am very-much interested in.  From the program:

2016-07-08 13.03.59Why Don’t Animals Use Magic?- Erik Amundsen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Lila Garrott, Theodora Goss, Ann Tonsor Zeddies. Rules-based magical systems draw on an alternate set of natural laws to develop a kind of technology: Dumbledore waving a wand and saying “Apparate” is no different in principle or practice from Scotty beaming you up. Animals also develop tools and take advantage of natural laws; why don’t they use magic? David Eddings simpli ed more abstract magic as “the will and the word”: the desire to do something, and a word to focus that desire. Animals have willpower and can make consistent sounds; why don’t they use magic? We’ll deconstruct the assumptions underlying this animal/human divide in Western fantasy ction, and explore ways of weaving magic so deeply into the fabric of the universe that animals can use it as easily as they use physics.

There was a lively debate about different “Magic Creatures” verses the breakdown of the world if animals could use magic like humans.  My opinion on this is that animals would use magic for their basics: Food, shelter, sex.  And who says cats haven’t already used magic on US to make sure we bring them into our warm, safe homes?  Certainly would explain why Tina and I have five of them…

Thursday 7 July 11:00 PM

2016-07-07 20.02.52Reading: Livia Llewellyn- Livia read something different then a snippet from her upcoming novel for us.  A bit of a story she wrote called “The Acid Test.” It will be included in Black Feathers, an anthology by Ellen Datlow due to be released in 2017 by Pegasus Books.

2016-07-07 20.32.52Reading: Scott Edelman– Scott reads a bit of “The Man Without the Blue Balloon and the Woman Who Had Smiles Only for Him.” Since he’d JUST gotten to the reveal when time was up, I told him he needed to read the rest to me before the con was over! Afterwards he and I spent time catching up and he showed me some photos from the Bram Stoke awards in Vegas earlier in the year.

2016-07-07 21.04.08Reading: Jim Kelly-Jim’s story that he read for us was picked up earlier in the day for the tenth anniversary issue of Clarkesworld. I wish I’d written the name down, but it was the story told in the first person by a 20 year old woman working in a bakery in a tourist area in the future…

Chatted with folks for a while more then headed up to crash.

Thursday 7 July 7:00 PM

2016-07-07 19.42.19Saw a few people come in–the familiarity of the faces negates any misgivings I had about attending this year. Mike and Anita Allen, Phil Merkel, Walt Williams (and his wife Margo and daughter Hannah), Yves Meynard, Scott Edelman, Liz Hand…so many others. Had dinner and hung out with Glenn Skinner who is usually the first person I seek out at the convention.  He and I took a brief look at the program, decided on our evening’s events, and parted ways with a promise to catch up later. I choose to hear some readings.

Thursday 7 July 3:40 PM

“The Gathering” continues.  Like myself, I bump into a few folks who are getting to know the new digs.  Since I’ve been attending Readercon, it has (up until this year) been held at the Marriott in Burlington, Massachusetts. This year, the Marriott in Quincy is our hosting hotel. I have a room on the 8th floor with a nice, if distant view of the Harbor Islands.

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Wednesday 6 July 7:00 PM

There are a few things that make me feel alive, beyond the whole breathing thing I mean.

The touch of my wife. The laughter of my children. A good story. Writing.

Readercon.

I know this is starting off rather dramatic. But I shouldn’t be at Readercon this year. See, last November I should have died.

Twice.

The story is long and boring and I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell it with a few amusing asides and gripping pauses. I even throw in a pirate occasionally just to spice things up a little.

Blackadder as a Pirate. I thought the concept was gold.
Blackadder as a Pirate. I thought the concept was gold.

But the bottom line is this: from hospital bed, through rehab and radiation….I was determined to hit many milestones during my recovery. Attendance at my favorite con is…was…one of those milestones.

Now that I have you all weeping, ready to rent your garments in grief over the bizarre story I never quite told you, it’s time to put my big-boy pants on and write about the readings, the panels, and the people that bring me back year after year.