I came home from the convention to the news that Range of Ghosts has been longlisted for the Gemmell Award (formally, the David Gemmell Legend Awards), which is (1) thrilling! and (2) ironically wonderful, since I just finished reading Legend last week.
Speaking of the con, 4th Street Fantasy has been survived, and enjoyed, and despite the drama of hurricane-force winds during a thunderstorm that uprooted trees, blew away steel patio furniture, and left the con without power for 24 hours, we had a fabulous time. Highlights for me included room parties by nerdlight, serving as Skyler White’s noble steed during her jousting competition with Ellen Klages, and arm wrestling Cathy Hindersinn for charity.
Also, 4th Street’s reliably fabulous local restaurants and excellent mostly grad-seminar-style panel track.
The con went on as scheduled despite the lack of power; drinks were warm, but there were plenty of them, and everybody I talked to was brave about the hardship. Especially once the hot water came back on. (It preceded the power by a few hours.) I suspect if it had taken 48 hours, we would have been less willing to camp.
The park across the way looked like Hartford did after Hurricane Gloria. Ten to twenty percent of the trees were down, and I mean full-grown trees.
I now have three more conventions (ALA, CONvergence, and Readercon) on the next three weekends, and then a brief two-weekend gap before Space City Con. I hope to see a bunch of you in those various places.
And I have a Readercon prelim schedule, which looks like this-ish:
Friday July 12
2:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch.Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch.
5:00 PM ME Writing (Hot and Heavy) Action.Elizabeth Bear, Nicholas Kaufmann (leader), Margo Lanagan, John Shirley, Cecilia Tan. Good action scenes and good sex scenes have a surprising amount in common. This panel will discuss the best ways of approaching both. Expect the discussion to get raunchy and specific.Proposed by Wesley Chu.
6:00 PM E Autographs.Elizabeth Bear, Daniel José Older.
Saturday July 13
6:00 PM F Readercon Blog Club: “The Uses and Value of Realism in Speculative Fiction”.Elizabeth Bear (leader), John Crowley, Rose Lemberg, Scott Lynch. In response to the Readercon 23 panel “Why Is Realistic Fiction Useful?”, Chris Gerwel wrote a blog post exploring the aesthetic uses of realism in spec fic and other literature. He says, “To be effective, fiction must communicate or reveal something true…. That truth is not necessarily factual (such-and-such happened), but is rather more nebulous and insightful (such-and-such could have happened).” Gerwel goes on to argue that “realistic” descriptions of fantastic things can be a way to help the audience to deal with these concepts, giving them better access to the underlying metaphors of a dragon or a spaceship. He closes by saying, “I believe that quotidian speculative fiction has its place in the genre. And that is precisely because it speaks to different truths than most speculative fiction: it speaks to the little heroisms of daily life, and to the practical challenges that arise from our human and social natures” an idea that echoes discussions of early science fiction stories written by women, and offers an alternative to the conflation of “realistic” and “gritty.” We’ll discuss the place of the quotidian in speculative fiction and other aspects of Gerwel’s complex and intriguing essay, which resides at http://elflands2ndcousin.com/2012/07/17/the-uses-and-value-of-realism-in-speculative-fiction/.
Sunday July 14
11:00 AM VT Reading: Elizabeth Bear.Elizabeth Bear. Elizabeth Bear reads from the in-progress novel Karen Memory.
12:00 PM F Pining for the Fnords: The New Nostalgia.Elizabeth Bear, John Benson, Andrea Hairston, Elizabeth Hand (moderator), Robert Killheffer, Scott Lynch. Well-received novels like John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Jo Walton’s Among Others, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One pointedly allude to the SF of decades past. In a controversial review in the Los Angeles Review of Science Fiction, Paul Kincaid suggested that contemporary SF is suffering from a feeling of exhaustion; “the genre is now afraid to engage with what once made it novel, instead turning back to what was there before” or reverting “to older, more familiar futures.” Others view this type of SF as celebrating its heritage. What’s driving this backward-looking urge, and to what extent is it positive or problematic?
I predicted months ago that someone would link REDSHIRTS and AMONG OTHERS and use them to play the “SF’s no good any more it’s all nostalgic backward-looking” card. And here it is in that panel description!
Of course, AMONG OTHERS doesn’t actually belong in a discussion of “nostalgia”; it’s a fantasy novel in which reading SF plays a part. (Unless, of course, all novels involving childhood are “nostalgia,” even those containing insane mothers who try to kill the protagonist.) But I knew with 100% confidence that someone would trot out the silly-ass imputation anyway.