kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Last one! Done before the next con!

Excellent Foppery: The Use of History in the Fantastic.
Graham Sleight with discussion by Christopher M. Cevasco, John Crowley, Greer Gilman, Victoria Janssen, Robert Killheffer. Talk / Discussion (60 min.).
Following on from his talk at last year's Readercon (a potted history of the last twenty years in speculative fiction), Sleight now discusses the use of history in the fantastic—from John Crowley's AEypt sequence to Tim Powers's fantasies of history. Other works discussed include Road Runner cartoons, Harry Potter, slash fiction, and the stories of Elizabeth Hand, Russell T Davies, and Thomas Pynchon. Overarching theories may be suggested; gratuitous mentions of Shakespeare may also take place.

The talk was humanities-paper style, reading a prepared text; it's not a method of presentation I'm used to and I found it difficult to keep up with at times. Sleight said he wasn't quite happy with the text but if he put it on the web, it would go up on the Locus Roundtable blog.

notes )
kate_nepveu: Text: "Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Deal with it." (deal with it)
Last panel report; second-to-last con report.

I Spy, I Fear, I Wonder: Espionage Fiction and the Fantastic.
Don D'Ammassa, C. C. Finlay (M), James D. Macdonald, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Ernest Lilley.
In his afterword to The Atrocity Archives, Charles Stross makes a bold pair of assertions: Len Deighton was a horror writer (because "all cold-war era spy thrillers rely on the existential horror of nuclear annihilation") while Lovecraft wrote spy thrillers (with their "obsessive collection of secret information"). In fact, Stross argues that the primary difference between the two genres is that the threat of the "uncontrollable universe" in horror fiction "verges on the overwhelming," while spy fiction "allows us to believe for a while that the little people can, by obtaining secret knowledge, acquire some leverage over" it. This is only one example of the confluence of the espionage novel with the genres of the fantastic; the two are blended in various ways in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Tim Powers' Declare, William Gibson's Spook County, and, in the media, the Bond movies and The Prisoner. We'll survey the best of espionage fiction as it reads to lovers of the fantastic. Are there branches of the fantastic other than horror to which the spy novel has a special affinity or relationship?

Lilley was a last-minute replacement for John Shirley. If I'd known he was going to be on the panel ahead of time, I might not have gone, being deeply unimpressed with his behavior at a World Fantasy Con panel about non-European urban fantasies. Mostly (but not exclusively) thanks to him, you get a bonus rant about sexism at the end of this.

Note on panel composition: five white males. (Nakashima-Brown's name was acquired by marriage and not ancestry, according to a later conversation with him.)

Because more time has passed, I'm less certain about some of these expansions; I've noted this where it occurs. I welcome clarifications or corrections to the notes from those who were there.

panel notes )

bonus rant about sexism and 'female characters who are just men in women's clothing' )

high-context SF?

Sunday, July 19th, 2009 03:33 pm
kate_nepveu: green and blue fractal resembling layers of a spaceship (science fiction)

At the Readercon talk on dealing with diversity (panel notes), the speaker brought up the idea of cultures having either high or low contexts, judged by the amount that people within the culture can take for granted in talking to each other. She went on to say that you can have SF about high-context cultures, but you can't have high-context SF, because you need a way in to the society.

Being a contrary sort, I immediately tried to think of examples of high-context SF. The first that came to mind was Doctorow and Rosenbaum's Hugo-nominated novella "True Names", which struck me as self-consciously SF 301 or even higher, that is, assuming a whole lot of prior knowledge of the field and making no concessions to catch you up.

What do you all think? Am I not understanding the terms properly? What about high-context fantasy, is there anything different there?

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
More panel notes. Two more sets forthcoming.

IDIC for the Pre-Federation World: Coping with Diversity.
Robin Abrahams.
The Vulcans allegedly had a slogan "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations," which is pretty big talk for an entire race of people who all have the same haircut. In the 21st century, however, diversity is increasing—and increasingly hard to deal with. Robin Abrahams, writer of the Globe's "Miss Conduct" social advice column and the new book Miss Conduct's Mind Over Manners, discusses diversity of values, priorities, and experiences. Can we really say that nothing human is alien to us? How do we cope with the "other"? And how can we use science fiction to help us address contemporary social dilemmas?

The short version: engaging, entertaining, interesting speaker, but disappointing talk, because I expected two things from the description, practical tips and a response to RaceFail, and got neither (the speaker had not, in fact, been informed of RaceFail, though I know that programming had been advised of it, at length).

The long version )
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Look, I post things of my own about Readercon instead of just rounding up links at [livejournal.com profile] readercon!

Off Color
K. Tempest Bradford, David Anthony Durham (L), Eileen Gunn, Anil Menon, Cecilia Tan.
[Greatest Hit from Readercon 12.] At various sf conventions, we‘ve been to more than one panel during which the panelists try to figure out why there seem to be so few writers of color in the field. As an alternative, we have invited several panelists to discuss what an sf field more enticing to writers of color might look like

All panelists are persons of color except Gunn who was introduced as someone who's done a lot for diversity in the field. Unless noted, all questions are from Durham. Everything is a close paraphrase unless in quotation marks (exact) or stated to be uncertain. For sake of my hands and time these were only minimally expanded, so all clarifications and questions welcomed.

panel notes )

Readercon report

Monday, July 13th, 2009 08:07 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

I treated Readercon as a vacation, meaning I came out Thursday, went to only the panels I really wanted to, and generally was not in the mood to deal with annoying things because hey, vacation.

As other people have said, the programming seemed to assume that everyone was treating it like a vacation, scheduling a ton of stuff on Friday (including no dinner break) and much more lightly on the actual weekend days. Since this was not a long weekend, this seemed peculiarly suboptimal. The programming content also seemed to have some peculiarities (well-qualified people who asked to be on relevant panels not put on panels in favor of people who seemed much less well qualified; highly gendered assignments on two of the panels I attended, and possibly more I didn't).

As for the venue, the panel rooms were indeed freezing cold, and I seem to have been the only person who had no trouble with the hotel wireless.

I went to six program items: three panels, two talks, and one reading. Notes on the first two sets forthcoming or already posted. The reading was David Anthony Durham's; he read the Prologue from The Other Lands, the sequel to Acacia (which I am almost done reviewing, honest!), which was from the point-of-view of one of the children taken in the Quota. Also an unofficial item, readings from recent issues of Sybil's Garage, which prompted me to buy issue no. 6; though, looking at the tables of contents, I should also have bought issue no. 5 since I was very impressed with Veronica Schanoes's ferocious reading of her story "Lost in the Supermarket" (which quite dissuaded me from the idea of mentioning that my favorite version of that is the Afghan Whigs' cover, or that I think someone should vid Harry Potter to it (probably the original version, there)).

I had lovely conversations with lots of people I'd met before (including one blast from my early Internet past) and some I hadn't; I'm not going to do the namecheck thing because I find that awkward, but if we talked and I might not know how to find you now, feel free to leave your LJ name or blog address in comments. I also was patronized by a white man old enough to be my father and had a younger white man hit two race-discussion bingo squares in two sentences; but since that last came after I'd brought up racism in fandom at a talk and the other people who spoke to me about it were positive, well, it could be worse. (More on that later. And sexism too, whee!)

Alas, the flyer for next year's Readercon is deeply unpromising: no guests of honor, single-track programming, and a tagline: "This IS your father's Readercon." Apparently Readercon has no qualms about the graying of fandom or excluding women for the sake of a punchline! And I am very dubious about the idea of single-track programming a con of several hundred people, full of people who desparately want to be on programming: to paraphrase someone else, it seems likely that the loudest and most institutional people will end up on panels. I'd be tempted to just take advantage of the con rate for the hotel and camp out in the lobby to see people, but you know, the hotel is not actually that nice or convenient. Stop me before I volunteer to run a counter-con (Arisia for the vanilla!), because I so do not have time.

ETA: [livejournal.com profile] ericmvan has now called the tagline a mistake; further information may be found scattered through those comments, though a clear statement of intentions for next year has been strongly urged.

Link roundups will be over at [livejournal.com profile] readercon as usual; also I'm taking suggestions on what I should do about all the Twitter posts about the con.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
I am having a snack break and thought I would do a minimal cleanup of my panel notes and post them so as not to get completely behind.

The Catharsis of Myth, the Shock of Invention.
Ellen Asher, Theodora Goss (L), Elaine Isaak, Laura Miller, Catherynne M. Valente. [Greatest Hit from Readercon 8.] In writing or reading fiction, we place a high value on the degree to which the plot unfolds in unexpected ways. But much of the power of myth and fairy tale derives from the way it fulfills our expectations. How do the best works of fantasy reconcile these seeming opposites?

panel notes )

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