Readercon 21

Guests of Honor

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

Many of us look to speculative fiction to show us worlds, cultures, and minds different from the formulaic; the writing of Nalo Hopkinson does this superbly well.

Born in Jamaica, and raised in Guyana and Trinadad before settling in Canada at the age of 17, Nalo Hopkinson burst into visibility with her debut novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, in 1998. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer that year, and a Locus Award for Best First Novel. Her inventive mix of Caribbean literature and folklore and modern speculative fiction brought her wide acclaim, both within and outside genre circles. In the almost dozen years since, her promise has been generously fulfilled with several more critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels and a collection of short fiction, Skin Folk, winner of a World Fantasy Award. She has edited two anthologies, including 2003's Mojo: Conjure Stories, and co-edited others, including So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Hopkinson is one of the founders of the Carl Brandon Society, which seeks to "help build further awareness of race and ethnicity in speculative literature and related fields."

Her most recent novel, New Moon's Arms, appeared in 2007 and won the Aurora and Sunburst Awards in Canada. Her next novel, Blackheart Man, is due out in 2010 from Grand Central Publishing.

Hopkinson has taught creative writing worldwide and is currently a mentor with the School of Creative Writing at Humber College in Toronto.

Among praise for Hopkinson's work have appeared the phrases "utterly original," "unusual and intriguing," "compelling and unique," "vivid," "inventive," and "sexy, disturbing, touching, wildly comic." After her Readercon stay, we'll all be adding to that list.

Charles Stross

Charles Stross

Reading Charles Stross's "accelerando" stories, as they appeared in Asimov's about ten years ago, felt like racing downhill while flooring the accelerator. He's done some version of the singularity in several novels, but there's also near-future extrapolation and a late-Heinlein homage. He has a talent for chill, Lovecraftian horror, informed by youthful experience of the Cold War — and a much rarer talent for combining that horror with humor, in the "Laundry" stories. These futures and alternate worlds are so well imagined that it's easy to overlook his literary skills, but he is a fine writer with the full modernist bag of tricks at hand.

His novella "The Concrete Jungle" won the 2005 Hugo. Two Locus awards are among his other wins, and his novel Saturn's Children is up for the 2009 Hugo as we write. Stross has also won the 2008 Skylark Award.

Like many writers, Stross has had a variety of careers, occupations, and job-shaped-catastrophes in the past, from pharmacist (he quit after the second police stake-out) to first code monkey on the team of a successful dot-com startup (with brilliant timing he tried to change employer just as the bubble burst). He now lives and works in Scotland in an apartment older than MIT, with two cats and his wife, Feorag, who is also attending Readercon next year.

Charles Stross shows us radical differences, both in imagined worlds, and the world we actually live in. Please join us as we try to keep up with him.

Olaf Stapledon

Olaf Stapledon

Forty years ago Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) was one of the authors that every sf fan had read, and he has been on Readercon’s short-short list for Memorial GoH from the beginning. Nine years ago he was named the very first winner of the The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, prompting a huge round of applause from the old-timers in the audience at Worldcon. "Stapledonian" remains a useful adjective to describe a certain type of sf: Last and First Men (1930) covers a time scale of two billion years and has a very good chance to be the most mind-boggling sf you'll ever read — until, that is, you read Starmaker (1937), where the entire plot of the earlier book is famously condensed to a single paragraph. These two novels contain almost nothing in the way of conventional plot and characterization and were long regarded as sf in its absolute purest form, and hence a sort of litmus test for sf readers; what they do contain is some of the earliest and soundest speculation on such classic sf tropes as terraforming, genetic engineering, and symbiotic and hive-mind alien races. Indeed, they are so jam-packed with sf ideas that it used to be a cliché to say that a writer could build an entire career stealing just from them. They have somewhat overshadowed his other two best-known sf novels, but Odd John (1935) has been called the best superman story ever written and Sirius (1944) the best novel about a non-human (in this case, enhanced canine) intelligence. His influence on the field may be second only to H. G. Wells.

If there were nothing more to Stapledon than the astonishing fecundity of his scientific imagination he would still be worth remembering and reading. But his first book was not even fiction: it was A Modern Theory of Ethics (1929); other philosophical works include the comprehensive Philosophy and Living (1939) and introductory Beyond the "Isms" (1942). The pursuit of truth in the face of inadequate human cognition, the importance of community, and what Stapledon calls "the way of the spirit" — these are themes that permeate all of his fiction, and indeed The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes that all his work fits within a "highly original scheme of metaphysics." There have been few authors in the history of the field whose work is so thought-provoking. We are delighted to finally honor him as a Memorial Guest.

Program Participants

147 guests attended Readercon 21

Click on the book icon to see the guest's bio-bibliography. Asterisk (*) indicates former Guest of Honor.