Complete Readercon 23 Program Guide (PDF)
Conference Schedule with item descriptions
If you have a smartphone, you can access our schedule and maps, get alerts of upcoming panels that interest you, and more by downloading the Guidebook app and loading in the Readercon 23 data. Complete instructions are here. If you use the app at the convention, be sure to come to the feedback session on Sunday or send email to email@example.com (with "Guidebook" in the subject line) to let us know how it worked for you and what we can do to improve it next year.
There are three things you can do while at Readercon during the day: talk to friends, browse and patronize the Bookshop, or attend the program. This is a significantly shorter list than provided by other science fiction conventions (which typically include an art show, gaming, musical performances, and so on). It's thus not an exaggeration to say that Readercon is all about the program. As we used to say, it's not just the heart of the convention, but the lungs, brain, liver, and kidneys.
Readercon covers the whole of imaginative literature (or "speculative fiction") from hard science fiction to fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable, but with a special emphasis on the most literary, ambitious, and cutting-edge work in the field. Our regular Program Participants include writers, editors, publishers, and critics from the Northeast, and those from around the world with a special affinity for our emphasis.
Although we annually send out a set of invitations to participate in the convention, our list of worthies is far from complete! We welcome volunteers, and, in fact, some of the best-known names in the field first came to our attention as unknown Readercon "walk-ons."
Each year, we further supplement the program with experts on individual program items, such as our panel discussions appreciating the works of our Guests of Honor.
Readercon Program Participants pay no membership fee and may purchase an additional reduced-price advance membership for a significant other. Our Program Guide includes brief bio-bibliographies of all participants, and an index of their appearances at the convention.
If you have any questions or comments about the program for Readercon 22, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our program is currently closed to new program item ideas and offers of participation; check back in the fall for information on contributing to Readercon 23.
The form and content of the Readercon program are shaped by the following principles:
- The broad range of interests and tastes of our attendees should be recognized and satisfied. In terms of genre, attendees may be into any combination of hard science fiction, literary sf, fantasy, horror, or "slipstream" (unclassifiable non-realistic) fiction. They may be variously interested in the writing and reading processes, in editing and publishing, and in the criticism and teaching of sf. They may like to hear panel discussions more than author readings or solo talks or discussions, or vice versa.
- There should be something of interest every hour for all but the most narrowly-focused attendee.
- It's better to force someone to choose between two attractive alternatives than to leave them with nothing of interest in a given hour. However, items with obviously overlapping interest should not be held simultaneously.
- There should be enough programming to keep our program participants reasonably busy: at least one item for everyone, a handful or more for our best speakers.
We've found that we can satisfy these principles by featuring the following simultaneously:
- Two panel discussions featuring five (or occasionally six or four) participants, usually including a "leader" who both directs and takes part in the discussion (sometimes with the more traditional "moderator" who directs but doesn't opine). The participants sit in arm chairs in front of coffee tables, rather than behind the usual table. Usually, the last ten minutes or so are devoted to questions from the audience, but the leader is free to solicit audience input at any stage. Although some of the panels are based on ideas given us by the participants, they are all ultimately the brainchildren of Readercon's Program Subcommittee (see below).
- Two tracks of author readings. Usually, each consists of a pair of compatible 30-minute readings, but there are 60-minute readings as well. Unlike nearly every other convention, we give you the title (and sometimes a descriptive blurb) in the Program Guide.
- Two tracks of solo talks and/or discussion groups (the "mini-tracks"), usually 60 minutes long, sometimes 30. Unlike the panel discussions, these are the brainchildren of the individual presenters or discussion group leaders.
- Two author Kaffeeklatsches — an intimate get-together between an author and up to 15 readers (who sign up in advance at the Information desk).
- Two autograph sessions in the Bookshop.
The items in any hour are carefully selected to avoid overlaps of genre and topic. If there's a hard sf panel discussion, there will rarely if ever be a hard sf author doing a reading, autograph session, or the like at the same time. (There's another reason for this: we want them in the audience of the panel discussion). If there's a panel we deem useful to aspiring writers (who are legion in our audience), it will not be up against a solo talk about writing. In fact, someone with a fairly narrow set of interests should be able to pick and choose their way through the program: first a panel discussion about fantasy, then a reading by a fantasy author, now a discussion, another panel, a Kaffeeklatsch, and so on. The attendee with broader tastes finds themselves (we hope) at a sumptuous but well-balanced buffet.
Very simply, we pride ourselves on doing panel discussions you haven't seen at a previous sf convention. We develop our ideas at meetings of our Program Subcommittee (there were ten of us this year, which is to say roughly half of the entire convention committee). If we have a driving principle, it's to start the panel at the right point, which is often roughly where the typical panel on the topic ends. In other words, we strive for panels that ask the next question (the driving cognitive philosophy of sf great Theodore Sturgeon, Memorial GoH at Readercon 2).
If this sounds attractive (or like a bold claim we need to back up), we urge you to read through the programs of past Readercons!
The convention begins Thursday at 8:00 PM with programming open to the public. (There's no registration, and we provide a handout with the evening's schedule in lieu of the full Program Guide.) Programming runs until 10:00 PM and consists of a relatively intimate, stripped-down version of what's to follow: a track or two of panels, a track of solo talks/discussions, and two tracks of readings.
Friday we begin at 11:00 AM with a full slate of our multi-track programming (local attendees who take the day off will thus be rewarded with the same wealth of programming that our out-of-towners enjoy). Since many local attendees do arrive after work and hence at dinner time, there's no dinner break. Special events start at 10:00 PM.
Saturday's full schedule runs from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. After 4:00 PM, there are yet more special events sandwiched around a dinner break. As has become traditional, we have scheduled a half-program (one track each of panels, readings, and solo talks/discussions) during Saturday evening from 6:00 to 10:00 PM, opposite the Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza and the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition.
Sunday programming once again begins at 10:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM.
While there are no lunch breaks at Readercon, we do try to populate the lunchtime hours with some of our more specialized programming — and if that fails, there's a concession stand which sells very satisfying sandwiches!
While the bulk of the program items at every Readercon are novel, there are a handful that you can count on:
- The "Bookaholics Anonymous" meeting Friday — a great way for folks attending their first Readercon to meet some of the regulars and get into the spirit of the weekend.
- A set of panels appreciating the career and works of our Guests of Honor, and of the outgoing Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner.
- Panels reviewing the year in short fiction and in novels, and the "Absent Friends" panel remembering writers who have passed away in the last year.
- Four Readercon Book Clubs: In-depth discussions of recent and classic fiction and nonfiction.
- A series of talks called "How I Wrote _____" (or edited, performed, etc.), in which creators of recent and forthcoming works explain how they do what they do.
- The presentation of the annual Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, Friday night at 10:00 PM. This is followed by:
- The Meet the Pros(e) Party. This is a chance to not only meet the program participants, but a fragment of their work! See the program listing for any recent convention for the details.
- Interviews with our Guests of Honor from 4:00 to 6:00 PM on Saturday. Our Guests of Honor are eminent and interesting enough that we don't need to program anything else (except an open Bookshop) opposite them.
- The famous Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition Saturday evening (after a two-hour dinner break). To our chagrin and secret satisfaction, we are perhaps as well known for "Kirk Poland" (widely regarded as the funniest 90 minutes in science fiction fandom, and certainly the funniest 90 minutes at any literary conference) as for everything else we do combined. Again, see a recent program listing for details.
- In some years, Something Else at 8:00 PM, between the dinner break and Kirk Poland. We've had a Poetry Slan, one-act plays, and several James Tiptree, Jr. Award presentations and auctions. Watch this space!
- The Shirley Jackson Awards Sunday morning. Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, "The Lottery." Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The Jackson Awards have been established in her name for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic; they are voted on each year by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. Awards are presented in six categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology. Readercon has hosted the Jackson Award ceremony from its inception in 2008 and is delighted to host it once again.
- 8:00 PM F Unfinished Symphonies. Erik Amundsen, C.S.E. Cooney (leader), Maria Dahvana Headley, Natalie Luhrs, Sarah Smith. One of George R. R. Martin's fans threatened to camp out at the author's house with a shotgun and an espresso machine until Martin buckled down and finished A Song of Ice and Fire. Recent years have seen Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time continued by Brandon Sanderson, a fourth book in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast completed (from only a fragment) by Maeve Gilmore, and younger writers completing some of Philip Jose Farmer's works, for only a few examples. Are such projects merely opportunistic attempts by publishers to extend a franchise, an exalted form of fanfic, or legitimate works of creative literary scholarship? Should unfinished series remain unfinished, or should the reader's (and bookseller's) desire for more trump notions of literary "purity"? And why do readers care so much about seeing series through to the end?
- 8:00 PM G Genrecare. Elizabeth Bear (leader), Kathleen Ann Goonan, Kelly Link, Shira Lipkin. In a 2011 review of Harmony by Project Itoh, Adam Roberts suggests that "the concept of 'healthcare' in its broadest sense is one of the keys to the modern psyche." Yet Roberts notes "how poorly genre has tuned in to that particular aspect of contemporary life." Similarly, in the essay "No Cure for the Future," Kirk Hampton and Carol MacKay write that "SF is a world almost never concerned with the issues of physical frailty and malfunction." As writers such as Nalo Hopkinson, Tricia Sullivan, and Kim Stanley Robinson explore the future of the body, how is SF dealing with the concepts of health, medicine, and what it means to be well?
- 8:00 PM ME Managing Motivation to Write. Alexander Jablokov, Steve Kelner (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Matthew Kressel, Ben Loory.
Kipling (an SF writer himself) wrote: "There are nine-and-sixty ways/of composing tribal lays/and every single one of them is right!" Science fiction writers should know this better than most, yet most people don't realize just how different the creative process is for different writers. Join a panel of writers discussing how they keep themselves going, the underlying reasons for why a given tactic works for them, and how it might (or might not) work for others.
Proposed by Stephen Kelner.
- 8:00 PM RI No Longer Lonely in the Cloud: Digital Collaboration for Readers. Jim Freund, Erin Kissane (leader), John Edward Lawson, Graham Sleight. MORE Magazine has created a multi-city book club via group video call. Writers who used to hang out in cafes are now using Google+ hangouts as virtual coworking space. In2Books matches up kids with distant adult pen pals specifically for the purpose of discussing books. Kindles and Readmill let you share your marginalia with your friends. How are new concepts of socializing and togetherness affecting the ways we read, write, and talk about literature?
- 8:00 PM NH Reading. Kit Reed. Kit Reed reads one of the new stories from The Story Until Now, her "best-of" collection forthcoming in 2013.
- 8:00 PM VT Reading. Peter Dubé. Peter Dubé reads from the novel The City's Gates.
- 8:30 PM NH Reading. Yves Meynard. Yves Meynard reads from his new fantasy novel, Chrysanthe.
- 8:30 PM VT Reading. Darrell Schweitzer. Darrell Schweitzer reads "The Corpse Detective."
- 9:00 PM F The Visual Generation. Gemma Files, Elizabeth Hand, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan (leader), Lee Moyer. Last year's horror-related Readercon panels all brought in discussions of other media. Many of today's horror and dark fantasy writers were exposed to horror movies and television before ever picking up a horror novel. In a 2010 book review, horror critic Will Errickson wrote, "I can't imagine what it must have been like for authors such as Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Sheridan LeFanu, et al., to write horror fiction without having horror film as an influence." Yet despite these undeniable changes in the field, readers often disparage horror writing when they feel it tries too hard to be "cinematic," or when an author openly admits to being inspired by visual media. Is it time for us to get over this stigma and accept that horror literature and visual media are in an ongoing two-way conversation? Or are we in danger of diluting the craft and consigning the genre's past masters to obscurity unless they've been adapted to film?
- 9:00 PM G Why Is Realistic Fiction Useful? Daniel Abraham, Nathan Ballingrud, Grant C. Carrington, Liz Gorinsky (leader), Alexander Jablokov. In a 2011 blog post, Harry Connolly wrote, "If I want to understand the horrors of war, the pain of divorce, the disappointment of seeing a business fail, I don’t need to read fiction. There’s non-fiction on that very subject…. So forget about justifying the utility of fantasy. How do people justify the utility of realism?" Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried distinguishes between "story truth" and "happening truth"; O'Brien feels that fictionalizing some aspects of his own experience makes them more universal. On the other hand, reality TV, Photoshop, and CGI have proven how blurry the line between fiction and non-fiction can be. How do we tease out these distinctions, and what is realistic fiction's place in the literary landscape?
- 9:00 PM ME Randomness, Relativity, Reality, and Free Will. Eric M. Van. As the physics world struggles to develop a Theory of Everything, it is increasingly faced with four big questions. Is quantum mechanics, with its inherent randomness, ultimately true, or does it derive from deterministic processes in some deeper layer of reality? Is relativity ultimately true, or is there a deeper layer of reality where there is an absolute standard of simultaneity and frame of reference? Is there an objective reality independent of conscious minds, or do conscious minds somehow determine reality at least in part? And do beings with conscious minds have true free will that somehow supersedes causal laws? It turns out that the four questions are intimately related to one another in all sorts of fascinating ways, so that answers to some questions pose difficulties for, or even rule out, certain answers to others. Eric M. Van will attempt to narrow the set of answers down as far as possible, deriving a set of possible ultimate realities to believe in.
- 9:00 PM RI How Fantastic Is Fantasy? Erik Amundsen, Ron Drummond, Andy Duncan, Katherine MacLean (leader), Faye Ringel.
Audience members discuss events of supernatural import that we ordinarily keep locked in the closet: luck, coincidences, things that go bump in the night, telepathy and precognition, visions and dreams. Many people have had Experiences, but no one wants to look like a nut. In this discussion, we'll let loose and explore our personal experiences of the places where reality gets weird.
Proposed by Katherine MacLean.
- 9:00 PM NH Reading. Kathleen Ann Goonan. Kathleen Ann Goonan reads her short story "A Love Supreme," which will appear in Discover this October.
- 9:00 PM VT Reading. F. Brett Cox. F. Brett Cox reads "The Amnesia Helmet," a new short story.
- 9:30 PM NH Reading. Jennifer Pelland. Jennifer Pelland reads from her novel Machine.
- 9:30 PM VT Reading. Toni L.P. Kelner. Toni L.P. Kelner reads from her story "Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park," published in Death's Excellent Vacation.
- 11:00 AM F Post-Colonial Independence and the Fantastic. Christopher Brown, Bernard Dukas (leader), Walter Hunt, Vandana Singh. Indigenous peoples in post-colonial nations often use speculative and fantastical works to explore concerns raised by colonization, wars for independence, and the colonizers' departure. Are there commonalities to speculative stories written in immediately post-colonial nations—say, within the first 50 years of independence—around the world, such as Egypt in the early 20th century, India and the Philippines in the late 20th century, and Croatia today? What about 19th-century Haiti and 16th-century Persia? What do these works reveal about the nature of colonization and the ways that narratives are shaped by the authors' direct personal experiences of the struggle for independence?
- 11:00 AM G Subversion Through Friendliness. Glenn Grant, Victoria Janssen (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Alison Sinclair, Ruth Sternglantz. In a 2011 review of Vonda N. McIntyre's classic Dreamsnake, Ursula K. Le Guin quotes Moe Bowstern's slogan "Subversion Through Friendliness" and adds, "Subversion through terror, shock, pain is easy—instant gratification, as it were. Subversion through friendliness is paradoxical, slow-acting, and durable. And sneaky." Is subversion through friendliness a viable strategy for writers who desire to challenge norms? What are its defining characteristics? When do readers love it, and when does it backfire?
- 11:00 AM ME The Year in Short Fiction. Ellen Datlow (leader), Paula Guran. We will discuss the speculative short fiction published since last Readercon.
- 11:00 AM RI How We Wrote the Expanse Series. Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who collaborate under the name James S. A. Corey, discuss the writing of their mammoth space opera series.
- 11:00 AM NH Group Reading: Mythic Poetry. Mary Agner, Mike Allen, Erik Amundsen, Leah Bobet, C.S.E. Cooney, Gemma Files, April Grant, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Shira Lipkin, Adrienne J. Odasso, Julia Rios, Darrell Schweitzer, Sonya Taaffe. Over the past decade, speculative poetry has increasingly turned toward the mythic in subject matter, with venues such as Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Stone Telling, Cabinet des Fées, Jabberwocky, and the now-defunct Journal of the Mythic Arts showcasing a new generation of poets who've redefined what this type of writing can do. Come to the reading and hear new and classic works from speculative poetry's trend-setters.
- 11:00 AM VT Reading. Matthew Kressel. Matthew Kressel reads "The Great Game at the End of the World," which will be published in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's anthology After.
- 11:00 AM Vin. Kaffeeklatsch. Joe Haldeman, Peter Straub.
- 11:00 AM E Autographs. Helen Collins, Theodore Krulik.
- 11:30 AM VT Reading. Paul Tremblay. Paul Tremblay reads from his upcoming novel Swallowing a Donkey's Eye.
- 12:00 PM F Muzzling the Horse's Mouth. Michael Dirda, David G. Hartwell, Veronica Schanoes (leader), Graham Sleight, Ruth Sternglantz. Conventions, zines, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook provide many venues for writers to shape the dialogue around their works. When it's hard to avoid information about what a writer intended, how does that affect the critical reading experience? As readers and as critics, can we feel confident that we would have seen on our own what the writer has revealed to us? How do we differentiate and prioritize between our own insights and those shared by the author? Does the writer's emphasis on some aspects of a work make it harder to see other aspects? And what happens when the critic's desire to convey information about a work—such as an author's stated intentions—comes into conflict with the critic's desire to demonstrate a viable personal reading of the text?
- 12:00 PM G Writing for Electronic Devices. Michael J. DeLuca, James Patrick Kelly, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), David G. Shaw. How does the experience of reading speculative fiction on the Kindle, the iPad, and other e-readers differ from reading a codex? What changes in the literature itself might we see as authors write stories and novels intended to be read on electronic devices? Will the ability to link across pages and chapters (as first seen in Geoff Ryman's pioneering 253) change how plots are developed, or will they act more as memory aids? Our panelists speculate about this unevenly distributed but inevitable future.
- 12:00 PM ME Bookaholics Anonymous/Welcome to Readercon. John Clute, Walter Hunt (leader), John H. Stevens. The most controversial of all 12-step groups. Despite the appearance of self-approbation, despite the formal public proclamations by members that they find their behavior humiliating and intend to change it, this group, in fact, is alleged to secretly encourage its members to succumb to their addictions. The shame, in other words, is a sham. Within the subtext of the members' pathetic testimony, it is claimed, all the worst vices are covertly endorsed: book-buying, book-hoarding, book-stacking, book-sniffing, even book-reading. Could this be true? Come testify yourself, while giving and getting tips on navigating the wonders of Readercon for the very first time.
- 12:00 PM RI At School with Peter Straub. Andy Duncan, Jack Haringa, Nicholas Kaufmann (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Paul Tremblay.
For the generation of horror writers who came of age in the seventies and eighties, the fiction of Peter Straub has exerted a profound gravitational pull. Glen Hirshberg has spoken of the importance of If You Could See Me Now to his development as a writer of ghost stories. Lee Thomas has acknowledged the influence of Ghost Story on his novel The Dust of Wonderland. Kelly Link has noted the significance of Shadowland to her stories. Laird Barron has written the afterword to the recent Centipede Press edition of Koko, in which he details that novel's importance to his work. This panel will bring together several writers who have benefited from the example of Straub's fiction to discuss some of the ways in which his work contributed to theirs.
Proposed by Nicholas Kaufmann.
- 12:00 PM NH Group Reading: Codex Writers' Group. Gwendolyn Clare, D.T. Friedman, Damien Walters Grintalis, Leonid Korogodski, John P. Murphy, Jennifer Pelland, Julia Rios, Kenneth Schneyer, Amy Sundberg, Gerald Warfield, Gregory Wilson. Codex is a very active, 8-year-old, online writers' group that focuses mainly on newer pro SF and Fantasy writers.
- 12:00 PM VT Reading. Amanda Downum. Amanda Downum reads the forthcoming novelette "Bone Garden."
- 12:00 PM Vin. Kaffeeklatsch. Liz Gorinsky, Jacob Weisman.
- 12:00 PM E Autographs. Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch.
- 12:30 PM VT Reading. Christopher M. Cevasco. Christopher Cevasco reads from his just completed novel about Lady Godiva, which returns the legend of her naked ride to a more plausible historical context in 11th-century England.
- 1:00 PM F Theological Debate in Fantasy and SF. Ellen Asher, John Benson, James Morrow (leader), Sonya Taaffe, Harold Torger Vedeler. From Spenser and Bunyan to Michael Chabon and Stephenie Meyer, writers of speculative fiction have engaged in fine-grained, subtextual theological positioning and debate. Leaving aside instances of more obvious religious maneuvering, what happens when implicit or encoded theological dialogues become invisible to readers, either because the passage of time has stripped away their contexts (as with, say, High Church vs. Low Church Anglicanism in Victorian fiction), or because they are only available to the initiated (as with Meyer's LDS-inflected fantasy)? Are these vanishings a loss? Is there something insidious about books whose surface narratives conceal debates to which we lack access, or do these dimensions enrich the texts? Are we 'better' readers if we try to suss them out?
- 1:00 PM G Through a Glass, Dystopianly. Leah Bobet, Gwendolyn Clare, Jack Haringa (leader), Alaya Dawn Johnson, Shira Lipkin. Millions of words have been written on the current dystopian trend in young adult literature; the consensus seems to be that dystopias are a reflection of the state of being a modern teenager, feeling trapped and uncertain of who you are. Fair enough. But given that the teen years are often when people first become engaged with wider world concerns—and given that these books are written by adults aware of those concerns—perhaps there are also particular anxieties about the current state of society and the world feeding the popularity of books like Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games or Ali Condie's Matched. The Hunger Games, for example, can be read as commentary on the issues surrounding the Occupy protests, with those in power controlling resources as a way of maintaining order at the cost of tremendous collateral damage to the innocent. Is this a useful way of reading these stories? Are there similar issues we can discern in other recent young adult fictions? And what issues might we expect to see reflected in future YA works?
- 1:00 PM ME My Mother, Shirley Jackson. Sarah Hyman DeWitt. Sarah Hyman DeWitt, Shirley Jackson's younger daughter, shares anecdotes and remembrances of her mother.
- 1:00 PM RI Om Nom Nom de Plume. Daniel Abraham (leader), Francesca Forrest, Ty Franck, David G. Hartwell, Shawna McCarthy. The reasons a writer might take a pen name are well known. Less examined are how the use of a pseudonym affects what they write and how they write it, and how readers read it. Our panelists discuss both readerly and writerly approaches to pseudonymous work when the name behind the 'nym is public (as with Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant, or Daniel Abraham/M.L.N. Hanover/half of James S. A. Corey) or when an author is publicly pseudonymous but no one knows who's behind the curtain (as with K.J. Parker).
- 1:00 PM NH Reading. Caitlín R. Kiernan. Caitlín R. Kiernan reads from The Drowning Girl: A Memoir.
- 1:00 PM VT Reading. Ellen Kushner. Ellen Kushner reads from a work to be determined.
- 1:00 PM E Autographs. Andy Duncan, Howard Waldrop.
- 1:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Paula Guran, Victoria Janssen.
- 1:30 PM VT Reading. James Patrick Kelly. James Patrick Kelly reads from his novella "The Last Judgment," the cover story of the March/April issue of Asimov's.
- 2:00 PM F Serendipity in the Digital Age. John Benson, John Clute, Michael J. DeLuca, Michael Dirda, Kathryn Morrow, David G. Shaw (leader). Libraries are closing off their stacks from patrons and sending robots to retrieve requested books; brick-and-mortar bookstores are being supplanted by Amazon's massive warehouses and recommendation engines. While these arrangements increase efficiency on the business end, they destroy serendipity on the reader's end. Yet sites like Wikipedia and TV Tropes give us what Randall Munroe called "hours of fascinated clicking," trails of discovery that strongly resemble the old-fashioned bookstore or library experience. Can those sites teach us how to recreate browsing in our browsers? Should Amazon look more like the new online edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia?
- 2:00 PM G Evaluating Political Fiction. L. Timmel Duchamp, Alexander Jablokov (leader), Robert Killheffer, Vincent McCaffrey, Anil Menon, Ruth Sternglantz. This panel examines the intersections among story as political expression, story as entertainment, and story as art and craft. When an author takes a clear political stance within a work of fiction, how does a reader's perception of that stance–and the extent to which we find it compelling or intriguing–affect our sense of whether the work is entertaining or well-crafted? Given the diversity of opinions among readers and the ways that judgments of quality are necessarily influenced by culture and personal experience, should readers aim to achieve consensus about a political work's merits and meanings, or do we need to embrace a more pluralistic understanding of how literary works are both experienced and evaluated? What are best practices for critics, academics, and other professional readers as we navigate these tricky waters?
- 2:00 PM ME The Works of Shirley Jackson. F. Brett Cox, Andy Duncan, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Faye Ringel. Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) has inspired generations of writers with her dark, psychologically incisive fiction, which her husband, critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, called "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times." The Science Fiction Encyclopedia notes that many of Jackson's stories are "fantasies of alienation," despite often not being strictly fantastical, which makes them particularly resonant to readers and writers of horror and dark fantasy. This panel will discuss her many touchstone works, such as "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House, and their influence on authors such as our other guests of honor.
- 2:00 PM RI Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Expanding Our Knowledge. Michael Cisco, John Kessel, Theodore Krulik (leader), John Langan, Genevieve Valentine.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein describes how it is essential to the human spirit to explore new realms, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. Shelley points the way with her subtitle. What does Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus tell us about where human knowledge should lead us? What are our limits, if there are any? This panel will discuss the text of the novel to uncover what Shelley is suggesting we do with our thirst for intellectual advancement, and consider what we are pursuing today in our search for knowledge.
Proposed by Theodore Krulik.
- 2:00 PM NH Reading. Delia Sherman. Delia Sherman reads from her Norton Award–winning YA novel The Freedom Maze.
- 2:00 PM VT Reading. Nathan Ballingrud. Nathan Ballingrud reads from The Atlas of Hell, a recently completed novella featuring a book thief, Louisiana gangsters, and swamp monsters.
- 2:00 PM E Autographs. John Crowley, Peter Straub.
- 2:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Elizabeth Bear, Amanda Downum.
- 2:30 PM NH Reading. Alaya Dawn Johnson. Alaya Dawn Johnson reads from "The Inconstant Moon," a short story (originally published on Tor.com) set in the same universe as her novels Moonshine and Wicked City.
- 2:30 PM VT Reading. Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen. Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen reads from Claiming Her.
- 3:00 PM F Anthropology for Writers. James L. Cambias, Christopher M. Cevasco, Amanda Downum, Francesca Forrest, John H. Stevens (leader), Harold Torger Vedeler. In a 2011 blog post, Farah Mendlesohn wrote, "'Worldbuilding' as we understand it, has its roots in traditions that described the world in monolithic ways: folklore studies, anthropology, archeology, all began with an interest in describing discrete groups of people and for that they needed people to be discrete." This panel will discuss the historical and present-day merging and mingling of real-world cultures, and advise writers on building less monolithic and more plausible fictional ones.
- 3:00 PM G The New New Wave. Elizabeth Bear, Richard Bowes, Gwendolyn Clare, F. Brett Cox (leader), Paul Di Filippo. China Miéville has said that Embassytown is in some ways a reaction to New Wave books by Le Guin and Delany, and Jo Walton's Among Others engages in a very literal dialogue with the New Wave works of those two authors. Walter Jon Williams's Implied Spaces and Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief could easily be seen as responses to Zelazny's work from the same era, which also inspired Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder trilogy. Why is the New Wave cresting again? Are authors looking for something in those older works that they haven't found in more recent SF? Or is it just easier to critique and converse with the New Wave now that we've had several decades to think about it?
- 3:00 PM ME Readercon Classic Nonfiction Book Club: How to Suppress Women's Writing. Samuel R. Delany, L. Timmel Duchamp, Andrea Hairston (leader). First published in 1983, How to Suppress Women's Writing remains a touchstone for many people, the sort of book often passed from one reader to another with the words, "You have to read this!" Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote of it in 2010, "This is not an angry book. It is not a book that condemns men. It is a book that shows how our culture's traditional (patriarchal) way of reading and studying and archiving literature has forced limitations upon all of us, preventing us from understanding the importance of a huge percentage of the work written in our language. Men and women both have been convinced that women's writing (and indeed, art in general) is less valuable and less significant." How do we read Joanna Russ's work now, nearly 30 years after the book first appeared? Which of her ideas remain the most potent? Has it become, as critic Niall Harrison said in 2005, "a book that is most often referenced by its soundbites"? Do the soundbites do justice to the complexity of Russ's analysis?
- 3:00 PM RI How to Write for a Living When You Can’t Live Off Your Fiction. Thomas A. Easton, James Patrick Kelly, Mikki Kendall, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Nick Mamatas.
You've just been laid off from your staff job, you can't live on the royalties from your fiction writing, and your significant other has taken a cut in pay. How do you pay the rent? Well, you can find freelance work writing articles, white papers, reviews, blogs, and other non-sfnal stuff. Despite today's lean journalistic market, it's still possible to make a living writing, editing, and/or publishing. Let's talk about where and how you can sell yourself as a professional writer, whether blogging can be done for a living, and how else you can use your talent to keep the wolf from the door. Bring whatever ideas, sources, and contacts you have.
Proposed by Barbara Krasnoff.
- 3:00 PM NH Reading. Peter Straub. Peter Straub reads from his novel-in-progress, The Smell of Fire.
- 3:00 PM VT Reading. Helen Collins. Helen Collins reads her short story "Fusion."
- 3:00 PM E Autographs. Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Joe Haldeman.
- 3:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Leah Bobet, James Morrow.
- 3:30 PM VT Reading. Gregory Wilson. Gregory A. Wilson reads from his short story due out in the upcoming anthology When the Villain Comes Home, edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy.
- 4:00 PM F Wet Dreams and Nightmares. Samuel R. Delany, Gemma Files, Paula Guran (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Sonya Taaffe. Writers such as Caitlín R. Kiernan, M. Christian, Cecilia Tan, and Paula Guran are well known in both speculative fiction and erotic fiction circles for creating what Kiernan calls "weird and transgressive" erotica. How does this subgenre use the tools and tropes of horror and dark fantasy to explore taboo aspects of sexuality and gender? How has it changed over the decades as sexual culture has evolved? And as the romance genre becomes more welcoming of both the erotic and the undead, how will weird erotica maintain its identity as something separate from paranormal porn?
- 4:00 PM G Sherlock Holmes, Now and Forever. Ellen Asher, Michael Dirda (leader), Victoria Janssen, Fred Lerner, Veronica Schanoes. Sherlock Holmes is everywhere right now: in TV series like House, BBC's Sherlock, and the upcoming Elementary; in the Robert Downey Jr. movies; and in books and stories being written about Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. What accounts for the endless appeal of this character? Are we ever going to get tired of brilliant and slightly mad detectives? Or is it all really about Watson, as suggested by our collective urge to keep telling and retelling Holmes's stories?
- 4:00 PM ME Oblique Strategies for Authors. Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen, Gavin J. Grant, Glenn Grant (leader), Katherine MacLean, Eric M. Van, Jo Walton.
In 1975 Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published a deck of cards called "Oblique Strategies." Each card provides a cryptic directive—such as "Use an old idea" or "Honour thy error as a hidden intention"—intended to help an artist deal with a creative block or dilemma. While many of the original strategies are useful for writers of fiction, others (such as
"The tape is now the music") are perhaps only appropriate for musicians and visual artists. Let's brainstorm a deck of Oblique Strategies specifically designed to provide unexpected creative kicks for authors who are in a jam.
Proposed by Glenn Grant.
- 4:00 PM RI Readercon Recent Fiction Book Club: Who Fears Death. Andy Duncan (leader), Shira Lipkin. In her World Fantasy Award–winning first adult novel, Nnedi Okorafor continues her groundbreaking project of drawing on her own Nigerian heritage, African mythology and politics, and profoundly disturbing practices such as weaponized rape and clitoridectomy to create unique speculative work. Set in a haunting and haunted world that is part far-future post-tech SF, part myth, and utterly contemporary in its central issues, Who Fears Death raises important questions about the often-sentimentalized portrayal of Africa in SF, about feminism and empowerment, about the possibilities of SF and fantasy imagined from a non-Western perspective, and even about genre distinctions—sorcery and shapeshifting coexist with computers, satellite communications, and "capture stations" to draw precious water from the air. What does Okorafor's vision state and imply about the relationship of speculative fiction to the developing world, its capacity for engaging the social and economic issues of that world, and the ways it can be shaped by non–Anglo-American settings and assumptions?
- 4:00 PM NH Group Reading: Mt. Palomar Stories. Maria Dahvana Headley, Ben Loory, Kit Reed, Rick Wilber. Four writers were on their way up Mt. Palomar to visit the Observatory when the driver said, "The first person to write and sell a story about this excursion gets dinner on me at TGI Friday's." Four minds went racing in four wildly different directions, and these stories are the result.
- 4:00 PM VT Reading. Genevieve Valentine. Genevieve Valentine reads from her short story "Abyssus Abyssum Invocat."
- 4:00 PM E Autographs. David G. Hartwell.
- 4:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Mike Allen, Ellen Kushner.
- 4:30 PM VT Reading. Daniel P. Dern. Daniel Dern reads "If You Give a T. Rex a Cookie"; its sequel, "If a T. Rex Gives You a Cookie"; and several of his short Dern Grim Bedtime Tales (Few of Which End Well).
- 5:00 PM F The Books Readers Don't See. Christopher Brown (leader), Barry B. Longyear, Anil Menon, Michael Swanwick. In this interconnected age, it's easy to forget that some books are never translated or exported, leaving them only available to readers of the original language or region. Countries with the most developed publishing infrastructures and the most dominant languages are at such an advantage that for many writers throughout the world, the only path to financial success is writing for a foreign audience. How do these inequalities of publishing affect writing and reading today? What innovations are writers and publishers using to bring their work to a larger audience? What can readers do to get their hands on more global literature and encourage its broad distribution?
- 5:00 PM G Why I Stopped Writing. Erik Amundsen, Nathan Ballingrud, Steve Berman (leader), Geary Gravel, Jennifer Pelland, Luc Reid. We've all seen writers logging their word counts, charting their progress toward the next novel or short story. And we've heard the advice to keep writing and submitting. But is it ever a good idea to just stop? What can we gain from getting off the publishing merry-go-round, at least for a while? Is stopping a sign of failure, or just another stage in a writer's career? The panelists discuss how and why they stopped writing (and maybe started up again).
- 5:00 PM ME How I Narrated and Produced the 'Illuminated' Swordspoint Series Audiobooks. Ellen Kushner. Ellen Kushner discusses the making of her latest audiobook, The Privilege of the Sword (released this month, deliberately scheduled to coincide with Readercon!), and its predecessor, Swordspoint, both written and narrated (and co-produced) by Kushner for ACX/Neil Gaiman Presents. A year ago, she'd never even listened to an audiobook; now, using extra voice actors, sound effects, and commissioned soundtrack music, she and producer/director Sue Zizza have created a new style called the "Illuminated" audiobook. She will play excerpts and answer questions about the process, including her experiences with ACX, Audible's new initiative for empowering authors to create their own audiobooks.
- 5:00 PM RI Story Terminable and Interminable. Graham Sleight. How much do we want our stories to be about change, and how much do we want them to give us the same kind of experience each time? How much of an ending do we want our stories to have? Graham Sleight attempts to answer these questions in, um, under 50 minutes. He also intends to mention Star Trek, brands, churches, Gene Wolfe, Tony Kushner, James Tiptree Jr., the principles of stage magic, and the author he stole the title of the talk from.
- 5:00 PM NH Reading. Joe Haldeman. Joe Haldeman reads from his novel Work Done For Hire.
- 5:00 PM VT Reading. James L. Cambias. James Cambias reads from Rene Descartes and the Cross of Blood, an alchemical film noir.
- 5:00 PM E Autographs. Ellen Datlow, James Morrow.
- 5:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Paul Park, Genevieve Valentine.
- 5:30 PM NH Reading. L. Timmel Duchamp. L. Timmel Duchamp reads from her novel in progress.
- 5:30 PM VT Reading. Jeff VanderMeer. Jeff VanderMeer reads from his new novel Annihilation, about an expedition sent into the mysterious Area X (also known as the Southern Reach) and what befalls them.
- 6:00 PM F Speech Patterns. Judith Berman, Leah Bobet, Greer Gilman, Sarah Smith (leader), Vinnie Tesla. Writers can adopt the convention that people in the future (or past) speak just as they do now. Or they can take contemporary speech patterns and tweak them to suggest the different time or place. Or they can go for verisimilitude (historical or imagined). Why do we see more tweaking of speech patterns in stories set in the past than the future? Is altering speech patterns to give a flavor of the future an underused technique, or does it present more difficulties (see Riddley Walker, A Clockwork Orange, or Ambient)? Some writers the altered speech pattern for the aliens reserve, as a way of underscoring their different psychology. What other techniques are available?
- 6:00 PM G What Writers Want. Suzy McKee Charnas, John Crowley, Nicholas Kaufmann, James Patrick Kelly (leader), Nicole Kornher-Stace, Peter Straub. Genre writing is not a career known for its well-defined path. There are goalposts—bestseller lists, movie deals, inspiring reams of fan fiction—but do they sum up all that genre writers aim for? This panel dares to go deeper and uncover authors' true ambitions, whether they dream of exemplifying or transcending the genre, turning genre itself into art, being named a Grand Master, outselling everyone, or all of these—and to examine how those ambitions might be achieved.
- 6:00 PM ME Podcasting for the Speculative Fiction Author; Or, Will the Revolution Be Recorded? Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Jim Freund, Alexander Jablokov, Alison Sinclair, Gregory Wilson (leader). Building on last year's talk at Readercon about promotion for the speculative fiction author and drawing from an upcoming SFWA Bulletin article, Gregory A. Wilson and discussants will focus on the pros and pitfalls of podcasting for fantasy and science fiction authors, looking at some examples of successful podcasts in the field, different types for different purposes, and the basics of getting started with podcasting.
- 6:00 PM RI A Story from Scratch, Part I. Elizabeth Bear, Kyle Cassidy, Lee Moyer, Michael Swanwick. Zombies? Aliens? Insect invasion? Vampire detectives? Who knows! Be part of the story created on the spot by Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear and brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Friday and Saturday, using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Michael and Elizabeth will create a narrative that will be photographed by Kyle and have a cover created by Lee. On Sunday the story will be read aloud as the cover and illustrations are displayed, and an electronic version of the final work will be made available for download. You can participate in any or all of the sessions. Business casual attire recommended.
- 6:00 PM NH Reading. Matthew Cheney. Matthew Cheney reads from a new short story.
- 6:00 PM VT Reading. Lila Garrott. Lila Garrott reads her short story "The Ninety-Nine Conceits of the Minotaur," and several book reviews from her blog.
- 6:00 PM E Autographs. Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen, Allen Steele.
- 6:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Helen Collins, Maria Dahvana Headley.
- 6:30 PM NH Reading. Elizabeth Hand. Elizabeth Hand reads from new work.
- 6:30 PM VT Reading. Harold Torger Vedeler. Harold Torger Vedeler reads from Intersect: A Love Story, a novel about games, friendship, and the dangers of commercial love.
- 7:00 PM F Guess Who's Coming to Fairyland. Gwendolyn Clare, C.S.E. Cooney (leader), Victoria Janssen, Kate Nepveu, Joan Slonczewski. Many fantasy and SF novels struggle with an issue that, at first glance, looks downright old-fashioned: interracial marriage. The races are non-human, and some of their problems are unique; for example, in Cheryl Brooks's Cat Star Chronicles, the near-extinct Zetithians must breed with other species or die out. Others face very familiar concerns such as being rejected by their families or peers. Their risk-taking is often rewarded with the birth of children who display enhanced or unusual abilities–though those children have their own concerns about not fitting in. How do these themes reflect and interact with real-world tensions around race, marriage, and culture?
- 7:00 PM G The Literature of Estrangement. Christopher Brown, Lila Garrott (leader), Greer Gilman, Anil Menon, Jeff VanderMeer, Paul Witcover. In a 2011 interview in The Guardian concerning the paucity of SF and fantasy texts among Booker nominees (and, we might add, Pulitzers or National Book Awards in the U.S.), China Miéville suggested repositioning the debate as not between the realistic and the fantastic, but between "the literature of recognition versus that of estrangement," though he admitted that "the distinction maps only imperfectly across the generic divide" and that "all fiction contains elements of both drives." Is this a more useful set of terms for discussing the familiar schism? Does it reveal literary alignments in an inventive new way? Or is it simply cutting the same cake at a different angle?
- 7:00 PM ME The Multimedia of The Drowning Girl. Kyle Cassidy, Caitlín R. Kiernan. After photographer Kyle Cassidy read Caitlín R. Kiernan's novel The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, he was inspired to create still photos from it. In turn, these were developed into a two-minute book trailer funded by Kickstarter. Cassidy and Kiernan explain how a novel can become a multimedia experience.
- 7:00 PM RI Have We Lost the Future? James L. Cambias (leader), Paul Park, Steven Popkes, Harold Torger Vedeler, Jo Walton.
Where science fiction once looked to the future as the setting for speculation, nowadays the focus seems to be on alternate pasts, fantasy worlds, or consciously "retro" futures. We're no longer showing the way to what things might be like. We discuss whether this is connected to the general fear of decline and decay in the English-language world—or has science fiction simply run out of ideas?
Proposed by James Cambias.
- 7:00 PM NH Reading. Andy Duncan. Andy Duncan reads "Close Encounters," a novelette in his new collection The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories (PS Publishing 2012) and soon to be published in F&SF.
- 7:00 PM VT Reading. Michael J. DeLuca. Michael J. DeLuca reads "Other Palimpsests," forthcoming in the anthology Biblioteca Fantastica from Dagan Books, edited by Claude Lalumière and Don Pizarro.
- 7:00 PM E Autographs. Marty Halpern, Walter Hunt.
- 7:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Jim Freund, Shira Lipkin.
- 7:30 PM NH Reading. Scott Lynch. Scott Lynch reads from a forthcoming novel.
- 7:30 PM VT Reading. Geary Gravel. Geary Gravel reads from The Seers, a novel set in the universe of The Alchemists.
- 8:00 PM F Reimagining Protagonist Agency. Nathan Ballingrud, Leah Bobet (leader), John Clute, Scott Lynch, Jo Walton. Historically, the bulk of SF&F has dealt with protagonists taking direct physical (or cognitive) action to solve problems. They were brilliantly competent men and women, or destined healers of a wounded land: their agency in their story was obvious and indisputable. Recently, a number of authors have been depicting protagonists with more subtle types of agency. Many readers and critics have reacted by labeling such protagonists, negatively, as passive. Our panelists discuss why and how they've tried to expand the limits of what is popularly considered to be agency, and lessons they've learned for effectively communicating these ideas to readers.
- 8:00 PM G Uncle Sam Wants You to Write Better Books. Richard Bowes, Paul Di Filippo, Maria Dahvana Headley (leader), Barry B. Longyear, Paul Park. In About Writing, Samuel R. Delany wrote, "The general population, day in and day out, is not used to getting good stories. This… probably accounts for why there is so little political sophistication among the general populace. Political awareness requires that people become used to getting rich, full, complex, logical, and causative accounts of what is going on in the world, and, when they don't, regularly demanding them." There are some obvious examples of fiction that led to political engagement and change: Abraham Lincoln thought that Uncle Tom's Cabin started the Civil War, The Well of Loneliness and Lady Chatterly's Lover changed the sexual climate in Britain, and The Female Man shaped the language of feminism. But did those books have political effects because they were what Delany calls "good stories," or for other reasons? If we accept the causative relationship that Delany posits, how do we get past the chicken-and-egg situation of readers not wanting (or being willing to spend money on) good stories until they're used to getting good stories?
- 8:00 PM ME Better Eating Through Chemistry. David G. Shaw. Look at the nutritional info for any processed food and you'll find a long list of additives used as stabilizers and preservatives. Many of these ingredients are naturally occurring food components that can be exploited to transform food, creating new textures, unexpected contrasts, and changes in the temperatures at which foods can be served. David Shaw will explain how to integrate these techniques into everyday cooking, with examples provided from another year of experimentation in the lab… er, kitchen.
- 8:00 PM RI The Works of Peter Straub. Mike Allen, Ken Houghton, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Henry Wessells (leader), Gary K. Wolfe. The biography on Peter Straub's website cites works of poetry, mainstream literature, supernatural and psychological horror, and the simply unclassifiable. All come from that moment when he first "gathered up his ancient fears and turned them into fiction." 1979's Ghost Story and 1988's Koko demonstrated Straub's talent for digging deep into the darkest areas of the psyche and turning his findings into gripping prose, well-seasoned with the rhythms of his beloved jazz. This panel will chart his trajectory from those early successes to his present position as a master of the compellingly disturbing.
- 8:00 PM NH Group Reading: Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop. Heather Albano, James L. Cambias, F. Brett Cox, Alexander Jablokov, James Patrick Kelly, Steven Popkes, Kenneth Schneyer, Sarah Smith. The members of the oldest extant professional writers group in New England give brief readings from their works.
- 8:00 PM VT Reading. Ben Loory. Ben Loory reads some stories from a forthcoming collection.
- 8:00 PM E Autographs. Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick.
- 8:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Rosemary Kirstein, Joan Slonczewski.
- 8:30 PM VT Reading. Ron Drummond. Ron Drummond reads "A Gross of Nails," a controversial new short play about the 12-year-old William Shakespeare, and a selection of other short works.
- 9:00 PM F Kaffeeklatsch. Kyle Cassidy, Lee Moyer.
- 9:00 PM ME Carrying a Gate through the Labyrinth: Portal and Greer Gilman's "Girl, Implicated." Margaret Ronald. Greer Gilman's essay "Girl, Implicated: The Child in the Labyrinth in the Fantastic" posits an archetypal female journey in which "the solitary girl child in a labyrinth… charts her own way out of it, driven by her curiosity and courage." A recent interactive take on this motif appears in the video game Portal and its sequel, in which a lone woman must find her way through a deserted testing facility while facing her own "genius or nemesis" in the form of the game's main antagonist. Margaret Ronald will explore how Portal and Portal 2 propose not only a series of labyrinths-within-labyrinths but a new approach to escape by situating this narrative in a gameplay context.
- 9:00 PM RI Readercon Classic Fiction Book Club: The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Michael Cisco, Sarah Smith, John H. Stevens, Michael Swanwick (leader), Jeff VanderMeer. The Palm-Wine Drinkard is a classic of world literature, a vivid, exhilarating, and linguistically breathtaking tale of a fantastic quest. The novel is based on Yoruba folktales, but Amos Tutuola makes them uniquely his own. In a 1997 obituary for Tutuola in The Independent, Alastair Niven wrote: "Tutuola was a born story-teller, taking traditional oral material and re-imagining it inimitably. In this way he was, though very different in method and craft, the Grimm or Perrault of Nigerian story-telling, refashioning old tales in a unique way which made them speak across cultures." Now, 60 years after it was first released, The Palm-Wine Drinkard stands as the best sort of classic: one that remains a pleasure to read, but that opens up new readings with each encounter.
- 9:00 PM NH Reading. John Crowley. John Crowley reads from his new novel in progress.
- 9:00 PM VT Reading. Rick Wilber. Rick Wilber reads from The Sweep, a novel of gifts and price tags, forthcoming from Tor.
- 9:00 PM E Autographs. Mike Allen, Barry B. Longyear.
- 9:30 PM VT Reading. Walter Hunt. Walter Hunt reads from Elements of Mind.
- 10:00 AM F Horror and the Social Compact. Jack Haringa (leader), Ken Houghton, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Stephen Graham Jones, Kit Reed. In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Octavia Butler's Bloodchild, the social compact incorporates the horrific, declaring it necessary for survival. In novels about war and the aftermath of disaster, the destruction of the social compact leaves a vacuum that is filled by the horrific. In Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, horror comes in part from the protagonist's efforts to maintain a social compact that is no longer in effect. What makes the constructed relationship between the individual and society so unsettling, whether it's functioning, changing, or absent?
- 10:00 AM G Book Learning. Gregory Feeley, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Katherine MacLean, Kathryn Morrow (leader), Ann Tonsor Zeddies. In an article for The Guardian in 2008, James Wood wrote that "novels tend to fail not when the characters are not vivid or 'deep' enough, but when the novel in question has failed to teach us how to adapt to its conventions, has failed to manage a specific hunger for its own characters, its own reality level." Not mentioned is the question of what readers bring to this educational experience. Some readers see plenty of character depth in the works of Asimov, Card, Herbert, or Heinlein, but others disagree; are the readers who find those characters too cardboard actually stubbornly refusing to be taught how to like them? When and why do readers choose books that require education in character appreciation, and when we encounter them by accident, what makes us decide to stick with them?
- 10:00 AM ME Readercon Recent Nonfiction Book Club: Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Matthew Cheney, Andrea Hairston (leader), Robert Killheffer, Darrell Schweitzer, Vandana Singh. John Rieder seeks to show that "colonialism is a significant historical context for early science fiction," and that in many ways science fiction and modern imperialism developed together. In a review for Science Fiction Studies, David M. Higgins wrote of the "threefold trajectory of [Reider's] approach—to consider how SF 'lives and breathes' in a colonial context, to examine how it 'reflects or contributes to' this context, and to analyze ways in which it may 'enact' challenges to colonial ideology." Rieder discusses the intersections of race and class in works by Poe, Wells, Verne, London, Burroughs, Campbell, and a number of lesser-known writers. Are the connections between colonialism and science fiction that Rieder sees convincing ones? Could other factors account for the themes and tropes he identifies? How have colonialist ideologies lasted beyond science fiction's emergent years?
- 10:00 AM RI The Year in Novels. Don D'Ammassa, Natalie Luhrs, Liza Groen Trombi (leader), Gary K. Wolfe. We will discuss the speculative novels published since last Readercon.
- 10:00 AM NH Reading. Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub. Caitlín R. Kiernan and Peter Straub read from the works of Shirley Jackson.
- 10:00 AM VT Reading. Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck. Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, aka James S.A. Corey, read "Pirates of Mars," a short story in the Garder Dozois anthology Old Mars.
- 10:00 AM E Autographs. Debra Doyle, James D. Macdonald, Rick Wilber.
- 10:00 AM CL Kaffeeklatsch. John Clute, Tom Purdom.
- 10:30 AM VT Reading. Greer Gilman. Greer Gilman reads from a work in progress, a Jacobean revenge procedural.
- 11:00 AM F Pointed Experiments in Indeterminacy. Michael Cisco (leader), Peter Dubé, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub, Sonya Taaffe. "Pointed experiments in the manipulation of point of view" is how Gary Wolfe and Amelia Beamer have described several works by Peter Straub; they are "metatextual and metafictional" experiments that lead to the conclusion that "the indeterminate nature of reality is a central inquiry in these books." We can't help but notice that this also closely describes several of Caitlín R. Kiernan's works, notably her novels The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, and her short story "Tidal Forces." Our panelists discuss the ways writers use point of view to interrogate the nature of reality, and their reasons for doing so.
- 11:00 AM G Samuel R. Delany's Golden Jubilee. Matthew Cheney, Ron Drummond (leader), L. Timmel Duchamp, Elizabeth Hand, Donald G. Keller, Jo Walton. 2012 can be seen as a milestone year in the career of Samuel R. Delany: his 70th birthday; the 50th anniversary of his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor; the 35th anniversary of his classic critical work, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw; the 24th anniversary of being GOH at Readercon 2. Few writers have contributed so much over so long to all aspects of our field—science fiction, fantasy, critical theory, comics, autobiography, editing, teaching, even a documentary film. And he's still going, with a new novel out this year! This panel will celebrate Delany’s past, present, and future contributions to the field.
- 11:00 AM ME Genre Magazines in the 21st Century. Scott H. Andrews (leader), Steve Berman, Neil Clarke, Shawna McCarthy, Gordon Van Gelder.
What goes into keeping genre magazines fresh and afloat in current times? In this open discussion, magazine professionals provide advice to would-be editors and publishers regarding securing distribution, finding material, marketing and promoting, etc. along with success and cautionary stories.
Proposed by Hildy Silverman.
- 11:00 AM RI A Story from Scratch, Part II. Elizabeth Bear, Kyle Cassidy, Lee Moyer, Michael Swanwick. Zombies? Aliens? Insect invasion? Vampire detectives? Who knows! Be part of the story created on the spot by Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear and brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Friday and Saturday, using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Michael and Elizabeth will create a narrative that will be photographed by Kyle and have a cover created by Lee. On Sunday the story will be read aloud as the cover and illustrations are displayed, and an electronic version of the final work will be made available for download. You can participate in any or all of the sessions. Business casual attire recommended.
- 11:00 AM NH Group Reading: ChiZine Publications. Gemma Files, Nicholas Kaufmann, Nick Mamatas, Michael Marano, Yves Meynard, Paul Tremblay. Authors published by ChiZine Publications read from their works.
- 11:00 AM VT Reading. Erik Amundsen. Erik Amundsen reads his short story "Draftyhouse," published in Clarkesworld.
- 11:00 AM E Autographs. Suzy McKee Charnas, Delia Sherman.
- 11:00 AM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Jeanne Cavelos, Walter Hunt.
- 11:30 AM VT Reading. Kenneth Schneyer. Kenneth Schneyer reads his new short story, "Hear the Enemy, My Daughter."
- 12:00 PM F Timeline Slippage. Daniel Abraham (leader), Suzy McKee Charnas, Daniel P. Dern, Marty Halpern, Steven Popkes. In a 2011 blog post discussing the reboot of the DC Universe, Daniel Abraham wrote, "History tends to be slower in imagined universes. As writers and readers, we resist changes there because we can, while change in the world defies us…. Like a tectonic fault, the tension from [the difference between the real world and the fictional timeline] builds up over the course of many issues or episodes or books or films. Slowly, it corrodes our suspension of disbelief, and it starts demanding a release." He offered three options for this release: let heroes age and die in near-realtime, cultivate the reader's "willful obliviousness" of the sort that lets Archie and Veronica stay in high school forever, or periodically modernize the setting and story. Why is the first almost unheard of, the second common, and the third likely to incur outrage? Are there other alternatives? And how does this connect with our love for retelling Shakespeare, Homer, and myth?
- 12:00 PM G Unexamined Assumptions in SF. James L. Cambias (leader), Mikki Kendall, Anil Menon, Kenneth Schneyer, Darrell Schweitzer. In a 2011 blog post, James Cambias complained of "[convention] attendees and panelists dusting off old, unexamined assumptions" in SF. For much of its history, SF developed a set of unexamined assumptions that became default conventions of the genre—that space exploration will move systematically outward from the moon to the planets, that the explorers will be cisgender heterosexual American or European males, that aliens will fight us in (peculiarly two-dimensional) space battles, and so on. 21st-century SF has made some notable efforts to roast these chestnuts, but it has its own set of assumptions, which this panel will mercilessly dissect and offer alternatives to.
- 12:00 PM ME How We Edited the Third Edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. John Clute, Graham Sleight. John Clute and Graham Sleight discuss the development of the SFE's latest incarnation.
- 12:00 PM RI The Works of Caitlín R. Kiernan. Elizabeth Bear (leader), Gemma Files, John Langan, Sonya Taaffe. Since blazing onto the speculative fiction scene with the story "Persephone" in 1995 and the novel Silk in 1998, Caitlín R. Kiernan has consistently pushed the boundaries of the fantastic, often refusing to be classified and always delighting in transgression. Her work encompasses elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and erotica, to name just a few; she writes short and long fiction, comics and graphic novels, poetry, and song lyrics with equal facility. This panel will attempt an overview of her spectacularly diverse career.
- 12:00 PM NH Group Reading: Crossed Genres. Carrie Cuinn, Kay T. Holt, Barbara Krasnoff, Sandra McDonald, Daniel José Older, Sabrina Vourvoulias. Crossed Genres (http://www.crossedgenres.com) started out with a monthly online magazine, and has now developed into a full-scale small press publisher of genre anthologies. Recent and upcoming books include Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm (Dec. 2011), Fat Girl in a Strange Land (Feb. 2012), and Salsa Nocturna (July 2012). This reading will feature several writers whose work is represented in Crossed Genres publications, and will be moderated by publisher/editor Bart Leib.
- 12:00 PM VT Reading. Sarah Smith. Sarah Smith reads from her book about the Titanic.
- 12:00 PM E Autographs. Leah Bobet, Jo Walton.
- 12:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer.
- 12:30 PM VT Reading. Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan. Andrea Hairston reads from Redwood and Wildfire, her Tiptree Award–winning novel, with music by Pan Morigan.
- 1:00 PM F Un/Orthodox Genre. Jeanne Cavelos (leader), Michael Dirda, Yves Meynard, Robert V.S. Redick, Peter Straub, Gary K. Wolfe. According to Lev Grossman, "Conventions aren’t a prison that genre writers are trying to escape…. You need conventions, because nothing works without them. Plus if you didn’t have them, there wouldn’t be any rules to break, and if you’re not breaking rules, you’re not writing." Separately, Peter Straub writes, "Some people love the genreness of genre. I do, I respond to that, but I dislike the sense of necessary limitations lots of people go for. I don't want to live in a dollhouse." How do genre writers play and struggle with the tensions between "the genreness of genre" and the need to keep evolving, individually and as a community? This process somewhat resembles the development cycles of other long-lived convention-bound groups such as religious organizations and political parties; what can we learn from them?
- 1:00 PM G Why Am I Telling You This (in the First Person)? Richard Bowes, Helen Collins, L. Timmel Duchamp (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Kate Nepveu. In some narratives it is clear why and how a first-person narrator is telling their story (the tale is a found document, a club story, etc.); in some narratives the reasons for the telling must be deciphered (Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun) or the revelation of the reasons forms a key part of the story itself (N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms). But in some cases it seems counterproductive or otherwise quite unlikely that a narrator would be telling us the secrets they want to keep hidden, their plans for world domination, etc. What do we make of this question of narrator motivation? To what extent should we read the telling as part of the tale, a chosen act of character, versus simply an extra-textual conceit required for the story to exist? Is this different for present vs. past tense? And to the extent that authors consider these questions when choosing a narrative point of view, what are some interesting examples of how they've used the fact of the telling of a story to affect how that story is read?
- 1:00 PM ME The Autopsy, Postmortem Changes, and Decomposition: A Primer for Writers. Laura Knight. What happens after we die? Despite the incredible surge in popularity of forensic science in popular media, many myths and misunderstandings continue to surround the autopsy, and postmortem changes like rigor mortis and subsequent decomposition are often misrepresented. Further, medical examiners and coroners have often been depicted as insensitive and crude, eating a sandwich in one hand while wielding a bloody scalpel in the other. Dr. Laura Knight, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner, will present actual autopsy photographs, along with a non-sensational narrative description of the autopsy process and a detailed explanation of the changes to the body after death.
- 1:00 PM RI The Works of Katherine MacLean. Sandra McDonald, Tom Purdom (leader). The 2011 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was granted to Katherine MacLean, the author of the Nebula-winning novella "The Missing Man" and the Rediscovery Award's first living winner. MacLean's background in science and mathematics lends a beautiful verisimilitude to her SF, and she frequently mixes genres, exploring psychic powers alongside alien visitations. This panel will discuss her best-known and more obscure works as well as their many adaptations.
- 1:00 PM NH Reading. Michael Swanwick. Michael Swanwick reads the latest unpublished story in the Mongolian Wizard series, currently appearing on Tor.com.
- 1:00 PM VT Reading. Paul Di Filippo. Paul Di Filippo reads "Specter-bombing the Beer Goggles," published in The MIT SF Review.
- 1:00 PM E Autographs. Kathleen Ann Goonan, Andrea Hairston.
- 1:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Andy Duncan, Steven Popkes.
- 1:30 PM VT Reading. Theodore Krulik. Theodore Krulik reads from his short story "Sometimes I Feel Like a Zombie, Sometimes I Don't."
- 2:00 PM F No, Really—Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Samuel R. Delany, Toni L.P. Kelner, Ellen Klages, James Morrow, Lee Moyer, Resa Nelson (leader). All writers have been asked this question. This panel takes it seriously, exploring the roles of accumulated knowledge, reaction, dissent, inspiration, influence, and skill in creativity.
- 2:00 PM G The City and the Strange. Leah Bobet, Amanda Downum, Lila Garrott (leader), Stacy Hill, Ellen Kushner, Howard Waldrop. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs writes, "By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange." N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy demonstrates that epic-feeling fantasy can still take place entirely within the confines of a single city. Fictional metropolises such as Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris, China Miéville's New Crobuzon, and Catherynne M. Valente's Palimpsest are entire worlds in themselves, and the fantasy cities of Lankmar and Ankh-Morkpork shine as centers of intrigue and adventure. In what other works, and other ways, can cities be stand-ins for the lengthy traveling quest of Tolkienesque fantasy?
- 2:00 PM ME Cuba: A Firsthand Report. Joan Slonczewski (leader). What's it like in Cuba today, and what might it look like in a hundred years? Joan Slonczewski answers those questions and shows slides from Havana and Pinar del Rio.
- 2:00 PM RI The Future of Copyright. Ken Liu, B. Diane Martin, Eugene Mirabelli, Kenneth Schneyer (leader), Jacob Weisman.
SFF authors have two reasons to care about the future of copyright: both as a novum for fiction, as in Spider Robinson's Melancholy Elephants, Charles Sheffield's "Out of Copyright," and Randy Henderson's "Surviving the eBookalypse," and as a basis for long-term career strategy (see the blogs of Cory Doctorow and Kristine Kathryn Rusch). All we know for sure about copyright is that it's going to change, but how? Will it become ever more stringent and draconian, with publishers charging separately each time a reader opens a book? Will it vanish altogether in favor of a fee-for-service or "revenue rights" model? Will authors have to start beating the bushes for rich patrons? Join in the wild speculations and crackpot theories.
Proposed by B. Diane Martin.
- 2:00 PM NH Group Reading: Odyssey Writing Workshop Graduates. Scott H. Andrews, Jeanne Cavelos, Ellen Denham, Christi Dionis, Nivair H. Gabriel, William Bradley Hafford, E.L. Mellor, Gerald Warfield. Odyssey Writing Workshop graduates, including members of the class of 2012, read flash fiction.
- 2:00 PM VT Reading. Sonya Taaffe. Sonya Taaffe reads her short story "Another Coming," recently reprinted in Brit Mandelo's anthology Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Science Fiction.
- 2:00 PM E Autographs. James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel.
- 2:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Ellen Datlow, Kathleen Ann Goonan.
- 2:30 PM VT Reading. Maria Dahvana Headley. Maria Dahvana Headley reads the short story "Ossifer Bone."
- 3:00 PM F Horizontal Genre Transfer. John Clute, James Patrick Kelly (leader), Bradford Morrow, Kit Reed, Veronica Schanoes, Peter Straub. In a 2011 article in The Atlantic, Joe Fassler wrote, "The trappings of genre fiction—monsters, masked marvels, gizmos, and gumshoes—are no longer quarantined to the bookstore aisles reserved for popular fiction. Horror, mystery and science-fiction books have spread their genetic code to a foreign habitat: the literature section." So-called literary writers such as Michael Chabon and Aimee Bender freely incorporate fantastical tropes into their stories, and literary magazines feature special issues on the fantastic, such as Peter Straub's Conjunctions 39. Do literary and genre fiction benefit from this hybridization, or do they begin to lose the distinctive qualities that their audiences are looking for? Is this just literary writers trying not to be boring?
- 3:00 PM G If It Doesn't Sell, What's the Point? Jeffrey A. Carver, Bernard Dukas, Andrea Hairston, Alexander Jablokov, Barry B. Longyear, Nick Mamatas (leader). Fiction writing is usually considered an art but frequently judged in terms of commerciality rather than artistic achievement. Publishers want to know whether books are selling, and writers want an audience. These days, when rough economic times have hit writers particularly hard, "Why continue?" has become an important and frequently asked question. Are there reasons writers should continue even if their work isn't selling as well as they, or their publishers, would like? Are there times they should stop? Why do we write, anyway? The panelists will consider how writers can make these decisions, and what options are available in the current economic climate.
- 3:00 PM ME A Story from Scratch, Part III. Elizabeth Bear, Kyle Cassidy, Lee Moyer, Michael Swanwick. Zombies? Aliens? Insect invasion? Vampire detectives? Who knows! Be part of the story created on the spot by Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear and brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Friday and Saturday, using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Michael and Elizabeth will create a narrative that will be photographed by Kyle and have a cover created by Lee. On Sunday the story will be read aloud as the cover and illustrations are displayed, and an electronic version of the final work will be made available for download. You can participate in any or all of the sessions. Business casual attire recommended.
- 3:00 PM RI Theories of Reading and Their Potential Insights into Fantastika. Suzy McKee Charnas, John Crowley, Shira Daemon, Kate Nepveu, John H. Stevens (leader), Gayle Surrette, Eric M. Van, Rick Wilber. We talk about reading at Readercon every year, but we rarely talk about our understanding of reading as a mental process of cultural practice. John H. Stevens will summarize some recent theories of reading from neurological, psychological, anthropological, and literary perspectives, followed by a discussion about what these ideas might be able to tell us about how we engage, interpret, and codify fantastic literature. In what ways is fantastika read like any other sort of text, and in what ways might we read (and write?) it differently?
- 3:00 PM NH Group Reading: Ideomancer Speculative Fiction. Mike Allen, Leah Bobet, C.S.E. Cooney, Amanda Downum, George Galuschak, Claire Humphrey, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Kenneth Schneyer, Sonya Taaffe. Authors and poets read work from Ideomancer Speculative Fiction, one of the longest-running speculative fiction webzines still publishing.
- 3:00 PM VT Reading. John Kessel. John Kessel reads from his novel in progress, Sunlight or Rock.
- 3:00 PM E Autographs. Samuel R. Delany, Caitlín R. Kiernan.
- 3:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Shawna McCarthy, Gemma Files.
- 3:30 PM VT Reading. Ellen Klages. Ellen Klages reads from a recent, not-yet published work.
- 4:00 PM F Caitlín R. Kiernan Interviewed by Elizabeth Hand. Elizabeth Hand, Caitlín R. Kiernan.
- 5:00 PM F Peter Straub Interviewed by Gary K. Wolfe. Peter Straub, Gary K. Wolfe.
- 6:00 PM ME Absent Friends: Remembering the People We've Lost This Year. Gay Haldeman. In the past year, the field lost artists Darrell K. Sweet and Moebius; authors Anne McCaffrey, L.A. Banks, Ray Bradbury, Sara Douglass, Sakyo Komatsu, K.D. Wentworth, and Jim Young; fans Bill Kunkel, Alice "Badger" Washburn, and Rusty Hevelin; and others. Come join us as we celebrate their lives and work.
- 6:00 PM RI Writing Motivation Toolbox. Luc Reid. Leveraging recent psychological and neurological research, Luc Reid offers a brief tour of human motivation mechanisms as well as specific ways to get past writer's block, inspire enthusiasm, sharpen focus, and get words onto the page. Many of the ideas from this talk about writing can be carried over to other areas of life, such as health, business, organization, and relationships.
- 6:00 PM NH Reading. Vinnie Tesla. Vinnie Tesla reads his Fantastic Erotica Award–winning short story "Ota Discovers Fire."
- 6:30 PM NH Reading. Nicholas Kaufmann. Nicholas Kaufmann reads from a new fantasy novel that takes place in, around, and under New York City.
- 7:00 PM F Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza. Matthew Kressel, Veronica Schanoes, Brian Francis Slattery (leader), Jeff VanderMeer, Jo Walton. ONCE AGAIN AND FOR THE SECOND TIME, Eric Rosenfield and Brian Francis Slattery of the Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza Series will orchestrate yet another INCREDIBLY FANCY SONIC ART EXPERIMENT consisting of ESTEEMED LITERARY PERSONAGES reading TEXTUAL OBJECTS in short bursts, one after another accompanied by LIVE, IMPROVISED MUSIC provided by a FULL BAND, with the intent of creating a kind of unbroken MOSAIC of what Readercon FEELS LIKE. Come witness our spectacular SUCCESS and/or FAILURE.
- 7:00 PM ME Kurzweil and Chopra, Ghosts in the Same Shell. Athena Andreadis (leader), John Edward Lawson, Anil Menon, Luc Reid, Alison Sinclair. Transhumanism (TH) has been a prominent strain in contemporary SF; cyberpunk is in many ways the fiction arm of the movement. Athena Andreadis and discussants will explore core concepts of TH (longevity, uploading, reproductive alternatives, optimization projects from genome to organism), investigate which are strictly in science fiction versus science territory, and examine the larger outcomes of these tropes within the genre as well as in First Life, aka the real world.
- 7:00 PM RI Writing Writing. Barry B. Longyear (leader). This workshop, led by Barry B. Longyear, is for frustrated beginning writers and those long in the tooth needing a boost on writing as a profession, writing your own stories, the very dark side, and that shining light upon a hill. Optional: bring a story about which you have a question.
- 7:00 PM NH Reading. Daniel Abraham. Daniel Abraham reads from his epic fantasy series The Dagger and the Coin.
- 7:30 PM NH Reading. Gemma Files. Gemma Files reads from A Tree of Bones: Volume 3 of the Hexslinger Series.
- 8:00 PM F The 26th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. Mike Allen, Rose Fox, Craig Shaw Gardner (leader), Yves Meynard, Eric M. Van (moderator). Our traditional evening entertainment, named in memory of the pseudonym and alter ego of Jonathan Herovit of Barry N. Malzberg's Herovit's World. Here's how it works: Ringleader Craig Shaw Gardner reads a passage of unidentified but genuine, published, bad sf, fantasy, or horror prose, which has been truncated in mid-sentence. Each of our panelists then reads an ending for the passage. One ending is the real one; the others are impostors. None of the players knows who wrote any passage other than their own, except for co-ringleader Eric M. Van, who gets to play God as a reward for the truly onerous duty of unearthing these gems. Craig then asks for the audience vote on the authenticity of each passage (recapping each in turn by quoting a pithy phrase or three from them), and the Ace Readercon Joint Census Team counts up each show of hands faster than you can say "Twinkies of Terror." Eric then reveals the truth. Each contestant receives a point for each audience member they fooled, while the audience collectively scores a point for everyone who spots the real answer. As a rule, the audience finishes third or fourth. Warning: the Sturgeon General has determined that this trash is hazardous to your health; i.e., if it hurts to laugh, you're in big trouble.
- 8:00 PM ME Critical Fictions & Other Fabulous Beasts; or, Learning to Read and Write All Over Again. Henry Wessells. You think you know how to read? This look at critical fictions and other modes of reading/writing will suggest that it might be time to learn it all over again. The critical fiction is a piece of fiction or poetry where form (story) and content (critical function) are inseparable, a work of art that explicitly declares itself as a critique of another work of literature and explicitly makes use of that earlier source text. Henry Wessells will cover the precursors, techniques, and current practitioners of the critical fiction, and tell you why. Is it literary mash-up for people who shudder at Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Come find out. See the suggested reading list at http://criticalfiction.net/readinglist.html.
- 8:00 PM RI Book Covers Gone Wrong. Daniel Abraham, Liz Gorinsky, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Katherine MacLean, Lee Moyer (leader), Jacob Weisman. We all have book covers we love. But most of us have more than a few covers we really really… well, let's just say we dislike them. We might even, say, mock them to their papery faces and bemoan the lost opportunities to our friends. Or we might be deeply underwhelmed with the cover choices of e-books and audio books. This is an opportunity to literally bring some of the worst offenders in for our consideration and distasteful delectation. Come alone (or in groups for safety) and bring a book. Moderated by cover artist Lee Moyer, who wants to make sure he's never one of the bad guys.
- 8:00 PM NH Reading. Bernard Dukas. Bernard Dukas reads from the science fiction fantasy adventure series The Spanish Gatekeeper.
- 8:30 PM VT Reading. Grant C. Carrington. Grant Carrington reads from The Price of Knowledge, an unpublished novel about the theft of a starship device that is recovered by a bunch of young musicians who use it for themselves.
- 9:00 PM ME Teaching and Doing. Michael Cisco, Jack Haringa, John Kessel (leader), Veronica Schanoes, Gregory Wilson.
How does teaching fantasy fiction improve the writing of it, and vice versa? Does academic study of fantasy and science fiction hinder one's ability to write it? What is the responsibility of academics in the fantasy and science fiction field who also write: are they obligated to cheerlead canonical works within the genre, given the relatively low regard in which fantasy and science fiction is held in some academic circles, or ignore underappreciated but valuable works in favor of those more mainstream (and perhaps more accessible) books which might attract more general interest?
Proposed by Gregory A. Wilson.
- 9:00 PM RI Dancing Around Time Travel. Athena Andreadis, Grant C. Carrington, Helen Collins (leader), John Crowley, Jeff Hecht.
Does the contention that time travel is scientifically and logically impossible mean that it cannot be a serious topic in the science fiction genre? Must time travel be classified as fantasy? Given our current understanding of physics, how can writers of hard SF—who love time travel as a concept—deal with the problem? The simple time machine whose inner workings we cannot understand is no longer enough. Must writers of hard science fiction be constrained by relativity theory or quantum theory considerations? What scientific theories do writers invent or discover to account for their plots and devices?
Proposed by Helen Collins.
- 9:00 PM NH Reading. John Edward Lawson. John Edward Lawson reads from the poetry collection SuiPsalms, the long awaited follow-up to the multi-award nominated collection The Troublesome Amputee.
- 9:30 PM NH Reading. C.S.E. Cooney. C.S.E. Cooney reads from How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes, a new collection of speculative poetry. (And perhaps an excerpt from a work in progress.)
- 10:00 PM F Reading. Howard Waldrop. Howard Waldrop reads from a forthcoming work.
- 10:00 AM F Uncanny Taxonomies. Daniel Abraham (leader), Ellen Datlow, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Jeff VanderMeer. When considering the literatures of the uncanny—horror, dark fantasy, supernatural fiction, the weird, etc.—it can be difficult for a more casual reader to distinguish between the marketing-based labels and real differences in concern and approach. Moving away from common genre labels, our focus will be on the specific areas of uncanniness various authors have investigated in their writings. We will attempt to establish key commonalities and differences within and between their writings and other notable past and recent works. Possible topics include knowledge versus the unknowable, and the scope of possible knowledge; certainty and uncertainty, and the value of each; truth as power versus truth as horror; the body and the mind; the possibility or impossibility of metaphor; and the primacy of our world and the drive to transcend it, or to inhabit it more completely.
- 10:00 AM G Making Science Sound Like Science. Jeff Hecht, Katherine MacLean, Eric Schaller, Alison Sinclair, Allen Steele, Eric M. Van (leader). The science fantasy of the 20th century tried to make the magical and impossible sound scientific and plausible. Thanks in part to that legacy and in part to the increasing complexity of scientific discoveries and developments, when we write about 21st-century science in ways that are meant to sound scientific and plausible, it often comes across as magical and impossible. How can we make quantum entanglement feel at least as real as the ansible? What can we learn from science fantasy about imbuing writing with not just truth but truthiness?
- 10:00 AM ME The Seven Deadly Myths of Creativity. Andy Duncan, Joe Haldeman, Steve Kelner (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Matthew Kressel, Jennifer Pelland, Luc Reid. What is creativity, really? How does it work? Many people think of it as somehow magical, but in fact there has been considerable neuropsychological research devoted to the process of creativity, and current evidence makes it clear that it is inherent in the human brain: everyone is creative; the question is how to harness it. There are many myths about creativity that not only are unhelpful but have actively blocked or inhibited writers. Fortunately, many of these myths are entirely explicable and avoidable. Stephen Kelner, a research psychologist who is also a professional writer, will give an overview of the myths and the realities, and discussion will further explore individual participants' questions or challenges.
- 10:00 AM RI Speculative Poetry Workshop. Mike Allen (leader). Speculative poetry can be defined a number of ways, but one way is this: a speculative poem uses the trappings of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or more unclassifiable bends in reality to convey its images, narratives, and themes. Speculative poetry can unfold with the same subtlety and power that speculative fiction does, with considerably fewer words. Come prepared to write. Workshop led by Mike Allen.
- 10:00 AM NH Reading. Jo Walton. Jo Walton reads from her Nebula Award–winning novel Among Others.
- 10:00 AM VT Reading. Debra Doyle. Debra Doyle reads a work in progress.
- 10:00 AM E Autographs. Ben Loory, Joan Slonczewski.
- 10:00 AM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Barry B. Longyear.
- 10:30 AM NH Reading. Leah Bobet. Leah Bobet reads from an upcoming novel.
- 10:30 AM VT Reading. James D. Macdonald. James D. Macdonald reads from Emergency Magical Services: First Response (a work in progress).
- 11:00 AM F Performing Books to Ourselves. Ellen Brody, Andy Duncan, James Patrick Kelly, Rosemary Kirstein, Ellen Kushner (leader). In a 2011 blog post, Daniel Abraham wrote, "Reading a book is a performance by an artist (the writer) for an audience (the reader)." But readers also perform works to themselves, imagining characters and settings and events, and perform works to others when reading aloud. In those cases, is the writer taking more of a directorial role, or is there a more complex synergy afoot, especially when we get into audiobooks, fiction podcasts, and other carefully produced performances? How does awareness of these layers of performance shape the ways that writers write and readers read?
- 11:00 AM G The Shirley Jackson Awards. Nathan Ballingrud, Matthew Cheney, Michael Cisco, F. Brett Cox, Ellen Datlow, Sarah Hyman DeWitt, Elizabeth Hand, Jack Haringa, Caitlín R. Kiernan (leader), John Langan, Sarah Langan, Kelly Link, Kit Reed, Peter Straub (moderator), Paul Tremblay, Genevieve Valentine, Jeff VanderMeer, Gary K. Wolfe. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson's writing, and with permission of the author's estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916–1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, "The Lottery." Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2011 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
- 11:00 AM ME Symbiosis: Stranger than Fiction. Gwendolyn Clare. Real-life organisms can evolve in ways that will stretch your suspension of disbelief. Gwendolyn Clare will look at the weirdest symbioses here on Earth, as well as those that played critical roles in the evolution of life as we know it. The evolutionary theory behind these complex interactions will also be discussed, with an emphasis on how to design fictional symbiotic organisms.
- 11:00 AM NH Reading. Barbara Krasnoff. Barbara Krasnoff reads "Button Up Your Overcoat" from the anthology Broken Time Blues.
- 11:00 AM VT Reading. Scott H. Andrews. Scott H. Andrews reads a short story published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
- 11:00 AM E Autographs. Jeffrey A. Carver, Toni L.P. Kelner.
- 11:00 AM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Delia Sherman, Jo Walton.
- 11:30 AM NH Reading. Luc Reid. Luc Reid reads ridiculously varied flash fiction from his collection Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories. Topics include a virulent outbreak of happiness, alien cheesecake focus groups, and Cinderella's divorce.
- 11:30 AM VT Reading. Margaret Ronald. Margaret Ronald reads her short story "The Governess and the Lobster."
- 12:00 PM F Why Is Ancient Evil Ancient? Erik Amundsen, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Matthew Kressel, Sarah Langan, Kate Nepveu, Ruth Sternglantz. "Ancient evil" tends to be used as a shorthand for all the things we fear in our hindbrains, and everything lurking in the dark that we can't explain. It calls to mind something primordial that we feel we should have evolved past but still fear on some basic level. When we cite ancient evil in fiction, is its ancientness just a way of disclaiming that the evil isn't our fault, and thereby dodging the need to deal with evils that we could have prevented and could still avert? What if the ancient evil isn't entirely evil, just misunderstood? How do fictional treatments of ancient evil differ in cultures that venerate tradition and age versus those that prioritize innovation and youth?
- 12:00 PM G Paranormal Plagues. John Benson, Richard Bowes, Alaya Dawn Johnson, James D. Macdonald (leader), Alison Sinclair. Some paranormal novels portray vampirism, lycanthropy, and even zombification as infectious diseases that work in ways directly opposite to real-world diseases, such as making the infected person physically stronger and longer-lived. The idea of a disease we can choose to have and choose to share is also compelling. Yet these paranormal diseases are rarely explored in comparison to real-world ones (other than in the innumerable vampires-and-AIDS stories of the 1990s). Is disease just a narrative convenience, or does it relate to real-world medical issues such as the (overhyped) evolution of multiple-drug-resistant bacteria and the persistent incurability of illnesses like HIV, cancer, and influenza that we were supposed to have beaten by now?
- 12:00 PM ME A Story from Scratch, Part IV. Elizabeth Bear, Kyle Cassidy, Lee Moyer, Michael Swanwick. Zombies? Aliens? Insect invasion? Vampire detectives? Who knows! Be part of the story created on the spot by Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear and brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Friday and Saturday, using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Michael and Elizabeth will create a narrative that will be photographed by Kyle and have a cover created by Lee. On Sunday the story will be read aloud as the cover and illustrations are displayed, and an electronic version of the final work will be made available for download. You can participate in any or all of the sessions. Business casual attire recommended.
- 12:00 PM RI Voice Workshop for Writers. Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan. As a reader and a storyteller, your voice is your most important instrument. Do you want to learn new techniques for fine-tuning your voice? Would you like to learn how to project your voice powerfully without fatigue? Would you like to explore dramatic voice-techniques that will keep an audience riveted as you read to them? Come prepared to work your breath, move your body, and make noise. This workshop, led by Andrea Hairston and Pan Morigan, will give you a toolbox of voice warm-ups and practices that will set you on the path to your own natural and unique sound.
- 12:00 PM NH Reading. James Morrow. James Morrow reads from Galapagos Regained, his novel in perpetual progress.
- 12:00 PM VT Reading. Resa Nelson. Resa Nelson reads from The Iron Maiden, Book 2 in her Dragonslayer series.
- 12:00 PM E Autographs. Rosemary Kirstein, Ellen Klages.
- 12:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Scott Lynch, Katherine MacLean.
- 12:30 PM NH Reading. Samuel R. Delany. Samuel R. Delany reads a work to be determined.
- 12:30 PM VT Reading. Allen Steele. Allen Steele reads from Apollo's Outcasts, an upcoming YA novel.
- 1:00 PM F When Non-Fantastic Genres Interrogate Themselves. Leah Bobet, Lila Garrott (leader), Liz Gorinsky, Ed Meskys, Delia Sherman. When other genres interrogate themselves, the results are often fantastika. Works such as China Miéville's The City & The City, Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection, and Kelly Link's "The Girl Detective," for example, are in some ways interrogations of the building blocks of crime fiction: criminals, crimes, detectives. To what extent is it useful to read paranormal romance as a result of traditional romance interrogating itself; or alternate history—or steampunk—as a result of historical fiction interrogating itself? Is this something modern fantasy is especially good at? Is it even part of what modern fantasy is, a space that permits such interrogations? And if so, what happens when fantasy interrogates itself?
- 1:00 PM G Mapping the Parallels. Greer Gilman, Walter Hunt (leader), Alison Sinclair, Howard Waldrop, Jo Walton. Stories of parallel worlds are often actually stories of divergent worlds. As such, they contain implicit ideas about how and why divergences can happen: questions of free will and personal choice, theories of history, and speculation about the core constants of the universe. The range of divergences, and the reasons behind them, also serve as at least a partial map of the kinds of possibilities considered worth telling stories about. With this in mind, let's talk about what has been done, or could be, with the idea of parallel worlds in fiction—both classic and contemporary examples in SF&F, women's fiction, middle grade and young adult fiction, and more. How do the differences in usage of the trope—such as the scope of divergence (personal vs. societal vs. scientific, human-centric vs. extra-human), the degree to which the causes of divergence are explained, and the ability to travel between divergent worlds—play out across parallel and divergent world stories? How do they express ideas about what is possible?
- 1:00 PM ME How I Wrote The Highest Frontier. Joan Slonczewski. Joan Slonczewski discusses her long-awaited return to hard SF.
- 1:00 PM NH Reading. Michael Cisco. Michael Cisco reads from The Great Lover.
- 1:00 PM VT Reading. Barry B. Longyear. Barry B. Longyear reads "House W/VU, Rm 2 Gro," a chapter from Hangfire, the new mystery in the Joe Torio Series.
- 1:00 PM E Autographs. Gemma Files, Jeff VanderMeer.
- 1:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, John Langan.
- 1:30 PM NH Reading. Vandana Singh. Vandana Singh reads from a forthcoming novella, "Becoming."
- 1:30 PM VT Reading. Ken Houghton. Ken Houghton reads from An Economic Approach to Niven and Pournelle's Oath of Fealty.
- 2:00 PM F When All You Have Is a Hammer, Get a Sonic Screwdriver. Debra Doyle, Lila Garrott, Glenn Grant, Graham Sleight (leader), Jo Walton. In an SF Signal podcast episode discussing Readercon 22, Jeff Patterson suggested that our traditional critical vocabulary may be ill-suited or inadequate for discussing space opera or hard SF. Is this true of hard SF in specific, or is there a broader problem of adapting mainstream critical vocabulary, largely evolved to discuss realistic fiction, to the particular problems of SF or fantasy? What are the specific aspects of the fantastic that seem to require special critical tools? Are certain critical terms borrowed from the fan or writer's workshop communities, like "worldbuilding," useful ways of extending our critical vocabularies?
- 2:00 PM G Little Orphan Mary Sue. Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen, C.S.E. Cooney, Mikki Kendall, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman (leader). What would Freud say about Harry Dresden's daddy issues? Urban fantasy seems to have swiped the parentless, childless protagonist notion wholesale from epic fantasy and given it the extra weight of the noir hero's impenetrable solitude. Is the general absence of mothers, fathers, and children in UF just a way to dodge their tendency to put the kibosh on adventures? When characters' parents and children do show up, what roles do they play in the urban fantasy narrative?
- 2:00 PM ME Queer/Were: Born This Way? Samuel R. Delany, Gemma Files, Greer Gilman, Liz Gorinsky, Andrea Hairston, John Edward Lawson, Ruth Sternglantz (leader). In Marie de France's 12th-century Anglo-Norman tale "Bisclavret," werewolf transformation can be read as a metaphor for homosexuality. In contemporary urban fantasy/paranormal fiction, the slippage between queerness and were-ness persists on several levels, even when the characters are nominally heterosexual. But what happens when a were isn't heterosexual? Ruth E. Sternglantz will look at how several authors of queer urban fantasy/paranormal construct the convergence of queer and were, and subsequent discussion will explore how authors of urban fantasy generally appropriate metaphors of queerness in the construction of their were characters.
- 2:00 PM RI Xena at Tau Ceti: An Overview. Athena Andreadis (leader), Ken Liu, Vandana Singh, Joan Slonczewski.
Xena at Tau Ceti will be an anthology of evolved space opera (with optional mythic over/undertones) with female protagonists that moves past the traditional conflicts, attentive to the complexities and nuances of both the science and fiction component, directed at adult readers. Participants in this anthology who are attending Readercon will discuss the foundation concept and the works intended for the collection, and read brief excerpts.
Proposed by Athena Andreadis.
- 2:00 PM NH Reading. Paul Park. Paul Park reads from All Those Vanished Engines and The Rose of Sarifal.
- 2:00 PM Vin. Kaffeeklatsch. Steve Kelner & Toni L.P. Kelner, John Kessel.
- 2:30 PM NH Reading. John Langan. John Langan reads from his recently completed novel, The Fisherman.
- 2:30 PM VT Reading. Shira Lipkin. Shira Lipkin reads from Cicatrix, a novel in progress.
Thursday July 12
Friday July 13
10:00 PM F/G The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. Gordon Van Gelder. The Smith Award, honoring a writer worthy of being rediscovered by today’s readers, is selected annually by a panel of judges that includes Readercon 4 Guest of Honor Malzberg. Past winners include Olaf Stapledon, R.A. Lafferty, Edgar Pangborn, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, William Hope Hodgson, Daniel F. Galouye, Stanley G. Weinbaum, A. Merritt., and Katherine MacLean.
10:30 PM F/G Meet the Pros(e) Party. You and nearly everyone else. Each writer at the party has selected a short, pithy quotation from his or her own work and is armed with a sheet of 30 printed labels, the quote replicated on each. As attendees mingle and meet each pro, they obtain one of his or her labels, collecting them on the wax paper provided. Atheists, agnostics, and the lazy can leave them in the order they acquire them, resulting in one of at least nine billion Random Prose Poems. Those who believe in the reversal of entropy can rearrange them to make a Statement. Wearing labels as apparel is also popular. The total number of possibilities (linguistic and sartorial) is thought to exceed the number of theobromine molecules in a large Trader Joe's dark chocolate bar multiplied by the number of picoseconds cumulatively spent by the Readercon committee on this convention since its inception.