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 also 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.
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.
Much of the credit for Readercon's programming goes to our program participants, and we're always looking for exciting new people to add to their ranks. If you would like to apply (or suggest someone) to be added to our invitation list, please submit an extremely persuasive application using this form. We are especially eager to recruit scientists, historians, artists and musicians, and others who work in fields of interest to genre fiction writers and readers.
Readercon is committed to diversity in its program; we believe a wide range of voices makes for better conversation. We strongly encourage members of minority and underprivileged groups to apply. While no one is required to provide information on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, religion or lack of religion, sexual or relationship orientation, age, or other personal characteristics, if that information is provided we will take it into consideration when we build our program. If you are suggesting someone other than yourself, please do not provide contact information, minority status, or other personal information without that person's explicit prior permission.
If you would like to suggest a program item, please do so using this form. We welcome anything from interesting links and vague concepts to full-fledged proposals complete with suggested panelists. Be adventuresome and creative; remember that Readercon's program starts where other conventions leave off. The programs for our past conventions, which may be perused using the links in the sidebar, will give you an idea of what we're looking for.
If you are a past Readercon program participant or have received an invitation to the upcoming convention, and you would like to submit a proposal for a solo talk, performance, discussion, workshop, special-interest panel, or group reading, please use this form (which also provides definitions of those terms). If you've never been a Readercon program participant and have not received an invitation, please submit an application first.
The form and content of the Readercon program are shaped by the following principles:
We've found that we can satisfy these principles by featuring the following simultaneously:
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 previous sf conventions. 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. This year, due to popular demand, we hope to schedule a half-program (one track each of panels, readings, and solo talks/discussions) during the dinner break from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.
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 that 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:
This is a preliminary, unscheduled list of program items for Readercon 24. A few of these items may not make it to the final program, and we may make minor changes to program item descriptions between now and the convention.
Welcome to Readercon. General-interest panel. "Tropes," "reading protocols," "the real year" of a book, "slipstream" fiction, "fantastika," "intrusion fantasy": Readercon panel blurbs (and hallway conversations) borrow vocabulary from a wide range of sources that new attendees may not have encountered. Veterans of other conventions may also be wondering where the costumes and filkers are. Readercon regulars and concom members provide a newcomer's guide to Readercon's written policies and well-worn habits as well as a rundown of our favorite critical… um... tropes.
Making Readercon Safer. General-interest panel. In the best of all possible worlds, Readercon would be confidently safe and welcoming for all. What can each of us do, in our different roles, to get closer to that state? Join members of Readercon's concom and safety committee as we talk about safety and safe spaces. We invite you to share your concerns and suggestions in order to make Readercon 25 even better.
A New Mythology of the Civil War. General-interest panel. In a 2012 piece for the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote that the Lost Cause mythology of the American Civil War has settled so deeply in U.S. culture and historical understanding that it penetrates even our science fiction. (He was speaking of John Carter of Mars but might have been referring to many other works of SF.) "What we now need," he wrote, "is new stories, and new narratives, that not only refuse to revel in historical escapism, but also resist the lure of blaxploitation. People like James McPherson and Benjamin Quarles have gifted us with a new history. What we need now, is a new mythology." Who, if anyone, is undertaking the building of these new myths? And what are they reckoning with along the way?
A Red Cloak, A Glass Shoe. General-interest panel. Clothing in fairy tales is often tremendously significant to the story. To swap clothing is to swap identities, class, or habitat; to fit into a certain shoe is to establish an identity that was only made possible through the right choice of dress. How do speculative stories, especially fairy tale retellings, approach this topic? What can today's writers learn from the sartorial preoccupation of the past?
A Visit from the "Suck Fairy": Enjoying Problematic Works. General-interest panel. Encountering problematic elements within fictional works isn't uncommon. As readers develop awareness of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism—development that occurs on both a personal and a cultural level—they may be appalled to stumble across bigotry in childhood favorites or long-lauded classics, or struggle to appreciate a book that everyone around them is enjoying. Can you still love a work after you've seen something horrible within it, or does continuing to enjoy it mean tacitly approving of not only that specific work but problematic works in general? How can we make room for complex reactions in conversations among critics and readers?
Agency and Gender. General-interest panel. When we talk about women's agency in literature we're often talking about violence: fighting off a would-be rapist or choosing to risk her life in battle, for instance. Men's agency is frequently demonstrated in a wider variety of ways. The notion of agency itself varies from one culture to another. How do cultural perspectives on gender and cultural concepts of agency inform characters' choices and the results of those choices? How are decisions related to cultural assumptions of gender (whom to sleep with, what to wear) portrayed differently from decisions unrelated to cultural gender?
Apocalypse Then. General-interest panel. In a 2012 interview published in the Boston Review, Junot Díaz told Paula Moya, "I always say if people [in the Dominican Republic] know about anything they know about the end of the world. We are after all the eschaton that divided the Old World from the New." In this sense many worlds have ended, with a bang or a whimper. What can authors of post-apocalyptic stories learn from past apocalypses like the 1994 Rwandan genocide or the fall of Imperial Rome, and why are there so few works that present real-world events in this light?
Architects and Gardeners. General-interest panel. In a 2011 interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, George R. R. Martin declared there were two types of writers: architects, whose stories come from meticulous plotting and planning, and gardeners, who take an idea and allow it to grow into shape, uninhibited. "I am definitely more of a gardener," he said, adding, "In my Hollywood years when everything does work on outlines, I had to put on my architect's clothes and pretend to be an architect." Aside from fitting into a broader creative culture, what other benefits might there be (for new or established writers) to deliberately go against one's natural tendencies? Which types of stories are best developed with an architectural or gardening approach? And how does the writer's approach affect the reader's experience of the work?
A number of authors build in subtle links between otherwise unconnected works. A link may not be something as literal as a common character or name; perhaps, instead, there's a repeated trope or event. Leah Bobet, discussing Patricia A. McKillip's works in a 2011 blog post, described this as writing "epic poetry, and the whole of [McKillip's] output is the poem." How do such links affect a reader's interpretation of or approach to a body of work, and what motivates authors to link their works together?
Suggested by Leah Bobet.
Characters Who Break the Binary. General-interest panel. Young adult literature often centers on questions of identity and a growing corpus of YA lit is exploring the lives of characters who are outside the gay/straight (monosexual) and male/female binaries: Corner in Leah Bobet's Above, Fire in Kristin Cashore's Fire, Dela and Ryko in Allison Goodman's Dragoneye duology, A in David Levithan's Every Day, and just about everyone in Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince. How do these characters relate to similar characters in adult paranormal romance, fantasy, and SF, such as Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake or Jay Lake's Green? And how can monosexual and gender-normative authors thoughtfully and respectfully write "the other" in this regard, avoiding stereotypes and understanding the numerous and varied ways that non-binary identities manifest?
Comforting Fiction: Faux Estrangement in Fantasy. General-interest panel. In 2011 China Miéville, discussing literature of estrangement and literature of recognition, referred to "the clichés of some fantasy" as "faux estrangement." Yet these clichéd, faux-estranging works are often tremendously popular. What's so appealing to writers and to readers about recognition disguised as estrangement?
Constellations of Genres. General-interest panel. On Readercon 23's panel "Genre Transference," James Patrick Kelly cited four genres a book can have: "The genre of the writer's intent, the genre of reader expectation, the genre of the critical review, and the commercial genre." Let's dig deeper into this idea. Are there more genres than these four? How does the constellation of a book's various genres change the reader's experience, or the writer's career?
Digital Marginalia: A Conversation with Your Future Self. General-interest panel. Electronic reading devices allow us to carry huge libraries wherever we go. They also provide us with the ability to highlight, annotate, and share what we read. In a 2012 blog post, Clive Thompson described this enhanced reading experience as "a conversation with the author, with yourself, and in a weird way, if you take it along as a lifelong project... a conversation with your future self." According to Craig Mod, "The book of the past reveals its individual experience uniquely. The book of the future reveals our collective experience uniquely." What tools will we embed within digital texts to signal this shifting relationship with literature, and how will readers use them?
Drinking Horror's Blood. General-interest panel. At least as far back as David Hartwell's The Dark Descent (1987), the argument's been made that horror is infecting/cross-pollinating with other genres. It's possible to think of horror as a kind of effect rather than (or in addition to) a genre in itself. But as elements of horror make their way into other genres, they can lose their scariness: vampires and werewolves become love interests and lust objects, while vengeful gods come across as petulant. What do non-horror genres gain by borrowing from horror, if not the horrific?
Egalitarian Character Trauma. General-interest panel. In 2008, Ekaterina Sedia wrote a blog post titled "PSA: Female Trauma!" in which she generated a list of traumatic things that can happen to female characters (spanning a scale from "high heels" to "losing a limb") that don't involve sexual violence. In 2012, Seanan McGuire blogged about an anonymous correspondent who asked her "when" her female protagonists were "finally" going to be raped, implying that rape is an inevitable outcome of being a woman. How can we counteract the predominance of sexual(ized) threats to female characters? Is it enough to simply write other things and move the Overton window, or does the status quo need to be directly subverted? Who's doing it right and what are some examples of doing it wrong?
Enclaves and Conclaves: Subsocietal Safe Spaces. General-interest panel. People often form societies of commonality to act as safe spaces: LGBT community centers, religious social groups, Girl Scouts, D&D campaigns, speculative literature conventions. We rarely see this sort of sub-societal safe space in speculative fiction, finding instead more tangible safe spaces of domed cities, post-apocalyptic enclaves, or rails over a dangerous earth; and often, in fiction, the perimeter is breached. What does this say about our perceptions of safety and danger, our establishment and perpetuation of in-groups and out-groups, and our ambivalence toward purported utopias?
Framing the Fantastic.
We talk all the time about narrative, structure, and the content of fantastic stories, but we rarely discuss the textual elements authors use to frame them, such as prologues, flashback asides, and epilogues. This panel looks at how writers of the fantastic use these devices to delineate their stories and shape the reading of them.
Suggested by John E.O. Stevens.
Friendship Is Magic. General-interest panel. Heroes have friends and companions, while villains only have minions. Stern protagonists can be softened by romantic attachments that draw them back into the community, but the plot also requires that they be special, isolated by some terrible burden of privilege or unshareable secret. Loner stories are episodic (the gunslinger rides off to the next town, the gumshoe slouches off to the next case) while going from solitude to connection is perhaps the most common character development. This panel will examine how cultural narratives and values around heroism, personal development, sex and gender, class, family, and community affect the ways we write and read about being alone and being connected.
Have You Seen Me?: The Absent Children of Urban Fantasy.
Real cities are full of children; urban fantasy cities (Bordertown and Sesame Street excepted) appear to be populated almost entirely by adults. In a series of blog posts on the nature of urban fantasy, Kip Manley, working off of Farah Mendlesohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy, posited that urban fantasy tends toward "immersive fantasies [hinging] on a rhetoric of ironic mimesis, taking for granted the wonders that distance its world from ours," and leading to a cynicism towards magic. Are children absent from urban fantasy because their innate inclination toward wonder and play would detract from that cynicism? What place might there be for children in this genre, and what are the reasons behind their exclusion?
Suggested by Victoria Janssen.
Intellectually Rigorous Fictional Data: Making Up Facts That Are True.
How do you make up convincing fictional primary sources? No, not for purposes of seeking political office, but because you need to know the facts and how they underpin the world of your fiction and the lives of your characters. Imaginary books and letters are just the beginning, even if they never appear in the narrative. Which fictional data sources matter? How much is enough to make a narrative feel resilient and whole?
Suggested by Henry Wessells.
Knit One, Print Two: Handicrafts, Replicators, and the Future of Making.
Take your average 21st-century American knitter on board the Enterprise and the first thing they'd do is replicate a heap of yarn and some needles, or roving and a wheel to spin it with. The replicator might obviate the need for real plants and animals as sources for raw materials, but not the desire of people to create beauty out of those raw materials, or just to do something with their hands on long trips. Given this, why do we almost never see handicrafts in SF futures with replicators? What can futurists learn from the recent simultaneous booms of 3D printers (which are arguably proto-replicators) and handicrafts, both under the header of "making" and often employed and enjoyed by the same people?
Suggested by Rose Fox and Anil Menon.
Let the Games Continue.
Gaming culture has gone mainstream. Gaming itself has become a cultural phenomenon, and increasing numbers of science fiction novels are featuring games, gamers, and gaming culture. The last several years have seen the publication of game-themed books such as REAMDE, The Quantum Thief, Rule 34, Omnitopia Dawn, and Constellation Games. How are games and gamers represented in contemporary science fiction, where are the game-related fantasy novels (no, A Game of Thrones doesn't count), and which ideas in gaming culture have so far gone untapped by fiction writers?
Suggested by Matt Denault.
Making Love Less Strange: Romance for SF/F Writers. General-interest panel. When authors who aren't familiar with romance-genre tropes incorporate romantic elements into speculative fiction, the resulting hybrids can look quite peculiar to romance readers. (Bruce Sterling's Love Is Strange is a particularly striking recent example.) There can also be an aspect of reinventing the wheel; why struggle with the pacing of relationship development when romance authors have it all figured out? Our panel of envoys from Romanceland will explain the central themes and expectations of the romance genre, from "happily ever after" to physical and literary climaxes, to help SF/F authors looking for a wider audience hit all the notes that romance readers expect while avoiding the genre's pitfalls.
Ode to Unpublished First Novels.
Many published novelists' first sales were not the first books they wrote. Though these early manuscripts may not be published or publishable, they are the works that first captured their authors' hearts and demanded to be written. Some authors mine their early works for useful bits to incorporate into other projects, while others dream of dusting them off, polishing them up, and finally sending them out into the world. Our panelists talk frankly about their unpublished first novels, what led them to languish, and whether they might eventually see the light of day.
Suggested by David Anthony Durham.
Pining for the Fnords: The New Nostalgia. General-interest panel. Well-received novels like John Scalzi's Redshirts, Jo Walton's Among Others, and Ernest Kline's Ready Player One pointedly allude to the SF of decades past. In a controversial review in the Los Angeles Review of Science Fiction, Paul Kincaid suggested that contemporary SF is suffering from a feeling of exhaustion; “the genre is now afraid to engage with what once made it novel, instead turning back to what was there before” or reverting “to older, more familiar futures.” Others view this type of SF as celebrating its heritage. What's driving this backward-looking urge, and to what extent is it positive or problematic?
Questioning the Ostensibly Reliable Narrator. General-interest panel. In a recent Locus roundtable discussion, several authors and critics agreed that, in Andy Duncan's words, “all fictional narrators are, to some extent, unreliable.” Some may be deliberate liars; some may be prevaricators omitting crucial information (as in Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd); some may believe themselves to be reliable (such as Doyle's Dr. Watson); and some may distrust their own perceptions (such as Imp in Caitlín R. Kiernan's The Drowning Girl). How does fiction featuring supposedly reliable narrators change when it's approached by a reader who questions everything they're told?
Race as a Social Construct in Speculative Fiction.
Race in speculative literature is often treated as a non-issue or grossly oversimplified: the Other is mapped onto elves and dwarves and aliens while all the human characters are white as milk, or human/Other hybrids inherit magical traits and boatloads of angst from their non-human parents in ways that parallel stereotypes about mixed-race people. How can we develop fantasy and science fiction that addresses race as a social construct (rather than a sub-species category), with all the messy complexities inherent in that?
Suggested by Gillian Daniels.
Stranger Danger: Secrets and Discoveries in Urban Settings.
In folk stories the forest is full of dangerous secrets and the village is usually safe as houses. When the village becomes unsafe, it's because the forest has violated the sanctity of civilization, as when the wolf takes the place of Red Riding Hood's grandmother. However, a slew of recent books find their dangerous secrets within the confines of cities: the many neighborhoods in Kathleen Tierney's Blood Oranges, the occupied city in N.K. Jemisin's The Shadowed Sun, the monster-populated New York in Seanan McGuire's Discount Armageddon, the gas-filled walled Seattle of Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series. What is it about modern life that leads writers and readers to look for discovery and the unknown in cities? How do we cross the border from safety to danger when it's not marked by anything so concrete as the edge of the forest?
Suggested by Josh Jasper.
Teen Violence, Teen Sex. General-interest panel. As seen in bestsellers like The Hunger Games and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, today's literary teen heroes, and especially its heroines, are more likely to commit violence than to have sex. Coming of age and coming into your own is often marked in YA spec fic by survival and destruction rather than sexual awakening. How is the exploration of violence in books related to consensual sexual exploration, and cultural anxieties and mores around it, in real teens' lives?
The Bit I Remember. General-interest panel. What do we remember from books read long ago, and why? What makes these glowing moments stick in our heads? And conversely, what falls away only to startle us when we return to the narrative years later?
The Chair Became the Suit: Expressions of Disability in Speculative Fiction.
Disabled characters have gradually become more common in SF/F, including entities as different as Batgirl/Oracle, Nahadoth, Toothless, and Hodor. In genres that offer the possibility of writing out or eliding disability using technology or magic, what do we see when authors choose to feature it prominently instead? How do authors and characters handle questions of access—to physical spaces, to assistive devices, to therapeutic treatment, or to participation in the community?
Suggested by Sarah Pinsker.
The Endangered Alien. General-interest panel. Science fiction sometimes becomes enamored of a theme for several years and then nearly abandons it for various reasons: microcosms in the 1920s, psionics or mutants in the 1940s and 1950s, etc. In recent years, aliens seem to have become less common. Novels by Paul McAuley, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Alastair Reynolds, and anthologies like Jonathan Strahan's Edge of Infinity, confine their action to the solar system, with little credible possibility for intelligent alien life. The classic alien-as-hideous-enemy and alien-overlord tropes have largely migrated to movies and TV. When aliens do appear, in novels like China Miéville's Embassytown, Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road, and Malinda Lo's Adaptation, how are authors treating them? What purposes do they serve and what roles do they play?
The Fannish Inquisition. General-interest panel. Many writers have had the experience of being asked, at a panel or at a signing, to elucidate some minor plot point of a barely-remembered story or novel written years earlier. Many panel moderators have dealt with audience members who see the question period as an opportunity to deliver their own elaborate theories or critiques. From the point of view of the author or moderator, how should such lapses of politesse be most tactfully handled? Which questions do you wish someone would ask? From the point of view of fans, how can you be sure you're asking meaningful questions that might interest other audience members besides yourself?
The Gender of Reading Shame.
In a 2012 post on Book Riot, Amanda Nelson wrote about bookstore shoppers who display signs of shame or embarrassment about their reading choices. She concluded that this behavior is highly gendered: "If men read 'unliterary' but stereotypically masculine genres it's fine. If women read 'unliterary' but stereotypically feminine genres it's deserving of a brown paper bag in the form of increased e-reader sales so you can read in public in peace." Our panelists discuss their own experiences with reading shame or lack thereof, whether the gender hypothesis holds true within the speculative fiction–reading community, and why we read books we're ashamed of or feel shame about what we read.
Suggested by Ellen Kushner.
The Magic of the 'Hood.
In a 2012 blog post, Troy L. Wiggins wrote, "As anyone who's ever lived in the 'hood (or in the projects) will tell you... it's an obstacle. It hinders happiness. It's a pit of targeted marketing of poison and struggle. It rubs one raw. Yet, the 'hood is also possessed of its own magic.... The magic of the 'hood, the real, actual magic that spills out into our culture, is that of resilience. Kind of like a Bravery/Faith/Protect spell all in one, the 'hood prepares real life characters, hardens them, tempers them. They gain a combined sense of invincibility and vulnerability." Our panelists talk about drawing on this unique magic to create speculative works and characters that ring true to past and present denizens of the 'hood.
Suggested by Daniel José Older.
The News and the Abstract Truth. General-interest panel. The controversies surrounding Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and John D'Agata and Jim Fingal's The Lifespan of a Fact arose when art and truth collided. While fiction can play fast and loose with facts in order to tell a compelling story, monologues and essays are held to a higher standard. The authors of these books were surprised by audience reactions to the discovery that their "factual" accounts were fabrications; they claimed that their work was more "beautiful" or "lyrical" than the truth. But which are more important: true words, or beautiful words? Why do some writers think it necessary to take liberties with the truth in order to create great "nonfiction"?
The Nuances of POV.
When writing genre fiction, many authors begin with the approach that first-person point of view (POV) is useful for horror and heroic quests to bring immediacy to the story; third-person is necessary for epic world-building; and second-person is too confusing and best avoided. But POV is not so cut-and-dried. How can we deepen and expand our ideas of what constitutes POV to better understand and apply it in fiction? How can we broaden the discussion of POV to employ a more granular approach?
Suggested by John E.O. Stevens and Meriah Crawford.
The Relationship of Reality and Fantasy. General-interest panel. In a 2012 essay titled "PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical," Foz Meadows addressed the notion that "deliberately including POC, female and/or LGBTQ characters can only ever be a political action." She demonstrated that history, the historical record, and commonly accepted historical narratives are in fact three distinct things, and pointed out the irony of fans who accept magic and dragons in their fantasy but balk at the idea of female pirates or a black Lancelot because they're "unrealistic." Whose reality does fantasy need to reflect in order to be believable? How can we use fantasy to shape and change our realities?
The Researching Reader. General-interest panel. Blogger crystalpyramid described Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief as "the most search engine–dependent piece of conventional literature I've ever read." George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books are difficult to read without an external reference such as the Tower of the Hand fan website. An author's expectation that readers will draw on outside information sources suggests certain assumptions about the reader's economic resources, social class, and cultural background. How does the concept of the researching reader influence writers and the works they produce?
The Silent History: A Killer Serial. General-interest panel. The Silent History (http://www.thesilenthistory.com) bills itself as "a new kind of novel," a serialized story told in weekday installments over the course of six months. In addition to the daily first-person narratives there are also "field reports," reader-created first-person accounts in the story's universe that are tied to specific locations. Rather than distract, these elements immerse the reader in the world of the story. How can non-standard narrative structure, serialization, geolocation, and audience participation serve as a blueprint for future novels?
The Tropes of Tresses. General-interest panel. Hair has shaped the lives and destiny of Samson in the Bible, Rapunzel (in all her iterations), and blue- and fire-haired heroines of recent YA fantasy. Hair can be a source of power, a means of communication, and a signifier of identity. Why is hair such a potent element in speculative fiction? What cultural and literary antecedents give hair its significance, and how does it connect modern SF/F with the world of religion and myth?
The Xanatos Gambit.
The tangled webs of schemers both good and bad have always had a presence in imaginative fiction. There are the wily king-killers, the intrigue-fomenting spinsters and widows, the bard who hides the knife beside the harp, the indispensable keeper of secrets, and more. What are the challenges in writing an especially clever character? How has the role of the schemer evolved, and what versions do we no longer see?
Suggested by Josh Jasper.
To Grandmother's House We Go (but She's Not There). General-interest panel. In two recent novels, Alastair Reynolds's Blue Remembered Earth and Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, the protagonists are propelled by the death of a grandmother to explore and expand on her schemes and secrets. In folklore and fairytale traditions grandmothers often take similar roles as instigators of quests and providers of information, but usually they do it while alive. What is it about the grandmother role that makes grandmothers so central and important to these novels despite not being physically present in them?
To YA or Not to YA. General-interest panel. There are plenty of adult books with teen heroes, like Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex and Lev Grossman's The Magicians. Some books that were not aimed at teens when they came out are mostly read by them today, like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Some books are marketed as YA in one country and adult in another. So what makes a book "a YA book"? Do we just know it when we see it, or is there a way to pin this down beyond listening to marketing campaigns?
Under the Squee: The Popularity and Perils of Positive Reviews. General-interest panel. In a 2012 piece on Slate, Jacob Silverman wrote, "[Reviewers'] virtue over the algorithms of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the amateurism (some of it quite good and useful) of sites like GoodReads, is that we are professionals with shaded, informed opinions. We are paid to be skeptical, even pugilistic, so that our enthusiasms count for more when they're well earned." Yet fans give Hugo Awards to the uniformly positive reviews published in Locus and the squeeing of the SF Squeecast, so presumably those enthusiasms count for quite a lot. This leads to the critics' version of the argument for deliberately writing commercial fiction: if readers of reviews like enthusiasm, why shouldn't reviewers give them what they want? And how do Silverman's concerns over reputation, particularly having a reputation for honesty, play out in a whuffie-powered online world, where having a reputation for being fun, funny, or kind might count for more?
Unraveling the Unexamined Privilege of Safety.
When we talk about power and oppression, we often spend a lot of energy tailoring the tone and language so that privileged people stay "comfortable." This happens in the context of a larger system already built to keep the powerful comfortable, and it comes at the cost of a deeper, truer conversation. Meanwhile, sexual harassment and oppressive behavior run rampant at cons and in online discussions, leading to emotionally and physically unsafe environments for people who are already struggling to feel a sense of belonging in the SF/F community. How do we craft our literature and our larger community in an inclusive, anti-oppressive way that creates more safety for those who lack it while encouraging those with more power and privilege to embrace vulnerability?
Suggested by Daniel José Older.
What the Other Sees as Other. General-interest panel. Maureen F. McHugh gets us so deeply into a character's head that while the character may be "other" to the reader, what really registers as "other" are the people who are "other" to the character. For example, in McHugh's short story "Special Economics," otherness is not about being Chinese, because all the characters are Chinese and in China; it's about being old, having ideas that are no longer current or relevant. We'll discuss this and other (ahem) examples of the depiction of otherness.
Which Ideas Are Worth Keeping? General-interest panel. Many writers have file folders of unfinished stories or novels that never jelled or never seemed quite publishable. How do you decide which ideas to reject, which to pitch, and which simply to follow through on based on your own convictions?
Workshopping as a Lifestyle. General-interest panel. Writing is often a lonely process, so it's perhaps unsurprising that workshops and critique groups are as popular as they are. But Junot Díaz has suggested that due to "workshopping as a lifestyle," many writers have shifted their focus "away from the organic orientation of readers and towards a really mutated, very narrow idea of writing for other writers." How can writers overcome this drawback of frequent workshopping while still enjoying its advantages? And when the assumption is that all your readers are writers, where does that leave readers who aren't?
Worldbuilding by Worldseeing. General-interest panel. Kipling's Kim, Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, Dickens's "sketches"... who is writing about the present day this way, and what can worldbuilders learn from these Victorian-era worldseers? All these observers were at some remove; how does observation differ when one is part of the culture one is observing?
Writing in Shared Worlds. General-interest panel. Writing in shared worlds presents a unique set of pitfalls and opportunities. Each writer added to the mix brings additional nuances and complications, and keeping the expanding canon straight can be hard for both writers and readers. But when done well, it has produced some brilliant series (e.g. Bordertown, the Cecelia and Kate books). Our panelists discuss the challenges, solutions, and examples of the best shared-world works.
Absent Friends. Special-interest panel. In the past year, the field lost editors Anne Devereaux Jordan and Jacques Sadoul; authors Ángel Arango, Harry Harrison, Margaret Mahy, Daniel Pearlman, Josepha Sherman, Boris Strugatsky, and Gore Vidal; fans Jan Howard "Wombat" Finder, Marilee J. Layman, Danny Lieberman, and Paul Williams; and others. Come join us as we celebrate their lives and work.
Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairytale describes a beautiful, grubby, hippie-like fairy world. This contrasts sharply with Tolkien's high-minded and high-cheekboned court, which could be very helpful to humans when it chose. In more contemporary lands, as in Holly Black's novels, the fey can be gratuitously cruel; in Elizabeth Hand's Mortal Love, her heroine is not technically a fairy, being a construct created by a wizard, but she demonstrates some of the possible motivations behind that casual cruelty. As far as we know, nobody has ever been to fairyland. Where do we get our ideas about it?
Proposed by Patricia A. McKillip.
A Tribute to Daniel Pearlman.
Daniel Pearlman (1935–2013) was Professor Emeritus at the University of Rhode Island, where he founded the Council for the Literature of the Fantastic. An active participant in many writing groups, his works include novels and short stories in mimetic, surreal, and SF modes. As John Clute wrote in a review of Pearlman's collection The Best-Known Man in the World and Other Misfits, his stories' themes are "not postmodernist exposures of arbitrariness of story, but instructions for arriving at the soul." We will discuss the man and his works, and share our memories of Dan Pearlman. (Annotated bibliography: http://readercon.org/docs/dan_biblio.pdf.)
Proposed by Paul Di Filippo and Faye Ringel.
Avram Davidson, 1923–1993.
Twenty years have passed since the death of Avram Davidson, and much of his writing has recently been brought back into print. This panel will assess the writer and his work.
Proposed by Henry Wessells.
Designing and Building a Book Collection.
This panel will focus on how to shape a book collection as a meaningful embodiment of information that other people can access. Motives for collecting will be discussed, but the focus is on the books assembled, not the raconteur.
Proposed by John Clute.
The listserv Fictionmags has been in existence since 1999. Formed by David Pringle, ex-editor of Interzone, its formal remit is the study of all fiction-bearing magazines throughout history. Featuring approximately 175 members at any one time, it boasts such luminaries as Ellen Datlow, Gordon Van Gelder, Barry Malzberg, John Clute, and Scott Edelman. This panel will discuss Fictionmags's work and the resources it provides.
Proposed by Paul Di Filippo.
Library of America Anoints Old SF.
First the Library of America published H.P. Lovecraft, then Philip Dick, and now nine novels that have even less standing beyond the SF fan base and were in fact never intended to go much farther. What's changed—in the books, the readers, or the culture—that has allowed these works to be admitted to an august pantheon like the LoA? Are they really good, or just good of their kind?
Proposed by John Crowley.
Life After Clarion.
The Clarion SF Workshop is one of the best in the world for budding science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. Many of today's award-winning authors are Clarion graduates. For six weeks, Clarion students have the luxury of learning from top-notch authors and editors while living the life of a full-time writer. But once Clarion ends, what do you do next? How do you take what you learn at Clarion and apply it to your writing life and your real life? And how do you adjust from having the support of other writers to possibly having very little or none at all? Professional writers who graduated from Clarion in the '80s, '90s, and '00s share their life-after-Clarion experiences.
Proposed by Resa Nelson.
Of Gods and Goddesses.
Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light used gods and goddesses as modern characters. Powerful, imperious, vulnerable, gods seem to be everywhere again these days. In American Gods, Gods Behaving Badly, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms et seq., Discord's Apple, Going Bovine, and other recent works, we meet familiar and unfamiliar deities who behave more often than not in recognizably human fashion rather than with a god-like dignity, power, and majesty. What draws writers to bring gods to earth and readers to the adventures in the modern world of characters as old as storytelling? And why is this trend increasing at this particular time?
Proposed by Patricia A. McKillip.
Science fiction (in the widest sense) used to posit many perfect or vastly improved future societies, along with the failed societies that pointed towards necessary change. Have real societies grown so complex, or have we become so aware of their complexity, that the kinds of solutions once proposed seem impossible to even think about, much less strive for? And is that a loss or a gain?
Proposed by John Crowley.
Sociolinguistics and SF/F.
Sociolinguistics studies the ways in which language intersects with society. It looks at issues such as interactions of language with power, prestige, gender, hegemony, and literacy, bilingualism and multilingualism, translation, language birth, and language death to name but a few. We will look specifically at the kinds of tensions that are created in societies where people speak different languages or dialects depending on social and racial/ethnic status. We will also discuss genre books in which those topics have been explored, and consider sociolinguistics tools and concepts that may be useful to writers.
Proposed by Rose Lemberg.
Special Short Stories.
Some short stories hold a special place in the author's heart for one reason or another. Maybe it was an award-winner or gave birth to a series or earned a place in a particular anthology. The panelists will each discuss a single published short story. What was the genesis of the story? What particular challenges came up when writing it? How did it come to be published? Has it led to other opportunities, fan interactions, or new series? What makes it special?
Proposed by Toni L.P. Kelner.
The Art of Critique.
Criticism is a large part of a writer's life. What are the elements of a good short story or novel critique? How does one go about critiquing another writer's work? What are the most effective techniques? What types of things do we look for? Is there such a thing as destructive criticism or are all kinds of critique helpful? How does a writer learn what to listen to from a critique and what to ignore? We will explore these and other questions.
Proposed by Matthew Kressel.
What Are You Doing with Your Backlist?
The advent of e-readers offers the potential of a brand new audience for backlist books that have never appeared in digital form. This panel will cover the options for republication in the digital age: self-publishing, partnering with a digital publisher, author collectives, and buying à la carte publicity and marketing. Hear about a variety of options from those who have been in the trenches.
Proposed by Betsy Mitchell.
Writing (Hot and Heavy) Action.
Good action scenes and good sex scenes have a surprising amount in common. This panel will discuss the best ways of approaching both. Expect the discussion to get raunchy and specific.
Proposed by Wesley Chu.
Writing About Music, Writing for Music.
A group of musicians of varying backgrounds will discuss issues of writing about music: accurate representations of instruments, styles, historical music and its social context, the lives of musicians in different eras, and the technical language associated with music. We'll look at examples from music reviews, composers' own letters, and fiction written by non-musicians, and learn how to accurately represent music in text. We may also cover finding and collaborating with composers on songs, musicals, and operas.
Proposed by Kevin E.F. Clark.
Writing for Younger Readers.
How do middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) authors and editors write for children and teen readers? How do they make science fiction more accessible for kids, build complex fantasy worlds, and develop authentic characters with diverse backgrounds? This panel is ideal for anyone writing MG or YA or interested in finding books with plots as rich and complex as any novel targeted to adult readers.
Proposed by E.C. Myers.
Writing Others I: Theory.
Authors who want to write outside their own experiences of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and sexuality face a multitude of challenges. How do we present each character's unique perspective while celebrating their distinctive identity and avoiding stereotypes and appropriation? How is the research and writing process affected by differences between the author's and the character's levels of societal privilege? Is it possible to write about future diversity without oppression, or does today's reality require us to write in today's frame? Which authors have handled this well, and what form does "handling this well" take?
Proposed by Joan Slonczewski and Michael J. DeLuca.
Writing While Parenting.
This panel will discuss the difficulties of parenting while writing (as opposed to working a job while writing, which is for the most part a very different challenge) and how the panelists have managed to reconcile their parenting duties with their writing needs and responsibilities. Panelists may include parents of small children and older children, writers who parent full-time, parents who write full-time, and children and spouses of writers.
Proposed by Nicole Kornher-Stace.
The Works of Fredric Brown. Special-interest panel. Fredric Brown, the winner of the 2012 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, is remembered largely as a mystery writer, but his influence on SF was immense. His story "Arena" was adapted on Star Trek and paid homage to by Joanna Russ; his mordant short shorts like "Knock" and "Answer" have entered the folklore of the field; and his novels What Mad Universe? and Martians, Go Home! pioneered comic SF. He was perhaps the only SF writer of the early 1950s to predict, in The Lights in the Sky Are Stars, that a successful space exploration program in the 1960s would be virtually abandoned by the 1990s. This panel will explore his achievements and lasting legacy.
The Works of Maureen F. McHugh. Special-interest panel. As Jo Walton said in a review of Mission Child, Maureen F. McHugh's work explores “chewy ideas rather than shiny ones." This is true of her novels, such as the Tiptree Award–winning China Mountain Zhang; her intense short stories, each of which contains an astonishing amount of narrative and conceptual complexity; and her alternate reality games, including the groundbreaking "I Love Bees." McHugh's work introduces the reader to communities large and small (families, subcultures, towns, nations, planets) and describes them with compassion, affectionate humor, and honesty. This panel will endeavor to give her rich, nuanced writing the close reading it deserves.
The Works of Patricia A. McKillip. Special-interest panel. In a long and lauded career Patricia A. McKillip has questioned the shapes of genre stories, taking an egalitarian and polyphonic approach to point of view. In harmony with this questioning has been her thoughtful examination of identity, land, and time, from the classic Riddlemaster trilogy to The Bards of Bone Plain. Through all her works, lyrical storytelling has invoked the ties between language and magic: the way that magical transformations find their mirror in language rich with metaphor, the way that riddles in the text mirror the riddle of the text. These elements working in concert provide a consistently high level of reader interaction. An hour isn't long enough to even summarize the McKillip oeuvre, but we'll do our best to tour its many highlights as well as some choice gems that are often overlooked.
The Works of Roger Zelazny. Special-interest panel. Roger Zelazny is best known for the Chronicles of Amber, a sprawling, modern high-fantasy series of a family with god-like powers and their complex intrigues. The Amber universe was a limitless playground, and Zelazny's ability to unearth one Amber story after another inspired many other authors to create "endless" series. Zelazny also wrote many novels and short stories unrelated to Amber, and most of his awards were won for non-Amber work. This panel will cover his writings both renowned and obscure, and trace his influence through subsequent generations of fantasy writers.
Readercon Recent Fiction Book Club: American Elsewhere. Special-interest panel. Robert Jackson Bennett's American Elsewhere is a complex work that only gradually reveals its speculative nature, blending magic and technology with horror and humor and something like a murder mystery. Along the way it addresses and critiques concepts of normalcy, nostalgia, family (especially interactions between parents and children), home, and the American Dream. We'll examine it in the context of recent works that touch on similar topics, including Catherynne M. Valente's "Fade to White," Daryl Gregory's The Devil's Alphabet, and Bennett's other novels of darkness and strangeness in the American heartland.
Readercon Classic Fiction Book Club: Tam Lin. Special-interest panel. Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, which reimagines the Scottish ballad as an account of young, bright Janet Carter's tumultuous time at college in the 1970s, was lauded upon its publication in 1991 and has endured as a classic since. We'll explore its resonance and relevance to present-day readers and writers in the context of real-world events that recall Janet's experiences—lengthy wars, challenges to reproductive rights, and activism and tensions on college campuses—as well as the increasing popularity of folk tale retellings.
Readercon Nonfiction Book Club: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. Special-interest panel. Lauded by Paul Kincaid as "one of the best and most significant works of science fiction criticism to have appeared so far this century," Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.'s 2009 opus, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, is an expansive depiction of the genre as "a constellation of diverse intellectual and emotional interests and responses." We'll discuss and argue with the seven beauties themselves as well as the various notions and methods of analysis that they inspire.
Readercon Blog Club: "The Uses and Value of Realism in Speculative Fiction". Special-interest panel. In response to the Readercon 23 panel "Why Is Realistic Fiction Useful?", Chris Gerwel wrote a blog post exploring the aesthetic uses of realism in spec fic and other literature. He says, "To be effective, fiction must communicate or reveal something true.... That truth is not necessarily factual (such-and-such happened), but is rather more nebulous and insightful (such-and-such could have happened)." Gerwel goes on to argue that "realistic" descriptions of fantastic things can be a way to help the audience to deal with these concepts, giving them better access to the underlying metaphors of a dragon or a spaceship. He closes by saying, "I believe that quotidian speculative fiction has its place in the genre. And that is precisely because it speaks to different truths than most speculative fiction: it speaks to the little heroisms of daily life, and to the practical challenges that arise from our human and social natures" an idea that echoes discussions of early science fiction stories written by women, and offers an alternative to the conflation of "realistic" and "gritty." We'll discuss the place of the quotidian in speculative fiction and other aspects of Gerwel's complex and intriguing essay, which resides at http://elflands2ndcousin.com/2012/07/17/the-uses-and-value-of-realism-in-speculative-fiction/.
How I Wrote Salsa Nocturna. Solo talk. Daniel José Older discusses the formation of his debut collection, Salsa Nocturna.
How I Wrote The Brides of Rollrock Island. Solo talk. Margo Lanagan discusses the development of her newest novel, The Brides of Rollrock Island.
How I Wrote The Summer Prince. Solo talk. Alaya Dawn Johnson discusses the creation of her first novel for young adults, The Summer Prince.
Adventures in Linear and Nonlinear Narration. Solo talk. Fallen London (formerly known as Echo Bazaar) is a popular web-based game whose experience includes textual narrative served out through randomly-drawn "cards" and "storylets." Recently its creators opened up a streamlined version of the platform, StoryNexus, for those who wish to author similar games. Yoon Ha Lee was commissioned to create a planetary romance game, Winterstrike, to help showcase the platform. Lee will discuss the similarities and differences between writing a short story (static, linear narrative) and a StoryNexus game (dynamic, fluid narrative), and compare both to the experience of writing an interactive fiction game (text adventure), Moonlit Tower.
Economic Systems Past, Present, and Future. Solo talk. What were the responsibilities of a medieval serf, and did they result in an efficient use of land? Could the EU or African Union provide a blueprint for a federation of planets? Romie Stott will offer an overview of economic systems past, present, and theoretical, touching on gold standards, black markets, mercantilism, oligopolies, usury laws, non-Soviet communism, competitive advantage, and how tax policy can motivate altruistic behavior or create a black market. If you've ever wondered why diamonds cost more than water and whether that would change with replicators, this is the place for you.
Formatting for E-books. Solo talk. Current hardware and software standards place limits on how closely an e-book can match the typography of a print book. While there are methods of creating book applications that showcase the capabilities of high-end devices, the majority of e-book readers are still looking for a basic file that can be read on a variety of devices including dedicated e-readers and smartphones. Best practice for e-book design includes making the files backwards compliant while ensuring ease of readability. There are a variety of free and open source tools available for an e-book designer to take a manuscript from a word processor file to a fully compliant and well-designed e-book. LJ Cohen will give a rundown of all the options for DIY types and the simply curious.
Genetics. Solo talk. If the genetic code is the musical score, then epigenetics is the music. Our genetic sequence is only part of the story. The other part is how and when and why any particular gene is turned on or off and how these genes interact. This is the science of epigenetics. Unlike the fixed genetic "code," epigenetics is fluid. It changes in response to any number of factors, and it can evolve and adapt rapidly. Can such rapid changes be inherited? Can inheritance be driven by purpose, as opposed to random chance? Dr. Michael Blumlein will explore these and other questions of genetics, epigenetics, and the possible vindication of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
On a Bender. Solo talk. Circuit bending is the creative customization of the circuits within electronic devices (children's toys, small digital synthesizers, and low-voltage battery-powered guitar effects) to create new musical or visual instruments and sound generators. This discussion of the history of circuit bending will be accompanied by examples of David G. Shaw's own recent creations, and will end with a brief hands-on session with some circuit-bent devices.
Patricia McKillip's Magical, Musical Language. Solo talk. Through a career now in its fifth decade, Patricia A. McKillip has maintained a high standard of prose style and magical invention. Whether creating magic through music or music through poetic language, her works exemplify all the meanings, magical and musical, of "enchantment." Drawing on novels covering the entire range of McKillip's career, Faye Ringel will combine close readings of poetic effects with analysis of McKillip's musical mages and magical musician characters.
Reading the Fantastic. Solo talk. Henry Wessells will talk about reading and writing with reference to obscure but canonical texts, the notion of intellectually rigorous imaginary sources, and related topics.
Salt and Time and Lessons Learned. Solo talk. What happens when a home cook with a comprehensive working knowledge of modernist techniques sets his sights on the ancient art of charcuterie? Find out in this account of the year-long Charcutepalooza competition, in which David G. Shaw was repeatedly humbled by the simple processes of curing, brining, grinding, smoking, binding, packing, stretching, and stuffing. Work samples may or may not be provided, depending on variables just barely within our control.
Teaching Utopia. Solo talk. "Utopia as Fiction" was a topic of an English department creative writing class at Yale in spring 2013. Students had to read utopian fiction and write their own utopia: not dystopia, not futurist speculation, not edenic fantasy. John Crowley will discuss how this panned out, whether young people today can take utopian thinking seriously, and what their plans were like.
The Art of the Internet. Solo talk. New communication technologies give rise to new art forms. The art of the internet is not the art of books, television, or movies. Maureen F. McHugh will talk about what the art of the internet might be, and how we can develop that art ourselves.
The Limits of "Willing Suspension of Disbelief": Some Considerations from the Psychology and Neuroscience of Reading. Solo talk. John E.O. Stevens will discuss how recent studies in psychology and cognitive neuroscience challenge the notion of "the willing suspension of disbelief" as the default manner in which readers approach a text. As we learn more about reading works and how the brain processes information, it becomes apparent that readers do not suspend disbelief so much as cultivate belief until it is undermined by poor writing or unbelievable assertions. This is a different way of looking at writing in general and fantastika in particular; if we are not suspending disbelief, but actively striving to believe, then writers and readers may be working together more closely than Coleridge's formulation suggests.
The Wrong Future. Solo talk. In this talk/polemic/rant, Graham Sleight will argue that 20th-century science fiction made a fundamental mistake in what it was asserting about the future. Individual authors have avoided this pitfall to differing extents, yet SF as a whole has fallen into this trap time and time again. He will discuss the work of Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.G. Ballard, Octavia Butler, Thomas M. Disch, and others; the effects of the cyberpunk authors of the 1980s; and more recent genre blendings and crossovers.
Where Is My Metaverse? and Other 3D Woes. Solo talk. 3D (or the illusion of 3D) has been around since the first stereoscopic viewing method was invented in 1838. This means that some form of 3D has been available to every science fiction writer. Is it any wonder that 3D is as ubiquitous as space travel or aliens in our fiction? 3D experiences in movies and books are rarely what can be achieved in real life. Diane Martin and Jeff Hecht will discuss the history of 3D and (time permitting) look at what is coming down the road for 3D in actual products. Warning: handheld lasers will probably be used.
Writing for the Brain Damaged. Solo talk. Brain damage through traumatic injury (traffic accidents, football injuries, muggings, falls, IED explosions, etc.) is one of the most underdiagnosed modern medical conditions. It can have a variety of effects on the physical and psychological processes of reading and writing, including choosing stories and honing craft. Barry Longyear will share his experiences and some techniques that have helped him work through this maze toward writing and reading success.
Crowdfunding: The Glory and the Peril. Talk/panel. In this troubled market, small publishers, authors, and editors are all turning to crowdfunding to get the backing for their cherished projects. Novelists, anthology editors, and magazine publishers are asking for funds on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other sites, and some are coming away triumphant. If you want to try it for yourself, how do you make it work? What do you avoid? What unexpected problems lurk? Author, editor, and publisher Mike Allen, veteran of a $10,000 campaign to fund the anthology Clockwork Phoenix 4, will lead a discussion of what works, what doesn't, and what successful campaigners wish they'd done differently.
Odyssey Writing Workshop Presentation. Talk/panel. Odyssey is an intensive six-week program for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror held each summer in Manchester, N.H. Guest lecturers have included George R. R. Martin, Elizabeth Hand, Ellen Kushner, Jane Yolen, Robert J. Sawyer, Nancy Kress, and Dan Simmons, and 58% of graduates have gone on to be published. Director Jeanne Cavelos will explain the structure of the program, the work required, and the pros and cons of workshops. Graduates will discuss their personal experiences.
The Return of Queer/Were: Leader of the Pack. Talk/panel. At Readercon 23, "Queer/Were: Born This Way?" explored some ways in which works of queer urban fantasy/paranormal construct the convergence of queer and were as well as how authors of urban fantasy generally appropriate metaphors of queerness in the construction of their were characters. During the lively discussion that ensued, the shift of the werewolf from sad lonely figure to pack creature was noted, and Josh Jasper suggested that perhaps the queer were (whether or not sexually queer) of contemporary urban fantasy owed a debt to the rise of the queer civil rights movements. This talk builds off that suggestion.
Women's Bodies, Women's Power. Talk/panel. Across cultures and eras, men have been evaluated by their actions and women by their bodies. A woman's value may be affected by her beauty, virginity, or fertility, especially if she is considered property. Juxtaposed with this are the mystification and taboo surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. This outlook has migrated wholesale into speculative literature. It's still standard fare in fantasy for women to lose (or be thought to lose) any extranormal powers they possess when they first have penetrative sex, menstruate, or become pregnant, from André Norton's Witchworld adepts to Zamia in Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon. Athena Andreadis will explore the reasons for the persistence of this trope and the paths that lead past it to better worlds of both reality and fiction.
Write What You Know All Too Well. Talk/panel. Gemma Files is currently making the transition from writing a series of novels (the Hexslinger series) to a stand-alone novel (Experimental Film), from historical fantasy to contemporary horror, and from something very separate from her life to something that actively riffs off it in a somewhat intimate, vulnerable-making way. She will discuss this process and invite others to talk about similarly intimate work they might have created or experienced.
The Work/Work Balance. Group discussion. There's the high-paying uncreative day job, the lower-paying day job that's in the creative field you love, the freelance gigs, the unpaid creative work, the amazing projects with wonderful people that take your sleep, time, and money but make life worth living. Then there are all those other people with just the one job, and who spend the rest of their "free time" having some sort of "fun." Kevin E.F. Clark will lead an open conversation about how creative types can balance making money, making art, and having a life. (Maybe not so much of that last one unless we squeeze it into the first two.)
What the Future Is, and What the Future Is Not. Group discussion. While looking backward, we can examine a past moment in time. Much of what we find there is with us today: part of our lives at present. Were we prescient enough, we could predict things and ways that would survive from our present into the future. Successful predictions would make our children rich, could make us famous (or infamous), and might change the world to come. This open discussion, led by Vincent McCaffrey, will attempt to predict which ideas, things, and methods will be useful or meaningful parts of the lives of those yet to come.
Writing Others II: Practice. Group discussion. This practical discussion, led by Joan Slonczewski and Michael J. DeLuca, is for writers who have read Writing the Other, carefully studied the pitfalls of cultural appropriation, and decided to take the plunge of writing about people whose experiences differ significantly from the author's. How does one go about acquiring sufficient understanding of another culture, gender, or sexuality to write about it respectfully, productively, and effectively? We'll discuss research techniques and writing methods used by successful writers of the other, as well as problems and solutions we've encountered in our own work. Attending "Writing Others I: Theory" is recommended.
BARCC Presents: Sexual Assault Information 101. Workshop. There's a lot of information and misinformation floating around regarding sexual assault. Trained facilitators from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center will give a rundown of what's true and what's not, share some surprising facts, and help workshop participants understand why sexual assault is such a big problem, how we can help prevent it, and how to respond to survivors of assault. Note: The content of this workshop can bring up strong feelings. Participants will not be required to share any personal information or experiences. This program item will not be recorded.
BARCC Presents: How to Be a Good Bystander. Workshop. What can you do if you see someone harassing or assaulting another person? Trained facilitators from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center will teach you how to safely act to challenge inappropriate sexual and violent behaviors in one's community and environment. They will also discuss why people intervene in some situations but not others, and offer participants the opportunity to role-play interventions. Note: The content of this workshop can bring up strong feelings. Participants will not be required to share any personal information or experiences. This program item will not be recorded. PREREQUISITE: Sexual Assault Information 101.
From Page to Stage: Adapting and Performing Your Work for an Audience. Workshop. Caitlyn Paxson and C.S.E. Cooney will provide vocal warm-ups and exercises, as well as tips on articulation and breath control. Each will give brief performances while discussing eye contact, decibel level, and body language. Participants are encouraged to bring 1–3 paragraphs of their own writing to share aloud.
Gender and Power in Literature and Life. Workshop. This workshop, led by Daniel José Older, is a critical look at different ways that gender and power shape our realities and experiences of the world. With examples from the writing process and fantastical literature in particular, we will deconstruct dynamics of power and privilege on the gender spectrum.
Speculative Poetry Workshop. Workshop. Speculative poetry can be defined a number of ways. One is that 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.
How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes. Event. C.S.E. Cooney performs a panoply of story-poems from her collection How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes. Coyotes and sea kings, demons and deities, Bluebeards and Beowulfs run rampant, roguish, and occasionally naked through her verse. Rated C for Cheeky.
The Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours. Event. The Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours present a whirlwind of ghosts, space ballads, bone swans and more! Join them as they sing, read, and offer theatrical interpretations of their work.
The Shirley Jackson Awards. Event. 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 2012 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
Maureen F. McHugh Interviewed by Kelly Link. Event.
Patricia A. McKillip Interviewed by Faye Ringel. Event.