Readercon 17 program

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.

The Readercon Programming Philosophy

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).
  • 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 check out the list of panel descriptions below, and to read through the programs of past Readercons!


Regular programming begins at 3:00 PM on Friday with just a few of our multiple tracks; we add a few each hour and have a full slate running by 6:00 PM. Special events start at 10:00 PM (see below).

Saturday's full schedule runs from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. While there's no lunch break, 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! See the "Special Events" section for what happens after 4:00 PM.

Sunday programming once again begins at 10:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM.

Traditional Program Items

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 and new Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winners.
  • A panel reviewing the year in short fiction.
  • A series of 30-minute author talks called "How I Wrote Novel Title." The titles are announced on the web site in June and are a mix of books just out in hardcover and just reprinted in paperback. You're all urged to read as many as possible before the con. (One of our past slogans was "The con that assigns homework!")
    This year's selections are:
    How I Wrote Bear Daughter, by Judith Berman
    How I Wrote A Princess of Roumania (and its brand-new sequel, The Tourmaline) by Paul Park
    How I Wrote The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi

Special Events

  • 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.
  • The Rhysling Award Poetry Slan, Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM (as part of regular programming). The Rhyslings are the annual awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and Readercon is proud to be their new annual host. (A poetry "slan" — to be confused with "slam" — is a poetry reading by sf folks. If you don't get the in-joke, ask an sf fan above a certain age).
  • 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, a one-act play, several James Tiptree, Jr. Award presentations and auctions. Watch this space.

Full Program Schedule

All items are 50 minutes unless otherwise noted, beginning on the hour. (M) indicates Moderator only; (+M) indicates Participant/Moderator. Times in italic are before noon; all others noon and later.


1.  3:00 F  The Willing Suspension of Dissed Beliefs
Ellen Asher, R. Scott Bakker, James Morrow (+M), Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Ann Tonsor Zeddies
There are some novels that can seduce us with their worldviews despite our intellectual opposition to the deep authorial philosophies that inform them. One can argue that the secular humanist reading Gene Wolfe or the free-market conservative reading China Miéville becomes, for the duration of the novel, a Catholic or socialist in at least some small recess of their brain. What exactly is going on here between text and reader?

2.  3:00 RI  Short Fiction Markets You Should Know
Jennifer Pelland
Discussion (60 min.). Writers and readers alike know who all the big players in short fiction are, but there is a plethora of smaller markets that are routinely overlooked. Come share your favorite titles, and be prepared to leave with a reading list of many more.

3.  3:00 VT  Rosemary Kirstein reads from the still-untitled fifth book in the Steerswoman series. (30 min.).

4.  3:30 VT  Sonya Taaffe reads "Chez Vous Soon," from the March 2006 Not One of Us. (30 min.)

5.  4:00 F  The Return of the Prime Minister: Alternate Political Systems in Fantasy
Kelly Link, Victoria McManus, Teresa Nielsen Hayden (+M), Catherynne M. Valente
At Readercon 3, we asked "Why is Fantasy Hung Up on Monarchy?" in a panel called The Senator From Elfland's Daughter. In the sixteen subsequent years, how much progress has been made in exploring fantasy worlds other than those ruled by a king or queen, and hence a wider variety of social orders?

6.  4:00 ME  The SF Storytelling Dilemma
Charles Oberndorf
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). Stephen King recently remarked (in Entertainment Weekly) that he liked anything with a story, but he didn't much like science fiction. What elements in sf make it hard to tell a story that's recognized as a story by those who don't normally read the genre? What storytelling traditions in sf get in the way? Can sf be written that's accessible to outsiders yet still carry the joys of the field?

7.  4:00 RI  Writing and Understanding Speculative Poetry: A Workshop
Mike Allen
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). Speculative (sf) poetry: what it is, how you write it, why you would want to, and which editors will buy it. Learn how to write the kind of poems that appear in Asimov's Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Weird Tales. A minimum of lecturing and a maximum of hands-on exercises presented by Allen, President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

8.  4:00 NH  Allen Steele reads from "Escape from Earth" — the title novella of an upcoming Y.A. anthology edited by Gardner Dozois. (30 min.)

9.  4:00 VT  Mary Turzillo reads "Pride," her story from Fast Forward I
(Lou Anders, ed.). (30 min.).

10.  4:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Geoffrey A. Landis; James Morrow.

11.  4:00 E Autographs. China Miéville.

12.  4:30 NH  William Shunn reads from his novel-in-progress Inclination, a continuation of the novella of the same name that appeared recently in Asimov's. (30 min.).

13.  4:30 VT  Adam Golaski reads excerpts from Color Plates, a just-completed book made up of about 70 little stories written from paintings by Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Cassatt. Excerpts from this project have appeared in numerous journals including the current issue of McSweeney's. (30 min.)

14.  5:00 F  "I Have No Idea Why I'm On This Panel."
Paul Di Filippo, Scott Edelman, Elizabeth Hand, Kit Reed, Sarah Smith (+M)
Like many panels at Readercon, the panelists here have been chosen because of their specific relevance to the topic at hand (e.g., they've all written novels featuring the theme of the panel). They only catch is, we haven't told them what that topic is (hint: it's a reprise of a popular panel from a past Readercon, with mostly new panelists). Can they figure it out? Or can they find an entirely different common ground than the one we have in mind?

15.  5:00 H  Libraries in Imaginative Literature
David Louis Edelman, Greer Gilman, Fred Lerner (+M), Paul Levinson, Sandra McDonald, Yves Meynard
Borges' Library of Babel is perhaps the best known, but the repository of knowledge (especially the repository of all knowledge) is a common element in stories of the fantastic. They're obviously useful as plot devices, but they are attractive to writers and readers for many other reasons.

16.  5:00 ME  Brainstormin' and Headslappin' Jam Session with Beyon'Dusa
Sheree Renée Thomas with Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan, plus Ama Patterson
Discussion (60 min.). Are you fluent in a language, have an amazing hobby, or other essential skills and insights that might make you another writer's godsend? Then come share the wealth! Join other writers as we exchange information, field queries, and get feedback on research topics and issues that are vital to our art. Bring your research questions, story nuggets, and ideas as we brainstorm and headslap together. We'll create an informal 'expert' list and talk about other ways to enrich our research and writing.

17.  5:00 RI  Fantasy, Neuroscience, and the Semantic Apocalypse
R. Scott Bakker
Talk (60 min.). Before the rise to institutional dominance of science, our theoretical understanding of the world was primarily anthropomorphic: we used ourselves as the model of everything else. Science has long since disabused us — or some of us, anyway — of this way of looking at things, fixing the general conditions for what we count as 'fantastic.' This is why, if you take any given scriptural world such as Homeric Greece, Vedic India, or Biblical Israel and simply change the coastlines and the place names, you not only have an alternate world, you have a fantasy world. The problem, however, is that science is far from finished, which means the 'boundaries of the fantastic' are far from fixed. This talk considers the possibility that science (and its evil twin, capital) is pushing that boundary too far, that fantasy has, in effect, swallowed us whole.

18.  5:00 NH  F. Brett Cox reads a new short story. (30 min.)

19.  5:00 VT  Walter H. Hunt reads from either Sword and Sun or Song in Stone, both current projects. (30 min.)

20.  5:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsch. Charles Oberndorf.

21.  5:00 E Autographs. Jeffrey Ford; Elaine Isaak.

22.  5:30 NH  Pamela Zoline reads. (30 min.)

23.  5:30 VT  Jean-Louis Trudel reads "Gathering the Echoes" (nanotech, smart home, ghosts). (30 min.)

24.  6:00 F  The War of the Worldviews
F. Brett Cox (+M), Rosemary Kirstein, Barry N. Malzberg, China Miéville, James Morrow, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Campbellian SF made the assumption that the rational, scientific worldview would come to dominate the irrational, religious one, a tacit prediction that turned out even less well than those of flying cars and personal nuclear powerplants. It's quite possible that we can never arrive at the glowing science-fictional future that we all grew up dreaming of without fighting and winning a sort of Cold Civil War between the forces of reason and superstition. What works of speculative fiction have dealt with this?

25.  6:00 H  Write What You Know: Sex Scenes, Too?
Elizabeth Hand, Elaine Isaak, Victoria McManus (+M), Tony Ruggiero, Cecilia Tan
A knight makes love in full armor. A rape victim falls madly in love with her captor after one night of truly brutal sex. A young hero who's never seen a girl before turns out to be the finest lover known to man, the first time out. Most of us have read impossible (or highly improbable, or downright silly) sex scenes, where the author's personal inexperience is presumably the problem. And yet it doesn't necessarily follow that every fantastic sex scene must draw from personal experience, else we'd have no good scenes of zero-G sex (we do have them, don't we)?

26.  6:00 ME  Dark Down Under: The Gothic in Australia and New Zealand
Faye Ringel
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). Like the United States, neither Australia nor New Zealand ever had a "real Middle Ages." Yet all three countries have known many "Gothic Revivals" in architecture, literature, and popular culture. Ringel, who has regaled Readercon audiences with accounts of America's fantastic medievalism, has just returned from a visit to the lands down under. She will share some manifestations of the dark side of Gothic medievalism (the bush legend of lost children, murders in Christchurch, hauntings and horror stories in Canberra) as well as the lighter side (Middle Earth, cathedrals, cottages, and lots and lots of sheep).

27.  6:00 RI  The Year in Children's and Y.A. Speculative Fiction
Sharyn November
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). What's new and interesting in children's and Y.A. speculative fiction? What's missing? What adult authors cross over to younger readers? What specifically Y.A./children's authors cross over to adult readers?

28.  6:00 NH  Gavin Grant reads "We Are Never Where We Are," published on Strange Horizons. (30 min.)

29.  6:00 VT  Mike Allen reads selections from Strange Wisdoms of the Dead, his most recent collection of poetry and fiction. (30 min.)

30.  6:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. John Clute; Greer Gilman.

31.  6:30 NH  Rick Wilber reads "Somebody Lost," a brand new story about baseball, truth and lies that was solicited by Florida International University's lit magazine, Gulf Stream. (30 min.)

32.  6:30 VT  Theodora Goss reads from her short story collection, In the Forest of Forgetting. (30 min.)

33.  7:00 F  SF and Continuing Human Evolution
Charles Oberndorf (M), Jeff Hecht, Ernest Lilley, Beth Meacham, John Scalzi, Karl Schroeder
Most of the sf that deals with potential changes to human nature is about genetic engineering, but there is much scientific evidence that Darwinian selection pressures have been operating over the last few thousand years. The rise in Asperger's diagnoses among the children of geeks in Silicon Valley even suggests that such pressures may be growing as the environment changes rapidly, rather than rendered moot by the ease of survival. Whether we're still evolving (and if so, how) has to be one of the biggest questions we can ask about human nature. How is it being addressed by contemporary sf?

34.  7:00 H  The Fiction of China Miéville
Paul Di Filippo (+M), David Louis Edelman, Adam Golaski, John Langan, Paul Witcover
Miéville is a young writer who is taking fantasy in bold, politically engaged new directions. He's best known for his multiple award-winning (two Arthur C. Clarke Awards and a British Fantasy Award) New Crobuzon trilogy: Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council. In fast-moving, exciting plots, these novels introduce his imagined world of Bas-Lag, which is as thoroughly thought-out as any in fantasy: peopled with strange species, shadowed by an immense, grim history, full of steam engines and dark magic. We see embodied in these books his determination to write fiction that features subversion over consolation. His recent collection, Looking for Jake, shows him writing about other worlds, some of them our own, including huge, ill-understood disasters, secret histories, and rights-restricted holidays. These four and his first novel, King Rat, comprise his published fiction books to date; he's in the early part of what is already a major career.

35.  7:00 ME  Readercon 101: A Lingo/Jargon Primer
Ken Houghton (M), Judith Berman, Debra Doyle, Glenn Grant, Graham Sleight
"Tropes," "reading protocols," "the real year" of a book, "slipstream" fiction, John Clute's fantasy structure — Readercon panel blurbs (and hallway conversations) often assume a thorough background in a perhaps unrepresentative slice of recent sf criticism. A newcomer's guide to our favorite critical… um, tropes.

36.  7:00 RI  Tarot for Writers
Rachel Pollack
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). The great Italian fabulist Italo Calvino referred to the Tarot as "a machine for constructing stories." Come discover how to do readings for characters, unblock scenes, or discover plot ideas. Pollack has been teaching this workshop for several years at Goddard College, where she teaches writing for the Master of Fine Arts. If possible, please bring a set of Tarot cards.

37.  7:00 NH  Darrell Schweitzer reads "Sweep Me to My Revenge," in which an over-the-hill Literature professor settles academic rivalries by preventing the death of Christopher Marlowe. (30 min.)

38.  7:00 VT  Shariann Lewitt reads "Immortal", a story about a vampire and Frida Kahlo. (30 min.)

39.  7:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Wen Spencer; Ian Randal Strock.

40.  7:30 NH  Michael Cisco reads from his just-completed novel, The Narrator. (30 min.)

41.  7:30 VT  Alan DeNiro reads something from his story collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead. (30 min.)

42.  8:00 F  Towards a Taxonomical Nomenclature of the Fantastic (Assuming We Care)
John Clute, John Crowley, Theodora Goss, Graham Sleight, Gary K. Wolfe (+M)
John Clute defines fantasy proper as the subset of fantastic (non-mimetic) fiction other than sf where the narrative is self-coherent and invites the reader to co-inhabit the tale. After removing sf, fantasy proper, and horror from the set of the fantastic, we are left with dream tales, surrealism, absurdist fantasy, fabulation, and other postmodernist fantastic works. Readercon has championed the use of the term "slipstream" to describe the whole of this leftover set, but the term has since acquired a narrower and very useful meaning, as fiction which is intentionally ambiguous as to genre and hence forces the reader to question how the text is to be read. Is there a best term for the set of the fantastic which is not sf, fantasy proper, or horror? How much overlap is there between this and slipstream? And what about magic realism, which Clute argues is usually fantasy, yet whose works are almost never regarded as such (e.g., by the readers of Locus magazine in their all-time best fantasy novel poll)?

43.  8:00 H  The Pre-History of SF, or, It Didn't All Start with Gernsback
Ellen Asher, James L. Cambias, John Costello, Darrell Schweitzer (+M), Allen Steele, Jean-Louis Trudel
We know that SF as a distinct publishing genre started in 1926 with the introduction of Hugo Gernsback's Amazing. But Amazing
began as a reprint magazine. What did it reprint? How many of our familiar tropes and cliches were already present, at least in embryonic form?

44.  8:00 ME  Bookaholics Anonymous Annual Meeting
Nancy C. Hanger with Shariann Lewitt, Sharyn November, Mary Turzillo
Discussion (60 min.). 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!

45.  8:00 RI  How I Wrote A Princess of Roumania (and its sequel, The Tourmaline)
Paul Park
Talk (30 min.).

46.  8:00 NH  Sarah Smith reads from Memory House, a ghost story starring Y.A.s (even if it isn't meant for them). (30 min.)

47.  8:00 VT  Peter Watts reads from his novel Blindsight, forthcoming from Tor in October. (30 min.)

48.  8:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Elaine Isaak; Victoria McManus.

49.  8:30 RI  Science Fiction and the Third World
Vandana Singh
Talk (30 min.). What does sf mean to the (so-called) Third World, and what can the Third World mean to sf? What kinds of sf has the Third World come up with, from Rokeya Sukhawat Hussain's utopia, written in the 1800s, to works of the present day? A personal take on the subject, with emphasis on Indian sf, from an Indian writer living in the U.S.

50.  8:30 NH  Paul Levinson reads from The Plot to Save Socrates, now in its third printing. (30 min.)

51.  8:30 VT  Glenn Grant reads "Army of Me." (30 min.).

52.  9:00 ME  Fitting Character to Plot
Richard Bowes, Kathryn Cramer, Alexander Jablokov, James D. Macdonald (+M), Kit Reed
While many novelists create characters and set them loose, there are others who create a story first and then attempt to create characters who will do the required things (an approach more common for the short story). The character who is insufficiently motivated to do what the plot requires is perhaps the biggest bugaboo of this sort of fiction. What are some of the techniques for dealing with it?

53.  9:00 RI  Is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence a Search for God?
Jeff Hecht
Discussion (60 min.). In Civilized Life in the Universe, George Basalla traces the history of the search for intelligent life beyond the Earth, and concludes that it a secularized quest for God or some entity sufficiently superior to humanity that it could stand in for God. He points in part to science fiction, citing books where aliens arrive to teach us the errors of our ways and stop war. He writes that SETI seems to have replaced religion for a number of scientists, including the late Carl Sagan. We'll talk about his ideas and how alien civilizations have been portrayed in science fiction.

54.  9:00 NH  Thomas M. Disch reads from an unfinished novel. (30 min.)

55.  9:00 VT  Delia Sherman reads from Changeling, a fantasy for younger readers (forthcoming in August from Viking) about a young girl who was stolen by the fairies when she was a child and raised in Central Park. (30 min.)

56.  9:00 Vin  Strange Stories and Robert Aickman: An Introduction to the Man and His Work
Adam Golaski
Talk (60 min.). Robert Aickman wrote, in his World Fantasy Acceptance speech, "I do not regard my work as 'fantasy' at all… I try to depict the world as I see it." The world he saw was strange indeed — frightening and ambiguous. Find out about this little-known but influential author, hear some of his fiction, learn why he considered his father to be "the oddest man I have ever known," and learn where you're most likely to find affordable copies of his now largely out-of-print oeuvre.

57.  9:30 NH  China Miéville reads from a work in progress. (30 min.).

58.  9:30 VT  Catherynne M. Valente reads from The Orphan's Tales, Vol. I: In the Night-Garden, her series of original, Near-East themed fairy tales forthcoming from Bantam Spectra in October. (30 min.).

59.  10:00 F/H  The 2007 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. Ceremony
John Clute, Scott Edelman, Barry N. Malzberg, Gordon Van Gelder
(15 min.) The Smith Award, honoring a writer worthy of being rediscovered by today's readers, is selected annually by a panel of judges that include longtime Readercon stalwarts John Clute and Scott Edelman (together with Gardner Dozois and Robert Silverberg). Past winners include Olaf Stapledon, R.A. Lafferty, Edgar Pangborn, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, and Leigh Brackett.

      10:15 F/H  Meet the Pros(e) Party
Almost all of the above
(105 min.) 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 bytes of data in George W. Bush's brain that correspond to objective reality.


60.  10:00 F  From Within Us It Devours
Jeanne Cavelos, John Clute, F. Brett Cox (+M), Jeffrey Ford, China Miéville, Paul Witcover
John Clute e-mails us that "horror stories might be defined as stories in which the surface (the petrified eggshell surface of the world, or of the Jekyll Twin on Top) is constantly threatened by the truth (the famished yolk-chick, the Hyde, the past, the untermenschen, the magma) within." This seems like a useful approach to the structure of horror. Are there different sorts of threatening truths, with different sorts of stories that correspond to them?

61.  10:00 H  Why the Choir Likes the Preacher: The Value of Satire
Paul Di Filippo, Barry N. Malzberg, James Morrow (+M), Jim Munroe, Kit Reed
While every satirist likes to think that his work will change the minds of the wrong-thinkers by exposing the limitations of their views, the fact is that the vast majority of the audience for any successful satire is people who already agree with the argument. It's also true that we value great satire as art, above and beyond its ability to entertain us with grim laughter. So what exactly do the already-converted get out of great satire? There seems to be something about the nature of a satirical argument that connects to us in a way that a straightforward one doesn't.

62.  10:00 ME  Shakespearean Voices in the Literature of the Fantastic
Greer Gilman
Talk (60 min.). Works of fantasy can make unusual narrative demands. Their writers may need to call forth spirits from the vasty deep; or convincingly record a dialogue of dragons; or invent the tongues of angels and of orcs. As a strategy of style, a fantasist may use the language of the past — -of Shakespeare's stage — -to conjure up a world removed from us, and yet evocative. We know those cadences: they are the language of madness and of vengeance, of courtiers and witches, Puck and Prospero; the language of ghosts. Gilman looks at some uses of Shakespearean language in fantasy, from both a reader's and a writer's perspective.

63.  10:00 RI  How to Research Ancient History for Science Fiction
Paul Levinson
Talk (60 min.). How do you get your facts straight when writing time travel, alternate history, and other science fiction stories of the ancient past? The Web's a good place, but you'd better check your info at least three times, as the Web's rife with error. Encyclopedia Britannicas are good — the older the better. And don't forget old-fashioned libraries and dusty museums — they not only provide good source material, but can be worked in as intriguing locations in the stories. Levinson talks about how he brought all of these strategies and more to bear in writing his novel, The Plot to Save Socrates.

64.  10:00 NH  Geoffrey A. Landis reads a short-short, "Vectoring," and then from current works in progress. (30 min.)

65.  10:00 VT  Richard Bowes reads from "Jacket Jackson," written with Mark Rich and appearing in Electronic Velocipede, and from a story in progress. (30 min.)

66.  10:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Thomas M. Disch; David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer.

67.  10:00 E Autographs. Jeffrey A. Carver; Andrea Hairston.

68.  10:30 NH  John Scalzi reads "How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story," a just-sold story. (30 min.)

69.  10:30 VT  Vandana Singh reads from "The Tetrahedron" (short-listed for the Carl Brandon Parallax Award) — or from newer work. (30 min.)

70.  11:00 F  The Beginnings of Stories and the Endings They Promise
Michael A. Burstein (M), John Clute, Debra Doyle, Geary Gravel, China Miéville, Delia Sherman
There are, perhaps, three kinds of beginnings to stories: those that promise no ending, those that promise an ending which is later delivered, and those that promise a different ending than the one provided. Are these, in fact, three fundamentally different types of stories? What are the different types of promises a beginning can make? The first line of Pride and Prejudice ("It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife") or the last line of the first chapter of The Book of the New Sun ("It was in this fashion that I began the long journey by which I have backed into the throne") make promises about the content of the ending, but many beginnings merely promise the form of the ending ("there will be a twist of some sort").

71.  11:00 H  The Fiction of Leigh Brackett
Ken Houghton (M), Amelia Beamer, James L. Cambias, Darrell Schweitzer, Mary Turzillo
Brackett (1915–1978) is perhaps best known today as the screenwriter for such films as The Big Sleep and The Empire Strikes Back, but in the 1940s and 1950s she was one of the field's preeminent and most influential authors of planetary romance and space opera (a subgenre of sf currently undergoing a renaissance), including the classic Sword of Rhiannon (1953). Her best-regarded novel is 1955's the Long Tomorrow, one of sf's archetypal tales of the rediscovery of science after a nuclear holocaust, and one which seems increasingly relevant with each passing year in its depiction of a society ruled by fundamentalist religion. Brackett was awarded the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award at last year's Readercon (and was our Memorial Guest of Honor at Readercon 10).

72.  11:00 ME  Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics Brainstorming Session
Carl Frederick with discussion from Jeffrey A. Carver, Donald Kingsbury, Ian Randal Strock, Eric M. Van
Discussion (60 min.). This year's discussion centers on quantum entanglement, one of the fundamental aspects of the quantum world, and its unexpected and mysterious offspring, the phenomenon known as nonlocality. Frederick explains how the EPR (Einstein-Podolksy-Rosen) paradox first demonstrated that entanglement leads to nonlocality, which so bothered Einstein that he called it "spooky action at a distance." Nonlocality, however, has been proven real, first mathematically by Bell's Theorem and subsequently in the lab by the Aspect experiment. Does nonlocality have anything to do with Jung's synchronicity, or is that New Age hooey? In either case, what does it imply about the deep nature of reality?

73.  11:00 RI  Small Press for Writers and Would-Be Publishers
Matthew Kressel
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). How do you get started in small-press publishing? What's the current market like? Why should writers send their stories to the small press? The publisher of Sybil's Garage, a small press magazine now in its fourth issue, is joined by members of its editorial staff (Lauren McLaughlin, Paul Berger, Mercurio D. Rivera, and others).

74.  11:00 NH  John Crowley reads from the final volume of Ægypt (60 min.).

75.  11:00 VT  Beyon'Dusa Artist Collective Group Reading. Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan, Sheree Renée Thomas, plus Ama Patterson. (60 min.).

76.  11:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden; Karl Schroeder.

77.  11:00 E Autographs. R. Scott Bakker; Paul Levinson.

78.  12:00 F  Everybody Dies
John Joseph Adams, Thomas M. Disch, Nancy C. Hanger (+M), Shariann Lewitt, Beth Meacham, James Morrow
There's a small body of fiction in which all of humanity (or at least every character in the story) dies or is fated to die (Nevil Shute's On the Beach, James Morrow's This Is the Way the World Ends), or will die without producing children (Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End). These stories are dramatically different from the much more common tales in which almost everybody dies. What kinds of things can be said in these stories that can't be said in their less grim cousins?

79.  12:00 H  The Year in Short Fiction
Adam Golaski, David G. Hartwell, Sean Wallace, Gary K. Wolfe (+M), Brian Youmans

80.  12:00 ME  The History of Little Green Men
Jean-Louis Trudel
Talk (60 min.). Why are little green men green? Trudel goes looking for little green men in all the places you'd expect, and a few more. The Da Vinci Code has nothing on this quest! Roman gods, pagan deities, mysterious sculptures in medieval churches, Renaissance mummers, children from Fairyland, Cyrano de Bergerac, a Theosophist flake, and the Emerald City of Oz all show up.

81.  12:00 RI  How I Wrote Bear Daughter
Judith Berman
Talk (30 min.)

82.  12:00 NH  MonsterPunk Group Reading. Paul Di Filippo, Elizabeth Hand, Paul Witcover read from their novels in Dark Horse Books' "Monsterpunk" series: Dracula Asylum (Witcover), Creature From the Black Lagoon: Time's Black Lagoon (Di Filippo, just published), and The Bride of Frankenstein: Pandora's Bride (Hand, forthcoming in September). (60 min.)

83.  12:00 VT  Charles Oberndorf reads either "Writers in the Future," a just-finished story about a young writer attending various writing workshops in a future where the human race seems to have no future; or from a radical revision of "Jennifer Jules," a novella set on an orbital colony of hermaphrodites (from which Oberndorf read at Readercon 9). (30 min.)

84.  12:00 Vin  Voice Workshop for Poets & Writers
Pan Morigan
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). 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!

85.  12:00 E Autographs. Allen Steele.

86.  12:30 RI  Ramsey Campbell's Incestuous Fiction: The Darkest Part of the Woods  and H.P. Lovecraft
John Langan
Talk (30 min.). When Ramsey Campbell published his novel, The Darkest Part of the Woods, in 2004, it was announced as his return to supernatural fiction after several years writing non-supernatural thrillers. It was indeed, but it was more besides: in the novel, Campbell revisited the Brichester setting of his own, early, Lovecraft-inflected fiction, as well as a number of his contributions to the Lovecraft mythos (his invented forbidden tome, The Revelations of Glaaki; his monstrous figure, The Daoloth). Campbell also engaged a number of H.P. Lovecraft's stories more directly than he had since his early fiction; the result was both a novel of Lovecraftian cosmic horror and an astute commentary on the mechanics of that kind of horror. This talk will examine the principal influences on Campbell's novel, both of his own fiction and H.P. Lovecraft's.

87.  12:30 VT  Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald read from The Land of Mist and Snow, forthcoming in December 2006 from Eos. (30 min.)

88.  1:00 F  Don't Try This, Period: The Awful-Warning Novel
Don D'Ammassa, L. Timmel Duchamp (+M), Lancer Kind, Barry B. Longyear, James Morrow, Peter Watts
Although dystopian novels like 1984 or anti-utopian novels like Brave New World are sometimes called "awful-warning" novels, we'd like to refine and narrow the term somewhat. Dystopian and anti-utopian novels take their worlds as a given, but the awful-warning novel shows us the path to the bad place. Dystopias and anti-utopias are maps of hell; the awful-warning novel is the story of the handbasket. What are the relative strengths and drawbacks of showing the process of collapse rather than starting with the ruins?

89.  1:00 H  The Fiction of Jorge Luis Borges
John Crowley, Jeffrey Ford, Lissanne Lake, Rachel Pollack, Mary Turzillo (+M)
Memorial Guest of Honor Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986) was an Argentinian who worked as an essayist, lecturer, translator and teacher, but he is best known for a small body of short fiction, so difficult to classify by genre that it can be arguably claimed as the source of all of what we now call "slipstream" fiction. His influence on contemporary literature has been pervasive, visible or invisible in the works of writers as diverse as Martin Amis, Poul Anderson, John Barth, Umberto Eco, Neil Gaiman, Stanislaw Lem, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Pynchon, Salman Rushdie, Jose Saramago, and Lucius Shepard, and past and present Readercon Guests of Honor Gene Wolfe, Samuel R. Delany, John Crowley, Michael Bishop, Brian W. Aldiss, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, Harlan Ellison, Michael Swanwick, Rudy Rucker, China Miéville, and James Morrow (that we know of).

90.  1:00 ME  The Modern Day Role of the Vampire
Tony Ruggiero
Talk (60 min.). A look at the evolution of the vampire in literature and film, and how the creature's role has changed to better fit the demands that society has placed upon it. What's happening in the current vampire market, in terms of books and movies?

91.  1:00 RI  Architecture, Science Fiction and Beyond: Building a Grammar for Reality
Kathryn Cramer
Talk (60 min.). Cramer will discuss a personal journey that started before Readercon last year, and involved reading three books in the right sequence: Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being by George Lakoff & Raphael Nunez, The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics by Stanislas Dehaene, and Frances Yates's book The Art of Memory. The nearly immediate impact of these books was to give her a deeper understanding of architectural metaphor in fiction: how architectural metaphor, particularly in genres like science fiction which emphasize setting, is prefigured by the classical art of memory and its accompanying thinking tools. But practical applications of this new understanding became apparent as soon as Hurricane Katrina hit. The science fiction mindset can be an approach to constructing reality which can be applied to other problems. This project has lead to many adventures, some of which she regards as stranger than fiction. And it is still ongoing.

92.  1:00 NH  Ellen Kushner reads from The Privilege of the Sword, which takes place about twenty years after Swordspoint(and took Kushner nearly as long to write). It is forthcoming later this month from Bantam, and from Small Beer Press in a limited edition hardcover. (30 min.)

93.  1:00 VT  Mythic/Jabberwocky Group Reading. Mike Allen, Sean Wallace (hosts), with readings by Allen, Theodora Goss, Vandana Singh, Sonya Taaffe, Catherynne M. Valente, plus Matt Cheney, Cassandra Phillips-Sears, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Erzebet YellowBoy. (60 min.)

94.  1:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Donald Kingsbury; Delia Sherman.

95.  1:00 E Autographs. China Miéville.

96.  1:30 NH  Patrick O'Leary reads a brand-new story about a psychic infection, "Catching a Dream." (30 min.)

97.  2:00 F  Embracing the Uncomfortable
R. Scott Bakker, David G. Hartwell (+M), Ellen Kushner, Kelly Link, China Miéville, Paul Park
According to Tolkien, a formally ideal fantasy tale ends in "consolation" and may provide "escape" (not from reality but from metaphoric jail). John Clute does not disagree, calling the final stage of a fantasy story "healing." It follows that such a fantasy story provides at least some comfort to the reader. Yet this notion has been recently challenged by works of fiction designed to make the reader uncomfortable (and by authors championing this as a proper task of fantasy). Is this an interesting variation on the classic structure, or something fundamentally different?

98.  2:00 H  Battlestar Galactica: This Year's Exception
Michael A. Burstein, Jeffrey A. Carver, Craig Shaw Gardner, Jennifer Pelland, Allen Steele (+M), Peter Watts
Our bi-annual media panel focuses on the most critically acclaimed sf television series in years. What makes the new Battlestar Galactica great TV? The show avoids most of the tropes of TV sf — no sliding doors, no planets with pointedly odd societies, no latex-makeup aliens, no time travel, no personable ship's computers. Instead, show-runner Ronald D. Moore keeps a tight focus on the human-Cylon conflict, and their occasional alliances, echoed by numerous other dualities. Is this the key? Does the frequent appearance of thinly veiled, contemporary, Earthly issues add or detract? Can the high level of tension be believably maintained (and can we stand it)? What does BG tell us about sf on TV which might apply to other shows? Note: spoilers abound for all shows available on DVD; after that, an effort will be made, but no guarantees.

99.  2:00 ME  Presenting the Odyssey Writing Workshop
Jeanne Cavelos
Talk (60 min.). Director Cavelos describes the workings of Odyssey, an intensive six-week workshop for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers, held each summer at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. Odyssey is an internationally respected program with guests that have included Harlan Ellison, Elizabeth Hand, George R. R. Martin, Dan Simmons, and Gene Wolfe. Odyssey alumni share their experiences and discuss the pros and cons of writing workshops.

100.  2:00 RI  Editing Crowley and Delany
Ron Drummond
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). What's it like to edit the old-fashioned way, engaging with an author's work in the most intimate manner, burying it in red ink if/as needed, providing everything from macro- to microscopic feedback? Drummond has had long-term editorial relationships with Delany and Crowley, ones more extensive than commercial publishers are generally willing to pay for.

101.  2:00 NH  Kit Reed reads from her new novel, The Baby Merchant, and welcomes Q & A about its genesis and composition. (30 min.)

102.  2:00 VT  Jorge Luis Borges' "The Garden of Forking Paths" read by Ellen Brody. (30 min.)

103.  2:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Charles N. Brown; William Shunn.

104.  2:00 E Autographs. Rosemary Kirstein; Cecilia Tan.

105.  2:30 NH  Tom Disch reads poetry. (30 min.)

106.  2:30 VT  Jeffrey Ford reads "The Dreaming Wind," appearing in Coyote Road (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windlings, eds.). (30 min.)

107.  3:00 F  The Rhysling Award Poetry Slan
Mike Allen (+M), Theodora Goss, Andrea Hairston, Geoffrey A. Landis, Darrell Schweitzer, Sonya Taaffe, Sheree Renée Thomas, Mary Turzillo, Catherynne M. Valente, plus Drew Morse, JoSelle Vanderhooft
(A "poetry slan," to be confused with "poetry slam," is a poetry reading by sf folks, of course.) Climaxed by the presentation of this year's Rhysling Awards by James Morrow.

108.  3:00 H  I Never Metafiction I Didn't Like
John Crowley, Ron Drummond (+M), Scott Edelman, Barry N. Malzberg, Rachel Pollack
There's a lot to say about the nature and enterprise of writing and reading fiction, and a long tradition of saying it within the text of fiction itself. One need look no further than the works of Jorge Luis Borges to find a surprisingly broad range of approaches and techniques for doing so (although there are certainly other role models). Our authors talk about their motivations for writing metafiction and for choosing their specific devices.

109.  3:00 ME  Baseball and the Fantastic
Walter H. Hunt, Cecilia Tan, Paul Tremblay, Eric M. Van (+M), Rick Wilber, with relievers Leigh Grossman, Resa Nelson
We have a pretty good idea why baseball is the favorite sport of many science fiction fans: the game invites counterfactual analysis from the grandest scale ("how can you leave Pedro in?") to the smallest (determining whether a run is earned or unearned literally requires the construction of an alternate history). What's much less obvious is why the sport lends itself so well to the fantastic, from the magic realism of Bernard Malamud's The Natural to the postmodern sf of Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings.

110.  3:00 RI  The First Andre Norton Awards
Sandra McDonald, Victoria McManus, with discussion from Jeffrey A. Carver, Sharyn November
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). The Norton Award for outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy was presented by SFWA for the first time at last year's Nebulas, to Holly Black's Valiant. Jurors McManus and McDonald discuss the purpose of the award, its rules, last year's jury choices (Susan Vaught's Stormwitch, Ann Halam's Siberia, and Louise Spiegler's The Amethyst Road) and other favorites, solicit recommendations, and discuss the award process in its embryonic stages.

111.  3:00 NH  Barry B. Longyear reads "The Good Kill" (part 1). If you were a ninety-year-old British artificial beings crimes detective, for a partner would you rather have an amdroid gorilla [yes, "amdroid"] or a duck? The first of the Jaggers and Shad mysteries. Part 1 of two parts; concluded at 6:00 PM (60 min.)

112.  3:00 VT  Judith Berman reads from "Pelago" — an in-progress sf novella in the "new space opera" vein, which is also a piece of a novel-in-progress called Invisible House. (30 min.)

113.  3:00 Vin  Got the Revolution: SF and Radical Political Change
Daniel Hatch
Talk (60 min.). How does sf treat political revolution in works such as The Moon is A Harsh Mistress, The Star Fraction, Revolt in 2100 (If This Goes On), and Police Your Planet? Does it do justice to historical precedent? Does it predict anything useful or interesting to us? Does it offer a roadmap to overthrowing an extremist political regime?

114.  3:00 E Autographs. David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer; Donald Kingsbury.

115.  3:30 VT  Paul Park reads from the third Roumania book, The White Tyger
(30 min.)

116.  4:00 F  China Miéville Interviewed
by Adam Golaski

117.  5:00 F  James Morrow Interviewed
by Shira Daemon and Ken Houghton

118.  6:00 NH  Barry B. Longyear reads "The Good Kill" (part 2). If you were a ninety-year-old British artificial beings crimes detective, for a partner would you rather have an amdroid gorilla [yes, "amdroid"] or a duck? The first of the Jaggers and Shad mysteries. Part 2 of two parts; see #111 for Part 1. (60 min.)

119.  8:00 F/H  The 20th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition
Craig Shaw Gardner (+M), Yves Meynard (champion), Glenn Grant (ex-champion), Cecilia Tan, Eric M. Van (M)
(90 min.) Our traditional evening entertainment, named in memory of the pseudonym and alter ego of Jonathan Herovit of Barry Malzberg's Herovit's World. 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 — Craig and his co-moderator Eric M. Van, champion Yves Meynard, ex-champion Glenn Grant, and returning challenger Tan — then reads an ending for the passage. One ending is the real one; the others are imposters concocted by our contestants (including Craig) ahead of time. None of the players knows who wrote any passage other than their own, except for Eric, 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 "Bambi pranced." 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.

08:00  Nan  Closed Workshop. Steven Popkes.


120.  10:00 F  Terrors of Today
Judith Berman, F. Brett Cox (+M), Thomas M. Disch, Sharyn November, Graham Sleight, Gordon Van Gelder
It used to be nuclear war that we dreaded as a culture, with pollution as a backup. Today, theocracy and terrorism seem closest to the finish line of our fears, ahead of pandemic by just a nose, with global warming (pollution in new silks) a few lengths back but closing fast. Economic collapse, the dread that America will end up us a third-world country, provides the necessary fourth horseman. How are these fears reflected in the latest speculative fiction?

121.  10:00 H  The Garden of Forking Borges Translations
Eric M. Van (M), Evelyn C. Leeper, Charles Oberndorf, Jean-Louis Trudel
Is the best translation always the most faithful? Our panelists have a sufficient reading knowledge of Spanish and will compare the different Helen Temple and Ruthven Todd (from Ficciones), Donald A. Yates (from Labyrinths), and Andrew Hurley (from Collected Fictions) translations of the final paragraph of Borges' classic "The Garden of Forking Paths" (attendees can follow along with a handout). Which do they prefer? Which is more literal? Which is more faithful, and is that the same thing? What can we learn about the nature of translation?

122.  10:00 ME  The New Cordwainer Smith Award Winner: An Introduction
John Clute (+M), John Langan, China Miéville, Robert Waugh

123.  10:00 RI  Planning Large Narratives with Content Management Software
Kathryn Cramer, Sarah Smith, plus Mark Bernstein, with discussion from James L. Cambias, Walter H. Hunt
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). Cramer and Smith have been talking about using Tinderbox, hypertext software publisher Eastgate's content management personal assistant, to plot large narratives. They will be joined by the program's author, Eastgate's Bernstein.

124.  10:00 NH  James Morrow reads from his novel-in-progress, Prometheus Wept (60 min.)

125.  10:00 VT  Victoria McManus reads something smutty; possibly "Poppet" from the forthcoming erotic sf anthology Sex in the System (Cecilia Tan, ed.), and something else. (30 min.)

126.  10:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald; Rosemary Kirstein, Geary Gravel, Ann Tonsor Zeddies.

127.  10:00 E Autographs. John Crowley; Karl Schroeder.

128.  10:30 VT  Wen Spencer reads. (30 min.)

129.  11:00 F  Bad God! Bad God!
Patrick O'Leary (M), Alexander Jablokov, James Morrow, Paul Park, Diane Weinstein
"The Deathbird" by Harlan Ellison and "Faith of Our Fathers" by Philip K. Dick are only two of many classic sf stories that posit the existence of a God who is malign, deranged, or incompetent; James Morrow devoted an entire trilogy to the theme. Why the need to explain the existence of evil with such a God, rather than no God at all?

130.  11:00 H  The Great Speculative Fiction Critics: An Imagined Anthology
Paul Di Filippo, Elizabeth Hand, David G. Hartwell (+M), Barry N. Malzberg, Gary K. Wolfe
Most of us can remember specific columns by sf critics from long ago: one that introduced us to a favorite writer, one that expressed perfectly what we loved about a favorite work, one that entertained us with its maverick taste. Wouldn't it be fun to read an anthology of great book reviews in the field, one that ended up representing all the major critical voices? Who would be included?

131.  11:00 ME  Interstitial Arts
Ellen Kushner with discussion from Ron Drummond, Theodora Goss, Matthew Kressel, Rachel Pollack, Sarah Smith, Cecilia Tan, Mary Turzillo, Catherynne M. Valente
Discussion (60 min.). The Interstitial Arts Foundation is group of "Artists Without Borders" fighting the Balkanization of art. They celebrate work that crosses or straddles the borders between mediums, the borders between genres, the borders between "high art" and popular culture. They are not opposed to mainstream fiction or genre fiction, nor are they seeking to create a new category. They are just particularly excited by border-crossing fiction (and music and art), and want to support the creation of such works and to establish better ways of engaging with them. The IAF has had a presence at Readercon from its beginning, and they've just finished reading for a new anthology of Interstitial Fiction (Delia Sherman & Theodora Goss, eds.) to be published by Small Beer Press. Interstitial Arts is an idea, a conversation, not a hard-and-fast definition — and it's a conversation you are invited to join. What do you want to see happen with IAF next? How could it most benefit you as a self-identified Interstitial Artist?

132.  11:00 RI  The New Solar System: A Place for SF?
Geoffrey A. Landis
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). What we've learned from spacecraft probes about the solar system, from Mercury to the Kuiper belt, and how this makes the solar system a better or worse setting for science fiction.

133.  11:00 NH  Greer Gilman reads "Down the Wall," appearing this fall in Salon Fantastique (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds.), and scenes from the third story in the Ashes cycle. (30 min.)

134.  11:00 VT  Karl Schroeder reads from his upcoming novel Queen of Candesce, the second book in the Virga series (the first, Sun of Suns, is forthcoming in October). This is far-future steampunk with a twist. (30 min.).

135.  11:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Leigh Grossman; Kelly Link.

136.  11:00 E Autographs. Alan DeNiro; David Louis Edelman.

137.  11:30 VT  L. Timmel Duchamp reads from The Red Rose Rages (Bleeding), a near-future short sf novel set in a corporation-owned prison, where a doctor seeks to make a scientific breakthrough at the personal expense of a political prisoner. (30 min.)

138.  12:00 F  Social Class and Speculative Fiction
Andrea Hairston (+M), Shariann Lewitt, James D. Macdonald, China Miéville, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Any completely satisfactory imaginary world will include some sort of class structure (not necessarily rigid or hierarchical), or an explanation for its absence. Are all novels without social class utopian by definition?

139.  12:00 H  The Fiction of James Morrow
Jim Freund (M), F. Brett Cox, Victoria McManus, Darrell Schweitzer, Graham Sleight
Morrow is the foremost satirist working in the field of imaginative literature, and the world outside the genre ghetto is starting to take note: his new novel, The Last Witchfinder, got not one but two glowing reviews in The New York Times, wherein it was suggested that he deserves an audience in the mainstream. There's irony here, since his first two novels (though unquestionably science fiction) were actually published and marketed as "regular" fiction, leaving him unknown within the genre. His third, This Is the Way the World Ends, was championed by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke and established a reputation within the field that has since grown mightily with World Fantasy Award-winning novels Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah, the first volume of his Godhead trilogy. He's even won two Nebula Awards for short fiction, including the hilarious novella City of Truth. It's a literary rule of thumb that a strong streak of misanthropy fuels every great satirist. But Morrow seems to break this rule; there is something ineffably positive at the heart of even his darkest visions (it may not be possible to write a less bleak novel in which all of humanity is destroyed than This Is The Way the World Ends). We cannot think of a body of literary work in which the brightest and darkest views of our nature and our potential cohabit so comfortably and play off each other with such devastating effect.

140.  12:00 ME  A Theory of Narrative Aesthetics Informed by Cognitive Science
Eric M. Van (+M) with discussion from R. Scott Bakker, John Clute, John Crowley, Glenn Grant, John Langan, Charles Oberndorf
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). What brain mechanisms (and evolutionary rationales) underlie the fundamental narrative elements of plot, character, and style? Which narrative element seems to be more fundamental than generally recognized, when looked at from this perspective? How can the deep meaning of a narrative work be rigorously conceptualized in terms of information storage in the brain? On how many simultaneous levels do we process a story as we try to fully understand it? Van offers up the beginnings of a theory of narrative aesthetics informed by cognitive science, with feedback at every stage from the audience.

141.  12:00 RI  How I Wrote The Ghost Brigades
John Scalzi
Talk (30 min.).

142.  12:00 NH  Donald Kingsbury reads from the earlier chapters of The Finger Pointing Solward, a sequel to Courtship Rite, set about 500 years later, when genetically engineered Getans have become a player in the interstellar culture. (30 min.)

143.  12:00 VT  Christopher Barzak reads from "The Guardian of the Egg," appearing this fall in Salon Fantastique (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds.). (30 min.)

144.  12:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Michael A. Burstein; Scott Edelman.

145.  12:00 E Autographs. Catherynne M. Valente.

146.  12:30 RI  Leigh Brackett, Space Opera, and the Genre Evolution Project
Amelia Beamer
Talk (30 min.). Leigh Brackett is known for critically acclaimed science fiction novels The Long Tomorrow and The Sword of Rhiannon, Hollywood screenwriting (The Big Sleep, The Empire Strikes Back), and crime and mystery novels, but she returned throughout her career to space opera, especially in Planet Stories, the Golden Age magazine of adventures on other worlds (even editing a celebratory anthology of stories from that magazine in 1975). What was it about space opera and about Planet Stories in particular that attracted her? Beamer has examined Brackett's work using tools from the Genre Evolution Project (GEP), a largely undergraduate research group started by Eric Rabkin and Carl Simon at the University of Michigan. The GEP attempts to categorize stories published in genre outlets by a set of variables (theme, outcome, etc.). Brackett's stories can thus be compared to those of her Planet Stories contemporaries such as Ray Bradbury and Nelson Bond. Can the GEP help us discern each writer's contribution to the development of space opera, and to defining the editorial direction and aesthetic of Planet Stories?

147.  12:30 NH  Jeff Hecht reads "Directed Energy," a short short originally published in Nature, and "By the Lake, Probability Zero" from Analog (30 min.)

148.  12:30 VT  Paul Tremblay reads "Rhymes with Jew" from Jigsaw Nation (Edward J. McFadden & E. Sedia, eds.), featuring a near-future alternate-USA with over-taxed social workers, a desperate welfare mother and son, and plenty of Yiddish. (30 min.)

149.  1:00 F  The Space Opera Renaissance
Charles N. Brown (+M), David G. Hartwell, Graham Sleight, Gary K. Wolfe
Once a pejorative, the term now refers to one of the most vital sub-genres in the field: high adventure combined with world-building on the broadest possible scale.

150.  1:00 H  Why Is the New Weird Weird?
Judith Berman, Michael Cisco, Nick Mamatas, Sarah Smith (+M), Sonya Taaffe
In an essay written for The Third Alternative and reprinted in Locus, China Miéville described the literary movement known as "the New Weird." The New Weird renunciates hackneyed fantasy by taking its clichés and inverting, subverting, and converting them in order to return to the truly fantastic. It is secular and political, reacting against "religiose moralism and consolatory mythicism," and hence feels real and messy. And it trusts the reader and the genre in two important ways: it avoids post-modern self-reference, and it avoids didacticism, instead letting meaning emerge naturally from metaphor. Given such a broad agenda, it naturally has heterogeneous role models. What strikes us most about this very able description is that nowhere is any weirdness prescribed. It seems that any writer who observes this agenda ends up creating a world that is somehow off-kilter and evokes cognitive estrangement. Is this a comment on the nature of reality? Or is it more a comment on the clichés of fantasy and what's left over when you avoid them all? Is reality truly weird at some deep level, or is weird the only thing left that isn't hackneyed?

151.  1:00 ME  Presenting the Viable Paradise Writers' Workshop
Debra Doyle, James D. Macdonald, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy, held each autumn on Martha's Vineyard. Most of the current instructional staff are here to talk about it.

152.  1:00 RI  King Kong and the F&SF High
Andrea Hairston
Talk/Discussion (60 min.). Why have audiences from 1933 to the present been enthralled by the King Kong story? There have been endless remakes of this Beauty and the Beast tale. Most recently, Peter Jackson made a heroic attempt to update the story and problematize the race/gender representations of the 1933 version. Still, mysterious and dark island others are without context or interiors. A blonde white woman and a dark hairy (gigantic) ape are the hallowed opposites from our melodrama warehouse of types and tropes. The drama (the excitement, the fun!) is in the distance between the Beauty and the Beast and that distance amplifies traditional racial/gender dichotomies. Imagine King Kong going after a blond male actor, say a young Robert Redford. Imagine Russell Crowe falling for hairy Queen Kong after she's rescued him from raptors and giant cockroaches, and they slide around on the ice at Central Park in bliss. It is harder to enjoy the old fantasies, to revel in the awe and wonder, when doing a racial/gender reading. All the fun gets drained out. Can we reclaim old "classics" like King Kong where the fun, the sense of wonder is rooted in racial/gender mythologies of dark savages and delicate fair maidens?

153.  1:00 NH  Kelly Link reads "The Wrong Grave" — a ghost story coming out next year in a Y.A. anthology. (30 min.)

154.  1:00 VT  Daniel P. Dern reads several scenes (probably the riddle/joke ones) from his just-completed sf novel, Dragon & Princess, Inc. (30 min.)

155.  1:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Elizabeth Hand; Paul Park.

156.  1:00 E Autographs. James Morrow.

157.  1:30 RI  Elaine Isaak reads from The Eunuch's Heir (sequel to The Singer's Crown), forthcoming in October . (30 min.).

158.  2:00 F  My Secret (or Not-So-Secret) Story Structure.
Michael A. Burstein (M), John Crowley, Thomas M. Disch, Greer Gilman, Pamela Zoline
There's a small group of novels with overt organizing structures, like Thomas M. Disch's 334, John Brunner's The Squares of the City, John Crowley's Ægypt, and (most famously outside the genre) Ulysses. We suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg and that authors routinely invent covert structures as a natural part of the creative process. (Of course, one reader's covert structure is another's overt, and vice versa, so that all such structures are worth talking about together.) It's time to 'fess up and trade notes.

159.  2:00 H  Sense of Wonder in the New Hard SF
Jeffrey A. Carver, Daniel P. Dern (+M), Geoffrey A. Landis, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Ian Randal Strock
"Sense of wonder," it seems to us, is what happens in our brains when a writer shows us something we hadn't conceived of that strikes us as remarkable. Much of the SOW in classic hard sf was evoked in stories of space flight, where it seemed to come relatively easy and naturally. The SOW we get from the nanotech and man/machine interactions in Michael Swanwick's Stations of the Tide, the genetic and cybernetic enhancements in Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories, or the biology in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy seems both harder earned and very different in flavor. Is SOW still central to the subgenre?

160.  2:00 ME  FizerPharm's Vampire Domestication Program: "Taming Yesterday's Nightmares for a Better Tomorrow"
Peter Watts
Talk (60 min.). The touching story of how one of our most beloved pharmaceutical companies reawakened the genes responsible for that little-known and much-maligned side branch on the hominid family tree, the vampires. Discover the biology beneath the myth: the Crucifix Glitch, the Undead State, the liquid lunches. Go behind the scenes at FizerPharm's research facility, funded in collaboration with the Texas penal system. Learn about the exciting commercial prospects for vampires in the workplace, and the truth behind the misleading vampire-phobic campaigns of Greenpeace and Sierra Club.

161.  2:00 RI  Critiquing and Revising Poetry
Elaine Isaak with discussion from Mike Allen, Adam Golaski, Mary Turzillo
Discussion (60 min.). Rhythm, image, word choice, punctuation and layout all come together to enhance the poet's purpose — but honing inspiration into a great poem takes work. Join with fellow poets and workshop leaders to discuss approaches to critiquing and revising poetry — both on you own, and with a group. What are some of your successful strategies?

162.  2:00 NH  Scott Edelman reads "Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man" — to be published next year in Peter Crowther's magazine PostScripts. (60 min.)

163.  2:00 VT  R. Scott Bakker reads from his just-completed novel, Neuropath, a near-future psychothriller dealing with the more unnerving developments in cognitive science. (30 min.).

164.  2:00 Vin Kaffeeklatsches. Ellen Kushner; China Miéville.

165.  2:30 VT  Murray Leinster's "The Slipper of Lizette" read by John Costello. Costello has found early Leinster stories in brittle and virtually unreadable bound volumes of Snappy Stories and Spiffy Tales (yes, there were such magazines, along with Telling Tales, etc.) in the Library of Congress (Costello has had to read them into a tape recorder because they could not be photocopied). This story is one of a series dealing with the Cafe LaFarge in Paris, a can-can place habituated by the dissolute American expatriate Murray Leinster. It's a comedy of morals and character, in this case the character of Lizette, one of the Cafe LaFarge's dancers. (30 min.)

3:00 F  Readercon 17 Debriefing
Members of the Readercon 17 Committee