Readercon, the thinking person’s con

Readercon got underway Thursday with some big intellectual panels (OK, most panels here are Big Intellectual) with a lovely panel on Revolutionary Movements in the field. We heard about Mundanity (no, Goeff Ryman says, they’re not trying to keep us from writing off-planet adventures. . .) and Cyberpunk — and how these movements productively shake up the status quo. They even talked about the New Wave, but no one brought up feminist sf as a movement, a really odd lapse, I thought.

Then, just when you thought you couldn’t stand anymore intellectually challenging ideas (and that was only Thursday night!) they give us a panel on how to read aloud for readings and broadcasts. Very cool.

Friday kicked into high gear first thing with Four Categories of Fantasy, Farah Mendelsohn’s theories; but, forced to choose, I just had to see Rob Sawyer’s SF as a Mirror for Reality. He talked about how SF tackles issues of the day, and why we can get by with it better (less offensively) than mainstream. And if you’ve never caught a Sawyer presentation, make it a goal. He’s a class act. Mind stuffed full of new insights, I managed to find an empty seat for Carl Frederick’s Quantum Reality for Children. We actually killed Shroedigger’s cat. He did use a wind-up cat, so you kind of get the level at which we were talking, here.

I have make a vow to see any panels that James Morrow is on. He is marvelously well read and accessible, and tends not to use as many polysyllabic words as some of the great minds here. Meanwhile I managed to talk about using theme as a way to recover your faith in a faltering novel, and, as the day waxed on, found that I am perhaps the only person in the galaxy who does not think writers’ groups improve one’s writing!

Meeting new people: Paolo Bacigalupi, Paul di Fillippo, Goeff Ryman, Suzy McKee Charnas, James Patrick Kelly, and seeing David Lewis Edelman, whose book Infoquake is featured here this year; also Elizabeth Hand, Scott Edelman, Delia Sherman, and perennial travel buddy, Louise Marley.

More later.

5 Responses

  1. dsgood says:

    The problem with sf discussing issues of the day is, today’s hot-button issues often aren’t the ones which turn out to matter. For example, the impending Soviet take-over of the world.

    Or, in another category: In the 1950s, one issue was American women being uppity — unlike European women, who were properly submissive.

  2. beldon says:

    I don’t know that “feminist sf” ever really got any range on its own. I think gender issues in general (of which feminism is a subset) got taken up by a lot of authors across many movements over time, not just those who self-identified as feminists. I’m thinking of John Varley and James Tiptree, Jr. just for a start, but there are lots more I’m just too burnt out to think about.

    Why am I not sleeping?

    I …found that I am perhaps the only person in the galaxy who does not think writers’ groups improve one’s writing!

    Not the only one. Although not published (in prose fiction, anyway) I happen to think that they might just be a waste most people’s time. My experience is that they can turn too easily into a collective wank-fest. Writing, for me at least, is a very self-absorbed process, and too much feedback too soon can ruin ideas in their most fragile state.

  3. Anonymous says:

    SF and politics

    Good example. Although perhaps it doesn’t matter if the issue lasts, as long as the storytelling is great; we can still appreciate the story in historical context. Also: Can writers really avoid bringing in the day’s crucial issues in some measure and taking a stand about them? We are embedded in our culture and our times. (With the caveat that polemics and thinly disguised screeds are better left to nonfiction.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Feminism and sf

    But you don’t necessarily need to self-identify as a feminist to find that your work becomes part of a body of work usefully classified as feminist. If feminist sf is not a useful category for discussion, it would come as a great surprise, I think, to Wiscon, for example! I just think it is so interesting, though, that neither the panelists nor the audience picked up on this one. When I spoke to Goeff Ryman (panelist)afterwards, he kind of struck himself in the forehead, and said that yeah, it was a strange lapse.

    And Beldon, 3:30 a.m.? Was there part of Readercon that I missed?

  5. beldon says:

    Re: Feminism and sf

    If feminist sf is not a useful category for discussion, it would come as a great surprise, I think, to Wiscon, for example!

    I’m not sure my theories on feminism would be welcome at Wiscon, but I maintain that anything that calls itself specifically “feminism” that actually deals with gender issues in a rational, honest way is guilty of the same sexual bias that feminism was supposed to be a response to. Like John Varley wrote, “Not male, not female, just human.” (I am paraphrasing as best I can)

    And Beldon, 3:30 a.m.? Was there part of Readercon that I missed?

    Yes. It’s called “the long comedown.” 🙂

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