I’ll be attending Readercon in Boston from Thursday – as always, am looking forward to it. You can find me on the following programme items:
Friday, 11:00 AM Comforting Fiction: Faux Estrangement in Fantasy. John Clute, James Morrow, Graham Sleight, Ruth Sternglantz, John Stevens (leader). 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?
Friday, 1:00 PM The Silent History: A Killer Serial. Leah Bobet, Samantha Henderson, Maureen F. McHugh, David G. Shaw (leader), Graham Sleight. 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?
Friday, 2:00 PM Welcome to Readercon. Francesca Forrest, Rose Fox (leader), Graham Sleight, John Stevens. “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.
Friday, 5:00 PM Under the Squee: The Popularity and Perils of Positive Reviews. John Clute, Jonathan Crowe, Phoebe North, Graham Sleight (leader), Liza Groen Trombi, Gary K. Wolfe. In a 2012 piece on Slate, Jacob Silverman wrote that in contrast to “the algorithms of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the amateurism… of sites like GoodReads,” professional reviewers “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 generally 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?
Friday, 8:00 PM G The Wrong Future. Graham Sleight. 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.
Sunday, 11:00 AM The Shirley Jackson Awards. F. Brett Cox, Ellen Datlow, Jack M. Haringa, Maureen F. McHugh, Graham Sleight, Paul Tremblay. 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.
(My function at the Jackson Awards ceremony, I think, is to be there as a juror and so, when people decide we’ve chosen the wrong winners, to have rocks thrown at me.)