I’ll be attending Readercon, just outside Boston, the weekend after next. It is, as it says, ‘an annual conference or convention devoted to “imaginative literature” — literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable works often called “slipstream.”‘ – now in its 25th year. I’ll be appearing on several program items, as listed below. Do come along and say hello – and note particularly my solo talk at 2pm on Friday. They’ve put me in one of the bigger rooms, and it’ll be kind of embarrassing if it’s only me in there…
Thursday July 10
8:00 PM F Many Things Worry You, but Nothing Frightens You: Outgrowing Horror. Leah Bobet, Ellen Datlow, Elizabeth Hand (moderator), Kit Reed, Graham Sleight, Sonya Taaffe. In the Nightmare Magazine essay “The H Word: The Failure of Fear,” Dale Bailey wrote about enjoying horror despite no longer finding it horrifying. How does what scares us change as we age? How does horror written for children differ from horror written for adults? Can you outgrow horror, or are adults and children simply frightened by different things?
Friday July 11
12:00 PM CO Welcome to Readercon. Graham Sleight, John Stevens, Emily Wagner (moderator). 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.
2:00 PM G I’m a Believer. Graham Sleight. Graham Sleight discusses the question of belief in sf and fantasy. What do we mean when we say we find a story believable? How much do stories require or demand our belief? And how much do characters have to believe the stories they’re in? Authors mentioned include Jane Austen, John Crowley, Dante, Greer Gilman, M. John Harrison, Kelly Link, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Scalzi, and Jo Walton—as well as the theories of Brian Attebery, John Clute, Thomas M. Disch, and Farah Mendlesohn. Sleight’s scribbled notes for the talk also suggest that it will discuss Cecil and Carlos, branding theory, hard SF, the Hovercraft of Disbelief, Monty Python, and Matt Smith. Probably.
3:00 PM G Speculative Fiction and World War I. John Clute, Felix Gilman, Victoria Janssen (leader), Jess Nevins, Graham Sleight, Sonya Taaffe. On 28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and World War I began. Hugo Gernsback had not yet named science fiction at the time, but proto-SF stories inspired by the war exist, many early SF writers would draw inspiration from their experiences of the wartime era, and alternate history stories of WWI are numerous. WWI had a tremendous effect on fantasy and horror stories as well, with surrealist, expressionist, and apocalyptic modes flourishing alongside tales of lost arcadias. Looking back 100 years later, how did WWI shape the readers and writers of speculative fiction and the genre as a whole?
7:00 PM F Storyability, Tellability, and Speculative Fiction. Judith Berman (leader), John Clute, Alex Jablokow, Tom Purdom, Graham Sleight. Graham Sleight’s Readercon 24 talk, “The Wrong Future,” tied Harvey Sacks’s concept of a scenario being storyable—something that can be told as a story, and is worth telling to others—to SF. Sleight cited the TARDIS and transporters as technology that make scenarios more storyable because they cut out all the “get this character from point A to point B” concerns, and suggested that space travel is storyable in a way that climate change, for example, is not—unless it leads to (or is escaped by) the singularity, which is. Which speculative scenarios are more or less storyable, and why? And how does Sacks’s companion concept of tellability—being entitled or permitted to tell a story—connect with speculative fiction’s focus on the protagonist, and with recent discussions on who gets to star in and narrate speculative works?
Saturday July 12
10:00 AM G Books That Deserve to Remain Unspoiled. Jonathan Crowe, Gavin Grant, Kate Nepveu, Graham Sleight, Gayle Surrette (moderator). In a 2013 review of Joyce Carol Oates’s The Accursed, Stephen King stated, “While I consider the Internet-fueled concern with ‘spoilers’ rather infantile, the true secrets of well-made fiction deserve to be kept.” How does spoiler-acquired knowledge change our reading of fiction? Are some books more “deserving” of going unspoiled than others? If so, what criteria do we apply to determine those works?