I was privileged to moderate an excellent panel during this year’s Readercon that dealt with the life cycle of speculative fiction. Several books were mentioned, both in the description and during the panel, and I thought I might list them here, beginning with books by the folks on the panel. (If you were there and I’ve left any out, please let me know and I’ll add them.)
Author of The Watch, which Publisher’s Weekly described as “A philosophical inquiry with a basic moral point.”
Author of Ink, of which Latinidad wrote, “If Margaret Atwood were Latina, this eerily believable depiction of where U.S. immigration policy is heading is the novel she would have written instead of The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Readercon is nearly here! This very literate SF con, which I haven’t missed in many years, is running from Thursday, July 13th, through the following Sunday, July 16. I’m very much looking forward to seeing a lot of new and old friends there. Here’s my schedule:
Friday 6 pm Higher, Higher, Flight in Fiction
Susan Bigelow, Lorrie Kim, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Nnedi Okorafor, Ann Tonsor Zeddies
From Greek myths to superheroes, humans have been captivated by the dream of flight. What about the concept is so appealing? Why has it appeared time and time again in science fiction and fantasy genres? Panelists will discuss how recent fiction has revisited the human obsession with flight, and where it might go next.
Saturday 11 am Tabula Rasa Group Reading
Barbara Krasnoff, Randee Dawn, Sally Wiener Grotta, Terence Taylor, Scott Lee Williams, Justin Keyes
A very quick taste of the folks who are part of Tabula Rasa, a NYC-based writers group. We’re a very varied collection of writers, so come and enjoy!
The Life Cycle of Political SF
Dennis Danvers, Alex Jablokow, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Sabrina Vourvoulias, T. X. Watson
SF writers have often written deeply political books and stories; some stand the test of time, while others become dated very quickly. John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The New Atlantis,” to name just a few, directly addressed major issues of their day and are still relevant now—but differently. What affects how political SF ages and is read decades after its publication? What are today’s explicitly political books, and how do we expect them to resonate decades in the future?
Back from Readercon, both physically and emotionally. It went extremely well this year — for myself and, from what I can tell from the few blogs/tweets I’ve seen, for others as well. I said hello to some old friends, made a few new ones, and had a generally good time.
This is a brief rundown of my activities there; sorry if I don’t go into the details, but I’ve got a full schedule catching up after my days off. And apologies to all those whom I didn’t mention and should have!
I was part of several excellent (if I do say so myself) panels: Being an Editor Who Writes (where it was generally concluded that being both can actually be a good thing), Dealing with Discouragement (or how not to scream “This is it! I give up!” every time you get a rejection, something I still have to occasionally remember) and Educated Guesses: Tech Pros Writing SF, in which I was absolutely bowled over by the tech knowledge of the other participants in the panel — as a tech journalist who majored in English Lit & Creative Writing, I felt distinctly outclassed!
My workshop in How to Write for a Living When You Can’t Live Off Your Fiction went very well. I find it is always different, depending both on the other panelists (in this case, Leah Bobet, Adam Lipkin, and last-minute addition Sally Weiner Grotta were all incredibly helpful) and the folks who attend (who were likewise, contributing good info and asking great questions). The time went quickly, and several attendees said (and I agree with them) that having a full track at Readercon on practical issues like freelancing and contracts and agents and the like (such as the panel on Copyright Law and Your Writing, which I meant to attend but unfortunately missed) are an excellent idea.
I took part in two readings: One with my writers group Tabula Rasa (and got to hear wonderful stories from Sabrina Vourvoulias and Justin Key, two very talented writers), and one on Sunday morning, where I read a somewhat truncated version of my yet-unsold story “Sabbath Wine.” Thanks to all those who attended, despite the early hour (I know how hard it is to attend anything before 11 am on a Sunday morning at Readercon!).
I didn’t attend anywhere near the number of panels and readings I had planned (it’s hard to do that, what with stopping and talking to folks in the hallways and taking a half hour here and there to sit outside and check out one of the books I bought). I started the con, though, with a great one on Thursday evening: East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction, which was really interesting and enlightening as well, especially (for me) the discussion of the issues of language; it gave me a few things to think hard about. (Here’s Scott Edelman’s YouTube video.)
I also attended readings by the always-wonderful Elizabeth Hand and the equally fine Sabrina Vourvoulias and Danielle Friedman (and A.C. Wise, who shared Danielle’s time). However, I missed the James Morrow reading — dammit! — and several others whom I had wanted to catch. I also caught the panels on The Science of Space Colony Living and Speculative Fiction and World War I, both of which I enjoyed greatly; and the panel on When the Other Is You, which I’ve seen described in several other blogs; my congratulations to the panelists for a fascinating and lively discussion. (Scott YouTubed this one as well.}
The highlight, though, was wandering accidentally into a conference room on Friday night where there was a circle of singers harmonizing on sea chanteys and British & Appalachian folk songs — it was just wonderful to hear, and the kind of just-by-chance event that I really treasure. Singers included (and I’ve snagged some of these names from Carlos Hernandez’s Facebook entry on it) Ellen Kushner, Liz Duffy Adams, Caitlyn Paxson, Amal El-Mohtar, Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney and Patty Templeton. Thank you all.
Other things? On the plus side, I enjoyed wandering from party to party on Saturday night in the function rooms (and apologize to all those on the sixth floors whose parties I never actually got to). The bookstore is always wonderful; I never spend as much time as I’d like in there.
On the negative side, I wish the hotel had seen fit in its redesign to allow for more just-sitting-around space in the lobby, and more sound-deadening material in its bar — it got pretty loud in there and hard to hold a conversation, and that was before the DJ showed up. I also spoke to a lot of folks who had to twist themselves in a variety of knots to try to get to the hotel in the most budget-friendly way possible, and who as a result spent several hours on busses to Boston and then from Boston to the hotel.
On the whole, though, congratulations to everyone who had a part in creating Readercon 25.
The word-centric convention will be taking place July 10-13 at the Burlington Marriott in Burlington, MA. I’ll be participating in several panels (one of which Jim will be also be on — a first for us), a reading by my writing group Tabula Rasa, and a solo reading — and will be attending as many of the other panels as I can possibly get to.
I’m very much looking forward to it (and looking forward to saying hi to all my friends who will be there). Here’s my schedule (copied from the online program guide), for anyone who’s interested:
12:00 PM G Being an Editor Who Writes. Scott Edelman, Michael Kandel, Sandra Kasturi, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Warren Lapine, Ian Randal Strock. Few people haven’t heard of the editor-as-failed-author stereotype. Being both an editor and an author means living with your own harshest critic—yourself. While some editors-to-writers avoid this pitfall by writing nonfiction, there are those who manage to straddle the line, and even find success as fiction writers. How do they manage to quiet the inner editor, and how do they know when to turn it back on?
7:00 PM EM Tabula Rasa Group Reading. Jennifer Marie Brissett, Justin Key, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Sabrina Vourvoulias. Tabula Rasa is an NYC-based writers group made up of experienced, published science fiction/fantasy/horror writers. Each member will be reading a portion of a story, published or not yet published.
8:00 PM ENL Dealing with Discouragement. Lisa (LJ) Cohen, F. Brett Cox, Gemma Files, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Bud Sparhawk. As writers, we learn very early on to handle rejection, but how do you handle it when a story you’re sure is good is rejected by 20 different publications? Or when your carefully crafted novel is shrugged off by five different agents? Or your self-published novella is bought by only 25 people, all of them friends and relatives? Or your fantasy novel disappears from public view after a couple of weeks? This discussion, led by Barbara Krasnoff, will cover personal strategies to deal with disappointments, rejection, and other setbacks.
11:00 AM CO How to Write for a Living When You Can’t Live Off Your Fiction. Leah Bobet, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Adam Lipkin. You’ve just been laid off from your staff job, you can’t live on the royalties from your fiction writing, and your significant other has taken a cut in pay. How do you pay the rent? Well, you can find freelance work writing articles, white papers, reviews, blogs, and other non-SFnal stuff. Despite today’s lean journalistic market, it’s still possible to make a living writing, editing, and/or publishing. Let’s talk about where and how you can sell yourself as a professional writer, whether blogging can be done for a living, and how else you can use your talent to keep the wolf from the door. Bring whatever ideas, sources, and contacts you have.
2:00 PM CO Educated Guesses: Tech Pros Writing SF. Saira Ali, John Chu, Jim Freund, Barbara Krasnoff, B Diane Martin (leader), Walt Williams. In response to a Silicon Valley technologist frustrated with the current state of science fiction, blogger Andrija Popovic wrote, “Change the question from ‘Why are people not writing about the future I’m making?’ to ‘Where can I find and support people who are writing about this future I see coming?’ Or better: tell your story.” Tech professionals like Ramez Naam, Brenda Cooper, and Daniel H. Wilson are doing just that. What do their portrayals of the future say about our present, and conversely, about the visions of the future that are driving today’s technological development?
10:30 AM ENV Reading: Barbara Krasnoff. I will probably be reading an unpublished story titled “Sabbath Wine.”
The final Readercon (July 11-14 in Burlington, MA) schedules are out, and I’m really pleased — I’m going to be on two exciting panels, will be participating in a group reading for the new anthology Clockwork Phoenix 4, and will be doing a reading on my own.
Here’s my official schedule. If you plan to be at Readercon and have any of these times free, drop on by…
Friday July 12
3:00 PM G What the Other Sees as Other.Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Maureen F. McHugh, Julia Rios, Vandana Singh, Sabrina Vourvoulias.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.
4:00 PM NH Clockwork Phoenix 4 Group Reading.Mike Allen, Alison Campbell-Wise, C.S.E. Cooney, Gemma Files, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Barbara Krasnoff, Shira Lipkin, Yves Meynard, Ken Schneyer. All of the critically acclaimed Clockwork Phoenix anthologies have officially debuted at Readercon since the series began in 2008. That bond deepened when editor and publisher Mike Allen launched the Kickstarter campaign for Clockwork Phoenix 4 at Readercon 23. The campaign was a smashing success, and the latest lineup of boundary-pushing, unclassifiable stories has been bought and paid for. At this official reading, the new anthology’s authors will share samples from their stories with everyone who helped make this book reality.
8:00 PM VT Reading.Barbara Krasnoff. Barbara Krasnoff reads the short story “The History of Soul 2065,” which was published in Clockwork Phoenix 4.
Saturday July 13
11:00 AM F A Visit from the “Suck Fairy”: Enjoying Problematic Works.John Benson, Cathy Butler, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Yoon Ha Lee, Adrienne Martini, Kate Nepveu. 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?