Friday, July 20, 2007

Readercon 18

This was my first con of any kind, and I honestly didn't know what to expect. I only knew this wasn't the kind of convention where you might bump into a Klingon or an Orc on the way into or out of the restroom. As its name implies, Readercon is all about the literature--books, authors, editors, publishers, etc. Which is the reason I decided to attend. I'm all about the books; and while I wouldn't cross the street to meet an actor, the prospect of meeting, or at least being in the same room with, some of my favorite writers had me a bit giddy.

I attended the two Thursday night panels, which was open to all and was the first time the con has held any programming on a Thursday. Hopefully it won't be the last. The first panel was titled, "The Real Year" is Ageless! and featured panelists John Clute, Elizabeth Hand, David G. Hartwell, Barry N. Malzberg, and Graham Sleight. This was an interesting discussion based on an idea that Clute first wrote about some 30 years ago--that each work of fiction is informed by a "real year" no matter when it was written or when it is set. This real year comes across in many ways: dialogue, characterizations, societal attitudes, politics, etc. For instance, the panel generally agreed that Ray Bradbury's real year is somewhere in the late 20s - early 30s. While the discussion was interesting, Clute argued that the idea of the "real year" is a critical tool that can work well in specific applications, but needs to be used sparingly.

"What book is most emblematic of Readercon?" started out as a panel discussion, but quickly evolved (by design) into an audience participation event. The panelists were Paul DiFillipo, Sarah Smith, F. Brett Cox and Darrell Schweitzer. The discussion was wide-ranging. Some people stuck to the topic and tried to come up with titles that really embody the spirit of Readercon. Others seemed like they were just reeling off a list of favorite books. Yet others dove right into the deep end, suggesting that "the book not read" or "the book not yet written" best embodied the spirit of Readercon. Following is a list of suggested titles and the name (when I could catch it) of the person suggesting them:

David Hartwell: 334 by Disch and Engine Summer by Crowley
John Clute: Little, Big by Crowley
Barry Malzberg: The Hustler by Tevis, The Demolished Man by Bester, They'd Rather be Right by Clifton & Reilly "A novel that is both not very good and very important."
Paul DiFillipo: The Post Office by Bukowski, Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon
Sarah Smith: Slammerkin by Donoghue, Mistress Masham's Repose by White
Darrell Schweitzer: Camp Concentration by Disch
F. Brett Cox: Sarah Canary by Fowler, Was by Ryman
Greer Gilman: The Child Garden by Ryman, Lud-in-the-Mist by Mirrlees
A guy in a Hawaiin shirt: The Book of the New Sun by Wolfe
Unidentified man: anything by R.A. Lafferty
Eric Van: Dhalgren by Delaney
Dave Shaw: Voyage to Arcturus by Lindsey
Kay Kenyon: Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin, Viriconium by Harrison
A guy in an orange shirt: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories by Wolfe
Unidentified: The High Crusade by Anderson
Unidentified: Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury
Liz Hand: Viriconium by Harrison
Rick Wilbur: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Miller; Bill, the Galactic Hero by Harrison
Gary Wolfe: A Course of the Heart by Harrison
Karen Joy Fowler: The Once and Future King by White, The Green Child by Read
Louise Marley: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Wilhelm
Ron Drummond: Engine Summer by Crowley
Diane Weinstein: Little, Big by Crowley, Titus Groan by Peake
Lucius Shepard: Fiskadoro by Johnson
John ??: Our Lady of Darkness by Leiber
Unidentified guy with beard: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Carroll
Michelle Sloan: It Happened in Boston? by Greenan
Bob Colby: Herovit's World by Malzberg
The con's "official transcriptionist": Cloud Atlas by Mitchell
?? Hirsch: The Demolished Man by Bester
Unidentified: The Golden Ass, or Metamorphoses by Apuleius, translated byAdlington
Unidentified: works of E.R. Edison
Keith Roberts: Pavane by Roberts (I think this was the author recommending his own book)
Suzanne Church: the YA books of Scott Westerfeld

I probably missed some in there, and I know that more people brought up Engine Summer, Little, Big, The Book of the New Sun and Dhalgren--I just didn't write them down every time because I was making a list of book recommendations for myself.

This discussion went on until 11:00 pm, and could have gone on all night I'm sure. This was a great introduction to the con--people sitting around talking about some of their favorite books. I had a good time, but I felt woefully underread compared to most of the people attending. I read a lot, but I don't exclusively read speculative fiction--and I'm particularly weak when it comes to classic SF. There just isn't enough time to read everything I want to read, much less everything that I should read!

I've since picked up copies of Dhalgren, Engine Summer and 334 so I'm planning on digging into those soon. Right now I'm reading Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. More on that later. I think I'll save my report on the Friday events at Readercon for another post. For a more comprehensive (and undoubtedly better written) report of the entire con, see here.

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