Browsing the Convention — World Science Fiction category...


Sunday is the last day of Readercon.  I’m beginning to think I just might be a bit old for the very late night/early morning thing.  Anyway, we were up and packed up our room to check out before opening our table in the Dealer’s Room (we set up at 9:30 and the room opens at 10).

Classics for Pleasure Panel

"Classics for Pleasure" Panel

10:00 Classics for Pleasure. Panelist: Samuel R. Delany, John Clute, Michael Dirda (Leader), John Crowley, Elizabeth Hand, Howard Waldrop. Talk/Discussion (60 min.). In his latest book, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Dirda continues his lifelong campaign to break down the artificial boundaries between mainstream and genre classics. In this collection of nearly 90 essays he writes about such fantasy authors as Lucian, E.T.A. Hoffmann, James Hogg, Sheridan Le Fanu, Jules Verne, E. Nesbit, M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, and Edward Gorey. In one section, “Loves Mysteries,” he discusses Sappho, the Arthurian Romances, The Princess of Cleves, Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer, George Meredith’s sonnet sequence “Modern Love” (which is actually about divorce), the poetry of C.P. Cavafy and Anna Akhmatova, the regency romances of Georgette Heyer, and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Throughout Dirda writes about adventure novels, mysteries, ghost stories and science fiction with the same respect and affection he brings to discussing Samuel Johnson, Henry James, and Willa Cather. If any of these authors are new to you or if you want to suggest some other favorite books, come talk with Dirda and his discussants about the pleasure of reading the classics.

Dirda talked about his childhood and how he’d bought a bag with three paperbacks in it and one of the books was The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton  Fadiman.  He loved books already and was fascinated by this book.  The essays were not so much critical reviews of the works but invitations to share in the joy and pleasure of reading these books.  That in his own books, he wants to share that same passion and enjoyment and joy in reading.
He said he believed that people who read only one type of book are provincial in the same way that people who never travel are provincial — you are missing the joy and experience of finding new areas to explore.

Other books that were recommended as good to get ideas were (of course) Michael Dirda’s books and Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and Clifton Fadiman’s Reading I Liked.

Next the panelists were asked to talk about how they chose to become science fiction or fantasy writers or critics of the genre.  All of the stories were very interesting.  Delaney spoke about how he’d read voraciously but the first science fiction book that he read, Farmer in the Sky (Robert Heinlein), elicited an emotional reaction that none of the other books he read did.  Partly because he identified with the character who had a pesky sister and the events of the book.  But as he read more and more in the genre he found that these books resonated with him.  The others had similar stories to tell.  Waldrop said that he’s been reading SF and fantasy since he was six and so his ideas just come to him in that format.

These stories and the resultant conversation about the barriers between the genres and mainstream fiction and what the relationship should be between genre fiction and mainstream filled the hour.

I took and hour to help out in the Dealers’ Room — mostly get Hyperion some water and chat.

Strong Stories with Strong Parents panel

"Strong Stories with Strong Parents" panel

12:00 Strong Stories with Strong Parents. Panelists: Sonya Taaffe, Laurel Anne Hill, Shira Daemon (Leader), Judith Berman, Alaya Dawn Johnson. Absent or clueless parents are endemic in YA fiction: after all, it’s much easier to put your young protagonists in dramatic peril when Mom and/or Dad aren’t there or aren’t up to protecting or rescuing them (or noticing they’ve gone AWOL). Rather than bitch about the many offenders, we’ll talk about YA books that feature strong, capable parents who do the right things but whose kids still get in fantastic hot water. What are some of the ways of creating peril and predicaments for teen characters even as their parents watch over them well?

This was another excellent panel.  After bemoaning the trend to kill off the parents or somehow get the children on their own for an adventure, the talk turned to books that do it right.  Rather than blather on here’s the list:

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (The book NOT the movie, in the book the children have both parents and the parents go on most of the adventures with the children.)
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles) by Joan Aiken and Pat Marriott
Magic Or Madness Trilogy by Justine LarbalestierLittle Brother by Cory Doctorow
Children of the Lamp series by
by P.B. Kerr
Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan
So You Want to be a Wizard series by Diane Duane
Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet series
by Eleanor Cameron
Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip (not strictly YA)
A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Secret Country Trilogy by Pamela Dean
Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin

I’m totally exhausted and running on caffeine — so, since the Dealer’s Room closes at 2 PM.  I call it quits and set up plans for the drive home.  Once the car(s) are loaded. Ernest heads off to visit relatives on his way to Virginia and we head to RI to stop for an hour or two visit to our son.  It was nice to sit down to a dinner and visit for a while and catch up on what he’s been doing, talk about the past few months and just visit.  It’s not easy to live so far way from family — and while websites, blogs, and Facebook give us a chance to keep up on what we’re up to there’s nothing like a real face to face visit once in a while.

Now we’ve stopped in Connecticut for the night and hope to hit the road again early to get home and back to our normal routine.  I feel at times that I learned so much it will be hard to keep all that new knowledge from leaking out my ears.  I’m tired but so glad to have had this weekend at Readercon to meet and listen to so many highly talented and educated people.

[Hyperion: Two nice young ladies at a Dunkin Donuts along the way where kind enough to give us the last couple of donuts they were going to to otherwise throw away.  I’m sure it’s against company policy, so I won’t say where this took place, but they were just too nice not to get a word of thanks.]


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Hugo Award that will be given during Anticipation 2009As many of you know, I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy among other forms of entertainment and enjoyment.  Usually, hubby and I attend the World Science Fiction Convention which this year will be held in Montreal and is called (this year) Anticipation.  Members of the convention get to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards which are given out at a ceremony held at the convention.  A friend pointed me to this great article on voting for the Hugo Awards. Kate Heartfield has raised many of the issues that have niggled at me for a long time.

We attend Worldcon every year that we can manage it. We attended our first as our honeymoon — we’d gotten married the weekend before the convention. Ever since, we celebrate our anniversary by attending the world science fiction convention and we’ve only missed three since that first one. We’ll be missing Anticipation this due to a variety of events including the current economic situation in the US. This year, because we were attending members of the last convention, we did nominate for the Hugo awards but we’ll be ineligible to vote for them.

Each year it has been a bit of work to figure out what to nominate (it has to have been published or first presented during the previous year), and once the nominees are announced to gather all the works and view and/or read them. But we, as do many others, take this privilege seriously. Hugo awards are presented to the best work of the previous year. The list of winners is impressive and many of the books, stories, and media that has won has withstood the test of time and is still remembered and read by fans of the genre.

Yet, each year when the numbers are published it seems that only about five hundred people (plus or minus a couple of hundred depending on the category) take the time and effort to nominate and vote for these awards. When the convention is in the US, membership (those attending is in the thousands (4-6,000) when the convention is outside the country the numbers are fewer but still many buy supporting memberships in order to nominate or attending in order to vote (whether they attend or not). Yet the numbers who actually nominate and vote remain fairly constant.

[NOTE: I’m not bothering to look up the actual numbers. These numbers are out there in the internet but I’m going from my memory and impressions and I’m fairly sure I’m only off on specifics and it’s the generalities that I’m talking about.]

When we first started attending the conventions, we had to go out and find all the nominated works and read them and then vote. One rule we’ve had is if you don’t read/watch it you don’t vote in that category. These awards are for the best and if you don’t know that category and haven’t read in it or haven’t read anything published in the appropriate year then you can’t make an informed decision.

Over the last several years, publishers and authors have been making the works available to members of the convention so that they can read all the nominated works for free. Of course finding and viewing the nominated works in the media categories is a bit trickier but the advent of Hulu, NetFlix and other sites have made this easier also.

So, why don’t the members who are eligible nominate or vote? I don’t know. For the last several years, I’ve been asking and some of the reasons I’ve been given are:

  • I don’t have time
  • My vote won’t count, it’s sewn up before we even get to nominate/vote
  • I’m not an expert on the field, I just read it for fun
  • No one cares what I think
  • I don’t read any of the people who get nominated (follow-up question: did you nominate the ones you do read — answers is usually, No, why bother)
  • Why bother, the best stuff never wins (follow-up question: did you nominate or vote — answer, No)

In point of fact, these answers are pretty similar to why people, in the US at least, don’t vote in their political elections. What I can’t understand is how you can expect that your choices would ever win if you don’t bother to get out there and nominate (too late for this year) and vote. I get truly baffled by the people who say “my opinions/wishes/vote doesn’t count” and then a follow up shows that these same people don’t nominate or vote or let their opinions/wishes be known. Seems to me if you sit and do nothing, you can’t expect to have your opinion/wishes taken into account.

Many years none of my nominees make the ballot. Many years people on the ballot are ones that I’ve never read before — and who have later become favorite authors. By taking part in the process, I’ve found authors I might not have found otherwise. I’ve at least done my part to see that the best in the field gets a fair chance at the spotlight.

So, why do so few chose to exercise their option to make a difference and to celebrate the best in the field?

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