Thursday evening, Readercon has a few program items that are available to anyone who shows up whether they are members of the convention or not. It’s sort of a come and get a taste of the convention. Those who enjoy themselves and then want to attend can purchase a membership on Friday when registration opens. So, far, even though we always plan to arrive in time to attend a few of these items, we’ve never made it in time or, by the time we finally get in, we’re so tired we just check-in and sleep. Didn’t manage to break our missing Thursday events streak yet.
We got up this morning, checked registration hours, and found they didn’t open until 10 am (programming beginning at 11 am). So we managed to get in line while it was quite short (since we’d pre-registered last year before we left). We picked up our registration packet and name tags and sat down to figure out what we’d like to go to.
This is the first year in a while that I have not been on programming, so it was nice to be able to just attend panels for a change. There were, as usual, a few times when there were two things I’d like to see at the same time but then that’s life.
NOTE: Panelists are listed in order, left to right as they appear in the panel photo.
11:00 AM – Mystery and Speculative Crossovers.
Panelists: Meriah Crawford, Chris Gerwel, Greer Gilman, Nicholas Kaufmann, and Adam Lipkin (leader)
Description: There are many books that draw from both the speculative fiction and mystery toolboxes, in both macro ways (China Miéville’s The City & the City and Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road are catalyzed by hard-boiled murder investigations) and micro ways (urban fantasy was initially defined by its relationship to noir, now often more evident in tone than in plot). Where is this crossover most satisfying? How do magic and advanced technology open up new avenues of investigation or methods of befuddling the detectives? How have trends, tropes, and developments in each genre influenced crossover works?
Since I’m an avid reader (and reviewer) of speculative fiction and mysteries, I was looking forward to hearing what this panel thought of the crossovers. Speculative fiction and mysteries each have many subgenres and one thread of the discussion was on whether some areas overlap more/easier then others. Urban fantasy seems a natural crossover since usually the main character in urban fantasy fits in very well with the role of the noir mystery main character.
When you think about it, most stories have a mystery of one sort or another at their core, so crossovers would seem natural in many cases.
I think it was Greer Gilman who said something like, speculative fiction elements can make the similes real. It stuck with me because it seemed such a potentially interesting idea for writers.
12:00 PM – Writing in the Anthropocene: SF and the Challenge of Climate Change.
Panelists: Vandana Singh, Michael J. Daley, Max Gladstone, Gwendolyn Clare, and Michael J. Deluca (leader)
Description: Science fiction and fantasy have often dealt with fictional apocalyptic scenarios, but what about the real-world scenario unfolding right now? Climate change, or climate disruption, is the most challenging problem faced by humankind, and some have called it a problem of the imagination, as much as economics and environment. In the wake of the latest scientific reports on what is happening and what might be in store for us, we’ll examine how imaginative fiction conveys the reality, the immediacy, and the alternative scenarios of the climate problem.
Most of the panelists felt that the problems were those of the conflict between Science and Culture. Science is conclusive, but the culture is one of ignoring the problem. We need to change the culture in order to begin to deal with the problems. Regardless of how we got to this state, we need to address the ramifications of climate change and how it is going to impact life as we know it.
There are many interconnected issues that need to be dealt with. But we need to realize that change is coming and whether it is apocalyptic, or only mostly so, or would we as a species choose to act to see that we change enough to mostly adapt to the changing environment.
The basic question is what do you do when the culture doesn’t want to listen to or believe in the science?
1:00 PM – It’s Actually About Ethics: Reviewing the Work of Colleagues and Friends.
Panelists: Kathryn Morrow, Jason Heller, Liza Groen Trombi (leader), Elizabeth Hand, Jonathan Crowe.
Description: How do we develop a culture of reviewing and criticizing writing within genre communities where everyone knows everyone else to varying degrees? What are the ethics of engagement when we’ve shared ToCs with the people we’re reviewing, or been published in the venue we’re reviewing? What about when we’re friends with the authors, editors, and publishers whose work we’re reviewing? At what point is it appropriate to disclose relationships, and at what point is it appropriate to recuse oneself from reviewing? Is full disclosure enough of an assurance of good practice? How full is full? What other considerations should we include?
Basically, it seemed to come down to the fact that no one rule fits every situation that could arise. Whether or not to recuse oneself from reviewing an item is always something that reviewers deal with.
Panelists said that the focus should be on the text and that a grounding the journalism ethics would be helpful. (I’m leaving out names of who said what since I don’t have exact quotes so the above is my memory of what was said.)
2: 00 PM -The Future of Speculative Magazines, Part 3.
Panelists: John Benson, Neil Clarke, Leah Bobet, Scott Andrews (leader), Ellen Datlow, and Sheila Williams.
Desciption: At Readercon 20, there were two very well-attended panels that looked at the future of magazines: “The Future of Speculative Fiction Magazines, Part 1: Print Magazines,” and “Part 2: Online Magazines.” Six years later, we return to this issue to discover what worked, what didn’t, whether magazines are any better off, and what the near future might hold.
I didn’t attend the previous two panels on this topic but managed to catch this one.
* Things that didn’t work were usually those that weren’t adaptable.
* Making money from donations or advertising is problematic.
* Pay walls don’t seem to wok.
* Pay for convenience models do seem to work.
* Kickstarter as a business model doesn’t seem to work but for a single project it does much better.
By 3:00 pm, I couldn’t stand sitting any more so my husband and I decided to go to the mall and walk for a while to loosen up my cramping leg muscle and get something to eat. So, the next panel we attended was at 6 pm.
6:00 PM – Solarpunk and Eco-Futurism.
Panelists: Rob Kilhefer, Michael J. Daley, Michael J. Deluca, Jeff Hecht, Romie Stott (leader).
Description: In August 2014, Miss Olivia Louise wrote a Tumblr post proposing the creation of a new subgenre: solarpunk. Solarpunk, sometimes called eco-futurism, would be set in a semi-utopian future visually influenced by Art Nouveau and Hayao Miyazaki, and built according to principles of new urbanism and environmental sustainability—an “earthy” handmade version of futuretech, in opposition to the slick, white, spacebound surfaces of 1980s futurism. Solarpunk blogs have since proliferated, as Tumblr users like SunAndSilicon create and aggregate concept art and brainstorm solarpunk’s technological and societal shifts, enthusiastically building a shared-world fandom with no single owner or defining central text. For some, building solarpunk is an escapist fantasy. Meanwhile, in San Francisco there have been meatspace conventions to develop some kind of manifesto, with the hope of eventually moving realworld society in a solarpunk direction. What, if any, are the precursors to this kind of grassroots genre creation? Is it an inevitable outgrowth of fan-funded niche publishing through crowdfunding? Is solarpunk’s locavore pro-tech optimism in the face of climate change a distinctly Millenial backlash to Gen-X dystopias? And can the inevitable contradictions of a crowdsourced utopia survive the rigors of critical reading?
More discussion of climate change and culture. Is solarpunk a movement similar to cyberpunk? Will it be able to show us more than just a post-apocalyptic future or a hopeful one where people come together to solve the problems we’re facing now.
Lots of discussion with plenty of ideas but no real (not should there be) answers to what will grow out of this literary (political) movement.
7:00 PM – How Intelligent Are We, Anyway?
Panelists: Judith Berman, Ted Chiang, Gwendolyn Clare, Alex Jablokow (leader), John O’Neil.
Description: Countless science fiction novels include intelligent beings, whether aliens from another planet, artificial intelligences, or uplifted animals from Earth. But what does it really mean to be intelligent? Will reason and self-awareness automatically emerge in a sufficiently complex mind? Or is there something unique to humans that makes us different? How have different authors and novels answered this question in the past?
This panel was a lot of fun — mostly for the play of ideas among the panelists. Some random statements:
* Humans learn from what has gone before rather than starting from scratch every time.
* Intelligence feeds adaptability.
* Physiological differences between animals and humans may have had an impact on development of intelligence.
* Short discussion of relationship between intelligence and consciousness.
There’s a lot of think about in this topic and the panel only touched the surface but it was stimulating to the audience judging from my reaction and the questions from the audience.
By this time I was in too much pain from my cramping leg to go on to the next item we wanted to see. So, retired to our room for a soak of the muscle and to write up the day. There’s a good selection of panels to attend tomorrow and I really look forward to them.