Monday, July 12, 2010

How I Went to Readercon and Became a Broad

No, cat milk has nothing to do with my time at Readercon. I stopped in the pet store to get some flea spray (sigh) and a new tag for Kipper. When I saw this, I kept picturing a very low stool ;-) and couldn't stop giggling.

Readercon was a busy time: right away Thursday night. I was an "extra discussant" for Barry Longyear's "Imagine or Die" panel. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to add anything, so it was a bit frustrating. That night I stayed with pal Michael Draine (thanks!) and we had time to chat that night and over breakfast at Bickford's.

Friday I ran into Liz Hand right away at "The Fiction of A. Merritt" panel, which did its best to resurrect the career of this now sadly neglected writer. I made sure to tell Liz I had a copy of my book for her (since she was so nice to write me that lovely intro to Pelzmantel), but I couldn't give it to her until after my reading.

Next I had to run off for the reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream; in the first hour, I played Peter Quince. It was quite delightful and fun, not least for Faye's fabulous fairy singing. I ran out for the next hour to catch the "New England: At Home to the Unheimlich?" discussion which ranged far beyond New England to explore Southern Gothic and even European influences. Then it was back to the Bard. I was pleased to play Puck; not so many lines in the last act, but I did get to end the play. The play within the play certainly led to a lot of laughter. Much fun.

Cecilia Tan led a great discussion on how ebooks and ebook readers are changing the shape of publishing but also the habits of readers. It was one of those panels that could have easily gone on much longer. Much fun to hear Liz read from her forthcoming Available Dark, the sequel or continuation of Generation Loss. This narrative heads off to Finland and Iceland, so you know I'm eager to read it!  The last event of the day was the "Meet the Pros(e) Party" where writers give out stickers with a line of their prose on it. Fun idea.

Saturday morning kicked off with the Broad Universe Group Reading. I had known a few Broads before, but after seeing the fun of the reading and chatting with Morven and Inanna, I decided I really needed to join. The difficulties of promotion are hard and it's no fun on your own. worrying whether anyone will come to your reading that afternoon at Readercon :-/ as some might do. If you're Liz Hand, you don't have to worry about those things. Her talk on "Crypto-Aviation" was standing room only. Many people looked in and decided not to join the throng. They missed out! It was great fun not only seeing the bizarre models, but also hearing about her adventures working for the Smithsonian.

The Fan Fiction panel was a lot of fun. I really can't understand writers who get upset at fanfic -- it seems like a wonderful compliment and likely to increase a book, series or film's reputation. Yes, it can act as a criticism, but no one's immune from that. A few of the writers, like Victoria Janssen, have gone on to write professionally. It can be a good training ground! After that, I had my reading in the afternoon: I played my kantele and read from the zombie western. Small audience, but at least I had one!

The Nalo Hopkinson interview was wonderful: interesting, entertaining and ultimately, very moving -- hard to hear again the tragedy of Octavia Butler's unexpected death, worse to hear that Hopkinson herself has been homeless and living hand to mouth for the last two years. Illness without insurance: the shame of this nation is that it does not offer simple health care to all.

Saturday night is the traditional Bad Prose Competition. Silliness and fun, and a whole lot of bad writing (on purpose). Hands down, the Readercon book I'm most looking forward to is by second place finisher in the contest, Mary Robinette Kowal. The most amazing thing -- in part -- is that this paranormal Regency is coming out from Tor:

Sunday was the town meeting for the Interstitial Arts Foundation, the Shirley Jackson Awards and then my final panel on Sex and Gender in F&SF. Despite being the last session of the day, we had a lively discussion and much (cordial!) disagreement and questions from the audience. I will propose a continuation for next year!

Thursday I'm off to Necon. Crazy.


Rose Fox said...

Illness without insurance: the shame of this nation is that it does not offer simple health care to all.

That's entirely true, but it's also worth noting that Hopkinson lives in Canada.

Todd Mason said...

Or did. What's happened, aside from the partial dismantling of the welfare state up north?

On a much lighter note, just don't let Robert De Niro hear of your thoughts about milking cats.

As for the oddity of MRK's novel coming from Tor...consider, she's a Campbell Award winner, an SFFWA functionary, a veteran of LAZYTOWN in Iceland and of several magazines (currently WEIRD TALES) and the wife of one of my better friends in high school, the same HS where Prex Obama, Wizard of the Art of the Muddled Middle was graduated a few years ahead of us.

Must go look at the Jackson winners.

C. Margery Kempe said...

@Rose Fox -- ah, that's even less comprehensible.

@Todd -- I realise that MRK's insider status is what made it happen (she's been a SFWA officer etc.) but that doesn't keep from marveling that Tor is giving a big hardcover push to a paranormal Regency, something *I* am very interested in writing (once I finish my comic gothic). Hurrah! Too many SFF types want to keep the hard line between "fantasy" and "paranormal romance" because, of course, the only people genre folks can look down on are other genres.

Todd Mason said...

I will respectfully disagree (after Blogspot has eaten a comment of mine for the second time in a week with a 303 error). There are plenty of "genre" as well as pretentious contemporary mimentic folks who can and do revile everyone and everything that is not their own, with greater or lesser degrees of territoriality. That anyone who dismisses other fields and schools in this manner is full of shit should go without saying, but sadly the Right kind of stupidity is frequently rewarded.

C. Margery Kempe said...

I've been in the position far too many times of listening to hard SF folk dismiss soft, or SF geeks sneer at F, F types vilify horror and of course, everyone in the world attack romance -- or Twilight.

The same phenom colours a lot of conversations in comics. The most reviled on the margin seem to often need someone even more powerless to attack. It makes sense for the weak to combine forces, but it seldom seems to happen.

Wendy said...

Takes a lot of dexterity and reflexes to be able to fill a carton of cat milk unscathed.

Sounds like you have been busy but having lots of fun!

Todd Mason said...

I'm less willing to extend effort to defend TWILIGHT, but haven't done more than glance at the texts so far so can make no direct statement...but the dynamic is certainly much of what drives such charming expressions as lynch mobs, the Klan, the Mafia, child abuse, etc....channeled into the rather more trivial if for some still devastating ignorant snobbery.

One of my oldest friends, who has long seemed to treasure sexless romance over the sex-inclusive kind, is an adult devotee of TWILIGHT, but while she agrees the prose is clunky at best, she suggests that detractors tend to be jealous. Jealousy of success might plague romance as a whole, but any given work will have to stand or fall by the reader's I'm willing to bet I'd hate TWILIGHT, I won't denounce romance fiction, having read good (if usually flawed) work that has even held to the most confining strictures of the commercial field as it now stands.

And it isn't as if the In Group, whoever that might be in any given situation, isn't insecure, or else why the attempt at categorical denigration?

Todd Mason said...

Pecksniff reports: LIVE FROM THE ARTISTS DEN is actually a syndicated program for public stations, so it'll be seen in most cities on PBS stations, but also on at least a few of the independent public stations that pop up here and there across the's syndicated by the enterprising and very pleasant folks at WLIW, licensed to Long Island but absorbed bloblike by WNET in NYC.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Locally, Tori sings at 11pm Saturday night. My DVR is set to record.

Nalo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nalo said...

What happened? To me, a downward spiral of fibroids leading to massive and undiagnosed anaemia, at a time when my partner was dealing with his own medical stuff and had to leave his regular job. And me, I couldn't so much as write an email. Looks like I may have developed clinical depression as well. It took me a long time to figure out that I was sick. I have a couple of learning disorders and fibromyalgia, so I thought it was just more of the same. With little income, we eventually got to the point of destitution. We sold our house -- before the recession hit! That was the beginning of the upturn in our fortunes, I think. We paid off our debts and house-sat and couch-surfed for 2 years while we worked at regaining our health. It was brutal, but friends, family, our various communities and total strangers were astonishingly giving. For one thing, fandom and its culture of generosity utterly blows me away. My health is improving. Interestingly, both the fibroids and the depression might be the result of vitamin D deficiency. I've added vitamins D3 and B12 to my supplements, and I've been seeing significant improvements in my mental capacities. I've been writing and teaching again since last year, and my partner's begun earning again, too. We're housed again, have been since late last year. (BTW: It's kind of a separate issue, but although we do have socialized medicine in Canada, it doesn't cover everything. Our taxes pay for visiting the doctor, for many surgeries and for hospital stays, but they don't pay for dentistry, glasses, or meds. And if you don't have the bus fare to get to the doctor's office, even socialized medicine's not going to help you much.)

C. Margery Kempe said...

It's so gratifying to know that people who read your books can come to care so much about the person behind the words. I hope things continue to improve because no one should have to go through all that -- and you know there are a lot of people just waiting to have more of your inspiring words, too!

The pressure of chronic pain is so debilitating. I have a few friends who are in a similar situation and the constant grind of that pain is so devastating. Best wishes for your improved health.

Nalo said...

:) Thank you. Still a long road ahead. Today, though, it's a summer Saturday, the apartment I'm sharing is full of music, and I don't hurt very much.

C. Margery Kempe said...