* I use the word "we've" advisedly, because it didn't really get nice until I was in Burlington, so I have no idea what the weather was like in Rhody.
Spent the weekend at Readercon. After the post-con meltdown last year, the subject of safety was on everyone's minds, and deservedly so. Couldn't miss it really. There were signs everywhere, and it seemed like pretty much an entire program track was devoted to it and related topics. That said, at least one incident of some sort occurred, and is now being investigated. I noticed some of it on Twitter, but am confused about what exactly happened**. This is a shame.
** Mostly because I am unclear about whether there was one argumentative creep, or one creep plus another separate argument with someone else. The argument was about the potential for false accusations, which would be weirdly ironic if that's what escalated to the complaint.
Anyway, the panels — Besides the safety topics, there was quite a bit on gender issues, which doesn't really interest me much. Still, there was enough stuff on the program to find something to occupy me in most sessions. The times I couldn't find anything seemed to coincide with the times I needed to check-in at the hotel or get something to eat. Actually, it worked out in such a way that I really never had to choose between two equally appealing panels, so that worked out... I guess...
I didn't take many notes this year, at least not until Saturday evening, but I still have impressions.
Friday July 12
11:00 AM — The Works of Fredric Brown.
I have an old copy of The Best of Fredric Brown (edited by Robert Bloch) on my shelves, a book I haven't read in three decades, but remember fondly. I see a reread in my future***. Brown wrote some great short stories, which are in the book, plus some SF and mystery novels that I need to track down. He's probably best known for "Arena", which was adapted for Star Trek. It's the one with the Gorn.
*** Along with a reread of The Best of Henry Kuttner, which doesn't seem to be on my shelves anymore. I'm hoping it's somewhere in the attic.
12:00 PM — Of Gods and Goddesses.
About the use of some of the oldest characters in myth in modern stories. Fun topic, although I don't think citing Zelazny's Lord of Light**** in the description was really apt. The gods of Lord of Light were humans using advanced tech to pretend to be gods in order to keep the colonists in line. Closer to Iron Man than to Thor. I've always thought of Lord of Light as a superhero book rather than a book about gods.
**** Also needs to be reread real soon...
1:00 PM — What the Future Is, and What the Future Is Not.
Most of what I will remember about this panel is that two people stormed out of the room in huffs in separate incidents. The first received an unsatisfactory answer to his question regarding the NSA revelations and surveillance state*****. The other was two questions later when a young man shouted at the moderator that he had selected three men in a row to ask questions and was ignoring a woman with her hand up. As near as I can tell, the woman had no connection with the young man at all. Very strange.
***** Frankly, I didn't think the analogy about leaded gas that one panelist made to try to calm his fears made any sense, either, but seats were scarce in the small rooms, and I wasn't about to give mine up (see below about attendance).
2:00 PM — Library of America Anoints Old SF.
Inside baseball topic, for me anyway. The Library of America is publishing a two-volume set of classic SF novels from the 50's. There are often assumptions made about what the attendees know about the subjects on the program. That was the case here, but this time it didn't work out. I'd never heard of the Library of America before this, but I'm sure many others probably had. That wasn't the issue. It wasn't until about ten minutes in that someone (not me) stuck up their hand and asked the real question (paraphrased):
Attendee: Um, you say nine novels are being published in the set?
Attendee: Can you tell us which ones?
No one thought it important to tell us beforehand which books were included, which sort of killed any chance for a good kerfuffle since no one could work up a good head of righteous anger over omissions and inclusions in advance. The list is mostly a good one. I'm not sure I'll ever buy the set, but I will look for a couple of the novels included. I know I have an unread copy of The Stars My Destination around here someplace.
4:00 PM — Questioning the Ostensibly Reliable Narrator.
Most of the panel was spent trying to define what a reliable narrator actually is. All were pretty much in agreement that the narrator of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd wasn't reliable, but after that things start to get fuzzy.
6:00 PM — Reading: Barry B. Longyear.
Longyear read a chapter from his forthcoming third Joe Torreo mystery, which reminds me that I still haven't gotten around to reading the first two. Looking forward to those.
7:00 PM — Sociolinguistics and SF/F.
I remember my grandmother, at her 100th birthday party, talking about coming to New York on the boat from Europe at age 6. She spoke English with no accent but the one she picked up in Chicago. Her mother never learned a word.
Saturday July 13
11:00 AM — A Visit from the "Suck Fairy": Enjoying Problematic Works.
[My thoughts] So many to choose from in various media. For books, one example I read awhile back was Inherit the Stars by James Hogan (who became problematic in his own right), a book I liked a lot back in the day, but which treats women as non-entities. I still enjoy the central mystery, but the treatment of women, along with some other issues, have pretty much stopped me from rereading the sequels. A favorite movie of mine where this crops up is The Quiet Man. I talked about this a long time ago. I think the thing that mitigates in this case is that you never get the sense that Mary Kate is in any actual danger from Sean. Another book I like that has problematic material is Rex Stout's Too Many Cooks, where Archie Goodwin is revealed to be a bigot. Here, though, it is not a systemic problem, but a flaw in his character. Wolfe rightly upbraids him for this in the book, and in later books Archie does appear to be learn.
12:00 PM — Constellations of Genres.
More inside baseball stuff.
1:00 PM — Economic Systems Past, Present, and Future.
A talk by Romie Stott on the invention of money, medieval economics, and the responsibilities of a serfs. Very interesting stuff, and usually presented wrong in medieval style fantasy. In one of the later panels, someone complained that serfs rarely went along with the adventurers on quests. If they'd gone to this talk they'd have known why that is.
2:00 PM — The Works of Roger Zelazny.
A good look a one of my favorite writers. Trent Zelazny was on the panel and had some great stories.
6:00 PM — Readercon Blog Club: "The Uses and Value of Realism in Speculative Fiction".
A lot of this was spent on definitions. Sometimes the person proposing a panel may have a different or specific definition in mind that the actual panelists don't necessarily share.
7:00 PM — Worldbuilding by Worldseeing.
Like the previous panel, I think this ended up in a different place than originally intended******, but it was interesting.
****** Both figuratively and literally. The panel was moved en masse from the ballroom to one of the smaller rooms just after it started.
8:00 PM — The Xanatos Gambit.
This morphed from a discussion of clever schemers to a more specific discussion of examples of the gambits mentioned in the title, and how they differ from con games. Probably the most entertaining panel I went to all weekend.
9:00 PM — Writing in Shared Worlds.
Interesting look at differences in writing for different types of shared worlds — comics, novelizations, tie-ins, etc.
Sunday July 14
9:00 AM — The Researching Reader.
A couple of distinctions here — one type includes the books that require research just because they have so much built in history (Game of Thrones, Honorverse). The other type is a book that has obscure allusions and references to external material (Finnegan's Wake). For me, give me a map and I'm a happy guy. (Still waiting for the Discworld addon in Google Maps.)
At this point there wasn't anything left on the program that really was of interest to me except Yoon Ha Lee's talk at 11, and I was exhausted. Also, I somehow got it into my head that her talk wasn't until 1:00. So I headed for home, stopping for a short bike ride on the Blackstone Valley path, first time there this year. It was wicked hot and humid, though, and I only managed half the path. I was home for lunch.
The con was very well attended. The registration line was very long when I showed up. Fortunately for me, almost everyone in line had pre-registered. I hadn't, so I was shuttle to a different, much shorter line. And still didn't have my badge much sooner than the folks I had been standing behind in the original line. This is actually the opposite of what my experience has been in the past. The pre-reg line is usually way shorter than the registration line. I wonder if way more pre-registrations came in this year in solidarity after the troubles were resolved. I usually pre-register, but never got around to it until too late this year.
The number of attendees put a strain on the facility. The two ballrooms still seem more than big enough for any panel, but the smaller panel rooms were too small this year. Almost every panel I attended in one of the smaller rooms was standing room only, and I mean a lot of standing.
Barry Malzberg was, as usual, listed on several panels, and I wondered how the recent controversy surrounding him would fly given Readercon's current emphasis on safe spaces and non-harassment. Then I saw the sign that said he wouldn't be in attendance. So it goes.