Posted July 16, 2011on:
Readercon started on Thursday, but it was fairly late in the day and there wasn’t much going on so I’m rolling Thursday and Friday into one. I mentioned on Twitter a long time ago that I wanted to go to Readercon, and my publisher enthusiastically jumped on board, along with her two top editors. When we were approved to be in the Bookstore here, they approved her and not me. But she allowed me to occupy her space so this is still an Author Guy event. The schedule allowed for lots of time to set up, since se could get in on Thursday but the bookstore didn’t open for business until Friday at 3 PM. This also allowed me to do something I don’t usually get to do at these cons, which is to go to the con.
Readercon is a convention about books, Spec Fic books in particular. There are lots of authors here, and reviewers, critics, and probably a few agents, editors, and publishers in disguise. There are not a lot of people walking around in costumes, although they tend to come out on Saturday anyway, but still I don’t think I’ll be seeing many. They love to talk about stories here, not too many particular stories, but Story. My own particular favorites are the philosophical topics, as I’m sure will surprise no one. I have attended three panels in the last two days, which were all on different subjects yet all talked about the same thing.
The first was called ‘Touching the Puppets’, a very odd title that still leaves me in a little doubt as to what the panel was actually about. It didn’t help that I got there late and missed the opening remarks. The question seemed to be about the extent to which the characters interact with the world they’re passing through, and therefore how believable that world becomes to us the reader. One negative example suggested in the program description was Star Wars, although they didn’t agree with that statement in the panel itself. In fact, the success of the first Star Wars series and the failure of the second was attributed in part to the extent to which the characters were apparently relating to their environment. The scene in the first movie, when Luke is given his father’s old lightsaber, was used as an example. It helped, I think, that in the first series the special effects were not rendered digitally, but the actors had things they were holding in their hands. They could see and react appropriately to, if not the blast itself (which should have been invisible in any case), the consequences of the blast: The puff of smoke, a little explosion. In the second series they were denied these aids, and as a result there is no sense of realism aout the story. The performance of Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was also brought up, as it was credited with making the story seem as real as it did, since he had to be acting towards something that didn’t exist. It apparently helped that the actor who did the voice of Roger not only was on set but wore a Roger Rabbit costume all the time, to give him something to focus on.
On the second day the bookstore opened at 3 and closed at 7, so I could go to the three panels I wanted to attend that day. In the morning they discussed a book of essays called Evaporating Genres by Gary Wolfe, who is one of the main reviewers for Locus magazine, to which I am now thinking about subscribing. Since my novel St. Martin’s Moon is a combination of genres that are not normally combined I had a particular interest in the topic of ‘genre instability, or the blurring of boundaries.’ I have often said that one of the reasons they worked so hard in the beginning to distinguish SF from the Western was that the two types of story had so much in common. It is a common discussion topic on forums like Goodreads, how a person would distinguish SF from Fantasy, and the usual conclusion of these discussions is that you can’t, really, and it’s all a matter of taste.
After the bookstore closed I was able to sit in on a discussion called ‘The Quest and the Rest’, which focused on how much the adventure depends on the non-adventure. The domestic element, the homefire that we are supposed to keep burning against their return, or at least their hope of a return. These are the things that make the story more real, because we can relate them to our own lives. Not many or us wave lightsabers around, but we do beat out carpets, even if they do not turn out to be cloth-of-gold underneath. The domestic element is one of the things that makes the Addams Family so compelling, I think, despite their apparent weirdness they are more of a family than the normal folks who inhabit the story with them. If anything I would disregard the need for a quest, some of the best fiction I know is entirely domestic, such as The Thread That Binds the Bones, or Huff’s Enchantment Emporium, which is about establishing a new outpost rather than a quest per se.
The last panel was called Traditional Genres are Melting, and I think the title says it all.
Today is going to be a full work day at the con, with the book room open 10-6, so I don’t expect to get out much. But I’ve already gotten more out of this con than any of the others before it, so I’m not complaining. And we’re selling some books, too!