conventions, writing

Readercon Report

I had a great time! I’ve been to a number of these before, but I was a little worried about how going by myself was going to feel. As it turned out, everyone was very nice (including total strangers!). Here is where I spent my time.

Friday

(We got an extra PTO day at work because we all took a survey. No lie. So I used it here.)

11:00 Sherwood Smith reading. Well attended; she read from a forthcoming work in an ongoing fantasy series. I haven’t read any of these, but it seemed nice. Afterward she signed books for people who had brought them. I hung around to say hi (she knows my husband) and to thank her for signing a book for me a few years back. Delightful person.

12:00 Writing craft and mentoring programs panel. I think on consideration that this topic was too broad. There was some discussion of MFAs, residential vs part-time vs online programs, and workshops, but there wasn’t much I could take away from it other than that no matter what you do, getting a decent job is nigh-impossible, and workshops are better for community while MFAs are only useful if you’re teaching.

I finished the hat I had been working on in this session.

1:00 Decolonized Africa panel. An all-POC panel talking about “what if Africa had never been colonized” and current efforts to heal communities there. An interesting conversation, with lots of food for thought for anyone writing alternate histories.

At 2 I finally went to lunch, where I read Space Opera and got called “sweetie” by a waitress who was probably my own age. Wimbledon was on the hotel bar TV, and when someone (Federer? I don’t tennis) won his game someone yelled, “Suck it!” and got a round of applause from the room. I stopped into the book area, where I valiantly only bought three books.

4:00 Space Opera vs Cyberpunk panel. Why is space operatic and cyber, er, punky? Extremely fun, wide-ranging conversation, and I wrote down a lot of book titles.

5:00 Mundane Manifesto panel. Back in 2004 a bunch of nascent SF writers declared that they would write only the hardest of hard SF, and no fluffy nonsense like aliens, FTL transportation, and other forms of wish fulfillment. The panel broadly agreed that while this was abstractly interesting and there are certainly lots of books that use these tropes in a lazy manner, it was needlessly limiting and throws out a lot of important work.

I had dinner with a couple of people I know from prior cons, had Cat Valente sign my copy of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and went home exhausted.

Saturday

Started a new hat. Got called “young lady” by the shuttle bus driver. Twice. I… have visible gray hair. ???

11:00 What ever happened to that singularity thing panel. In summary – true AI is a lot harder than a lot of people seem to think, and we make a lot of assumptions about what such an entity would want.

12:00 Heist stories as meta-genre panel (basically, a heist can be transposed into any fictional genre). Aspects of the heist plot that were discussed: the fact that it requires a group working closely together (which can easily support a found family dynamic and/or interesting conflicts); you can use them for world-building (because the characters have to go to a bunch of places and do complicated things); a connection to trickster mythology; competence porn; we root for the criminals in a heist story because they are usually at the bottom of a power dynamic and we get to self-insert in a fantasy of agency; tabletop RPGs mirror the group of specialists dynamic; the difference between a con and a heist.

1-3 Hanging out with people in the hotel bar.

3:00 Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar discussed how they came to write This is How You Lose the Time War, an epistolary spy-vs-spy story. They charmed the socks off a packed room of people and were contagiously excited and happy about the book (it sold out of its first printing before it was even officially released).

Now I want to write an epistolary novel, dammit.

After that was the annual Viable Paradise alumni gathering (which I attend because my husband organizes it). By the time we got back from that, there wasn’t much programming to choose from.

7:00 A panel about the origin of consciousness and how the bicameral model is bunk or something like that, Turing machines, and how various strategies for creating computers that can actually think haven’t gone anywhere so far. It was interesting, but not something I’m particularly into.

There was a launch party for Max and Amal’s book later in the evening, but it incredibly crowded, so I removed myself from the vicinity. If I have learned nothing else in my life, I have figured out where my limits are for that kind of thing.

Sunday

I was starting to feel wiped out by this point. People who had to travel to their home cities before Monday trickled out all morning.

10:00 Marginalized People Destroy History. I must have been knitting during this one, since I didn’t take any notes. Though I did have an idea for one of the Round Table books, totally unrelated to anything the panelists were discussing.

11:00 Graybeards Beyond Gandalf. This one I was very interested in, because I have a tendency to write characters who are a bit older than the standard mold. In Tisiphone’s Quest, both Sam and Cloud are well into mature adulthood. One of the major supporting characters in Prometheus Tapestry is in her 40s (not counting the ones who are 1500 years old); the main character in Fairy Hills ditto. Anyway, the panel talked about the relatively few examples they could think of for older characters in genre lit, how the monomyth doesn’t work for older characters generally, and what other kinds of journeys they might go on.

There were so many questions and comments at the end, I did not get a chance to mention Barbara Hambly, who is one of my favorite authors and who writes a spectrum of character ages in most of her books.

I wandered through the book room again, some more. Some of the booksellers were packing up. Then I had lunch, which was a mistake, because by the time the 2:00 panel on found families got underway, I was suffering from terrible indigestion and had to leave about ten minutes into it. It didn’t help that there was very little programming in this final slot, so just about everyone who was still at the con was crammed into the (small) room. A little sad, because that panel was the main reason I came to Sunday at all, but oh well. Note for future con attendees, the Quincy Marriott has Pepto-Bismol.

Then I went home and made dinner and went to bed at a normal time.

Overall, it was great. I talked to a bunch of people without committing any egregious social sins that I’m aware of; listened to a lot of interesting conversations; got a few new books; and felt generally plugged in to things in a way that I don’t often get. Also learned that if you have knitting with you at one of these things, people will invariably ask you what you’re working on, which can make for nice, undemanding small talk.

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