Just as I do most summers, I'm going to be a participant at this year's Readercon. If you don't know what Readercon is, and you're interested in science fiction or fantasy literature, then you're missing what is simply the best annual meeting of its kind.
This year they're working me hard on Friday, then I can slack off. Here's my schedule:
FRIDAY, JULY 13
3:00 p.m.: Anthropology For Writers
James L. Cambias, Christopher M. Cevasco, Amanda Downum, Francesca Forrest, John H. Stevens (leader), Harold Torger Vedeler. In a 2011 blog post, Farah Mendlesohn wrote, "'Worldbuilding' as we understand it, has its roots in traditions that described the world in monolithic ways: folklore studies, anthropology, archeology, all began with an interest in describing discrete groups of people and for that they needed people to be discrete." This panel will discuss the historical and present-day merging and mingling of real-world cultures, and advise writers on building less monolithic and more plausible fictional ones.
5:00 p.m.: Reading "Rene Descartes and the Cross of Blood"
The world's first and only alchemical film noir short story!
7:00 p.m.: Have We Lost the Future?
James L. Cambias (leader), Paul Park, Steven Popkes, Harold Torger Vedeler, Jo Walton. Where science fiction once looked to the future as the setting for speculation, nowadays the focus seems to be on alternate pasts, fantasy worlds, or consciously "retro" futures. We're no longer showing the way to what things might be like. We discuss whether this is connected to the general fear of decline and decay in the English-language world -- or has science fiction simply run out of ideas?
8:00 p.m.: Group Reading by the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop
Heather Albano, James L. Cambias, F. Brett Cox, Alexander Jablokov, James Patrick Kelly, Steven Popkes, Kenneth Schneyer, Sarah Smith. The members of the oldest extant professional writers group in New England give brief readings from their works. (I plan to read "Parsifal (Prix Fixe)."
SATURDAY, JULY 14 (Vive la France!)
12:00 noon: Unexamined Assumptions in SF
James L. Cambias (leader), Mikki Kendall, Anil Menon, Kenneth Schneyer, Darrell Schweitzer. In a 2011 blog post, James Cambias complained of "[convention] attendees and panelists dusting off old, unexamined assumptions" in SF. For much of its history, SF developed a set of unexamined assumptions that became default conventions of the genre. 21st-century SF has made some notable efforts to roast these chestnuts, but it has its own set of assumptions, which this panel will mercilessly dissect and offer alternatives to.