Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Readings at WisCon 32
WisCon offers a wide variety of programming across eighteen (gasp!) tracks. Although there are two single-author readers by the year's Guests of Honor, all the rest of the readings are group presentations by four or five authors (or, in the case of the unique Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading, by numerous authors offering brief tantalizing bursts of their work). Most of these readings take place in a conference room equipped with several armchairs rather than straight chairs and a table with microphones facing the audience, which gives the room a slightly more comfortable and informal feel. This year, though, a few of the readings were held in other venues-- viz., Madison coffee shops. I wish I'd been able to get out to those, 'cause I love cafe readings. (Maybe next year?) I typically attend several readings in the course of the con, but this year I was able to attend only one, the second of the two groups of Aqueduct authors reading.
Kath and Tom attended the first one (which was held at the same time as one of my panels), though, and got some photos of Aqueduct's authors.
Here is Carolyn Ives Gilman, reading from Aliens of the Heart.
Nisi Shawl read from Filter House.
Anne Sheldon read from Adventures of the Faithful Counselor.
Wendy Walker also read.
And Sue Lange read, too.
I was able to attend the second group of Aqueduct authors reading, though. Eleanor Arnason has a few things to say about it in her posts on WisCon, which you can find on her blog. As she notes, she read a very short piece-- and she also announced that she was working on a rewrite of her sequel to A Woman of the Iron People, "Hearth World," for Aqueduct, which evoked a great, roaring cheer from the audience.
Vandana Singh read the opening of her novella, Of Love and Other Monsters (which resulted in Aqueduct's selling out all the copies of it that we brought to the con by late Sunday afternoon). I know that text well; it was a pleasure hearing the author's own voice speaking it.
Nancy Jane Moore read the dramatic conclusion, rather than the opening, of one of her stories in her new collection from PS Publishing, Conscientious Inconsistencies.
Eileen Gunn read a tantalizing fragment of a story set on Christmas Day, involving elves, that was bizarre, frightening, and heartbreaking and literally had me sitting forward on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. And later, after everyone had finished reading, she read her short, stunning poem "To the Moon Alice," which can be found in LCRW #22.
And finally, Andrea Hairston, who is hands-down the best reader I've ever had the pleasure to hear read, offered us the vivid, harrowing first chapter of her new, as yet unpublished novel, which opens in the late-19th-century American South.
I could fairly feel the audience around me shivering (and not just from the room's freezing air, which necessitated Andrea's wearing the jacket that an audience member kindly loaned her).
I loved the reading, I loved the thought that these authors and their fine work are what Aqueduct is all about. What a joy to be in such company!
The format and setting of WisCon's GoH readings are quite different from that of the group readings, for they feature a single author in a 75-minute time slot. I wanted to attend Maureen's, but alas, it was not to be. I can, though, tell you about my own. First, I should probably mention that it was held in one of the larger rooms, where a long table with microphones is placed on a dais in front of many rows of chairs with an aisle between them. This is not a good setup for a reading. For one thing, I prefer to stand when I read. For another, I had no wish to be elevated and distant from the audience. My solution was to detach a microphone from one of its holders and stand on the floor, holding the mike in one hand an the book I was reading from in the other. This was a bit awkward, but it worked as long as I was holding a conversations pieces volume in my hand. (See the photo, which Kath took.) It couldn't work, though, for one of the books of the Marq'ssan Cycle (even the smallest of which are too heavy to hold open in one hand). So then I tried just projecting my voice, without a mike, and found that it worked.
I began by reading "Dear Alice Sheldon" from Talking Back: Epistolary Fantasies. (I have Lena de Tar to thank for having suggested that I read both nonfiction and fiction.) I then read a couple of nonspoilery scenes from Stretto, the last book of the Marq'ssan Cycle. I had prepared other things to read, but I thought, given the excellent composition of the audience attending, that a Q&A might be better. In fact, the Q&A turned into a lively, interesting conversation to which numerous audience members contributed. I'm still thinking about some of it.