Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I'll be attending Readercon this year (which I only very occasionally do), which falls this year on July 13-15. I seem to be scheduled for a lot of programming. I did think, when I saw how much I'd been scheduled for, of dropping a panel, but I couldn't bring myself to give up any particular one, so promising do the panel descriptions sound. In fact, there's a good deal of programming this year that I'm also keen to attend. How, I'm wondering, will I get in all the conversations I'm eager to have as well as all the alluring programming?

Several other Aqueduct authors will be attending, by the way. Here's my own schedule:

Friday, 2:00 PM   G   Evaluating Political Fiction. L. Timmel Duchamp, Alexander Jablokov (leader), Robert Killheffer, Vincent McCaffrey, Anil Menon, Ruth Sternglantz. This panel examines the intersections among story as political expression, story as entertainment, and story as art and craft. When an author takes a clear political stance within a work of fiction, how does a reader's perception of that stance–and the extent to which we find it compelling or intriguing–affect our sense of whether the work is entertaining or well-crafted? Given the diversity of opinions among readers and the ways that judgments of quality are necessarily influenced by culture and personal experience, should readers aim to achieve consensus about a political work's merits and meanings, or do we need to embrace a more pluralistic understanding of how literary works are both experienced and evaluated? What are best practices for critics, academics, and other professional readers as we navigate these tricky waters?

Friday, 3:00 PM   ME   Readercon Classic Nonfiction Book Club: How to Suppress Women's Writing. Samuel R. Delany, L. Timmel Duchamp, Gwynne Garfinkle, Andrea Hairston (leader). First published in 1983, How to Suppress Women's Writing remains a touchstone for many people, the sort of book often passed from one reader to another with the words, "You have to read this!" Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote of it in 2010, "This is not an angry book. It is not a book that condemns men. It is a book that shows how our culture's traditional (patriarchal) way of reading and studying and archiving literature has forced limitations upon all of us, preventing us from understanding the importance of a huge percentage of the work written in our language. Men and women both have been convinced that women's writing (and indeed, art in general) is less valuable and less significant." How do we read Joanna Russ's work now, nearly 30 years after the book first appeared? Which of her ideas remain the most potent? Has it become, as critic Niall Harrison said in 2005, "a book that is most often referenced by its soundbites"? Do the soundbites do justice to the complexity of Russ's analysis?

Because I'll be participating in this panel, I've been doing a re-read of the book, which I've read several times since I first read it in 1983. Needless to say, I'm doing a lot of remembering of what the book meant to me at the time, as well as the difference between my first reading and this one. The most obvious difference is that my first reading was in a single sitting-- lying on the made bed in our first New Orleans' apartment on Hampson St., avid and devouring, unwilling to stop reading until I'd read the very last word. Apart from its effect on me as a writer (I was one year from starting the Marq'ssan Cycle), it rendered some of the most terrible aspects of being a graduate student in the mid-1970s from a sharp new perspective. 

Friday, 5:30 PM   NH   Reading. L. Timmel Duchamp. L. Timmel Duchamp reads from her novel in progress.

Unfortunately for my reading, Jeff VanderMeer's reading has been scheduled at the same time. Will even one person come to mine? That's how it goes, though, at multi-track cons. There are always trade-offs.

Saturday, 11:00 AM   G   Samuel R. Delany's Golden Jubilee. Matthew Cheney, Ron Drummond (leader), L. Timmel Duchamp, Elizabeth Hand, Donald G. Keller, Jo Walton. 2012 can be seen as a milestone year in the career of Samuel R. Delany: his 70th birthday; the 50th anniversary of his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor; the 35th anniversary of his classic critical work, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw; the 24th anniversary of being GOH at Readercon 2. Few writers have contributed so much over so long to all aspects of our field—science fiction, fantasy, critical theory, comics, autobiography, editing, teaching, even a documentary film. And he's still going, with a new novel out this year! This panel will celebrate Delany’s past, present, and future contributions to the field.

Saturday,  1:00 PM   G   Why Am I Telling You This (in the First Person)? Richard Bowes, Helen Collins, L. Timmel Duchamp (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Kate Nepveu. In some narratives it is clear why and how a first-person narrator is telling their story (the tale is a found document, a club story, etc.); in some narratives the reasons for the telling must be deciphered (Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun) or the revelation of the reasons forms a key part of the story itself (N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms). But in some cases it seems counterproductive or otherwise quite unlikely that a narrator would be telling us the secrets they want to keep hidden, their plans for world domination, etc. What do we make of this question of narrator motivation? To what extent should we read the telling as part of the tale, a chosen act of character, versus simply an extra-textual conceit required for the story to exist? Is this different for present vs. past tense? And to the extent that authors consider these questions when choosing a narrative point of view, what are some interesting examples of how they've used the fact of the telling of a story to affect how that story is read?

Hope to see some of you-all there. 

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