Most SF writers in my area will be spending this weekend in Burlington, MA at Readercon, everyone's favorite literary SF convention. If you live around Boston and have never tried it, you should, at least for a day.
This is my schedule, if you want to track me down.
Thursday July 12
8:00 PM ME Managing Motivation to Write. Alexander Jablokov, Steve Kelner (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Matthew Kressel, Ben Loory. Kipling (an SF writer himself) wrote: "There are nine-and-sixty ways/of composing tribal lays/and every single one of them is right!" Science fiction writers should know this better than most, yet most people don't realize just how different the creative process is for different writers. Join a panel of writers discussing how they keep themselves going, the underlying reasons for why a given tactic works for them, and how it might (or might not) work for others.
9:00 PM G Why Is Realistic Fiction Useful?. Daniel Abraham, Nathan Ballingrud, Grant C. Carrington, Liz Gorinsky (leader), Alexander Jablokov. In a 2011 blog post, Harry Connolly wrote, "If I want to understand the horrors of war, the pain of divorce, the disappointment of seeing a business fail, I don’t need to read fiction. There’s non-fiction on that very subject.... So forget about justifying the utility of fantasy. How do people justify the utility of realism?" Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried distinguishes between "story truth" and "happening truth"; O'Brien feels that fictionalizing some aspects of his own experience makes them more universal. On the other hand, reality TV, Photoshop, and CGI have proven how blurry the line between fiction and non-fiction can be. How do we tease out these distinctions, and what is realistic fiction's place in the literary landscape?
Friday July 13
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?
6:00 PM ME Podcasting for the Speculative Fiction Author; Or, Will the Revolution Be Recorded? . Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Jim Freund, Alexander Jablokov, Alison Sinclair, Gregory Wilson (leader). Building on last year's talk at Readercon about promotion for the speculative fiction author and drawing from an upcoming SFWA Bulletin article, Gregory A. Wilson and discussants will focus on the pros and pitfalls of podcasting for fantasy and science fiction authors, looking at some examples of successful podcasts in the field, different types for different purposes, and the basics of getting started with podcasting.
8:00 PM NH Group Reading: 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.
Saturday July 14
3:00 PM G If It Doesn't Sell, What's the Point?. Jeffrey A. Carver, Bernard Dukas, Andrea Hairston, Alexander Jablokov, Barry B. Longyear, Nick Mamatas (leader). Fiction writing is usually considered an art but frequently judged in terms of commerciality rather than artistic achievement. Publishers want to know whether books are selling, and writers want an audience. These days, when rough economic times have hit writers particularly hard, "Why continue?" has become an important and frequently asked question. Are there reasons writers should continue even if their work isn't selling as well as they, or their publishers, would like? Are there times they should stop? Why do we write, anyway? The panelists will consider how writers can make these decisions, and what options are available in the current economic climate.