Readercon 24 is happening in just a couple of weeks, and the full schedule is now live. Here is the assorted madness that is my schedule for the con:
Thursday July 11
8:00 PM RI Readercon Recent Fiction Book Club: American Elsewhere. John Clute, F. Brett Cox (leader), Gemma Files, John Stevens. Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere is a complex work that only gradually reveals its speculative nature, blending magic and technology with horror and humor and something like a murder mystery. Along the way it addresses and critiques concepts of normalcy, nostalgia, family (especially interactions between parents and children), home, and the American Dream. We’ll examine it in the context of recent works that touch on similar topics, including Catherynne M. Valente’s “Fade to White,” Daryl Gregory’s The Devil’s Alphabet, and Bennett’s other novels of darkness and strangeness in the American heartland.
G The Nuances of POV. John Chu, Eileen Gunn, James Patrick Kelly (moderator), Darrell Schweitzer, John Stevens.
When writing genre fiction, many authors begin with the approach that first-person point of view (POV) is useful for horror and heroic quests to bring immediacy to the story; third-person is necessary for epic world-building; and second-person is too confusing and best avoided. But POV is not so cut-and-dried. How can we deepen and expand our ideas of what constitutes POV to better understand and apply it in fiction? How can we broaden the discussion of POV to employ a more granular approach?
Suggested by John E.O. Stevens and Meriah Crawford.
Friday July 12
11:00 AM G Comforting Fiction: Faux Estrangement in Fantasy. John Clute, James Morrow, Graham Sleight, Ruth Sternglantz, John Stevens (leader). In 2011 China Miéville, discussing literature of estrangement and literature of recognition, referred to “the clichés of some fantasy” as “faux estrangement.” Yet these clichéd, faux-estranging works are often tremendously popular. What’s so appealing to writers and to readers about recognition disguised as estrangement?
2:00 PM F Welcome to Readercon. Francesca Forrest, Rose Fox (leader), Graham Sleight, John Stevens. “Tropes,” “reading protocols,” “the real year” of a book, “slipstream” fiction, “fantastika,” “intrusion fantasy”: Readercon panel blurbs (and hallway conversations) borrow vocabulary from a wide range of sources that new attendees may not have encountered. Veterans of other conventions may also be wondering where the costumes and filkers are. Readercon regulars and concom members provide a newcomer’s guide to Readercon’s written policies and well-worn habits as well as a rundown of our favorite critical… um… tropes.
6:00 PM G The Limits of “Willing Suspension of Disbelief”: Some Considerations from the Psychology and Neuroscience of Reading. John Stevens. John E.O. Stevens will discuss how recent studies in psychology and cognitive neuroscience challenge the notion of “the willing suspension of disbelief” as the default manner in which readers approach a text. As we learn more about reading works and how the brain processes information, it becomes apparent that readers do not suspend disbelief so much as cultivate belief until it is undermined by poor writing or unbelievable assertions. This is a different way of looking at writing in general and fantastika in particular; if we are not suspending disbelief, but actively striving to believe, then writers and readers may be working together more closely than Coleridge’s formulation suggests.
Sunday July 14
F Framing the Fantastic. John Clute, Samantha Henderson, Patricia A. McKillip, Yves Meynard, Bud Sparhawk, John Stevens (leader).
We talk all the time about narrative, structure, and the content of fantastic stories, but we rarely discuss the textual elements authors use to frame them, such as prologues, flashback asides, and epilogues. This panel looks at how writers of the fantastic use these devices to delineate their stories and shape the reading of them.
Suggested by John E.O. Stevens.
I think that’s double what I did last year, and yet I am very excited! When will my ennui about being on panels settle in? And when will I stop volunteering to give an individual talk? Hmm. . . probably never. . . .
The talk is shaping up nicely, although it is of course becoming something a bit different than what I envisioned when I proposed it. The neuroscience part needs more work, and I am increasingly suspicious of some of the psychology material that I am using. But I just read a very illuminating article on Coleridge’s original conception of “willing suspension of disbelief” that will buttress my thesis pretty well, while also complicating it a bit. This is shaping up to be the third chapter in the book.
This is also my vacation for this year; money is super-tight and this is my only significant time away from work. But Readercon is always an enjoyable long weekend for me; I am going to make more of an effort this year to meet people and hang out. Please do say “howdy!” if you see me shambling about. I am looking forward to baroque conversations about fantastika and earnest discussions about writing and reading. I also hope that my gorram hip doesn’t make all that sitting problematic. I do recall that the chairs in some of the rooms were not very comfortable last year, and given that my condition is worse this year this could mean I am squirming in front of the audience sometimes. Hurm.
Still excited, though!