I got back from Readercon last night and today I am processing the experience. It was tiring, illuminating, sometimes frustrating, but genuinely enjoyable and educational. This year I was on five panels and I gave a talk on the Terra Ficta project. Most of my thoughts are pretty inchoate but here are ten that pop right to mind, in no real order:
1) Notes. So many notes. I have a stack of scribblings made on the schedule, on hotel note paper, on receipts, on a letter from the local water authority. Most make sense, a few do not. There is much to decipher from the weekend, and this is where I will start.
2) I like being on panels. This makes me a bit insane, I guess. I like it because I get to focus on a topic with other people, hear their thoughts, try to blend and counter them with my own. A good panel becomes a hermeneutic experience, spiraling and winding and always heading somewhere that you can’t see.
3) I appreciated the focus on safety this year. While the conversation is hard to have at times, it is one we need to keep having. There is no reasons that folks should feel apprehensive or afraid of attending an event like Readercon.
4) The hotel: meh. Food was expensive, but there was a coffee kiosk that gave out free cups in the morning (that to me was better than what was in the con suite or green room). This year I brought a big container of cold-pressed iced coffee and this turned out to be a fabulous solution. Well, until the fridge I had in my room (for snacks and breakfast food since I am pre-diabetic) froze it and I dropped it and -VOILA!- coffee explosion! Fortunately, this happened on Sunday morning, so I got the most out of the experiment.
But the hotel: yeah, no big common space SUCKED. I am sure I saw far fewer people because of the constrained space. It felt odd to be there, like we were kinda in the way. Lack of seating outside the meeting rooms was hard on me. But next year will be better. I hope!
5) I was on three panels with John Clute, and actually should have been on another but there was a mix-up (this was for Thursday night’s book club on Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere, which I had a lot to say about). The gravity of the conversation shifts to him pretty quickly on some panels; I find that others’ comments orbit around his often superheavy comments. Yes, that metaphor is a bit clunky, but that is the feeling I get. I think he set the tone pretty soundly for the panel we did on estrangement, but less so for the panel on “Framing the Fantastic.” I have notes from both that I need to examine to say more, but when I hear him speak I am a little awed and a little frustrated.
6) I got to have a nice long talk with Zachary Jernigan over the weekend. That was one of the highlights of the con for me. I don’t always connect with a lot of folks at these, because I am generally shy and also my head is in the clouds, thinking about books and words and such. It was great to share stories about writing and our thoughts on publishing and the life of words.
7) My talk on Friday evening seemed well-attended, and as best I can tell only one person dozed during it. I got some great questions from the audience and a lot of thoughts on how to improve my thinking on the subject. The topic, “willing suspension of disbelief,” was also the focus of my SF Signal column. I was quite happy that it went so well.
8) Thursday evening I was on a panel about point-of-view. Scott Edelman took some video of it. The chairs in Salon G were not my friend; I found myself slouching a bit because of my hip & knee. The best part of that panel was when James Patrick Kelly savaged the description’s premise of the panel and I pointed out that I was the co-author of it. But that did set a critical tone for the panel, which I think turned out well.
9) The freebies were lackluster this year. A lot of them looked like self-published stuff that after a brief flip-through did not seem worth taking. I did grab a few issues of LOCUS with cool interviews in them, and a Cordwainer Smith pocket, but unlike previous years there was little bounty. This made me sad.
10) I more than made up for that in the Bookshop! I went a little over-budget but I found some great stuff, which I will be showing off in another post later this week. I spent a lot of time in the dealers’ room this year, which was bad for my knee but quite a lot of fun. There was several dealers with good selections of older books, and some good deals on new books. That was one of the most enjoyable parts of the con for me.
There’s a lot more to say, but I think that gives you some idea of What I Did On My Summer Vacation.