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19 July 2008 @ 08:37 am
Readercon 2008: Friday Afternoon and Evening  
14theditch and I headed off for a late lunch after the reading I mentioned in my previous post, and along the way we bumped into ellen_datlow, who joined us for drinks and conversation. We spent an hour or so catching up on the stuff of life.

The geography of the hotel restaurant proved that it's impossible to navigate a convention without bouncing off your friends. For example, when we were seated, Jim Kelly and John Kessel were at the next table, so we of course had to kibitz with them for awhile, but by the time we were done eating, Mark Budz and Marina Fitch had taken their place at that table, setting off more kibitzing. And then, as we were leaving, I noticed that Richard and Carol Parks were behind us (you can see them in the background in the photo above), and so I paused to chat there. And then I saw the Locus gang at a large table plotting to take over the world, so I of course had to stop there as well.

I almost didn't make it out of the restaurant!

Once lunch was over, I headed to take part in what I feared would be an unwieldy panel. It was titled "Writers' Groups and Writers: A Match Made in Heaven or Hell?" The program description listed 13 participants—Alaya Dawn Johnson and Matthew Kressel (the co-leaders), with Richard Chwedyk, F. Brett Cox, Michael J. Daley, Andrea Hairston, Kay Kenyon, Barbara Krasnoff, Resa Nelson, Jennifer Pelland, Luc Reid, Paul Tremblay, and me—and it sounded more like a page from a phone book than a workable group for a panel. I expected fights for the microphone as we each tried to share our writing-group tips and horror stories, and feared that we'd all leave feeling grumpy and stifled. But the moderators managed to keep us well-behaved. I don't think any of us stepped on each other's toes, and each of us seemed to leave surprised and happy with the way it went. The audience even managed to get in on the act. I was amazed that such a group of egomaniacs as we could all play so well with others, and kudos must go to the moderators.

The next program item I attended was "Describing the Elephant in the Room: A Conversation About Genre and Career," a fascinating chat between Jonathan Lethem and Gordon Van Gelder. They were so entertaining that I actually took notes:

Lethem (quoting Normal Mailer): "Don't understand me too quickly."

Lethem: "I tend to write against the fantastic. ... Fantasy is insufficient to a human being's inner peace. ... [He] writes against its viability in human affairs."

Van Gelder (quoting Michael Swanwick): "Whose car you come to the convention in determines which movement you're a part of."

Lethem: "It's terribly problematic to wish for justice in the arts."

It was a very lively hour, and the two of them could easily have gone on for at least another hour if allowed.

I next attended the panel titled "If All Men Were Tolerant, How Would You Shock Your Sister?," which played off the title of the famous Ted Sturgeon story, "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" The participants were Barry Malzberg, Cecilia Tan, Rose Fox, Paolo Bacigalupi, Paul Di Filippo, and James Morrow. There was a lot of discussion over the recent brouhaha concerning the Obama-themed New Yorker cover, and a number of people quoted Philip Roth, who famously said in the '60s that the world had become so bizarre that it was impossible to shock people anymore.

After the panel, I headed off to what was meant to be a small, intimate dinner with a few friends, but it became a group that grew moment by moment, and ended up including Barry and Joyce Malzberg, Paul Di Filippo, Deb Newton, Brett Cox, Michael and Margie Kandel, Jim and Kathryn Morrow, and Charlie Obendorf. We went to the Macaroni Grill, and amazingly, the staff was able to seat such a large party immediately on a Friday night at the dinner hour.

Back at the con, I did not attend the screening of the Disch poetry reading which I had earlier urged you all to witness, but my complex thoughts on that subject deserve an entry of their own. Instead, I hung around outside the room in which the Meet the Pros(e) party was soon to begin. I had a nice discussion with ktempest (below), whom I wish you all would stop bashing! I have never found her anything but pleasant and temperate, which is more than I can say about some of her naysayers. I guess passion has its price. Once I survive the con and my current deadlines, I'll weigh in on one of her recent controversies.

Before the party began, Barry Malzberg presented the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award to the great writer Stanley G. Weinbaum. I'm not entirely sure that I believe he's forgotten enough to be rediscovered, but I keep having to tell myself something I had to tell myself back when I was a juror for that award—that just because I haven't forgotten him, doesn't mean that he's not forgotten by 99% of the reading public. To honor him, go read or re-read (as the case may be) "A Martian Odyssey," one of the most important SF stories of all time.

I partied for about an hour after that—saw Eric Solstein again after far too long, chatted with newlyweds Robert and Gwen Killheffer (so fresh from the altar that they still had that new car smell), talked to jamietr about his first Readercon, and spoke briefly to dozens of other friends—but gave up near midnight, since I actually wanted to be awake to attend lizhand's reading at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
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scottedelman: Meeninscottedelman on July 20th, 2008 11:39 am (UTC)
It was, and still is.

I forget—have you ever been to a Readercon?
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scottedelmanscottedelman on July 22nd, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
I hope to see you there. I made my hotel reservation a long time ago, but I haven't bought a plan ticket yet. I'm still dithering.
karen_w_newtonkaren_w_newton on July 19th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
You listed everyone on the writers' group panel but didn't mention what anyone said about writers' groups!
scottedelmanscottedelman on July 20th, 2008 11:36 am (UTC)
Since, once the time was parceled out, we each only got 3-4 minutes apiece total to speak, there wasn't much depth to it, so we said the obvious things you could probably already imagine. I'm not sure how valuable it was to the audience, since though every position staked out by the 13 participants, we didn't really have time to debate them.
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scottedelman: BuhZurkscottedelman on July 21st, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
But without you, Bob, the con was as flat as day-old champagne.
Rose Foxrosefox on July 22nd, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
What, no mention of my refutation of Roth? I think that some of the most shocking things we can talk about--in conversation or fiction--are shocking because they do happen in real life and we don't want to admit it.
scottedelmanscottedelman on July 22nd, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Well, as much as I wish I could have posted a complete transcript of every panel, there's only so much I can get down on pixels with five hours of sleep!