Readercon Reflections

Talks I attended:

  • The Best: Dealing with Discouragement. This panel was exactly what I needed out of Readercon. If I had gone to no other events, only this one, I would have felt I got my money’s worth. The panelists discussed their own rejections and how they cope with discouragement, and implored audience members to not give up. (To paraphrase) To succeed in writing you don’t just need to be a good writer, you need to cope with the frequent rejection and not take it personally. Even if you give up on one story for a time, don’t stop writing. That one story is not your career.
  • The Most Disappointing: Modern Gods. A look at corporations and governments actings as modern religious institutions in fiction, as well as how in fantasy gods sometimes take on more modern roles. This talk had so much potential and the moderator was incredibly excited about the subject, so whenever she brought the discussion back on track it seemed like it could become good so I continued to hang around until the end. The biggest issue was that two of the panelists weren’t really fiction writers, they had signed up for the panel because they work(ed) for Fortune 500 companies. They felt they could provide insights into that world and did so liberally, frequently steering the discussion off course. A few of the insights were interesting, but seeing as this was supposed to be a talk about fiction at a convention dedicated to fiction… The talk finally got interesting in the audience Q&A as everyone in the audience seemed to have a better grasp of what the topic was than the panelists did.

Other panels and brief synopses:

  • Strange Horizons reading – Panelists who have had poetry published in Strange Horizons read some of their works
  • Successfully Writing About Horrible Things – Less is more unless it’s a horror novel
  • The Animate Universe – The universe acts with agency. The most unique angle of this was looking at evolution as deliberate action by the universe. The most obnoxious was a pair of white American writers monopolizing the conversation with a discussion of Shinto while the people on the panel actually from cultures with “animate universe” beliefs couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
  • Beautiful and Terrible as the Morn – Celebrating older women writers (the panelists had their own opinions on what qualifies as “older”). My favorite moment was when one panelist read off a list of sf/f women writers over 80 who are still writing.

Best bookroom find:

First editions of a few David and Leigh Eddings books from the Belgariad world! I’m not a fan of the Eddings’s other books, but I love the series and stand-alones set in this world.

The Battle Hymn of a Doomed Knight at the Hour of Death

I swing my blade
I raise my shield
But it is never enough
The fight is never done
There is always another villain to defeat

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

The code of chivalry
Defending the weak
Protecting my king
It is my life
And it takes my life

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

A lesser knight might think to flee
To escape to safe haven
To live free of the code
Free of this life of violence
But I cannot

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

Why am I fighting this fight I cannot win?
I wonder myself
To save a queen?
If I die I cannot save her
No one can save her

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

I dream of peace
I dream of my home
I have not been there in so long
My steward writes that all is well
I will never see it again

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

My muscles ache with the weight of my mail
I just want to lie down
Rest
I never rest
There is always a fight

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

The castle is in sight
I know what awaits me
I must go on
I cannot turn back
I swore an oath to never turn back

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

If only I did not believe
Believe in my oath to the realm
Life would be simpler
I would live
An empty life, but a life

And so I ride
To certain death
I know I cannot win
But I am honor bound

I have arrived
It is time

Death Tanka

Inspired by The Dreams of Dragonflies and today’s DS106 Daily Create, I’ve written a few tanka about death…

cover me
close my eyes
i stopped living long ago
i just
didn’t know

I can’t feel the pain
But still vomit and tremble
In numbness

A little bird chirps
Flies off
I watch, waiting

It’s a strange exercise to put yourself in the place of a person about to die. In speculative fiction it isn’t unusual for the hero to *nearly* die and perhaps come to some great realization, find their inner strength, have a Buffy moment.

Angelus: “Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons… No friends… No hope. Take all that away and what’s left?” Buffy: “Me.” (from Becoming, Part II)

But facing certain death, accepting it, that is a headspace I have never written from before. And now that I’ve tried it I’m itching to experiment with it in longer forms.