I’ve been going to ReaderCon for several years now, and this year I decided to Change Things Up.
At ReaderCons past I mostly went to panels, and spent oodles in the book room, and hadn’t really taken advantage of the many other offerings. So this year I decided to add in some readings and other things (and went to a wedding on Saturday so I missed a number of the panels I would have been interested in). As a result I was a lot more selective in which ones I attended which (mostly) paid off. I certainly missed a lot of the problems other people experienced, though the lack of diversity was very noticeable on panels not explicitly about diversity.
- Cowboys of Space: Examined our fascination with cowboys and the idea of them as the American mythology. There was a fascinating discussion on how people of color (particularly former slaves during Reconstruction) sought a more egalitarian society in the old west, which has been eliminated from the mythos that is based primarily on movies.
- There’s a Queer Person at the End of This Book!: Talked about why coming out stories still matter, but it would be so nice to have stories about what comes after (or even that reflect the way people who pass as straight have to come out over and over and over again). Also, in a lot of speculative fiction the romance is a subplot or backstory, so why are they always straight romances? Where are the backstories of gay or poly romances? Why not have more characters be asexual or aromantic when romance is not the point of the book? And most importantly, when there are gay couples WHY AREN’T THEY OPENLY AFFECTIONATE THE WAY THE STRAIGHT COUPLES ARE IN THE SAME BOOK?
- Challenging the Coercive Muse: The greatest take away from this is that the best way to get past writers block, meet deadlines, etc, is to just write every day. Aside from the fact that no first draft is perfect anyway so might as well write crap and edit it later, pushing through instead of waiting for the muse to strike will give you the experience to know that you can write whenever you need to, you don’t need the lightning.
- Sensuality and Exploitation: Two of the authors on the panel write erotica and offered great insights on the subject. One of the things that makes writing sex scenes so difficult while we can easily get away with violence is that people’s reactions to sex scenes are deeply personal. One person’s sexy is another person’s disturbing.
- A Dark and Golden Age: Everything we know about the “dark ages” is wrong. There was one panelist who, uh, shall we say didn’t quite get the point of the panel and Catherine Valente put on her historian hat and shut him down and then called on Ada Palmer in the audience to chime in about what we know from manuscripts from the period.
I also went to readings by James Patrick Kelly, Catherine Valente, and Gillian Daniels (yay BSpec!), and attended the Meet the Pros(e) Party and 80s dance, A Most Readerconnish Miscellany, and the Shirley Jackson Awards. I’ve never gone to the Readerconnish Miscellany before and it was a nice change in pace to see the authors being silly instead of just talking shop. The best bit was when they set the lyrics from one song to the tune of another. “Hello” to the tune of “Sweet Transvestite” was actually an improvement on the song, and Heath Miller had impressive pipes on “Shake it Off” to “Do You Hear the People Sing!”
This was also my first time staying at the con, which meant it was my first time hanging out in the hotel pub and going to parties because I didn’t need to drive home. So I got to meet authors and publishing people, but was mostly an awkward wallflower while my friends who know them from cons past made conversation.
Except for when people asked me to talk about my novel. From those conversations I discovered my elevator pitch is terrible. I could see their eyes glazing over as I talked. So… gotta work on that especially since I need to start my query letter for Pitch Wars.