ReaderCon 27 Reflections

I’ve been going to ReaderCon for several years now, and this year I decided to Change Things Up.

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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.

Panels:

  • 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.

 

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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.