Sunday, July 11, 2010
Readercon 21: The conference on imaginative literature, twenty-first edition.
Greetings, dear readers:
I just got back from Readercon 21, the con where speculative fiction writers from the globe over get together and geek out, sharing the best (and the worst, look up the Kirk Poland Bad Prose Competition) of what's out there.
I went with a pretty chill frame of mind; no pushing to meet the greats and spread my card around, just hanging with friends and going to some pretty amazing panels and readings. I find cons (as in both conferences and conventions) can be stressful for the emerging writer. You're told you MUST make as many contacts as possible and do all that you can to get people interested in your work. I've found that this SERIOUSLY takes the fun out of things. And honestly, unless you have a collection or book to publicize, it makes more sense (from my point of view) just to chill out a bit and take in the sights.
So that's what I did. Here are *my* highlights of Readercon 21:
Friday, July 9:
Writing Realistic Speech (with Yves Meynard, Nalo Hopkinson, Barbara Krasnoff, Anil Menon, and Greer Gilman)
This session focused on representing diverse voices realistically in spec fic or as one panelist put it: "word building not world building". For example, representing dialect without falling into stereotype is crucial. Ways to do this? Here are just a few suggestions from the panel that I really liked:
1) The essence of the language must be upheld. To do this, try using expressions but not exact pronunciations.
2) Grammar and cadence MUST BE CORRECT (this is one I come across again and again in poetry)
3) Be very careful of idiom and metaphor (Anil Menon told a wonderful anecdote about a piece comparing the Hindu god Shiva to the sun, which while beautiful, would never happen in Hindi. The metaphors are completely different in this culture and to accurately represent that, we must be aware of these issues).
4) Really pay attention to how people ACTUALLY speak.
5) Figure out the motion of the character to figure out the motion of the language.
The great Nalo Hopkinson (who was also a guest of honor) left us with this wonderful gem:
"Fiction makes more sense than real life...know that you're gonna get things wrong and it probably won't kill you.
Next I sidled on over to The Year in Short Fiction (with Ellen Datlow, David G. Hartwell, Shira Lipkin, and Konrad Walewski) where I not only got great reading rec's (which I will share in another post) but I also found out where these folks are culling pieces for their anthologies, and what they look for when they go through the slush pile.
The New YA Golden Age (with Paolo Bacigalupi, Judith Berman, Victoria Janssen, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Konrad Walewski) was interesting and filled me in on some interesting tidbits, like the fact that the YA market has grown 20-25% since Twilight. I'm writing my own YA novel, so some of the questions they posed, hit me right in the frontal lobe (but in a good way). And yes, this will get another, longer post where it can be hashed out nicely (and no I will NOT talk about the reviled Twilight).
The night was capped off by an ASTOUNDING reading by Elizabeth Hand (one of my favorite short story writers), who shared a lively section of her forthcoming book Darkness Awaits (a sequel to her amazing and dark, Generation Loss).
Saturday, July 10:
Fanfic As Criticism (Only More Fun) (with Cecilia Tan, Erin Kissane, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Victoria Janssen, and Ken Schneyer) was wonderfully engaging. I LOVE that these folks are taking this phenomenon seriously while looking at it critically. Some of the panelists are fic authors and they were able to connect the role of fic to the burgeoning writer, namely that fic allows you to write in community, experiment with form, and offer your own critical ideas to a text. I'm not a fic writer (though I've read a whole lot of it) but they had me hooked, particularly when they discusses Joyce's Ulysses being a fanfic of Homer's Odyssey and Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway being a fic of Ulysses.
The other highlight of the day was the 24th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. I can't rightly do it justice here. All I can say is: "It was a collection of dessicated eyeballs; in it's hands was a terrible battle axe, the likes of which she had never seen."