Worldcon: Kansas City, Missouri– August 17-21, 2016

This (extended) weekend I’ll be at Midamericon II, the 74th Worldcon. Here’s my formal schedule:

• Your Character Ate What?
Thursday 17:00 – 18:00, 2504B (Kansas City Convention Center)
A Hollywood-Squares style game that will challenge your memory, your appetite, and your constitution at the same time.

• It’s Not Torture if it’s the Good Guys
Friday 10:00 – 11:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Zootopia at first glance appear to have little in common but both use the premise “I won’t kill you, but my friend will.” Just a few scenes apart in season 2 of Daredevil the lead is shown torturing someone “heroically” followed by a mob boss torturing someone “evilly.” In this session we discuss the hows and whys this dichotomy can have developed and whether it is time to start challenging the notion of good torture on screen.

• Kaffeeklatsch: Phil Foglio, Les Johnson, Bradford Lyau, Scott Lynch
Friday 12:00 – 13:00, 2211 (KKs) (Kansas City Convention Center)

• A Cast of Thousands and A Unity of Plots
Friday 14:00 – 15:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)
How do you write a novel that features many, many characters with parallel/divergent plot lines that must be woven together seamlessly? How do you avoid plotting yourself into a corner? What tools, tips, techniques, and research approaches are useful? How do you leverage the knowledge of experts? How do you plan for and execute multiple plot lines?

• Appreciating the Pulps
Friday 15:00 – 16:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)
The stories in the old pulp magazines may feel dated, due to old science and done-to-death clichés, and some espouse outdated beliefs that are no longer socially acceptable. As a genre, these stories capture something unique, especially from a historical standpoint, that makes them valuable. In fact, many of them are still enjoyable. Why do the pulps still hold sway over the imagination? Which ones stood the test of time?

• We Don’t Need Another Hero
Saturday 12:00 – 13:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)
…or do we? In the 1985 feature film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Tina Turner sang her iconic balad “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” More and more we are seeing bands of protagonists pulling together to fulfil the role of “The Hero.” Has the Scooby Gang-Effect changed the way we think about story? What dangers do we face without a hero to hold us together? What benefits do we reap from the shared responsiblity?

• Autographing: Alexander James Adams, John Joseph Adams, Robin Wayne Bailey, Jennifer Brozek, William Hayashi, Scott Lynch, Keith Yatsuhashi
Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)

• Reading: Scott Lynch
Sunday 10:00 – 10:30, 2203 (Readings) (Kansas City Convention Center)

• Magazine Group Reading: Uncanny Magazine
Sunday 12:00 – 13:00, 2504B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Our Magazine Group Reading series continues with a special group reading that features authors from Uncanny Magazine– Scott Lynch, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Elizabeth Bear, and Lynne M. Thomas

The Big Move

Well, we did it.

After several years of nebulous dreaming, a year and a half of actual planning, six months of mind-numbingly arduous mortgage loan nonsense, and a frenzy of packing, Elizabeth Bear and I have taken up permanent residence together at our new home in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of western/central Massachusetts. I’ve been a lifelong upper midwesterner, so the relocation has involved some cultural and geographical acclimation.

Bear managed to move most of her stuff a few months ago (since she previously lived less than an hour away). I, however, was coming from western Wisconsin, about fourteen hundred miles. We made the trip in a three-day drive, hitting seven states along the way. Most of my possessions aren’t here yet– dealing with U-Haul has been one logistical nightmare after another. We were supposed to be unloading everything today, in fact, but won’t see the U-Boxes until Monday at the earliest, a fact that was unknown to me until 8:30 this morning, when I called the local office directly to ask why there’d been no phone calls, texts, or e-mails about their plans, as specified by the service contract. U-Haul, in my experience, is fine when you’re renting something to drive or haul yourself, but if you have any option other than getting U-Box service through them, I would solemnly advise you to pursue that other option.

Moving has been a crushing distraction and a massive time commitment, and it has thrown much of my schedule into disarray. It has ended (or nearly ended, since I’m still waiting on most of my worldly goods) well, with a great house and a great new workspace, but getting to this point has been a trial, and it’s going to have some consequences on the rest of my year, which I will detail very, very shortly.

For now– we’re safe, and mostly content, and hoping nothing else gets fucked up, because we have a very narrow window to fix anything before we head out for GenCon next week. Fingers crossed.

Boston!

This week, Elizabeth Bear and myself will be in Boston for two events.

First, we’ll be at Pandemonium Books from 7:00 – 9:30 PM on Thursday, February 12. This will be the launch party for Bear’s excellent new novel, KAREN MEMORY, and we’ll have a bonus author in the form of Charlie Stross, whose original appearance at Pandemonium was pre-empted by a weather emergency. There will be cookies from Flour Bakery!

Next, we’ll all be at BOSKONE 52 over the weekend, February 13-15.

My panel and appearance schedule:

SIDEKICKS & HENCHMEN
Friday, 5:00 PM

APOCALYPSE HOW
Friday, 6:00 PM

THE ANTIHERO
Saturday, 10:00 AM

DUNE 50 YEARS LATER
Saturday, 1:00 PM

KAFFEEKLATSCH (Me and Bear)
Saturday, 3:00 PM

READING
Saturday, 4:30 PM

2014 Appearance Schedule. Facebook Page.

Here’s where I’ll probably be in 2014. This list is incomplete and tentative. I do not presently have information on where I might be signing or doing book touring, if any. Another convention or two are in contemplation but the decisions won’t be made for a few months.

BOSKONE
Boston, MA | February 14-16
VERICON
Cambridge, MA | March 21-23
MINICON
Minneapolis, MN | April 17-20
MOCON
Indiana | May 2-4
LAKEFLY LITERARY CONFERENCE
Oshkosh, WI | May 9-10
4th STREET FANTASY CONVERSATION
Minneapolis, MN | June 20-22
CONVERGENCE
Minneapolis, MN | July 3-6
FINNCON
Jyvaskla, Finland | July 11-13
NINE WORLDS
London, UK | August 8-10
WORLDCON
London, UK | August 14-18
NEW YORK COMIC CON
New York City | October 10-13
ICON 39
Cedar Rapids, IA | October 31-November 2
WINDYCON 42
Illinois | Some time in November

Also, I have at last set up a proper author Facebook page, which can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/scottlynch78

Please give it a like if you’re interested in following my wacky shenanigans across the social media interwebz tubes.

World Fantasy Convention 2013

From Thursday, October 31st to Sunday, November 3rd I will be attending the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton.

There has been a lot of noise lately about the con, and I have to say that I’m neither pleased nor impressed with certain aspects of it. I’m confident the vast majority of the people running it are quietly excelling, in the usual fannish fashion, at pulling off complex, thankless tasks for no real compensation. Whoever has been responsible for the tone of the convention’s PR materials, however, has tarred the hard work and good faith of everyone else involved. As Patrick Nielsen Hayden says (and I heartily concur): “I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a con whose communications were more hectoring, reproving, and admonitory.”

This bafflingly unfriendly tone has limned the con’s less sensible decisions with an aura of apparent malice, while complicating the acceptance of policies that should have been routine and uncontroversial (and doubtless would have been if they had simply been presented with less of a sneer). I readily understand the desire to be firm and clear in the presentation of convention policies, but the gap between clarity and tactless disdain is a pretty wide and well-lit space. Or so you’d think.

I have already publicly and privately expressed my distaste with the handling of the Kaffeeklatsch situation. All other considerations aside, what rankles most in the end is that ‘klatsching, which is a decades-old standard practice at fan-run conventions across the world, has been touted as some sort of bold new experiment allowing the great unwashed a rare chance to breathe the same air as the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. To which I say many impolite things… the point of Kaffeeklatsch culture is that it’s a chance to sit down and chat with someone in a relaxed, informal, and human fashion, not to be shocked and awed by design.

Far more serious than that excess of hyperbole is the con’s sluggish attitude toward accessibility issues; only in the very latest WFC Progress Report was the world treated to the admission that oh, by the way, the registration area was not actually wheelchair-accessible. Sweet Jesus in an interstellar battleship. I sincerely hope the con’s announced work-around of having a staff member specially in place to handle the paperwork for those that can’t make it into the room is a robust solution; it does however beg the question of whether this is a sensible allotment of staffing for a con that previously made such a big deal about being unable to eyeball the freaking sign-up lists for the Kaffeeklatsches.

Last and not least is the very real sense* that the con has responded to complaints with a pervasive habit of a) first ignoring them as long as possible before b) proclaiming that few, if any, corroborating complaints have been received. It’s almost as though whoever is responsible for this (and look, I honestly don’t know who to blame) keeps failing to realize that attendees are perfectly capable of comparing notes and communications among themselves and spotting the inconsistencies. This dovetails pretty neatly with the overall PR approach, which seems predicated on the presumption that attendees are something less than adults.

That said… I support the idea of WFC in general, even if it’s a con that has not one but several lingering identity crises it ought to eventually try to shake out. I’m doing my best to be a good con citizen by sitting on a panel (my first ever at a WFC) and performing a reading. I’ll be at the awards banquet, too. The heart and soul of any WFC is the fact that hundreds of really cool, personable folks, pro and fan alike, descend on the site and make the best of it regardless of circumstances. It’s important for my publishers and quite a few of my readers that I be in Brighton, so I’m going to be in Brighton, and I’m going to do my damnedest to make the shindig as cool as I can for those around me.

So, here’s my appearance schedule:

FRIDAY, 8 PM: Mass Signing

I will be at the mass signing starting at 8 PM and will make an effort to stay until at least 9:30. Please don’t be shy if you have stuff you want me to sign and don’t be put off by the tone of the con’s PR. I don’t bite. Often.

SATURDAY, 11:30 AM: Reading (Hall 8B)

I will be reading a great and secret something, possibly from THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN.

SATURDAY, 2:00 – 4:00 PM: RED ROASTER COFFEE SHOP

I will be hanging out at Red Roaster, 1d St. James’ Street, just over three-fourths of a mile from the con hotel, just off the Old Steine and opposite the Royal Pavilion. This is an off-site non-convention event for all Gentlemen Bastards appreciators. I’m not actually taking over the coffee shop or anything, just plunking myself down to chill with anyone who wants to drop by. I’ll chat, sketch stupid cartoons, and sign things. Coffee is on me unless an overwhelming number of people show up. Look for the big goofy-looking American with long blond hair.

SATURDAY, 5 PM: Elvish Has Left the Building (Oxford)

My panel! “Is traditional fantasy finally over? After all these years, could it be in danger of running out of imagination and becoming simply a parody of itself, or will there always be ways of re-inventing the genre for a new generation?” Naturally, I have some opinions…

PANELISTS: Joe Abercrombie, Trudi Canavan, Scott Lynch, Stan Nicholls (mod.), Adrian Stone, Tad Williams.

I will also be in the audience for Elizabeth Bear’s panel at 5 PM on Friday and I encourage you to do likewise.

*****

*This isn’t just loose hearsay. For the record, I believe the accounts of Kameron Hurley, Mari Ness, Farah Mendlesohn, and Amal El-Mohtar, and those are just the ones that I’ve seen in public.

New York Comic Con

I will be appearing at the NYCC for one day (and one day only!), this Friday, October 11th.

Here are my public events, taken straight from my itinerary:

PANEL – The Wheel of Time Turns… and Epic Fantasy remains epic!
Time: 11:00am-12:00noon
Room 1A17

SIGNING (with Epic Fantasy panelists)
Time: 12:15-1:15pm
Autographing Table 21

SIGNING
Time: 3:00-4:00pm
Random House booth #2205

World Fantasy Convention: Some Words on the Kaffeeklatsch Situation

This year’s World Fantasy Convention, which I will be attending, has just announced its policy of charging an additional five-pound fee to attendees of its Kaffeeklatsches. A few notes:

1. I, like several authors of my acquaintance, had previously and privately declined to participate in this Kaffeeklatsch track, for all the reasons John Scalzi talks about here. I don’t come from a con-going tradition of charging added fees for these things; as many convention veterans have pointed out on Twitter, it is usually the business of cons to plan for this sort of fairly routine programming item in their budgets rather than tacking on fees after the fact. The fact that WFC has such relatively expensive memberships in the first place made the added charge seem all the more strange and uncomfortable. In short, I agree with all of Scalzi’s points and I have commented on his Whatever post.

1a. The con folks I have spoken to about this in private have not been evil or discommodious; in the main they’ve been very civil. They extended a polite invitation, I discussed my reservations and objections, they attempted to persuade me otherwise, and in the end I had to disagree, and they left it there. That said:

2. I am not at all charmed by “We are again charging £5.00 per person to cover coffee and biscuits, and to dissuade people from not showing up.” This is an actual quote from WFC Program Update #19. It strikes me as needlessly punitive and petty. Industry professionals with dozens of years of con-going and Kaffeeklatsching experience have already expressed their bemusement or disbelief on Twitter. For most of the con-going world this problem, if and when it exists, has been solved with waiting lists. The imputation isn’t a pretty one– that potential attendees for these WFC Kaffeeklatsches are assumed to be such flighty deadbeats that a pre-emptive enforcement mechanism has to be clamped to them. I don’t appreciate it.

3. I have also just discovered that these Kaffeeklatsches are to be held in an area of the con hotel that is not wheelchair-accessible. I am actually quite ashamed that I had not thought to check on this at the time I was asked to participate. I am annoyed at my own naive assumption that I wouldn’t need to check.

4. I will be working to arrange a get-together for readers of the Gentleman Bastard sequence (and anyone else who wants to hang out) somewhere in Brighton, off-site from the convention, accessible to those without con memberships and, ideally, accessible to those with mobility issues. Stay tuned for updates on this.

THE GREAT BIG APPEARANCE LIST FOR THE REST OF 2013

With the looming release of The Republic of Thieves, my schedule is set to go nuts. Although I’ve said several times that I’m not doing a formal book tour, enough things have changed in very recent days that I think we can call what’s coming a sort of accidental/inevitable mini-tour. Here’s where I’ll be:

Context 26
Worthington, Ohio
September 27-29

Elizabeth Bear and I will be teaching a two-hour workshop called “Worldbuilding 201,” where we’ll do our very best to rock the hell out of a subject that is often misunderstood. There’s still time to sign up…

THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES RELEASE DAY LAUNCH PARTY
Pandemonium Books
Boston, Massachusetts
October 8
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

It seems I’ve written another book. Boston is where I’ll be the day it hits shelves in the US, so Boston is where the party is. Reading, signing, cookies!

New York Comic Con
Javits Center, Manhattan
October 11

I will, so far as I know, be doing a panel, a general signing, and then a signing at my publishers’ booth. More information forthcoming as soon as they give it to me. I will ONLY be appearing on Friday the 11th.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, Kentucky
October 24
7:00 PM

Reading, signing, blathering!

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore
Minneapolis, Minnesota
October 26
1:00 PM

My first-ever signing at a landmark next door to my home town… I’ve been visiting Uncle Hugo’s since 1990 or so as a reader, and now I’ll be blocking an aisle as a writer and a fire hazard! Huzzah!

World Fantasy Convention
October 31 – November 3
Brighton, UK

I will be at the convention, available at the mass signing (I’m assuming they’re having one), and arranging some sort of get-together off-site in Brighton.

London Area
November 4 – ?
London, UK

I’ll be doing something, hopefully several somethings, in or around London after WFC, but they haven’t told me what yet. More news as soon as I have it.

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
San Diego, California
November ?

University Bookstore
Seattle, Washington
November ?

Bakka Phoenix Bookstore
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
November or December ?

I have solid plans to visit these three places, in some order, preferably as soon as possible after WFC, but the timing depends upon the end date of my London area engagements, and until I have that these cannot be officially scheduled. But know that they are coming and as soon as the arrangements are set in stone I’ll have an update.

Daisho Con
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
November 22-24

I am a guest at Daisho Con, not to mention possibly the oldest person in attendance. I will be asking to do more programming than before! Daisho Con is big, colorful, friendly, cheap, and skews young, but if you want to hear an old man yammer about books, I am your old man!

Now, let’s go over two of the questions I most frequently get on Twitter and in e-mail:

Why don’t you come to {insert location HERE}?????

Chances are I would absolutely love to visit {insert location here}, but a couple things need to happen first! I don’t just pick the places I visit at random, and a great many of them involve travel arrangements made and paid for by my publishers (or shared with the sponsors of the event). So, to get me to {insert location here}, someone has to invite me, and contact my publicist (at Random House in the US or Gollancz in the UK) to discuss who pays for what. I’m not much of a diva as far as things go, but I do need to get to {insert location here} somehow, and I do generally need a place to sleep and clean myself up. Events that I can easily drive myself to (say, within a few hours of the Twin Cities) are a slightly different matter but the timing still has to be convenient for me and a hotel room may still need to be arranged.

If you want to make or facilitate a serious offer to have me visit somewhere to read/sign/speak, please feel free to e-mail me at any time. I can direct you to my publicists following that initial contact, if necessary.

Can I buy a book directly from you if I find you at a convention?

This seems to have become a more frequent question recently and the answer, in most cases, is absolutely going to be no. It’s not that I don’t want to be able to conjure books to sell you, it’s that a) I try to avoid undercutting the booksellers at any given convention, and b) I prefer to travel out of one suitcase. I spend an awful lot of time these days on planes and I don’t have room to carefully pack a pile of books in my luggage, much less carry them around on foot at a convention. Now, I’ll sign damn near anything at damn near any time, but in the vast majority of cases you’ll have to provide the book yourself.

On very rare occasions I might make arrangements to have a vendor already attending a given convention sell books that I’ve personally procured, but this is unlikely to happen anywhere I can’t drive to.

This Week in Indiana

I’m off to GenCon in Indianapolis this week, my first ever.




Mostly, I’ll be a participant in the Writers Symposium programming, and my schedule is as follows.

THURSDAY

9 AM … Memorable Characters
2 PM … Reading
3 PM … Should You Plot Or Not?
9:30 PM – Midnight … Author Game Night

FRIDAY

12 PM … Signing
6 PM … The Line Between Adversity and Tragedy

SATURDAY

1 PM … Stunning Action Scenes
5 PM … Genre Bender
9:30 PM – Midnight … Author Hangout

Sunday, I take off for Lafayette, where I’ll be reading and signing at Robots & Rogues from 4 PM to 6 PM.



Returned From Readercon

Last weekend was Readercon, and it was mostly excellent. The con was hit at a very late planning stage by the news that both the pub and the lobby area of the hotel would be out of service, but you really had to see it to believe how thoroughly those areas of the building had been un-made. They weren’t merely taped off, but sealed away by blank white walls like something out of a movie, and the con’s traditional central gathering space was turned into the functional equivalent of a long scenic corridor in an old Doctor Who episode. The folks behind the con did a damn fine job of steering everything right past this obstacle, and there was a bumper crop of room and hallway parties to compensate.

I wish I could be as lavish with praise for the actual staff of the hotel, some of whom were angels and some of whom seemed overtly annoyed by all the hungry, paying customers who had the nerve to actually ask for things. Service at the one functional restaurant was lacking… and I can’t emphasize enough what it takes to drag those words out of me, as I waited tables myself for several years and have a preternatural degree of sympathy for those who wield aprons and order books. We often joke about how convention hotels and bars never seem to heed the warnings they receive about fannish hunger and thirst, but seriously, this wasn’t the hotel’s first rodeo with Readercon and while the restaurant food itself was usually lovely, the service (especially the bar service) was several distinct flavors of inadequate.

It probably seems ungenerous to harp on this, but Readercon has a thick and well-attended panel schedule, tightly time-managed by the con staff, and it’s also a place where dozens of agents, editors, and authors are holding business meetings at any given time. Agents, especially, often have appointment after appointment, hour after hour, and the need to chase down restaurant staff with IR cameras and hunting dogs for basic functions like getting a check really throws sand in the machinery of maintaining a professional schedule.

So, other than waiting for drinks and bills, what was I doing?

Friday, Elizabeth Bear and I shared a Kaffeeklatsch, which is German for “authors share embarrassing personal stories with more people than they ever expected to see in the room.” I stumbled through a long, revealing tale of something I’m really not proud of from my teenage years, when I applied my talents to a prank that caused unexpected emotional grief. Oh, Stainless Steel Rat books, you never warned me there’d be such ethical quandaries!

Saturday, my first panel was “A New Mythology of the Civil War,” also featuring Mikki Kendall, Dennis Danvers, Ronnie Stott, and Howard Waldrop. I think we did a fine job pounding the Lost Cause mythology into the dirt (not that this was difficult); anyone who can insist with a straight face that the American Civil War was not about slavery from the first angry word to the last shallow grave is lying or deluded. There wasn’t a heck of a lot to say, more’s the pity, about trying to carve a new counter-mythology in spec fic because we don’t really have an evolving major tradition of Civil War fiction at all, apart from the Twilight Zoney mechanistic approach (anachronistic technology is brought into the war by time-travelling assholes and hilarity ensues). There was some interesting stuff about the similarly mechanistic fixations of a lot of steampunk and the urge to play with airships and gatling guns while trying not to look too hard at the social tapestry and the actual, individual lives of millions in bondage and the sick culture surrounding them. I think we could have kept going for another hour, at least.

Next up was “The Uses and Values of Realism in Speculative Fiction” with Elizabeth Bear, John Crowley, and Rose Lemberg. After the usual ten minutes or so of trying to engage all our conceptual motors and define our terms, I think we settled into a rich and lively discussion. Coming from my perspective as a pretty staunch lover and repurposer of classic sword-and-sorcery, I have a tendency toward a fairly defined and physiologically grounded notion of “realistic.” Crowley was good about yanking things back to the broad picture from time to time… what world were we discussing? What rules, what reality? We touched on modes and expectations, on the pressures of genre, on why things like Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” work beautifully on their own terms and fail completely to integrate with the structures of SF/F, where we expect meaningful “thens” for our if/then statements. Rose Lemberg was pretty sharp, and carried off the night’s trophy for pithiness when she suggested that readers shaken by A Song of Ice and Fire could find relief in something less cold and onerous, like Crime and Punishment.

My last Saturday panel was “The Xanatos Gambit” with Jim Freund, Yoon Ha Lee, and Jim Macdonald. We discussed the hell out of the titular gambit, the sort of multi-layered scheme someone sets up with a variety of outcomes, all of which are ideally beneficial to the schemer. I think we lost a tiny bit of traction and opportunity by being too literal about this; the history and theory of schemes that are not purely win-win is a wide, deep river we barely dipped our toes in, but what the hell. I still think we rendered very fair return for the brain cells engaged in listening to us. We did discuss the history of the trickster/schemer figure at some length, generally agreeing that we were less interested in the notion of trickster as cosmic balance or theological compulsion than we were with the notion of the self-interested plot hatcher. We touched upon the transition of the role over time, and how the once-popular “unironic rake who rapes his way across the story” had lost a lot of traction in the public consciousness due to the fact that some of the human race is trying to grow the hell up. We didn’t get to talk much about one near-exception I had wanted to cite, Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever, the greedy egotist who inevitably ruins life for himself and nearly everyone he encounters in a world-spanning epic of poor life choices.

Saturday night, Amanda Downum and I made our own series of amusingly poor life choices as we tied more than one on at various room parties, especially those hosted by the generous Bracken Macleod and Marco Kloos. Liberal application of spiritous distillations helped ensure that we didn’t get to bed until Stupid O’Clock, with the threat of Amanda’s 9 AM Sunday Kaffeeklatsch hanging over us like Poe’s goddamn pendulum. Bear and I arose shakily, determined to show solidarity… actually, I exaggerate. Bear was pretty stable. Amanda and I were the delicate ones, and after the Klatsch I actually had to go cling to the bed awhile longer to make the universe stop spinning.

I was mostly recovered just in time for my last panel, “Pining for the Fnords: The New Nostalgia,” also featuring Elizabeth Bear, John Benson, Andrea Hairston, Liz Hand, and Richard Killheffer. I think there was a bit of a troublesome dichotomy in the panel description, as I don’t find Scalzi’s Redshirts to be of a piece with Walton’s Among Others, and I don’t find the sense of ‘nostalgia’ allegedly evoked in those books to intersect with the other half of the discussion prompted by Paul Kincaid’s jeremiad… but it wasn’t my show alone and once we got up to speed we flew along at a nice clip.

This panel featured one of the stranger interludes of my Readercon experience. Bear had just finished discussing the attractiveness of the genuinely old-fashioned “get out your slide rule” puzzle story, and how it could be at least perfunctorily invigorating to play with the style of story where the audience is invited to do the math or science along with the characters in that quintessential 50s way. Then we both cheekily lamented the march of technology as a bar-raiser for narrative trouble, using our cel phones as an obvious and immediate example. I mentioned something about how many of the books and films of the 20th century revolved around the plot device of not being able to find or contact other people (the example I used was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and how a society where nearly everyone carried the equivalent of a Star Trek communicator at all times made this harder to pull off.

So, that’s what we were lamenting… not our damn cel phones themselves, invaluable tools that they are, but the NARRATIVE CHALLENGES improving technology poses. Even the lament was very tongue-in-cheek; it’s not a bad thing to be forced to stay on one’s toes as a writer.

A short while later, the panel opened up to the audience for questions, and a very… forceful gentleman asked us why we were afraid of technology. We all replied pretty forthrightly that we weren’t; he had the wrong end of the stick entirely. The guy then went on about his work developing, as he put it, the apps and technologies that will define the next five years, and asked why science fiction writers were all afraid to use the most cutting-edge technologies in our work, as according to him, leaving out the last fraction of the newest developments was tantamount to writing fantasy.

We got very energetic in responding to him, and he asked “Why are you all so threatened by my question?” which was a response classically symptomatic of a guy fixated on flogging a point rather than listening to what other people might have to say about it.

Well, to you, guy in the audience, if you’re out there, we weren’t “threatened” by your question. Your question (which I have since learned you threw at another panel before reportedly leaving the room in a huff) wasn’t “threatening” in the slightest. What it was, was predicated on a whole series of false assumptions, namely that:

A. All science fiction writers are the same, part of some club or hive mind that collectively shirks or embraces the things it will write about. What you’ve actually got is a diverse conglomeration of thousands of individuals each with a different degree of technological experience, a different set of interests, and a different range of access to the freshest information. Not to mention wide variations in the amount of plain old effing time we can apply to our research and our work. I mean, how comprehensive a survey of genre fiction can you really have made if you don’t get this?

B. That what you were asking was within the scope of the panel, and the panel’s ability to efficiently engage with it in the time remaining. There’s this thing that happens when a subject is broached that is orthagonal to a panel’s description or ponderously tangential to its actual focus– the moderator says, “Look, we really can’t go into all that,” and everyone moves on.

C. That failing or refusing to feature the absolute latest in cutting-edge real-world tech invalidates the act of writing speculative fiction.

So, we weren’t threatened by your question, sir, may the gods of technology bless and keep you. We didn’t have the time to try and shake you out of all your presumptions, and we knew it, and frankly it wasn’t our responsibility to do so. If you wonder why people get het up when you don’t appear to want to listen to them, it’s not because your questions ring too fiercely for mortal ears to hear them. I hope that helps.

Other than that, I got the chance to briefly sit in on the “Teen Violence, Teen Sex” panel, which was of interest to me because The Republic of Thieves features, in case you didn’t already know, both teenage violence and teenage sex, written to frame some issues of consent and false idealization that I think sex in SF/F has at times been prone to. A good discussion was developing when I had to sneak off to other responsibilities.

One thing I will say, in response to the frequent observation (and hell, I’ve made it too) that our culture seems far more comfortable with gruesome fictional violence than it does with consensual fictional sex, is that there is one rarely-discussed reason for author squeamishness that has nothing to do with prudishness or presumption or lack of awareness. It is merely that an author writing a sex scene may be in more danger of revealing actual facts about their intimate self and their kinks and preferences than they are at any other time in the writing process; the art of writing honestly and with feeling and vigor threatens to expose much about the person behind the keys. Mitigating or preventing that exposure is a hard skill to learn.

Whether you realize it or not, you will actually learn some real things about me and my experiences from the sex scenes in The Republic of Thieves. It has taken time for me to become comfortable with that, and I will never feel any need to apologize for taking that time.

Anyhow, that was Readercon! No more public appearances for me until GenCon in Indianapolis, August 15-18.