Behind the cut is my weekend at Readercon, minus detailed panel descriptions where noted. Those writeups are coming in separate posts, because they are very long and because I want to invite discussion on them.
We arrived in Burlington around 9:30, after a little error on my part about the exit number. Chad immediately hit the bar for a medicinal beer, and after it was proved effective, we moseyed over to the "Meet the Pros(e)" party.
At our prior Readercons, we'd stayed with my parents who live nearby, and were either doing other social stuff or work during them as well. Between that and other people's comments, I was expecting this con to be long on meaty panels and short on socializing. That was fine with me, frankly; I'd had a lot of socializing the past weekend, I was tired from work, and generally did not feel that my introvert self was fully recharged.
I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong; staying at the hotel probably helps a fair bit, as does knowing more people every year. The Friday night party was quite crowded and a clever idea to get people to mix and mingle. The idea, for those unfamiliar, is that participating authors sent the con a sentence from one of their works. The con printed them on stickers and gave the sheets to the authors; people went around, got stickers, and assembled them as they saw fit. veejane was very focused on assembling a narrative shape; Chad (orzelc) asked people what their lines were and where they were from; I just glanced at people's sheets and ended up with a couple of lines on my arms. There was a cash bar set up, and tables, and while it was loud and crowded, it was very convivial. I was impressed.
I'm going to attempt to keep the name-checking to a minimum, except where necessary for my own memory. So I'll just note that I got to meet for the first time rushthatspeaks and, umm, is the lj name of the person who was watching Princess Tutu as a first anime sovay?, and to catch up with a bunch of other people.
I crashed pretty early and slept in (see: tired), and so my first panel of the day was "The Beginnings of Stories and the Endings They Promise." I took copious notes and a long post, with invitation for an LJ virtual panel, is forthcoming.
After that there was pizza at the mall down the street (Pizzeria Regina, best mall pizza ever; I make a point of having some when I come to Massachusetts cons). If I recall correctly, the major topics of conversation were squirrels and Fandom Wank.
I managed to get work done after that, finishing a brief that needs to be done by tomorrow. It's hard to get a sense of flow on a 100x100 screen, so it'll need editing, but I was pleased with myself for getting that out of the way early.
At three I went to "Baseball and the Fantastic" [*], since that seemed pretty low-key. I'm not a baseball fan, but Chad and I had talked about the prevalance of baseball novels before. (Oddly, it wasn't until the very end of the panel that someone brought up Michael Chabon's Summerland, and that was Chad. [**]) It was much more about the mythology of baseball than the use of baseball in mythological fiction, if that makes sense, but I was perfectly happy to sit in the back and listen to people being enthusiastic.
[*] Description: "We have a pretty good idea why baseball is the favorite sport of many science fiction fans: the game invites counterfactual analysis from the grandest scale ("how can you leave Pedro in?") to the smallest (determining whether a run is earned or unearned literally requires the construction of an alternate history). What's much less obvious is why the sport lends itself so well to the fantastic, from the magic realism of Bernard Malamud's The Natural to the postmodern sf of Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings."
[**] Two other pieces of baseball writing that I think are worth mentioning, both by Stephen King in Nightmares and Dreamscapes. One is called "Head Down"; it's a nonfiction piece about the Little League team that won Maine's championship (King's son happened to be on it). I think it's relevant to the question of baseball and nostalgia; the piece is almost pre-emptively nostalgic about the place of baseball in the kids' lives as they grow up. The second is a poem called "Brooklyn August," which is relevant to the comments about baseball's great moments still happening. Here's the text:
In Ebbets Field the crabgrass grows
(where Alston managed)
row on row
as the day's axle turns into twilight
I still see them, with the green smell
of just-mown infield grass heavy
in the darkening end of the day:
picked out by the right-field floods, just
turned on and already assaulted by
battalions of circling moths
and bugs on the night shift;
below, old men and offduty taxi drivers
are drinking big cups of Schlitz in the 75¢ seats,
this Flatbush as real as velvet Harlem streets
where jive packs the jukes in the June of '56.
In Ebbets Field the infield's slow
and seats are empty, row on row
Hodges is hulked over first, glove stretched
to touch the throw from Robinson at third,
the batters' boxes float in the ghost-glow
of this sky-filled Friday evening
(Musial homered early, Flatbush is down by 2).
Newcombe trudged to an early shower through
a shower of popcorn and newspaper headlines
Carl Erskine is in now and chucking hard but
Johnny Podres and Clem Labine are heating
in case he blows up late;
he can, you know, they all can
In Ebbets Field they come and go
and play their innings, blow by blow
time's called in the dimness of the 5th
someone chucked a beer at Sandy Amoros in right
he spears the empty cup without a word
and hands it to a groundkeeper chewing Mail Pouch
while the faceless fans cry down juicy Brooklyn vowels,
a plague on both their houses.
Pee Wee Reese leans on his knees west of second
Campanella gives the sign
with my eyes closed I see it all
smell steamed franks and 8 pm dirt
can see those heavenly shades of evening
they swim with angels above the stadium dish
as Erskine winds and wheels and throws low-inside:
After that, I took a short nap, and then we went out for dinner at the Emerald Rose, a place down the street in Billerica, with my parents and their Scottish houseguests. I was carded twice for a draft cider (once to check I was over 21, and then again when the server remembered that, under their policy, you have to be 25 if you're showing an out-of-state ID); it appears that Massachusetts has seriously strict liquor laws. Good food, good times, and I was verging on a food coma when we got back to the hotel.
There was much wandering Saturday night . . .
. . . into a conversational group by the doors with various people, where I finally got to talk with batwrangler, which never seems to happen at Boskone. Also in that area, Delia Sherman described the production of King Lear by Actors' Shakespeare Project, which sounded fabulous but alas is over. However, they look like a group to keep an eye on.
. . . into the reading of stories from the new anthology Twenty Epics, edited by David Moles and Susan Marie Groppi, with the goal of hearing yhlee read her story "Hopscotch," which was dense, alluring, and evocative of a space opera epic. I also heard the starts of several other stories, and picked up an early copy of the anthology to see how they ended.
. . . into folk songs being sung by ellen_kushner, Delia Sherman, a lot of people I didn't know, and pnh, briefly. I recognized about three things in a couple of visits, but it was very lovely to listen to and I really enjoyed it. (I hummed very quietly under my breath when I thought I knew the tune. I really cannot sing.)
. . . into conversation with the Nielsen Haydens and both halves of mist_and_snow. Macdonald made a crack about there being only two religions, Catholic and not; Chad pointed out later that I'd missed an opportunity to tell the story of the old-school priest doing our wedding prep: he asked for the religions of our witnesses; I said "Hindu"; he paused; and then he said, "We'll just put down 'Protestant.'" So, apparently, there are two, but they're Catholic and Protestant.
I crashed around 12:30, though the end of Batman Begins was on TV and Chad left that on. I was nitpicking action movie conventions that, in themselves, are not that objectionable, so I finally just shut my eyes to keep myself from snarking out loud and annoying Chad. I think it is very likely not my kind of movie.
Slept in again, and after breakfast set up shop in a hallway just off the main hallway. My plan, which worked quite well, was to see and be seen, in case that led to conversations, and start this post in the meantime.
Then there was "A Theory of Narrative Aesthetics Informed by Cognitive Science," which I'm not at all sure I understood—notes on that are to come; lunch; and "My Secret (or Not-So-Secret) Story Structure," on which more notes are to come.
And then my shoulders were screaming from typing on the narrow little Palm keyboard, and we were tired, and we were sleepy, and it was time to drive home.
Purchases: Jane Yolen, Once Upon a Time (She Said), a NESFA collection I'd eyed at our local library; Twenty Epics, as described above. Apparently sales in the dealers' room were way down, regarding which I can think of two explanations: (1) it seemed like there were a lot of younger people there specifically to see China Miéville, who might not be interested in other books, or able to afford them; (2) there just wasn't a lot of new interesting stuff.
Overall: reasonably low-key, more social than I expected, good fun and food for thought. Whether I can justify staying at the hotel next year when my parents live so close . . . well, I don't know. But it really is preferable in terms of a con-going experience.
ETA: My detailed panel reports:
- "A Theory of Narrative Aesthetics Informed by Cognitive Science"
- "My Secret (or Not-So-Secret) Story Structure"
- "The Beginnings of Stories and the Endings They Promise"
ETA: other people's reports (will continue to be updated—please point me to more):
- impressionistic panel notes by yhlee: "Libraries in Imaginative Literature" and "Towards a Taxonomical Nomenclature of the Fantastic (Assuming We Care)"; notes on "Beginnings of Stories and the Endings They Promise"
- Chad's panel comments: "Embracing the Uncomfortable"; "Social Class and Speculative Fiction"
- ckd: Friday, Saturday, Sunday