July 10th, 2006

wood cat

Readercon panel: "A Theory of Narrative Aesthetics Informed by Cognitive Science"

Description:

Eric M. Van (+M) with discussion from R. Scott Bakker, John Clute, John Crowley, Glenn Grant, John Langan, Charles Oberndorf

Talk/Discussion (60 min.). What brain mechanisms (and evolutionary rationales) underlie the fundamental narrative elements of plot, character, and style? Which narrative element seems to be more fundamental than generally recognized, when looked at from this perspective? How can the deep meaning of a narrative work be rigorously conceptualized in terms of information storage in the brain? On how many simultaneous levels do we process a story as we try to fully understand it? Van offers up the beginnings of a theory of narrative aesthetics informed by cognitive science, with feedback at every stage from the audience.

This was the middle panel that I took notes on, but it's the one I'm least sure I understood, so it seemed best to post it first before my notes got any more incomprehensible. (I went over my notes on the first panel shortly thereafter and so am a lot more confident in them.)

I should also say that I'm trying to do less work on the notes—I used to try and turn everything into nice coherent paragraphs, and the end result was re-writing the whole damn thing from scratch (yes, even with notes on the Palm), which took forever. I'm still trying to indicate connections and make the notes grammatical, but in many places this is much more dialogue-like than prior reports.

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wood cat

Readercon panel: "My Secret (or Not-So-Secret) Story Structure"

Description:

Michael A. Burstein (M), John Crowley, Thomas M. Disch, Greer Gilman, Pamela Zoline

There's a small group of novels with overt organizing structures, like Thomas M. Disch's 334, John Brunner's The Squares of the City, John Crowley's Ægypt, and (most famously outside the genre) Ulysses. We suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg and that authors routinely invent covert structures as a natural part of the creative process. (Of course, one reader's covert structure is another's overt, and vice versa, so that all such structures are worth talking about together.) It's time to 'fess up and trade notes.

This was the third and chronologically-last panel for which I took notes. I'm posting it out of order because I need to think more about the first panel.

Nb.: spoilers for a novel-in-progress by Greer Gilman and the books cited in the panel description.

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