Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Lunacon report

Lunacon was kind of a mixed bag for me. My panels were so-so and I'm not sure the demographic is what I've come to want in a con. But on the whole I'm glad I went; I'm not sure if I'll go back, it depends on logistical factors and how programming looks and so forth, but at least I've been.

Most of my panels there's not much to say about. The first one was on the Hobbit movie; it was fun and had a good crowd, though it is not super-useful to have on a panel that is explicitly about the details of a movie adaptation, someone who's never seen the movie and rejects the entire idea.

The next panel was the only panel I really want to talk more about—though I'm happy to answer questions or hear thoughts about anything:

When the Magic Comes Back

From Queen City Jazz to Bordertown to Tinker to The City, Not Long After, magic coming back to our mundane world is one of the few ways we see fantasy set in the future. Why is it so often associated with apocalyspe? Do authors just not want to have to write about science and technology trying to come to grips with magic and vice versa, or is something more fundamental going on?

Carole Ann Moleti (m), Myke Cole, Kate Nepveu, Laura Anne Gilman, Michael A. Ventrella

We talked a lot in this panel in a very wide-ranging way, but I feel vaguely that if we'd been more focused we could have been more useful somehow? Part of the problem was that the moderator seemed to have a very different idea of what this should be about than the rest of us based on the opening question, and so we kind of just ran with our own ideas, but in a way that meant I felt like I was flailing a lot (a theme that continued for the rest of the day, alas).

Anyway. We talked about the idea that technology has brought a lot of marvels of science fiction into our lives ("I don't need a tricorder, I've got a smartphone") and so we reach for a sense of wonder in magic. Contemporary fantasy that uses magic alongside everyday life can give a reader more of a sense of ownership because it's intertwined with something more familiar than a quasi-medievaloid (especially) setting. [*] But most people doing contemporary fantasy are doing magic as a hidden thing, possibly because it creates more tensions that way and/or because it simplifies worldbuilding?

[*] Possibly in relation to this, we talked about magic sourced in contemporary life, specifically Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift series, in which urban magic comes from an understanding of the rhythms and life of specific cities (I described the great scene in the prologue of the first book where he keeps a monster out of the London Tube by holding up the farecard and reciting the rules on the back). I really have to get back to reading those.

I said, if the magic came back it would be apocalyptic for me and probably for a lot of people, because (I didn't say this at the time but I should have), science: it works, bitches. [**] Possibly then or possibly later we got into future-set fantasy, which is indeed mostly post-apocalyptic and back to a lower tech level. We only came up with a few future-set fantasies that have spaceships and magic—Doris Egan's Ivory books, though there's the magic's not widespread, and Doyle & Macdonald's Mageworlds books, which are Star Wars fanfic with the serial numbers filed off and then turned inside-out and upside-down and are SO MUCH FUN, you all should read them right now (recently re-released as ebooks! start with The Price of the Stars), and maybe some others that I haven't read so they didn't stick.

[**] My closing comment, saved because it was off-topic, was "quantum mechanics is not magic, and anyone who says differently is selling something." See Chad's first book for details.

(We also had a long-ish digression about the Star Wars prequels, where—among other things—I tried to defend the proposition that it was okay to be upset at the retcon about the Force not because it was clumsy but because it was okay to admire the Force as a numinous thing, and then flailed around like a dope unable to define "numinous" when I was asked. I was having noun problems all through the panel, it was really embarrassing.)

What else? We spent a while talking about changing expectations of magic systems, Sanderson and Rothfuss and the rise of "hard fantasy" (does anyone still call it that? Anyway, rigorous, science-y feeling magic systems.), where I invoked the numinous again by pointing out that it is very hard to do well and so some people may prefer not even to try. I think this was related to our changing relationships to fantasy and science fiction, but I'm not quite sure how it relates back to the topic? We also talked about contemporary fantasies where magic eventually "comes out of the closet," mentioning Carrie Vaughn's Kitty series and something I missed that had vampires as DJs who played the decade they died in. And I got to recommend Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series for the nth time, because I and other people on the panel suspect strongly that magic there eventually will come out of the closet (and someone came up after and asked for the name, so yay).

I don't know. It was fun and lively and people seemed interested (we had an actual audience, which I did not realize would prove unusual), but I still feel like it was a missed opportunity in some sense. This might be because my thoughts remain unformed enough that I'm projecting it onto my experience of the panel. What do you all think?

And then my Saturday ended with three panels that all had very, very few people come, which was kind of depressing. The first was the Online Fandom Migration panel that I solicited all your help for (thanks again!). I tried to structure it around characteristics of online spaces and how they affect: discovery (of topics and people), discussion, community, and history (finding old stuff). My co-panelists were very game and did their best, but I ended up doing a lot of talking to report experiences of people not there and try and offer them up for discussion, and I am not sure how well it worked. I did get to say that I thought in-person meetups were an inevitable consequence of the formation of online communities—not that everyone in such a community could or would go, but that if people aren't coming to cons like Lunacon, it's not because online communities are an entire replacement for in-person socializing, it's because cons like Lunacon aren't accessible (for broad values thereof) or aren't perceived as having anything to offer.

Then the panel I was moderating about differences, if any, between reading on paper and electronically, which didn't have as much to talk about as I had hoped and got weirdly loud about off-topic things. One thing that came up late was innovations in school textbooks, which I am looking forward to seeing for SteelyKid and the Pip. (I don't think I'm going to be buying ebooks for the kids just yet, because while SteelyKid is very careful when playing games with our tablets, the Pip doesn't have that yet and would inevitably want to join in on the talking-kids'-books fun. It was useful to rethink that, though.)

The last panel of Saturday for me was on safe spaces, standards, and second chances, which only 3/5 of the panelists showed for and only 4 people came in the audience for—two of whom had literally no idea what the panel was about when they walked in. So it ended up being very 101, which is fine and necessary but again, in the overall context, a little deflating.

(I seem to have got an invite to PhilCon out of it, which was a very nice compliment, but may be too far to travel. Shall think about it.)

Then I went to my room and re-read more of A Memory of Light and then went to the MaltCon party (a regular event, hence the name), which [personal profile] scifantasy had recommended to me and which Dennis McCunney was kind enough to invite me to. I had a good time, though I did not partake of any of the alcoholic beverages. People did attempt to diagnose what I didn't like about the one whisky I'd had previously, which was kind of hilarious because it involved "Did you make this face?", complete with example (conclusion: too much peat; recommendation: Irish whisky), but I never got around to implementing the recommendation.

Bed at a reasonable-ish hour for cons, up for breakfast and finishing my AMoL re-read, literally half an hour before the panel discussing it . . . at which we had one audience member, who hadn't read it yet. But they said they wanted spoilers, so we talked a lot about all our many feelings, occasionally stopping to explain things to them. I am going to do booklog posts about that book next, though, so I'm leaving that for now.

Then I packed and checked out and headed to the EReading Device Petting Zoo. Unfortunately I'd discovered earlier that my beloved 5" Sony eInk reader refused to charge and its battery was super-low, so I spent some time nervous about whether I'd be able to demonstrate it for people, but it came through and I got to show three different people that and my Nexus 7 and give them specific advice. That made me happy, even if I had to do so while the rest of the panelists were talking.

(I am going to also do a Nexus 7 post next, so I will hold off on talking about that too. Also the Sony only disliked that charger, for some reason, so all is well.)

Anyway, Lunacon is a reasonable drive away and there may be years when it overlaps usefully with family visits. But honestly I'm starting to feel much more engaged by cons that have reasonable proportions of people my generation or even (gasp!) the one before it and of non-white people (or, if I can't get proportionality, breaking double-digits would be something). And though I realize there were significant logistical hurdles in people finding programming that interested them this year, again, I can't help but feel like my programming interests are not a good match to those of the larger con membership. So, I guess we'll see; I won't rule out a return but I'm not very excited by the prospect or feeling a big shot of fannish energy (in contrast, I rode the Arisia high for weeks afterward, and I still want to at least write up my scribbles from the unreliable narrators panel where [personal profile] sovay and I got a little drunk on examples).

Next fannishly, drafting my Mary Sue quasi-academic talk for early May, and then WisCon!

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Tags: cons, cons: lunacon, cons: lunacon: 2013

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