Today’s first panel was an assessment of the best books of 2006 by Charles N. Brown, Jonathan Strahan, Gary K. Wolfe, Paula Guran, and Ellen Datlow. Though they said at the start that the intent wasn’t to just read lists of titles, but rather to discuss why each panelist liked the titles they read, by the end of the hour the result was, pretty much, a list of titles, in round-robin sequence:
Gary: James Morrow’s The Last Witchfinder;
Paula: Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of Sidon;
Jonathan: Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (an art book initially being published in Australia);
Ellen: Terry Dowling’s collection Basic Black;
Charles: Paul Park’s The Tourmaline and The White Tyger (sequels to A Princess of Roumania);
Gary: Jeffrey Ford’s collection The Empire of Ice Cream;
Ellen: M. Rickert’s forthcoming collection, including 2 recent novelettes in F&SF;
Paula: a new novel by Kit Whitfield, Benighted;
Jonathan: Charles Stross’ The Jennifer Morgue;
Ellen: Margo Lanagan’s upcoming third collection, Red Spikes;
Charles: Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s latest, The End of the World Blues, his best book yet;
Ellen: Joel Lane’s collection The Lost District (dark and depressing but worth it);
Gary: M. John Harrison’s upcoming Nova Swing (though CNB didn’t like it);
Jonathan: Peter S. Beagle’s new collection The Line Between;
Paula: a new American SF novel by David Louis Edelman, Infoquake;
Charles: John Barnes latest, The Armies of Memory, fourth in a series that shows a remarkable maturity from the society portrayed in the first book;
Ellen, seconded thirded and fourthed by others: the Tiptree biography by Julie Phillips;
Jonathan: Justina Robson’s Keeping it Real, light and smart;
Paul: Keith Donohue’s The Stolen Child, a haunting literary fantasy;
Gary: Elizabeth Hand’s upcoming collection Saffron & Brimstone, with a suite of 4 new stories marking a return to SF themes;
Ellen: Gene Wolfe’s chapbook Strange Birds, with two original stories;
Jonathan: Sharyn November’s anthology Firebirds Rising, though uneven, it has 4 really good stories;
Charles: Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, awarded good reviews in SF and rave reviews from geek magazines;
Gary: Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, with 6 really good stories out of 22 items;
Ellen: Susanna Clarke’s upcoming collection;
Charles: the new Tim Powers and Stross’ Glasshouse…
Paula finished by advising the audience to avoid Scott Smith’s The Ruins and Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars, both of which she threw across the room.
A later panel addressed bloggers as the new public intellectuals, with Cory Doctorow efficiently moderating Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, MaryAnn Johnson, Kevin Drum, and ‘Bad Astronomer’ Phil Plait. Though they never got around to discussing SF blogs in particular, the panel did discuss various ways in which blogs have affected public discourse: headlines of posts must be unambiguous and direct; a 10 minute posting lag can short-circuit a flame war; a hierarchical posting scheme — title then post then link to full article — facilitates reader efficiency; sparseness of posts will cause readers to lose interest; in scientific circles blog posts with responses by circles of associates and immediate corrections have virtually obviated traditional peer-reviewed journal publications; how blogs are personality driven; how writing has become performance.
Today was also the 40th anniversary Locus panel, at which everyone associated with Locus made a statement to the audience about the importance of the magazine and the history of their involvement… Charles, Gary, Jonathan, Liza, and then from the audience Kirsten, Amelia, Karlyn, AAron, and me, and then Cheryl Morgan and Beth Gwinn. Audience members only slightly outnumbered Locussociates; from them Eileen Gunn and Alastair Reynolds were brought up to make additional statements. It was a celebration. The highlight was Jonathan performing impromptu interviews with 6-year-old Teddy (daughter of Kirsten and AAron), who spoke charmingly about Locus and books and naps and having drinks on the balcony.
During the remaining intervals I perused the dealers room and did a certain amount of panel surfing, ducking in and out of panels just to get a taste of the discussions (and sometimes to see (oh so that’s what she looks like) and hear (oh so that’s what he sounds like) various panelists I’d never met). Science and religion, with Tim Powers defending the rational process that leads to Catholicism; the putative withering away of the magazines, with Gordon Van Gelder challenging the self-fulfilling prophecies of inevitably declining sales; a starship smackdown; the promise of world government; slush pile horror stories. The one panel I looked in on that was overflowed to the door was “The Killer B’s & a V”, with Bear, Benford, Brin, and Vinge discussing “The Bullets You Don’t Hear”, i.e. the dangers to society and civilization that no one anticipates… but from the doorway, with intermittent use of microphones, there was no way to follow the discussion.