There were a number of interesting panels I’d thought about attending on Saturday, but the only one I got to was at 11:30 a.m., called “Convergence in Post-Modern Fiction”, with John Barnes, John Kessel, Gary K. Wolfe, Takayuki Tatsumi, and Kathleen Ann Goonan. The subject, if not apparent from the title, was about the apparent break-down of genre boundaries, e.g. the way ‘mainstream’ writers casually use genre tropes when it suits them (as in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go) without attempting the rigorous extrapolation that genre readers expect; the way insider genre guardians are less concerned these days with defining what is or is not science fiction (the way Kurt Vonnegut was at one time controversial). Among notable points was Barnes’ discussion of modernism’s preoccupation with mediation, analogous to theatrical directors or critical authorities; the idea of canonical lists of works by dead white European males (dwems) was a modernist idea. Kessel expressed a pendulum tug back: if there are no boundaries, is excellence just a matter of what one likes or doesn’t like? The problem is perhaps an issue of reading protocols; Margaret Atwood didn’t object to her books being considered SF so much as she feared offending her regular readers. Wolfe wondered if a trendless literature could exist, and realized one does, in Analog. And Barnes described the concept of ‘dip and flip’ reading, the way some younger readers are more interested in cool moments rather than sustained narrative.
Events I did not get to included an extended appearance by Harlan Ellison, who had lines of fans waiting for hours; a panel on the works of Connie Willis, with (at least according to the program; actual results at panels tended to vary) Nancy Kress, Robert Silverberg, Kim Stanley Robinson, Gardner Dozois, and Pat Cadigan; a panel on the Renaissance of Hard SF, with Sawyer, Barnes, Reynolds, Benford, and Steele; one on the ‘future we didn’t expect’, with Vinge, Niven, Willis, and others; and one on writing non-fiction sf, with Person, Guran, Westfahl, and others. Even being very selective from the Worldcon program, it’s difficult to cover everything one would like to.
Aside from panel surfing the balance of the day included a final inspection of book dealers, for various vintage paperbacks or freebie editions to list on the website (and running into Gary Westfahl and Art Cover), and hanging out at the Locus table, chatting with a succession of folks who came by, including Drew Morse (Rhysling anthology editor), Rob Sawyer, Sharon Sbarsky, Paul Fischer (of Balticon podcasts), Julia Ree (of the Eaton Collection), and Michael Cassutt.
Saturday was Hugos night, with the traditional pre-Hugos reception for nominees and their guests preceding. With three nominees for the magazine (Charles, Liza, and Kirsten), Gary Wolfe for related book, and Jonathan Strahan standing in as acceptor for Margo Lanagan should she win, virtually every other Locussociate in attendance was able to attend the reception as the guest of one of them. I was Liza’s guest. The drinks were expensive but the food was OK — sushi rolls, cheese and crackers, and varieties of eggrolls. I finally met John Scalzi and Irene Gallo, and chatted with Harlan and Cheryl and John Picacio and Brian and Trevor. As the reception ended, I went outside to meet my partner and his son, who drove over from nearby Brea to attend the event. We didn’t get back into the reserved seating for the nominees and guests, but we were only a few rows back, and had a fine time. It was 15-year-old Michael’s second exposure to the weird world of Worldcons. More on the Hugo event in next post.