I’m headed to Readercon 28 next week and I just got my schedule.
Wednesday, July 12
Reading, etc. 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday, July 14
Our Dystopia – 1 p.m.
Since the election, many on the left have been calling attention to George Orwell’s 1984 as a missed warning. Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor said in a radio interview that she believes Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower is a more appropriate dystopia for our current climate. Orwell’s Animal Farm, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and other books have also warned of surreal authoritarianism. Do they map to our current world or are we projecting? What other books have warnings for us that we might heed?
Reading – 7 p.m.
I’ll be reading my short story “Sin Embargo” which was published in the anthology Latin@ Rising in early 2017.
“In ‘Sin Embargo,’ Sabrina Vourvoulias plays with translation and transformation in interesting ways.” — Publishers Weekly
Come hear me play with language(s), live and loud … 😜
Saturday, July 15
The Long Tail of the Tall Tale – 1 p.m.
Tall tales, like their fairy tale cousins, are reinvented in every culture around the world. These tales, handed down through generations, provide context for how humans relate to one another and to storytelling, as well as giving an intriguing look into cultural history. Panelists will discuss the ways tall tales and oral storytelling traditions have influenced the work of present-day speculative authors such as Andy Duncan, Andrea Hairston, Catherynne M. Valente, and Daniel José Older, and explore what helps a tall tale hit the sweet spot of both exaggerated and believable.
The Life Cycle of Political SF – 2 p.m.
SF writers have often written deeply political books and stories; some stand the test of time, while others become dated very quickly. John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The New Atlantis,” to name just a few, directly addressed major issues of their day and are still relevant now—but differently. What affects how political SF ages and is read decades after its publication? What are today’s explicitly political books, and how do we expect them to resonate decades in the future?
There is a registration fee for Readercon weekend, except for Thursday programs which are free. There are day passes are available ($55 each for Friday and Saturday programs, $25 for Sunday programs). The schedule of programs is pretty spectacular, even on Sunday. The full schedule (except for individual readings) is here.
Hope to see you in Cambridge or Quincy!
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 at 7 PM
Join us for a Pre-Readercon author event with Max Gladstone, Yoon Ha Lee, and Sabrina Vourvoulias.
Events at Readercon start on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start celebrating early.
Event is free and open to the public.
More info here.
Great doesn’t need to mean old, writes Tiffany Kelly at Popular Mechanics. And (😮 ) my 2012 novel “Ink” opens her list!
“This is an eerily relevant dystopian novel that is a must-read…”
Read the article here.
I will be on three panels at the upcoming Arisia convention (Jan. 13-16 at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel), all of them on Saturday, Jan. 14:
Hold the Door: Game of Thrones Season 6 and More
Media, Panel – 1hr 15min – Douglas (3W)
Game of Thrones continues to move the plot well past the novels, and continues to introduce and kill characters in ways that are surprising and occasionally heartbreaking. We’ll discuss the ever-complicated handling of the show’s core female characters (and the pivot in handling most of them compared to Season 5), the rushed Dorn plotline, the deaths of characters we’ve loved and hated from day one, and more.
Broken Earth: Writing SF from Societal Trauma
Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 1 (2E)
Authors create memorable works from personal trauma, but the political is also personal. N. K. Jemisin has been quoted as saying that her series The Broken Earth stems from her own processing of systematic racism in America through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement. We’ll discuss The Broken Earth and other works that come forth when societal trauma enters the author’s sphere and how awful truth inspires fiction.
Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 4 (2E)
The recently released Latin@ Rising anthology has raised the profile of stories from Latinx authors writing in English. We’ll talk about the anthology and other works, new and old, of SFF from Latinx authors. What perspectives and themes are important to these stories and their authors, and how do they explore the speculative world?
So this is the time of year many SFF writers compose posts outlining what short stories (etc.) are eligible for nomination for awards. While more prolific writers than me usually have a long list for you to choose from, most years I only have two or three pieces you might consider. This year it is only one:
El Cantar of Rising Sun, which was published in Uncanny Magazine, issue 11, July/August 2016.
It is an unusual piece —a riff on epic narrative poems that follow the protagonist’s trajectory from birth to death with countless journeys and battles between … Only this epic takes place on Philly streets in 2014, and at its heart is a very distinct set of journeys and battles.
A fast-moving, dizzying, tragic tale with magic tattoos, rhymes, love, friendship, and death. The language is powerfully alive, swaggering and moving to its own rhythm and its own beat. Original and skillfully crafted.
— from Maria Haskins’ monthly short fiction round-up.
The NY Review of SF Readings
presents our first
Margot Adler Memorial Reading
Terence Taylor (guest curator)
Tuesday, Nov. 1st
Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7
The Brooklyn Commons Cafe
388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.)
November 1st is All Soul’s Day, and an appropriate date to conjure up the first of a pop-up sub-series within the NYRSF Readings: the Margot Adler Memorial Readings.
Before her passing two years ago, Margot had been a speaker and guest host at a number of our readings, particularly if they involved one of her more recently acquired passions, vampire stories. Her interests ranged far and wide, and any of these diverse interests will be the subject(s) of these readings. They might be journalism (she was a producer/host for Pacifica Radio and NPR), Wicca (she was author of Drawing Down the Moon, a book which introduced hundreds of thousands of Americans to neo-Paganism), psychology (she was granddaughter of the eminent psychotherapist Alfred Adler), vampires (she was author of Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side), or anything sf/f (she was a Clarion graduate).
For the inaugural edition of the sub-series, we’re most happy to present two other friends of the NYRSF Readings, a journalist/spec fic writer, and a producer/vampire and spec-fic writer.
Sabrina Vourvoulias is the author of Ink (Crossed Genres, 2012), a novel that draws on her memories of Guatemala’s armed internal conflict, and of the Latinx experience in the United States. Her stories have appeared at Uncanny magazine, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, and in a number of anthologies, including Latino/a Rising, upcoming in 2017. She is an op-ed columnist at Philadelphia Magazine, City and State PA and The Guardian U.S., and is the Project Editor for the Philadelphia Reporting Collaborative on Prison Reentry. Find Sabrina on the Web at sabrinavourvoulias.com or on Twitter @followthelede.
Terence Taylor is an award-winning children’s television writer whose work has appeared on PBS, Nickelodeon, and Disney, among many other markets. After years of comforting tiny tots with TV, he turned to scaring their parents. Terence is also author of the first two books of his Vampire Testaments trilogy, Bite Marks (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009), and Blood Pressure (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010) and has returned to work on the conclusion of his trilogy, Past Life.
Find Terence on the Web at terencetaylor.com, Twitter @vamptestaments, or walking his neighbor’s black Labrador mix along the banks of the Gowanus Canal and surrounding environs.
The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series provides performances from some of the best writers in science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, etc. The series usually takes place the first Tuesday of every month, but maintains flexibility in time and space, so be sure to stay in touch through the mailing list, the Web, and Facebook.
The Cafe has excellent food, a coffee bar, beer and wine. The Jenna freebie table will offer books and goodies, as will the raffle for any who donate.
After the event, please join us as we treat our readers for dinner and drinks at the cafe.
Jim Freund is Producer and Executive Curator of The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings. He has been involved in producing radio programs of and about literary sf/f since 1967. His long-running live radio program, Hour of the Wolf, broadcasts and streams (most) every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 AM. Programs are available by stream for two months after broadcast. An audiobook collection of 15 hours of his interviews, Chatting Science Fiction, is now available for download at iTunes and Audible.com, as well as a 13-CD set from Amazon.com and Downpour.com. In addition, Jim is Podcast Host and Post-Production Editor for the twice-consecutive Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed Magazine.
The Brooklyn Commons Cafe at 388 Atlantic Avenue is an open and collaborative movement building space, only minutes away from the Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Atlantic Avenue subway stops in downtown Brooklyn. The Commons provides resources to the progressive community including affordable office and meeting spaces as well as an event venue that can host anything from parties and benefits to forums, performances, films and workshops. If you are interested in meeting or event space, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readercon 27 just ended and I am trying to convince myself not to write this.
Here’s the thing, I love Readercon. My first year (Readercon 22) was a bit rough since I knew no one IRL (and precious few folks virtually), but it had enough substance and just enough fluff to hook me into returning every year (except last year, which I couldn’t swing for a variety of boring, mundane reasons).
The con has evolved a lot in those six years. It had a fairly major harassment fail that prompted it to revamp its safety policies and procedures so wholly it has become a model for other cons. The panels steadily grew more inclusive, and some even focused entirely on underrepresented groups (in 2014, the Thursday open programming track included a Latinx SFF panel, for example). Last year — in a welcome admission that even the intellectually predisposed need moments of bodily abandon — a dance party was added to the mix.
All of which is to say, that this year should have been great. And, in some ways it was. I spent time with a lot of wonderful people. The audience for my solo reading was fantastically supportive and appreciative. The new venue had better food, more lobby space and offered free wifi in private as well as public spaces.
But in ways that really matter to me, Readercon 27 wasn’t great at all.
There were more all-white panels than I remember from previous years. Microaggressions toward people of color became macro and played out in front of rooms full of people, and for the first time in my Readercon experience I came away from panels shaking my head at the stunningly unrepentant arrogance of members of the SFF community.
Others can speak to the panels they attended or were part of (the Readercon twitter timeline is full of incisive comment — I particularly suggest @ANerdCalledRage), I will stick to the worst of the ones I myself witnessed and have since been stewing about.
Beyond Strong Female Characters
This was a complete shitshow. Sorry, but there is no other way to describe it.
Within seconds of starting, the leader of the panel, Ellen Kushner, silenced Mikki Kendall (the one Black panelist) as she was speaking about the trope of the Strong Black Woman.
When Kendall gave pop culture examples of the Strong Black Woman trope, Kushner demanded literary ones in a move that was 50 percent gaslighting and 100 percent intellectual hubris.
Instead of actually grappling fully and honestly with the trope, Kushner asked for a show of hands from the audience from those who had heard of the Strong Black Woman trope and those who had read N.K. Jemisin, and seeing many hands, dismissed the need to speak further about it, or the way a Black American author has addressed it in her work.
“Well, that was graduate level comment,” Kushner said to Kendall at one point, in a comment so wincingly condescending it hurt me, as an audience member, just to hear it come out of her mouth.
Kushner is someone who, at my first Readercon, held a reading so spectacularly wonderful it still lives vividly in my memory. I’ve always liked her work; I’ve always admired her talent. But … but … I will never be able to unhear this comment and the disgraceful stereotype it plays to.
Because of Kushner’s antipathy toward Kendall, the other panel members — Delia Sherman (Kushner’s wife), Kat Howard and Natalie Luhrs (all white-appearing folks) — got a lot more time to address the topic at hand than Kendall did. At the end there was time for only a few audience questions. Thankfully, Readercon’s Emily Wagner directed her question to Kendall, and so gave her some time to speak without constraint … but it was way too little and way too late.
The panel was real time proof that the online discussion of white feminism’s exclusion and dismissal of the concerns of women of color, particularly Black women, is sadly on point.
Blue Collar SF
I don’t actually know the name of the leader of this panel but not too long into the panel, the words “too many chiefs, not enough ‘injuns’” came unabashedly out of his mouth. My friends Ezzy Guerrero Languzzi (a Mexican-American writer who has been attending Readercon for the past five years) and Kay Holt (one of the publishers of Crossed Genres) got up and left right then. I’m sure others did too.
I did not, I stayed — because it’s hard to look away from an accident, and also because I am eternally hopeful that clueless leaders will experience a corrective from their co-panelists (all of them, at this panel, white-appearing).
After some time of bemoaning the lack of blue collar protagonists (the leader listed some five or six books he remembered with blue collar protags, and Bud Sparhawk spoke about his own blue collar characters) I thought we were finally going to broach the complexities of depicting blue collar protagonists of color when Marissa Lingen brought up intersectionality.
But I ended up feeling both disappointed and let down by the partiality of her plea to remember women are blue collar workers too.
Fran Wilde did mention a writer of color — Nisi Shawl and her steampunk novel Everfair (which will launch in September) — but as in the previously described panel, it was too little and too late.
Oh, and again, the leader of this panel made the point that books, not media or pop culture, were the acceptable references and subjects for analysis at Readercon. I’m not sure why this point was being made over and over again by leaders of panels this year in a way I don’t remember from previous years — is it about “making Readercon great again”? (Yes, that is a very intentional choice of words.) But, no matter its intent, it really sticks in my craw, as all such “purist” pleas do.
The panels I was on
Two of the panels I was on, Cozy Dystopia (about Harry Potter’s dystopian elements) and Fantastical Dystopia were inexplicably programmed one right after the other. They were pretty white (I’m a white-appearing Latina), which I think is bizarre given the ongoing discussion about erasure of people of color from post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopian literary constructs.
Cozy Dystopia was a great panel, thanks in part to Kenneth Schneyer’s leadership and his willingness to broach every we issue raised, no matter how fractious or complicated.
Fantastical Dystopia, on the other hand, was really quite awful. I took on the role of leader the day before, and consequently hadn’t organized it — and it showed. I truly value everyone’s contributions under less than optimal conditions, but things never meshed for us. On the other hand, at least nothing “outright barbarous” (to, fittingly, quote George Orwell) was said or enacted by any panelist — which reportedly happened at other panels on dystopia and apocalyptic fiction.
The third panel I was on — Who Gets to Tell My Story? — was terrific. The panelists were, without exception, great and it ended up being led by Julia Starkey, because Mikki Kendall (the scheduled leader) thought she was going to be late. Kendall actually arrived just as the panel started, and the session was lively and dynamic. This was the Readercon I remembered and loved so much.
I don’t know for a fact if the panel composition was less diverse this year, but it sure seemed that way to me, and much of what happened during panels felt like a huge step backward because of it. The tweets I’ve seen about The Apocalypse Is Already Here; It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed and other panels I did not attend, seem to confirm that others felt that way too.
Where to go from here
Because I love Readercon, I hope the folks in charge find a way to look at what failed this year and why, and to understand what it might have meant to the first-time attendee of color in the audience.
I think this deserves as much thoughtful discussion as what took place during the harassment situation from years ago. I’m thinking that in-depth conversations with Mikki Kendall and Vandana Singh (if they are willing) and other folks who might have been subjected to public macro- and microaggressions are in order before next year’s planning begins.
Also, attendees of color should be invited to give their suggestions and recommendations to ensure that Readercon doesn’t garner — further? — a reputation as an unfriendly con for PoCs to attend.
There is an opportunity here for Readercon leaders to do better and to confront the damage done this year head-on. To paraphrase Dolores Huerta and conflate several of my favorite quotes from her: Every minute is a chance to change the world …now get off the sidewalk and march into history.
Updated 7/12/16 at 4:34: The leader of the Blue Collar SF panel was Allen Steele, per the comment on this post by one of his co-panelists.
Updated 7/11/16 at 2:38 p.m. to correct title of panel about which I’ve seen tweeted complaints.