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 We're I at WorldCon...

09-03-04: Panels of Interest...

Full Schedule Here:

A Potted Guide to the Con -- even though I'm not there! Links are to Index entries for reviewed authors.

Friday 10:00 a H205:

A Group Reading from The Thackery T. Lambshead Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases

Join Drs. Cory Doctorow, Jay Lake, Paul DiFilippo, Liz Williams, and presiding physician Jeff VanderMeer for a brief "medial conference" on outlandish and ridiculous diseases, including props and giant microbes.

Paul DiFilippo, Cory Doctorow, Jay Lake, Jeff VanderMeer, Liz Williams

[Comment: Actually, I might even be in this one. And I'd love to have brought props, though I don't know if they'd have let me bring a chainsaw on the airplane.]

Friday 10:00 a H204:

New England in Science Fiction and Fantasy

The locale of SF stories is often an important element of plot and style. LA, New York, London, New Orleans—these and other cities have served as the distinct locations in many stories. What about Boston and other places around New England? A lot of writers live in this region, but how do they use it in their stories? Does locating a story in Boston, Providence, rural Maine and so on make a distinct contribution to the look and feel of SF & fantasy plots? Or would a story set in this region have the same grounding if it was located anywhere else?

Elizabeth Hand, Faye Ringel (m), Allen Steele

[Comment: H.P. Lovecraft country comes under discussion as does Sylvia Townsend Warner, F. Paul Wilson, etc. And an opportunity to hear Elizabeth Hand speak.]

Friday 11:00 a H204:

Building the Buzz

What makes one novel merely successful and another a blockbuster best seller? Is it the buzz the latter generates? What make one book have buzz and another not? Can you cite examples? What kinds of buzz are there—and what is most effective at promoting a book? What can a publisher do to generate or enhance the buzz for a particular book?

Jim Butcher, Craig Engler, Andrew Wheeler (m)

[Comment: Wearing both my writer hat and my book promoter hat at once!]

Friday 11:00 a H301:

What is Genre?

Ellen Kushner has informed us about the recently-formed website of the Interstitial Arts Foundation A browse shows lots of great reading and fiercely intelligent discussion on a range of topics that span literature, art, music and performance which cannot easily be classified by conventional genre boundaries or any boundaries at all.

We will skip the paradox of such "interstitial arts" forming its own genre and cut to the chase. What does it mean to be part of a "genre"? If you don't fit comfortably in SF or fantasy or horror or mainstream or fiction/nonfiction, where do they file you in the bookstore? What is the larger cultural significance of crossover material? What does it imply for the future of SF literature? Who is writing stories that fall between the cracks?

Ellen Asher, Jay Caselberg (m), James Minz, Takayuki Tatsumi, Carrie Vaugh

[Comment: Devil's advocate time. Nothing is more enjoyable than this argument, it's better than politics and quite similarly meaningless!]

Friday 11:00 a H304:

Locus Awards

Charles N. Brown (m), Lois McMaster Bujold, Cory Doctorow, Gardner Dozois, Neil Gaiman, Michael Whelan, Connie Willis

[Comment: Star-studded panel, eh?]

Friday 11:00 a H311:

What Should Good Fantasy Do?

Should it inspire, teach, intimidate, educate? How about divert, relax, amuse, or awaken? The panelists will choose their own verbs—and in the process, explain how good fantasy differs from not-so-good fantasy.

Daniel Abraham (m), John Clute, Justine Larbalestier, Farah Mendelsohn, Laura Underwood

[Comment: Never miss an opportunity to hear John Clute. Ever.]

Friday 12:00 n H311:

The Future of Short Fiction (and the Magazines)

Okay, it wouldn't be a Worldcon without this item, would it? The big pro magazines have been losing circulation steadily for many years. The original anthology market is a shadow of its former self. Yet new magazines keep popping up, and some publish a few impressive issues. Is short fiction becoming a hobby? And what does it mean when publishing short fiction is often considered a vital step on the way to publishing novels?

John Betancourt, Nicholas A. DiChario, Gardner Dozois, Stanley Schmidt (m), Gordon Van Gelder, Sheila Williams

[Comment: Since I agonize over this regularly, I'd be entertained by seeing professionals do so. They deserve to!]

Friday 12:00 n H312:

Modernism and SF

Modernism—Faulkner, Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Cabell—was the dominant literary mode when modern science fiction had its formative period during the 1930s and early 1940s. What unappreciated influences did it exert over the evolving pulp genre?

Gregory Feeley, Eileen Gunn (m), David G. Hartwell, James Morrow

[Comment: Enough pith to pack a helment or two. And an opportunity to hear some icons speak. This is mind-exapanding panel-going at its finest.]

Friday 1:00 p H303:

Is your "First Novel" a First Novel?

So, you think the first novel you finish is your first novel, but is it? It could be a third or fourth novel as far as an editor is concerned. Come learn how to write a first novel from folks who've written several among their many novels.

Phyllis Eisenstein, Terry McGarry, Mike Shepherd-Moscoe (m), Scott Westerfeld

[Comment: Potentially useful and depressing.]

Friday 1:00 p H304:

Looking Backward: the 20th Century

It was a time of terrible wars and great evils and unparalleled progress, ending with democracy triumphant, right? Well…It was also the time of Milton Berle and Cheese Whiz™, love beads and Elvis, and…

Will the writers and fans of the late 21st century look back on the 20th century with nostalgia, with surprise, or with horror? How will people in far future times look at us? Imagine what things about the 20th century that those in the future will look back on in the same way as we view the Roman gladiators.

Esther Friesner (m), Craig Gardner, Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi

[Comment: If you don't want to be depressed, at least have some fun.]

Friday 1:00 p H311:

One Day in the Life of an Edito

An hour by hour account of what an editor actually does. It's 11:00 am.—do you know where your manuscript is?

Tina Beychok, Ellen Datlow, Scott Edelman, Jim Grimsley, Sheila Williams (m)

[Comment: Potentially enlightening and depressing.]

Friday 2:00 p H310:

The MIT Media Lab: A Visit From the Future

What's cookin' at the Media Lab? MIT's well known research organization has garnered a reputation as a leading-edge center for developments in machine understanding, affective computing, advanced interface design, nanomedia, silicon biology and digital expression, among other fields, that may influence how we use technology in the years ahead—not to mention provide fertile ideas for science fiction stories. This panel features presentations from Lab researchers on a sample of current activities.

Bill Higgins, Marvin Minsky, Sandy Pentland

[Comment: One of those essential deals that may or may not prove to be a revelation.]

Friday 2:00 p H311:

Cyber-Crime: Present and Future

A broad panel about the future of cyber-crime and the abuse of the Internet, along with the steps that might be taken to control this? Will we one day have that massive cyber attack that literally brings the world to its knees?

Charles Ardai, Michael Benveniste (m), Harold Feld, Charlie Petit

[Comment: Not yet really relevant, and therefore utterly relevant. And where are Stross and Doctorow?]

Friday 2:00 p H312:

The Long and Short of It: Short Stories vs. Novels

According to the bestseller lists, the most popular works among American readers seem to be long novels. And yet, short stories often seem to linger in people's memories much more intensely. What's the "ideal" length for a work of science fiction or fantasy? How is this determined? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two forms?

Nicholas A. DiChario, Jay Caselberg (m), William Tenn, David Marusek, Robert Reed, Sarah Zettel

[Comment: A fascinating discussion of intgerest to both readers and writers, with panelists both iconic and new.]

Friday 3:00 p H303:

All About Agents

Are they necessary? How do you find the right one? What do you have to know to keep from getting scammed, and how can they actually protect you (if you're lucky)?

Joshua Bilmes (m), Charlie Petit, George H. Scithers, Eleanor Wood

[Comment: Probably a good bet for writers looking for agents, no? And George Scithers!]

Friday 3:00 p H306:

The Future of the Future

The future looks different to many of us now than it did just a few years ago To what degree is the concept of an open, freely-imagined future under attack in our own culture, from either the right or the left? To what degree have larger cultural currents affected the SF portrayal of the future? And how does SF imagine its own future? (Or is it, too, stuck in a cycle of recurrence, of hankering for a restoration of its own Golden Age? What is the outlook for the future?

Elizabeth Bear, Judith Berman (m), Daniel Hatch, Dennis Livingston, Walter Jon Williams

[Comment: A fascinating subject and some great panelists.]

Friday 4:00 p H204:

Crossing Over

Is cross-genre writing becoming more popular? Why or why not? What are the special challenges of it? The rewards?

Lisa Barnett, Joshua Bilmes, Laura Anne Gilman (m), Charlaine Harris, Sue Krinard, Madeleine E. Robins

[Comment: Some interesting panelists and an evergreen subject.]

Friday 4:00 p H311:

The Future of the News Media

Things have changed in many ways over the last year. How is the current political situation affecting the news media, and where will this take us in the future?

Sally Wiener Grotta, Daniel Hatch (m), Allen Steele, Rick Wilber

[Comment: Lots of room for mind-expanding commentary from astute panelists.]

Friday 4:00 p H312:

Everything You Know Is Wrong: SF That Questions Reality

Over the years, a number of SF works have played with reality. Phil Dick wrote many novels asking what is real. The trend has accelerated recently, to the point where even wildly popular movies like The Truman Show, Pleasantville, and The Matrix are looking at similar issues.

This panel discusses SF that plays with reality. What are the seminal works in this subgenre? Is it really getting more popular now? If so, why?

Jack Dann, John R. Douglas, Evelyn C. Leeper (m), Barry N. Malzberg, Eric M. Van, Robert Charles Wilson

[Comment: Our favorite kind of fiction gets an airing with a number of its best practitioners.]

Friday 5:00 p H204:

The Salvation of the Modern Novel

At the 1965 Loncon, Harry Harrison gave a speech that set forth the notion that science fiction was now the only route open for writing abut the modern world, as science was the main feature of the modern world that distinguished it from previous eras. True then? Now? Has anything changed? And if so, what?

Jim Grimsley (m), Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Harry Harrison, Andrew Wheeler, Paul Witcove

[Comment: A stellar panel, a great topic; what more can you ask?]

Friday 5:00 p H310:

Drunk on Technology?

We're living in a science fiction world and its technological magic is getting wilder and more wonderful by the minute. Are these marvels going to our heads? If they are, is it in a "good" way or a "bad" way? How do we deal with the intoxication of "present shock"?

Cory Doctorow
(m), Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Charles Stross

[Comment: By Friday at 5 PM they better be drunk on more than technology! Stellar panelists, great topic.]

Friday 5:00 p H311:

The Emotional Palette of Horror

What are some sources of fear in horror? Why aren't some things scary anymore? After all, the classic horror film ideas are no longer frightening to today's audiences. Is it still entertaining to be scared?

Simon R. Green
, Steven Sawicki, Darrell Schweitzer, Rick Wilber (m), Trish Wilson

[Comment: Glad I'm not there, as in writing I can go to two stellar panels at once. A topic close to my heart, especially now that it's been ripped from my chest and offered to the Aztec gods. Hope they like cholesterol.]

Friday 6:00 p H206:

Constructing Technobabble

How do people come up with all these new words (and brand names, drug names, etc.) that permeate the linguistic landscape? Are there tricks to this kind of word coinage, certain language always used (or, overused), certain sound combinations that convey special meanings? How does globalization affect this process: incorporating word roots from more exotic cultures? Why do some coinages fail to catch on?

Mark Mandel (m), John McDaid, Scott Westerfeld

[Comment: A fascinating topic close to the heart of reading and writing.]

Note to readers and self: Westerfeld shows up in a lot of panels I like, mayhaps I ought to check out his fiction.