I’m heading to Readercon this month, which is one of my favorite conventions. Here’s my schedule. I’ll have the tiny puppet show and the Shades and Glamour game cards with me.
Thursday July 14
- 8:00 PM F Mastering the Puppets. Erik Amundsen, Gwendolyn Clare, John Crowley, Mary Robinette Kowal (leader), Barry N. Malzberg.Catherynne M. Valente uses the phrase “touching the puppets” as critical shorthand for protagonists–and, by extension, stories–interacting with fantastical elements rather than merely coexisting with them. Copious puppet-touching creates an inherently speculative story (e.g. City of Saints and Madmen), but plenty of stories with speculative settings succeed despite leaving the puppets relatively untouched (e.g. Star Wars, in which the droids could be people and the lightsabers could be swords without changing the story at all). What makes those stories work for speculative fiction audiences? What are the advantages and disadvantages to touching the puppets, and what drives an author to go one way or the other?
Friday July 15
- 11:00 AM Vin. Kaffeeklatsch. Ellen Klages, Mary Robinette Kowal.
- 2:00 PM NH “Until Forgiveness Comes” group reading. K. Tempest Bradford, Jim Freund, Andrea Hairston, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ellen Kushner, Pan Morigan. A live performance of the radio play based on K. Tempest Bradford’s story “Until Forgiveness Comes.”
- 4:00 PM ME Vocal Performance for Writers. Jim Freund, Andrea Hairston, Mary Robinette Kowal, Pan Morigan. This two-hour workshop will cover a wide variety of tips and techniques for writers who read aloud, speak on panels, record podcasts, and otherwise use their voices. Full-body warm-ups will help free your voice for vocal exercises. We’ll also share suggestions for choosing a text, coping with different kinds of amplification and recording equipment, and preparing for interviews and Q&As.
Saturday July 16
- 1:30 PM NH Reading. Mary Robinette Kowal. Kowal reads from a work not yet selected.
- 8:00 PM F The 25th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. Mike Allen, Craig Shaw Gardner (leader), Mary Robinette Kowal, Yves Meynard, Eric M. Van (moderator). Our traditional evening entertainment, named in memory of the pseudonym and alter ego of Jonathan Herovit of Barry N. Malzberg’s Herovit’s World. Here’s how it works: Ringleader Craig Shaw Gardner reads a passage of unidentified but genuine, published, bad sf, fantasy, or horror prose, which has been truncated in mid-sentence. Each of our panelists then reads an ending for the passage. One ending is the real one; the others are impostors. None of the players knows who wrote any passage other than their own, except for co-ringleader Eric M. Van, who gets to play God as a reward for the truly onerous duty of unearthing these gems. Craig then asks for the audience vote on the authenticity of each passage (recapping each in turn by quoting a pithy phrase or three from them), and the Ace Readercon Joint Census Team counts up each show of hands faster than you can say “Twinkies of Terror.” Eric then reveals the truth. Each contestant receives a point for each audience member they fooled, while the audience collectively scores a point for everyone who spots the real answer. As a rule, the audience finishes third or fourth. Warning: the Sturgeon General has determined that this trash is hazardous to your health; i.e., if it hurts to laugh, you’re in big trouble.
Sunday July 17
- 12:00 PM F A Fate Worse than Death: Narrative Treatment of Permanent Physical Harm. John Crowley, Glenn Grant, Mary Robinette Kowal, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Alicia Verlager (leader). Cinderella’s sisters cut off parts of their feet. Rapunzel’s prince loses his eyes to a thorn bush. But in present-day fantasy, it seems less shocking to kill a character than to significantly and permanently damage their physical form; witness the thousands of deaths in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series that don’t get nearly as much airtime as one character losing a hand. What changed–for storytellers, and for audiences? How does this fit in with our culture’s mainstream acceptance of violence alongside an obsession with youth and physical perfection? As medical advances help people survive and thrive after drastic injuries, will there be more stories that explore these topics?