6.02.2004

What I learned at Wiscon

Damn. That was fun. Mortgage your house so you can go next year.

Talk.

Ask all your important questions before Wiscon, so they can get answered at Wiscon.

Mingle.

Get involved.

Try not to get too drunk/caffeinated/dehydrated that you miss most of the next day's events (Sorry, Pam and other Saturday panel/party people--the karaoke sounded fun).

***

New books and magazines appeared:

Richard Butner's collection, Horses Blow Up Dog City & Other Stories
(which includes this audio of his story, Ash City Stomp)

L. Timmel Duchamp's collection, Love's Body, Dancing in Time

Jennifer Stevenson's novel, Trash Sex Magic

Sean Stewart's novel Perfect Circle

Leslie What's novel, Olympic Games
(excerpted in progress at Fantastic Metropolis)

The Dogtown Review
(first issue, so the website does not yet exist)

Flytrap
(I’m waiting for my copy in the mail, Tim!)

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet

Problem Child

Rabid Transit
(new issue not listed yet--get with it, guys!)

Say... Why Aren't We Crying?

***

Forthcoming books announced:

Aqueduct Press
L. Timmel Duchamp's Alanya to Alanya
Gwyneth Jones’ Life
The Same River Twice edited by Kathryn Wilham

Tachyon
James Morrow's new collection, The Cat's Pajamas
Eileen Gunn's first collection, ever!, Stable Strategies
(Gunn is also the editor of Infinite Matrix)
Suzy McKee Charnas' new collection, Stagestruck Vampires (will include stories that won the Hugo and the Nebula)
An annual James Tiptree anthology that will include the winner(s) and fellow runner-ups
A reissue of James Tiptree's Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

***

David Hartwell offered a discount on subscriptions to New York Review of Science Fiction, so if he has a table at a convention, ask!

Nisi Shawl said that Clarion West is doing a fund-raiser where graduates get sponsors to contribute based on the wordage produced. I hated soliciting money as a kid, so I won't be doing this myself. If you graduated and are fund-motivated, you may want to contact Nisi or West to find out more information (she said it's on the website, but I couldn't find it).

Kelly Link appears to be changing her style--at least in the story she read, in this particular draft. I was reminded of a Kurt Vonnegut novel made into a short story, albeit Link-ishly. (Too bad Vonnegut didn't do something like this for his own short work. Good sturdy SF satire, but it might have stood more of the Vonnegut stamp.)

Cheryl Morgan, while offering the occasional, problematic reasoning in a review that causes minor brouhahas, is almost always interesting. (She was the one who quoted Cheney, as I mentioned below.) She said something that makes me wish I'd written it down now.

Eleanor Arnason suggested that, when it comes to economics, ask what really motivates people, and look for no wish fulfillment or zero sums (i.e. someone must lose for my gain).

Barth Anderson is not only one cool dude but also a pretty damn sharp critiquer and knows a helluva lot about food. If you get a chance, say "Hi" and, even better, workshop with him. I kicked myself for missing his panel (although he said the agronomist knew more than he, so he let her do the talking).

Which brings me to my next thought: Could it be that panels aren't as enlightening as they could be? What if only one or two or three at most spoke, presenting dissenting opinions? It seems that panels barely wade into their topics before splashing back out.

The Interstitial Arts will not develop a theory, limiting the usefulness of "interstitial" as a term in any critical sense or any other understanding, for that matter, unless it allows itself to be nailed down which it won't do, but the participants will enjoy playing a game of shifting, slippery rules. I still think there's an interesting theory brewing if people would just allow it to emerge. I expounded on it here via Kevin Brockmeier's "The Ceiling" (Midori Snyder posted my email to her) but plan on extending it with Karen Joy Fowler's "What I Didn't See." I've been meaning to post more here than I have. Bad me.

"Organized Religion: Part of the Problem? or All of the Problem?" A lesson in creating false dichotomies? Too bad I missed this one. It was packed, standing room only.

Joan Vinge offered this juicy bit about scenes from her ex-husband and friend, Vernor: 1) Build world. 2) Move plot. 3) Develop character. If only more writers would heed their advice. (This works for literary stories; see below, regarding workshops.)

Four different professional writers on three occasions suggested that neither a writer nor a critic should take criticism seriously--even when they insult your mother and your dog.

Via the workshop, I alchemically distilled the magical difference between the traditional literary story and the traditional speculative story (hasn't everyone been itching to name this for the past century?): In explaining to an author about putting literariness into a literary story, I realized that literary stories primarily offer bits of characters in scene while speculative works seek to offer bits of ideas. One should not attempt to put up for critique a literary story for SF folk or an SF story for literary folk. I'd put up a controversial story I'd been working on for five years since Clarion West, but never submitted anywhere due to the response received... and found it was still too controversial. Fearing I'd have to think on it off and on for another five years, I finally struck the nub of the matter and questioned Fowler on her thoughts. Two minutes! Two minutes of consultation and the answer unfolded. The woman is a beauty inside and out. Who could not be jealous of Mr. Fowler? What would it cost to clone her?

***

Christopher Rowe was one of my two most impressive discoveries. Andrea Hairston, the other. I have no evidence for this. They did not read published works. They did not supply copies for listeners, either.

Don't I know Hairston from Clarion West? Alas, poor Yorick, 'tis true, but if you're careful, you'll note I used the term "discovery," which is neither hyperbole nor a cruel cut but which means I think she's made stunning progress in five years. Her earlier work was definitely interesting (see Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, the sequel to the World-Fantasy-winning anthology for an excerpt of her first novel) but not nearly this... stunning. One might argue convincingly that I am biased because I am too familiar with Hairston and, therefore, cannot make any critical judgments concerning her work. On the other hand, one might argue that I can only make a statement about Hairston because I am more familiar with her work than Rowe's. Surely, a short short and a novel excerpt do not a grand critical judgment make. I disagree with both perspectives. Just as a good editor does not need to read every page of every story within the slush, a good critic can notice talent, or lack thereof, in a few pages. Conversely, I cannot be too bold when proclaiming the virtue of their novels which are as yet uncompleted. What I'm giving you is a heads-up. Go check out their works when they become available.

Both she and Rowe can have a huge potential cross-pollination if they play their cards right. Their appeal is both emotive and character-driven although their backgrounds make their work distinct from the common literary fray. Hairston is a twenty-year veteran of theater with grants from Rockefeller and the National Endowment for the Arts (see the review of her play, Soul Repairs; she also directed a reading of the play adaptation of the Charnas' award-winning story, forthcoming from the book mentioned above). Her readings are always a dramatic pleasure. Rowe is a veteran of Kentucky. His accent sounded less severe and more lispy (in a cute way, gals, but I believe he's spoken for) in casual conversation, but as he gets rolling through the reading, the lisp all but disappears and the Kentuckian bluegrass twang plucks like a crossroad banjo player, picking against the devil. He's had work in Realms of Fantasy, Ideomancer (not once, not twice but thrice and interviewed to boot), and Infinite Matrix.

***

I meant to attend more readings. I meant to riff off Alan Lattimore's idea that SF needs to be sexy and present the hot new mamas of SF or whatever. The road to hell and all that. One of these days, as Pink Floyd likes to say, I will.

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