Yet another great time at Readercon this year! The panel topics had their usual sweep of the field, from Mark Twain, to Mark Clifton, and most places interstitial…yet the mood of the conference was clearly influenced by the passing of two major figures in SF’s new wave: Joanna Russ and Tom Disch. In memorializing Disch, can you imagine a more appropriate set of panelists than Charles Platt, John Crowley, John Clute, Chip Delany, and Gregory Feeley? It is always interesting to be part of a living literary tradition — sf fandom — that celebrates itself, its heroes and villains, its friendships and bitter feuds, by directly mixing the authors, editors, fans and miscellaneous hangers on in a single venue.
Gordon van Gelder launched the session by asking the panelists to relate an anecdote about great editing, and Patrick O’Leary started off with a note about David Hartwell. O’Leary said, “Hartwell grasped the contents of a story I sent him and shook them down to their basic elements, then he tossed them back at me and demanded a rewrite, along the lines of: Does the main character of this story have to be a monster, a pederast, AND a fire-breathing dragon? Why not just pick two of those and go with that?” Brian Francis Slattery pointed out, that even though editors suggestions can often save a bad story, if they get too involved in the writing process, they can edit the story into incoherence. He cited an example of his own editing in which he so completely rewrote the story that it was both unrecognizable as the author’s style and had, at the same time, become incomprehensible. Barry Malzberg said that if he had to choose an example, he would cite Horace Gold, “for pulling the Demolished Man out Alfred Bester, which was a great exploit!” Van Gelder asked, “What about Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon? Isn’t there a story about Gold asking Keyes to change the ending, and Keyes’ neighbor said to him, if you do that, I’ll go back to my house, get a baseball bat and use it break both your knees!”
Great fun at this year’s Readercon 2010, which left me with plenty of food for thought! My stash was nicely replenished with a few dozens books, including some works by Jack Vance, Mack Reynolds and Tim Powers, whose backlist I’ve been catching up on recently. Speaking of Vance, our friends at StarShipSofa have conducted a fine hour-long interview with him, worthy of a listen. In the dealer’s room, I have to say that Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld and Wyrm Publishing) had a terrific rack of cheap books, for which I thank him immensely! Neil had a signed copy of the rare Fain the Sorcerer by Steve Aylett, who wrote the really strange biography of SF’s mysterious Lint, among other excursions into the bizarre. Although Neil’s price was really reasonable, it would have cost more than the entire stack of books I purchased at the con… so maybe when I get rich! Dark Hollow books, along with all their fine supernatural horror selection, had a box of 50 cent paperbacks where I scored copies of Moorcock’s Hollow Lands and Fury by Henry Kuttner. Thanks kind people! Also of interest was my conversation with Darrel Schweitzer about my good friend Harry O. Morris. Darrell said that it was Harry O., in his famous Lovecraftian zine Nyctalops, who discovered both the writer Thomas Ligotti and the artist J.K. Potter. Although Harry often mentioned various works by Ligotti and Potter in our conversations, he never once bragged about having “discovered” them, in any sense. So it was really a pleasant surprise to hear those words of recognition from a supernatural horror writer and scholar of Schweitzer’s stature. Disclosure: I suppose Harry O. “discovered” me too, since my teenage participation in various exquisite corpse poems (with Harry O.) and collages (with Leslie Hall) were published in Nyctalops here and there. Caveat: probably “discovery” doesn’t count unless I do something more significant, like publish a novel or painting elsewhere, though, alas…
This panel featured Jeanne Cavelos , Joy Marchand , David Nurenberg , Allan Steele and GOH Gardner Dozois , who discussed the relationship between writer and editor in the SF field and how the situation has changed. In their opening remarks, Cavelos related her experience as a senior editor in New York, where she found that the interest editors take in nurturing new authors from unknowns into big names has fallen victim to the push for blockbusters. Today, if an editor is not advocating for a bestseller to the senior editors, to her peers, to the sales division, to the assistant editors and designers she’ll be out of a job. Allen Steele pointed out that short fiction editors still manage to read the submissions they find interesting, and they’ll take the time to send comments back to the author or ask for changes. “Short fiction editors still edit,” said Dozois, “ but at the major publishing houses, who’s in charge? In fact, it’s the sales people who end up canceling book deals.” Nurenberg emphasized how incredibly valuable the feedback he received from games publisher White Wolf was to his career, “like water to a drowning man…“ As that analogy didn’t make much sense, he said, “I mean to a thirsty.” Somehow the object of the verb got lost, but we get the idea!
At my first Arisia, I found myself weaving through crowds of strangely-coiffed pirates, rocketeers, and gamers; wondering at what point my own personality would intersect with one of those cliques an
If, like me, you can’t make it up to Montreal for Worldcon 2009, you can at least graze on the feeds and photostreams. Enjoy vicariously! Voyageur, official Anticipation Newsletter Stross - Krug
Did SF become irrelevant after the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969? This panel explored the relationship between the Apollo program and SF, and the ways in which SF did or didn’t live up to its visionary potentials after manned space flight became a reality. Paul De Fillippo kicked things off by asking to what extent SF inspired the space program? And to what extent did the eventual breakdown of the manned space program affect SF?
This panel included Barry Malzberg, Allen Steele, James Morrow, and Rick Wilber. Rachel Pollack was scheduled to appear, but nobody seemed to know where she was. By way of introduction, Rick Wilber had prepared some sort of pseudo-clever analogy about the panelists, saying that they were at different places along the timeline. Wilber said that Allen Steele, having already published 15 novels was someplace near mid-career, and that James Morrow was “settled” into a successful career with a number of major achievements under his belt. Then Wilber introduced Barry Malzberg, with his long and distinguished career, as “still active in the field…” Somehow you could sense the fumble on that last note, which provoked Malzberg to pounce into action: “What a euphemism!” he roared. “Just say it: I’m an ancient writer, a washed up writer! Remember when Tom Disch said we’re all just ‘robots wired for sound?’ Well you can just go ahead and say a corpse wired for sound.” Richard Wilber, recovering, said: “Ok, late career…” “Autumnal!” said Malzberg.