Friday, July 16, 2010

ReaderCon, Friday Finds and What I Found at ReaderCon

Last weekend I attended Readercon 21, a three-day-long fan-produced conference on the subject of science fiction and fantasy literature. But Marie, I hear you say, you are a literary fiction snob. What were you doing at a sff con? Well, last year I went because my husband asked me to, but I had such a good time I actually wanted to go this year. I even went so far as to volunteer at the con! It was a different experience than last year, but still worthwhile. I learned a lot, saw some friends and made some new ones. And I always say a good con is any one where you hug at least one pal.

The con spanned Friday through Sunday. I spent most of Friday (six hours or so) volunteering in the green room- the room where the authors go to relax between sessions. Readercon runs their authors ragged- one author can have a half dozen or more panels in the course of the weekend- so they need their downtime. No photos or autographs are allowed; my job was to keep the snacks and beverages stocked, and provide a welcoming atmosphere. The bonus is that volunteers do get to chat with authors sometimes, and I was lucky enough to say hi to one of the guests of honor, author Charles Stross, who confided that his new novel was going to be "Charlie's big gay detective show," in other words something different from what his fans might expect. That made me laugh.

Afterwards, I attended a session called "The Best of the Small Press," about interesting books coming from smaller publishers. Unfortunately the acoustics were not great and I didn't get many titles written down but some of what I did write down included
  • What I Didn't See, stories from Karen Joy Fowler coming in September from Small Beer Press,
  • Mirror Kingdom, by Peter S. Beagle from Subterranean, and
  • Sympathy for the Devil, a collection including Michael Chabon, Kelly Link and Stephen King, from Nightshade Books.
Later I attended a very good session on digital publishing by Cecilia Tan. She talked about different options available to authors now and those coming up and quoted some statistics on consumer attitudes towards e-books. My favorite session of Friday is the same as last year- Biblioholics Anonymous. It's the last session of the day and it's basically a chance for booknuts like me to bond and share stories. British author Robert Shearman talked about traveling to places like Russia and Greece and finding impossible-to-duplicate treasures in little bookstores, then claimed to have amassed a library of over 14,000 books. It sort of made me feel better about my own book-hoarding!

The highlight of Saturday was the "Year in Novels" presentation. This is the session I always hope will give me some ideas for science fiction that I might want to read, and I was not disappointed. I picked up The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi in the dealer's room afterwards based on a recommendation at this session; other titles mentioned include Julian Comstock, by Robert Charles Wilson and Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Unfortunately no handout was available and the acoustics were poor so it was hard to get it all on paper.
But I did get my copy of The Windup Girl signed by author Bacigalupi.

Saturday evening we attended a screening of "Get Lamp," an independent film about text adventures such as Zork, hosted by director Jason Scott. My husband is a huge Zork fan and has already pre-ordered this entertaining movie.

Sunday was a shorter day as the con ended around 3:00pm. The highlight of the day for me was definitely the presentation of the Shirley Jackson Awards, given every year for works of "horror, psychological suspense and the dark fantastic," emceed by convention guest of honor Nalo Hopkinson. Victor Lavalle's book Big Machine won for Best Novel, which made me happy because I had picked it up on Saturday in the dealer's room. Robert Shearman of Biblioholics fame shared the award for Single Author Collection for his book, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical.

I got a third book as well- Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's collection of short stories, There Once Was a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales. Petrushevskaya was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award for this book. You can find a full list of Shirley Jackson winners here.

Last year I came home with three books from ReaderCon and even managed to read two of them; I hope to continue that trend and maybe even exceed it this year!

More Friday Finds at