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


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the con - it was my first time there, and from the looks of things, we attended some very different panels. There was a lot of variety!

I too got my copy of The Windup Girl and Ship Breaker signed by Mr. Bacigalupi, and I got to talk to him over the course of the con a couple of times - nice guy!

Anonymous said...

love the cover of The Windup Girl, intriguing.

that con sounds like a lot of fun. thanks for sharing your finds. will have to look up that indie film.

Unknown said...

The Windup Girl was one of the books I recommended for your husband last fall. :)

Still haven't read it myself, but it's on my shelf. Soon maybe.

caite said...

I have an audio copy of The Windup Girl which, for the life of me, I can not get through. Of course the death of my iTouch did not help. Not sure of it is the format..or the book..but still, I wish you better luck with it that I am having.

Lisa C. Hayden said...

ReaderCon sounds like it was lots of fun! I'll be interested to read what you think about the Petrushevskaya stories.

Mystica said...

You sound as if you had fun and thats the main thing - you enjoyed it!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Ooh, how fun to attend this -- I must admit, I'm not a sci-fi fan, but I've always been a die-hard fan of Ender's Game! I adore meeting an author and hearing their insight into their story, what drove them to write it, and all the other hodge-podge anecdotes that they share! Great insights into their personality and what is coming soon!

Space Station Mir said...

ReaderCon sounds awesome! I read a review of The Windup Girl that sounded interesting, but i was a bit hesitant, because it compared it to Neuromancer, which I really disliked. I'll be interested in seeing how you like it!

bermudaonion said...

I bet my son would love ReaderCon!

Zibilee said...

I actually just bought a copy of The Wind-Up Girl and am looking forward to reading it and sharing it with my husband! I am so glad that you had such an awesome time. I am wondering if this even comes to my city now!