One of the metaphors that comes up a lot at 4th St.–that certainly came up at 4th St. a lot this year–is genre as conversation, literature in general as conversation. And we kept emphasizing how far back this stuff goes, how people have been turning over ideas about the stories they tell and how they relate to the lives they lead for Quite Some Time Now Really.
It was a 4th St. It was so good. Oh wait: I already said it was a 4th St.
Con reports are hard, as better people than I have said before, because there is so much of the conversation about the con, and conversations are about flow, they’re about relationship, and so even when you remember great lines like Bear’s, “These Dead Marshes aren’t going to cross themselves!”, they don’t fit, they don’t give the full flavor, so you end up waving your hands incoherently.
I think starting with “Idiom, Character, and World Building” was a particularly good notion, because it felt like a lot of stuff in the rest of the con built on that. As usual I know that the panelists had cool stuff they didn’t get a chance to talk to, but that’s a sign that things are going well, not poorly. My own panels–Short Fiction, Tell Don’t Show, and That’s Another Panel (this year’s theme: Swearing)–felt to me like they went really well, and again, I was always left with more stuff I could say, and felt like the other panelists and audience were too. I did not, for example, have to resort to talking about James Michener on TDS, which would have gone better before I read Space this month. I think “fantasy of discovery” is a very useful framing of the lower-violence/variant-conflict fantasy, because it does an end run around the idea that if people aren’t fighting each other, nothing happens. I think Beth’s idea that deliberately broken structure can enhance reader attention will be very useful indeed. I think–a lot of things, honestly, but I’m full of tired, so getting them to come out coherently instead of just blurting, “I FIXED MY BOOK! Well, conceptually. The actual work of fixing my book is still to come,” is hard right now.
What you’ve probably already heard before: it was a 4th St. with nearly 24 hours without power. But that was okay, for most values of okay, for most of us. There were some really charming aspects: conversing by emergency light, or in the pitch dark. Doing music in the dark. Someone in the letters to the editor was predictably grumping about how we are not Resilient And Independent Like Our Forefathers Of Yore, and honestly: this is nonsense. Even people who had not packed for a power outage and didn’t have the candles and flashlights they would have at home managed to have a perfectly lovely evening using their cell phones for flashlights and their friends’ voices for beacons. It was fine. Modern humanity is fine. (Also, honestly, I had to wonder whether the power outage served as a convenient lightning rod, so to speak, for any crankiness anyone might have brought in. Possibly there was nitpicking elsewhere, but I didn’t hear any of it, and there’s always somebody who comes in grumpy and looks for something to blame. So hey, convenient, something to blame! Or else this was just an unusually good year. But past Fourth Streets have been awesome too, so I think probably something was a factor, and this seems logical to me.)
I don’t think we could replicate the experience by just turning off the lights in the con suite, and frankly that sounds pretty creepy to me. But having it occur naturally–I forget who was referring to it as camp–I think maybe Suzanne?–but at any rate we got some of the better parts of camp as well as some of the worse. (Hot water: do want.) And it was Fourth Street, so–yeah. I got to see some of my favorite people in the world, and they got me thinking about all sorts of useful stuff that will percolate out into the rest of my year. I love this con.
(PS Tim also has a con report. I think he captured much of the flavor of things.)