Readercon programming schedule

Classic Nonfiction Essay Club: “Estrangement and Cognition” by Darko Suvin
Meg Elison (mod), Tom Greene, Alexander Jablokov, Marissa Lingen, Graham Sleight
Fri 1:00 PM, Salon B
Darko Suvin’s preferred edition of his essay “Estrangement and Cognition,” coining the oft-repeated statement that SF is the literature of cognitive estrangement, first appeared in 1979. (Strange Horizons later reprinted it online.) It was a decade in the making, and the world and SF both changed quite a bit from 1969 to 1979. We’ll consider “Estrangement and Cognition” in the context of SF’s New Wave, the political upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s, and the subsequent shifts in speculative genres.

17776 and All That: The Crumbling of the Jock-Nerd Divide
Susan Bigelow, Keffy R.M. Kehrli, Robert Killheffer, Marissa Lingen (mod), Cecilia Tan
Fri 6:00 PM, Salon B
Jon Bois’s wild digital narrative “17776: What Football Will Look Like in the Future” appeared on SB Nation, a sports news website, and aimed straight at the commonalities of sports and SF fandoms: rules and ways around the rules, glorious absurdity, tragedy alongside heroism. The jock-nerd divide has crumbled. What does that mean for nerd lit? Will cerebral SF embrace sweaty physicality? Will epic hockey games replace epic battlefields? This panel of sports-fan fans will discuss these possibilities and more.

Reading: Marissa Lingen
Sat 11:00 AM, Salon C

You Know, It Kinda Grows on You
James Patrick Kelly (mod), Marissa Lingen, Arkady Martine, Eric Schaller, David G. Shaw
Sat 3:00 PM, Salon B
Spaceships that are giant plants, humans whose brains rival supercomputers, lizards bred to function as flying flamethrowers—these are just a few science-fictional examples of how humans might manipulate their bodies and environments to support the human race’s spread throughout the universe. This panel will examine imagined technology that lives and breathes, and how human life might change and grow alongside it.

Lloyd Alexander, Existentialist
C.S.E. Cooney, Andrea Martinez Corbin, Chris Gerwel, Marissa Lingen (mod), Sonya Taaffe
Sun 11:00 AM, Salon 3
Lloyd Alexander, translator of Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote an existentialist epic fantasy series. As Jesse Schotter writes on Full Stop, “The end of The High King, and Taran’s choice to remain in Prydain… salvage[s] the idea of free will within the deterministic framework of the genre.” How did existentialism influence Alexander’s other work (Time Cat, the Westmark trilogy)? What are other examples of existentialist speculative fiction epics? With the present deconstruction of prophecy-driven epics, how can writers learn from Alexander’s work?

Fourth Street Fantasy schedule

You already know that I am one of the workshop leaders for this year, and if that is relevant to your life, you have signed up for it already!

In addition, I am on one panel this single-track convention, and that is:

Saturday 8:00 PM – The Role of Narratology in Adaptation

Casey Blair, Kent Davis, Seth Dickinson, Marissa Lingen, Arkady Martine (M)

All art is in conversation with other art, and nowhere is that more clear than in adaptation. Transforming works of art is a fundamentally creative process that, done well, keeps core pieces of the story familiar while also shifting the narrative focus to appeal and make sense to new audiences with different perspectives. Fanfiction and the act of retelling tales are as old as stories and equally worthy creative pursuits, giving us opportunities to center the experiences of other identities, to explore issues previous story iterations didn’t. Applying concepts of narratology as they pertain to how we transform stories so their meaning makes sense to a different audience, this panel will discuss the artistic challenges and pitfalls in adapting stories as well as why this kind of narrative iteration is culturally critical.

Looking forward to seeing so many people there!

We’re getting the band back together!

Arkady Martine, Django Wexler, John Chu, and I had so much fun teaching the workshop at 4th St. Fantasy convention last year that we’re doing it again this year…but with a twist! This year’s theme is “Getting Unstuck.” Participants in the workshop should submit pieces they’re stuck on–not outlines but some prose written–and we’ll use tactics both usual and zany to get through the block. We’ll work on identifying patterns that contribute to getting stuck as well as ways out.

The deadline for signing up for the workshop is May 20, but it’s first-come first-served–AND convention membership rates go up on March 1–so now is a great time to sign up!

ConFusion schedule

Hurrah, the schedule is available! Here’s your closer look at where you can find me:

An Author’s Guide to Newsletters. Friday, 2:00, Erie. Angus Watson (M), Lawrence M. Schoen, Marissa Lingen, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Natalie Luhrs. Keeping up with the shifting landscape of social media can be a tall order for busy writers. E-mail newsletters are a simple, effective way to let your most engaged fans know where to find you and your work. Our panelists have tips on how to set up and maintain an effective newsletter.

The Trouble With Susan (and Donna and…). Saturday, 10:00, Ontario. Marissa Lingen (M), Navah Wolfe, Karen Osborne, K. Lynne O’Connor, Cat Rambo. Many beloved genre stories don’t treat their female characters well. Our genre is full of stories that punish female heroes with debasement and tragedy and unhappy endings, either implying or stating outright that the heroines with whom we identify were too ambitious for their own good. How do we reconcile our love for these stories and characters with the poison pills that come with them? Can we keep loving stories that don’t love us back?

Reading. Saturday, 11:00, Rotunda. A. Merc Rustad, Marissa Lingen, Annalee Flower Horne. I will probably be reading from the story that will have just come out in BCS that week, but who knows. There is no way to find out but to be there. (Or to ask me nicely. That…is often a way actually.)

New Trends in Post-Collapse Fiction. Saturday, 5:00, Dearborn. Marissa Lingen (M), Andrea Johnson, Michael J. DeLuca, Petra Kuppers, Anaea Lay. The prospect of a world where the march of social and technological progress has drastically reversed course seems a lot closer than it used to be. What has changed in the way we imagine post-collapse futures? How do post-collapse futures of the past and present exist in conversation with the social and political worlds in which they were written?

Writing Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Saturday, 4:00, Southfield. Steve Buchheit (M), Tim Boerger, Marissa Lingen, Clif Flynt, Joe R. Lansdale. The Princess Bride is a classic of fantasy humor. What makes humor in speculative fiction work? What “funny books” really aren’t? Let’s look at American vs. British humor, which topics have aged well (or not so well!), short form vs. novels, and all the other things that make speculative humor more than pies in the face for elves.

Murder, Meanness, and Other Solutions from Deep in the Edit Mines: How to Help Fix Each Other’s Work Without Taking Over. Saturday, 8:00, Allen Park. Marissa Lingen (M), Jennifer Mace, K.A. Doore. How can we best use creative teamwork in solo projects? When your writing friends are stuck, where’s the line between helpful and pushy? Is murder really the answer to every problem–and is it sometimes helpful to have a friend come through the door of your manuscript with a gun in hand when you don’t know what to do next? (Spoiler: yes.) (Spoiler: that friend is Kai.) (This is an Armada extravaganza and by my fifth programming item of the day I expect to be at least a little goofy. Which of course Macey and Kai and I would never be otherwise….)

This has been edited since I first posted it because of times changing. I have no idea whether they will change again. If there’s something you want to see particularly, please check the schedule when you get there to make sure it’s all where and when you thought.

World Fantasy Convention schedule

This one is much simpler than some cons: one panel. Plans for ice cream and fountain pens and many other lovely things aside from formal programming! but for programming there’s this:

Strength Isn’t Just For the Strong

Time: Saturday – 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM 
Category: Panel
Track: Panel
Location: WaterTable BC
Panelists: Carole Cummings, David Anthony Durham, Rhiannon Held, Fonda Lee, Marissa Lingen (M)
Description: Fantasy stories w/ ordinary, non-magical people, both humans and others, as protagonists. #StrongCharacters

Watch me scintillate!

In ten days I leave for Montreal, for the new convention Scintillation. Here’s where you can find me there if you’re a member! (Memberships have been sold out for the year, but I’m almost certainly going next year too.)

Friday 20:00 Time Travel and Teens
Why do these things go together so well?
Jo Walton (M), Kari Maaren, Marissa Lingen, Suzanna Hersey

Saturday 10:00 Good and Evil
Ada Palmer has offered the thought experiment of a universe where the morally worst act ever was that somebody bought a flavour of ice cream they knew their friend didn’t like. Conversely, the Vikings ask the theodicy question backwards: why is there good? Let’s consider the space of good and evil and what interesting things we can do with them.
Yves Meynard (M), Ada Palmer, Maria Farrell, Jo Walton, Marissa Lingen

Saturday 11:00 Reading from selected works. With Tim Boerger.

Saturday 14:00 Why you should be reading John M. Ford
World Fantasy award winning author of The Dragon Waiting, Growing Up Weightless, and many other stories and poems and gaming material.
Marissa Lingen (M), Emmet O’Brien, Andrew Plotkin, Lila Garrott, Sarah Emrys

Sunday 17:00 Imagining the Future
How can we write science fiction when it’s so difficult to imagine the future?
Yves Meynard, Dennis Clark, Ada Palmer, Maria Farrell, Marissa Lingen (M), Jim Cambias


Readercon schedule!

I have my schedule for Readercon, which is in two and a half weeks! (July 12-15 in Quincy, Mass.) Here’s what I’ll be up to and where you can find me:

Defying the Pigeonhole Marissa Lingen (m), Stephanie Feldman, Chandler Klang Smith, Ellen Datlow, Michael Dirda. Thursday, 9:00 p.m., Blue Hills. This panel of readers will celebrate favorite authors who can’t be contained by a single genre—some exploring multiple genres within one work, some dipping in and out of them throughout their careers—and talk about the ways they break free of expectations to soar.

Rethinking the Dangerous Victim Marissa Lingen (m), Noah Beit-Aharon, Yanni Kuznia, Walt Williams, Tom Greene. Friday, 10:00 a.m., Salon 5. Many SF stories hinge on distress calls that turn out to be scams. In the real world, under 10% of felony reports are false; the number is even lower for false reports of general distress. Why do we return to the dangerous victim story—the story in which the person who claims to need help is not only lying but actively malicious—again and again? What exciting adventure stories can we tell about helping those who are genuinely in need?

Group Reading: Reckoning 2 Reckoning contributors including Jess Barber, Michael J. DeLuca, and Marissa Lingen. Friday, 3:00 p.m., Salon A. Contributors to Reckoning 2, the second annual nonprofit journal of creative writing on environmental justice, read from their work.

Nesbit and Eager: Works in Conversation Marissa Lingen (m), Lila Garrott, Nisi Shawl, Julia Rios, Veronica Schanoes. Friday, 6:00 p.m., Salon 6. Edward Eager deliberately modeled his work on MGOH E. Nesbit’s; to what extent did he perpetuate her politics, including her socialism? How do her early-20th-century English work and his mid-20th-century American work encapsulate and challenge the attitudes of their times and places?

Feminist Socialism in Fantastika Veronica Schanoes (m), Tamara Vardomskaya, Gwynne Garfinkle, Marissa Lingen, Robert Killheffer. Friday, 8:00 p.m., Salon 6. MGOH E. Nesbit was a noted feminist and socialist. In her honor, this panel will celebrate classic and recent speculative works that challenge readers to imagine worlds and futures of gender and class equality, and explore how those concepts have changed through the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Reading: Marissa Lingen Sunday, 10:30 a.m., Salon B.

Solarpunk for Everyone Michael J. DeLuca (m), Tom Greene, T.X. Watson, Marissa Lingen, Darcie Little Badger. Sunday, noon, Blue Hills. Solarpunk has become established as a progressive, proactive, optimistic, climate-aware, politically aware field of speculative fiction. As solarpunk authors imagine the future, how can they make sure that future includes everyone? How can solarpunk develop and showcase remedies not only the climatological errors of the present and past but the social flaws of oppression, bias, and exclusion?

Our Bodies, Our Elves: Sexual Awakening in Epic Fantasy Josh Jasper (m), Steve Berman, Marissa Lingen, Sonya Taaffe, Noah Beit-Aharon. Sunday, 1:00 p.m., Salon 6. Starting in the later 20th century, the bildungsromans of epic fantasy began to include sexual awakenings. Some are raunchy, some are awkward, and almost all are self-directed; the wise elders of the genre are mysteriously silent on this crucial topic. When authors can imagine elves and dragons, why is it so hard to also imagine decent fantastical sex ed? How do today’s writers and readers approach this aspect of adolescent self-discovery stories?

Fourth Street panel schedule (mine)

Fourth Street Fantasy convention’s schedule is up! and on it the specific panels I’ll be participating in. In addition, I’ll be one of the workshop leaders for Friday morning, but if you’ve signed up for that, you’re already stuck with me, and if you haven’t, it’s too late. Otherwise, here’s where you can see me on panels:

Saturday 2:00 PM: You Don’t Own Me: Concepts of Freedom in the Work of John M. Ford

Pamela Dean, Marissa Lingen, Elise Matthesen (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Distilling the work of the late John M. Ford down to a few key points is a mind-bending and questionably plausible endeavor, but there are some recurring themes we can at least pretend to conclusively discuss in our too-short time together. One subject that peeks out from the fog of invention over and over again is that of freedom in multiple aspects. Whether it’s freedom of identity and freedom from imperial conquest (The Dragon Waiting), freedom from erroneous stereotypes and cultural traps (The Final Reflection), freedom from colonization and from the boundaries of parental control (Growing Up Weightless), or even authorial freedom from every established constraint on the demeanor of a franchise (How Much for Just the Planet?), Ford was on the case. We miss him and it’s been awhile since we talked about him deliberately. Let’s fix that.

(Note: I think that this discussion will actually be a really good intro to Mike Ford’s work if you haven’t had one–it’s a deep dive, but on theme rather than plotting. I think everyone on it will be motivated to try to make it a conversation everyone can understand rather than going into the weeds with details that will lose you unless you’re a hard-core Mike fan.)

Saturday 5:00 PM: Talking Across Ten Thousand Years

John Appel, Elizabeth Bear, Casey Blair, Marissa Lingen (M), Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Time is big. Really, really big. You might think it’s a long anxious wait to get to the bathroom after a 4th Street panel, but what about gulfs of time longer than the recorded history of our civilization? SF/F deals frequently with the concept of Deep Time, but how astutely? Can a human society really hold a consensus cosmogeny together for a million centuries? Can a wall of ice really be manned by the same order of guards for 8,000 years? We already look at the people of just a century or two ago as something akin to aliens. This panel will also address the essential challenges of communication and interpretation across vast spans of years— for example, the U.S. Department of Energy has a mandate for the permanent warning signs and symbols in place at its deep bedrock nuclear waste storage facilities. They need to somehow work ten thousand years from now, when the assumption is that our culture, languages, histories, and data will be gone… but our hazardous atomic waste will still be dangerous. How can we talk when only our words are left, and even the words have no context?

Useful Reading: This Place Is Not a Place of Honor by Alan Bellows

“We’re like a faaaaamily.”

Perhaps you saw the actor Jason Bateman disgracing himself and his upbringing around the internet recently, rushing to defend a male co-worker’s abusive behavior with bleats about faaaamily and process while the abused female co-worker cried and struggled to find space in the conversation at all. That hit pretty close to home for me, because two years ago I listened to a convention chair complaining from the dais at opening ceremonies that we shouldn’t even have to have a Safety Officer because we’re like a faaaamily. I said, in a bright, clear voice, “Because everyone knows abuse never happens in families!” And the people around me grimaced, and some of them laughed in the way that you do when something is not funny.

But I want to come back to it again just to say no to it again. No. No, again.

I am a big believer in chosen family. A startlingly large percentage of the people I mean when I say “my family” are no biological, legal, or marital relation to me; even the tag “my cousin” most often applies to a woman who is, in fact, only my cousin as a relationship approximation–which, considering how many cousins I have through biology, legal adoption, and marriage, is quite a feat.

But when people push it on you from the outside. When, instead of looking at a particular friend and saying, aww, cousin, sibling, auntie–you have someone in authority telling you: you must view this set of people in that fashion. That is an absolute red flag. And even when it’s someone who is on equal footing with you, it’s worth checking: when you choose to be family, do you mean the same things by family? are you choosing the same things? The more you’re choosing en masse–choosing one particular convention or “fandom” as your family–the less you can be sure that you are. And the more you can be pretty much certain that at least one person in that group hears “family” and thinks “people who aren’t allowed to have boundaries with me” or “people who aren’t allowed to tell anybody when I hurt them” or some set of hierarchies that you might not even be able to describe once you’ve been experiencing it for years.

Sometimes the people who are most toxic about a group being a family are the ones who are sincere about it. Other times it’s people who don’t mean a word of it but are perfectly happy to weaponize it against others. Either way: especially when it’s someone speaking to a large group–especially if they haven’t met all the members of that large group–it’s time to be skeptical.

Because abuse does happen in families. Abuse gets swept under the rug in families. But even not up to that point, some families have horrible dynamics about how no one young is worth listening to, or about never visiting the elderly, or both. Some families have horrible dynamics about who does all the work and who gets to put their feet up. And–especially in times like the interview with Jason Bateman and his co-workers. Especially in moments like the con chair at that convention undermining the safety officer. The question is: why are they using this now. To what end. Who benefits, if they start leaning on family rhetoric.

It’s really great to have chosen family. It really is. My godkids’ parents sat down with us before we accepted the job, and we talked it through: what does this commitment mean to all of us, are we on the same page, because this is a role that culturally and personally varies so much. Those people are my family. I am so glad of them every day. I really, really don’t want to undermine anyone’s actual chosen family with this post. I just want to flag how prevalent this is, in how many industries.

And if you go to report harassment, assault, abuse of any kind, and they invoke family rhetoric to try to minimize what you are reporting, THIS IS WRONG. THEY ARE WRONG. Even if they are your actual family. Even if they are your family in every way, even if they birthed you and raised you and were there for you on holidays and happy occasions and sad ones and everything a family can be. If your actual family treats you that way, I am so, so sorry. But I need you to know that THEY ARE WRONG TO DO IT.

And if someone who is not in any of those ways your actual family pulls out the “we are family” like you’re supposed to dance out of the end of “The Birdcage” with them? NOT ONLY NO BUT HELL NO. NO MORE. NO MORE OF THIS. WE ARE DONE.

Friendly questions for your con conversations

As we started to arrange for our convention memberships for the summer, one of my friends asked me about striking up conversations with strangers at conventions. What sorts of friendly questions can make this easier? friend wanted to know. Do you have a post somewhere? she wanted to know. Please note: this is not meant to dictate conversation for anybody! If you feel comfortable with what you’ve got, by all means, sally forth! But this was a requested post from someone who wanted some ideas, so if that’s also you, here we are.

So. Let’s start with the basic three, that work for people you are just meeting, and they (mostly) work for people you’ve known for twenty years, because you can answer them in any level of depth and detail:
Early con: How was your travel? Alternate: How has it been living here/what do you like about it here?
Middle of the con: Been to any good programming? (This continues through the end but you can segue to:)
Late con: So when are you heading out? How has your con been?

The convention is the basic thing you have in common. If you start with that first, you’re less likely to frustrate people with questions like, “Have you finished a novel?” that have SO MANY ways to go wrong if you don’t have background on the person. So:

Is this your first time at this con?
How did you find out about this con?
Do you go to others? What do you like about them/this one?

Depending on what con it is, the theme may give you clues for a place to start. Is there a specific theme for this year, and do you have a comment on that, one on which you can base questions to appeal to other people’s thoughts? Any comparisons to last year’s theme? Does this convention have the kind of focus where you can ask “what’s your favorite [category thing] lately?” Lately is a pretty broad term–keeping it at “lately” instead of “this month” or even “this year” means that you’re not putting people on the spot who love the focus of the convention but might feel a little overwhelmed about whether they love it exactly as informedly as the most intensely informed person in the room. “Hello, how is your imposter syndrome” is not the question we want, although sometimes it’s unavoidable.

So…sometimes “what was formative for you” or “do you remember an early favorite” can be a good icebreaker question with a new person, because while a lot of people are filled with anxiety about whether they’ve caught up on the latest and greatest, or on enough total from the checklist, what is some of your personal heart, what brought you in and feels best, is something that almost anybody can answer. And can often answer in a way that sparks more conversation, that is not just a single word answer…unless they’re petrified and literally any question is going to bring single word answers.

I don’t know, there’s a bit of a centipede problem here, because I’m trying to help my friend do something that I’ve learned to do fairly naturally. I think what I’m trying to do is give examples of approaches–think about what we already know we have in common from being at the conference, how we can find interesting points of difference and commonality to spark conversation…without making too many assumptions, without leaning on areas I’ve learned are sensitive for several people. When you’re in the audience waiting for a panel or just coming out of it, hopes and fears for the panel and/or things you liked best! Places you’ve had a good meal around the con and what was nice there! Little stories about This One Time At World Fantasy that will make people laugh and say, “oh nooooo” and set them at their ease!

There’s no perfect icebreaker question. But I think it’s important to remember that there isn’t. That a lot of times if you’re at a convention, a place to converse about a topic of mutual interest, and you turn to a stranger and make a reasonable attempt to converse on the topic at hand…sometimes there’s nothing you could have done. And if they appear to be cold and distant, maybe they’re dealing with their own stuff, maybe they’ve just had a major shock of some sort, maybe they’re overloaded from all the thoughts the convention has brought…maybe a thousand different things that having the perfect icebreaker question and the perfect conversational charm and all could not have changed, because it’s not about you at that point. But. You start with a handful of touchstones readily at hand, something brought us here and you can take that literally and ask about Delta Airlines or the other person’s Prius to warm yourself up, or you can dive right into literary influences of adolescent angst, or somewhere in between. It’ll be a collaborative effort. We’ll all get there together.