Waveries at Chicon 7 (Sept. 2012)

Just returned from Chicon 7, at which there were a number of waverlies and panels worthy of mention.

Learning to Be Dangerous: A wide-ranging discussion of the subversive sf of the past and the role it might play in the future.  Connie Willis commented on the fact that critical thinking is under attack in schools, particularly in New Mexico and Arizona, and discussed book banning and legislation to ban “critical thinking” and “ethnic studies.”  She also observed that one of the benefits of the sf ghetto is that no one is paying attention; this gives the genre freedom to speak and may also create a responsibility to speak up.  It was noted that Cory Doctorow said he’s writing young adult novels to get to the young readers early.  There was a side discussion of the popularity of sf with readers who may not consider themselves genre readers; it was mentioned that Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick are the two authors to have sold out their Library of America series.

SF and The Mainstream: A discussion of sf-elements in mainstream fiction today.  Began with a discussion of authors who either denied or accepted the status of “genre writer” (Ian Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, Jonathan Lethem, Atwood, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Lessing) and the role of marketing and agents in this decision.  Continued with: the pros and cons of the sf ghetto, including interaction with readers and freedom to experiment; a brief comparison of The Road and Zelazny’s Damnation Alley; John W. Campbell Jr.’s definition of sf; genre mixing by emerging artists and their reluctance to be typecast; sf as fable, metaphor, and allegory; growing anti-intellectualism in American society and its possible relationship with “escapist” literature and “heroism”; the growing preference for film and television over books; dystopian fiction as a separate tradition (Utopia, 1984, Brave New World);  Heinlein’s generation and its faith in engineering SF versus the pessimistic or IT-related predictions of Frederic Brown and Murray Leinster; “A Logic Named Joe” as an Internet story prior to 1960; Neal Stephenson’s article on Heinlein’s “All You Zombies,” which he attempted to re-imagine by postmodern writers; cyberpunk as a phenomenon that escaped a genre stigma; and the perception of sf in international markets and how this affects the decision to translate sf into English.

A number of books–many of them alternate histories or dystopias–were recommended, including The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, Tom’s A-Cold by John Collier, Limbo by Bernard Wolfe, Mockingbird and The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis, The Disappearance by Philip Wylie, Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, The Preservationist by David Maine, One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus, Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, Giles Goat Boy by John Barth, The Open Curtain and Last Days by Brian Evenson, Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff,   Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Edwardian and Victorian SF:  Resources were recommended, including io9’s Victorian Hugos list, Project Gutenberg, Internet Archives Open Library, and the Pulp Magazines Project.  A number of topics were discussed including: the various translations of Jules Verne, Verne’s Paris in the 20th Century and The Meteor Hunt, E. M. Forster, Nemo as a Bond villain, Rudyard Kipling’s “With the Night Mail” and “Easy as A.B.C.,” Jack London’s The Star Rover, Edwin Abbott Abbott’s “Flatland,” Joseph Conrad’s novel of the fourth dimension, The Inheritors (not to be confused with William Golding’s The Inheritors, a story of Neanderthals and language), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Last Man, George Griffith’s The Angel of the Revolution, H. Bruce Franklin’s anthology Future Perfect, Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here,” William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki , the Ghost-Finder, Cosmopolitan Crimes: Foreign Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, spiritualism and ghost stories, early science (magnetism, telepathy, mesmerism), Andrew Lang’s The Book of Dreams and Ghosts, Percival Lawrence Lowell and the canals of Mars, Sam Moskowitz researching post-1906 sf in San Francisco, and sf in the Hearst newspapers.

How to Create an Exciting SF Anthology: Ellen Datlow discussed her Poe- and Lovecraft-related anthologies.  Joan Saberhagen described her anthology of works inspired by Fred Saberhagen, her late husband.  Also mentioned: John Carter and Barsoom, John Joseph Adams, Black Widow, Human For a Day, Predator and Prey, Grant’s Pass, slipstream, Open Road Media, and Indie Ink.

Female Villains: A discussion of the heroine and the female villain.  Some discussion of C. L. Moore, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, and the Terzy stories.  Other authors mentioned: Elizabeth Bear, Laurel K. Hamilton (Anita Blake series), Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate), Carrie Vaughn, Elizabeth Moon, and Lynn Abbey.  A discussion of the portrayal of older heroines; noted that Crossed Genres magazine is accepting submissions pertaining to mature female characters.

Podcasting 101: Panelists mentioned that the direct to reader audio shorts can be seen as “the new pulps.”

The Bob and Connie Show: A raucous, freeform discussion between Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis. Willis: “Everyone should watch Primeval and read Proust.” Other topics: John Clute, James Blish’s coining of “idiot plots,” the use of interiority by Shirley Jackson, The Road, Ruth Rendell, The Ice Limit, Kat Rambo…

Sessions Missed and Mourned:

A list of sessions for sf-curious friends who follow these topics, along with a few waverlies. For full panel descriptions, see the Chicon program.  Intrigued by what you missed?  Consider attending the 2013 Worldcon, LonestarCon, in San Antonio, Texas.

Gender & Sexuality

  • Feminist SF in China
  • Feminism in SF&F
  • The Exploration of Gender Roles in Science Fiction
  • Female Villains
  • C. L. Moore Discussion
  • Sex in Fantasy and Science Fiction: How Much is Too Much?
  • Women in Underground Comics
  • Urban Fantasy Isn’t Just For Women
  • Girl Power in Young Adult Books
  • Creating Formidable Female Protagonists
  • Men Writing Women
  • Writing Gender Roles
  • LGBTQ in SF&F
  • We’re Here, We’re Queer, Are We Used to It? “The appearance of queer characters in sf goes all the way back to the first story of Robert Heinlein’s featuring Lazarus Larry, published in 1949…”

Political Theory & Activism

  • Anarchism in Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Capitalism vs. Socialism?
  • Are You As Smart As A Rat?: Follow-up panel on landmine clearance
  • The Zeitgeist Movement
  • Democracy is the Worst Form of Government, Can’t We Do Better?
  • Thinking Dangerously
  • How Does Science Fiction Change Social Ideals?
  • Ethics of the Near Future

The Environment

  • Climate Change and Society
  • What Energy Sources Are Sustainable?

International SF

  • SF Scene in Europe
  • SF and Border Science (a view from Italy)
  • Feminist SF in China
  • Nuclear Imagination in the Wake of Tsunami/Fukushima
  • Prix Victor Hugo
  • Writing and Publishing Science Fiction in Italy
  • Canadian Genre Writers
  • China: A New World for Science Fiction
  • China and India’s Fast Rising SF Market
  • China The Central Kingdom: China’s Role in 21st Century SF
  • British SF Television: Why Are Their Programs So Good?

Art, Music & Cinema

  • Georges Méliès, and the First SF Film: “Thanks to the film Hugo, far more people know about the work of Georges Méliès, whose Le Voyage dans la Lune is considered the first sf film…”
  • Young Adult Movies
  • Sometimes Even Hollywood Gets It Right
  • The Science Fiction Film in the Classroom
  • Michelangelo and That Whole Crowd: Early Artists Who Dabbled in Science
  • Art in an E-Book Market
  • Book Covers Revealed
  • Art-Focused Cons
  • Music and Sound Media in Science Fiction
  • Music Stars, Celebrity, and Science Fiction

New Technologies / Publishing

  • Digital Narratives
  • Web Promotion and Social Media
  • The Pioneering Specialty Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Publishers
  • How to Start a Small Press
  • To Indie or Not To Indie?
  • Electronic Publishing
  • Do We Need Paper Books?
  • Podcasting 101

Religion & Myth

  • Faith in SF&F
  • Getting it Right: Religions
  • Myth and Religion in SF&F

Recurring Themes and New Directions in SF & Science

  • Finding Minorities
  • Cross Cultural Themes in SF&F
  • Fandom at The University of Chicago (and several other panels related to Chicago fandom)
  • Should SF Be More Optimistic?
  • Dystopias–Have They Changed Over Time?
  • Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic or Both?
  • The Future of Video Gaming: “From biometrics to immersive VR, how technology is changing and what that means for interactive environments.”
  • Philosophy and Science Fiction
  • Moral Ambiguity in SF
  • What Is Science Fiction?
  • Science Fiction in the Mainstream
  • Food in Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • The Future of Food
  • Mobile Phones Are The Future
  • Interplanetary Hotels
  • What’s Next in Body Modification? (genetic engineering, prostheses, cryogenics, implants, age retardation)
  • The Future of Wetware
  • Transhumanism
  • Who Am I? Identity in the Virtual World
  • Rites and Rituals for Children Becoming Adults
  • Crime and Fantasy
  • Geocaching
  • Historical Reality in Fantasy
  • Researching History That Never Happened
  • Dark Fairy Tales
  • Paper: “The Evolution of Fairy Tales”
  • Why Fantasy Dominates Science Fiction
  • What is Magical Realism?
  • Quantum Physics Meets Magical Realism
  • Victorian and Edwardian SF

Teaching SF / Academia

  • Teaching SF
  • The Best SF Teaching Anthology
  • The Hunger Games in the Classroom
  • Teaching SF Focus on Educators
  • Fans and Academics
  • The Role of SF for Teaching Critical Thinking
  • The Science Fiction Film in the Classroom
  • Paper: “Genre Boundaries” (part of a series of papers presented at the con)
  • Fans in the Classroom

Writing and Its Relationship to the Genre

  • Storytelling the Old-Fashioned Way (a discussion of the oral storytelling tradition)
  • The Short Story as a Testing Ground
  • The Future Evolution of the Short Story
  • The Mechanism and the Writer
  • Writing Gender Roles in SF
  • Strong Characterization
  • Writing Plots
  • Tax Issues for Writers
  • The Legal System as Plot Device
  • Introduction to Linguistics
  • A Different Take on Effective Habits for Aspiring Writers
  • Artistic Collaboration
  • The Art of Writing Effective Book Reviews
  • The Ethics of Book Reviewing
  • Writing Groups: Good, Bad, or Indifferent
  • Creating Exciting Anthologies
  • Why I Love My Editor
  • Page and Stage: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Scripts


  • C. L. Moore Discussion
  • Summers in Oz: L. Frank Baum in Macatawa, MI (and Chicago)
  • Mary Shelley Frankenstein (1831)
  • 100 Years of Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Are You a Dickhead? (Philip K. Dick panel)
  • Karel Capek R. U. R.
  • Murray Leinster: Dean of Science Fiction
  • Docent Tour of the Online Heinlein Archives

Science & Space

  • Latest News from Astronomy
  • Mars Desert Research Station
  • Sy Liebergot: Ethics in Engineering
  • The SpaceX Revolution
  • Random Mathematical Fluctuation in the Understanding of the Higgs Bosun
  • Inner Space vs. Outer Space
  • String Theory for Dummies
  • Merging Mind and Machine
  • Is Europe Winning the Space Science Race?
  • and many more…

About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
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