WisCon Fast-Approaching

Jeff VanderMeer • May 19th, 2008 @ 10:31 am • Uncategorized

I’ve always wanted to go to WisCon, but another year will go by without that opportunity. Still, for those who do go, the programming seems to be more eclectic than most cons. Below, a few examples…

Jeff

Good
Every technology we’ve created has allowed us to degrade and destroy the environment at an increasingly faster rate. And yet many are convinced that technology itself will save us from environmental collapse: from the plow, which was a technological advance that allowed us to feed larger populations but also led to the eventual creation of monoculture farming, loss of topsoil, and diminished biodiversity, to our ubiquitous computers, which while allowing us to write the next great Tiptree award winner and chat on LiveJournal, are also full of toxic metals. Even the current media darling, the compact fluorescent light bulb, contains mercury, which is usually not appropriately disposed of or recycled. What does the future hold for us? Will we figure out a way to reduce, reuse, and recycle, or will we just invent the next great thing to fix all our worries?

Um, What?
How do the characters of fantasy and SF receive their education? On Roke in Earthsea? At Unseen University? Lyra’s Oxford? Hogwarts? Miskatonic U? Saganami Island? Breakness Institute? Stevermer’s College of Magics? Where would you like to have gone to school, and why? If you are an education professional, what’s your critique of the curriculum?

Good
In SF/F—particularly it seems lately in paranormal romance—the protagonist/narrator is meant to be a ‘feisty’ woman, but comes across instead as irritatingly stroppy in attitude, and rather less tough in action and practice than she sounds. Has this become a rather tedious cliché, and what might other, different, models of effective strong women characters look and sound like?

Uninformed (from the description–i.e., magic realism has a clear history and background, so I could see this panel spending most of its time establishing that and not much else)There are great stories being written under the heading of Magical Realism lately. Is it a legitimate subgenre of fantasy, or something else entirely? Does Magical Realism actually exist as a distinct entity, or is it simply a way for academics to study a few select authors that they view as worthy, while keeping the rest of the fantasy genre outside the ivory tower?

Interesting
How is old age treated in science fiction and fantasy, assuming that it is treated at all? Many of us are not as young as we used to be. Can we see ourselves and our concerns in SF/F? And how does SF/F treat aging and illness and death?

Very Interesting
Raymond Queneau described a colleague in the OULIPO, the “workshop for potential literature,” as “A rat who builds the labyrinth from which he or she plans to escape.” Since 1960 Oulipians have been devising strict and arbitrary constraints for writers to impose upon their work. Georges Perec wrote an entire novel without the letter e. Such constraints require you to say things you never would have expected to say in ways you never would have chosen to say them. OULIPO has spawned many groups that apply constraints to composition in music, detective fiction, comic strips, photography, and cooking. Why not sf/f? This charter meeting for OUFISCIPO, the workshop for potential science fiction and fantasy. We will explore existing constraints, discuss their application to SF/F, and come up with new ones.

Also Interesting
Many SF writers live in an essentially middle-class world. Perhaps as a result, SF features relatively few working-class characters, preferring stories about warriors, merchants,scientists, military officers, and mages to tales of carpenters, assembly line workers, day care providers, blacksmiths, nursing aides, service center reps, and spaceship janitors. Do we assume characters doing this work don’t have interesting adventures? That they don’t have interesting thoughts? And if we do write about these characters and don’t have a working-class background ourselves, how do we get it right?

4 Responses to “WisCon Fast-Approaching”

  1. paul jessup says:

    I love OULIPO! That panel sounds cool. Wish I could go to Wiscon as well….

  2. Andrew says:

    I work at a factory during the summer to make money for college. Examining these people helps me understand the psychology of working-class people, like peasants in a fantasy milieu (i’m not being condescending at all–at least they work, unlike some people) I find it very helpful to examine people of all positions of life…

  3. Cat Rambo says:

    I seriously love Wiscon. It is the only con that I have been to (so far) where I find myself frustrated by the number of conflicting interesting panels rather than having (sometimes frighteningly long) chunks of time free.

    The education panel sounds like one of those “excuses to sit around and talk about books we really liked” panels.

  4. Vince says:

    Good post, informative, is there an RSS Feed?

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