It’s been ages since I had the opportunity to attend ReaderCon, but I’m going this year (after teaching at Stone Coast). I’ll be there from the afternoon on Friday through Sunday afternoon. Looking forward to meeting a lot of cool people and having a lot of fun. Meanwhile, here’s my schedule—below. I’m thrilled to be paired with Chip and Gemma, and the panels are exciting; this is one of the few times the panel topics fascinated me. And to get to discuss Tutuola’s work is a real thrill, too. You’ll also note a first: my first reading of an excerpt from my brand-new novel…See you there!
5:30 PM VT Reading. Jeff VanderMeer. Jeff VanderMeer reads from his new novel Annihilation, about an expedition sent into the mysterious Area X (also known as the Southern Reach) and what befalls them.
7:00 PM G The Literature of Estrangement. Christopher Brown, Lila Garrott (leader), Greer Gilman, Anil Menon, Jeff VanderMeer, Paul Witcover. In a 2011 interview in The Guardian concerning the paucity of SF and fantasy texts among Booker nominees (and, we might add, Pulitzers or National Book Awards in the U.S.), China Miéville suggested repositioning the debate as not between the realistic and the fantastic, but between “the literature of recognition versus that of estrangement,” though he admitted that “the distinction maps only imperfectly across the generic divide” and that “all fiction contains elements of both drives.” Is this a more useful set of terms for discussing the familiar schism? Does it reveal literary alignments in an inventive new way? Or is it simply cutting the same cake at a different angle?
9:00 PM RI Readercon Classic Fiction Book Club: The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Michael Cisco, Sarah Smith, John H. Stevens, Michael Swanwick (leader), Jeff VanderMeer. The Palm-Wine Drinkard is a classic of world literature, a vivid, exhilarating, and linguistically breathtaking tale of a fantastic quest. The novel is based on Yoruba folktales, but Amos Tutuola makes them uniquely his own. In a 1997 obituary for Tutuola in The Independent, Alastair Niven wrote: “Tutuola was a born story-teller, taking traditional oral material and re-imagining it inimitably. In this way he was, though very different in method and craft, the Grimm or Perrault of Nigerian story-telling, refashioning old tales in a unique way which made them speak across cultures.” Now, 60 years after it was first released, The Palm-Wine Drinkard stands as the best sort of classic: one that remains a pleasure to read, but that opens up new readings with each encounter.