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.
Saturday July 14
12:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer.
7:00 PM F Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza. Matthew Kressel, Veronica Schanoes, Brian Francis Slattery (leader), Jeff VanderMeer, Jo Walton. ONCE AGAIN AND FOR THE SECOND TIME, Eric Rosenfield and Brian Francis Slattery of the Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza Series will orchestrate yet another INCREDIBLY FANCY SONIC ART EXPERIMENT consisting of ESTEEMED LITERARY PERSONAGES reading TEXTUAL OBJECTS in short bursts, one after another accompanied by LIVE, IMPROVISED MUSIC provided by a FULL BAND, with the intent of creating a kind of unbroken MOSAIC of what Readercon FEELS LIKE. Come witness our spectacular SUCCESS and/or FAILURE.
Sunday July 15
10:00 AM F Uncanny Taxonomies. Daniel Abraham (leader), Ellen Datlow, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Jeff VanderMeer. When considering the literatures of the uncanny—horror, dark fantasy, supernatural fiction, the weird, etc.—it can be difficult for a more casual reader to distinguish between the marketing-based labels and real differences in concern and approach. Moving away from common genre labels, our focus will be on the specific areas of uncanniness various authors have investigated in their writings. We will attempt to establish key commonalities and differences within and between their writings and other notable past and recent works. Possible topics include knowledge versus the unknowable, and the scope of possible knowledge; certainty and uncertainty, and the value of each; truth as power versus truth as horror; the body and the mind; the possibility or impossibility of metaphor; and the primacy of our world and the drive to transcend it, or to inhabit it more completely.
11:00 AM G The Shirley Jackson Awards. Nathan Ballingrud, Matthew Cheney, Michael Cisco, F. Brett Cox, Ellen Datlow, Sarah Hyman DeWitt, Elizabeth Hand, Jack Haringa, Caitlín R. Kiernan (leader), John Langan, Sarah Langan, Kelly Link, Kit Reed, Peter Straub (moderator), Paul Tremblay, Genevieve Valentine, Jeff VanderMeer, Gary K. Wolfe. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916-1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2011 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
1:00 PM E Autographs. Gemma Files, Jeff VanderMeer.