While Josh was at the Guest of Honor speech, I went to a panel.
1 PM: Timeless Stars: H. P. Lovecraft with Charlie Stross, Ed Bryant, Julie McGalliard, Stephen Segal (m), and Terrence Chua
Avram Grumer captured the essentials of this on his paper blog
Things he didn't mention that might possibly be interesting:
I see that I made a note that the taint in the blood that some of Lovecraft's protagonists have, such as the narrator of "Shadow Over Innsmouth", might be a variant of someone having fairy blood. It's entirely possible that this idea came into my mind by way of Kipling's "A Pict's Song" as much as by way of the similarities between UFO reports and fairy abduction stories.
While I didn't write this down, as far as I know, Lovecraft never seriously believed any of his mythos stories.
Lovecraft was reacting against the Gernsbackian Golden SF's sense of wonder.
Terrence said that he's the jester whispering in Caesar's ear that he is mortal.
Stephen Segal asked the panelists to pick their favorite stories.
Although he said it was hard to pick one, Terrence settled on "Color Out of Space". It's sf, and describes radiation poisoning quite accurately.
Julie agreed, saying it was the first Lovecraft story she read. She also cited "Shadow Over Innsmouth", saying that she liked the ironic ending.
Stephen chose "The Outsider", for psychological reasons, saying that it's a perfect picture of adolescent neurosis, if not quite geek neurosis.
Charlie chose "At the Mountains of Madness", to which he wrote a sequel, which I really must read.
Ed chose "Pickman's Model", saying that the story is like a hall of reflecting mirrors causing one to ask what is real and what is an illusion. He also mentioned that David Drake wrote a mythos story set in the `9th century, about the exploited Belgian Congo. Belgians from that time and place. Cthulhu. The human horrors can be so much worse that the ones Lovecraft invented.
Someone in the audience asked about the best Lovecraft-inspired movies.
Charlie passed on this, claiming to be a cinematic illiterate.
Stephen chose John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness.
Julie mentioned Herbert West -- Reanimator, The Haunted Palace, and The Resurrected. I haven't seen the first. The second is a lot of cheesy Roger Corman fun. The third is generally quite good, although I do have an issue with one scene.
Ed also liked Reanimator, but was not sure that Lovecraft would have approved.
Stephen asked how many of the audience members would describe themselves as horror fans. Answer: Something less than half of the audience.
Terrence noted that there was a certain satisfaction in Lovecraft's relentlessness, as one sees the protagonist caught in the lights of an oncoming train, expecting and hoping that the protagonist can escape -- but this doesn't happen. And, despite the undercutting of one's expectations, there's a certain satisfaction in this.
There was also a consideration of humor and of whether Lovecraft's mythos has become merely funny or kitsch, what with plushie Cthulhus and the like. The general consensus was that the situation was more complicated than that.
Charlie said that Lovecraft spoke of the fear of death, annihilation, and being forgotten. When one remembers this, it's no longer funny.
Terrence said that there was a place for both. People laugh at his songs, but he wonders if they realize at what they are laughing. It's like making fun of the Nazis: What exactly are you laughing at? All it takes is one good story, like the episode "Dalek" of Doctor Who that made the Daleks scary again. It's based on the audio drama "Jubilee", where defeated Daleks are turned into memorabilia -- just like now.
Someone in the audience mentioned Lovecraft's sense of place, and Terrence mentioned world creation, the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, and the delightful timeline in the core rulebook that lists mythos events and real world events.
Kenneth Hite's name was mentioned as well.
Someone in the audience noted that Lovecraft was also a New England writer, and Stephen mentioned that his stories also grappled with the his fear of the immigrant.
Charlie said that Lovecraft didn't merely disapprove of the 20th century; he also disapproved of the Enlightenment.
Someone in the audience asked whether, if Lovecraft had lived today, the medical establishment would have him medicated and institutionalized, incapable of writing. Charlie said, "Nah, he'd just have been a goth."
Terrence said that Lovecraft today would still write about cosmic dread, but the themes would be different. He'd probably focus less on miscegenation and more on annihilation.
Julie said that she had a theory that the post-human intelligences from Vernor Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep were like Lovecraft's Old Ones. For all that Lovecraft has a reputation for being a fantasy author, he is, in some ways, more of an sf author.
Stephen, who is not the actor, but the editor of Weird Tales, said that the magazine had been founded to find the next Edgar Alan Poe. What it found was Lovecraft. Now, it would be delighted to find the next Lovecraft.
And on that note, the panel ended, and I went shopping. I wasn't sure which of two conflicting panels to attend next. As I've known for years, the key is not the nominal panel topic, but the panelists on it. I knew that the folks on the humor panel would be good, but didn't know anyone on the other panel. David Hartwell looked at the list of names, and advised me to go to the humor panel.
4 PM: Humor in SF with Adam Stemple, Beverly Halo, David Dvorkin, and Phil Foglio
I enjoyed what I was conscious for, but I did not manage to take any notes. Once again, I refer interested parties to Avram's paper blog. He also told me that there was a demonstration of humor as undercutting one's expectations when the panelists introduced themselves. Phil Foglio was the last to introduce himself. Everyone else had made a joke in their introduction. Phil did not, and deliberately held his serious expression long enough to make it clear that he would not be making a joke. And this itself was funny.
After the panel, I had dinner with Avram and Christine. We went to an Italian place that they liked. With 20-20 hindsight, I'd probably have done better to have ordered the same thing Christine did. I got pasta with chicken, which I found a bit dry for my tastes; cherry tomatoes, which I don't like; and artichoke hearts, which I do. The volcano cake for dessert was lovely.
We went back to the hotel, and it rained again. Nevertheless, I decided to trek out to the Sheraton, while Josh was in the masquerade as part of Susan di Guardiola's entry. There, it was made clear, had I doubted it, that any panel on doing X in writing is a panel about writing.
I'd come for the Torture panel, but arrived during the tail end of a Sex panel. And, one of the panelists was talking to a member of the audience.
Panelist: Uh-huh. And do you write? Every day? Why not?"
BIC. Butt in Chair, as I think Jane Yolen said. And, Marion Zimmer Bradley said something nearly identical.
Torture, with Elaine Isaak and Carol Berg (m). Carol ran a bit late, so Elaine had to torture the audience by herself for a while.
Actually, the panel was about torturing one's characters and why authors do it. Elaine said that her motto was "You do not want to be my hero."
Someone mentioned George R. R. Martin, who kills off characters, major characters, popular characters, without warning. Elaine said that one can't just kill off characters; that's way too easy. You have to make them come face to face with the worst thing that could happen, and survive -- or not -- in altered form.
Someone in the audience noted that Elaine seemed to indicate that there was some authorial pleasure in this, something that she certainly didn't deny, and asked her about the author's relationship to the character committing the atrocities. Elaine said that the antagonist was not always a person. It could be the circumstances in which the character finds him or herself.
This is the same technique I've heard that Lois McMaster Bujold uses. She notes down her characters' strengths and weaknesses, figures out the worst thing that could happen to them, and then makes it happen.
Elaine said that it's often even more effective to have the worst thing happen at the worst possible time, when the character is already suffering.
Someone asked point blank if this were fun, and she said, "Sometimes." She added that when she wrote a romance novel, it was a little frustrating to write, because no one died. The hero was in a shark attack, but survived the experience.
Carol Berg arrived about now, according to my notes, as Elain explained that writers don't necessarily confront things head on. Writing the fiction lets one contemplate the stuff one would never actually do in real life. If I'm reading my notes correctly, she said that this was not a case of putting enemy faces on the characters one torments. It's having a safe space, although the characters come to life.
Carol said that she tended to write about big, epic events, so her heroes and heroines went through a lot. Thus, if I'm reading my notes correctly, bad things didn't just happen to them to entertain the reader or because they were there -- that's what happens in dark fantasy / suspense / horror. This is heroic fantasy. She likes to challenge her characters with difficulties, and to make sure that the choices that her characters make are believable.
She said that fiction writers try to make a character do the last thing they want to do. It gets to the bones of who they are. She said that Revelation is the most brutal thing she's written. It's sometimes necessary to put a character in extremis to make it believable.
Elaine noted that when she suggested the topic of the panel -- she and Carol had both suggested it independently -- she was thinking of Mary Doria Russel and J. V. Jones. She said that one reason to torture one's characters is that, in order to appreciate the light moments, one needs dark moments. In other words, one needs the range. Hopefully, the reader feels both horror and, when the character is able to overcome the dark moments, elation.
[This sounds like what Jaqueline Carey, or at least, her narrator Imriel, said in Kushiel's Scion, the only one of her books I've yet read.]
Carol said that psychological torture is worse than physical brutality, robbing or threatening to rob the character of the things he or she loves, sending him or her into despair.
She asked if there were places that Elaine wouldn't go with her writing.
Elaine drew a distinction between the things she made her characters undergo and the things she made her readers undergo. For example, one of her characters is castrated, but this happens off the page.
Carol identified two issues: what to show or not to show, and what situations one won't put one's characters in.
Elaine noted the rule of commercial fiction: Don't do bad things to pets. She tries to keep in mind that if she's doing it right, the reader is experiencing the book, so she tries to stop short of the point where she herself would not want to experience the scene, which is a very personal decision. She would not depict a rape or try to make a reader actually feel it.
[I remember hearing, possibly from Kevin di Vico, that animals' heads have similar proportions to human babies' heads, and that this is why audiences react so strongly to the threat of violence to pets.]
She added that there's one scene in a dark fantasy book that she's shopping around that someone found too strong even though nothing actually happens in that scene. Her theory is that the reader was invested in the character and horrified at the idea of whatever was suggested happening to that character.
There are also things that Carol will suggest rather than show, or that her characters will remember, rather than experience in their present on the page.. She says that this is not because the readers won't accept it otherwise. For example, she has trouble showing sexual violence towards women, and is less likely to show physical violence towards women, especially if it would be sexualized. She tries to show more psychological violence in these cases, especially, if I'm reading my notes correctly, with the psychological maiming of children.
She said that if she gets uncomfortable while reading, she pauses and examines what's going on and how it is affecting her. Then, she asks herself if she'd want to affect her reader that way, and how she can avoid or capitalize on it.
Both authors agreed that one should not hurt characters gratuitously. The pain a character undergoes must be significant to the story; otherwise, it has no place in the story. Hurting a character at the beginning just so that the audience will sympathize with the character is a poor trick.
[That said, it is interesting to note that it works for Bujold at the beginning of The Warrior's Apprentice and for Abraham at the beginning of A Shadow in Summer, but there are specific reasons for this. In Bujold's case, she's undercutting reader expectations and using this as the springboard for the rest of the novel. Also, her character really does bring it on himself. In Abraham's case, the prologue to the novel is almost a short story by itself, an examination of a system that the suffering character pronounces rotten.]
Someone in the audience said that Danielle Steele has said in interviews that she specifically plans to have so many violent acts in the first X number of pages of her novels.
Carol said that her intent was not to manipulate the reader, but to tell a story. She tries to analyze how past violence has affected her characters and to have this come out in their personality.
Elaine said that one has to make readers care about the characters before tormenting them. I asked how, and Carol said that one simply uses all of the techniques that writers have.
Someone in the audience asked how to tell if one has gone too far. Carol said that it was tricky to gauge this, but one way of checking is to read what you've written aloud to someone else and to have others read it. Reading aloud also gives you an idea of how long it goes on.
Someone asked how to bring characters close to breaking without actually breaking them. Elaine talked about giving a character a spiritual center or the slightest glimmer of light. This can be as small as a breath of fresh air.
[Gaiman's ordeal scene in Neverwhere comes to mind, where Richard uses his momento of a dead woman. This works especially well in context because the reason he has it is that he is the only one who cared about this woman. In other words, his goodness is what saves him.]
Carol said that, if all else fails, "We can always revise." She agreed with Elaine about a spiritual center and said that authors have to know their characters even better than the words they put on the page explain them.
Elaine said that, sometimes, it's okay to let the characters lose. Where does a character go from there?
Carol agreed, and said, "It's hard, because you love them." She added that anything extraordinary that happens in a story must have consequences, whether it is violence, magic, or something else completely. There's a difference between gratuitous violence and story level violence.
[This has to be true of magic as well, and, indeed, of everything. In other words, we get back to general writing advice -- everything in a story must be there for a reason. I think I felt mildly frustrated that there weren't more specifics on writing, just general pieces of advice that I already knew.]
Elaine recommended David Grossman's book, On Killing.
I liked the earlier question about depicting the perpetrator of violence, if it is a human perpetrator, so I asked it again. Carol said that the thing to do is to show shades of gray, and to make it real. The character committing violent acts had a choice. At some point in life, that character could have been a hero.
Elaine added that these characters feel justified in their own mind. The hard part, she said, is understanding and showing how they feel justified in their own mind.
Carol said to make them human, "Assuming that they are human."
Elaine noted the importance of choice, and said to ask whether the characters committing atrocities had other options, whether they had considered the question of other options.
Someone in the audience suggested reading psychological books. Elaine agreed that there was a lot of good reference material out there. Carol stressed the need to make it real, not a case study.
[In retrospect, that's amusing, given that the case study is about real people, and the books, one assumes, are not. But the characters must seem real, and fiction demands greater concessions than reality does.]
Carol added that it's creepier when the villain is someone who almost could have been the hero.
Elaine asked how concerned Carol was about the image that people had of her as an author. Carol said that this wasn't really a concern for her, at least partly because of all the things she kept in mind while writing, e.g., that she was not trying to manipulate the audience, but to tell a good story.
Elaine said that she worried about her mother or her family reading her books, but not while she was actually doing the writing. The worries came during the revision process. At that point, she would ask herself whether she ought to write under a pseudonym and whether that kind of fun were wrong.
Carol asked about writers who had influenced Elaine. Elaine listed J. V. Jones and Rosemary Kirstein.
Someone in the audience asked if either author ever had a scene that an editor told her to cut. Carol had not. Elaine said that she had never been asked to cut one of her violent scenes, but she had been asked to tone down the sexual activity of one of her characters. The character was male, and the editor was female. Elaine wonders if a male editor would have told her to cut the sex scene in question.
Someone in the audience asked how to deal with it when an editor wanted them to cut something they felt was critical to the book. Carol said that one negotiates. She added that she took notes, and responded in email, which let her get her thoughts in order. Sometimes, her explanation of why a scene is there is sufficient. And, it's possible that looking over the notes may cause one to decide that there is actually a better way to do what the contested scene is trying to do.
Elaine said that it is also necessary to understand that what the editor points out may not be what needs to be fixed. The actual problem might be quite different.
After the panel, I said to Elaine that I was awfully tired of certain tropes to show that someone was evil. There was one year where raping the male protagonist seemed to be the usual marker. There was a period of time where the bad guy on television or in the movies was the one who hit a woman. Elaine said that this was just like authors tormenting their hero in a misguided attempt to secure audience sympathy.
By now, the masquerade was over. I went to the Making Light party, visited a couple of other parties briefly, then met Josh and went back to the Making Light party with him, and then to the Tor.com party. After that, we planned to head to the filking, but got sidetracked, first by going down to see a wedding kimono in the Japan 2007 WorldCon party, and then by jamming with Joey Shoji and someone whose name I'm blanking on. Then again, I was dozing and starting awake every few minutes by then.
Unsurprisingly, Josh and I slept in the next day. I thought about making the "The Best Convention Panel Ever", with Connie Willis, Joe Haldeman, and Mike Resnick, but I decided I'd rather make a different panel. Meanwhile, Josh went to the Dowager Duchess of Denver's Ball.
Twenty Most Essential Works of the Last Twenty Years.
Cheryl Morgan moderating, Gary Wolfe, Karen Burnham, Graham Sleight, Charles Brown entered on his scooter, piloting around the scooter of an audience member. I said that in ten years, there will be no chairs, just scooter parking spots.
The panelists chose what they considered the most important works, not the best. Not flawless. All the lists will be posted on cheryl-morgan.com
UPDATE: The lists are on that site with a consensus list and additional commentary here. It's a lot neater than what I have below, though I remain fond of my attempt to capture the full glory of the panel.
No one's dicking around with defintions of sf or novel. If it's on the list, it's sf.
Cheryl Morgan asked if anyone had a methodology.
Karen Burnham said she presumed a guy kidnapped in 1988, kept in a cave, and released in 2008. He had read all of sf up to 1988. First, one explains the world -- the Internet, political / economic situation, George Bush, and so on -- and waits for him to assimilate all of this. Then, he asks about the state of sf. These are the books he should read to understand what's going on in the field.
Gary Wolfe had no such methodology in mind, and wondered whether making the guy read 20 sf novels counted as rescue. It might send him right back to the cave! Ignoring series, reference works, short fiction, et cetera, to use Graham Sleight's word, he's choosing works emblematic. Not the best, but all works represent something about sf. Not just the audience for the review, but also the audience for the book -- reviewers must understand the difference.
Graham Sleight: As folks asked about 7 works for a desert island forbidden from naming the Bible / religious work of choice and Shakespeare -- we assume a well thumbed volume of Shakespeare's Collected works -- so presuming the same for Clute and Nichols's Encyclopedia of SF. Otherwise, how would you cope? So, the idea is to cover topics, as well as essential books. One cannot exclude works with flaws.
Charles Brown: Essential. The books say something startling. Not necessarily the best or best written. Started trends. Startling things grew out of them. All sf. Stone age had it. Only problem is 20 works. Can do 10 or 50, but not 20. Has 17 entries on the list.
Cheryl Morgan: I wish someone had told me I had a well thumbed copy of Clute and Nichols. But, I am flexible and replaced it on my list just now with something else.
1. Crescent City Rhapsody, Kathleen Ann Goonan. One of the most underrated writers.
2. Light, M. John Harrison. Redefined space opera. Brilliant writing, harsh in many ways.
3. Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler. Well done approach to the post-apocalyptic from the point of view of the disenfranchised.
[LP: The character, while African-American, is from a wealthy gated community. Is this truly "disenfranchised"? I agree it's important enough to be on the list.]
4. Fairyland, Paul McAuley. His best, future Europe, a culturally viable transformed landscape.
5. Counting Heads, David Marusek. Strange, yet utterly convincing setting. The kind of strangeness he's not seen since Cordwainer Smith.
Graham Sleight: His only overlap with the above 5 is Light.
1. The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman. Chronologically the earliest on his list. Won the Arthur C. Clarke award. The story of someone who doesn't have a chance at the start to tell his own story in the culture they're in. It's about love, losing love, politics, humanity, the chance of immortality in a transformed future London.
[LP: This and China Mountain Zhang in one of Avram's microgenres.]
2. Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. Stuffed with everything you could want on Mars: life on Mars, the need to get there, consequences of being there. He takes no shortcuts in this full consideration of what "everything" means.
3. Stories of Your Life & Others, Ted Chiang. Published in 2002 and had everything he'd written up to then. No one is like unto him. Intellectual premise, probes it, takes it to last possible conclusion.
[LP: This was up for a Mythopoeic Award until he pulled it. I would almost certainly have given it my top vote. He is incredible.]
4. River of Gods, Ian McDonald. This book was on -every- list. Panoramic, near future India. One trend of the last 20 years is that sf is no longer -us- in the developed world.
5. Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon. From the 19th century World's Fair to just after World War I, with a wide range as possible of storytelling techniques from that period. All sorts of views of how the future might go, shored up against the horror they sense, of how the 20th century as we lived it went.
Karen Burnham: Overlap: Mars trilogy, Fairyland, Stories of Your Life.
Went for more short fiction.
1. Pump 6 and Other Stories, Paolo Bagigalupi. Ecological, near future, depressing, insightful.
[LP: Also on the What You Should Read Before Nominating for the 2009 Hugos. I bought this, and the dealer told me it was a very important work.]
2. Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link. Emblematic of slipstream.
[LP: I do not care for this collection, or, I suspect, for slipstream in general, although I think I did like the title story. I also did like her story "Travels with the Snow Queen", which is not in this collection, but in another one whose name I'm blanking on. I'm not sure that one wouldn't
be a better entry. Oh, and she wrote "The Fairy Handbag", I think, which I do like, predictably.]
3. SFWA European Hall of Fame, edited by Jim and Kathy Morrow, all stories in translation. Excellent, broad review of what's been going on in Europe.
4. Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World, Haruki Murakami.
5. Air, Geoff Ryman. What happens when technology spreads to the last corners of the world.
[LP: Sounds almost like it could be a bit of a prequel to Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, but I suspect it goes in a quite different direction.]
Charles Brown: Overlap of Fairyland, River of Gods. Has Kathleen Ann Goonan, but the first in the series, Queen City Jazz.
1. Antarctica, Kim Stanley Robinson. Has all that the Mars trilogy has, but better, because it's in one volume and closer to earth. Emblematic.
Graham Sleight: Thank you. I want a royalty for that.
2. Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling. 1996, best of his, and only one which has an ending.
3. Evolution, Steve Baxter. One of the best philosophical thinkers, though sometimes a little too much. From the far past to the end of time.
4. Accelerando, Charles Stross. Future, Vingean singularity. Fairyland -- nanotech. Funniest author we have today.
5. Diaspora, Greg Egan. Gives him pains in the head when he reads Egan. Must work hard to understand, then really brilliant. Diaspora said things about the future of the human race that knocked him out, explained Fermi's Paradox coherently.
Cheryl Morgan: Overlap of Goonan's four books: Queen City Jazz, Mississippi Blues, Crescent City Rhapsody, Light Music. Also River of Gods, Air.
1. Perdido Street Station, China Mieville. Politics, emblematic of the New Weird.
2. Star Franchise, Stone Canal, Cassini Division, Sky Raid by Ken MacLeod. Stone Canal if had to pick one of those four. British politics. Revolution series.
3. The Holdfast Chronicles, Suzy McGee Charnas. Feminist sf. The first two, Walk to the End of the World and Motherlines, were written in the 1970s and reflected the feminism of that decade. The Furies and The Conqueror's Child, were written in the 1990s, after a 20 year gap, and reflect the new feminist philosophy of that decade. The feminist society conquers the male society and must decide what to do with the men now that they've conquered them, and also what to do with the male children born.
4. Soldier of Arete, Gene Wolfe. There must be a Gene Wolfe book on the list, and hard to pick one.
5. The Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. Mainstream, like the Pynchon. The overlap between mainstream and sf being a trend of the last 10 years, especially the last five. It's a great book, with a passing nod to Heinlein, and a lot of sf.
Gary Wolfe: Almost everything people mentioned somewhere on my longer list. 25 had Pynchon. Agreed with all writers.
1. Gate to Women's Country, Sherri Tepper. Defined the feminism between the two halves of Charnas's series.
2. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson. Loony things, and fun. He's still fun, but Snow Crash is fun you can have in a week.
3. The Separation, Christopher Priest. Alternate / Historical novel. Moving novel of character too, not merely a clever manipulation of the time stream, though it's that too. Two brothers in two universes. Heartbreaking in the end.
Graham Sleight: One base I felt necessary to cover was sf about the millenium. There are surprisingly few books, given how potent it is.
Dilemma between two good books. Runner up was John Kessel's Good News From Outer Space.
1. Glimmering, Elizabeth Hand. It has the intensity she always brings, here now brought to the millennium.
Cheryl Morgan: The lists will include runners up and justifications.
[Avram afterwards notes Bruce Sterling's Zeitgeist. Year of publication? 2000, according to Wikipedia.]
2. Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow's Parties, by William Gibson. Also known as the Bridge trilogy. If picking just one, All Tomorrow's Parties. This has an intensity Gibson rarely has. Political. How to sustain life that is meaningful when meaning is determined by money.
3. Use of Weapons, Iain Banks. 1990. The most satisfying architectural structure, within or outside his Culture books.
Karen Burnham: Banks: The Culture series. Egan: Diaspora. Stross: Accelerando. Stephenson: Snow Crash.
1. Mars trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson. Also mentions his Central Science Series: 40 Signs of Rain, 50 Degrees Below, 60 Days and Counting. How do we deal with global warming. Flawed, but important.
2. Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, Peter Hamilton. Emblematic of the sf variant of the Big Fat Fantasy novel.
[Someone speculating: Judith Unchained -- Graham Sleight or Gary Wolfe, I think.]
3. Revelation Space, Absolution Gap, Redemption Ark, by Alastair Reynolds. The Redemption trilogy. Emblematic of British Space Opera.
[Graham Sleight: I'm waiting for the fourth, Adjectival Noun.]
1. Pattern Recognition, William Gibson. Emblematic that sf is a means of looking at the world. Need not have sf in it.
2. Grass, Sherri Tepper. Didn't preach at him the way her others did. Sarcastic, funny, her best book.
3. Spin and the sequel Axis, Robert Charles Wilson. One of the great novelists who also writes sf. E.g., storytellers.
Cheryl Morgan: Revelation Space, Grass -- though also found of Gate to Women's Country.
1. White Queen, North Wind, Phoenix Cafe, by Gwynneth Jones. Elusian trilogy. Aliens come to Earth, gender issues.
2. Synners, Pat Cadigan. Something for cyberpunk needed, and Neuromancer was out of period. Ideas for what the Internet would be like, came up with spammerlike concept. Emblematic of cyberpunk.
3. Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson. Steampunk. Victorian, elegant technology.
Gary Wolfe: Nothing left -necessary- to mention.
For steampunk, The Difference Engine, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Greg Benford's Galactic Center series. Used to be called Galactic Core, but "core" taken to mean something other. In the Ocean of Night, et alia. Like nothing before or since.
Graham Sleight: SF is no longer one unified conversation.
1. Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler. 1992. Can be read as a first contact novel or as a realistic novel. Take your pick. Duality available.
2. The M.D., Thomas Disch. Marketed as horror. Near future setting. An avatar of Mercury gives a man a magical stick. He can do as much good as he wants with it so long as he balances it with an equal amount of evil. Middle of a series of novels by him, more palatable than most.
3. Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons. First Chaucer, second Keats. When a snake swallows a ferret, you can see the shape of the ferret inside him, and this is usually what happens with Simmons. The bulge in the middle of the snake is whatever influences him recently, as in Ilium and later works. But in these two novels, he assimilates the ferret.
Karen Burnham: One more, by an author writing as Minister Faust. Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad. Emblematic of him, his breakout novel, very funny. Truly outrider perspective. Black community in Edmonton, Canada. Great sense of humor.
Charles Brown: Agrees about the first two Hyperion novels.
1. Queen of Angels and the other 3 in the series, ending with Moving Mars, by Greg Bear. He doesn't mind wonderful writing, but he needs ideas. Queen of Angels convinced him it was a utopia. Moving Mars shifted the point of view, and convinced him it was a dystopia. Some of his best writing and best ideas. And old fashioned Mars novels tied into it.
2. Mother of Storms, John Barnes. One of the best ecological novels of the last 15 years. Melting ice caps. Over ten years ahead of its time. Scientists beginning to believe he is right. So tense he couldn't put it down.
3. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is on all lists, but different books. Talks a lot about different futures.
Cheryl Morgan: Whole lot of stuff, but I'm the moderator, so I can say what I like! Hyperion.
1. The Course of the Heart, M. John Harrison
2. Waking the Moon, Elizabeth Hand. British and American editions quite different. British edition is longer, with a section taking place between the first two. Author prefers the shorter, American edition.
[Graham Sleigh agrees with me that the first half is stronger than the second, and that this is a problem, because the climax, as it were, is halfway through.]
3. Rats and Gargoyles, Mary Gentle. Doing new weird long before it was invented.
4. Arabesque trilogy, John Courtney Grimwald. Something about child soldiers in North Africa.
5. The Fortunate Fall, Raphael Carter. Wrote one novel and one short story. Future of media, global politics, marvelous exploration.
Karen Burnham: If panel lacking controversy:
Cory Doctorow, but which novel? Nah, just read Boing Boing!
Gentleman from the cave has seen Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001. so, The Matrix. To be familiar with what people are talking about.
Charles Brown: The ones I really hated:
I don't think Peter Hamilton can write his way out of a paper bag. Old fashioned, older [something I can't read in my notes]
Doesn't like Minister Faust's work.
Others okay, but nothing -new- to say.
Charnas: First 2 good, but last 2 nothing new.
Kim Stanley Robinson: 40/50/60: That's not a novel; it's a position paper! I agree with it, and it still put me to sleep!
Mieville overrated -- good scenes, but less good at novel length.
Graham Sleight: Accentuate the positive. 5 titles not gotten to:
1. Distraction, Bruce Sterling. Admits that, unlike Holy Fire, it just stops, but it has an intensity of ideas.
2. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russel. In dialogue with sf and religion, e.g., A Case of Conscience, James Blish.
[LP: Did she even read any sf? Also, listen to Mieville deconstruct it, though my favorite part is about the garden.]
3. A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge. Sense of information as a commodity and how its flow affects our lives, manipulates us.
4. Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress. Just the first one, to have something emblematic of a biological advance, people who don't need to sleep.
5. China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh. Push back us first world assumptions. Also, a novel of characters.
Cheryl Morgan: Final comments?
Gary Wolfe: Disagrees with Charles Brown. It's not just about books, but also about how we read them. Good writing. Good ideas. You can write "old fashioned" kind of novel, e.g., colonizing Mars. You can advance it by new ideas and doing older ones better. Better writing.
Cheryl Morgan: Disagrees with Charles Brown about Minister Faust. He's very funny, and you should all go out and read him.
Sandman Books of Magic, the one with the Midsummer Night's Dream issue that won the award.
Vincent di Fate's Infinite Worlds. Came out at the very beginning of 1988.
[Actually, this is not accurate -- it was 1998. Cheryl corrects this on her website.
Audience: Military sf?
Karen Burnham: Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan. Not per se military sf.
Cheryl Morgan: Cassini Division, Ken MacLeod. He's got a lot to say about military sf.
Graham Sleigh: Kicked his list around friends in the UK, via email, and they came up with their own lists. Younger people. One had 8 or 9 novels from 2001-2004, when started reading sf. I pointed out that the list was biased to the first experience of sf. They pointed out that I had ten works from 1989-1993. Lesson: All filtered through our own prejudices and filters. None of us are objective.
Cheryl Morgan: Wholehearted agreement.
Next 20 years?
Elizabeth Bear / Sarah Monette -- Anslashdotdot. Anthology of gay sex between male sf authors.
Audience: Graphic novels -- Watchmen?
Panel: Out of period.
Audience: Is all of this in print?
Panel: Should be. Or, check abebooks.com
Graham Sleight: What have we missed?
[LP: I should have mentioned Catherynne Valente's Orphan's Tales. It's fantasy, not sf, but that's also true of some of the works mentioned above.]
Audience: [other author / editors for ***? -- something I can't read in my notes]
Graham Sleight: SF signal with ??? Signal to Noise, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.