drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,

Worldcon: Thursday Night and Friday

Thurs 9pm: Charles Stross and Paul Krugman

bugsybanana had to explain to me just who Paul Krugman was so that I'd understand why I really wanted to make this. I took notes, but there's a full transcript online. Folks should read that, rather than my notes.

mneme, daftnewt, and I went party crawling, then filking.

Fri 9 am: Why Write Across the Genres?
Delia Sherman, James Patrick Kelly, Preston Grassmann, George R. R. Martin, Ellen Klages

Actually had: James Patrick Kelly, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman (m), Preston Grassman, Michael Swanwick (late entry)

JPK: Mostly short stories, some novels. Cross genre in terms of forms: poetry, plays, planetarium script, podcast -- free and for pay. Has CDs of most recent giveaway.

EK: Writes stories. No one agrees whether they are sf or not sf, for children or not for children. People fight about what they are about.

"Time Gypsy"
Portable Childhoods
Green Glass Sea
"What Remains"

PG: Been in Japan last five years. Locus, NYRSF, Orbit. Collaborative author with [illeg]

DS: "Tradition of fantasy". Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. Children's, adult's, short, long form. Realistic with folklore and fantasy elements. Across genres = Interstitial Art = Art which crosses boundaries.

The description of the panel is in terms of the negative. Art grows. Art has to grow. Yet, the attitude is that this is stupid and uncommercial, and why would anyone do that, anyway? Those who do are like Don Quixote and get crushed.

EK: By the windmill of Barnes & Noble.

JPK: Not just a matter of being commercial. What cover to put on it. The perception is that we are three year olds who can't focus, not real artists.

Idea that a career must be built on doing things you do best instead of trying new things

EK reported the following exchange:

Fan: This is not a Pat Murphy book!
Pat Murphy: Yes, it is.
Fan: We want one like the other one!

Authors feeeling trapped. Cf. Stephen King's Misery. "Green Glass Sea" short sounds like SF. Dozois: "I can't buy it. It's good, sf. It's not fiction about science."

EK: Yes, it is. How else would you read a story about 2 eleven year olds having a birthday party at the atomic bomb test site?

MS: Dozois got a lot of flack for putting one of my stories in. His readers said, "That's not sf."

PK: To talk about this, you have to talk about boundaries. What is sf? What is f? Clute talks about bringint the two together. Interstitial, crosses all genres.

MS: That hit my rant button. The problem with defining genre -- my wife is a biologist, so I look at it from a biological point of view. One chooses a type specimen, to define it if you've missed anything. In biology, you cannot definie a species until you've killed it. The sf problem: To define a genre, you have to kill it first, and these are living genres.

MS likes to defy expectation. He has aa list defining what makes fantasy, from Clute, and every time he violates one, he puts a check next to it.

"Restoring of the King": This one goes. I am USAn, and we shed our blood to be free of this. [illeg]

EK: Phylum, Kingdom should do it in sf. 4,000 species of beetles. If you only like dung beetles, okay, but that doesn't mean that a lightning bug isn't a beetle.

MS: Kingdom and phylum distinctions are breaking down fast. Breaking down smaller and smaller. The first lie: Yes, I did do X when I didn't, but I should have. I caught a fish, and it was This Big!

PG: What do you think about mainstream writers who take sf elements?

EK: Labeling "mainstream" just as much a stereotype. Writing what they want. Margaret Atwood's publisher doesn't want to put sf/f -- but mainstream's just as much a writer as anyone else.

Don't prejudge. [Me to myself: I do, though. Limited time, money, and my tastes.]

Is this appropriation? No. we only have 26 letters.

PK: That's one of my buttons. "Appropriate". E.g., people of one group should not "appropriate" and write X.

The Secret History of Science Fiction, September 2009. Some "mainstream" play with sf tropes. Some sf play with "mainstream" tropes.

Some -- okay, you tell us the difference between these, especially with the best practitioners. We can't tell the difference.

Chabon, Latham. [Me: IDIC]
Chabon: There's a real chance that if he'd gotten the Hugo first, he would never have gotten the Pulitzer. In here, we say "literary" with a sneer. Out there, they say "sf" with a sneer. We would like to kill the sneer.

MS: Mainstream = Margaret Atwood and more successful.

DS: Domestic Realism

EK: New Yorker stories define it, then we get a story that's Domestic Realism, except there's a kangaroo in it. But, it's in the New Yorker, so it's Domestic Realism. If it were in an sf magazine, it would be sf.

[But Devil's advocae -- dif typography]

JK: What is the benefit of writing across the genres, Ms. Interstitial? (That being DS.)

DS: Hey, I'm supposed to be moderating. The only way to grow is by testing boundaries. Can't stand still. It's always a moving target.

There are beautiful works in the center of the genre, and there's nothing wrong with that. Patricia McKillip: lapidary perfection from the middle. Romance in the medieval sense.

But people will take formula, and when just used as a formula -- samizdat stuff, formula, to produce certain effects -- but not bad. There are times you just want to sit in the bathtub and read it.

But the stuff that will be read in 50 years? Have to grow, not center (McKillip). Market driven society. Hard to do this. The original reaction to Impressionism was that this was muddy and would ruin our kids' lives. The purpose of Insterstial Arts. How to talk about art we don't have the rules to talk about yet.

MS: Clute's term "commodity fantasy". Finish one, automatically buy another. Doesn't satisfy, always craving. No one says, "Wouldn't it be really great if Hamlet were a seris?"

[Note to self: There was a movie based on the premise that someone had -- about a school doing a play called Hamlet 2, if I recall correctly.]

EK: On an airplane, I want comfort food. Then, Kelly Link. The first time you read her, your brain explodes. Then, you get used to it.

We learn by being exposed to new things. Publishers are trying to say "There will be No New Things", and then, after a while, you say, "We want something else" -- we want to try something new, just like you want to read something new.

PK: Do readers compain when you cross genres?

MS: No. But, I pay for it in differerent way, financially. Piers Anthony's formula for getting rich, and he wonders why all authors don't do it, is to write to the formula that works. But, this is not what I want to do. I want to write something that's really good.

Alastair Reynolds was given a contract for 1 million dollars / 10 books, at the rate of one a year. [illeg] It sounds good, but money good accountant makes. Good deal for him, doing what he wants to do.

EK: Style, but not all Van Gogh alike, vs "all same thing" -- one artist collectably, but no one then considered art. Less an issue in short fiction?

DK: No money in it.

EK: If supporting kids with novels, will take fewer risks.

MS: What's the difference between a science fiction author and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four.

DS: Questions from the audience?

Aud: Can't do X for kids -- must give them time to get used to sf.

DS: Not her experience. "Just" children's books.

EK: Extremely underestimate children. Voracious readers. They will read anything, so long as it is interesting. They won't read if they are bored unles they are forced. A teacher can force them. Till about 9. Then, if readers, will read anything. They haven't learned that this isn't okay.

MS: Kids are a good audience for two reasons.

1. They are looking to learn about the world. You can put serious stuff in, and they'll think about it.

2. They haven't yet learned what the rules are.

Clute said that the walls of England are full of pockmarks from readers throwing Iron Dragon's Daughter against the wall when they hit the ending. Kids don't mind. It is a happy ending.

Aud: Publicist?

DS: Publicist says to us, "We probably charge you more than your advance, and that's probably not a good idea."

Aud: Should we look at genre at al;?

EK: Humans like labels. Labels get in the way. We should ignore, then think as a food court.

JK: Useful to conversation. Genre is not necessarily evil, but solidifies. Part of the conversation. If you like X, then you will probably like Y.

MS: In a bookstore, only a [illeg] will do sf section, yet a lot of fantastica in literature.

Aud: How to write a cover letter? Please consider my?

DS: Novel.

MS: Don't define it. Best thing for you to do in your cover letter is to sound sane.

EK: Don't paint yourself into a corner. "I think you would find it a good fit" [I think -- my handwriting's hard to read here.]

Want two things:
Next big thing
More of the same

If you say, "My book = X," they may think "It doesn't fit my needs" before seeing what it actually is.

PK: Have an elevator speech.

[Me: How to resolve dichotomy?]

EK: Naomi Novak's elevator pitch could be, "It's like Patrick O'Brian, but with dragons.

DS: Avoid genre markers. We all define it differently. Be specific to your book.

Aud: Is breaking genre rules planned, or does it just happen?

MS: I wasn't breaking rules to break them. But genre rules will pull you down if you aren't careful. We "know" how to write fantasy. When the wizard shows up at the farm, then you know where it'll go, and nobody gets to be a chemist in Pittsburgh. Trying to be aware and make sure not writing less than best

EK: I write what I write and then show it to other people to define what that is.

DS: And market is starting to be there.

Aud: Challenging boundary then Patricia McKillip as center.

[Note to self: I just don't think of McKillip as center.]

Fri 10 am: WSFS Preliminary Business Meeting

I arrived with perfect timing, as Kevin noted, just as time limits were being discussed for the ratification of the motion to eliminate the semi-prozine Hugo category. As both of us work on the New York Review of Science Fiction, we wanted to vote down the ratification.

Kevin moved to increase the allotted debate time to 45 minutes, while someone else voted to decrease it, and it stayed at 30 minutes. Eyeballing the schedule, Kevin said that we should arrive as early as possible for the Saturday meeting. A recess was called, so I spent time with daftnewt and his friends, until daftnewt had to leave. Then, I had food and chatted with, a woman named Barbara Gordon, who recommended a Diane Wynne Jones website. I wrote this down and "What children vs adults read", so I would guess that she said that the website had some thoughts on this topic,

Fri 1pm: Regency

This seemed to go well, all things considered. The dance was not listed with the regular dances in the special dance section of the program. It was held in a huge room with a teeny dance floor and big round tables, as well as chairs, everywhere. And, I do not think that the music player Susan had requested ahead of time ever did show up. Despite this, there was dancing, and the dancing was good. I stayed about an hour, then went to chill, shop, and attend panels.

Fr, 4pm: Folklore, Science Fiction and Fantasy
Catherynne Valente (both folk and fairy tale techniques used in The Orphan's Tales, Edward James (moderator, professor of Medieval history), Greer Gilman (great deal of invented folklore in Cloud & Ashes), Janet McNaughton (she writes fantasy and sf (Catherynne Valente said "I read fantasy and sf" in response to this) and has a PhD in folklore), Maura McHugh (not able to attend)

Catherynne Valente said that something was more focused, also rooted in folklore, which is why it helps to understand a culture's folklore. Perhaps folktales describe, while fairy tales prescribe?

JM: I don't distinguish between the two in Secret Under My Skin.

SF is the hardest type of writing for her. She had to redo a lot when reading through the first draft, finally understanding the culture of her world. Cf. Ursula K. LeGuin.

How they think. Culture. Folklore. They should not be just us in costumes.

GG: The past is a different planet. In one way, Tolkien did not fulfil what i wanted. Not enough folklife. I wanted peasants, individuals, not just tales of heroism and adventure.

[Note to self: What of the section in the houses of healing, where folks remember scraps of folklore about plants? And, I wonder, given that Lewis got Tolkien to cut out most of the hobbit talk, how much folklore it might have had in an earlier draft. This is probably something one can look up somewhere.]

She read Lud-in-the-Mist a few years after LotR. The nurse sees a falling star and says, "Duke Aubrey shot a roe." She said, "Yes!" She felt cheated that there was no folklore in Lotr.

JM: In my future world, a boy knits a sweater for a girl to show that he likes her.

Dissing Tolkien -- economics? Folk eat what? The food of Minas Tirith would be grown on the Pelennor Fields, which are now full of disease and dead orcs. Where "orchard" comes from? Tolkien was a linguist, after all. Idea of food, each stone being a foetal orc.

EJ: You have a very weird mind.

Aud: That's what Europe is, battlefields turned farm.

JM: Farms in valley, homes on hill, for defensive advantage.

Is our perception of life skewed that we focus on battlefields?

[Note to self: Cf Jane Austin.]

Aud: Pre-1066, all the records tell us are where the battles were. Wants to know where everyone is.

JM: Book The Year 1000, about what people do. For her Tam Lin retelling, it was hard to find a period of peace between England and Scottland. Twelfth century, when the King of England's sister married the King of Scotland was the one spot.

EJ: Very little before 1066.

JM: Archeological record getting better. New book -- we don't know anything about the picts.

Plants and People in Ancient Scotland -- non fiction.

[Amazon lists it as available, though out of print, by Camilla Dickson and James Dickson.]

CV: Medieval life -- perception that fantasy lit + folklore = medieval. Folklore is not static. It is born, it lives, it dies. It is here, it changes. SF folklore.

GG: Folklore -- [illeg] always being born, people would make up parts indescrimitately.

Sheela-na-gigs are crude in every sense, and powerful. Everyone assumes that they must be pagan figures. But, she read about the oldest one in existence, from Compostela. Moved into Britain. The Sheela-na-gig is a church thing warning about the evils of sex. It is meant to be grotesque and ugly. It is a warning.

Not what they are made for -- not old folklore -- but valid folklore.

Aud: About CV reworking folk tale: Do you resist it?

CV: Well, usually not, but do I resist what? Orphan's Tales has a wholely invented folklore system.

No "urban" lgends. Grew up in an urban area. Much of this material is recognizable from tales, but put back together differently.

JM: Morphology of the Folktale by Vladimir Propp. Russian tales.

Kevin Maroney: 32.50 on Amazon.

CV: When not sure where to go, uses Introducing Folklore, Alan Dundas.

[Did I get that right? Amason lists Kenneth and Mary Clark]

JM: Strange Terrain by Barbara Rieti. People always saying "There used to be fairies, but they are disappearing." Today [illeg -- people say something? Not sure what I wrote.]

Aud: Iceland, too.

EJ: The Superstitious Mind, Judith Devlin. A lot about rural 19th century French customs. Precisely what he'd read in Latin texts with 4th century AD -- peasants shouldn't do this sort of thing. Can't prove continuity.

CV: France specialized in luxury goods after the Industrial Revolution. COuldn't compete with England.

JM: Claude Seeger -- Pete's father. The Folklore of the NonFolk. Premise: Everyone has folklore. It's wrong to look upon a quaint people as The Folk. E.g., folklore of medical students. Everywhere there is pressure, there is folklore.

GG: Mythos of Florida street children. Immensely elaborated war in heaven. Protective sections, e.g., if gangs shooting, here's what you do. Blue Lady = Protective Spirit. [illeg], violence, street.

Pitfall to avoid for folklorist is Orientalism. Avoid thinking of The Folk as quaint and separate. E.g., England -- Morris Dancing must be done the same way, by men only. As women taught it and changed it, they checked with men in villages, and the men said, "Yes, we make it up all the time."

Folklorist solemn. Must take folklore away from the folk who will spoil it. A lady folklorist almost hit a clown, saying, "You're doing it all wrong! Last year, you were a man-woman, and I wrote a paper on the man-woman figure!"

JM: As soon as you stop it from changing, it isn't folklore. Cf. USA doing it: Appalachians, "Our contemporary ancestors".

CV: How has Florida street lore changed since the 1990s? Children create it all the time. Had wicked stepmother and would put dolls by the door to keep her away.

EJ: Lore and Language of Schoolchildren by Iona Opie, Peter Opie, and Marina Warner.

JM: Before the Internet, it was frightening. Within weeks, a new parody spread all over the USA. How?

Jo Walton: Grown ups, too. Writers. Turn over a page in the middle of a manuscript to ensure that the editor read it. Love. Falling in love, one true love.

Me: When I was unemployed in 2001, cattitude told me, "You are in a situation where you have no control. When people are in such situations, they develop superstitions." E.g., wear a striped shirt. In my last job, folks in my department believed that whenever the boss brought in donuts, there was bad news.

Aud: There's an awful lot of folklore about how to fix machines.

GG: Gremlins. Machines need to be propitiated.

JM: Internet is a great generator of folklore.

CV: "You have to write down all the things you need to happen and keep it on your person." That's a spell.

Aud: Folklore vs superstition?

EJ: About to revise {?not sure if that's what I wrote] it.

JM: Folklore could be anything. PhD, midwifery. Folklore is not stuff that doesn't work. We just [use the term that way?] Superstition -- I have this about all [illeg].

GG: Folklore can tell you what actually to do. Superstition -- knife under the bed to cut the pain, untie every knot in the house.

CV: I think most folklore was true at some point. It provides structure to hang life on. If it never worked, it would never be done.

JM: I don't know. With no control --

GG: You try anything.

JM: Baby on stove.

GG: The man who burned his wife to death, saying she was a changeling.

CV: Folklore doesn't come from nothing.

GG: It comes from wishes, dreams, desires. It's a way of patterning. Looking for a job. You need to save the baby, or the mother, or both.

JM: If putting the knife under the bed makes the midwife feel more confident, it serves a purpose.

Aud: Machinery only works if you really love it. I said it. What makes X propagate and not Y?

CV: We live in tribes. When Bob the Shaman says X, he has storytelling authority. [illeg -- looks like "cows of cows of cows"] Some technoauthorities online have storytelling authority.

JM: When things start to spread like that, they serve a purpose. Tales of ritual satanic abuse in the 70s. Salem all over again. Witch hunt. It served some deep psychological function. Not sure what. Hypothesis: Needing validity via the existence of an enemy. But emphasizes that she doesn't actually know this.

GG: Fear of job of childrearing. Kids at daycare. Parents have no control. Their kids are with strangers.

CV: Daycare. Those evil feminists who want to work outside the house, which is why we need this daycare.

GG: Memory / Story. Memories don't exist that way, and we insist on turning memory into story. Turning the random into stories. We need a reason for things to happen.

[Note to self: Paredolia. Courtesy of Andrew Morris.]

JM: Ever lose keys? You "remember" them in all sorts of places they never were.

Aud: I'm a biologist. Biological aspect of story -- why our body is shaped the way it is.

South American tribe believed that animals shed their skins at night and went into houses like humans. So, one must not hunt there -- it would be killing a human.

Biologists looked at these sites. They are the spawning grounds for fish. If they hunted there, they'd kill the source. If you were to ask, "Did you know that this was the spawning ground?", they'd say, "No. It's just sacred ground."

CV: This is what I mean about sf as folklore.

Aud: Substitution. Terry Pratchett: Something is true, but everyone pretends it isn't.

CV: I hate the idea that urban legends are the folktales of our time.

--distancing from The Folktale
--there is life outside the city!

JM: Summer camp is a breeding ground for folklore.

CV: The city is the magical forest.

Aud: Sweden is not so densely settled. Call them Vandering Sigen -- Wandering Tales.

Everyone on the panel liked that term much better than "urban legends".

Aud: Does this apply to humans only?

CV: Sho me another sentient species, and we'll talk -- please!

JM: Animals communicate techniques to one another. If that is folklore, animals have it.

Jo Walton: Milk used to be distributed in bottles with a foil lid. Blue tits (birds) learned to peck through these. This knowledge spread through the counties. Then, WWII came, and the milk was not distributed in this way. It was 8 years before the milk was distributed this way again. That's three generations of blue tits.

After 8 years, instantly, they did it again. No slow dissemination.

Blue tit folklore? Grandparent blue tits saying, "Once there were foil capped bottles. And, if ever you see one, this is what you must do."

Aud: Blue tit cargo cults!

[Note to self: I want someone writing a filksong about this -- but not to the tune of "Tit-willow"!]

[Kevin's theory: Observed phenomenon]

EJ: What is the difference between folklore and passing on knowledge?

CV: Narrative.

JM: Passing on knowledge to produce beautiful [illeg], even without narrative, is folklore.

Jo Walton: But no use for one generation of blue tits. The story was still passed on.

CV: Story is not a complex mythological system.

Aud: Birds don't have language. They have different ways of communicating.

CV: Disagrees.

GG: Parrots use sympathetic magic. "Bye now! Bye now! Bye now!"

Me: I heard about an experiment with monkeys where, whenever one monkey did something specific, the whole group got hosed down. Soon, any monkey trying to do it would get beaten up by the other monkeys. New monkeys were gradually swapped in until there were no monkeys who had ever been hosed down. They still beat up any monkeys trying the verbotten action. Is that an example of folklore?

JM: Yes.

CV: Not sure. Social control.

GG: Borderline.

CV: The best way to reinforce behavior is random reinforcement. That breeds folklore.

Is all knowledge folklore, then?

JM: I believe it is, yes. All informally transmitted knowledge.

CV What is formally transmitted knowledge?

JM: School.

CV: But you said folklore / fairy tales are the same.

JM: No, I said that folk tales and fairy tales are the same. Non-verbal transmission of knowledge also counts as folklore for me.

Aud: Folklore as "you are now one of us?" [illeg -- looks a little like "some kind of lore in 1 in a generation. This is because of what we are"]

JM: People are very important. the folk part of folklore.

CV: How you faced to drink from a waterfountain as a sign of how you would do in your finals.

GG: Propitiating rituals. Running three times around the pond naked for luck in finals, which was a sight to see. Head of long curly red hair on the steps of Widener -- clearly a ritual gesture. Not folklore. But, if it had caught on.

Red Barn. A murderer hung in chains. The local medical students take his skelton out on Valentine's Day. The nurses dance with him.

CV: Death is the god of doctors.

GG: If they'd said to me, "This is so none of my patients will die..." [The point being, I think, that they didn't and didn't think that way.]

JM: If invented in any kind of created world, most useful is real world folklore raw collected data.

CV: Agree. I moved to an alien planet called Japan. Instead of studying subway maps, I studied folklore of Japan. Kind of dumb, but made it less alien. Read folklore -- for any writing. Dissemenation of knowledge.

Blue tit story is everything you need to know to write a gigantic story.

GG: Worlds are too think without folklore. Myth is grand, but lacks underbrush. Lacks a sustainable ecology.

Jo Walton: Without gargoyles.

GG: Yes, you can't have a world without the gargoyles.

mnemex and I grabbed a quick meal with womzilla. mnemex went gaming. I attempted to go to Jo Walton's book discussion of Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabeau, but that had been canceled. Despite Jo explaining this to the concom, there was no signage indicating the cancellation.

Still, I was able to meet up with mnemex, and we did party crawling. Specifically, we went to a closed party, and then helped it move downstairs (with the hotel staff supplying a cart and letting us use the hidden elevators) when the hotel started closing down parties for reasons I'm not entirely clear on, though I've heard several versions of the reason for it. Then we did filking.

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