07 July 2010

Readercon

This weekend is the one science fiction convention I attend regularly, Readercon, and I'm on a couple panels:
Friday 11:00 AM, Salon F: Panel

Interstitial Then, Genre Now. Matthew Cheney, John Clute, Michael Dirda, Peter Dube,
Theodora Goss (L).

Although new genres may seem to be created out of whole cloth, they are of course
stitched together from existing literary and cultural elements. Today we call fiction
which falls between or combines currently defined genres or subgenres "interstitial
literature." Can we therefore read Mary Shelly's _Frankenstein_ or Edgar Allan Poe's
detective fiction as interstitial at the time of their creation, even though they
now read like pure genre exemplars? What other innovations in literary genre can be
fruitfully regarded as originally interstitial?

Saturday 3:00 PM, Salon F: Panel

The Secret History of _The Secret History of Science Fiction_. Matthew Cheney,
Kathryn Cramer, Alexander Jablokov, John Kessel, Jacob Weisman (M), Gary K. Wolfe.

In their anthology _The Secret History of Science Fiction_, editors James Patrick Kelly
and John Kessel have selected stories from inside and outside the genre to demonstrate
that "the divide between mainstream and science fiction is more apparent than real,"
and that "outside of the public eye," writers on both sides of the supposed divide
have been producing work that, on the one hand, has the ambition and sophistication of
literary fiction, and, on the other, makes use of the tropes of speculative fiction,
though not necessarily labeled as such by writers, critics, or readers. But does
their story selection support their assertion? Or, as Paul Witcover maintains, does
it in fact demonstrate that there really are substantial differences between genre
speculative fiction of literary ambition and what is written outside the genre, even
if it contains speculative elements?
I find being on panels really strange and challenging, because I much prefer writing as a mode of discussing ideas to extemporaneous conversation, but interesting stuff sometimes comes out through the back and forth of discussion, so we shall see...

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