Friday July 15
1:00 PM Complicating Colonial Encounters. Craig Laurance Gidney, Anil Menon (leader), Robert V.S. Redick, Vandana Singh, JoSelle Vanderhooft. The colonialist narrative of taking over a wealthy new world to fund a decadent old world, while increasingly disparaged, is still prevalent and popular. Scholars Istvan Csicsery-Ronay and John Rieder have both written about science fiction’s portrayal of empires; Nalo Hopkinson’s anthology So Long Been Dreaming sought to expand the ways SF writers discuss colonial excursions; and there is substantial ongoing discussion of colonialism and anti-colonialism in steampunk. How can we as writers and readers complicate our understanding of narratives surrounding invasion, conflict, and territory before setting out to write another tale of humans conquering “the final frontier”?
Saturday July 16
1:00 PM Urban (Fantasy) Renewal. Leah Bobet (leader), John Clute, Ellen Datlow, Craig Laurance Gidney, Toni L.P. Kelner. The term “urban fantasy” has encompassed the work of Charles Williams, a contemporary of Tolkien who sometimes situated his fantasy in London or suburban settings as opposed to a pastoral secondary world; the novels and short stories of Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, or Robin Hobb (as Megan Lindholm); the phantasmagoric cities of China Miéville or Jeff VanderMeer; and most recently, the magical noir of Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris. Is it possible to reclaim “urban fantasy” as useful critical term? Rather than wring our hands at how it no longer means what it did, can we use it to examine what these very different writers have in common, and to what degree they reflect different eras’ anxieties around and interests in the urban?
8:00 PM I’ve Fallen (Behind) and I Can’t Get (Caught) Up. Don D’Ammassa, Michael Dirda, Craig Laurance Gidney (leader), Jennifer Pelland, Rick Wilber. In a recent blog post for NPR, Linda Holmes wrote, “Statistically speaking, you will die having missed almost everything…. There are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.” How do you choose among the millions of books that you could be reading? Do you organize your “to read” books or are all your books “to read” books? How useful are book reviews, Amazon recommendations, Goodreads, LibraryThing, etc.? How do you budget your limited reading time? And how do you cope with the knowledge that you will never read everything you want to?