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July 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Readercon 18 7/11-23/02
Coverage by Ernest Lilley /  

l-r: GOHs - Hal Clement, Rudy Rucker, Howard Waldrop

I met EJ McClure at the Povidence RI airport on the way to Readercon and we flew up route 95 towards Boston where Readercon 18 was held. Traffic wasn't bad for a Friday afternoon in the summer and it looked like I was going to make the panel I was moderating on internet reviewing with time to spare. Well, it looked that way until we got about two miles from the con hotel and traffic came to a dead stop. I knew Steve Sawicki would cover for me if I didn't make it, but I really wanted to be there. Fortunately traffic let up just enough and we zoomed up to the hotel almost on time. I tossed EJ the keys, ran inside and told Steve to "unhand my panel". Like he cared.

The panel was fun, though the conclusions were foregone. Teresa Neilsen Hayden, Terry McGarry and John Clute all agreed for the most part: The challenge in internet reviewing is the shortage of qualified sites - places where the reivewers are known and trusted. While's reader reviews may tell you something about a book…there's no way to tell if the reviewer has a vested interest in the title. Of course, that risk isn't actually new to the internet. How does advertising affect editorial content in print venues? Hopefully not noticably, and I’m just mentioning it to show that the problems aren't new.

Readercon 18 had not one but three guests of honor: Hal Clement, Rudy Rucker, and Howard Waldrop, and amongst them they covered a lot of territory. You can tell just by looking at them that they were cut from different molds: Hal the engineer/scientist, Rudy in a tweedy professorial jacket, and Howard in jeans and well worn work shirt. SF is made up of diverse species, all co-existing in something like harmony, and the GOHs were living proof.

In their interviews, Hal talked about worldbuilding and the fact that he'd never actually though about the sexlives of the aliens he constucted…until a fan asked him about it. Rudy produced a scholarly paper on the nature of SF writing, the way he trancends reality, and why his main characters aren't the kind of people who stop in the middle of a scene to explain the branch of science that the plot revolves around. Howard talked a lot about growing up in the south, doing a lot of fishing, and a little about his ex-wife.

All three were engaging and excellent choices by the con committee.

Among the panels I attended was one by David Hartwell, where he read a paper he's been working on about the revinvention of "Space Opera", which started out as a derivisive term for really bad SF, migrated in meaning to apply to anything written before the "New Wave" implying that everything that had gone before was really bad SF, and has now come to mean something entirely different…and acutally, quite good. You'll be able to read David's paper next month (assuming our negotiations work out) in SFRevus August issue.

The meet the pro(se) party was lively, with guests carrying sheets of quotes that the con had put together for them and fans collected on wax paper, some making up stories even more bizzare than those that the quotes had originally come from.

As usual, there was a "Kirk Poland Bad Prose" competition, and it was as well attended as ever. Though repeated exposure to the real and imaginary bad literature exposed in this annual slugfest could be harmful and habitforming, I urge you to go to at least one.

Right now I'm still working my way home from the con, and I expect I'll update this a bit after I do, but for now, Readercon 18 was a lot of fun to attend and though there won't be one next year (Boston will be the site of the 2004 Worldcon) we're looking forward to going back in 2005.

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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