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Readercon 19 - July 17-20, 2008, Burlington, MA. by Eric Van, Chair
Review by Ernest Lilley
Date: July 2008

Links: Readercon website / Thurs Program Grid / Friday Program Grid / Sat-Sun Program Grid / Show Official Info /

Jonathan Lethem and James Patric Kelly are the headliners at this year's Readercon, and SFRevu editors Ernest and Gayle (with our quantum web mechanic Paul Haggerty) journeyed north to Burlington Mass. to attend the annual gathering of sf brainpower.

Ernest: We'll be a bit blog-ish here, with some notes from the con floor. Paul, Gayle and I arrived in Burlington Mass around 8pm after driving up from DC, which took about eleven hours. We got in just before the opening ceremonies, but missed them for the chance to check in. I'm really impressed that it's only Thursday and the con seems well populated. A look around the corner from the lobby shows a hall that is full of folks between panels.

A quick dash to the room and back down, and the three of us passed up a bite at the bar to make Gary Wolfe's panel on the terminology of literary SF criticism:

8. 9:00 ME Every Critic His Own Aristotle: The Languages of Writers, Critics, Academics, and Fans. Gary K. Wolfe with discussion by John Clute, F. Brett Cox, Paul Di Filippo, et. al. Talk / Discussion (60 min.).

Wolfe blitzed through an impressive short course in the historical efforts to define both science fiction and its internal organs, from the stentorian Robert Heinlein edicts which pretty much said you needed an sf writer's license to make sure you know enough science to do the fiction justice, to the Chip Delaney definition which regards the reader's opinion as the ultimate arbiter. He also spoke at some length (as Charley Brown warned us he might) about the tendency for each of the different communities to create their own lexicon of terms. Having got through this preamble, he was then joined by a host of SF's best known critics and reviewers, from John Clute to Paul Di Fillipo, to see if a consensus about what sf was could emerge. Not likely. There was some lively discussion about academia's inability to consider critical works outside its own "refereed journals" and something of a consensus that it didn't really matter if sf had a definition as long as it has a readership. I did like John Clute's comment that "we know SF is an elephant, but it's important to recognize that it's an elephant in motion. The only way to lock down a singular definition is to kill the elephant first." Let's hold off on that for the moment, shall we?

I ducked out on some more perfectly good panels to grab a Bass Ale and a cheeseburger at the hotel's pub. Though it claimed to shut the kitchen down at 10:00pm, they kept it open for considerably longer, which, to this hungry traveler, was a fine thing indeed.

I was impressed by the number of folks who had come to the con for the Thursday sessions, and the bar was well populated with authors, editors and readers. Not exactly a quiet place to relax, but oddly relaxing none the less. Or maybe it was the Bass Ale on tap.

Here's a collection of Friday photos from the con, starting with a panel moderated by soon to be Canadian TV host and SF icon Rob Sawyer about SF as a metaphor for reality. It drifted sideways into a discussion of whether SF had imagined 9/11 or not (well, duh) and how long it had taken to write about it after the event. The set drifts through panels of the day to end with many shots of the "Meet the Pros" event at 10pm.

You can read more Readercon coverage on Gayle's Blog A Curious Statistical Anomoly.

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