So, it looks like I’ve got four panels plus something called a “table talk,” which I didn’t ask for, but okay, whatever. My four actual panels are spread out over the weekend, like so:
A) Relaxing Reads Thursday — Sept 1 at 2:30
You can see why I checked this one off as a top choice for panels! I’m going to go back and collect everyone’s suggestions for low-tension novels and come up with comments and questions related to low-tension — what causes a book to be low tension and what makes a low-tension story work, despite all writing advice to ramp up the tension. I’m looking forward to this panel a lot. If any of you have read something new that turned out to be low tension, this would be a great time to drop the title in the comments.
B) Sex, Social Systems, and SFF — Sept 2 at 5:30
SO MANY NOVELS. The hard part is to pry people away from The Left Hand of Darkness, which, however admirable, is the merest tip of that iceberg. I’d actually like to focus on less-well-known works. I’m not sure this counts as “less well known,” but I don’t think it’s possible to have a panel like this and not mention Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite, which is by no means my favorite of her works, but she is SUCH an outstanding writer that I don’t care, I’m going to bring this novel up anyway.
Personally, I’d like to address the difference between novels that handle sex and gender issues without totally changing human instincts, vs those that pretend humans don’t have instincts and use that as the starting point. But I’m not the moderator, so we’ll see how it goes.
C) That’s Not How That Works — Sept 3 at 1:00
Here’s the description that made me check this panel as one I’d like to be on:
How much science is there in fiction? Do animals really act that way or is that just fantasy? This panel will help us debunk, deflate, and displace wrongful ideas of how things work. Our panel of experts will take on their own personal pet-peeves on the mechanics of rockets, the care and feeding of horses, the constriction pressure of corsets, the general angriness of bears, the biology of Mars, and other misunderstood realities. We encourage the audience to come armed with questions as we explain, “That’s not how any of this works!”
It’s the second sentence. Do animals really act that way? Basically, NO, particularly not wolves. It’s honestly very interesting to see how this progression has apparently taken place in pop culture understanding of wolf behavior:
Describe alpha behavior in wolves (incorrectly) —> Create many version of werewolves in modern Urban Fantasy and Paranormals —> Pop culture coalesces around an understanding of how alpha werewolves act —> this understanding invades pop culture assumptions about wolf AND DOG behavior —> many dogs get screwed up by their owners because their owners have no clue what dominance is or how it works in the real world.
This isn’t much of a problem for Cavaliers, fortunately. Nobody gets a Cavalier thinking that they have to be all dominant or else the puppy may try to take over the pack and be the leader. That’s not really a thing for people who are looking for a cute lapdog. So that’s useful, because pet owners can still handle a dog in a less than ideal way, but rarely with “alpha rollovers” and other similarly harmful techniques.
Oh, you know what, I really must remember to bring up A Companion to Wolves in this context. The trellwolves are not like real wolves at all, and that makes this a great book for this panel. AND NOT ONLY THAT, but Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear do the most interesting things with sex and gender in this book! I’m going to have to make a note of it for the previous panel too! Absolutely. Oh, while I think of it, here’s my post about the first two books in this trilogy. In this post, I make predictions about the third book that were not correct and I wound up not liking the third book very much because it was very (very) different than the book I actually wanted.
Other panelists are going to have to address the mechanics of rockets and the biology of Mars (really, the biology?) and so on. I’m happy to stick to animal behavior, and we’ll see what else comes up.
D) Sort-of-Overlooked Mass Market SFF of the 80s and 90s — Sept 4 at 4:00
So this sounds like a relaxing panel. Absolutely everyone over a certain age (raises hand) is going to have heaps of titles to recommend.
The single author I most want to bring up is John Varley. He was writing books in the 80s that would absolutely appeal to modern readers, if only they’d ever heard of him.
After Varley, I’m not sure! There are so many! I should do a post just about this and in fact I’m sure I will, but who is ONE author from the 80s and 90s who is sort-of-overlooked today? If someone leaps to mind for you, please drop the name in the comments.