Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Readercon Panel: Un/Orthodox Genre

Wonderful Readercon. How can you not adore it, when it's such a family affair?  It was my first real exposure to the professional science fiction & fantasy world, and remains one of my favorite events of the year. And like any family I'd feel comfortable in, it's a place of sizzling contradictions: broad-minded and myopic, manic and sleepy, massively welcoming and more than slightly incestuous, innovative and nostalgic.

But that's not what this post is about. Right now I just want to say that I'm seriously thrilled to be on this panel, Saturday afternoon, with this year's guest of honor (Straub) and four other amazing writers:

Un/Orthodox Genre. Jeanne Cavelos (leader), Michael Dirda, Yves Meynard, Robert V.S. Redick, Peter Straub, Gary K. Wolfe.

According to Lev Grossman, "Conventions aren’t a prison that genre writers are trying to escape.... You need conventions, because nothing works without them. Plus if you didn’t have them, there wouldn’t be any rules to break, and if you’re not breaking rules, you’re not writing." Separately, Peter Straub writes, "Some people love the genreness of genre. I do, I respond to that, but I dislike the sense of necessary limitations lots of people go for. I don't want to live in a dollhouse." How do genre writers play and struggle with the tensions between "the genreness of genre" and the need to keep evolving, individually and as a community? This process somewhat resembles the development cycles of other long-lived convention-bound groups such as religious organizations and political parties; what can we learn from them?

"I don't care to belong to any club that would have me as a member"

 Any thoughts? Of course the topic is squarely in the territory of the most popular of all subjects for SFF panels (Who the hell are we?), but I like two things about the slant this panel seems to be taking: the recognition of the positive aspects of genre boundaries and customs, and the connection to "other long-lived convention-bound groups." Both of these strike me as pretty important.

As a white American male who's spent his whole life (so far) avoiding the clubs most obviously designed for me, I think a lot about identity formation, and the politics thereof. I'm looking forward to a panel that acknowledges the "clubbiness" of SFF culture. For myself, I see nothing to be gained by condemnation or excessive praise of that clubbiness, but a lot to be gained from seeing ourselves as clearly as we can.

The floor is yours:


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