I officially declare today Kat Hooper Day.
The Shirley Jackson Awards were announced at ReaderCon, July 14. (Terry was in the audience for this!) Little Eve, by Catriona Ward, won for Best Horror Novel.
This will be another column that will not have a lot of links, because I am going to report out on ReaderCon30, held in Quincy, Massachusetts from July 11 through July 14, 2019.
One commenter chosen at random will get a hardback copy of Richard Kadrey’s newest book, The Grand Dark.
ReaderCon is a speculative fiction convention that focuses on the word, written or spoken, more than the image. There is no costume contest, just lots of fascinating panels and lots of great writers. This year’s guests of honor were Tananarive Due and Stephen Graham Jones. Also present, Austin Grossman, John Crowley, Elizabeth Hand, Max Gladstone, Amal Al-Mohtar and Catherynne Valente among many others. Terry Weyna and I attended.
The personal high point of the convention for me was a brief conversation with my idol John Crowley, which took place in the hotel lobby. It was a little bit about writing, largely about Old Navy shirts and woodpeckers, filled with wit and a few puns.
As far as the panels went, they were an embarrassment of riches. The most surprising thing I learned was about the Green Wall Initiative, an African reforestation project that spans several countries and included governments, neighborhoods and NGOs all working together. Rob Cameron, a panelist on the Solarpunk and Afrofuturism panel, told us about this. His context was asking each panelist, Michael J. DeLuca (Editor of Reckoning) Tananarive Due and Cadwall Turnbull to give examples of solarpunk responses to various initiatives, or alternatively, disasters. Turnbull talked about individual island communities hardening their structures and systems against increasingly fierce storm, by giving buildings rounded roofs and creating modular solar panel grids that can be taken down and put back up, and connected to other grids, for power. For the example of relocating a major urban area (for example, needing to move New York City inland to, say, Kansas) because of rising oceans, assuming political will, what would those issues be? The panelists pointed out that unless generations-old problems and inequities were addressed, a migrated city would bring all its problems with it. I think it was Due who wondered aloud what Kansas might think of this plan.
I heard Malka Older read from her short story collection And Other Disasters. She read a sad, haunting story called “The Divided.” Max Gladstone read from the collaborative novella with Amal Al-Mohtar, “This is How You Lose the Time War,” Austin Grossman read from a work in progress called Fight Me, and John Crowley from a work in progress whose title he did not divulge to us, but it’s about an Irish king during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
“We ran out of the west, so we had to go to the stars to continue the adventure, but now we think that the adventure isn’t what we thought it was.” Carolyn Ives Gilman, SFF writer and historian whose area is the American West, along with Alex Jablokov and Don D’Ammassa, discussed the mythologizing of the American West. Gilman said that the genesis of the “western” novel, the stories with a strong individualistic hero, started with James Fennimore Cooper, continued through the westerns’ “golden age,” straight to Star Trek. The myth of the westward expansion was consciously mythologized by Wild West shows, dime novels and Teddy Roosevelt. This panel was two panelists short, but moderator Jablokov turned that into a positive, giving Gilman more time. It was a fascinating view of how our history is manufactured.
Tananarive Due spoke about “cultural hauntings,” how “black history is black horror,” on a panel that was also about horror written by Black writers. Due is not only a professor and an established horror writer, she is a civil rights activist and the daughter of one. She worked with her mother on a civil rights memoir before her mother’s death. Members of this panel said, that they were drawn to horror in part because they recognized in the “monster” the outsider or other, and identified with that. “I wanted the monster to win,” said Teri Zin.
A suggestion if you attend ReaderCon in upcoming years; either put a flat rate postage box in your luggage or plan to print out a Fed Ex label at the hotel’s business center and ship to yourself, because you are probably going to buy a lot of books. The traditional “dealers room” is called the ReaderCon bookstore and it only had books. Oh, wait, Crossed Genres publishing had their logo T-shirts, but no jewelry or pewter tankards, no ceramic dragons, no clothing, just books.
Other highlights: Elizabeth Hand’s forthcoming book Curious Toys is about Outsider artist Henry Darger. If you ever have the chance to hear John Langan read, take it. And while I didn’t attend, apparently “It Was a Dark and Stormy Mic,” a regular feature, had panelists singing the lyrics of one song to the tune of another, like the Brady Bunch theme to Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand.
Shameless Self Promotion:
I have a cover reveal today for my Falstaff Books novella “Aluminum Leaves.” It will be available at Amazon, Falstaff and independent bookstore on August 1, 2019.
Maryland’s strange wooden ghost fleet is now an official marine sanctuary. When I found this article, I thought that first image looked like a dragon underwater.