I was at Readercon in Boston July 12-14. Readercon is a convention for “imaginative literature” (including science fiction, fantasy, and horror). I had an amazing time, and highly recommend it to anyone who reads or writes speculative fiction.
I'll give some of my general impressions in this post, and details about some of the talks and panels I went to in the next few posts.
Here is a list of online resources I learned about at Readercon: Ralan.com (list of markets), Odyssey writing workshop, Writing the other, Critters (online critique), Codex writers (online critique and support).
I learned about Readercon from hanging out with the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers. This is the second science fiction/fantasy convention I’ve gone to. The first was WorldCon in London in 2014 (Loncon). I liked this a lot more because it was geared specifically towards the written word, and was a lot more intimate (with something like two or three hundred, rather than several thousand, people). I wish I had known about it ten years ago!
It’s especially a great experience for an aspiring writer, because you get to connect with the community as well as leave with tools to get better, ideas to pursue, and books to read. Coming back from Readercon I feel newly motivated to write.
I got to talk to Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld magazine, who was editor of the magazine for 13 years (while having a day job for the first 11 years) and goes through 1100 submissions a month; and Jeanne Cavelos, who went from astrophysicist to writer and spends a lot of time teaching writers through the Odyssey writing workshops.
I’ve found everyone really friendly, passionate, and dedicated to their work. I always imagined editors as hostile people in my head, but the opposite was true: they wouldn’t spend so much time on their job if they didn’t love their work, and they wanted to see writers succeed. Being rejected was an universal experience that people celebrated: authors talked about having a thousand rejection letters; editors expressed their delight at having someone succeed on the seventy-something try. Another universal was having to find the time and energy to write while having a job - whether it’s one that they’re equally invested in (I was cheered to see quite a few scientists!), a job just to make a living, or a job they would like to escape.
Many people talked about having been mentored in their career, and feeling compelled to pass it on. There was an acknowledgement of the difficulty of making it, as well as an infectious determination to persevere.
Most of the panels were very high-quality. A lot of panels I went to talk about the existing literature around a certain theme, and how one might go beyond the tropes and stereotypes. For example, the “real Middle Ages” are a lot more complex and varied than their homogeneous representation in medieval fantasy, and rather than young characters with ample time, what about lower-class characters or older characters (“graybeards beyond Gandalf”)? A convention is always very good for assembling a list of books to read and movies/shows to watch.
I also attended author interviews, and talks about an author’s works. It’s great to listen to their journey of becoming a writer, and their approach to it. There was also lots of information about writing workshops and programs, as well as local and online communities.
Stay tuned for more details!