Readercon Schedule

Sadly I can only be at Readercon this year for Thursday and Friday. I’m missing a lot of great stuff, including the Odyssey reading on Saturday afternoon at 2. And it looks like there won’t be a Homeless Moon chapbook this time around.

On the other hand, they’ve given me what may be the perfect single day con schedule: on Friday afternoon I have two panels on the intersection of fiction writing and ebook publishing, and in the evening a solo reading where I get to read a story along the same theme. This never happens to me: an excuse to hit my talking points. An excuse to appear as though I have talking points! Huzzah.

Update: I think I’ll put my panel notes up here so people can find the few links I’ve got in there and struggle to follow along if they like. See below.

Friday July 13

12:00 PM    G    Writing for Electronic Devices. Kathryn Cramer, Michael J. DeLuca, James Patrick Kelly, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), David G. Shaw. How does the experience of reading speculative fiction on the Kindle, the iPad, and other e-readers differ from reading a codex? What changes in the literature itself might we see as authors write stories and novels intended to be read on electronic devices? Will the ability to link across pages and chapters (as first seen in Geoff Ryman’s pioneering 253) change how plots are developed, or will they act more as memory aids? Our panelists speculate about this unevenly distributed but inevitable future.

  • Catherynne Valente’s fictional video game review “Killswitch”: – It doesn’t fit into ebook fiction since it’s free on the web, not even in a webzine. But it’s one of my favorite things of hers, and it exemplifies some of the roadblocks (economic, structural) to the development of a post-print fiction format.
  • Ideomancer hypertext fiction – more or less like 253.
  • 253 not available on kindle – only in print.
  • Going from Kindle back to a book reminds me of the beauty of the book. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • A nostalgia for the narrow, the specific? We’re already missing and pining after paper, but the transition is a little too current to read that tendency as nostalgia.
  • Isolation vs networked-ness. The kindle highlighted passage = high school lit textbook marginalia.
  • Potentially, though this sounds like crotchety old fan alarmism, a diminishing of awe – in the fact that we can always go look up the thing we don’t get? a diminishing of the sense of lost-ness that comes from puzzling through an Umberto Eco novel. Or the inverse, a renewed ability to enjoy those kinds of works written before the ebook age?
  • I haven’t yet seen an example of hypertext fiction that provides real benefit from being read piecemeal or out of order choose-your-own adventure style. In fact the experiments I’ve seen written for the format in Ideomancer and elsewhere seem to take the interlinking as an excuse to be structurally weak. Or else they are ridiculously structurally rigid in order to accommodate it (Choose Your Own Adventure).
  • I do see potential for massive, structurally complex novels divided into little indexed, cross-referenced and tagged chunks that can be progressed through in different ways. Ryman’s The Child Garden could be restructured this way, as could an Eco novel. Would it be any better for it? Dunno/likely not. But a book written for this structure…something huge and really aggressively hyperlinked, might convey an experience of fiction as has not yet been experienced, something like the experience of library browsing or surfing wikipedia like I’ll be talking about in that other panel. Closest experience I’ve had might still be Eco, or in a more guided, distilled form, Borges.
  • Shared world? Trabigzanda, the encyclopedia exercise taken to its logical end.
  • About “unevenly distributed” – text has always been unevenly distributed. I see more “long tail” potential for innovation there than I see a problem at least as it applies to the vibrance or health of literature. Yes, of course it’s a marker for inequality, oppression. But I can’t express how happy it made me, eg, to find out about that “uncontacted” tribe in the Amazon and then how sad when they may or may not have been obliterated. Cargo cults. The Aboriginal dreamtime. Amos Tutuola walking out of the bush with the manuscript for The Palm-Wine Drinkard under his arm. It’s social and economic stratification, but when things move across the strata it makes for mind-blowingness.

2:00 PM    F    Serendipity in the Digital Age. John Benson, John Clute, Michael J. DeLuca, Michael Dirda, Kathryn Morrow, David G. Shaw (leader). Libraries are closing off their stacks from patrons and sending robots to retrieve requested books; brick-and-mortar bookstores are being supplanted by Amazon’s massive warehouses and recommendation engines. While these arrangements increase efficiency on the business end, they destroy serendipity on the reader’s end. Yet sites like Wikipedia and TV Tropes give us what Randall Munroe called “hours of fascinated clicking,” trails of discovery that strongly resemble the old-fashioned bookstore or library experience. Can those sites teach us how to recreate browsing in our browsers? Should Amazon look more like the new online edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia?

  • I really don’t think they destroy serendipity. I think you have to have been seeking serendipity in order to find it, either in the library or on the internet, and I don’t think it’s harder to find in either place. And of course, the library isn’t as big as the internet. Amazon’s recommendation model is economic and mercenary–Amazon isn’t for bibliophiles. If you never use anything to find what to read but that, you’ll never read anything new. On the other hand, if you Wikipedia around for books, if you wander the vasty public domain archives of Gutenberg, you’re almost by necessity reading and learning across strata, across genre, period, etc. Go to Amazon when you’re done browsing. Or, you know, don’t.
  • Consider the local town library as distinct from, say, the college library, the city library. Town library buys 10 of each bestseller every year, then sells all but one of them at the library book sale the next year. That’s not serendipity. Sure they have a back catalog, but it’s slim. I paid 25 cents for a dust-jacketless hardcover copy of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Nobody in Clawson, Michigan would ever have read that book no matter how much they browsed. Now, maybe that’s a function of how the internet has altered the experience of the library, but it’s a function of demand–the town library ~= Amazon whereas the rest of the internet ~= the library of babel?
  • The internet is the library of babel, but indexed. you can read endless pages of gobledygook if you want.
  • Lack of physical or tactile element–you’re not using all your senses, you don’t get the memory trigger of scent, eg.
  • Isolation vs networked-ness.
  • Kindle annotation – it’s like buying a used book/getting issued a college textbook with other people’s marginal notes. Makes you sad for the sorry state of education maybe, but it makes you aware of the experiences of other readers.
  • NY Times guy complaining that ebook buying has no nostalgia, begging for a solution:
  • The solution is social, conceptual, not technological. Duh. All this post-singularity feeling of accelerating change is social/conceptual not technological. Technology’s integration with culture makes it work more like fashion trends rising and falling than an inexorable advance towards transcendence.

7:00 PM    VT    Reading. Michael J. DeLuca. Michael J. DeLuca reads “Other Palimpsests,” forthcoming in the anthology Biblioteca Fantastica from Dagan Books, edited by Claude Lalumière and Don Pizarro.

After which, with any luck, you’ll find me in the Meet the Prose party drinking fancy beers with the usual suspects. See you there, I hope!

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