WisCon Report, With New Novel!

Nancy Jane with The WeaveMy science fiction novel, The Weave, made its first appearance at WisCon. Aqueduct Press had copies shipped by the printer directly to the convention, making its table at WisCon and Madison’s Room of One’s Own bookstore the first places to have it for sale.

That’s me standing in front of the Aqueduct table holding the book. Despite the expression on my face – I always think I’m smiling for pictures when I’m not – I was very, very happy to hold it in my hands and to read from the print copy at my convention reading.

This was a very soft launch for the book, which officially appears in July. Aqueduct will have it for sale through its website soon.

Having my book out made this year’s WisCon very special, but WisCon is always a great event for me.

I see friends who live far away. (I also see friends who now live nearby; we are making plans to see each other more often.) I make new friends. I find books by writers who I love and discover new writers to try.

And I have great conversations about the craft of writing, about stories, about great ideas.

As mentioned last week, my convention started with a panel on finding a new metaphor for disaster besides the zombie apocalypse. You probably won’t be surprised that we didn’t come up with a good metaphor, but we did discuss the kinds of disasters we think the world is facing – climate change and others – and books that are an important part of the conversation.

Emily St. John Mendel’s Station Eleven was touted as great fiction on the subject (I haven’t read it yet, but have it on hold at my library). Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell got several nods for a good nonfiction discussion of disasters.

One sobering moment for me in the discussion was when a member of the audience said she’d worked with some refugees in Guatemala who returned home after fourteen years, but had forgotten how to farm. The thought that basic skills could disappear so quickly was daunting.

That person came back and became a librarian – that is, a person who preserves and provides access to information. It seemed to me to be a very sane response.

Others mentioned the value of storytelling, which led me to think that some skills we consider “old-fashioned” may be crucial to our survival as human beings.

I think a new metaphor will emerge. The zombie phenomenon appears to be running its course and, as panelist Brooke Wonders pointed out, “It seems like SF/fantasy, much of which has roots in folkloric traditions and often is meant to be read allegorically, then becomes a pretty profound method for changing or interrogating the metaphor.”

I was also on a panel about portraying old age in science fiction and fantasy. For me, the high point of that panel was when Suzy McKee Charnas discussed age as a key element of the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. The latest Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is playing the Doctor as a considerably older character than the last several versions.

According to Suzy, this has come in for a great deal of criticism because it removed the romantic tension that had been exploited by having doctors who appeared to be very young. The Doctor is, of course, quite old and alien to boot, and she saw the shift to an older actor as both a risk by the producers and as a greatly improved story that emphasized the character’s difference from humans.

Both Kim Stanley Robinson and Alaya Dawn Johnson gave great guest of honor speeches, leaving us with more ideas to ponder. I bought copies of both of this year’s Tiptree Award http://tiptree.org/ winners – Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road and Jo Walton’s My Real Children.

And there were more conversations, several good drinks, and lots of chocolate. A good time was had by all.

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WisCon Report, With New Novel! — 7 Comments

  1. I have the same problem with pictures.

    Do we need a metaphor for disaster when as a species we’re facing so many real ones?

    • I think we do need some new metaphors, because the way we describe our challenges affects how we respond to them. If we keep saying “apocalypse,” I suspect we’re more likely to throw up our hands and say nothing can be done. And the use of zombies as metaphor for pandemics and such just intensifies the idea that we have to lock ourselves away and be prepared to kill the “others” who might threaten us — not the way it works best.

      I’d just like to change the conversation. I don’t think we’re facing the end of the world in either Biblical or nuclear winter terms. I think we’re facing a whole lot of situations like those going on in Texas right now, with more and more of them happening at the same time. Apocalypse (with or without zombies) doesn’t describe that very well.