July 8, 2006
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Readercon

Tomorrow (10am), I'm on a Readercon panel with Sarah Smith and Kathryn Cramer, exploring Tinderbox for plotting novels. We might also see some of Kathryn's work using Tinderbox to track plots. They're doing exciting work!

Readercon is always a fascinating conference. Its roots lie in fantasy and science fiction, but many years ago it drifted away from pure fannishness and toward a delightfully relaxed seriousness. First thing this morning, I walked into the middle of a session titled "From Within Us It Devours", exploring the formal roots of horror, and John Clute launched right into a wonderful discussion of Beowulf as a horror story driven by terror of social change and dread of our younger selves. China Miéville launched straight from Sheridan Le Fanu (on "the grief-stricken recognition of the malice of the world"), through the Nightmare on Elm Street, and washed up in Jane Eyre.

Another nifty panel on "Embracing the Uncomfortable" wound up with Kelly Link crossing swords with R. Scott Bakker over whether formal experimentation tends to exclude too many readers. Bakker tried to establish a defense for experimental content within familiar forms, but Link sparred tellingly by challenging whether content can possibly be divorced from form. "What's wrong with comfort?", Miéville asked. "I have some fairly clear ideas..."