March 17th, 2008

there!, Hello

Post Lunacon Thoughts

Some ups, some downs, some fun, some eye-rolling. All told, I'm glad I attended the con and had a chance to interact with folks (as well as reconnect with people I haven't seen in a couple of years; Jim Chambers this means you).

Lunacon was certainly an eye opener. I've not attended many fan cons. I typically find they are not my cup of tea. Not that I have a problem with fans -- laws knows I am a fan of many things (including, to a degree, roleplaying games, spec fic, science fic, horror, literary fic, etc.) and enjoy that moment of connection with someone that I have not met who shares an intense interest in things. Fans, in general, are a sweet group of opinionated readers who can be fun to talk to or fun to debate with.

However, there's a breed of fan that really rubs me the wrong way. Other congoers know the type, I'm sure. It's the wanna-be-panelist, the "I-jess-wanna-complain/showoff because I can" type usually found in the panel audience raising their hands not to ask a question but to drone on about irrelevant topic points for the sole purpose of communicating "Hey, look at me, look at how much I know and look at how much of a rude son of a schmuck I am! This panel would be soooooo booooooring if not for my involvement!!!" When they open their mouths, and there's a moderator who tolerates them, audience members can watch the panel wilt a little bit. As a fellow audience member this breed makes me angry.

This time around, I got to view this from the perspective of a panelist. The end result is no better, I assure you. It's lucky that the role of panelist does not come with a ten foot pole or I would have whacked a couple people upside the head...

Ah, panels...

Friday evening's "The Carpetbaggers" was my first experience participating as a panelist. Quite the eye opener. The topic dealt ostensibly with the question of quality when literary writers venture into the genre for a novel. Often they proclaim that they have discovered something new and shiny but reveal their sorely lacking knowledge of the subject matter's history (genre readers often recite Edward Norton's character's declaration to Helena Bonham Carter's character in Fight Club, "You're a tourist!"). I sat next to a chatterbox with a long pedigree who chattered on about the topic I consider myself knowledgeable about (remember that whole "dark_towhead is the Editor in Chief of" thing?) with information that was 20 years out of date. The panel ultimately devolved into bashing literary critics and Margaret Atwood types (All Science Fiction is Talking Squids in Space!) and all but trucked out that old genre sing-song "All We Are Saaaaaying, is give sf a chance..."

I managed to slip in the names of only two authors who, in my none too humble opinion, blend genre and literary sensibilities with talent (Dan Simmons, Gary A. Braunbeck), and I ultimately stand by my final summation: "There's quality writing and there's crappy writing. Doesn't matter if it's called science fiction crap or literary crap, it's equally worthless. Likewise, the genre or literary nametag does not matter one whit to quality writing."

The next morning, I woke (after much too little sleep) with a bad taste in my mouth from this panel (as well as all the things I shoulda said) and the reaction "Genre fiction really does suck!" I was concentrating on all of genre fiction's weaknesses, none of its strengths (this was not aided by the fact that I'm currently reading a mil-sf book that can be quite adequately described as "fun trash, a throwback to the 'good old days of mil-sf,'" a typical example of the worst elements exemplified by genre fiction. Trash fiction, as Stephen King notes in his afterward to The Illustrated Salem's Lot, does have a valuable place in a reader's "diet". That Saturday morning, however, I had a massive hate-on for genre fiction. In some regards, I still do today. It has lessened (thanks to a nice nap I took on Saturday afternoon), but it's still lingering in my head (particularly since the fun trash book I'm currently reading uses! Too! Many! Exclamation! Points! for its chest thumping dialogue. Sure, the book has a fine science sense, a fine military sense, decent plotting, and a tongue in cheek sense of humor -- at least I hope the funny bits are meant to be funny -- but it suffers from rather lackluster language and characterization, and occasionally abysmal grammar. I won't speak more of it, now. As I've but thirty three pages to go, the capsule review should be up in the next couple of days.).

I also woke up with the notion, "Okay, I'm done. Ready to go home now." The nap took care of this, too. I'm glad I did not succumb, as I had some wonderful experiences on my later panels, and my reading went quite well.

Ah well.
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