Next weekend, I’ll be returning to one of my favorite conventions, the annual Readercon. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and taking part in what looks to be some fine programming. In case you’re at the convention, or are thinking you might like to drop in, here’s my schedule. If you’re there, please say hello.
8:00 PM 6 Footsteps in the Dark: The Sensory Range of Horror. F. Brett Cox (leader), John Langan, Darcie Little Badger, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Paul Tremblay. Horror is frequently thought of as a visual medium, and is often adapted for film and television. However, other senses are vitally important to the development of horror stories, and the experience of fear for the reader. Consider Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, which erased sight for the main characters, or the pounding in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Consider also the recent uptick in films with disabled characters, such as the Deaf writer in Hush and the blind antagonist in Don’t Breathe. This panel will explore these and other works of multisensory horror, and address how writers can create vivid horror experiences for readers.
4:00 PM 5 The Hidden Philosophies of Horror. Michael Cisco, Teri Clarke, Don D’Ammassa, Ellen Datlow, Maria Dahvana Headley (moderator), John Langan. Some works of horror imply that wickedness exists within everyone, and even the greatest heroes are doomed to succumb. Others seem to say that people are mostly good but poor choices with terrible consequences are inevitable. Supernatural horror and psychological horror often posit very different sources and types of evil. This panel will explore these and other philosophical concepts underlying various approaches to the horror genre.
5:00 PM BH The Deaths of Gods. Martin Cahill (leader), Greer Gilman, Max Gladstone, John Langan, James Morrow. In Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass series, two children literally kill God. In Victor Koman’s The Jehovah Contract, a hard-boiled PI is hired for the same job. Max Gladstone’s Craft books and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City trilogy explore the deaths of gods in polytheistic worlds. How do these narratives of mortals killing supposed immortals differ from ones where gods destroy one another? It’s too simplistic to think of these as atheist narratives; how do they explore the power of belief, and the intrusion of incontrovertible fact into a belief system?
8:30 PM B Reading: John Langan. John Langan. John Langan reads from an unpublished story forthcoming in his new collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals.
11:00 AM 5 Shirley Jackson Awards. F. Brett Cox, Jack Haringa, John Langan, Naomi Novik, Paul Tremblay. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916–1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2016 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
2:00 PM 6 Kafka-Klatch: When Old Becomes New. Michael Cisco, John Clute, John Langan, James Morrow, Eric Schaller. Franz Kafka is known primarily for stories that involve overpowering bureaucracies and intense absurdism and surrealism. Plenty of modern novels, such as Seth Dickenson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant, deal with the same type of all-powerful bureaucracy that Kafka is known for. What are we seeing now that is in conversation with Kafka’s work, and what can we learn from it in the absurd, surreal 21st century?