Note: This is an almost final schedule. Times, participants and places are subject to change!
Realism has been the dominant literary style of the last century. Yet in all the centuries before, back to the dawn of human consciousness, the primary mode of human story was the fantastic. Are genre fans the ultimate conservatives, holding out against all these upstart realists? Are science fiction, fantasy, and horror more primitive forms of literature? Which side will prove more lasting?
S. C. Butler, Gregory Feeley, Nina Harper
Has the growth of SF irretrievably splintered it? In the past thirty years, the amount of written SF has tripled, the amount of media SF has increased at least tenfold, the number of people who consider themselves to be fans has drastically increased, and the number of people who read or watch SF "just for fun" has increased to the point that SF is central to our popular culture. Furthermore, the day when someone could be well-read in SF without being 50 years old is long past, due to the sheer volume of good material. Does this mean that SF as a unitary culture, a shared experience, is ended? If not, how can a newbie hope to participate in the shared culture on an equal footing with long-time fans? If so, can we do anything about it? Since the size of the field seems likely to keep increasing, what does this bode for the future?
Ctein, Elise Matthesen, Seanan McGuire, Joe Siclari (m)
Is there a regional flavor to any appreciable portion of science fiction, fantasy, or horror? Does it extend beyond, say, setting or dialect to have a noticeable impact on style? In what interesting ways is British, Canadian, or Australian genre writing different from American? Are there regional schools within those countries? Was there once a Minnesotan SF? How about a current New Mexican school? Any others? Is there now or was there ever a New England or Boston school? Are regional flavors perceptible to readers from other countries?
F. Brett Cox, Daniel P. Dern (m), Glenn Grant, Elise Matthesen, Faye Ringel
Let's examine the work — plus the considerable and still-growing legacy — of Richard Burton Matheson (born 1926; latest novel published 2006.) We'll start with his short stories, novels, and screenplays such as "Nightmare at 20,000 feet," The Shrinking Man, Duel, Somewhere in Time, and What Dreams May Come. We'll go on to mention his career as an Edgar-winning mystery writer. We'll debate the merits of all three movie versions of I Am Legend. And we'll speculate what artists such as Ira Levin, William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, and Steven Spielberg might have become had Matheson's dreams not come to them ...
Why bother making war in space? Economics? It seems unlikely a sufficiently advanced level of technology could annihilate the costs of distance without alleviating local scarcities. Ideology? Outside of Ming the Merciless (war as an enthusiastic hobby), who needs converts (or enemies) that badly? Defense? Is this remotely plausible against, say, hyperkinetic impactors or sunbuster bombs? We'll try to imagine actually credible space war methods — and motives — that could make this hoary SF trope anything more than a bunch of tripe.
Walter H. Hunt (m), Karl Schroeder, Christopher Weuve
We can't promise to fix it before this con begins (if you haven't noticed). But our experienced conrunners are eager to receive and exchange ideas on what to do better next time, at this or any other con. More tropical locations? Powered exoskeletal walkers? All Neil Gaiman all the time? Large cash payments to panelists and conrunners? Libertarian-free zones? Footrubs for everbody? Chocolate delivery 24/7?
Vince Docherty, Mary Kay Kare, Steve Miller, Priscilla Olson (m)
When Thomas More titled his 1516 essay, from the Greek for both "good place" and "no place," he imagined "Utopia" as a perfect world without poverty, misery, religious conflict, or lawyers. What differing versions of such a world have since occurred to writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Ursula Le Guin, Iain M. Banks, Scott Westerfield, or our panelists? What would a better government look like? Does Utopia depend more on presence or absence? Does a perfect society guarantee perfectly happy people? Is Utopia boring?
Jeffrey A. Carver (m), Alexander Jablokov, James Patrick Kelly, Allen Steele, Cecilia Tan
What happened in the Middle Ages which led to the rise of modern science? Why did it happen first in Europe and not elsewhere? How did science grow if the Middle Ages were really an "age of faith" without reason?
Guy Consolmagno, John Farrell, Michael F. Flynn
Symmes Chadwick "Chad" Oliver (1928-1993) published nine thoughtful, enjoyable SF novels and numerous stories. (His third NESFA Press collection, From Other Shores, is just out and available in the Hucksters' Room right now, er, make that right after the panel.) But for a day job he chose anthropology: the study of humankind, particularly its differing cultures and development, using historical and comparative approaches. Are anthropological insights useful to SF? How did Oliver use this science in his work? Does anthro training make one a tad clinical about other humans? How different can societies of one species on one little planet get in a lousy one million years, anyway?
Judith Berman, Amy Thomson (m), Howard Waldrop, George Zebrowski
The real thing! How naval wargaming is really used at the Naval War College.
Scholars contend that the modern literature of the fantastic began with Mary Shelley and her little book about a big ugly undead guy. What other women have been important to the development of horror and dark fantasy? Do they bring any particular advantages or disadvantages to the field? What women are writing especially scary stuff right now?
Nina Harper, Faye Ringel (m), Pamela Sargent
Bring your burning questions about how to get published, and author Elaine Isaak will do her best to fan the flames — er — to get you some answers. I've sold novels, short stories, non-fiction and poetry, landed an agent and even marketed a children's book. No more general interest discussion about what to do with rejection slips — this session is all about you!
Esther Friesner, MaryAnn Johanson
In David Weber's Honor Harrington universe, the Peeps are a cunning, tyrannical enemy. Here, the Peeps are cute, marshmallow foodietoys. Either way, they've got as much chance as Bambi playing bumpercars with a Manty superdreadnought. Unleash your inner mad scientist as we research ways to reverse-engineer the Peeps' assembly instructions. Flutter a flock into Somebody Else's Blender, design a tragic Peeps diorama, nosh on Peep kabobs, write an ode to a Peep's gruesome end, or do something unspeakable to a Peep Cthulhu. Prizes and fun for all ages. We supply the Peeps; you supply the fiendish imagination. Remember, in the Con Suite, no one can hear you cheep. (Note: please don't think us evil. We have nothing but goo intentions...)
Patricia Bray, Thomas A. Easton
Suddenly the undead are all around us. Last year a top-selling comic featured a zombie Spider-Man. Brad Pitt and J. Michael Straczynski are said to be bringing to life a movie of Max Brooks's zombie apocalypse novel World War Z. The spring Zombie Walk to Harvard Square gets bigger every year. If you know anything about this, please help us answer a few questions. Where did this zombie idea come from? Why such staggering popularity? What do zombies really want? Hey, why are you looking at us like that?
Bob Eggleton, John Langan (m), Seanan McGuire, Michael Swanwick, Sonya Taaffe
Why aren't there more blacks or Asians, Jews or Catholics or Muslims or Buddhists in even our most richly imagined futures?
Tobias Buckell, Gregory Feeley, Gregory Frost (m), Daniel Kimmel, Pamela Sargent
Merav Hoffman, Batya Wittenberg
When he's not writing science fiction, Karl Schroeder is a consulting futurist for government and industry. Sounds interesting? Sounds like a perfect job? Hear all about it!
"Well, it's sad really, that wonderful Arthurian stuff we got from Geoffrey of Monmouth, all dragged through the muck with these wild and crazy revisionists like Layamon and Wace and that naughty Tom Malory and those frogs like Chretien de Troyes ... what was wrong with just reprinting the old stuff instead of diluting everything with those newcomer hacks?" — Dennis Lien So, sequels by divers hands — threat or menace?
Don D'Ammassa, Beth Meacham, Edie Stern (m)
Any large multi-volume work (like the Honorverse) gradually builds up an internal history of its own which the writer will probably want to keep consistent. How is this done? Is it worth doing? Is it worth agonizing over? Does consistency with previous stories impede the writing of new ones? Compare and contrast the Honorverse with other complex future histories such as H. Beam Piper's or Poul Anderson's.
Patricia Bray, Rosemary Kirstein (m), Sharon Lee, Timothy Liebe, David Weber
John R. Douglas
Now could be the only time this year where all the stupid science fiction, fantasy, horror, movie, TV, and comic book junk you've stuffed in your head might actually do you some good. For certain chocolatety delicious values of "good."
Jim Mann, Mark L. Olson
Can you craft your prose to appeal simultaneously to audiences with differing erotic tastes? Do you keep several different readers in mind, take care to alternate viewpoint characters, or focus-group your product? Have Samuel R. Delany and Jacqueline Carey evaded the problem just by writing incredibly well about their chosen sexual territories? What can we learn from their or other successful approaches?
Darlene Marshall (m), Beth Bernobich, Cecilia Tan, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
A memorial song circle for Greg McMullan, who died on January 26.
John Campbell, Joseph Campbell, Tolkien, and George Lucas: What is the role of myth in F&SF and F&SF in myth? Does the ubiquity of SF's tropes in society support the thesis that SF is our modern myth? (And, if not, what is?)
Judith Berman (m), Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe
Should you insert moral messages into your kids' or YA stories? Are they actually organic to our traditional story structures? Do most kids notice, appreciate, or resent them? Any well-taken (or cautionary) examples from famous SF or fantasy? If "Obey authority" isn't to your taste, is "Think for yourself" still a bit bitter on the tongue?
Sarah Beth Durst, Gregory Frost, Farah Mendlesohn, Amy Thomson (m), Jane Yolen
F. Brett Cox
Gavin Grant, Fred Lerner
Walter H. Hunt
Whether it takes place in the expanse of space, an open field, or a dark street, what brings a great battle to life on the page? How must a writer manage pace and description so the reader gets a sense of the action?
James D. Macdonald, Tamora Pierce (m), Karl Schroeder
On June 30, 1908, something leveled 2000 square kilometers of Siberian forest, producing a fireball from the sky which knocked pine trees over like matchsticks near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. Such an explosion today over more populated areas could lay waste an entire city. What was it? (Do we know, yet?) What are some of the older theories, and why were they discredited? How likely is a repeat? How common are events like this? Are there any other historical records? Would we expect there to be?
Guy Consolmagno, Jeff Hecht (m), Chad Orzel
We all want a new drug. What are our chances of getting one soon? What's the prognosis for the tropical-forest sources of many key medicines? What discoveries may new technologies for synthesis, analysis, and computation enable? Will genetically derived and targeted solutions finally come into their own? What major diseases may be beaten back? Will minor diseases become more likely to attract attention and resources? In what directions are politics, profits, or serendipity driving pharmaceutical research?
Will 2007 be seen as the year when the boundary between animation and live films was finally erased? If not 2007, then certainly very soon! What will the impact be when anything a director can imagine can be filmed? Will this be limited to the fantastic, or will it ultimately take over films which could have just as well used live actors? What will happen to stardom if all major films are animated? (Do people have a sufficient need for stars that live action will never go away?)
John Farrell, Daniel Kimmel
Tobias Buckell, Jeffrey A. Carver, Bruce Coville
Walter H. Hunt, Kelly Link
Almost two centuries after her death, Jane Austen is more popular than ever. We see film after film of her novels, read books about her life, and encounter a surprising number of works featuring her characters, or even herself. In recent years, SF authors including S. N. Dyer, Karen Joy Fowler, and John Kessel have written stories entwined with her world and words. What is the allure? Why do so many SF writers and fans love Jane Austen?
Darlene Marshall, Beth Bernobich, Esther Friesner, Beth Meacham (m), Teresa Nielsen Hayden
From Pushing Daisies and Eureka to Supernatural, Moonlight to Torchwood, Journeyman to Jericho, there's a fair bit of buzz in genre TV fandom about some new and newish shows. What separates the standouts from the nonstarters? What have they learned from shows and showrunners that have gone before? What offers any hint of originality? Where can you find the best writing? The most promising premise? The hottest honeys and hunks? And can the good survive?
Michael A. Burstein (m), Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Pelland, Eric M. Van
Steve Miller, Jane Yolen
The fanzine Ansible found an interesting term proposed at a recent Modern Language Association con. "Genre poaching," as practiced by writers such as Jonathan Lethem and Cormac McCarthy, would comprise "works that have been shelved, reviewed, and studied in the realm of literary fiction but whose authors use tropes, themes, and ideas explicitly drawn from genres such as science fiction, detective fiction, romance novels, TV, and superhero comics." Drawls the MLA, "Is such co-optation destined to be condescending, reactionary, or nostalgic; or is it potentially generative of new literary forms and approaches? ... What do the authors have to say about the reprobate status of the forms they're drawing from?" Good questions.
Don D'Ammassa, Gregory Feeley, Steven Popkes
The death of a major character often proves upsetting for involved readers. How does it feel to the writer? What genre works have killed off their own most memorably? Does it always help the story? Which writers have a special gift for this dark art?
James D. Macdonald, Joshua B. Palmatier, Allen Steele (m), Charles Stross
In "The Ethics of Madness," Larry Niven wrote of the SFnal moral dilemma that becomes possible when forms of madness are curable (or inducible) at will: If an easily curable madman does harm, whose fault is it? Many of the technologies written about in SF have the potential to create other new moral dilemmas. If the mind can be radically modified, when does cosmetic alteration become essential suicide? If the body can be radically modified, what happens to sexual mores? Even plausible near-future advances in biotech blur the line between animal and human — how do we prevent people from becoming objects, to be manipulated and even destroyed at will?
Thomas A. Easton (m), Robert I. Katz, Rosemary Kirstein
Howard Waldrop reminisces about his friend Chad Oliver, with photos.
Computer, Howard Waldrop
With the anniversary of the launch of Explorer 1, the Space Race is 50 years (and 2 weeks) old. Why was progress so fast in the early years and so much slower since? Is it just money? Or is it simply that getting into space is hard?
Jordin T. Kare
Daniel P. Dern
Michael F. Flynn, Howard Waldrop, David Weber
Tobias Buckell, Charles Stross
Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden has said, "Much of the genre works by appealing to our wish that the world's extra-legal violence be under the control of the kind of smart people we admire. The Second Foundation and the X-Men — and, for that matter, the Scooby Gang and the Laundry — are all, to some extent, basically the Ku Klux Klan, except that the extrajudicial violence they carry out is (we're assured) merited and just." Discuss.
Alexander Jablokov, Beth Meacham (m), Paul Park, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Karl Schroeder
Bruce Coville, Pamela Sargent
Kurt Vonnegut, Lloyd Alexander, Fred Saberhagen, Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Jordan, Ira Levin, and George MacDonald Fraser are no longer with us. Other writers, artists, fans, and well-recalled members of our community have also died in the last year. Let's remember a little of what they did, and what they meant to us.
John R. Douglas, Joe Siclari (m), Peter Weston
"Write what you know," they say. If you're writing about a poet who lives on a space station, how does it help that you're nuts about cycling, cryptology, forensics, mathematics, or blade weapons? Our panelists will explore this and other questions related to finding unlikely connections between what you're writing and what you care about.
Beth Bernobich, Patricia Bray, Gregory Frost, Joshua B. Palmatier, Tamora Pierce (m)
The mission of the Mars Homestead Project is to design, fund, build and operate the first permanent settlement on Mars. The initial goal is to identify the core technologies needed for an economical, growing Mars Base built primarily with local materials. Efforts will then focus on prototype projects of increasing sophistication leading to the establishment of an entire simulated Mars settlement at a location here on Earth, which will serve as a research and outreach center.
Bruce Mackenzie, Susan Martin
Eric M. Van
All movies start with written words: a script. But how much writing in our genres arises from or emphasizes a cinematic approach? Do our authors (consciously or unconsciously) work in shorter scenes, snappier dialog, or description that emphasizes sight more than other senses? How does this help or hurt specific stories?
Bob Devney (m), Bob Eggleton, Daniel Kimmel
Old idea, new technology: some writers are cutting out the middleman and publishing straight to the web via the "storyteller's bowl" model. In this arrangement, a chapter is posted once subscriptions reach a pre-set $um. Is this model good for the long term? Is it always successful? Should you try it for your next project?
Darlene Marshall (m), MaryAnn Johanson, Sharon Lee, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Trish Wilson
Enter the realm of high-energy filk with Seanan McGuire, co-winner of the 2007 Pegasus Award for Best Performer, a founding member of Lady Mondegreen, and star of the CDs Pretty Little Dead Girl and Stars Fall Home. A concert by Seanan always reveals both musical and visual surprises — how many different outfits can she wear in one concert? — plus secret messages from our alien overlords.
See the clash of fully-armored knights as they would have fought in the Middle Ages! Hollywood's images of armored combat rely on made-up moves and special effects. Watch as the HASG presents the actual techniques, described in medieval manuals, that knights used in battle.
Patricia Bray, Gregory Frost, Tamora Pierce
Michael F. Flynn, Michael Swanwick, Amy Thomson
Le Guin criticized mixing the modern with the high fantastic, yet Tolkien pointed out that our own green Earth is a character in ancient legends and is where the fantastic plays out. So what's wrong with mixing the high fantastic and the mundane? Discuss what works and what doesn't. Why?
S. C. Butler (m), Paul Park, Wen Spencer, Jane Yolen
Have at you! Witness the subtle skills of attack, parry, and grapple, as the knightly arts of halberd, longsword, dagger, and sword and buckler are brought to life from forgotten medieval manuscripts in this presentation by the HASG.
Greer Gilman, Matthew Jarpe
Fan Peter Olson recently found a fresh collection of SF book and movie cliches at www.findcliches.com/sciencefiction.htm. The horrors include hyper- apostrophized alien names, bad guys with 100% bad marksmanship, clones fresh out of the vat wearing their original's haircut, 15-minute technology development cycles, over-explicit computer screens ("NOW UPLOADING VIRUS"), and explosions in deep space that are invariably ring-shaped (where did that come from, anyway?). Let's exhume more favorites, and consider: Are cliches always bad storytelling? Can they be more like comfort food? And in vacuum, what is the sound of two hands clapping?
Ellen Asher, Daniel P. Dern, Craig Shaw Gardner, David G. Hartwell, Mary Kay Kare (m)
Versus novels, do short forms let you spend more lapidary time and effort on each detail? Or do you write in a headlong burst? Is it carpentry or sculpture? Do you feel constrained, or cozy? Do you add context or cut fat? If you stop writing before the end, could the fizz leak out? Examples, please.
James Patrick Kelly (m), Kelly Link, Jennifer Pelland
What unique challenges does the artist face in creating imaginative visions for the younger set? Do certain subjects hold special attractions? If you portray a child, should he or she be older, younger, or the same age as the intended audience? What is the usual author/artist relationship on a YA or children's book, and how is it crucial in integrating a unified story that kids can understand and enjoy?
Dean Morrissey, Omar Rayyan
What is this Second Life phenomenon, anyway? Is it the first budding of the cyberspace so long written about in SF or is it a place where losers can escape their miserable mundane lives? What is Second Life? How do people use it? How intertwined is it with SF tropes? What about the interactions between virtual worlds and the real world (e.g., companies of cheap, outsourced Chinese gamers earning points in massively multiplayer games to be sold for real money) (cf Charles Stross' recent book Halting State)?
James Cambias, John R. Douglas, Jennifer Dunne, James D. Macdonald
Military SF has a bit of a bad reputation since at its worst, it's war porn. But some of it is much more than that. Discuss the best of contemporary and classic military SF. How would you differentiate good military SF from war porn? Why do people enjoy it and why is it such an enduring theme in fantasy and SF? Does it ever rise above being purely entertainment?
Thomas A. Easton (m), Walter H. Hunt, David Weber, Christopher Weuve
When the first English colonists came to America, they expected to have to fight. Muskets and pikes dominated the battlefields of Europe, and would soon decide Britain's fate in the English Civil Wars. See how the colonists brought this military technology to the New World.
John Langan, Kelly Link, Michael Swanwick, George Zebrowski
Alexander Jablokov, Nina Harper
Which had a happier ending, The Mist or Sweeney Todd? Did Spider-Man 3 tingle your spidey sense with fear of any more sequels? Why was Sunshine so dim? Wasn't Ratatouille just the rat's meow? Recalling the science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies we've seen since last Boskone, let's discuss the most interesting — good and bad.
Bob Devney (m), Bob Eggleton, MaryAnn Johanson, Howard Waldrop
The sword was the weapon par excellence for hundreds of years, and the symbol of nobility and might. During that time its techniques changed dramatically. From the subtleties of the knightly longsword to the simplicity of the military saber, watch the HASG demonstrate authentic swordplay styles, taken from surviving manuals of the longsword, rapier, backsword, and saber.
Guy Consolmagno, Amy Thomson
Numerous technologies wind up getting used for quite different purposes than their originators expected. Consider dynamite, bubble wrap, speed trap radar, screensavers, the Internet's massive if not main use as a conduit for pornography, and laser pointer cat toys. What other example suggest themselves? Does this phenomenon make basic research more desirable, or less? Is it ever discussed in SF? Consider some of the great SFnal inventions (the hyperdrive, AIs, cyberspace, antigravity, boosterspice, positronic robots, personal force fields). Can you extrapolate some unexpected uses for them?
Tobias Buckell, Chad Orzel, Karl Schroeder (m), Charles Stross
Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden has said, "Sometimes the unkillable merits of otherwise terrible work are a lot more interesting to discuss than the several perfections of the best." Let's see if we can prove him right.
Kathryn Cramer (m), Wen Spencer, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Edward L. Stauff, Mary Ellen Wessels
Let's talk about the truly outstanding art that has adorned science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. (By all means, bring and show examples.) How is a cover different from other artworks? Does a great cover always make a great book? Must it always both tell and sell? Do the best covers share any specific elements of content or style? Can a once-great cover go out of fashion?
Ellen Asher, Gavin Grant, Elaine Isaak, Omar Rayyan, Joe Siclari (m)
It has been argued that the novella is a form particularly well-suited to SF and fantasy, yet the field has tended towards big fat volumes. Should we be editing more heavily?
Debra Doyle (m), Esther Friesner, Greer Gilman, Rosemary Kirstein, Lawrence Watt-Evans
They're not always the bestsellers or the prizewinners. But stalwart toilers in the SF, fantasy, or horror vineyards such as Jack McDevitt, Elizabeth Willey, Ramsey Campbell, and Rosemary Kirstein offer reading enjoyment you really shouldn't miss. Bring your own picks, too. We'll discuss what their stuff is like, and suggest the work you might want to start with.
Don D'Ammassa, Beth Meacham, Pamela Sargent, Allen Steele (m)
Watch the most romantic of swords in action! The rapier is the best-known of swords, appearing in everything from Shakespeare to swashbuckler movies. In this presentation, the HASG revives the lost art of its use as described in one of the earliest systematic manuals of the rapier.
James Cambias, Robert I. Katz, Rosemary Kirstein, Paul Melko, Allen Steele
David G. Hartwell, Eleanor Wood
The craft of writing a short story is different from writing a novella or novel. Having fewer words means each word has to be there for a reason. How do pace and characterization differ in a short story? Is a writer forced to decide if the idea is more important than the description? How are those decisions made, and so made, create an effective story, which lingers with the reader?
Beth Bernobich, James Patrick Kelly (m), Kelly Link, Michael Swanwick
Thomas A. Easton, Tamora Pierce
Learn to be a soldier in a medieval army! Members of the Higgins Armory Sword Guild will demonstrate the use of the halberd, a late-medieval polearm, and then teach Dragonslair participants battlefield drill with the weapon.
Walter H. Hunt
Elves are glamorous. They're tall, cooler than people, dress well, have great taste in music, and are all-round athletes, as well as being immortals with magical powers. And they're in tune with nature, too. But are they really? Most elvish societies are intensely hierarchical with a few uberelfen at the top and many more peons at the bottom. And there's no way for a peon to work his way up, since the master race is genetic. Tolkien's Elves were fairly benign, but the elves in many of the derivative fantasies that followed on don't look all that different from what we could imagine finding in a world a thousand years after a Nazi victory: the horrors at the start are long forgotten, but now there is a master race. Unfair? Discuss.
Judith Berman, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jane Yolen
Our panelists attended this once-in-a-lifetime event last summer in Wyoming. The NASA-funded, invitation-only, week-long course was designed specifically to provide writers with a crash course in astronomy. Jeff and Brett will explain who else attended, what it was like, what every writer (and fan) should know about the stars, and how much of a blast they had and you didn't.
Jeffrey A. Carver, F. Brett Cox
Gregory Frost, George Zebrowski
Cute animals have been a mainstay of SF and fantasy for decades. What are our pet examples? Does their use serve any purpose other than humor or sheer squee- worthy adorableness? What are these cuddly creatures doing in genres that celebrate science, adventure, and high-minded speculation?
Ctein, Sarah Beth Durst, David Weber
How do you make a walk-on character rounded and memorable? Can a supporting player ever be so striking that he, she, or it draws too much attention from the main cast members? What minor portraits from SF, fantasy, or horror books or movies do we still recall with fondness (or other strong emotion)?
Patricia Bray, Bruce Coville, Don D'Ammassa (m), Sharon Lee, Paul Park
Knights in full armor were very well protected from most medieval weapons. See how unarmored footsoldiers might have attacked a fully armored knight in battle.
Paul Park, Karl Schroeder, David Weber
Bruce Coville, Gregory Feeley
Looks like we may never get an official end to the series. But hey, we're SF fans: we'll make one (heck, several) up. Conversation may also include but should not be limited to discussion of how BSG is (was) the awesomist esseff teevee evah!
Michael A. Burstein, Jeffrey A. Carver (m), Craig Shaw Gardner, MaryAnn Johanson, Jennifer Pelland
A dialogue about the short form by maestros of the craft.
James Patrick Kelly (m), Michael Swanwick, Howard Waldrop
Darlene Marshall, Allen Steele
Priscilla Olson, Edie Stern
Have at you! Witness the subtle skills of attack, parry, and grapple as the combat arts of the dagger, longsword, rapier, and backsword are brought to life from forgotten manuals in this presentation by the HASG.
Resolved: That high fantasy reached its peak with Tolkien and it's all been downhill since. Just what has happened to the state of the art of high fantasy since Tolkien to contradict that assertion? Or is 98% of the post-Tolkien fantasy literature just a re-use of parts of his storyline with a few things changed?
Ginjer Buchanan, Stephen C. Fisher, Mary Kay Kare (m), Farah Mendlesohn
The essence of an urban legend is a story or "Just So" tale that is untrue, but so attractive that it gets repeated, and spreads. Candidates from our folkways might include Archimedes in that bathtub, the evil baron's first night with the bride in innumerable medievalish fantasies, the Galilleo myth, the FBI's questioning John Campbell about leaking the A-bomb, Dave Kyle's seating restrictions, orthe SWAT team at Disclave. What are some of our other tales too tall to be true? What's their basis, if any? What do they tell us about us?
Michael F. Flynn, Jordin T. Kare, James D. Macdonald (m), Teresa Nielsen Hayden
A performance circle in which each performer is challenged to come up with a song that follows the previous one. Anything goes — unexpected insights, strained logic, bad puns.
Paul Estin, Joseph Kesselman, Gary D. McGath, Benjamin Newman, Roberta Rogow
In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson's writing, and the tremendous impact of her work on literature and culture, a group of writers and editors have established the Shirley Jackson Award (to be first bestowed in mid-2008) for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Its jurors will discuss the award and the year in horror and dark fiction, including favorite and overlooked works and trends within the genre. The jurors of the award are Paul Tremblay, F. Brett Cox, John Langan, and Sarah Langan, with JoAnn Cox as the administrator.
F. Brett Cox (m), John Langan, Paul G. Tremblay
Aron Insinga works for a company which makes real (non-humaniform) robots to run warehouses. He talks about programming them and shows videos of real robots in action.
Aron K. Insinga
Do languages constructed for SF and fantasy works too often become monolanguages for monocultures — where predator people mostly spit insults, while forest folk issue leafy murmurs? What well-known stories in our genres more realistically suit the way characters speak to the ways they live? How successful were the creators of words or phrases such as "kreegah bundolo," "lembas," "Dirac Angestun Gesept," "Klaatu barada nikto," "gom jabbar," "sfik," "shaych," and "frell"? What methods seem to work? Does building an actual alien grammar help? And can you ever use enough apostrophes?
James Cambias, Elaine Isaak, Fred Lerner (m), Lawrence Schoen, Sonya Taaffe
Bob Eggleton, Omar Rayyan
Since 1978, our Special Guest has written or coauthored more than 90 books, almost all aimed at younger audiences. We'll discuss his most popular works, including the Magic Shop, My Teacher Is an Alien, Moongobble, and Nina Tanleven series, as well as the Unicorn Chronicles &mdash without neglecting his Shakespeare retellings or impressive accomplishments as an audiobook publisher. Does his early career as a teacher still show in his work? Why does he anchor the most exotic SF or fantasy themes in worlds featuring ordinary bullies and friends, jokes and homework? Critics talk of Heinlein's signature hero, the Competent Man; is there a prototypical Coville Kid? Are the characters based on himself (Rod Allbright) and his daughter (Cara Diana Hunter) more convincing than his others? And what wonders might that third Unicorn book contain, when it finally materializes this August?
Sarah Beth Durst, Tamora Pierce, Mary Ellen Wessels, Jane Yolen
The Hugo nominations deadline is only two weeks away. Join us to talk about the best dramatic presentations, both short and long, of 2007.
Vince Docherty, MaryAnn Johanson, Daniel Kimmel, Jim Mann (m)
Beth Bernobich, Joshua B. Palmatier
Sometimes good books are alike in interesting or unexpected ways. Our neighborhood bookshop is exploiting this phenomenon to display older novels next to particularly popular new ones. Let's do the same for worthy works of SF, fantasy, and horror — and speculate on the mysterious affinities we may find between very different works of art.
Ellen Asher, Kathryn Cramer, Don D'Ammassa, Faye Ringel (m), Peter Weston
Discussing later works by masters such as Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury, writer Darrell Schweitzer said, "Alas, Jove nods and our gods fail ... The author who is setting the world on fire at 30 just isn't the same person at 75. Either he goes on to write something different or ... he turns out continually weaker pastiches of his younger self." What are some other egregious examples? Where did they go wrong? Which is worse: writing the same old stuff, or trying for something new in perhaps a minor key? Once a writer stumbles, can he or she ever recover?
Farah Mendlesohn, Teresa Nielsen Hayden (m), George Zebrowski
Physics basically covers three subjects: matter, energy, and what goes on between them. How exciting can that be, really? More and more all the time, as it turns out. Plus we keep watching the skies — and every year it pays off with fascinating new astronomical developments.
Guy Consolmagno, Ctein, Jeff Hecht, Mark L. Olson (m)
Michael Flynn's perennially popular, continuously evolving, fascinating talk on that dry subject, statistics. As he says, "We often deceive people inadvertently by an improper use of statistics: Come and learn how to do it on purpose!"
Michael F. Flynn
How has our view of this critical theory changed since Darwin's day — or at least since most of us were in school? How has SF treated this topic? What elements of evolution do even fans still fail to understand? How do we explain it to people who (like the majority of Americans) don't "believe" in it? But please let's not let this panel devolve into politics!
Judith Berman, James Cambias, Stephen C. Fisher, Robert I. Katz (m)
Debra Doyle, James D. Macdonald
Jeffrey A. Carver, Craig Shaw Gardner
In each round of this fiendish funfest (stolen from a contest in F&SF), the moderator inflicts a new story title on the panelists, who then vie to invent a plot to match. Each title freakishly mates two actual works. Given Foundation and Empire Strike Back, a panelist might reply, "Hari Seldon goes to Dagoba to learn the ways of the Force and defeat the Mule. Unfortunately, it turns out the Mule is his father." Advice for panelists: if you don't know the plot of one (or both) originals, make up something about sex, treecats, Ents, Albus Dumbledore, hotel food, sex, Eando Binder, Microsoft, Donkey from Shrek, SFWA, or sex. This audience will be pushovers for that stuff.
Michael A. Burstein (m), Craig Shaw Gardner, Amy Thomson
Presentations to our honored guests, announcement of the winners the Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist — and the ever popular ("Put it where the sun doesn't shine") Skylark Award!
Bruce Coville, Seanan McGuire, Dean Morrissey, David Weber
Hear a Full Cast Audio-style presentation of Bruce Coville's story "The Stinky Princess".
Bruce Coville, Esther Friesner, David G. Grubbs, Robert Kuhn, Timothy Liebe, Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen
Erwin S. Strauss
The Hugo nomination deadline is only two weeks away! Join us to talk about what we liked from 2007 in the written categories.
Claire Anderson, Vince Docherty, Jim Mann, Mark L. Olson
Omar Rayyan demonstrates how he does his fantastic watercolors.
Two fantasists talk seriously about matters they find intensely interesting.
Greer Gilman, Michael Swanwick
Joshua B. Palmatier
Karl Schroeder, George Zebrowski
James Patrick Kelly
James Patrick Baen (1943-2006) exerted major influence on SF over the past 30 years — much but perhaps not all of it good. From his early years at Galaxy and Tor to Baen Books, from his staunch support of reprinting classic short SF to his development of many exciting new writers, and not forgetting his publication of sometimes formulaic military SF in shocking and awesome quantity, we talk about Jim Baen and his legacy.
Bob Eggleton, David Weber (m), Eleanor Wood
You're probably at this convention because you once read a science fiction or fantasy novel written for young adults. Then another, and another ... Our panelists' work aside, what are the field's classics? Current contenders? Is every YA story a fairy tale in new togs? Compared to writing for adults (or children), are YA books more fun? What themes won't you touch? Do you research real kids, or rely on memories of your own (or other writers') younger years?
Bruce Coville, Sarah Beth Durst, Stephen C. Fisher (m), Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen
When physicists speak of "quantum teleportation," just how close are they to making a Star Trek transporter? This talk will cover the basics of what quantum teleportation is, what it isn't, how it works, and how to explain it to your dog.
Older SF (including pop culture such as The Jetsons) held several perennial ideas of what the future would be like. One envisaged the flying car, subject of many past panels. Another — which we personally desired way more than any airborne auto — was the 20 hour workweek. Supposedly, automation and productivity advances would cut our hours on the job, gloriously freeing up tons of time for other things. OK, we've realized all those great gains in productivity. But the sad statistics say Americans are working considerably longer weeks, not shorter ones. What happened, dammit? And does any hope still remain?
Tobias Buckell, Alexander Jablokov (m), Paul Melko, Pamela Sargent
Esther Friesner, James Patrick Kelly
Is this the year when eBooks stopped being the future and started being now? What is the state of the art? What issues remain to prevent wide adoption? Are they primarily technological, legal, or matters of preference? If 2008 isn't the year, just what is still needed for eBooks to be a success?
Darlene Marshall (m), Ellen Asher, Don D'Ammassa, Charles Stross
S. C. Butler
Sarah Beth Durst, Rosemary Kirstein
Michael F. Flynn
Anglo-Irish author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) was the leading writer of ghost stories in the nineteenth century. We'll take a retrospective look at some of his famous works (such as "In a Glass Darkly") and themes, and his influence on the gothic tale and modern horror. If there's time, we could also attempt a comparison/contrast with other writers of his era such as Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, and so on.
Let's recognize that movies subverting high fantasy for comic effect are now an official subgenre. Examples: The Princess Bride, the Shrek series, and last year's instant classic Enchanted. Do fantasy fans enjoy these flicks even more than nonfans? Have kids today got enough grasp of classic fairy tales to subvert? What specific fantasy subjects or subgenres should they start sending up next?
Gregory Frost, MaryAnn Johanson (m), Timothy Liebe, Howard Waldrop
For once, an art discussion that moves beyond the flat stuff! Defined as the systematic study of the properties and applications of materials of construction or manufacture, materials science is one of the less famous members of the physics family. Yet what you can build using this ancient discipline determines all sorts of things about how your culture develops and functions. Plus when it's properly applied, it lets creative types construct really cool stuff from ceramics, polymers, metals, composites, and even unlikelier matter. Now let's see what kind of a panel we can make out of this ...
Ctein, Elise Matthesen, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Starship Troopers may be one of the most controversial science fiction novels ever written. Why?
SF and fantasy writers participate in an intergenerational conversation, with newer writers reacting to (and commenting on) the stories of their predecessors. Robert Heinlein's and Poul Anderson's homages to Rudyard Kipling's Kim, Star Wars trying to put the romance back in Star Trek, Philip Pullman's three- volume rebuttal to C. S. Lewis, Naomi Novik's mashups of C. S. Forester and Anne McCaffrey — there are even conversations widely perceived that never occurred, such as Joe Haldeman's supposedly writing The Forever War to answer Starship Troopers. All this crosstalk adds depth and richness to the field. Does it also get a tad too cosy? Can new readers ever catch up?
John R. Douglas, Fred Lerner, Edie Stern (m), Eric M. Van
This month marks the 20th anniversary of Agent of Change, the first Liaden Universe book. Eleven books, numerous stories, and a couple million words later, the series' authors, two leading lights of New England science fiction, host a retrospective of where the time went — plus where the series has been and is likely to go. They may also touch on topics such as writing with your life partner, how to mix strong elements of romance with bleak themes of savage warfare and the death of universes, and the promise and problems of electronic publication. No pronunciation of the full name of any Clutch Turtle will be attempted.
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Stephen C. Fisher
Darlene Marshall, Walter H. Hunt, Pamela Sargent
James Patrick Kelly, Beth Meacham
It's said that only a few thousand people bought the Velvet Underground's first album — but every one of them started a band. What creative people in our genres have had similar influence on our panelists? On the field as a whole? Do influences from outside the genre count? How about bad influences? Can one be influenced without imitating? As leaders in their fields, how do our panelists try to influence others?
Bruce Coville, Steve Miller (m), Dean Morrissey, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, David Weber
We often talk about how to get published: This time talk about how not to get published. What are some of the don'ts? Discuss both the absurd "what could they have been thinking???" sorts of errors and also the subtle mistakes a newbie can make.
Ginjer Buchanan, Daniel P. Dern (m), Paul Melko, Eleanor Wood
Gregory Frost, Sharon Lee
Merav Hoffman, Seanan McGuire, Batya Wittenberg
Jordin T. Kare
C. S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, and Madeline L'Engle included religion in their most famous works. "Harry Potter" is seen by some as anti-Christian. Is religion important to include in YA, or important to avoid? Is religion in YA tempered by or encouraged by the latest trends in popular culture or adult fiction? Are there YA works which explore non-Christian religious themes?
Jeffrey A. Carver, Debra Doyle, Esther Friesner, Tamora Pierce (m)
A well-written horror story can appeal on many levels: literary style, depiction of contemporary or period culture, fine characterization, mordant humor, and more. But let's talk here about the stories that attained that most essential of horror fiction goals: they purely scared the pants off us.
F. Brett Cox (m), Nina Harper, Paul G. Tremblay, Trish Wilson, George Zebrowski
They aren't household names — at least not yet. But we promise that writers such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Catherynne M. Valente, Daniel Abraham, and Joe Hill are already producing pretty stellar stuff in SF, fantasy, or horror. Bring your own hot candidates for future fame as well. We'll (briefly) describe each writer's work, and suggest which story you might like to start with.
Gregory Feeley, David G. Hartwell (m), Fred Lerner, Farah Mendlesohn
Sarah Beth Durst
David G. Hartwell, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jane Yolen
Is it true that SF readers are less likely than the general public to believe in the existence of UFOs, drive-by probes by Gray aliens, etc.? Is it that we're more scientifically informed, or just less open-minded than we think? Is there any good evidence for these phenomena generally? Why is this stuff not likely to be true? What evidence would it take to convince us?
F. Brett Cox, Jennifer Dunne, Glenn Grant
The attractions are obvious. Yet the pitfalls become ever more perilous, including the black hole of the Singularity and the temptation to simply slam present-day politics. Is a near-future utopia even possible anymore? Let's talk, with reference to outstanding examples such as Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End and Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Tamarisk Hunter."
Alexander Jablokov, James Patrick Kelly (m), Charles Stross
Brigadier-General Sir Harry Flashman (1822-1915) was a debauched, bullying coward who became acclaimed for heroism on every battlefield of the 19th century. In twelve delightfully cynical books by George McDonald Fraser, who died last month, Flashman goes everywhere and meets everybody from Charles Darwin to Sherlock Holmes, Karl Marx to Kit Carson. Flashman fans are invited to get together and enjoy!
Debra Doyle, Cecilia Tan
A number of Hugo categories (e.g., Best Related Book) seem to barely scrape up enough contenders each year. In other categories (e.g., Best Professional Artist), long-term reputation can seem more important than the year's work. Some meritorious parts of the field (e.g., web sites) aren't covered at all. And do we need a Grandmaster award? This could recognize the "best of the best," or serve as a prize for those who did great things, but were never recognized in an existing category. Do the Hugos have problems that need fixing, or are we just indulging in the fannish habit of fixing things that aren't broken?
Vince Docherty (m), Paul Melko, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Come see our Massachusetts-based Official Artist present his work. But only if you enjoy magically elaborate machines, tinkering wizards, jeweled colors, lush landscapes, antique toys, gaudy gauges, eye-candy clocks, striped caps, checkered horses, and the best snow-white beards in the business.
There are lots of recordings from conventions which have never seen the light of day; a significant number of these are of decent quality. Is there some way that they can be brought to the public? Issues to overcome include the quantity of material to dig through, the need for permissions, obsolescent storage formats, and the time which people have to spare.
Seanan McGuire, Benjamin Newman, Crystal Paul, Bob Rosenfeld
We're doing something a little bit differently this year: We will show several short videos illustrating future healthcare concepts and discuss them and their plausibility (or lack thereof!).
Thomas A. Easton, Matthew Jarpe, Robert I. Katz (m)
Do you read less than you used to? If so, why? Age, eye problems, movies and TV, the Internet, overwork, overfamiliarity with the same old themes, a decline in the quality of what's getting published? How many genre books do you read in a week or month? Is that fewer than 10 years ago?
Jeffrey A. Carver, Daniel P. Dern (m), Mary Kay Kare, Beth Meacham, Roberta Rogow
The flares of exploding star fleets shouldn't blind us to the richly varied cosmos lit by those flashes. What fascinating extrapolations does Honor Harrington's universe offer on the future of gender roles, religion, lifespans, commerce, human biology, and OK, politics and warfare? Where elements haven't advanced much beyond our time, could (does?) that represent a statement by the author? What does this universe teach about how history becomes legend, and conflict accelerates innovation? What sets the Honorverse apart from contending galactic civilizations in the works of Asimov, Herbert, Bujold, Niven, Lucas, or Banks? What don't we know that its creator might be willing to reveal?
Jordin T. Kare, Timothy Liebe, David Weber (m)
Charles Stross, Cecilia Tan
Wen Spencer, Lawrence Watt-Evans
Elaine Isaak, James D. Macdonald
Global warming is real — there's no serious question about that, but just about everything else you read about it is open to dispute by serious, knowledgeable people. Is it actually bad? (It's change, but is change necessarily bad?) It will cause habitat change, (But how much and how seriously?) It will cause changes to the weather. (But for better or for worse?) Of the various remedies proposed to slow it or stop it, which will actually work? Ethanol from corn? "Carbon-neutral purchasing"? Energy conservation? Slowed economic growth? Ocean seeding with iron? Mirrors in space? Artificial sulfate haze? Talk about what we know and what we don't know.
Tobias Buckell, Jeff Hecht, Mark L. Olson (m), Karl Schroeder
DUFF is the Down Under Fan Fund, which sends a North American fan to Australia every other year. To do that, it needs to raise money. The DUFF auction is a great chance to get interesting stuff at a fair price and help a great fannish charity!
Will any recent writer of science fiction, fantasy, or horror still be read or widely studied 100 years from now? Mary Shelley, Verne, and Wells seem to be lasting well; what about more contemporary figures? Tolkien? Rowling? Heinlein? Pratchett? Le Guin? Miyazaki? Norman? Gene Wolfe once nominated Harlan Ellison. Any likely prospects at this con? What has characterized work that lasts? How exactly might you start making your own stuff timeless? Does it help to write for children? Must you be cinematized? Don't count out longshots: we await with pleasure the Lafferty revival of 2108.
Bruce Coville, Bob Devney (m), David G. Hartwell, Elise Matthesen, Farah Mendlesohn
How do writers of military SF do their spadework beforehand? Unlike, say, a Civil War novelist, you can't exactly "walk the ground" before describing the Battle of Beta Centauri. Is knowledge of Terran military history still essential? For near-future war stories, do you need a pipeline to the Pentagon? What's the proper mixture of extrapolation, imagination, and bulldustification?
Walter H. Hunt, Christopher Weuve
Positive reinforcement has its place, and by all means let us know where your Boskone experience was a good one. But we'll also focus on what went wrong, and how can we make it right? This is the session where "we'll do better next year" isn't just a promise, it's an action item. How can we improve this convention?
A full cast audio production is far more than simply a reading. What's involved in editing the work into a script, casting, rehearsing, and performing?
Bruce Coville, Timothy Liebe