I spent the weekend at another fun and exhausting round of the Friends of the Genre con. I'm proud to say I've attended every previous FOGcon (writeups from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015), and I always enjoy getting together with fellow speculative fiction fans to discuss books and other topics of interest to the SF community.
This year's programming seemed to skew toward the other topics. I attended several panels on science, technology, and language that cited few or no fictional examples, focusing instead on what exists in the real world and what might emerge in the future. For instance, "The Developing Reality of Intelligent Machines" considered improvements in artificial intelligence and their implications for society. "From Caterpillar to Butterfly" covered unusual biological phenomena that occur in nature, with some talk of how these could inspire alien characters. All these panels were interesting, lively discussions, but I was surprised at the end of the weekend to realize I hadn't collected nearly as many book recommendations as usual.
A few panels did concentrate solidly on fiction, lengthening my to-read list. I was especially excited about "Domestic Fantasy", a discussion of works that feature families and domestic matters. Honored guest Jo Walton was one of the participants, and she and the rest of the panelists had fascinating things to say about how domesticity is handled in speculative fiction. "The Ethics of Magic" was another fun topic, examining stories that address or ignore the consequences of using magic. I was also happy to wrap up the convention with a celebration of the life and work of honored ghost Octavia Butler.
Overall, my con was less focused on the programming than usual. I wasn't signed up to participate in any panels myself, and I skipped a few sessions in favor of socializing or sleeping in. I guess I say this every year, but the best part of the weekend was hanging out with cool people. I shared food, drinks, and laughter with good friends. I started chatting with Jo Walton after a panel we'd both attended, and we wound up in an entertaining conversational group for the next hour. More people showed up for karaoke than ever before, and I sang my voice out late into the night.
FOGcon came right after a wonderful, relaxing vacation to Maui, so my life has been full of travel and excitement lately. It's time to turn my writing brain back on and see if all these adventures produced any story ideas.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ At Electric Literature, Kevin Pickard considers the use, or significant avoidance, of pop culture references in fiction: "But, on the other side of the debate, novels have started popping up and earning the 'timeless' or 'out of time' approbation. What is especially interesting about this is that, in at least two examples, the timelessness seems to go against the novel's ultimate project."