I have another update to share.
First, I was interviewed this morning about WorldCon for StarShipSofa, and you can download or listen to the podcast here. My interview comprises the entire podcast.
After that, I enjoyed another excellent day of programming. Of the panels, the highlight definitely was the panel on New Media. The panelists included (left to right, see below) rock musician and multimedia artist Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of the band Hole, which I quite liked, as a matter of fact) and authors Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Tobias Buckell, Steven R. Boyett, and Cory Doctorow. It was a very fast-paced and dynamic hour and a half, but the main consensus that seemed to emerge was that all of the artists are extremely optimistic about the opportunities that new media presents, and although they recognize that industries such as publishing must transition, the end result will be worth the growing pains. In particular, they lauded the opportunities for imaginative collaboration and immediate feedback (which, in turn, may affect process and/or content) that new media provides, and offered a number of concrete examples of this. Although change is happening very quickly in the publishing world now just as it did in the music industry, still the panelists imagined innovations for which they are impatient (such as, in the case of Steven R. Boyett, the opportunity to publish a novel as something like a wiki, so that readers could, quite literally, remake/remix a novel to respond to the canonical text, write out a character if they wish, etc. – an organic and ongoing form of fan fiction, if you will). Another of the repeated themes was that new media changes and opens access, and lowers the cost of experimentation, and yet the fundamentals of storytelling, even in this new 21st-century reality, are still the same as they have been since the first storytellers hunched around a campfire.
One particularly interesting (and, to my mind, heartening) tidbit was Cory Doctorow's news about his forthcoming audiobooks. As you may know, Doctorow disagrees with the way in which Audible, for example, imposes its digital rights management system on those who purchase its wares. When Little Brother came out, he attempted to negotiate with Audible so that the company would offer a download without DRM, but Audible refused, and so Doctorow's Little Brother is not available through its site, which is the largest seller of audiobooks in the world. But due to the success of Little Brother, Audible now has agreed to sell his next two audiobooks without DRM, which will be the very first time Audible has ever sold any such files.
I also appreciated Gaiman's point that, only a few years ago, when he was writing American Gods, he'd been forced to drive across the U.S.A. rather than fly simply because of the sheer bulk of the many books he needed with him for research. Now, a short time later, in the age of the Kindle (and its soon-to-come successors), he said, "We now live in a time in which information has no weight."
Perhaps the funniest exchange (funny to me, anyway) came after Doctorow explained a new code he had written to save encrypted drafts of his work at fifteen-minute intervals along with a remarkable amount of data (the last several songs to which he'd listened, the current weather, etc.), so that later he could mine the data and learn more about his own writing habits, as well as compare revisions at every stage in his process and look for patterns. After an excruciatingly involved explanation of Doctorow's plans for high-tech self-analysis, Gaiman replied that he wrote his first drafts in a notebook by hand. "In cuneiform?" Doctorow asked. Proudly, Gaiman gestured as if writing in the air. "In joined-up writing," he answered.
This afternoon I took the opportunity to meet some of the other attending authors. You can see all of my photos here. I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to say hello to Guy Gavriel Kay, who not only is a wonderful author (of works such as The Fionavar Tapestry and Ysabel, among others), but also assisted Christopher Tolkien in preparing his father's Silmarillion for publication. I was touched when a young Canadian boy, who was also waiting to meet him, books clutched to his chest, commented that Kay was "a national treasure." I think perhaps that's one of the reasons I enjoy conventions so much; there's something very powerful to me about having the opportunity to see genre authors venerated and appreciated like rock stars by readers whose lives have been changed by books. Kay was every bit the gracious gentleman I expected him to be.
And speaking of Canada's national treasures, I was also very happy to have the chance to meet Nalo Hopkinson, a truly classy individual as well as a very powerful writer.
I attended several delightful readings, as well, two of which – by 2009 Hugo nominee James Alan Gardner and Peadar Ó Guilín – were from new, unpublished manuscripts.
I wrapped up the day by attending the ceremony for the Prometheus Awards. This year, the Hall of Fame award went to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Pat Reynolds, the archivist for The Tolkien Society, accepted the award on The Professor's behalf. She read the passage from the Prologue of The Lord of the Rings about the Mathom-house in Michel Delving, and compared the sense of memory and identity it contained to the purpose of the Hall of Fame Award. The 2009 novel award winner was Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (I was two for two this year! Go me!), and Doctorow followed his acceptance with stirring remarks about how science fiction as a genre has the power to be "telling the story that drives the narrative that becomes our politics," to challenge readers to imagine better. The ceremony was a small and intimate affair, which was lovely, as it gave us all a chance to talk afterwards. Oh, and points go to Doctorow for responding to the standard "How are you?" with "I am slathered in awesome sauce."
Tomorrow begins with another interview, and then continues with lots of programming, including my autograph session and the first of my three panels. You can see all of my photos from WorldCon here.Thanks for reading my report! I'll post more soon.
"At no time had Hobbits of any kind been warlike, and they had never fought among themselves.... Nonetheless, ease and peace had left this people still curiously tough. They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or to kill; and they were, perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well and looked no further than their bellies and their well-fed faces."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings