2011 FOGcon

Welcome to the first posting in my Reading Life category here on Read Irresponsibly. I’m not quite sure what the schedule will be for posting in this category, but I aim to get something out regularly. These will mainly about personal experience with reading. Attending conventions, checking out book stores, what I’m trying to accomplish by reading, and I don’t know what all else. Generally, discussion of the meta-reading experience. There might be a bit of opinion interwoven within these posts, but that won’t be the focus.

This last weekend I drove from Seattle to San Francisco for FOGcon. It’s really only the third science fiction convention I’ve attended, the first two being WisCon in 2009 and 2010. It’s not a coincidence that I attended both WisCon and FOGcon. FOGcon is a spin-off from WisCon, though it’s less politically oriented than its progenitor. Like WisCon, it aims to be literary oriented science fiction convention. In other words, it will have lots of programming related to constructing and enjoying the literature of the fantastic. It will not have a lot of events related to television, comics, movies, costuming, etc. Most conventions that I read about seem to focus on activities in the latter set. Lots of people enjoy them, but they are not my thing at all. I saw an announcement about FOGcon last year and almost immediately purchased a membership

Future City
Future City by Neil Kremer (CC By-Nd)

The theme for this year’s FOGcon was the city. Lots of discussion of what cities of the future and the past look like in fiction. I love city based stories. I love the Boston of Dennis Lehane and William Landay, and even that of Robert Parker. I love China Miéville’s London and London analogues in King Rat, Perdido Street Station, and Un Lun Dun. New York City got to be prominent in almost every superhero comic book (though it often got renamed to something like Metropolis).

At FOGcon, I attended a few panels in the cities track. David Levine moderated Future Cities of the Past talking about what writers and visionaries of the past got right and wrong. Mary Anne Mohanraj moderated a discussion on fictional segregation. That was interesting, but the discussion drifted to a more general topic of diversity in science fiction. By far my favorite panel was one hosted by my friend Yonatan Zunger on ancient cities and the fantastic (i.e., magic). Therein he quizzed his panelists Daniel Starr, Erin Hoffman, and Katherine Kerr on how magic affected sewage disposal in their cities. And that was just Friday.

On Saturday, I visited a few of the panels that weren’t about cities. Lori Selke moderated a panel on the wrath of the Internet. I didn’t really expect to learn much there, as I’ve watched a lot of Internet drama over the years and the panelists weren’t people who studied it. However, Nick Mamatas was on the panel. He’s an instigator and isn’t shy with his opinions, so I figured it would be interesting. I skipped a panel on digital cities to attend a presentation by guests of honor Ann and Jeff VanderMeer on their projects. The presentation was mostly them listing the projects they are working on, which are mostly public already, and they didn’t tell any non-public details. Later, I sat in on a panel on regionalism in science fiction. Terry Bisson made that panel entertaining. He denied the existence of regionalism in S.F. then changed his mind about 10 minutes later. I’ll attend any panel or reading with Terry Bisson. The last panel I sat in on was on London in science fiction moderated by Amy Sundberg.

I bought a fair number of books in the Dealers Room, and the freebie table had a few that I snagged too. I’m going home with about a dozen new reading items, including Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch, Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, Amelia Beamer’s The Loving Dead, and more. This is kind of mixed though. I have a billion unread books already. On the other hand, it’s a good chance to flip through books put out by smaller publishers such as PM Press and Night Shade Books. Bookstores in Seattle don’t carry their books automatically.

Next year the theme for FOGcon will be The Body. However, no date has been set.