Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I am off to Boston tomorrow to hang with the sf literati at Readercon. If you're there, please come by and say hi! Here's where you can find me:

SF As The Literature Of Things.

Friday, 11 am

Clute, Bobet, Di Filippo, Nakashima-Brown, Weinstein

It's commonly agreed that stories set in the future can "really" be about the future or the present. But in novels like William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, and Bruce Sterling's Zeitgeist and Zenith Angle, we are for the first time seeing stories set in the present which seem to be about the future. These fictions seem to argue that the future will be built bottom-up rather than top-down; that progress does not derive from the implementation of ideas but rather from the accumulation of quotidian technological change. Character in these works is not so much a matter of nature or nurture, but a product of our interaction with things, things produced as fast as we can (because we can) and without any deep consideration for their consequences. Is this "SF as a Literature of Things" ultimately just an interesting sub-genre, or might (or should) the field itself be morphing in its direction? There are more and more slipstream stories that start with an architectural setting or an object or some arcane text; do these reflect the same movement?

Reading – Chris Nakashima-Brown
Friday, 7:30 pm

I Spy, I Fear, I Wonder: Espionage Fiction and the Fantastic.

D'Ammassa, Finlay, Macdonald, Nakashima-Brown, Shirley

Saturday, 2-3 pm

In his afterword to The Atrocity Archives, Charles Stross makes a bold pair of assertions: Len Deighton was a horror writer (because "all cold-war era spy thrillers rely on the existential horror of nuclear annihilation") while Lovecraft wrote spy thrillers (with their "obsessive collection of secret information"). In fact, Stross argues that the primary difference between the two genres is that the threat of the "uncontrollable universe" in horror fiction "verges on the overwhelming," while spy fiction "allows us to believe for a while that the little people can, by obtaining secret knowledge, acquire some leverage over" it. This is only one example of the confluence of the espionage novel with the genres of the fantastic; the two are blended in various ways in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Tim Powers' Declare, William Gibson's Spook County, and, in the media, the Bond movies and The Prisoner. We'll survey the best of espionage fiction as it reads to lovers of the fantastic. Are there branches of the fantastic other than horror to which the spy novel has a special affinity or relationship?

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