Saturday, February 7, 2015


It's been wet in Seattle, and Potlatch has been going on. A few panels:

1. On good media sf. It seems clear that the old rule of thumb, that good media sf is about 20-30 years behind good written sf (thus, ST:TOS was hailed at the time for being good Forties sf, only 20 years late), is now quite out of date. Lots of recommendations of shows or movies that few had heard of. Ulrika had ones in Swedish. carl juarez illustrated the general proposition by noting the increased sophistication of time travel plots: "Normal people are now expected to understand them."

2. On the state of fantasy. Spent most of its time examining the proposition that changes in the paradigm of what is considered real changes the definition of fantasy. The past relegation of fantasy to the category of children's stories, and the latency period, in which grown-ups disavow their childhood interest in fantasy until they really grow up and feel free to read it again, were both raised. Being on the panel, I got to cite Tolkien in regard to the one and Lewis in regard to the other.

3. Why are we still discussing the place of women in sf? Because the struggle is never over. Eileen Gunn seemed convinced that the SF Encyclopedia and its ilk have found a new way to suppress women's writing, and hers in particular: by claiming that what she writes isn't really sf. She thinks it's sf, and it was considered so when she began. I wonder, though, if it isn't directed less at her in particular or women in general than at a general redefinition of the field. Had I a chance on the earlier panel, I'd have mentioned that Ray Bradbury didn't write sf either (by his own definition or mine), and that once I realized he wasn't an sf writer at all but a Midwestern dark pastoral fantasist who just happened to like spaceships, his work made a lot more sense to me.

4. Commentary on Ursula K. Le Guin's recent speech on art and commerce. Much discussion of gatekeeping: who will direct us to the good stuff if editors and publishers become obsolete. But who says they were always directing us to the good stuff before?

5. Trivia quiz. Tom Whitmore read questions, rapidly. Karen Anderson threw chocolate to the right guessers. In the "identify the story from its first line" section, I got four, which say a lot about my reading proclivities: The End of Eternity,, "A Rose for Ecclesiastes", Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, and The Princess Bride.

6. Readings aloud. I choose pieces for humor value when participating in these. I read one of Will Stanton's fairy-tale deconstructions (if Red Riding Hood had been more perceptive, she'd have asked the figure in grandmother's bed wearing grandmother's nightclothes, "What happened to your thumbs?"), and B. and I shared the old New Yorker dialogue in which Mulder and Scully investigate that supernatural entity, Santa Claus.

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