As the weekend progresses, numberous books tend to be referenced. Here's a (probably not 100% complete) list from 2016:
In terms of what programming is like, past years topics are a good representation
of the flavor of what we tend to discuss. The 2016 list:
|Disability in Speculative Fiction|
Michael D. Thomas,
Representation of disability and chronic illness often comes in two forms: writing
*the* experience or writing *an* experience. How much you define the character by
their condition can define the story. Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl
follows India Phelps' struggling with her schizophrenia and treatment for it,
while N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdom follows Oree handling bloody plots of the
gods while happening to be blind. Has there been a quantitative or qualitative
shift in treatment of disabilities in SF/F in its recent history?
|Diving into the Fog: Writing as a Light Trance State|
...and possibly reading as the same? How much of one is consciously there when
composing? What does it feel like to be transported in some fashion during the act of
creation or appreciation? How can you integrate the act of creating something via
conscious, deliberate steps with those times when whatever passes for your muse
shoves you off a hillside without warning? Stephen King, in On Writing, cautions that
only one firm rule ever applies to the serious fiction writer-- "Do not come lightly
to the blank page." What must one do to fall into the trance? What does one do to
stay in the trance, if one can? What happens when the shadow of a deadline crosses
the horizon, and the door to the trance state has vanished?
|Empire and Corporation|
Do corporations fill the same role(s) in our lives and in our stories that
empires once did? Another suggested possibility for this panel: "Empires,
Corporations, and Religions: Our Favorite Atagonism Machines!" How has
representation of the corporation in SF/F changed over the years, and how
has the public relationship to the concept of the corporation changed in
the same time? Where do corporation and empire now sit in the pantheon of
background influences and themes in SF/F?
|Implied Ideology and Narrative Convention|
Fantasy isn't inherently monarchist, but action movies tend to convey that
violence solves problems, while hard SF often imagines science can resolve
any issue, and political and military fiction often treat gaining rank/power
as an unproblematic good. What are some of the ways in which cultural
assumptions are embedded in the stories we tell and the ways we tell them?
How can we challenge or subvert those assumptions without completely losing
...and what interactivity does to narrative, both the reading and writing thereof.
Roger Ebert, once famously said that video games could not be classified as art because
of their very interactivity. But does that one-way prescriptive model of audience
interaction hold any water, for any form of art? How can the need to create a
playable game experience be in tension with the desire to create a memorable story?
|Large-Scale Structures and Series Planning|
There are lots of ways to jump the rails in long-form fiction, episodic or
otherwise. Marie Brennan proposed that the creators of long series "pick a
structure and stick with it". How much do we agree with this? What do our
conclusions imply with regards to planning out the course of a series ahead
of time? Also, how do we deal with the passage of time and life experience
over the course of a literary performance, and the very real possibility
that the writer who closes a series may be a very different person from the
one who opened it?
|The Multi-Creative Household|
Benjamin C. Kinney,
Lynne M. Thomas
4th Street has quite a few family groups with multiple professional creative
folks. How do they mitigate different levels of success, competing careers,
and/or high environmental levels of stress and impostor syndrome?
|The Tropes of Emotion|
In some Victorian novels, people faint when in the throes of strong emotion.
You don't see that very often these days. But are twenty-first century
depictions of emotion actually realistic, or are fiction writers just using
an updated set of tropes to symbolize grief, anger, passion, love, jealousy,
frustration, et cetera? What are the cultural differences/expectations in
displays of emotion? How can we use the emotional responses we expect, and
the ones we don't, to understand and show character? How does our perception
of older works of fantastic fiction change when we look at them through the
lens of our emotional attitudes?
||Truth, Lies, and Meta
Fiction, by its nature, isn't real, which means that when narration lies
(deliberately or by omission), or a creator breaks the fourth wall, there
are multiple layers of plausibility, trust, and 'reality' in play. How do
the techniques we use to get readers to believe in a made-up world interact
with cuing them that the narrator or a character in said world is a liar?
(See also: Kayfabe in Wrestling; and accidental subtext, where authors make
choices which suggest their world doesn't actually work the way their
narrative claims it does.) What makes us believe in a world or a character,
what undermines that, and how can that tension be leveraged?
|Writing to Strength, Writing to Weakness|
How does one find the right blend? How does one find a blend at all? If we assume,
as past 4th Street panels have asserted, that every writer is dealt a certain
number of "cards," artistic strengths that they develop sooner or more powerfully
than others, do we want to build our play narrowly around those cards or keep
fishing for new ones? What's the difference between experimental self-improvement
and frittering away one's more obvious gifts? What's the difference between
laudable boundary-pushing and unsuccessful pretense? Who gets to decide what a
writer is "meant" for, anyway?