Thursday, December 01, 2011

Darkover 2011

Over Thanksgiving weekend we attended the Darkover con, just north of Baltimore, as we have been doing for years. We got lucky with the weather, so we had a pleasant drive each way and didn’t shiver on the short walks between parking lot and hotel. The hotel had some problems this year. The elevator nearest our room didn’t work all weekend, the restaurant ran out of major food groups (notably shrimp and pasta) and never got restocked, and I heard outraged comments that the bar was closed for several hours Saturday afternoon. The con itself, though, was great, as always.

I appeared on two panels: One on the recent trends in vampire fiction and the other on the “two poles of SF,” Pygmalion and Frankenstein and “where are we now?” We all puzzled a bit over where that topic was supposed to go! The consensus emerged that we were meant to talk about whether technology is seen as good or bad, beneficial or threatening, in current literature. Not surprisingly, the panel came up with examples of both attitudes in today’s SF and fantasy.

I also participated in my first Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. Broad Universe exists to promote speculative fiction by women. At a Rapid Fire Reading, several members get the chance to read from their works for less than ten minutes each. It was a fun experience, which I hope will be repeated at future Darkovers.

Guests of honor were Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner. I was thrilled to be able to get a new book by Sherman, THE FREEDOM MAZE. Several years ago I read a preview excerpt from it in an anthology and was disappointed to find out it didn’t have a publisher scheduled at that time. Now, at last, it’s in print. Sophie, a thirteen-year-old girl in 1960 Louisiana, wishes to have an adventure and gets sent through time to 1860, where she meets her own ancestors back when the family had wealth and a sugar cane plantation. However, because she’s deeply tanned, barefoot, and scruffy looking, with no sensible account to give of herself, she’s mistaken for a mixed-blood slave sent from the home of the master’s brother in New Orleans. Gradually she adjusts to this life and makes a few friends, as the magical Creature who sent her back decrees that the adventure won’t end until she does what she came for—whatever that is. Then Things Get Worse. Fascinating story, reminiscent of Jane Yolen’s THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, although less dark.

The main thing I miss at present-day Darkover (well, in addition to the Sime-Gen celebrations we had back when Jacqueline attended) is the costume contest, which they abolished because participation had fallen so low. However, with the addition of a steampunk programming track, there are lots of costumed fans wandering the halls.

And of course the Clam Chowder concert on Saturday night continues to be the major highlight, followed by a midnight singing of the Hallelujah Chorus in the hotel atrium. I make a point of getting a room overlooking the lobby so I can listen to it in my nightie.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I do miss Darkover but just can't schedule it now that I'm in Arizona.