Thursday, November 29, 2018

ChessieCon 2018

As we do every year at Thanksgiving, my husband, our youngest son, and I spent the weekend at ChessieCon (formerly Darkover), just north of Baltimore. Guest of Honor was Jo Walton, author of FARTHING, TOOTH AND CLAW, AMONG OTHERS, MY REAL CHILDREN, a trilogy in which Athena tries to create Plato's Just City as envisioned in the REPUBLIC, and other great books. Walton read a chapter involving the exorcism of demons from her forthcoming novel LENT. On the basis of that selection, I'm looking forward to the book.

At the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading, I read a short scene from my humorous ghost story "Haunted Book Nook," recently published in the new anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 33. Les (my husband) appeared on two panels, on military SF versus the real-life military and on the advantages of writing a series versus stand-alone books (including how to handle a stand-alone piece in an ongoing series). I led a discussion session on STEVEN UNIVERSE. Although the group was small, the conversation was passionate, and someone brought doughnuts. If you're not familiar with this animated series about a half-human boy and his guardians, the Crystal Gems (alien life-forms who are literally sentient gemstones, their humanoid bodies being essentially solid holograms), do check it out. At first, it looks like a typical children's cartoon, but as the series progresses, layers upon layers of depth unfold. Next, I participated in a panel on "Good Art, Problematic Artist," a fraught topic with much potential for conflict. Fortunately, we had an excellent moderator, and everyone who spoke (both panel and audience) addressed the subject with intelligence and sensitivity. Whether a creator's abhorrent attitudes or evil actions can be separated from appreciation of his or her art depends on many situational factors and is a nuanced question each person must decide individually. Is the artist alive or dead, recent or classic? If alive, does he or she benefit from our consumption of the art? Do reprehensible attitudes or opinions make themselves visible in the work or not? How much should authors and other artists from previous eras get a pass on their prejudices for being "of their time"? Naturally, we mostly discussed writers, and, not surprisingly, H. P. Lovecraft came up. However, we did touch upon problematic performers, mainly Bill Cosby.

Les and I took part in the group signing on Saturday evening. We had some nice chats with people passing by and actually sold a few books. I like that system (as opposed to individual book signings) because we get to see what other writers have to offer, and with all of us in one place at the same time, we lesser-known folks have the advantage of being seen by readers who come to check out the higher-profile authors.

If we didn't know better, we might think the hotel was getting tired of us, judging by the conditions this year. One elevator remained out of order the whole time. More critically, because of renovations in progress the heat didn't work right. The main downstairs corridor, the restrooms, and most of the meeting spaces didn't have any. Fortunately, the chill didn't extend to the guest rooms. On the plus side, it did seem that the speed of service in the dining room had marginally improved. We noticed evidence of under-staffing, though. Con attendance seemed to be down, judging from the low numbers of people in many sessions. Nevertheless, discussions were lively. The former members of Clam Chowder sang highlights from their repertoire, as usual, and the Saturday evening concert featured a pagan-inspired group called Kiva. From what I watched of their performance, I especially liked their version of the Yuletide folk song "Soul Cake." The musical guest of honor was filk musician Mary Crowley.

Happily, the ChessieCon tradition will continue next year. The Guest of Honor will be Charlie Jane Anders. You can read about the con here:


Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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