Readercon 26

Program

There are three things you can do while at Readercon during the day: talk to friends, browse and patronize the Bookshop, or attend the program. This is a significantly shorter list than provided by other science fiction conventions (which typically include an art show, gaming, musical performances, and so on).  It's thus not an exaggeration to say that Readercon is all about the program.  As we used to say, it's not just the heart of the convention, but also the lungs, brain, liver, and kidneys.

Participants

Readercon covers the whole of imaginative literature (or "speculative fiction") from hard science fiction to fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable, but with a special emphasis on the most literary, ambitious, and cutting-edge work in the field. Our regular Program Participants include writers, editors, publishers, and critics from the Northeast, and those from around the world with a special affinity for our emphasis.

Each year, we further supplement the program with experts on individual program items, such as our panel discussions appreciating the works of our Guests of Honor.

Readercon Program Participants pay no membership fee. Our Program Guide includes brief bio-bibliographies of all participants, and an index of their appearances at the convention.

Participant and Panel Suggestions

Much of the credit for Readercon's programming goes to our program participants, and we're always looking for exciting new people to add to their ranks. If you would like to apply (or suggest someone) to be added to our invitation list, please submit an extremely persuasive application using this form. We are especially eager to recruit scientists, historians, artists and musicians, and others who work in fields of interest to genre fiction writers and readers.

Readercon is committed to diversity in its program; we believe a wide range of voices makes for better conversation. We strongly encourage members of minority and underprivileged groups to apply. While no one is required to provide information on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, religion or lack of religion, sexual or relationship orientation, age, or other personal characteristics, if that information is provided we will take it into consideration when we build our program. If you are suggesting someone other than yourself, please do not provide contact information, minority status, or other personal information without that person's explicit prior permission.

If you would like to suggest a program item, please do so using this form. We welcome anything from interesting links and vague concepts to full-fledged proposals complete with suggested panelists. Be adventuresome and creative; remember that Readercon's program starts where other conventions leave off. The programs for our past conventions, which may be perused using the links in the sidebar, will give you an idea of what we're looking for.

If you are a past Readercon program participant or have received an invitation to the upcoming convention, and you would like to submit a proposal for a solo talk, performance, discussion, workshop, special-interest panel, or group reading, please use this form (which also provides definitions of those terms). If you've never been a Readercon program participant and have not received an invitation, please submit an application first.

Philosophy

The form and content of the Readercon program are shaped by the following principles:

Form

  • The broad range of interests and tastes of our attendees should be recognized and satisfied. In terms of genre, attendees may be into any combination of hard science fiction, literary sf, fantasy, horror, or "slipstream" (unclassifiable non-realistic) fiction. They may be variously interested in the writing and reading processes, in editing and publishing, and in the criticism and teaching of sf. They may like to hear panel discussions more than author readings or solo talks or discussions, or vice versa.
  • There should be something of interest every hour for all but the most narrowly-focused attendee.
  • It's better to force someone to choose between two attractive alternatives than to leave them with nothing of interest in a given hour. However, items with obviously overlapping interest should not be held simultaneously.
  • There should be enough programming to keep our program participants reasonably busy: at least one item for everyone, a handful or more for our best speakers.

We've found that we can satisfy these principles by featuring the following simultaneously:

  • Two panel discussions featuring five (or occasionally six or four) participants, usually including a "leader" who both directs and takes part in the discussion (sometimes with the more traditional "moderator" who directs but doesn't opine). The participants sit in arm chairs in front of coffee tables, rather than behind the usual table. Usually, the last ten minutes or so are devoted to questions from the audience, but the leader is free to solicit audience input at any stage. Although some of the panels are based on ideas given to us by the participants, they are all ultimately the brainchildren of Readercon's Program Subcommittee (see below).
  • Two tracks of author readings. Usually, each consists of a pair of compatible 30-minute readings, but there are 60-minute readings as well. Unlike nearly every other convention, we give you the title (and sometimes a descriptive blurb) in the Program Guide.
  • Two tracks of solo talks and/or discussion groups (the "mini-tracks"), usually 60 minutes long, sometimes 30. Unlike the panel discussions, these are the brainchildren of the individual presenters or discussion group leaders.
  • Two author Kaffeeklatsches — an intimate get-together between an author and up to 15 readers (who sign up in advance).
  • Two autograph sessions in the Bookshop.

The items in any hour are carefully selected to avoid overlaps of genre and topic. If there's a hard sf panel discussion, there will rarely if ever be a hard sf author doing a reading, autograph session, or the like at the same time. (There's another reason for this: we want them in the audience of the panel discussion). If there's a panel we deem useful to aspiring writers (who are legion in our audience), it will not be up against a solo talk about writing. In fact, someone with a fairly narrow set of interests should be able to pick and choose their way through the program: first a panel discussion about fantasy, then a reading by a fantasy author, now a discussion, another panel, a Kaffeeklatsch, and so on. The attendee with broader tastes finds themselves (we hope) at a sumptuous but well-balanced buffet.

Content

Very simply, we pride ourselves on doing panel discussions you haven't seen at previous sf conventions. We develop our ideas at meetings of our Program Subcommittee (there were ten of us this year, which is to say roughly half of the entire convention committee). If we have a driving principle, it's to start the panel at the right point, which is often roughly where the typical panel on the topic ends. In other words, we strive for panels that ask the next question (the driving cognitive philosophy of sf great Theodore Sturgeon, Memorial GoH at Readercon 2).

If this sounds attractive (or like a bold claim we need to back up), we urge you to read through the programs of past Readercons!

Schedule

The convention begins Thursday at 8:00 PM with programming open to the public. (There's no registration, and we provide a handout with the evening's schedule in lieu of the full Program Guide.) Programming runs until 10:00 PM and consists of a relatively intimate, stripped-down version of what's to follow: a track or two of panels, a track of solo talks/discussions, and two tracks of readings.

Friday we begin at 11:00 AM with a full slate of our multi-track programming (local attendees who take the day off will thus be rewarded with the same wealth of programming that our out-of-towners enjoy). Since many local attendees do arrive after work and hence at dinner time, there's no dinner break. Special events start at 10:00 PM.

Saturday's full schedule runs from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. After 4:00 PM, there are yet more special events sandwiched around a dinner break. This year, due to popular demand, we hope to schedule a half-program (one track each of panels, readings, and solo talks/discussions) during the dinner break from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.

Sunday programming once again begins at 10:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM.

While there are no lunch breaks at Readercon, we do try to populate the lunchtime hours with some of our more specialized programming — and if that fails, there's a concession stand that sells very satisfying sandwiches!

Traditional Items

While the bulk of the program items at every Readercon are novel, there are a handful that you can count on:

  • "Welcome to Readercon" on Friday: a great way for folks attending their first Readercon to meet some of the regulars and get into the spirit of the weekend.
  • A set of panels appreciating the career and works of our guests of honor, and of the outgoing Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner.
  • The "Absent Friends" memorial discussion of recently deceased writers, editors, artists, and fans.
  • Book clubs: in-depth discussions of some of the major works of the field.
  • Talks called "How I Wrote/Edited/Illustrated/Created [Title]." The titles, all recent works, are announced on the web site in June, and you're urged to read as many as possible before the con. (One of our past slogans was "The con that assigns homework!")

Special Events

  • The presentation of the annual Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, Friday night at 10:00 PM. This is followed by:
  • The Meet the Pros(e) Party. This is a chance to not only meet the program participants, but also a fragment of their work! See the program listing for any recent convention for the details.
  • Interviews with our Guests of Honor from 4:00 to 6:00 PM on Saturday. Our Guests of Honor are eminent and interesting enough that we don't need to program anything else (except an open Bookshop) opposite them.
  • The Shirley Jackson Awards Sunday morning. Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, "The Lottery." Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The Jackson Awards have been established in her name for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic; they are voted on each year by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. Awards are presented in six categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology. Readercon has hosted the Jackson Award ceremony from its inception in 2008 and is delighted to host it once again.

Recordings

Readercon records audio and video of many program items, and is in the process of making those recordings accessible to the public as part of our educational mandate. Anyone who would like to individually record a program item and make that recording public is welcome to do so with the prior consent of the program participants. Attendees should be aware that audience contributions are often captured on these recordings.

For recordings of past Readercon program items, see our media page and our YouTube channel.