Readercon 31 Program

August 13–15, 2021 (See our latest announcement for more.)
Hosted online!

Contributing to Readercon's program

We're accepting panelist applications and program suggestions for Readercon 32 in 2022. Learn more about contributing to Readercon and help us make the next convention amazing!

This year's program

Here's just a taste of what we're putting on the program for Readercon 31:


The Eminence of Style - Almost 100 years after William Strunk, Jr., published The Elements of Style, GOH Ursula Vernon tweeted, "At some point... I stopped reading books for the plots. I am really only interested in the writing style and to a very lesser extent, the world." Strunk and Vernon mean two different things by style—or do they? Panelists will dissect the craft of style, the joys and pitfalls of both rigorous and experimental styles, and how voice intersects with guidelines such as Strunk's famous "Omit needless words."

L'État, C'est Quoi? Social Organization in SF/F - Let's talk about modes of social organization in science fiction and fantasy: nations, kingdoms, empires, anarcho-syndicalist communes, hives, necromantic capitalism, and more. How do shifts in real-world politics change how we read speculative fiction's use of both real and imagined forms of government? Why is it so hard to make up truly novel social systems, and what does that tell us about how we perceive human (and inhuman) nature?

The Relief of Horror - In a 2014 interview with BuzzFeed News, Wes Craven stated, "You don't enter the theater... to be afraid. You enter the theater... to have the fears that are already in you... dealt with and put into a narrative." What kinds of relief do horror stories grant us? What does it mean to feel seen in a dark story?

The Unevenly Distributed Future Is Here, and It Sucks - We live in a cyberpunk dystopia: social media delivers surveillance and misinformation while selling our attention to the highest bidder, artificial intelligence is rewiring our brains, cryptocurrency is killing the planet, and the largest tech companies are both mega-rich and mega-powerful. How might we analyze early and recent cyberpunk in light of developments in technology, geopolitics, the global economy, and the climate crisis? And how can cyberpunk evolve now that reality's caught up with it?


Ancestral Past and Anchored Future: Toward a Mexican American Futurism - Mexican American author and scholar David Bowles traces the evolution of culturally-specific futurist stories by Mexican American writers of speculative fiction, drawing from his own work and that of others—as well as critical assessments of the movement—to suggest the major tenets and trends of a mestizo (hybrid) futurism he calls by the Nahuatl name Nican Huehcatlahtolli.

Build a Better Monster: Techniques for Creating Original and Terrifying Monsters in Your Fiction - Tim Waggoner will dig into what makes someone or something a monster, ways to use monsters in fiction, different ways to put fresh spins on old tropes, and much more.

The Future of Sex - Speculative fiction imagines scientific and technological advances in every context—except sex, where it's often been noticeably reluctant to even acknowledge present-day gadgets and habits. In this informative and entertaining talk, longtime SF and erotica author M. Christian will propose thought experiments, share news on recent breakthroughs in the intersection of sex and technology, and discuss how writers can embrace these developments thoughtfully and with respect.


In longstanding Readercon tradition, we'll be hosting ceremonies for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award and the Shirley Jackson Awards. And on Saturday evening, Marc Abrahamseditor of the Annals of Improbable Research and creator of the Ig Nobel Prize for science that makes you laugh and then thinkwill host hilarious and informative readings from Ig Nobel–winning scientific publications.

A complete program will be published by the end of June. Watch this space!

What's Readercon like?

Readercon covers the whole of imaginative literature (or "speculative fiction"): science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable. We have a special emphasis on the most literary, ambitious, and cutting-edge work in the field, and embrace works for children, teens, and adults. Our regular program participants include writers, editors, publishers, critics, and other experts from across America and around the world.

In order to adapt to the global pandemic, this year's Readercon will be a little different than in past years. Instead of gathering in person at a hotel, we'll be gathering online through Discord, an instant messaging and digital distribution platform. Participants and registered attendees will be granted access to the Readercon 31 Discord server, where you can talk to one another, watch and discuss panels and talks, attend kaffeeklatsches*, swing by virtual fan tables, and even attend a launch party or two. Panels and talks will include Q&As, with the participants responding to questions you ask in Discord.

Most years, Readercon weekend runs from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon Eastern time, and boasts a massive selection of programming and activity tracks to choose from. (Readercon is all about the program. It's not just the heart of the convention, but also the lungs, liver, and kidneys.) This year, we're being a little more reserved: We're running from Friday evening through Sunday evening, and we’ll have two tracks of panels, one of presentations, and one of readings, along with kaffeeklatsches and other social opportunities. In acknowledgement of the fact that attending from home means many people will still be following their families' daily schedules, we'll be starting mid-morning and breaking for lunch and dinner. 

As is traditional, we’ll pause everything to showcase the Guest of Honor interviews on Saturday afternoon and enjoy Saturday evening entertainment. And to mirror Saturday and end the weekend on a high note, this year's Shirley Jackson Awards will conclude Sunday's schedule.

* A kaffeeklatsch is a low-key, wide-ranging conversation hosted by one or two program participants for up to 12 fans. It gives you an opportunity to interact directly with writers, editors, and other estimable personages you admire. Spaces are limited, so sign up early in the weekend.

How can I participate?

Recommend yourself or someone else as a program participant! 

We are especially eager to recruit scientists, historians, librarians, 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, and we strongly encourage members of minority and marginalized groups to apply.

Suggest a program item! 

We welcome anything from 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. 

Submit a proposal!

If you've been invited to be a program participant at the upcoming Readercon, we encourage you to submit a proposal to present a solo talk, performance, discussion, workshop, or group reading. We'd love to showcase you and your expertise.

To do any or all of those things, visit our page on contributing to Readercon's program.


To quote Theodore Sturgeon, Readercon likes to ask the next question. Imagine going to a typical convention, attending a panel, and having an interesting spin-off conversation in the hallway outside afterwards: That moment of extrapolation and exploration is what we take as our starting point. Our program items are usually quite focused and we encourage panelists and attendees to grapple with tricky ideas and dig deep into the genre's history. We don't shy away from the political, and the past several years have seen an emphasis on discussing topics relevant to minority and marginalized members of speculative fiction writing and reading communities. There are some items about the craft of writing, but we are readers first and foremost, and much of our program is devoted to looking at how we choose, approach, and interact with the things we read.


At the virtual Readercon, all program items will run privately on our YouTube channel. The links to view them will only be distributed in Discord and through a version of the program schedule accessible only to registered program participants (with the exception of the Shirley Jackson Awards, which will be broadcast to the world) during the convention and for the six months following. After that, most items will be made public.

When Readercon takes place in a physical space, we record audio and video of many program items. We’re 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.