Well, my official duty at ICFA is now over. I delivered my paper, and I think it was well received. There was an audience (at the last paper session on Saturday, you never know), drawn by papers on Charles de Lint (by Taryne Taylor) and on Octavia Butler (by John Pennington). Realted to my paper some interesting discussion ensued, partly driven by other fans of From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain. Last night I found out that it was the runner-up for the Philip K. Dick Award, which made it even better. I'm sorry it didn't make it onto the Hugo Nominee list, but we can't have everything.
Anyway, it looks like if I want to continue studying superheroes there's quite a bit of material there: relationships, power, myth, and post-9/11 narratives. That may end up being more serious than I want to deal with; I'll have to see.
Last night I went to a panel on the Global Fantastique. James and Kathryn Morrow were there, editors of the SFWA European Hall of Fame. Also on the panel were David Hartwell, Stefan Ekman, Javier Martinez, and the always witty Brian Aldiss. They discussed the practical difficulties of translation, the prohibitive cost, and some of the different purposes that SF plays in different contexts. In Communist countries it could be a way of criticizing the regime, but those authors had to find different roles after the USSR disintegrated. Aldiss pointed out that in Singapore, the sf he read was all basically complaining about the regime in Singapore. He pointed out that sf can be the language of complaint, and that it's important to have that outlet. Ekman also pointed out the difficulty native authors have - apparently English-language sf can dominate a market. They generate proven sales, and publishers are less likely to take risks on unknown native authors. All in all it was agreed that we need more dialog between sf in different countries, but there was no consensus about how to make it happen.
Other interesting ICFA bits:
- Ted Chiang pointing out the similarities between the plots of Watchmen and The Incredibles, and wondering if a Watchmen movie is feasible now that The Incredibles has done the same thing in a funny way.
- Ellen Klages and Marie Brennan discussing how much fun it is to do research - getting to talk to people with incredibly narrow specialties, and how much you can learn from them simply be being interested.
- Having more and more people recommend novels dealing with superheroes when I mentioned my paper topic - I more than doubled the number of examples I could have used just over the weekend.
- Listening to Sheila Williams recount the tale of meeting Isaac Asimov for the first time.
- Having Robert J. Sawyer inform me that Canada invented standardized time zones.