Back from Readercon. And from post-Readercon.


And I had a lovely time — except for the usual problem of having more people I want to hang with than time to hang with them. There are some people with whom I was able to have an actual conversation; and some with whom I was merely able to greet and exchange a few words; and more who I waved at from across the hall.

I’m naturally introverted — which doesn’t mean that I don’t socialize, merely that I get burnt out more rapidly than your average extrovert. I have to retreat to a neutral corner to recharge at random intervals.

I enjoyed the the panels I was on, and was not too intimdated by the fact that a Guest of Honor was on each of those panels.

I had never met Nnedi Okorafor or Naomi Novik before, and was very interested to hear their Guest of Honor interviews (this seems to be a trend: interviewing the GoHs onstage instead of requiring them to make some sort of speech). I found Nnedi to be a wonderfully graceful, poised and intelligent woman. And Naomi seems to be made of pure, bubbling enthusiasm.   They are quite different from each other — almost opposite — and it was nice to be able to put faces and voices to the words they write.

In the panel on the commonalities between science and magic, I did have to step up and defend science a couple of times.   As one sometimes needs to.    Get a big enough crowd, and there will always be someone who wants to express “Science Bad; Magic Good,” in some fashion.   But science generally wins in those moments because (ahem), science actually exists.  And works.

Magic is a wonderfully expressive and useful and beautiful literary trope, and can be used endlessly to explore all the corners of human nature.   I don’t need to tell you that it can inspire brilliant, ageless works of art; you’ve read those books.

And  you can also use science in literature, in exactly the same way, to the same end.   But if you raise your hand and put forth the idea that science diminishes us, and magic augments us — then you don’t know what science is, nor what it does.

It’s science that augments us — gives us greater understanding of the world around us, helps us live longer, survive disease and injury, and extends the reach of our hands and the scope of our minds.   Whereas magic … is imaginary.

I’m not a hard-SF snob.   I love magic in stories, books, film.   (As long as they’re well-written, that is!)   But my heart belongs to SF.

Hm.  Getting late.   I’ll say more tomorrow.



12 Responses to “Back from Readercon. And from post-Readercon.”

  • RogerBW Says:

    Looked at in literary terms, magic is almost always* for the privileged few: spend years at Magic School and you end up with something that few other people have. Science generally improves everybody’s lives, or nobody’s.

    * the exceptions being explicitly magic-replaces-science, like Anderson’s Operation Chaos and Turtledove’s The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump.

    I think this ties into what I’m calling the maker/user distinction, that separates much of fantasy from much of SF: is the world something to be engaged with and changed, or is it basically static? I wrote more on this last year on my own blog:

    • Rosemary Says:


      “Looked at in literary terms, magic is almost always* for the privileged few: spend years at Magic School and you end up with something that few other people have…”

      This seems to refer to “high” fantasy mainly (and fantasy in gaming), and not something like Magic Realism, where magic just sort of shows up, willy-nilly.

  • James Davis Nicoll Says:

    The ancient roleplaying game Runequest was an interesting exception to the rule that magic is for a small elite. Pretty much everyone had access to simple rote spells of high utility and reliability.

  • Victoria McManus Says:


  • Joshua A.C. Newman Says:

    On the Magic & Science panel, when they started slagging science as élitist, I elbowed my friend and said, “Watch Rosemary! She’s gonna explode!” And you squirmed until you couldn’t stand it any more, and then you eloquently exploded!

    It was down to you and a woman in the audience. Maybe we should do a panel called “Putting Science in Science Fiction” or something!

    • Laura Says:

      ha! I was that woman in the audience defending science. Maybe because I’m a scientist in real life. I was also watching for Rosemary to explode, and was so excited to hear her response. 🙂

    • lorata Says:

      Magic & Science panel, when they started slagging science as élitist

      ……………………… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh!!!!!!

    • Charlie Russel Says:

      Not there, obviously, but I’m NOT surprised to hear that Rosemary exploded. As well she should. What I am surprised to hear is that there was only one audience person doing so.

      What is it that people don’t get? Magic is fake, science is actually real and affects everything we do in our daily lives. From the apple dropping on your head, to driving your car to the market. (Try riding your broom to the market some day.) Don’t get me wrong. I love quidditch and Harry Potter. But it’s FICTION, folks.

      [further diatribe and explosion deleted in the interests of keeping this blog civil.)

      • Rosemary Says:

        The panel was actually intended to compare magic and science in fiction, not in real life. But since fantasy includes Magic Realism, it can slide into general mystical feelings, sliding into spirituality, sliding toward religion, and now you’re talking about what a person believes in their real life. So, the line can get fuzzy, and the conversation can start skewing. But a panel discussion of literary forms at an SF convention is not a good place to get into people’s actual religious/spiritual beliefs.