Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Aren't You Just Dying To Hear My Story?

Okay, so I'm back in town with weekend junk heaped up all around me and even further behind in life than I was last week. But I always have time to pass on my experiences, so here's the Readercon story I promised you Saturday:

So, I was attending this panel discussion during which the panelists were all going to discuss this book on different types of fantasy. The moderator immediately announces that the book is just wonderful. "You must have this book," he told us and said it would be offered for sale later and we mustn't leave Readercon without it. Then he asks the panelists to introduce themselves. It sounds as if most of them know the author of the book because they all refer to her by her first name.

The last panelist to speak concludes with, "I must say, this is the most poorly edited book I've read in years. It reads as if it had been edited with spellcheck. Be forewarned" and other things of that nature.

Then the moderator acts as if nothing had happened and goes on. He was well prepared and commented on various aspects of the book after which he asked the panelists to respond. Every single time, this same panelist would say something like, "I wish _____ had covered such-and-such a thing" or "I wish_________ hadn't been so judgmental" or "I wish__________ had covered humor."

She wasn't getting a lot of support from the other panelists, but no one was arguing with her, either. Though I have to admit that there was this one guy who I think was some kind of critic, as in Critic, and I couldn't understand eighty percent of what he was saying. He seemed extremely nice, though, so he might have been arguing with Ms. Negativity, and I just couldn't understand him.

I'm finding this all rather odd and uncomfortable making. I start looking around at other members of the audience to see if others are squirming in their seats. I was sitting in the fourth row from the front, so I couldn't see everybody by any means. Still, no one seemed to be laughing nervously or looking shocked.

Finally, the panelist from Hell starts in about how she wished_________ had covered something or other. A voice comes out from the audience, "It was in the section on ___________, Marie!" And the panelist backed right down.

Marie is not her real name by the way.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, the audience member who finally stood up to her was none other than the author, herself. I know this because I turned to look (figuring that since I didn't know anybody there, it didn't matter if every single one of them thought I was rude, which, yes, was just awful of me), caught a glimpse of her, and saw her and her name tag a couple of hours later out in the hallway.

I found this whole episode rather disturbing. First off, I've never seen a public pounding like this at any of the kidlit events I've attended. Or any of the other literary events I've dropped in on. I know I don't get out much, but still. The second thing that freaks me out about this is that no one else seemed to think anything at all unusual was going on. When I have told this story to acquaintances, they are quite taken aback. Well, except for the people this past weekend who were bored. I've googled this subject and checked other blogs. Lots of references to Readercon, one from a person who attended the same panel, but no one even mentioned this particular situation.

So I wonder if this kind of thing goes on all the time at some types of conferences, and the more experienced Readercon attendees thought nothing of it. Or, perhaps this is the kind of thing that a gentlewoman should pretend she didn't notice, and here I am spilling the unsavory story for the whole world to see.


Kate Nepveu said...

Question: I am collecting all the blog posts I can find about Readercon and posting them to the Readercon LJ community.

It's completely obvious to me what panel this was, but since you've gone out of your way to not specify, I'm reluctant to tag it with the panel name without your permission. Please let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Kate Nepveu said...

PS: two panel reports did mention this that I've seen, though in less detail.

Gail Gauthier said...

Someone just sent me a link to a description of this panel that did name names, though, as you say, without as much detail.

This is a public blog, so you are welcome to link to this post as you would any other public post. I'm sure it would be obvious to many Readercon people which panel this was, whether they actually attended it or just read the panel description in the program. I don't believe many Readercon people follow my blog, though. My readership is primarily children's literature people, who might recognize the name of one person involved but probably not the others. Since the point of my post was my own discomfort at witnessing the discussion, I didn't think I needed to risk embarrasssing any of the people involved by identifying them.

Christopher Davis said...

There's a somewhat similar "author in the audience" incident in the technology field.

At a conference, someone from Microsoft was talking about how their new product was going to include a version of the Korn shell.

One of the audience members said "that version isn't very compatible with the Unix version". Mr. MS said "it's pretty compatible, it'll run everything." This went back and forth a couple more times.

Then someone else stood up from the audience and said "You realize you're arguing with David Korn, right?" (As the name implies, he's the author of the Korn shell.)

Gail Gauthier said...

Clearly other fields have much more exciting conferences than the kidlit events I've attended. (I'll see if I can get my computer guy to explain to us what the Korn shell is.)

Civilguy said...

D**m it Jim, I'm a civil engineer not a computer scientist. I'll give it a shot, but feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken. In the most basic sense, a "shell" is the software that you uses to interact with the computer's operating system. Examples of shells are (the "C:\>_" prompt) in the DOS days and Windows Explorer (not internet explorer) in Windows. Korn shell is a specific type of command line interface for the UNIX operating system. Lest you all think I am a total geek, I had to look up Korn Shell on the internet since I don't use UNIX.

Gail Gauthier said...

Well, CG, unless Jen Robinson happens to read these comments, I don't know if any of us in the kidlitosphere will be able to tell whether or not you got that explanation right. Not to worry.

And, ah, I think you kind of gave yourself away as a total geek with the line about DOS. Well, that and the Star Trek reference.