Spacecrab (spacecrab) wrote,

Seekers Into Mystery

I'm on two panels a day at L.A.Con IV. Mostly fanlounge stuff about fan history and fanzines -- plus one on Saturday morning that I invented about comparing/contrasting Superman archetypes and story realizations ... and one titled "Obscure Dick."

Sat 8/26 10:00 AM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Lenny Bailes
Tom Galloway(M)
Lee Whiteside
Marv Wolfman
Doselle Young

Precis: Kurt Busiek, Jeph Loeb/Alfred Miller, Grant Morrison, and others have found radically different ways to retell and re-invent Superman's story. Panelists discuss approaches that add to and detract from the collective myth.

I formulated this panel concept to Craig Miller--mostly because I was really blown away by the Kurt Busiek mini-series of several years ago. It hit me as a memorable, thoughtful treatment that revived all the sense of wonder anyone might need around the flying man who can bend steel in his bare hands. Busiek's story reminds me of Steve Gould's "Jumper," which is a great YA novel about a teleport. If you haven't read Secret Identity, see here for a good abstract.

I'm pretty much left cold by the Smallville TV series -- another attempt to reformulate a classic storyline for a new audience. I thought it might be interesting to discuss the way different creative teams have attempted to "refresh" the story of Superman. Which ones are really memorable? For me, Grant Morrison's DC One Million is another really innovative effort. I don't have much to say about the Byrne Death of Superman.

Another topic that might have tangential relevance to this panel is the influence of Alan Moore's discarded Twilight script on Morrison's DC One Million, in addition to the obvious evolution of Twilight into Kingdom Come/The Kingdom.

As far as Smallville, I don't want just to diss it--but rather to talk about elements that seem to succeed and fail in the context of it (apparently) having to succeed as a WB teen-relationship soap opera. Certainly, Michael Rosenbaum and John Glover have done some good character acting in it, and there are attempts by script writers to integrate moral value issues in the middle of the "monster-of-the-week"/"seduction of the week" infrastructure. But, for me, the thing has a hard time escaping from a tragic reliance on the Salkind concept of Superman -- a woo-woo infrastructure that makes less sense than Mort Weisinger's. (I definitely hope most of the panel doesn't get sidetracked into discussion of this and comparisons with the new movie.)

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Sun 8/27 2:30 PM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Lenny Bailes(M)
John R. Douglas
David Hartwell
Eric M. Van
Mark von Schlegell

Precis: Discussion and appreciation of the lesser-known works of
Philip K. Dick. What did you think of "Now Wait for Last

I'm hoping we can use the title as a springboard to talk about the best of PKD's mainstream novels, as well as his obscure science fiction. Dave Hartwell has already promised to bring his advance copy of "Voices From the Street" (Tor, January 2007) to the panel.

David published an excellent article in NYRoSF in 2001 by Josh Lukin: "This sense of worthlessness": Ideals of Success in PKD's Humpty Dumpty in Oakland.

Here are some choice soundbytes from that article--observations that apply to PKD's science fiction as well as the mainstream novels:

"In the world of Dick's novels, the "independent" people constitute far less than a quarter of the population. Even the science-fictional heros who suspect that reality is very different from what's presented to them only begin to act independently when they find some form of outside validation for their suspicions. Consensus reality -- what Dick called the koinos kosmos - has an immense impact on nearly all of his characters."

"'50s sociology has the habit of "falsely universalizing a white, male middle-class experience of economic and social change."

Scholars in the mid-1970s began pointing out the disparity between '50s discourse and '50s realities.

"A powerful synthesis of [these] critiques of '50s literature appears in a 1957 lecture given by novelist Robert Bloch. Bloch begins by waxing nostalging over the great protest fiction of the '30s by the likes of John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, and James T. Farrell. He then denounces the popular literature of the '50s, with its message that "we must adapt, we must conform to the rules instead of wasting our time and energy asking a lot of foolish questions or putting up a bunch of stupid arguments."

[quoting Gregg Rickman]: "Dick might have been able to get away with a qualified pessimism in his genre work .. but such pessimism as Dick expressed had no place in mainstream American publishing."

"In the world of Dick's novels, the "independent" people constitute far less than a quarter of the population. Even the science-fictional heros who suspect that reality is very different from what's presented to them only begin to act independently when they find some form of outside validation for their suspicions. Consensus reality -- what Dick called the koinos kosmos - has an immense impact on nearly all of his characters."

Dick is involved with hands-on labor, but does not always idealize the lone craftsman:

"In the science fiction realms that Dick frequented, hands-on labor is indeed often idealized in the form of the lone tinkerer who builds a teleporter out of his grandma's sewing machine and a few radio tubes. But to say that Dick consistently idealizes the isolated craftsman is to oversimplify his values. A Dick hero involved in collaborative labor (Ubik), administrative work (The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch), or even sales (The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), may find that work fulfilling. Other factors are involved in distinguishing a good job from a lousy one. (such as the pride Jim Fergusson takes in treating his customers better than a large-scale operation might.}"

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The Rest of My WorldCon Schedule

Thu 8/24 11:30 AM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Lenny Bailes(M)
Mary Kay Kare
Vanessa Van Wagner

Precis: What are your favorites? (Or least favorites?) Our panel
will tell you theirs and ask for yours. Have reasons

The participants, in conference, have so far agreed that at least one of the L.A.Con IV blogging panels should have some focus on LiveJournal, and this one might be it.

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Thu 8/24 5:30 PM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Lenny Bailes
Chris M. Barkley
Sheila Finch
Amy Thomson
Harry Turtledove(M)

Precis: Some books have a profound effect on people. Come hear from
our panelists which books had a major effect on them and
share your own stories.

Have to think about this one. Did I read most of the ones that changed my life before I was 20 years old?

- -

Fri 8/25 4:00 PM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Lenny Bailes
John-Henri Holmberg
Jerry Kaufman(M)
Suzanne Tompkins

Precis: Is it the community, the gestalt, or the craft?

This one's well-populated. We might have our own two-hour CORFLU at it. Examples of great fanzines where "gestalt"/editorial attitude is an integral component: Quandry, Innuendo, Fanac, Void, Flying Frog, Hot Shit, Cheap Truth. Having an attitude doesn't necessarily guarantee greatness, of course.

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Fri 8/25 5:30 PM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Lenny Bailes
David A. Kyle
Anthony R. Lewis
Rich Lynch
Milton F. Stevens(M)

Precis: Richard Lynch is hard at work on his history of SF Fandom
in the 1960s. He's got an outline worked out. Come hear
about his progress, offer support, information,
corrections, etc.

It's good that someone remembers what happened in the '60s. I referred to Dick Lynch's notes just a couple of months ago in order to verify which year it was that I just missed getting hit by a bullet at the LASFS Halloween party.

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Sat 8/26 1:00 PM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: Chaz Boston Baden
Lenny Bailes
Christopher J. Garcia
Guy H. Lillian III(M)
Andrew T Trembley

Precis: Old and young fans discuss what motivates them and present
views of fanwriting.

This one has an email discussion groping with weighty questions such as "Do fanzines have a future?" and "What's different about writing for blogs?" -- but, also, Chris Garcia's on it.

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And then, the (maybe) cross-universe meltdown between L.A.Con IV's "Young Fandom" Chaos Space Pirates track and "Old People's Fanzine Fandom":

Sun 8/27 10:00 AM, 60-90 minutes.
Participants: James Bacon
Lenny Bailes
John Mansfield(M)
Lee Whiteside
Mike Willmoth

Precis: What is the lifespan of the average fan club? How do you
define a successful club and what are the pitfalls
associated with orchestrated group activities?

I'm thinking that it depends on how deep the orchestra members dig the pit.

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