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For the first time in years I feel as if I have the spoons for a day at Readercon, so Alexx and I will be there on the Satyrday of that weekend. However, since I have really missed the people as much as the panels, I'll be hanging out in the lobby, aside from a prowl through the bookroom.

See you all there!
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Weightless Books, which offers a wide variety of SFF, slipstream, spec fic, insert your favorite name for it here, just added a bunch of
Aqueduct Press titles
by Vandana Singh
of which I bought a paper copy months ago, but it was subsequently swallowed up by the Closet of Mysteries, which I expect any day to spit out something quite startling, such as a very bad-tempered Fenris (because just imagine a very large dog going eons without walkies), but just stop and mull that one over for a minute: Fenris as my guide dog!!!

And speaking of wild beasties, I also had to buy a copy of
Bewere the Night
which is an anthology of shapeshifter stories, although I bought it solely on the fact that it contains a Richard Bowes story and an Elizabeth Hand story, which is good, because they are two of my favorite authors and it's been way too long since they hadnew books out, although it seems 2012 will do something about that, but frankly, sometimes I feel as grouchy as a Fenris who has gone eons without walkies.

And I never did mention the Twilight Zone moment I had at Readercon when I tried to go to a Small Beer Press reading of Mexican fantasy writers and instead seemed to have ended up at a reading which no one else remembers and which didn't show up on the program, but involved he Elder Gods returning to Earth, except they seemed to be large sharklike beings, so it was kind of like Cthulhu meets Jaws.

Did anyone else experience the parallel universe Readercon?
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Panel: Book Design and Typography in the Digital Era.
Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld Magazine
and author of the highly informative essay, "This is My Life on Ebooks"
Erin Kissane
author of _Elements of Content Strategy_, available in both paper and ebook formats
David G. Shaw, Alicia "Kestrell" Verlager
Edited later: Apologies for getting a panelist name wrong, the panelist was actually Ken Liu
who read from an article he wrote about the transition from codex to scroll
and the blog David recommended for more on ebooks and accessible Web design was Joe Clark's blog"

This panel is mostly a blur in my memory, although I remember David and others recommending a number of useful resources, such as A List Apart, and the book which Erin just published. David pointed out Cory Doctorow's collaborative publishing effort in his latest collection, with footnotes mentioning the names of readers who pointed out typos and other errata. We also encouraged the audience to be active consumers and producers by making complaints to publishers when the formats they need aren't available and, on the part of writers and editors trying to be part of the decisionmaking process as to in which formats the ebook versions of their books are being issued. This isn't always easy, as often authors and editors aren't kept in the loop of these decisions. An example of this surfaced when I mentioned to Ellen Datlow that I can find ebook versions of some of her anthologies at Baen Books, and she wasn't aware that the anthologies were available through that site.
Baen Books Webscriptions-New Arrivals page (includes link to Best Horror of the Year 3)
Ellen Datlow page

Also, after the panel Alexx and I went to the book room and I sought out the table for the university press which published the newest edition of Samuel R. Delany's nonfiction essay collection, _The Jewel-Hinged Jaw_, with an introduction by Matthew Cheney, and the rep was glad to find out that the publisher could donate the electronic files for books to, which works with many publishers to make books, including textbooks and literary criticism, accessible to visually impaired students and readers. Small Beer Press and ChiZine Press were there selling both paper books and ebooks, as they have done for a number of years now, and there was also a magazine called Crossed Genres which offered an ebook bundle for $20, which included two novels, two anthologies, and a year's subscription to Crossed Genres
. The works come in a variety of DRM-free formats, and the co-publishers who were there said I could contact hem if none of those formats turned out to be accessible, and they would send HTML files.

It was a pretty awesome experience to know that I would have ebooks waiting for me whenever I wanted to read them, as opposed to having a pile of books which I would have to scan by hand (not that I didn't indulge in some paper books also, mostly because Alexx found me a book about books).
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This was the first time I was able to attend the Shirley Jackson Awards, although I've followed them closely since their inception four years ago.

2010 Shirley Jackson Awards
The opening speech was given by Victor Lavalle, author of _Big Machine_, last year's SJA for best novel [available to visually impaired readers at]. Lavalle (who also possesses a wonderful voice) gave an absolutely lovely speech about the development of an artist's mastery and style by telling about Victor Van Gogh's development as an artist, pointing out that an artist becomes a master when his or her voice and style are as fine as her or his technical skills, and then he read a couple of pages from Shirley Jackson's _Life Amongst the Savages_ (not sure I got the title precisely correct) in which she describes a house as if it has an emotional and psychological life of its own.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Joyce Carol Oates [lots of her books are available to visually impaired readers at]

Novel: Mr. Shivers, Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit) [available to visually impaired readers on

Novella: “Mysterium Tremendum”, Laird Barron (Occultation, Night Shade) [available in DRM-free ebook formats from Baen Books
which also provides free memberships to visually impaired individuals and veterans with disabilities)

“Novelette: Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” Neil Gaiman (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow) [available from]

Short Story: “The Things,” Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, Issue 40) [available online from Clarke's World Magazine as eithre text
or as an audio podcast ]

Single Author Collection: Occultation, Laird Barron (Night Shade)

Edited Anthology: Stories: All New Tales, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio (William Morrow)

I was very glad to see Laird Barron win some awards as I believe he is one of the best horror writers currently writing psychological horror, and I had an additional thrill by having the chance to show Neil Gaiman (who showed up rather unexpectedly) my prosthetic eyes based on the eyes of his Sandman character, Delirium. I asked Neil for a one-word quote to describe them, and he said, "Perfect." (Alexx and I were also amused that Neil kept referring to them as his eyes.)
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went, I think, extremely well, as all the panelists were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. I'll probably write a bit more about this panel at some later point when I have more info at hand, as opposed to being kind of burned out and waiting for Chinese food to arrive, but after the panel I went to the Book Shop, where a number of publishers were advertising that they sold ebooks, also (go Crossed Genres! go ChiZine!), and I managed to provide a university press with the info that is the perfect way for university presses to distribute their books to students with disabilities.
Alexx mentioned after we had left the panel that it looked as if some people might have wanted to ask me questions: if you are someone who wanted to ask a question or know osmeone who wanted to ask a question, feel free to post here or e-mail me privately through LJ.
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Here is my Readercon schedule--note that Readercon uses my mundane name. Also, there is a HTML version of the Readercon program at

1. Saturday July 16
11:00 AM    F    Book Design and Typography in the Digital Era. Neil Clarke, Erin Kissane, Eric Schaller, David G. Shaw (leader), Alicia Verlager.
Design and typography can heighten the experience of reading a written work; in the case of poetry, typesetting can be crucial to comprehension and interpretation. E-readers can change font sizes with the press of a button, making books far more accessible to people who have visual limitations or just their own ideas about how a book should look. What happens when these worthy goals are at odds? Will the future bring us more flexible book design, much as website design with CSS has become more flexible as browser customization becomes more common? Or will we see the book equivalent of Flash websites where the designer's vision is strictly enforced?

2. Sunday July 17
12:00 PM    F    A Fate Worse than Death: Narrative Treatment of Permanent Physical Harm.
John Crowley, Glenn Grant, Mary Robinette Kowal, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Alicia Verlager (leader). Cinderella's sisters cut off parts of their feet. Rapunzel's prince loses his eyes to a thorn bush. But in present-day fantasy, it seems less shocking to kill a character than to significantly and permanently damage their physical form; witness the thousands of deaths in George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series that don't get nearly as much airtime as one character losing a hand. What changed--for storytellers, and for audiences? How does this fit in with our culture's mainstream acceptance of violence alongside an obsession with youth and physical perfection? As medical advances help people survive and thrive after drastic injuries, will there be more stories that explore these topics?
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Dear fandom,

I've been trying to find a way to contact the author N. K. Jemisin but the Word Press interface keeps giving me error messages when I try to post to her blog. Best way to contact me is through my livejournal account kestrell at livejournal dot com. Thank you fandom.

Edited mere moments later: Mission accomplished--thank you to the incredibly efficient avatar of fandom, you know who you are.
kestrell: (Default)
Before I say anything else I have to mention: Trader Joe's dark chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds.
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Some forms of fiction seem particularly prone to inscribing meaning upon the physical body;
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As in the case of the myth of the blind storyteller, many of the blind characters I will be discussing explore the connection between blindness and knowledge, so the question of how the cognitive processes of blind people differs from that of people with normal vision seems like a good place to begin the discussion of specific works in speculative fiction.

In "None So Blind" by Joe Haldman, which won the Locus and Hugo awards for best short story in 1995, the narrator begins with the question, why aren't there more blind geniuses? The story proposes that, as blind people do not use their visual cortex, their brains have untapped resources which could be used for more intellectual processes. This idea is ascribed to the protagonist, a socially-awkward geek who falls in love with a blind woman. After he becomes a brain surgeon, and without informing her of the true purpose of the surgery, the geek uses his blind girlfriend as a test subject in order to partition off the visual cortex from the rest of the brain so that the visual corrtex can then be used to increase the blind person's intelligence. When the surgery is successful, the protagonist fulfills his original purpose of having this surgery performed upon himself so that he can increase his own intelligence. The story ends with one of the blind woman's former teachers bemoaning the fact that this surgery has become the norm, and that people are now divided into two groups, the rich and powerful blind class and the poor but sighted unmodded folks.

While some of us might indeed welcome a future in which clueless sighted people are compelled to serve their more intelligent blind overlords, the sad truth is, the human brain does not work this way.
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by Kestrell Alicia Verlager
Talk/discussion delivered at Readercon on July 09, 2010

To begin with, I wanted to mention how I came to propose this discussion. I graduated from MIT's Comparative Media Studies master's program a number of years ago, and my thesis was _Decloaking Disability: Images of Disability and Technology in Science Fiction Media. .

One of the reasons I love speculative fiction in general and science fiction specifically is it's many characters with non-normative bodies and modes of perception. However, when it comes to fictional blind characters, I often find myself shaking my head and wishing I could talk to writers about what they have gotten wrong in regard to the experience of being a real blind person. So, when I received an invitation to submit ideas for Readercon programming, I thought, Here is the perfect audience! And the Readercon programming committee was kind enough to encourage me.

Because my goal is to discuss specific representations of blindness and blind people, I am going to use concrete examples from specific works. I don't wish for this to be interpreted as personal attacks upon the writers who wrote these works; I specifically mention in the title of this talk that these are all goodwriters, really, the best writers. The problem, I believe, is that there is so much mythologizing and misinformation about blindness and blind people that it is difficult for even the best authors to always distinguish fact from fiction, reality from stereotype.

My hope in presenting this talk is to supply some ideas and questions which people can employ in order to be more critical as writers, readers, and reviewers, for--I'm going to use a quote here from Samuel Delany's introduction to _Uranian Worlds_:--
"If we want to change the way we read, we have to change the way we write."

In considering representations of blind people in narrative, one becomes aware of how deeply woven together story and blindness are as represented by the mythic figure of the blind storyteller. Borges, Carolan, Milton, Homer--their blindness seems not merely a matter of biographical detail but something of more significance. My use of the word "significance" is intentional, for I wil repeatedly be returning to the question of what blindness signifies or means within the context of the stories I will be discussing.
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I'll be leaving for Readercon this afternoon, and for once I am very much looking forward to the enthusiastic air conditioning of the Burlington Marriot. I'll probably be offline until Sunday, as I can rarely manage to configure my laptop to make use of the free Wi-Fi in hotels and I'm too cheap to pay for it.

For horror fans, Cemetery Dance is offering a free ebook of Brian James Freeman's _The Painted Darkness_, which CD will be publishing in hardcover in the autumn. The ebook also includes a bunch of extras, and there is also the option to listen to the book in streaming audio. Check it out at
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Kes: For those who don't know my mundane name, I'm listed as A. Verlager.

3:00 PM
Rhode Island
What Good Writers Get Wrong about Blind People

5:00 PM
Axes of Identity in Speculative Fiction
Hairston, Janssen, Jemisin, Singh, Verlager


1:00 PM
Salon F
The Meat & the Motion: The Body & Physicality in Spec Fic
Andreadis, Bear (L), Charlton, Menon, Verlager


Mar. 12th, 2010 04:30 pm
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I just learned that my proposal for a Readercon presentation titled "Ask a Blind Person: What Good Writers Still Get Wrong about Blind People" was approved, hurray! This is the part where I start begging my friends and vague acquaintances to show up for my presentation so I won't be talking to an empty room, and yes, I would too notice!

Also, it is beginning to seem like I may actually really be getting a new right eyeball--I go to my ocularist on Monday, and I have already told LJ user alexx_kay that he is to take pictures of everything, including my ocularist's head exploding when I explain that I haven't changed my mind about wanting the mismatched Delirium eyes.

And I'm also looking forward to Monday because my sweetie will be back after five days at GDC. Of course, it will be a rainy Monday, and Alexx has never been very good at rainy Mondays--he has a rainy Monday face which is very close to his curmudgeon face, but a little lower on the adorable expressions spectrum. Oh well, a sleep-depped zombie sweetie is better than an on-the-other-side-of-the-country sweetie and I'll still be the only one with the detachable body parts.
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Note that this petition is posted to DreamWidth and cross-posted to LiveJournal.

This was my favorite ReaderCon ever, as you cam read more about in my ReaderCon report .
One of the highlights was finding a stack of out-of-print Walter de la Mare story collections at the table of Bill Keaveny, proprietor of He and I had so much fun talking about why we were de la Mare fans that I found myself asking, "Hey, wouldn't it be great to have Walter de la Mare as a ReaderCon Memorial GOH?" to which Bill (and later Liz Hand) agreed.

So this is my official petition to propose Walter de la Mare as a Memorial GOH for a future ReaderCon.

Walter de la Mare
[Kes: I note that the Wikipedia bibliography of DLM's works is incomplete, refer to the external links I include at the end of this list for more complete bibliographies and databases.]
quotes from writers and critics, links to stories, more below cut )


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