Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shared Worlds Readings

Shared Worlds is an amazing camp for high school age students. From the Shared Worlds website:
The program, which will feature authors, artists, designers, and scientists, will center on the fictional "shared worlds" participating students create. To build these worlds, participants will have overview classes in many disciplines, including history, religion, and science - many taught by Wofford College professors and instructors, and professionals in the fields of writing and art.

All classes will emphasize problem solving, collaborative learning, and experiential learning. Each group of about a dozen students will apply their created shared world to works of fiction and art. The groups will be exposed to and be able to choose from several speculative fiction genres, including science fiction and fantasy.  

Because the camp happens at Wofford College, just an hour from me (and where my husband happens to work), I was lucky enough to get to attend two readings with authors who were involved in the camp in some way. 

The first one, on July 25, happened at Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC.  The last reading took place today (August 4) at Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, NC (also an hour from me).  I'm lucky to have great independent bookstores around an hour away.  Close enough that I can go when they have events I'm interested in (such as these), but far enough away that my bank account isn't bleeding too heavily.  Who can resist buying local?  (And who can resist buying books?)

I also want to say that so very often, authors I'm interested in don't include the south on their tours.  The same thing happens with bands.  I'm here to say that we southerners love to read, and we wish more of you included us on your rounds.  Both Hub City and Malaprops would be great candidates for visits; please keep the south in mind.  (/end repetitive plea)

I thought it might be interesting to detail what happens at a reading, for those of you who have been hesitant to go.  I also thought it might be interesting since so many authors presented at once, which is a bit of a rarity.  I took notes.

The reading at Hub City was full of high school students.  Fifty-five of them, from what I understand.  They spent a good half hour buying books, and these students are the best kind of people - excited readers.  Clearly any aspiring writer needs to do his/her research!  Once the students were settled, plus a few other brave souls like myself, the readings began.

Jeff Vandermeer read from an upcoming novel, Annihilation.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, and he told stories about the dream that inspired it, and how he wrote it in 6 weeks during a severe bout of bronchitis (I think that's right!).  It sounds like it may very well fall under the Weird category that he has become associated with thanks to the anthology editing, and I'll be excited to read it.  One line I wrote down: "Desolation tries to colonize you."   

I've been a fan of Jeff Vandermeer ever since I read The Third Bear, but he's published several novels that I hadn't yet read.  I picked up a copy of City of Saints and Madmen while I was at the reading, along with The New Weird, an anthology edited by both Jeff and Ann Vandermeer.

Will Hindmarch read next, with a collection of "flash fiction."  He explained to the campers that he often starts with a title or a prompt, and writes a 'bit' based on it.  One example title was "Techno Fromage." My favorite line: "He chose silence, and hoped it would be haunting."  The students seemed to enjoy the Heathrow story the most, and it got a lot of laughter.

Naomi Novik read last, the short story "Vici," which is published in The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.  It is set in her widely popular Temeraire universe, and the campers really enjoyed it.   The first book in the Temeraire universe is His Majesty's Dragon, which was published in 2006.  I had an eBook of it downloaded on my Kindle app, from some promotion several years ago, and I read it prior to the reading.  It appeared as if every student purchased at least one Temeraire book, and I understand that she had worked with the campers earlier that day on world building.  

I think it was at this reading where they talked about going to Malaprops in addition to the second reading at Hub City, so I elected to just go to Asheville and skip the other camper thronged reading.  

At Malaprop's, they were calling it a science fiction author extravaganza, since there were six authors reading.  It hadn't been organized for long, but was well-attended.  This was my first experience at a reading at Malaprop's, but thought they had a great set up.  I'll be back!

Tobias Buckell read an excerpt from his most recent novel, Arctic Rising.   He said he had been co-authoring a short story that had to do with polar ice-cap melting, and decided to also write a novel about it.  It is set in the near future.  It sounds like he is planning to write more thrillers like this.  I'd say if you enjoyed books such as Flood by Stephen Baxter, this would be right up your alley.  Personally, I was more interested in the Caribbean-influenced steampunk novel that he also brought with him, so I bought that instead.  He also gave me a list of Caribbean science fiction authors - it isn't long.  It basically consists of him (born in Grenada), Karen Lord (who I read earlier this year), and Nalo Hopkinson.  I'll have to report this information back to my Around the World reading group!

Up next was Will Hindmarch, who chose to read from a story that merged airships with a spaghetti western.  Funny.  If you look at his picture in the slideshow above, you will see his storytelling hands. 

Next came Nathan Ballingrud, an author from Asheville, who has a book coming out next year now titled "North American Lake Monsters."  He read an excerpt from a novel he's been working on, and said that he often writes at Malaprop's.  See?  It can happen.

Karin Lowachee read next, choosing an excerpt from The Gaslight Dogs, which I had bought a copy of last week.  I'm going to save it for next year when I try reading a book from every state in the USA and every Canadian province, since it is set among the Inuit, largely in the northern Canadian territory.   

Jeff and Ann Vandermeer both read stories from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, which they co-edited under an impossible timeline.  It is a great feat of compilation, and after hearing more about it, I'm even more excited to read it.  It looks like it has a wide range, and Jeff mentioned that it has a lot of international contributions.  I always like a good dose of diversity in my speculative fiction.  Jeff spoiled the end of his own short story, and I was laughing at the part where the main character had blood trickling down his chin, just because that sounds a bit like the author lately.  Ann read the end of "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby.  

I bought a copy because it is a beast, and I have this idea of collecting all the anthologies of speculative fiction that are out there.  You can see my start here: 
From Shared Worlds

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