Science Fiction fans were in for a treat at this year’s BookExpo America publishing conference. A fantastic panel of authors made up of Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, John Scalzi and Walter Mosley discussed the many ways that geek has become chic in the last year. Their conversation about the mainstream readers’ positive reception of all things sci fi was moderated by Tor.com staff writer Ryan Britt. If you weren't able to attend the session, here are some of the panel highlights.
Authors Walter Mosley, Jeff and Ann VanderMeer and John Scalzi
These four authors come from very different parts of the science fiction universe. Walter Mosley is best known for his crime fiction. But in 2012, the author published two science fiction short stories, "The Gift of Fire" and "On the Head of a Pin" as one book. Meanwhile, science fiction author John Scalzi has made a name for himself in the genre and currently serves as the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer rounded out this quartet. She is the founder of Buzzcity Press, the former publisher and editor of Weird Tales, a Hugo Award-winning horror magazine, and has edited several anthologies. He is an author, anthology editor and a blogger. This foursome’s breath of knowledge and diversity of experience truly made the conversation an interesting one to sit in on.
The discussion started with Walter Mosley exploring the importance of genre fiction. He explained that for the last 150+ years, the literary genre has excluded itself from genre fiction and sci fi. But it is actually genre fiction that "prepares" readers for real life. The VanderMeers agreed with the sentiment. Jeff said, "There's so much stuff out there, we have a hard time wrapping our heads around ... genre fiction allows us to explore those things." And Ann included that with "science fiction it is possible to imagine possible futures based on where we were in the past."
During the panel, the authors also discussed how fiction does not only make the unfamiliar recognizable, but in popular genres, writers are able to take something familiar and make it weird and interesting. John Scalzi is especially known for putting what he calls a "twist" on what people deal with everyday. An example that was mentioned during the panel was Scalzi's newly released book, Redshirts, where the author takes on, among many other themes in the book, the unwritten social and professional hierarchies people deal with every day.
If you want to learn more about these authors and their books, RT's Elisa has complied a quick three-book list of exactly where you should start. "Go for Walter Mosley's classic hardboiled mystery Devil in a Blue Dress. Then check out Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's co-edited Steampunk anthology. And then round out your TBR list with John Scalzi's Old Man's War, which was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006!"