Potlatch, a small, book-focused science fiction convention, wanders up and down the West Coast of the U.S. Every year that I’ve been to it, it has a Book of Honor instead of a Guest of Honor. There is only one event track, so everyone goes to the same big panel discussions or talks.
This year there are two Books of Honor: Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford.
Here’s my Thoughts on Always Coming Home a few days after reading it. In the comments thread, many people threw some great analysis into the mix. Here is a good entry point, from oyceter, to the many cultural appropriation discussions that caught fire a couple of years ago in (feminist) science fiction communities, discussions and posts of endless depth and beauty.
In Always Coming Home, I appreciated the ways that Le Guin told stories about war. The smaller scale war was almost, well, consensual, between the two sides and the individuals who fought in its battle. Yet its buildup, and the conditions that brought it about, the small group or cult of warriors, had the tragic inevitable-yet-still-maybe-stoppable feel that I get from Icelandic sagas. The best bit were the discussions the Valley people had after the war. They were good and complicated.
Here are my rough notes on Growing Up Weightless:
Growing Up Weightless is good – dense – circular – I mean it seems best to read circularly in order to get the depth of it. really unusual & haunting. The scene with Avakian the old designer, as good or better as any similar weirding propheticism from Gene Wolfe – Oh maybe a little evocative of Hathor’s damaged speeches about the sails – The larping teenagers and their raw naive gestalt (reminding me of that story of the children raised in the floating sargasso sea-cities ) So aware of each other but not knowing how to talk to each other’s depths other than in game space and not even then. The idea – so floaty & soap bubble – of kids raised in the sort of way i imagined as the utopian future, kids bopping around, running as a team, learning stuff, doing projects, join a theater company, invent a microchip – incomprehensible cluster of age-mates, like twins-speech – And their utopian angst – always watched, always eluding – with even cleverer parents – What would they do? What would they learn? What is the plot in that sort of micro-utopia even if it’s just the utopia of a sensible education system and children with a decent set of human rights? The weird failed delicacy of the parents and of their own relationship – all very weightless itself – the composing scenes and the composer sleepign and waking as if full of music or light and noticing a hair from his busy partner’s head on the pillow. so I enjoyed the poetry. The light & shadow – and the dragons. The girls of the bunch, the kid’s mom too, significant and with their own agency clear – their own thoughts, dreams, burn with ambitions, on the cusp of decisions, thinking things they hardly dare hope, no one is overdetermined; beautifully. It’s a plot that achieves being poetic. I am extremely unbored. Will re-read while taking notes for the linear thinking bits of us all, because it does need notes and lines and character lists and some explaining.
Well, I really look forward to Potlatch! It’s like a crazy all day marathon grad school seminar, where a hundred people have actually done the reading, the extra homework, weird special projects, and have years of deep background into the subject.
You might not know that if you aren’t “in fandom”; but I am here to tell you that science fiction conventions, like LiveJournal discussions, are often dismissed by mainstreams and academics who would be *astonished* at the education available, the thoughtful conversations, the deep interest, and the process going on 24/7, in those places.