Wiscon, and Not Doing the Homework

I’m on a kick of reading a lot of fanfiction.

This is perhaps ill-timed of me. It’s a week until Wiscon, and I always feel that I ought to be reading Wiscon-y books before the convention. You know — works by the hot new writers, works of serious importance, feminist classics I haven’t yet gotten around to reading. Yet, every single year, the thing I am reading in May is about as far removed from Serious Works of SF/F as it is possible to get. This year it’s fanfic. In previous years I’ve been reading the Phryne Fisher mysteries, or Agatha Christie novels, or the history of the Boxer Rebellion, or ANYTHING IN THE WORLD that is not Serious Works of SF/F.

I’m actually beginning to think that my brain is smarter than I am. There’s a piece of writing advice that is very common, which is that to write you must be well-read. A better and more complex version of that is that to write you must be widely read. If you want to write YA paranormal romance, you must read things besides YA paranormal romance — else you work won’t have anything new or different to the genre. You would, in essence, be writing fanfic of a genre. To write, the idea is, you have to read lots of different sorts of things. That those things sit in your brain and percolate, dissolving and recombining in new and interesting ways. And then the things you’ve learned show up, transformed, in your work.

I think this is rather what my brain does before Wiscon.

I always feel, going in, that I don’t know and haven’t read ANY of the things other people are talking about. I listen, and I learn. And, being me, I talk about the things that I have engaged with recently. I bring something to the conversation that other people have not heard or read, in the same way they do for me.

Do I still feel a sense of shame, of Not Having Done The Homework, every year? Yes. Yes, I do. But no matter my intentions, I don’t think I’ve completed my self-assigned Wiscon Reading List in any year, ever.

What about you, my fellow Wiscon attendees? What are you reading prior to the con? Do you feel you have homework? Do you do it? How does this work for you?


5 Responses

  1. When I am on panels, I do homework, in the fear of being done with everything I have to say on a topic at the 45 minute mark. Otherwise, I only occasionally read great works ahead of time. I like Wiscon to be a jumping off point for a spate of sf/f reading. All those recommendations!

    I would consider your fanfiction reading as Wiscon homework, if only to me, so I can hear about the good stuff at the transformative works panel.

  2. @jsessions You presume I am reading GOOD fanfiction …..

  3. I am feeling guilty because I didn’t post my list of books I think are probably going to reappear in conversations at Wiscon. I always hate it when I feel like I have missed the zeitgeist book. Baaaaa. So I try to figure out what the zeitgeist book will be before we show up.

    My guesses:
    The Drowning Girl
    The Siren Depths
    Shattered Pillars
    Glamour in Glass
    Code Name Verity (2nd year)

    What everyone would talk about if I had a choice:
    The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (It’s short, and cheap, help me out people!)

  4. @Wired And, see, I have read Shattered Pillars. /o\

  5. Yep. me too.

    I read through the programming schedule last week and realized that I had not read any of the hot new titles by the guests of honor. Not even the Tiptree winner from last year, or the books by my friends who have been guests.

    I do consider WisCon authors as my guide to quality SF. The problem is really limited reading time. I am reading some fiction, but mostly just what I can grab at home. We have _lots_ of fiction that I have not read. I also tend to re-read when I am too busy. I find it much easier to put down a book when I know what happens next :).

    Realistically, the only way I could get to any of these books this month would be if they were on CD. Maybe next month. Right now I’m using my commute time to try and learn a little French before we spend a few days in Montreal.

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