Armadillocon 2016

www.swashbucklestudio.com

My schedule for Armadillocon, for those of you planning to attend in Austin this weekend:

Blurred Lines SF by Writers from the Mainstream
Fri 5:00 PM-6:00 PM Ballroom E
C. Brown, Catmull, W. Siros, Weisman*,
Panelists will discuss the phenomena of SF writing by mainstream writers. Does anything make it different? What can we learn from these writers?

Reading
Sat 1:00 PM-1:30 PM Southpark B
Christopher Brown

SF and the Environment
Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Ballroom E
C. Brown*, Dimond, Latner, Reisman, Schwarz,
How is SFF affected the ways we define ourselves and our environment? How is SFF changing? How is our conversation about the environment changing? What books and movies on this topic are especially interesting?

Dystopias
Sat 9:00 PM-10:00 PM Ballroom F
C. Brown, McKay, Schwarz*, White, Young
Why do we love them? Which ones do we love, and which not so much?

 

The Senate Torture Report as Invisible Literature

When I posted on Facebook last month inviting my Austin friends to come out on a Sunday afternoon and hear me talk about the Senate Torture Report, my wife made fun of me for the singularly uninviting nature of the topic.  She was right.  We didn’t get much of a turn-out for the program that Joe Bratcher of Malvern Books bravely put together to observe International Day in Support of Victims of Torture—but we did get video, which the shop has now uploaded to YouTube.  Embedded above is my brief talk on the “Senate Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” considered as both political document and literary text.  My talk followed the remarks of Celia VanDeGraaf of the Center for Survivors of Torture, which does amazing work right here in our community, and was followed by an improvised performance reading of excerpts of the report by Mathew Hodges & Taylor Jacob Pate.

I first read the Senate Torture Report as a PDF when it was originally released in December 2015, and then as a thick paperback from Melville House that I bought at Malvern, a shop that mainly sells poetry and small press literary. Maybe that’s why I read the report as government verse. Invisible literature of a corporatized state, a text that shares more with J.G. Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition than any documentary expose—549 pages of short numbered fragments composed in lawyerly cryptomes, powered by the narrative negative space of national security redactions, and by Talmudic annotation with 2,725 footnotes, each of which also works as a freestanding narrative fragment. An executive summary of an even-longer work we will likely never be permitted to see, the Torture Report is best read (or more easily endured) in fragments—bureaucratic cut-ups from the first-person point of view of a nation-state acting out its feelings in response to existential threats it cannot really understand.

Time and context did not really permit me to read directly from the report at the June event.  I posted a few excerpts on my Tumblr when the report was first released, but everyone really ought to do their own sampling, as a matter of citizen engagement.  Maybe you can even fill in the blanks.

 

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Readercon 2016

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I will be at Readercon this weekend—with a busy Friday since I have to leave early on Saturday.  Full schedule below—hope to see you there!

Friday July 08

11:00 AM    6    Cowboys of Space. Scott Andrews, Christopher Brown, Phenderson Clark, Molly Gloss (leader). Let’s discuss some of the ways in which SF and Fantasy perpetuate a cowboy mythology—a mythology of violent heroes, with a legacy of exploitation, vigilantism and brutality, imbued with fears, biases and insecurities about uppity women, swarthy foreigners, corrupt law enforcement, and government conspiracies. The true histories of cowboys in the American West are far more complex and colorful than many movies and paperback westerns would have us believe. How can we draw on real history to subvert and dismantle cowboy spaceman clichés?

4:00 PM    5    End of the World and After: from Mary Shelley to J.G. Ballard, Russell Hoban, and Beyond. Christopher Brown (leader), Elizabeth Hand, Jack Haringa, Faye Ringel, Henry Wessells, Gary K. Wolfe. Modern sf stories of the end of the world often mask romantic fantasies of abundance and dominion, usually to the benefit of one or a few privileged protagonists who survive the disaster—Brian Aldiss’s “cozy catastrophe.” Sometimes the vision is grounded in nihilistic misanthropy—like the scientist in Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem, who initiates extraterrestrial first contact in an effort to lure aliens to exterminate what she considers an irredeemable human race. Other apocalypses, from early examples like Mary Shelley’s The Last Man to more recent work like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and even Mad Max Fury Road, explore even bleaker scenarios. Could a study of comparative apocalypses yield ideas for better utopias?

7:00 PM    A    Reading: Christopher Brown. Christopher Brown. Chris Brown reads from Tropic of Kansas, a novel forthcoming in 2017 from Harper Voyager.

8:00 PM    6    The Future of Government . Christopher Brown, Alex Jablokow, Paul Park (leader), Steven Popkes. We like to think that US democracy is the ultimate and best form of government, but it has its weaknesses as have all the types of government that came before and exist today. What forms of government are coming? What new technologies, economic ideas, or environmental changes might play important roles in these new types of governance? Was Marx ultimately right and we just haven’t gotten very far along his timeline yet? What forms of government have been proposed that haven’t existed in the real world?