4th Street Fantasy: 2016 Final Panel List

UPDATED: June 2, 2016

Hello, 4th Streeters!

White smoke has gone up from the chimney of the 4th Street Chapel, and we have a final panel list.

Remember, the 4th Street panel structure is one programming track of ten pre-built panels, followed on Sunday by the alchemically generated "...But That's a Different Panel!"


•Truth, Lies, and Meta
Fiction, by its nature, isn't real, which means that when narration lies (deliberately or by omission), or a creator breaks the fourth wall, there are multiple layers of plausibility, trust, and 'reality' in play. How do the techniques we use to get readers to believe in a made-up world interact with cuing them that the narrator or a character in said world is a liar? (See also: Kayfabe in Wrestling; and accidental subtext, where authors make choices which suggest their world doesn't actually work the way their narrative claims it does.) What makes us believe in a world or a character, what undermines that, and how can that tension be leveraged?

•Empire and Corporation
Do corporations fill the same role(s) in our lives and in our stories that empires once did? Another suggested possibility for this panel: "Empires, Corporations, and Religions: Our Favorite Atagonism Machines!" How has representation of the corporation in SF/F changed over the years, and how has the public relationship to the concept of the corporation changed in the same time? Where do corporation and empire now sit in the pantheon of background influences and themes in SF/F?


•Interactive Fiction and Playable Stories
...and what interactivity does to narrative, both the reading and writing thereof. Roger Ebert, who was occasionally spectacularly right as well as spectacularly wrong, once famously said that video games could not be classified as art because of their very interactivity. But does that one-way prescriptive model of audience interaction hold any water, for any form of art? How can the need to create a playable game experience be in tension with the desire to create a memorable story?

•The Multi-Creative Household
4th Street has quite a few family groups with multiple professional creative folks. How do they mitigate different levels of success, competing careers, and/or high environmental levels of stress and impostor syndrome?

•Disability in Spec Fic: Seeing, Claiming, and Belonging
Representation of disability and chronic illness often comes in two forms: writing *the* experience or writing *an* experience. How much you define the character by their condition can define the story. Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl follows India Phelps' struggling with her schizophrenia and treatment for it, while N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdom follows Oree handling bloody plots of the gods while happening to be blind. Has there been a quantitative or qualitative shift in treatment of disabilities in SF/F in its recent history?

•Large-Scale Structures and Series Planning
There are lots of ways to jump the rails in long-form fiction, episodic or otherwise. Marie Brennan proposed that the creators of long series "pick a structure and stick with it". How much do we agree with this? What do our conclusions imply with regards to planning out the course of a series ahead of time? Also, how do we deal with the passage of time and life experience over the course of a literary performance, and the very real possibility that the writer who closes a series may be a very different person from the one who opened it?

•Writing to Strength, Writing to Weakness
How does one find the right blend? How does one find a blend at all? If we assume, as past 4th Street panels have asserted, that every writer is dealt a certain number of "cards," artistic strengths that they develop sooner or more powerfully than others, do we want to build our play narrowly around those cards or keep fishing for new ones? What's the difference between experimental self-improvement and frittering away one's more obvious gifts? What's the difference between laudable boundary-pushing and unsuccessful pretense? Who gets to decide what a writer is "meant" for, anyway?

•Implied Ideology and Narrative Convention
Fantasy isn't inherently monarchist, but action movies tend to convey that violence solves problems, while hard SF often imagines science can resolve any issue, and political and military fiction often treat gaining rank/power as an unproblematic good. What are some of the ways in which cultural assumptions are embedded in the stories we tell and the ways we tell them? How can we challenge or subvert those assumptions without completely losing our readers?


•The Tropes of Emotion
In some Victorian novels, people faint when in the throes of strong emotion. You don't see that very often these days. But are twenty-first century depictions of emotion actually realistic, or are fiction writers just using an updated set of tropes to symbolize grief, anger, passion, love, jealousy, frustration, et cetera? What are the cultural differences/expectations in displays of emotion? How can we use the emotional responses we expect, and the ones we don't, to understand and show character? How does our perception of older works of fantastic fiction change when we look at them through the lens of our emotional attitudes?

•Diving Into the Fog: Writing as a Light Trance State
...and possibly reading as the same? How much of one is consciously there when composing? What does it feel like to be transported in some fashion during the act of creation or appreciation? How can you integrate the act of creating something via conscious, deliberate steps with those times when whatever passes for your muse shoves you off a hillside without warning? This panel will also discuss the act of writing as it relates to exploration and intuition rather than deliberate pre-construction... what we seek within our art rather than what we take into it knowingly.


Just because we weren't able to fit every panel idea into this year's schedule doesn't mean they were bad ideas... so into the metaphorical cauldron they go, to simmer until next year or beyond. Here are some other notions we might see in the future:

•Before Departing, Dig Two Graves
Images and ethics of revenge across cultural and historical contexts (originally inspired by Sarah Monette's blog post on Hamlet).

•Voice vs. Character
Both authors and characters can have distinctive voices, and the former can sometimes get in the way of the latter. What are some ways characters can express individuality without a distinctive speech pattern (particularly in large casts)? Are there cases where authorial voice replaces or overwhelms characterization?

•In Praise of One Writing Tool
Each panelist chooses a single element of the job of writing and explains why it means the most to him or her. Panelists will be a mix of writers, editors, and readers.

•Whose Dream is it Anyway?
The act of creative collaboration, its joys and pitfalls, its unique challenges and how they have changed over the years as technology has provided new means to enlighten or confuse one another. How does the process differ from a solitary literary pursuit, and how does one get the ball rolling with one's partner? Who, arguably, should we collaborate with-- those that conform to our own tastes and styles, or those that work in a perpendicular fashion? Those that we can work effortlessly with, or those that will push and pull all the way to the last paragraph?

•Something related to the topic of SF/F criticism

•Generational apocalypses
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Published on April 21, 2016 13:58
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