About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Continuum 8 highlights

As I mentioned in the previous post, highlights of Continuum 8 included seeing friends whom I wish I could spend time with more often (I've linked to just two of the "snapshots" on Jason Nahrung's fine blog (where I have a snapshot of my own), but could certainly have linked to many others!).

There were some other highlights, though. One was that I'd put myself down to give a reading - something I don't always do, as it's not as if I write a huge amount of fiction. Anyway, I read from my story "The King with Three Daughters" - published in 2000 in the Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling anthology Black Heart, Ivory Bones. This was an interesting experience, since it's many years now since I'd last looked at the story, and it seemed almost like a piece by another writer. (To be honest, Jenny talked me into reading from this particular story, as it is my one and only attempt at a fairytale retelling ... and fairytale retellings were something of a leitmotif on the convention program.)

To make a long story short (as it were), I think that "The King with Three Daughters" has its flaws - that's hardly surprising, as it's typical for me to see nothing but flaws in my own work, once it's published. I won't reveal what I see as flaws, but they're there ... and I'm sure that other writers know this feeling.

But at the same time, I was pleasantly surprised by the story's strengths, especially at how powerfully the voice of the first-person narrator comes across. He's a hardened veteran soldier in an imagined medieval Scandinavia; his voice is full of distaste, even self-disgust, at how he's been exploited and what he's done. As a result, "The King with Three Daughters" reads well in public performance (regardless of whether I had the qualities as an actor and performer to convey what it was conveying to me!). Even though I had a tiny audience, I was mainly immersed in the text as something to be performed and brought alive from the page, and in finding that it brushed up really well for the purpose. I'll definitely use it in this way again, if I get another good opportunity. (In fact, all of my stories are written to be read aloud, and I pay endless attention to the cadences of the prose, but whether they succeed in that way is entirely another thing.)

On this occasion, the experience of doing a reading made me feel that my small body of work in the field of (roughly) heroic fantasy might have more value than I'd imagined ... and that it might be worthwhile getting some of this material back into print, if only I can. That was a nice, and unexpected, feeling.

Another highlight was simply watching Jenny as she moderated a couple of panels (unfortunately I couldn't get to her poetry reading, which went very well by all accounts). She really is a highly skilled moderator, and future conventions (or organisers) ought to bear this in mind. I joked on Twitter that I taught her everything she knows about moderating ... and, hey, it's true that I taught her some techniques. But she may well be better than me these days - even though moderating panels is something that I enjoy greatly and take pride in and brag about just a little.

Perhaps best of all was Jason Nahrung's session of interviewing Alison Goodman - in lieu of a guest-of-honour speech from Alison. Jason did a smooth job as interviewer, while Alison was fascinating as an interviewee. I could listen to her all day once she gets onto her favourite topic: the craft of writing fiction. This was great, memorable, useful stuff.

Somewhere amongst it all, I also appeared on four panels in addition to my reading (moderating one of them: on science fiction and religion). My panel on "Where are the wonderwomen?" was especially interesting, given that we've been talking about similar topics quite a bit on this blog. I also did an interview with Adam Ford (about human enhancement technologies), and I expect this will make it onto the internet at some stage.

I enjoyed the fine cuisine of Melbourne, and - hey! - Jenny and I caught up with lovely Alison Kennedy (who did not attend the convention, but deserves a shout out anyway ... Ali has as many degrees as me, i.e. an almost ridiculous number, but she's currently working mainly on her painting, which is just one impressive side to her amazing talents).

All in all, this was a great week away from home. I hope to do it again soon.


Greg Camp said...

Ah, the horror of things that we wrote a long time ago and the temptation to beg for just one more chance to edit.

Russell Blackford said...

Yeah, but as I say I was pleasantly surprised by the story in this case. We can exaggerate the flaws in our minds, then go back and find that that they're not so horrible.