I go to the science fiction and fantasy panel every year. This year it was especially exciting because George R. R. Martin was there. Each year, a bag of books with some of the books of the authors that are on the panel are giving to the people who come. Apparently, people were lining up outside the door hours before the panel started. I showed up ten minutes before it started, so I did not get a bag of books, but that's quite all right.
The panel was made up of George R. R. Martin, Blake Charlton, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I haven't read anything by Blake or Lois, but I enjoyed listening to them speak. The topic was "the influence of science fiction and fantasy on the world today." Each writer talked about the topic in a different way. Blake talked about how science fiction and personally effected him. Blake is the author of Spellwright and Spellbound. He said fantasy was the most empowering thing in his life. As a child, he was told he would never go to college. Blake was dyslexic, and didn't really learn to read until he was 13 or 14.
His parents introduced him to fantasy literature. They would read to him, but then stop at the really dramatic points so he would want to find out what happened next. His parents were psychiatrists. They knew what they were doing. Blake went to high school practically illiterate and left a nerd and went on to Yale. He wanted to be a writer, but had five years of failure before deciding to become a physician. While becoming a doctor, he wrote Spellwright. In Spellwright, the way you cast magic is through spelling a spell. If you misspell something, things can go horribly wrong. You can see his childhood in special ed there. It was actually called "Harry Potter for the special ed," which Blake was just fine with.
Blake was very funny, and I really like how his books sound. I will have to check them out. He ended by telling we librarians to go out an inflict wonderful literature on everyone. Will do Blake Charlton, will do.
Lois wrote the Vorkosigan Saga and the Chalion series. Lois spoke about what the world would be like without science fiction and fantasy. There would have been no Frankenstein, no Jules Verne, no H. G. Wells, no Ray Brabury, no Star Trek or Star Wars. No Gothic fiction or horror, no Tolkien of C. S. Lewis. How incredibly different the world would be without those books and ideas. Science fiction and fantasy writers are like astronauts and engineers - creative minds thinking outside the box.
George R. R. Martin was the big draw, but I actually found him the least interesting speaker. He talked about growing up in the housing projects of New Jersey. His family had very little money and his parents weren't readers and he wasn't either. After being exposed to Dick and Jane books in school, books seemed terribly boring. It wasn't until a friend of his mother's gave him Have Spacesuit - Will Travel that George R. R. Martin realized that books could be exciting. He became a reader.
His family still didn't have much money, but how he was going into the earth, into other worlds, and into outer space.
There was time for questions afterwards. I was just waiting for the person who was going to ask George R. R Martin when the next book was coming out. Would he flip out? And sure enough, some women gets up and asks him, which seriously, is kind of in poor taste because his book just came out, and he did NOT bite her head off. He was quite civil about it. It's going to be a while, although hopefully not as long as last time.