2020 4th Street Programming – Podcast Edition

Hello, 4th Street Fantasy community! This year’s podcast panels are now freely available at the links below, with many thanks to Keffy R. M. Kehrli for the transcriptions.

Enjoy, and we hope to see you at the con next year!

In Which We Consider the Role of Hospitality in Stories

Recorded on Monday, June 8, 2020

Marissa Lingen (Moderator)
Pamela Dean
Reuben Poling
Matt Doyle
Max Gladstone

2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Dealing with Dragons by local writer Patricia Wrede. A common element in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is that, while the heroes buck many traditions, they also maintain manners and respect for the ways other people do things even when they don’t understand. Still, they will enforce boundaries against those intending harm when hospitality is abused. 

In cultures around the world, the importance of hospitality in stories goes back as long as we’ve had stories: even when that hospitality is taken advantage of, people don’t throw out the tradition wholesale. How do we tell the difference in our stories between honoring hospitality and valuing “courtesy” that becomes a vehicle for tone policing, rules lawyering, and enforcing the status quo; or the line between a malicious actor and one who is wrong but can be corrected? Why is commitment to hospitality so ingrained, and transgressions against it so reprehensible? This panel will discuss what, in our current era, fantasy can do with the concept of what it means to welcome, and why that matters. 

The Fantasy Feast, or the Same Old Magic Immediate Road Stew

Recorded on Saturday, June 6, 2020

Elizabeth Bear (Moderator)
DongWon Song
Fonda Lee
Ruthanna Emrys
Casey Blair

Meal gatherings are a prominent feature in fantasy. It’s not just the geographical availability of the food that details our worlds, but how characters interact with food and what it says about them. Whether characters’ staple foods are rice or bread, for instance, or if they have access to both, there’s still a choice of what to serve. A character who has more difficulty acquiring meat but nevertheless serves it to guests—or doesn’t—tells us something; likewise a character who can barely afford their own rice but still shares it. 

A meal gathering is about the food, but it’s also about more than that: narratively, we can use meals to manipulate tension, build atmosphere, and create social frameworks that underpin our stories. Familiar mealtime customs and ways of interacting with food can work as anchors for the reader, while unfamiliar ones can make an experience as universal as sharing a meal feel alien. Fantasy has a particular reputation for devoting time to depicting not just food, but meals: let’s tease out why. 

This Is Fine: Making Art While the World Burns

Recording on Sunday, June 14, 2020

John Wiswell (Moderator)
C. L. Polk
John Chu
Maurice Broaddus
Fran Wilde

The internet makes information and disinformation equally accessible, and media strategies make it impossible to effectively filter the deluge of horrifying news and terrible takes. After 2016, many people were walloped with the growing awareness that fascism is on the rise around the world, inundated with stories that are endlessly awful and calls to act on all of them. Here we are at another US election year occurring during an actual pandemic, and we’ve had to continually learn new strategies to cope with Our Trashfire of 2020. This is a panel to discuss how we continue to create art—and why it’s as or more important than ever—without burning ourselves out or failing to engage in the world at all. 

Systems of Communication

Recorded on Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Django Wexler (Moderator)
John Appel
Arkady Martine
Benjamin C. Kinney
Sherwood Smith

Many plots could be solved by better communication, but communication solutions are often not as simple as yelling at the protagonist to actually use their cell phone to call their friend the expert for immediate assistance. Access to communication systems varies greatly, whether that’s the presence of the literal infrastructure for a cellular network or the social structures that enable people to use them: the ability to read and write has been an indicator of privilege and, sometimes, magic. Less tangible but no less powerful, social structures also include the accepted norms that determine how it is “appropriate” to communicate and what the consequences are for transgression. We also have to consider the ability to manipulate the communication system: just because information is conveyed doesn’t mean it is understood, nor does it mean it’s true. 

Our frameworks for communication filter into almost every aspect of human experience, from how we share information to how we form social bonds to how we interact with and understand our world at all. How is fantasy uniquely suited to play with the limitations and possibilities of communication systems?