Potlatch 10 Program Notes


Edited/Compiled by:

Lenny Bailes


Lenny Bailes, David Bratman, Matt Austern, Cynthia Gonsalves, Dan Percival, Jeanne Gomoll



Thunder and Roses

Participants: Debbie Notkin (ringleader), Dave Nee, Katie Schwarz, Paul Williams

Notes by Lenny Bailes and David Bratman


Our Book of Honor is a collection of stories by one of the greats, Theodore Sturgeon. We'll focus specifically on the stories in Thunder and Roses, but we'll probably take detours along the way into appreciation of other Sturgeon masterpieces and stories of the man himself. Likely stories to concentrate on include the title story, Maturity, Tiny and the Monster, Hurricane Trio, and, of course, your favorite.

The Panel:

Tom Becker, co-coordinator of Potlatch 10 programming, welcomes everyone and introduces the panel.

Debbie N: All four of us love the works of Theodore Sturgeon. Paul is a professional lover of Sturgeon [being the literary executor of the Sturgeon estate and editor of the volumes of collected Sturgeon stories. Thunder and Roses being the volume selected, this year, as our Book of Honor]. Dave, as an active bookseller, also qualifies as a professional lover of Sturgeon. The rest of us are amateur lovers.

The Potlatch 10 committeee asked me to pick the best of the Sturgeon collections. With a short-story writer as prolific, and with as many widely-loved stories, as Sturgeon, it's hard to choose an ideal collection to single out as Book of Honor. All of them have good stories. Thunder and Roses was chosen for the practical reason that, of the volumes in the collected Sturgeon, it is the one that has most recently appeared in softcover. And it does have some meaty stories. But this panel is really a general Theodore Sturgeon panel disguised as a Book of Honor panel.

Do the panelists have have favorite stories?

Paul W: Anything I choose must stand in the shadow of Maturity. [It wasn't ] Syzygy is one I've loved for years, at the heart of what drew me to Sturgeon. A current favorite is Wham-Bop, previously published only in magazine form, in 1947. This story deserves to be read aloud.

Katie S: One story I haven't read before is Bor-----. In it, a character is playing on the organ. The character couldn't explain the experience in words. The characters are inarticulate in one way, but very expressive in another way. Sturgeon makes you feel like a jazz fan when you're reading that story.

Dave N: One story that jumps out is The Professor's Teddy Bear, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.

Debbie N: [Wham-Bop  was new to her, but the continuation of a a conversation that started at a 4th Street Books convention panel on conveying music in fiction. When she read it, Wham-Bop was the exclamation point at the end of that conversation.] Thunder and Roses is probably my favorite story for the way it hit me as a teenage reader. It's the best and most honest story ever written on the tradeoffs, risks, and values of pacifism. It echoes a William Tenn story, where a father hits his kids inside of a fallout shelter. "Okay, we've proved what hitting does." Sturgeon actually wrote music for Thunder and Roses.

Paul W: Someone has that musical score.

Lenny Bailes: Bruce Pelz has the original in his collection.

Jane Hawkins: If you put five stories I've never read in front of me, I could probably pick out the one written by Sturgeon. How do you guys feel about this delusion?

Debbie N: Yes.

Paul W: I've had chances to be tested on this and failed. There is a persistent rumor that Sturgeon wrote a Saint story. The question is, does it sound like Sturgeon? I don't think so.

Tom Whitmore: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea doesn't feel like Sturgeon.

Paul W: But the Jean Shepherd story [I, Libertine] does.

Debbie N: Delany points out [in an essay] that Hurricane Trio is in three-beat meter.

Katie S: What period does it belong to?

Paul W: This period. 1947. In writing 3-beat prose, Sturgeon wasn't writing for fans. He thought he could sell it to Good Housekeeping and start a mainstream career. Hurricane Trio is actually the key event that starts an alternate universe in Michael Bishop's novel about Phil Dick, The Secret Ascension. And Now the News caused a crisis for Anthony Boucher and Francis McComas. This story was not s-f. Their big problem was to decide how to publish it.

Audience: A teacher recommended a story in a chapbook for him to read that was copied from Sturgeon word-for-word. The teacher never forgave him for disclosing this fact.

Audience: I've never read Theodore Sturgeon. Who was he? Can you provide a biography for those who are new to his work?

Paul W: Tough question. There's too much to say. At the time of these stories, Sturgeon was a star in the SF world. As the Byrds were stars in the folk world. Sturgeon was on a level with Robert A. Heinlein and A.E. Van Vogt. But that didn't mean that he, or they, made much money at it. Science fiction fans read him and thought "My God! This is the most important person in the world." He stopped writing and disappeared from view in '43, serving in the Merchant Marine during the war. He then reappeared in Astounding with Killdozer. Sturgeon was the answer, for many fans, to the question "Why do you read SF?"

Debbie N: He worked a variety of odd jobs and had money problems throughout his life. He never got his act together.

Dave N: He had five wives -- no six, and was known as "a man who loved women." He had the ability to focus his complete attention on a a person he was talking with, and he used that quality to get what he wanted.

Debbie N: When he told a woman he loved her, it was the absolute truth at the time.

Dave N: He projected something from inside himself, and even if you weren't looking in his direction, you could sense when he entered a room. The only author I know who had that quality was Fritz Leiber, who was otherwise very different -- and Leiber had been an actor, by profession, which Sturgeon was not.

Paul W: Part of Sturgeon's captivating character appears in the character Michael Valentine Smith in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. The character was modeled on Sturgeon. As noted in connection with musical references in several stories, Sturgeon was a musician.

Tom Whitmore: He played guitar in classical. flamenco, rock, and jazz styles. He would improvise instrumental pieces at music sessions. He had a good voice, and would perform songs of his own composition. He was a well-loved figure in the SF world, up to his death in 1985.

[On a show of hands, about half of the people attending the panel had met Sturgeon.]

[In connection with this part of the discussion, the question was raised of how representative a collection of Sturgeon Thunder and Roses is, and whether it would make a good introduction to Sturgeon. Dave described the stories of this period as on the verge of being mature Sturgeon stories - they're transitional between early and mature. As a bookseller, he would not recommend it to a first-time reader. He would use Selected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon instead. Tom Becker found that, for him, as a longtime SF reader who has never been a big Sturgeon fan, Thunder and Roses worked well. As a chunk of Sturgeon's work from a particular time and place, together with notes on the circumstances under which the stories were written, it connected him with Sturgeon as a writer. He could appreciate the impact of the stories even if he could not feel it viscerally. Neil Rest's favorite Sturgeon story is situational. It changes depending on his circumstances . Others confirmed this. ]

Ray Nelson: [Didn't like Maturity, because it suggested that a superman must pay a price. John W. Campbell was obsessed with the idea of Superman. Robin English is a typical Superman, but Sturgeon's writing convinces you that a Superman must pay for his super-ness. Ray no longer believes this premise. "It's the quality of the writing [also noted by Art Widner] that convinces the new reader of the premise."

Debbie N: I want to ask the panel how do these stories change when you revisit them?

Dave N: The World Well Lost has changed. When I was a teenager, it was like "wow!" But as an adult, after opening up society, it strikes me as backwards. Saccharine and sappy. But you have to look at it in the context of the time when it was published. It got Sturgeon a lot of criticism and hostile mail.

Debbie N: The story is saccharine. The lovebirds are so sweet. No.

Paul W: We're forgetting that that story is about an inappropriate love affair between two spacemen, not the lovebirds. And that love affair wasn't saccharine. It was perverse.

Debbie N: Sturgeon got purple, scented letters from fans after writing it.

Art Widner: Writing chops are the essence of Sturgeon. And Now the News is my favorite. It's the opposite of Thunder and Roses.

Paul W: That story is truly prophetic. I've read it again and again. Sturgeon can put over anything as long as he believes it for the sake of writing the story: here he's like a singer performing Heinlein's song.

[[The whole story was actually scripted by Robert Heinlein. Sturgeon was suffering from writer's block in the early 1950s - due to anger about McCarthyism - and Heinlein, hearing about this, wrote him a letter including some story ideas that occurred to him while writing the letter. (There's a long-standing SF tradition of passing ideas on in this way. Heinlein's own Sixth Column is his rewrite of an unpublished John W. Campbell story which Campbell gave to him; Sturgeon in his turn once had a conversation with Katherine MacLean in which he gave her the idea for "The Missing Man," her best-known story.)]

Debbie N: Sturgeon was upset about McCarthy and blocked. Heinlein was giving him a boost. Campbell did the same thing for Heinlein.

Jeanne Gomoll: [remembers loving Sturgeon as a young reader. The stories had an emotional quality and there were women characters. But on rereading, she looks at his women characters from another direction. All of the women had supernatural beauty and were very smart -- but in ways that were entirely unproductive for them. The female psychologist in Maturity is too shallow-minded to ring true as the great psychologist she's supposed to be. She's supposed to be a world-class psychologist, but her patient figures out the important ideas ahead of her. A female metallurgist has to be shown a page in a book by her boyfriend in order to do her work.]

It was thrilling, as a teenager, to be told that a woman could be a main character, but now I think all of Sturgeon's women were trapped.

Audience: [One woman noted the pleasure of finding a female scientist in a story, and finding it encouraging of her own ambitions. But she also noted that you must read stories in their historical context. Mom says to her daughter, "You must read this now." The daughter asks why now; Mom's answer is, "Because next year it's gonna be stupid."]

Dave Goldfarb: [has a shameful confession. For him most Sturgeon stories are unmemorable. He can't remember anything about them. But The Professor's Teddy Bear is memorable.

Debbie N: At 4th Street, Judy Merril said Mr. Costello, Hero wasn't a great story, because she didn't remember it.

[Some people commenting said they found some Sturgeon stories hard to remember. Paul Moslander said he had no memory of Maturity until he reread it, and then it all came back - including the very different mental state and circumstances of his first reading. Mary Kay Kare also didn't remember the stories in Thunder and Roses, and found them disappointing on this reading. She considers herself fortunate that her first encounter with Sturgeon was with his later work ]

Dave N: When we were young, the stories gave us options. But now that we've taken them, we're further ahead.

Debbie N: But did these stories make change possible?

Dave N: You have to put Theodore Sturgeon in context.

Paul W: As Terry Carr said, the golden age of SF is really 12.

[Brief discussion of who said that first, ensues, in which it is not mentioned that Terry got it from Pete Graham -- LB]

Audience: I put the stories in a personal historical context. I have to look at the stories through the lens of who I am now and who I was then.

Debbie N: Some people are better off not rereading what they loved when young.

Lenny Bailes: Sturgeon had a unique way of looking at situations. There's a famous story about a character in a bar who, instead of throwing a fan at someone to take them out of action, throws the person at the fan.

Debbie N: Kelly. It's actually part of a story that Sturgeon wrote.

Lenny Bailes: The thing you have to give Sturgeon credit for is that his ideas were really out on the edge when he wrote them. The premise of Baby is Three has been used again and again since he wrote that story, but before Sturgeon, no one had ever conceived it.

Paul W: Huckleberry Finn is great. More Than Human is great. It's the quality of the writing that makes them great stories.

Guy Thomas: [Likes Sturgeon's stories because they touched different parts of him. More Than Human was about overcoming disability]. If someone is like you, a story can be electrifying.

Debbie N: It's hard not to find yourself in a Sturgeon story.

Paul W: David Crosby had the same childhood experience. He identified with the freaks in More Than Human.

Tom Becker: [Is glad that Thunder and Roses is the Book of Honor. He's never felt struck by lightning by reading Sturgeon, but considering the stories in a contiguous lump of time puts them in context.

Neil Rest: In re Heinlein and his sexual politics -- considering where he came from (a farm boy in the Great Plains), he made a lot of progress. New writers stand on the shoulders of old ones, as Isaac Newton said. This is an explanation for why Sturgeon lets him see so much.

Something that hasn't come up yet in the panel is Sturgeon's logo. A Q with an arrow, signifying that you should ask the next question. Sturgeon stories asked them boldly, but there's no indication that these are the last questions.

Lisa Hirsch: [Can't see the triple meter in Hurricane Trio.]

Audience: Sturgeon's relationships between men and women are so '40s.

Katie S: His women don't look representative from our point of view. But the woman with all the money in the world exerted influence in the context of her story.

Cory Doctorow: SF mirrors the present, its job is not to predict the future.

Summary: Which Sturgeon stories endure, then? Debbie and Dave both picked the late story "Slow Sculpture" as an enduring one. Debbie noted the miracle of Sturgeon's inclusiveness as a creator of characters. He wrote women, gays, disabled people, people of color, and especially and constantly working people: those who are constrained by their economic circumstances. Nobody, even today, does that as well.

Dave N: [Still loves Sturgeon. Sturgeon brought real human relationships into his stories: how do technological changes affect the way people relate to each other.]

Katie S: One definition of science fiction is stories about human relationships that couldn't happen without the technology.

Paul W: The language of the stories and not their context is the reason why Sturgeon's stories endure. The language will live.

Debbie N: One thing that Sturgeon did better than anyone was to write stories of workingmen without much money: craftsmen, workers with hands.


Science Fiction and the Science Myth

Participants: James Killus (ringleader), Janet Lafler, Gerard Nordley, Ken Wharton

Notes by Matt Austern


The relationship between science fiction and real science is complex. What are some of the false ideas that people hold about science, and how does science fiction reinforce (or undermine) those beliefs? Why is it that some developments in science find their way into SF, and others don't? What are we missing? And what does science fiction have to do with science, anyway?

The Panel:

James K: The panel will discuss depictions of scientists in SF, the process of science. What is science writing like? What does SF get right?

Gerard N: Arthur C. Clarke does a good job of characterizing scientists and engineers. Their personalities are recognizable. A typical problem, as seen in the movie Apollo 13, is that real world scientists are a bit more circumspect. It doesn't always work for character function.

Ken W: SF gets scientists right more often than other fiction. Some SF is written by scientists (e.g., Greg Benford), and this stuff can show scientists portrayed accurately.

James K: A couple of examples: SF often correctly portrays the intellectual arrogance and playfulness of scientists. This is pretty well-established, even in popular media.

Janet L: There are several different models to portray the practice of science:

  1. The Frankenstein model: shows the lone, often-mad scientist.
  2. The Manhattan Project model: shows a large team with a specific goal.
  3. The Star Trek model: shows a small team apply the same problem solving skills to fixing a space warp drive as to       stopping a race war.

What's often not portrayed in SF is the structure of universities, the research grant process, and so on -- possibly because these things are less dramatic.

Gerard N: Double-Helix works as drama.

James K: Another thing that's not often portrayed is the jockying for status. Every scientist was the smartest kid in the class---some spend their whole professional lives trying to prove they're still the smartest kid in the class

Janet L: A couple of specific stories to think about are The Dispossessed with its social portrayal of science and [Sturgeon's] Microcosmic God. In Microcosmic God you have a scientist who just wants to play in his sandbox and learn things. He develops a small, fast-moving race and sets them problems to solve. The story gets at lots of odd things about science. The protagonist doesn't care about money or honor, but for his kind of science he really needs [time] and infrastructure. [There's an aside from Sturgeon to the reader: "Be quiet! We know that no one person can do this. We'll get to that, later."]

James K: Microcosmic God is sort of an allegory of [Thomas] Edison -- the invention of the industrial laboratory, which is how most of Edison's inventions came about. Most science is now organized science.

Gerard N: John W. Campbell's The Mightiest Machine comes out of the world of the industrial lab. When I read The Dispossessed, I only realized much later that if physical Faster-Than-Light is impossible, then so is FTL information transfer.

James K: Also rarely portrayed: the amount of time one spends being wrong. One feels stupid, and says to oneself, I just wasted a year and a half on something completely irrelevant. How do you write about that? It seems almost anti-literary.

Gerard N: As we learn more, more things become possible, but also, things come off the table. There aren't any swamps on Venus anymore.

James K: But do we put in things that we know are wrong anyway, if it makes a good story? Of course! Put in double-talk, call it magic-- whatever.

Janet L: Why is there a distinction between some things we know are wrong and therefore avoid (canals on Mars; swamps on Venus), and other things that are just as wrong (FTL) but that we use anyway? Why have some things been taken off the table?

Paul Kincaid: "Getting it wrong" is part of what SF is all about. There's a [Neil] Gaiman story based on that: a team of SF writers with the mission of writing all the things they don't want to happen.

Janet L: There are lots of correct predictions about how technology would be used: Voicemail in Stranger in a Strange Land, the Coke ad on the moon in a Clarke story, reality TV in The Girl who was Plugged In. We can do many things, but only end up doing some of them.

Gerard N: The Dispossessed is an example of this: I didn't realize, at firs,t that if physical FTL is impossible, [how can they do it] with information transfer? After I realized that, my view of the book changed.

James K: That doesn't bother me. In general, it's OK to put in one impossible thing in the story to make it work. . Considering that the general public's idea of physics is pre-Newtonian, anyway, worrying about people getting relativity myths wrong is a bit beside the point. What bothers a lot of people about The Dispossessed is that its [assumptions] about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. "You get different physics if you come from a different language." Physicists tend not to believe that.

Janet L: Nowadays, in Linguistics, people don't generally believe in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis , either..

James K: To what extent is science subjective? The most subjective part is what gets studied?

Cynthia Gonsalves: One thing done well in The Dispossessed is the older scientists co-opting the younger scientist's work.

Janet L: What I like in that book is the way it shows the intersection between a scientist's career and international politics. (Inspiration can come from many places: Shevek learns something from a foreign scientist that lets him complete his work.)

[A discussion of relativity occurs at this point. Is there any excuse for putting FTL in stories?]

[Janet L:} Is it reasonable to portray scientists talking in terms of absolute certainty? [To the extent that the answer is yes, it often has to do with grants. Scientists are almost completely amoral when it comes to getting money. After all, most of the time you're getting money from someone, you're not going to give them value for it. Art and science can be done by moral people, but aren't intrinsically moral activities.

Steven Schwarz: What is permissible to fudge? People want to come up with the next super-theory. It's hard to imagine a new theory that will get us canals on Mars. To what extent is it important [in science fiction] to get details right?

James K: Some people try to get some right. A few are sound some of the time.

Tome Whitmore: Subgenres like swords-and-spaceships and cyberfantasy are just not about science. But other stories, like Le Guin's Semli's Necklace that are evocative because of scientific details. In some subgenres it matters to get science right. In others science is an adornment.

James K: [has an extreme position: we shouldn't ever ask think of a story as science education.

Mary Ann Mohanraj: What about [Fred Hoyle's ] The Black Cloud?

James K: That's a special case-- first rate science.



Diversity in Science Fiction

Participants: Mary Anne Mohanraj (ringleader), Jeanne Gomoll, Ian Hagemann, Jed Hartman, Cheryl Morgan

Notes by Cynthia Gonsalves


Diversity is often taken to mean having characters of both sexes and many races. Is that the right way to think about it, or, for science fiction, do we need to think of it some other way? What is diversity, and how does it change the genre? What does diversity make possible that wasn't possible before? Which ideas and themes does diversity promote? Which does it discourage?

Panel Plan (outlined by Mary Anne)

1. Brief introductions

2. We give a brief rundown of "Diversity 101" (20 minutes) covering:

3. Move into the main panel discussion.

4. Take questions from the audience.

The Panel:

Self-intro identifiers:

Jed Hartman (Jed H): raised by hippies
Ian Hagemann (Ian H): identifies as trans-race adoption
Mary Anne Mohanraj (Mary Anne M): editor of a people-of-color-online prozine
Jeanne Gomoll (Jeanne G): women's issues advocate for Wiscon
Cheryl Morgan (Cheryl M): white middle class, Welsh

Mary Anne M: Strange Horizons online [her prozine] is looking for more diverse viewpoints. She wants to start out by asking the question "Why is diversity a good thing?"

Jeanne G: Social diversity in science fiction and its community has a parallel connection to biological diversity in ecosystems. The tolerance for differenced is often greater in an edge community than in a monocultural community.

Mary Anne M: One argument against diversity is that heterogeneity destabilizes a monocultural society

Jeanne G: Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson's) and Holdfast (Suzy Charnas) are examples of increased diversity in SF

Ian H: Diversity represents the reality of heterogeneous society. How should dissent be managed? The assumption the reader makes is that a character is usually "normal" unless the author says otherwise.

Jed H: Tokenism makes characterization simple by relying on stereotyping. It's more interesting to portray cultures other than the author's own, but it's also a complex task. [The author] benefits from consulting, taking more than a simple sample.

Mary Anne M: Authors have readers to draw on for consulting and to check facts.

Cheryl M: Diversity in company recruitment makes for a stronger company. Nalo Hopkinson's books and website are recommended as an example of an author who can get it right. [Salmon Rushdie is another.]

Lit crit tends to categorize fantasy by "diverse authors" separately as "ethnic fiction," rather than placing it in the fantasy ghetto.

Mary Anne M: Points to the resource list handed out to the audience, which contains names of works and their authors: the Strange Horizons website, Wiscon (and the Tiptree award), the Carl Brandon Society (for promoting writers of color).

Tokenism, as in the Star Trek crew, is the first step -- or choose a culture that you don't know and learn about it (as writers).

Janet Lafler: Linguistic diversity has broadened genre. What books are examples of this?

Mary Anne M: [LM Bujold's] Ethan of Athos, and [Le Guin's] Tehanu as examples of monolithic single cultures challenged by the narrator's shift in point of view. See Le Guin's Language of the Night for a series of essays on the pronoun problem. [And Halfway Human by ?]

Jed H: [Examples of monolithic culture clash: the jungle planet, the sand planet, [Tiptree's] Houston, Houston, Do You Read and Alice Nunn's Illlicit Passage.

Ian H: Some story lines promote diversity and some don't. "Kill the bugs" tends not to foster this discussion. A story of winners that raises the class question does. McHugh's China Mountain Zhang is basically about holding a job. Suzy Charnas' The Furies was a story that explored diversity issues. (See also Doris Lessing's Mara and Dann and Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.

Mary Anne M: Are the needs of the individual always to be valued over those of Society, or does Society have some traditional cultural claims?

Tom Becker: Diverse cardboard characters are an improvement on cardboard characters who are all the same color.

Ian H: Good fiction doesn't have cardboard characters. Good guy/bad guy stories are not diversity-promoting.

Mary Anne M: Writing and researching your own culture is step 2.

Jed H: Let characters respond to visible (apparent) clues -- "not in the details but in the tension between the details," as Chip Delany said.

Ian H: [Truffaut's] The Bride Wore Black. Leather, and He Looked Great.

Jed H: Always question, always complexity.

Ian H: Ask the next question (as Ted Sturgeon suggested.)

Jeanne G: [The Cohen Bros. movie] Fargo misrepresents the stereotypical norm, and this should happen to Normals more often.

Cheryl M: [More books to read] -- Mary Gentle's Ash and China Mieville's Perdido Street Station.

Potlatch Diversity Panel: Booklist

Allende, Isabel: The House of the Spirits
Borges, Jorge Luis: Labyrinth
Butler, Octavia: Parable of the Talents
Charnas, Suzy McKee: The Holdfast Chronicles
Chiang, Ted: (various short stories published in Starlight, IASF, and elsewhere)
Delany, Samuel: Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, Babel-17
Divakaruni, Chitra Bannerjee: Mistress of Spices
Dorsey, Candace Jane: Black Wine
Emshwiller, Carol: Ledoyt
Esquivel, Laura: Like Water for Chocolate
Ghosh, Amitav: The Calcutta Chromosome
Gloss, Molly: The Dazzle of Day, Wild Life
Gotlieb, Phyllis: Flesh and Gold
Griffith, Nicola and Pagel, Stephen: Bending the Landscape
Hopkinson, Nalo: Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber
King, Thomas: Green Grass, Running Water
Lee, Mary Soon: (short fiction)
Le Guin, Ursula K: The Left Hand of Darkness, Tehanu, The Telling
Lessing, Doris: Mara & Dann
Major, Devorah: An Open Weave
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: A Hundred Years of Solitude
McDonald, Ian: Hearts, Hands and Voices
McHugh, Maureen, China Mountain Zhang, Mission Child
McIntyre, Vonda N.: The Moon and the Sun
Moore, Christopher: Coyote Blue
Mukherjee, Bharati: Leave It to Me
Murakami, Haruki: A Wild Sheep Chase
Murphy, Pat: Wild Angel
Naylor, Gloria: Mama Day
Reed, Ishmael: Mumbo Jumbo
Robinson, Kim Stanley: Red Mars,l Green Marsl, Blue Mars
Robinson, Spider (some of the time)
Rushdie, Salman: Midnight;s Children, Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Russ, Joanna: The Female Man
Smiley, Jane: The All-True Adventures of Liddey Newton, Moo
Sucharitkul, Somtow: The Aquiliad
Thomas, Sheree: Dark Matter
Tiptree, Jr., James: "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?"
Witig, Monique: Les Guerilleres

Potlatch Diversity Panel: Resource list

Alternative Sexualities in Science Fiction and Fantasy
- a booklist of (generally) recommended titles, with annotations

Broad Universe
- an association to promote the interests of women in SF/f

The Carl Brandon Society
- an association to promote the interests of people of color in SF/f

Gaylactic Network

James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council
680 66th Street, Oakland, CA 94609

Religious Science Fiction

Selected Works of Gay Interest in Science Fiction

Strange Horizons
- an online nonprofit prozine which actively seeks to promote diversity

Wavelengths Online
- an online magazine specializing in GLBT SF/f fiction

P.O. Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701-1624
- the original feminist convention, in Madison, WI.



The Economics of Iniquity

Participants: Lynn Paleo and Rich Dutcher (co-ringleaders), Lenny Bailes, Paul Kincaid

Notes by Dan Percival and Lenny Bailes


Those horrid criminals in science fiction: perpetuators/purveyors of drugs, prostitution, smuggling, slavery, genetic material theft.... The underclass in science fiction: what do they do, how do they do it, and most importantly, why do these iniquities continue? Is it because "nice" people either profit from or consume their products, per chance? Might the very definition of iniquity have class or economic factors? What are the economics of iniquity? Let's put on a different lens and look at books such as Bujold's Vor series, Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants, cyberpunk, Melissa Scott's musicians, and others. As a panel, with audience participation, of course, we will develop several categories of books that explore how the economics of inequity work when perpetrated by the underclass (with the connivance of the upper classes).

The Panel:

Lynn P: We got the idea for this panel from a previous one: the economics of immortality and inequity. Why and how are these economics perpetuated? What motivates them? Using fiction (science fiction, in particular) as a lens, we'd like to focus on the underclass and on illegitimized economies.

Rich D: What do we mean by iniquity? Many languages have a huge vocabulary for iniquity -- like Eskimo words for snow. There are lots of words for "bad" and for "sin." We (the panelists) are all post-Marxist. It's easier to talk about morality. Several issues raised by this panel's theme are tied to the theme of the last panel: Who defines the moral code? Who maintains it and who is complicit in its maintenance?

[Rich suggests] that complicity is shared by 95% of the population. In Suzy Charnas' Walk to the End of the World, right and wrong stand in for economic advantage. "Thinking of women as human is iniquitous." Ursula Le Guin's Four Ways to Forgiveness explores the issue of slavery. She explains that slavery on the planet Yeowe is complicated both to the slaves and the slave holders.

Lynn P: In this panel, we want to look at where money and morals cooperate and where they clash.

Lenny B: The classic model for the economics of inequity in science fiction is Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy, (which we almost chose as this year's Book of Honor). In Citizen of the Galaxy, Baslim the Cripple makes Thorby do a variety of loathesome tasks as part of his espionage work. Heinlein gives us a Dickensian portrayal of drug trafficking and the slave trade within the lumpenproletariat.

In Larry Niven's stories, we see a rich man's paranoia about the activities of the lower class. Cross the street in a bad section of town and you may be abducted by organleggers. But also in Larry Niven, we have a story where a jaywalker receives a death sentence as his penalty. The economics of iniquity, in this case, do not stem from the inherently unscrupulous nature of the criminal classes, they come from the government, above.

Other classic iniquities in classic science fiction stories include the Kornbluth/Pohl depiction of "belly rave" in The Space Merchants/Gladiator at Law, Robert Sheckley's true prophecies about "reality tv, and dreamshops," and Neal Stephenson's McDonalds-franchise governments and violent rave scenes in Snow Crash. Bruce Sterling's Distraction depicts disenfranchised 21st Century Oakies and legalized government extortion. William Gibson gives us data theft, sleeping in storage cubicles, and the increasingly-trendy concept of "identity theft." We get "meme wars" from John Barnes in Kaleidoscope Century, and Terry Bisson's Nebula-nominated Macs, follows up on the "murder by proxy" vice introduced in Ray Bradbury's Marionettes, Inc. Bisson expands the concept of robot prostitution in one of his other stories.

The 21st century is giving us a more diverse collection of iniquities. The movie Gattaca popularizes the existence of a new underclass whose crime is genetic inferiority. We get new industries for counterfeiting genes and circumventing purity tests.

Lynn P: Inequality spawns iniquity. In places where inequality is heavy and systematic, there is pressure that creates iniquity.

Paul K: I am white, middle class, and British, and thus defined as a "villain." A common misconception of history is to portray class as a top-down imposition. The Magna Carta didn't actually work like that. Instead, we should examine how all classes are complicit in social order. Iniquity can refer to how each individual tries to make life somewhat better for him/herself. Where do we find characters for whom we have compassion?

Lynn P: In places where inequality is systematic, iniquities proliferate.

Paul K: There are two kinds of Utopias in SF, those that work and those that don't. The latter type contain inequalities -- I want my share, but I can't get my share. [Iain] Banks' Culture has no underclass. Le Guin's "Omelas" requires a scapegoat.

[Paul takes objection to the portrayal of the working class in William Gibson novels.] The working class equals a criminal class. Jeff Noon's Vurt exhibits a similar aesthetic to Gibson's books: there's a lot about people not choosing to do wrong, but being led into harmful/dangerous realms just to get by and seek to improve their lives.

Debbie Notkin: In any class, iniquity can be perpetuated by familiarity -- the expectations of the people around you.

Rich D: Literature opens our eyes to alternatives. Familiarity acts both ways.

Cynthia Gonsalves: In Bujold's worlds, Jackson's Whole is most obvious. Everything is for sale. Barrayar is different. What kind of iniquity is there in Beta Colony? Unlicensed replication, but what else?

Paul K: Is everyone on the Jackson's Whole planet a nasty criminal? What would people have to do to simply survive in this milieu? Why do these systems exist? This is where post-Marxism comes in. We don't just have criminals and an underclass creating iniquity -- in many more cases, it requires middle/upper class complicity.

Lenny B: What are the complicities of Jackson's Whole? How did the warlords come to power? What services did they provide to the general populace to achieve power?

Rich D: Iniquities are romanticized in science fiction. We have the false notion of a "Thieves Guild." When thieves have a guild, they're called cops! Jackson's Whole is a perverted Las Vegas in space. In Melissa Scott's books, people are just trying to pay the rent, help their families. In The Godfather, the protagonist is motivated by family obligations.

Lenny B: What I want to know is where do all of the new vices come from? Are they filling a need in society or are they a setup, like Television's recent obsession with reality TV. For instance, murder-by-proxy is an example of a new stfnal inequity that appears to fill a need. We see it in the '50s in Ray Bradbury's "Marionettes, Incorporated." And now, Terry Bisson has written "Macs," a Nebula nominee, this year.

Ray Nelson: In [Sturgeon's] Maturity, Robin English ventures into drug dealing for the thrill of it. Virusmakers in our society feel a pressure to succeed. Egoboo is a human need.

Lenny B: Virusmakers are also motivated by the sourness that comes with economic desperation. Czechoslovakia is full of frustrated ex-Programmers who are currently unemployed.

Rich D: If virus writers are adolescent USA males, the motivation is probably egoboo, alone. If they're constrained by cultural/economic status issues, it may be their anger at unemployment and their social position that drives them.

[Audience]: "Jackson's Whole" is the classic den of iniquity, but Bujold also provides other views of society.

Lynn P: Beta Colony provides equality and opportunity within established norms. It lacks the incentive for iniquity.

Cory Doctorow: We've ignored the happy rogue. [The David Niven archetype].

Guy Thomas: There is a segment of the population whose anger takes it to destructive behavior. Viruses, [communistic] destruction. Oliver Moore's The Big Con uses the tradition of the Happy Rogue. And it's about the sense of personal victory -- a tagger succeeds with [the] ubiquity [of his tags]. [Other stories that use the happy rogue meme: Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories and Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat.]

Alan Bostick: The happy rogue is often really _un_happy. There's a Robert Altman film, California Swift where a hustler in Las Vegas beats the system and becomes completely despondent. There's nothing left to do.

Rich D: The happy rogue idea is based largely on self-reporting. Taggers may be acting out of misplaced anger, taking actions that are available to them. Intangible rewards are cheap -- giving the tagger recognition is cheaper than giving him [material wealth].

Tom Whitmore: Every character is a hero in his own story. A great deal of wickedness comes out of [self-approval].

Ian Hagemann: We don't all agree on the same moral system. When you talk about iniquity, you're talking about folks who think what they're doing is bad. Many people sell dope or sex and don't see it as immoral. There are different questions when people don't see what they're doing as wrong..

Rich D: Moral decisions can be considered as economic ones. People usually approve of themselves. Good cyberpunk will occasionally ask about the consequences.

Lenny B: There's also the "it's just a business, not what I personally think is right" mentality. Robert Silverberg's vision of "Reality TV" in Thorns is now almost here in the real world. This seems to me to be the first step on the way to the "Jackson's Whole" economy. Everything is for sale. To what extent are we all complicit in creating this kind of situation?

Lynn P: The above is true for both official iniquities and "cutthroat business." Corporate raiders feel bad, but it's "just a job-shifting."

Paul K: People shift standards to fit circumstances. If you must steal food to survive, you'll think differently about theft than the person who "owns" food.

Audience: [asks the panel to discuss prison culture and prison economics.

Art Widner: Prison-building has become a substantial part of the economy in some areas of the country.

Lenny B: And we make things illegal in order to populate the prisons!

Paul K: [There are also underworld economies based on "living the dream."] In Science of Light, a woman dreams of flying, and has underground surgery. This opens up views into the underworld society that makes the operation possible. The desire to "live the dream" perpetuates the underworld. In [China Mieville's] Perdido Street Station all the protagonist wants to do is pursue his own dream -- but he has to use illicit means to do so.

Audience: So why is reality TV a slippery slope?

Lenny B: Life is full of tough decisions. Reality TV tries to teach us that we're all suckers unless we always play to win.

Rich D: Why do people do it/watch it? To get their "fifteen minutes of fame?" We can connect this to SF with a historical tie-in to "outrageous stories."

Lenny B: I think most of the contestant/participants are probably motivated by the money that seems to comes after they get the fame.

Laurie Edison: People are driven by individual dreams and uber-dreams of culture. Reality TV comes out of uber-dreams of fame. Uber-dreams will lead you to whatever means that will achieve the success the dreams promise.

Audience: In Kage Baker's Company series, all of the immortals complain about how minor vices become illegal for "the good of all." The unintended consequence of social regulation is crime.

Lynn P: We've been free-grazing for awhile. Lenny, do you have other categories of "economic iniquity?"

Lenny B: [reading his notes] I see a number of themes built around science fictional treatments of the economics of iniquity, that are now almost boilerplate devices:

In all of these, it's up to the Outlaw to restore to the correct moral order.

Lynn P: Any other categories?

Art Widner: Superman, being above our moral standards, creates his own standards.

Lynn P: Also, romantic crime.

Audience: Themes where the dominant culture requires the operation of the underclass to survive. [Cites Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age as an example.

Audience: 1984. "The hope is the proles."

Rich D: [The Pendergast machine in Kansas City. Anything goes in a controlled area. The trope here is the disillusioning discovery that Society creates vice.

Audience: Underworld messiahs ([Delany's] Nevryona and Triton, Gorgon.

Rich D: Gorgon becomes integrated onto the power structure.

Audience: Catch-22 situations where there are no legitimate alternatives. Susan Matthews's Exchange of Hostages.

Laurie Edison: Controlled rebellion, as in Rebecca Ore's novels.

Paul K: It's a trope when the correct order is overthrown, acts of iniquity are required.

Lenny B: Is this a variant of "the Rogue is justified?"

Rich D: No. This is "Restore the correct order by any means [possible]."

Audience: I would propose that L. Ron Hubbard turned games theory into a religion.

Rich D: L. Ron Hubbard is a proof of the truth of the Rebecca Ore story.

Audience: [Burgess'] A Clockwork Orange.

Lynn P: This is a good start in listing categories [for the economics of iniquity].

Lenny B: What do people think about murder-by-proxy? This seems to have become a fashionable meme. Terry Bisson's Macs is up for a Nebula, this year. [[And subsequently won it -- LB]]

Rich D: I think these stories intend to expose the vengeance motive, but most public supporters of [D.P.?] will admit this.

Audience: A lot of this comes from trying to get a good result on-the-cheap: reality TV for real experience. Prison is an easy method for control.

Neil Rest: The ambiguity of A Clockwork Orange is that the love of Beethoven is the only redeeming quality of anyone in the movie. The revival of murder-by-proxy comes from the scientific advances in cloning.

Paul K: One thing that science fiction often does is to try out moral stances.

Rich D: Tying this discussion back to the diversity panel -- none of this is simple. Since iniquity is, indeed, linked to good and evil, it's presented as simple. But iniquity is very much tied to circumstance.

Lynn P: [Summarizing] We're not adhering to a given moral code, but evaluating [a number of them]. When economics drives morality, science fiction can help us challenge the basic assumptions.



The Cutting Edge and the Rusty Spoon

Participants: Eileen Gunn (ringleader), Cory Doctorow, Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy

Notes by Jeanne Gomoll


Some SF from the '40s and '50s has survived long past its sell-by date, while some of the stories we thought were so exciting a decade or two ago seem frozen in yesterday's tomorrow. Is this risk inherent in science fiction? Are ephemeral stories that capture the zeitgeist less worthy than stories that address the general human condition? Do those who live by the cutting edge die by the rusty spoon?

The Panel:

Eileen G: {The subject of the panel] implies a shaky premise: SF stories are ephemeral. This is true. Eileen proposes that the panel should talk about the problems this fact presents. After the early days of cyberpunk, tons of novels were packaged like Gibson's. Most of these are now forgotten. It doesn't do any good to focus on the public reception of "ephemeral" stories twenty years hence

Cory D: Says that his stuff tends to be meta-SF (about science fiction). He worries a bit that his stuff might be left behind. On the other hand, one sure way to become a "rusty spoon" is "Amateur Tofflerism," (predicting the future and about the future).

Karen F: Has just finished her third novel. All her works use historical settings because of the [defining] nature of "what is the cutting edge?" This gives her the ultimate right to critique the cutting edge. It's easy to think about what would be cutting edge in the 1890s.

Pat M: "Cutting edge" equals multiple personalities. Zeitgeist is part of the human condition. Pat questions the dictum that an author should refrain from writing about what/when you're not. [Her latest story, There and Back Again, uses the device of being written by a fictive author, who she made up because it was fun to write like him.]

[Audience]: Can you not write about the time you live in?

Eileen G: You're always writing about yourself. Her stories do not attempt to reach the cutting edge. This is an imposed idea. A writer does not aspire to be the cutting edge. If you aspire to it, you aren't there. Truth equals the receding edge.

Cory D: When I hear the words "cutting edge," I think of a Spinal Tap line. "There's such a fine line between being clever and being stupid. Seeking a cutting edge identity will doom a story.

Karen F: Anyone who, even inadvertently, finds themself on one cutting edge is doomed to failure. There's a certain point where you start to age and being on the cutting edge is pathetic. This is like trying to make a career of being an angry young man.

Eileen G: The very antagonism you display so succinctly is at the heart of this panel. All the stuff I thought was so attractive 20 years ago no longer seems memorable.

Janet Lafler: The idea behind this panel is that some stuff does wear well and other stuff doesn't. Is it possible to guess which stories will endure? [Points out the surprising persistence of memes and ideas just might have been around to have been buried.]

Laurie Edison: The cutting edge is an artistic place in time -- the interplay of many people. The cumulative work done by people here define the edge.

Eileen G: Who defines it?

Debbie Notkin: Cutting edge gets defined by what falls off when it is out by the cutting edge.

Pat M: There's a consumer factor. The media define the cutting edge, which may actually bypass the "real" cutting edge. [Pat agrees that the "outs" redefined by the cutting edged are integral to its definition.

Kate Schaefer: [Has been a Tiptree award judge.] The cutting edge we have seen is fiction that examines the nature of gender. The Tiptree award spotlight brings attention to this kind of cutting edge. Process changes literature.

Cory D: Epiphanies of the cutting edge can lead to a hyperbole of enthusiasm. In the process the enthusiasm can become embarrassing because the cutting edge becomes invisible or fails.

Karen F: Loneliness is a unique sense of the cutting edge that isolates by placing the author out of reach of the mass audience.

Pat M: In response to Kate's comment on the Tiptree award: The community brings together people working in a similar vein and draws attention to them. She is unsure whether Locus, for instance, would consider Tiptree fiction cutting edge. So is the cutting edge different for different communities?

Tom Becker: What cutting edge did Ted Sturgeon work on? Not all cutting edge work turns into rusty spoons. Why is that? Why do people feel the way they do about the cutting edge, and what does this have to do with the endurability of fiction?

Mary Ann Mohanraj: Enthusiasm convinces people that something is cutting edge. But what is "hot," "hyped," or "popular" is not the same thing.

Eileen G: "Cutting edge" judgment does not help an individual decide whether or not something is good.

Alan Bostick: Being "hyped" by the media doesn't define the cutting edge.

Cory D: [Provides generally-applauded definition of cutting edge. But the notetaker, unfortunately, missed it.]

Pat M: Points out that almost all authors want to be hyped desperately. Pat relinquishes her need for Bruce Sterling's approval even though she loves hearing his entirely irreverent comments on her work. The cutting edge relates to individual view point. A radically different story loses its cutting edge.

Cory D: Cutting edge stuff that only requires change in viewpoint gets rusty very quickly.

Lisa Hirsch: Asks panelists to recommend well-known names they consider to be C.E.

Pat M: Recommends Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller.

Karen F: Recommends Emshwiller's Ledoyt.

[Audience]: The social awareness of Theodore Sturgeon has been left behind by the maturity of changing social perceptions.

Suzy Charnas: Some people see her novel Conqueror's Child as cutting edge. One reviewer characterized it as "old hat." Who's right? She may never know.

[Audience]: No work can be perceived as consistently innovative over time.

Karen F: Disagrees with this comment. Cites the novels of Virginia Woolf as a counterexample.

Cory D: If you have to step outside of your aesthetic structure you can't actually be sure there is anything there.

Rich Dutcher: The cutting edge might not be the same for everyone everywhere, but if it happens for one person in one place -- there it is. He cites Vidal's Myra Breckenridge and Ted Sturgeon's The World Well Lost as examples.

Pat M: The artistic cutting edge is often at odds with what's popular.

[Audience]: Proposes Harry Potter as the new cutting edge to a chorus of boos.

[Audience]: For some people Harry Potter is new and meets the changing needs of the general public.

Karen F: Time will tell whether it has longevity.

Pat M: Potter is good, but not innovative. Maybe Harry Potter is cutting edge for some members of the general public, but not for most people here.

Eileen G: Repeats her suggestion that the cutting edge is irrelevant.

Neil Rest: Ted Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood is still as cutting edge as anything out there. Campbell's editorship and writers (in Astounding) were cutting edge. The point is that cutting edge fiction has legs.

Pat M: Something might have been cutting edge at one point, but a work with longevity has more. Cutting edge work leaves a residue in the field.

[Audience]: Some edges keep needing to be cut. Some need to be cut on a regular basis.

Kate Yule: Sometimes the there are rusty spots on the cutting edge. Most Philip K. Dick stories always told us something about women's breasts. By contemporary standards, this is no longer C.E. [if it ever was].

Eileen G: It's not useful to think about the relative changes of cultural values that will cause others to change their opinions about fiction. This is useful only from a reader's perspective. The cutting edge requires a community movement. [Eileen suggests that the target of this panel was intended to be the Cyberpunks.]

Pat M: The New Wave made its own noise. With the feminists, the noise was made by [reader] reactions. The Cyberpunks made their own noise. Does a cutting edge movement need to be recognized outside of the community? Or can it exist within a community?

Cory D: Repeats his observation that there is a fine line between the clever and the stupid.


The Maturation of Maturity: When a Master Rewrites

Participants: Zed Lopez (ringleader), Claire Eddy, Howard Hendrix, Rachel Holmen, Leslie What

Notes by Lenny Bailes


Our book of honor, Thunder and Roses, gives us a look at the writing process by reprinting both the original ending of Maturity, from its magazine publication, and a version with a different ending that Sturgeon wrote subsequently for his collection, Without Sorcery. How do these differ, and why? Our panel will discuss both versions and will speculate about what motivates Sturgeon's changes.

The Panel:

The panelists introduce themselves. Howard Hendrix is a novelist. Claire Eddy is an editor at Tor Books. Zed ran the writer's workshop at this year's Potlatch. Leslie What is a short story writer (with a new one coming up soon in Asimov's). Rachel Holmen was a publisher at MZB's Fantasy Magazine.

Zed L: Maturity (a story by Theodore Sturgeon) has been published in two versions. The second version was rewritten in 1948 with a different introduction and several narrative changes. [The purpose of the panel is to discuss the differences in the two versions of this famous Sturgeon story and how they reflect upon the writer's creative process.]

Howard H: Prefers the second version, although some people see it as self-indulgent. The original version has a "Moriarty pattern." [?] ends his own life, but it is self-induced.

Claire E: As an editor is interested in the external forces that caused Sturgeon to do the rewrite.

Howard H: Calls the second version self-indulgent because it contains long philosophical discussions. Sturgeon is very erudite in inserting intertextual references to SF tropes. He refers freely to characters in Huxley and Stapledon. The second version is suicide. [Sturgeon pieces that Howard remembers as sticking in his consciousness include Microcosmic God, More than Human, and Killdozer. Maturity didn't stick with him. Parallel cases in which an author rewrites an earlier, classic work include Daniel Keyes with Flowers for Algernon and Damon Knight's Theo.

In the original version of Maturity, Robin English has many names. He's more interested in money than in the second version. He becomes a financier. The magazine version of the story may be more consistent. It highlights the relationship between inventiveness and immaturity.

Claire E: I'll put on my editor's hat. I think there are good things to be found in both versions of the story, but I really didn't like either one of them. I liked the ideas in the stories, and the first ending better. But it was too short, too fast, and didn't have enough embellishment.

The first half of the story was fine. [Claire would cut some of the conversation about primates and maturity in the first version, but keep the ending. Also, you can't call what happens to the villain murder if the victim is for it.]

Leslie W: [hated both versions.] It's a "fall from grace" story. "Man cannot stand next to God and survive." This is a difficult message for me to accept. To me, the dialog was opaque. [Leslie doesn't believe that the creativity in Maturity can be an engineered construct.]

Audience: The story was credible in the context of its time.

Audience: Sturgeon ran into Vinge's singularity and killed the character because he couldn't write seriously about the post-human condition.

Rachel H: The first story was like Peter Pan. [Rachel didn't like the second version. She thought the internal debate was boring, and the story had too many characters.] I had a professor who believed creativity could be taught, but he was way off base.

Gerard Nordley: Sturgeon wrote before the discovery of DNA. He was prescient. He deals with a question that writers are still dealing with now: "what is our future."

Matt Austern: In the first ending we're told that a mature human would be "not playful." In the second version, characters reject definition. Questions aren't answered. The answer in the original version is unsatisfactory.

Howard H: It's answered in an indirect way: "knowing enough is maturity." [Howard is intrigued by the ambiguity in the second version.

Zed L: [Is shocked that anyone prefers the original version. He considers it flawed. Bassier becomes a main character after having been mentioned only once. The ending is rushed.]

Howard H: There is a third version in Without Sorcery. When Warfield walks down to Peg's office and looks at the books, he discovers that she's there. This is too coincidental.

Audience: There's some doubt as to whether the experiment [in the story] actually produces maturity.

David Goldfarb: The original version of the story seems slanted toward John W. Campbell's taste.

Janet Lafler: Maturity is a culturally loaded term, but the story refers to it as a physiological condition. The physiological leads away from the cultural.

Audience: Is anyone impressed by the fact that the story writes about brain chemistry in the '40s?

Howard H: Robin English has symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. The story has an implicit idea: if you kill that off, you may kill the creative urge.

Zed L: [Is not impressed by the predictive power of the story.]

Michael Butler: It appears that David Brin promotes the idea that the criteria for sanity is "satiability." The question that's begged is "enough of what?"

Ray Nelson: The world was inundated by Jean Paul Sartre's atheistic existentialism in Nausea and No Exit at the time. Sturgeon must have come in contact and wondered if he could write an existentialist SF story. Trends [in psychology] now suggest that humans have no limit. But the Sartrean worldview was: "Show me a smiling face, I'll show you a traitor to the human race."

Audience: [Wonders if Robin English had sex.]

Audience: [Suggests that the barroom discussion in Maturity may have come out of an SF convention.

Paul Williams: The reason Sturgeon rewrote the story was that he wasn't satisfied with the answer to the question "What is maturity." Sturgeon almost never rewrote. The Dreaming Jewels is another exception. The desire to finish the story and get a check also had some impact. The first version of the story was written for an editor. The second version of the story had no editor and wordcount restrictions. It wasn't John W. Campbell. Sturgeon failed on his own expectations.

Howard H: Given that he was freed up, why did he make the second ending more philosophical and ambiguous?

Audience: In the second version Robin didn't have to die. IN the first version, after the pinnacle there's a downward slope.

Howard H: Acromegaly is an ossification. When you mature, you ossify.

Anita Rowland: Why do Mel and Margueretta have the same initials (MW and MW)?

Howard H: In an essay critiquing Snow White, the author argues that Snow White and the wicked stepmother are opposite sides of the same kind: SW and WS.

Janet Lafler: [Wants to know what was disturbing about ossification.]

Leslie W: It's not fully played out in the text, outside of Robin English's head. [Leslie can't believe that Robin English is fully played out.]

Janet Lafler: [Isn't sure what's the story is saying: "maturity isn't equivalent to aging and we need immaturity to be happy?" Or is it a young man's idea of what it's like to be old?

Claire E: How adults function isn't explained. The adult concept is being a functional member of society.

Howard H: Robin says "The psychs are doing a noble job considering what they're up against. They try to fit people smoothly into a monstrous environment."

Paul Williams: Because Sturgeon customarily didn't rewrite, he starts the second version of the story in the middle out of laziness.

Lenny Bailes: The monstrous environment that Sturgeon refers to is predictive of Thomas Szasz's famous study What is mental illness?

Howard H: The second version comes closer to "what is maturity?"

Cory Doctorow: For writers without outlines there are two stages: put down as many things as you can think of, then it's climax-time and you have to pull it all together. [In Sturgeon] you see a writer who's collaborating with himself and also trying to shaft himself.

Paul Williams: Sturgeon wasn't satisfied with the story. The third version of it was his actual son, Robin.

Anita Rowland: [Picked up the flavor of the New York scene in the story: gadgets, toys, a best selling volume of poetry.

Audience: At that time, Sturgeon must have known that someone with acromegaly was under a death sentence.

Paul Williams: Tempered with Meg's intervention as a doctor.

Zed L: [Wonders about Sturgeon's choice of a supporting cast. Why were Meg and Mel in the story?]

Rachel H: Mel is his serious adult side.

Claire E: Robin English is the only one having sex, but with Janice, "the mindless one." Peg's reaction to Janice doesn't seem to be credible.

Zed L: Sturgeon deals with love and its shadows. The character Mel is jealousy. Meg is loneliness.

Paul Williams: [Believes that the writer wasn't consciously in control of those elements. With Sturgeon, you're talking about an enfant terrible.

Lenny Bailes: Do you see any element of Judith Merril in either character.

Paul Williams: No, I don't think so. [After the panel Lenny reminds Paul of Merril's references to Sturgeon serving as her mentor and inspiration in the essay she wrote about him for the F&SF special Sturgeon Issue. Paul acknowledges the possibility that elements of this relationship may have found their way into Maturity.]

Howard H: For someone who's such an unconscious writer, his immersion in psychology is fascinating.

Zed L: Does the panel have any closing comments on the question of "what is maturity?"

Leslie W: Wants to reread the story and thinks she may appreciate it more, now.

Claire E: I live with a 10-year-old and I never know what he'll say. "We know everything, we just don't know that we know it, yet." There are lots of different maturities -- Jon Singers of the world.

Howard H: Embedded in both versions is the assumption that "human beings are human because they're never mature." "Maturity is death." "You don't stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing."