Readercon 31 was held online August 13-15, 2021. Guests of honor were Jeffrey Ford and Ursula Vernon; Vonda N. McIntyre was the memorial guest of honor. Of 556 individuals registered, 528 people attended. Merryl Gross, head of registration, reported that while most members were from the US and Canada, ‘‘This year saw a larger contingent from Great Britain, the European Union, Mexico and South Africa.’’ The focus of Readercon is ‘‘imaginative literature’’ – literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their intersections. Programming was deliberately organized, with topics ranging from book-club style discussions to academic and critical examinations.
The event was held on Discord and YouTube, with Discord as the interactive space, while panels were livestreamed to YouTube. Attendees watching a panel could enter a chat room and ask questions via chat. Readings and other prerecorded events could also be viewed on YouTube, with the presenters and often the readers available for engagement in Discord channels. A ‘‘Bookshop’’ included PM Press, Reckoning Press, Pink Narcissus, MIT Press, Neon Hemlock, and more.
Rose Fox, Readercon 31’s program co-chair said, ‘‘About 15% of our program participants had never contributed to Readercon’s program before; many had been on our invitation list for a long time, but were previously unable to attend the convention in person.’’ There were approximately 165 program participants across 33 panels, 15 presentations, 27 readings, kaffeeklatsches, interviews with the guests of honor (Vernon by Mur Lafferty, Ford by Andy Duncan), the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award for an under-recognized author (won by D.G. Compton, ‘‘the second living recipient of this Award’’), and more. The Shirley Jackson Awards presentation reached 392 views within the first 20 hours posted.
Panels covered genre topics from science fiction and fantasy to YA and horror, writing, gender, disability, publishing, race, science, food, and more, such as ‘‘Worldbuilding with Idiomatic Expressions’’ with E.C. Ambrose, John Chu, LJ Cohen, Benjamin Rosenbaum, and Romie Stott; ‘‘The Relief of Horror’’ with Sarah Langan, Ian Muneshwar, Ursula Vernon, Tim Waggoner, and Kaaron Warren; ‘‘Everything I Need to Know, I Learned Reading SF/F’’ with Lauren Beukes, José Pablo Iriarte, Kathy Kitts, and D. Wes Rist; ‘‘The People Can Still Fly: Black Heroes in Folklore Retellings’’ with Rob Cameron, Andrea Hairston, Megan Pindling, Sumiko Saulson, and Terence Taylor; and humorous ‘‘Improbable Research Dramatic Readings’’ with Marc Abrahams, Robin Abrahams, C.S.E. Cooney, Sara Dion, Rose Fox, David Kessler, and Sonya Taaffe. There were also panels on the works of the guests of honor, as well as the works of Carol Emshwiller and Rick Raphael, the 2019 and 2020 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award recipients. Videos of almost all of the programming content, except kaffeeklatsches, are available to attendees to view for six months.
As always, there were a large number of notable professionals in attendance, including Darcie Little Badger, Aliette de Bodard, Ellen Datlow, Samuel R. Delany, A.T. Greenblatt, Amal El-Mohtar, Meg Elison, Gemma Files, John Langan, Paul McAuley, Malka Older, L. Penelope, Sarah Pinsker, Shiv Ramdas, Erin Roberts, Geoff Ryman, Nicole D. Sconiers, Vivian Shaw, Nikhil Singh, Michael Swanwick, Cecilia Tan, Catherynne M. Valente, Fran Wilde, and more. Attending publishers included Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium, Michael DeLuca of Small Beer, and Alex Shvartsman of Future Science Fiction Digest.
Details for the next Readercon have not yet been released. Pre-pandemic, recent Readercons were held in July at the Boston Marriott Quincy Hotel in Quincy MA. Co-chairs Rae Borman and B. Diane Martin said, ‘‘This has been one of, if not the, most vibrant and diverse Readercon events to date and we want this to continue at future Readercons.’’ For more information see: <www.readercon.org>.