The panel If You Don’t Scream You’ll Laugh discussed how to blend horror and comedy. There were varied attempts to define both horror and comedy, which led on to a definition of cognitive dissonance. Both horror and comedy are a tone that can be used in any genre. By adding a layer of comedy, it is possible to go deeper into the dark, and laughter can be a reaction to unease: black humour is daring the audience to laugh. Horror can sometime be unintentionally funny when it just gets ridiculous. Humour is cultural: Americans laugh at Hamlet.
Next came a panel on Book Reviews in the Age of Amazon. Since I’ve been reviewing (nearly) all the book I read for (nearly) 20 years, I was interested to see what people thought of reviews. One of the panelists writes his reviews for exactly the same reason I write mine: to help us remember what we have read. The panel drew a distinction between an opinion, a review (a supported opinion), and a critique (a more objective, analytical review). You don’t have to enjoy, or even read, a book to enjoy a good critique of it. (So my own pieces range from opinions to reviews, and are definitely not critiques.) Blog reviews aren’t important for sales: a terrible review in the New York Times will sell more books than a great review on a blog. But some Amazon reviews are in fact critiques: seek these out; the 1 star and 5 star reviews are telling you what the reviewer thinks; critiques will tell you whether you will like it.
This segued nicely into a panel on Food, Glorious Food – Cooking in SF&F. One panelist, describing moving house: I had 120 boxes, 115 were books, half of which were cookbooks; the other 5 boxes were kitchen equipment. Aliette de Bodard noted that the recipes on her website get as much traffic as her books. Even when fiction includes food, which it doesn’t often (books can include not a single meal), it rarely talks about cooking it. There are some earth species that eat infrequently: maybe some aliens eat only once a week? What about cooking in zero g? Most cooking techniques rely on gravity. And, of course: To Serve Man.
After this, it seemed appropriate to round off the day with a nice meal with friends.