I’m attending Readercon this year for the second time. What a great con! For people interested in reading (and writing) speculative fiction, this is the con to attend. There aren’t many tracks compared to, oh, say, Worldcon–but all the tracks have to do with stories. And the folks attending, as you might imagine for a con devoted to literature, are literate. Also intelligent, friendly, and interesting to be around.
But, about the topic of this post. On Thursday night, Barry Longyear gave a one-and-a-half-hour presentation on “the care and feeding of imagination, how to unleash it and let it run.” What he showed us was, essentially all the background research he did to write his current book series, Confessions of a Confederate Vampire. In addition to copious background material on every character, real and fictitious, he has done meticulous research–historical, factual, visual, tactile, acoustic, gustatory and olfactory (where applicable) on every aspect of Confederate life and every place where his characters ever were. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of pages and images and (where applicable) objects ranging from bullets to hard tack. He even learned to play a banjo and to pick out songs of the period.
I was so awed by the incredible depth of his research that it took me about the next hour to realize that he hadn’t talked about imagination at all.
What he did is to lead us to the door that opens into the silent, indescribable numinous space where imagination dwells and point beyond where words fail.
Thank you, Mr. Longyear, for the inspiration.