Well, I introduced my weekend at Potlatch/Foolscap in yesterday’s post. Today I’ll say a little bit about the Potlatch Book of Honor. (Potlatch has a tradition of having a Book of Honor rather than a Guest of Honor. Everyone reads the same book and discusses it throughout the con.)
This year the Book of Honor was Among Others by Jo Walton. That deserves its own post, but in brief it is a coming-of-age story of a person with a disability who is also a fan of 1970s SF/F. Mori, the main character, is sent away to a boarding school and has to deal with otherness surrounding both her disability and her love of classic sci-fi. Along the way she encounters fairies that come straight out of . . . not The Lord of the Rings, but from the actual mythology that inspired Tolkien. The book is thought-provoking and heartwarming, won a Hugo award, and is well worth the read!
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the concept of a “karass.” The term comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle, and it mean — very satirically — a “group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God’s will.” It means something different in Among Others. There it means something like “a group of people who don’t fit in with regular people due to fannishness, and who might have the good fortune to find each other and, for the first time in their lives, fit in.” There’s a sense of community, and also a sense of having a similar world view because of having read the same books.
Potlatch is quite a bit like that. Many of the people who have kept it going all these years grew up on science fiction / fantasy from a similar era. For some, it’s the 1970s, and for some, it’s even earlier. There are people who got to know each other by passing around fanzines through the mail. (This was pre-Internet.) These are often thoughtful and beautifully done. There is a tradition of an active participation by fans in the writing of SF/F — readers would write into SF/F magazines asking for more stories from a particular author, or praise or criticize something an author had said or done, and there would end up being two-way communication. Somewhere along the way a local writer’s workshop developed, Clarion West, and many of the people involved with Potlatch are also involved with Clarion West. That means the local fans have built a community that supports the authors of tomorrow, which is awesome.
You can find out more about Walton and her book by reading this interview with Jo Walton.