(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)
THE PANEL: The Setting as Character (21 January 2018, 12:00)
DESCRIPTION: “In Science Fiction and Fantasy , settings can literally come alive–be it via the talking flowers of Through The Looking Glass or the rage of Peter Quill’s creepy dad-planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. In Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch universe where ships have minds, main characters can be both people and places at the same time. Are living settings a science fiction/fantasy extension of the classic “Hero Vs. Nature” story? How do they exist in conversation with real-world beliefs about whether the world around us has a will of its own?”
PANELISTS: A. T. Greenblatt, Cassandra Morgan, David John Baker, Suzanne Church
- Hero vs. Nature?
- “Living ship”?
- Pre-existing place
- Struggle with nature or elements of nature?
- The Shining, with the Overlook hotel
- White Oleander by Janet Fitch
- When we put ourselves against nature, it can feel like nature is against us in deliberate and specific ways
- [Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis]
- Eric Schwitzgebel – “Little /^^^\&-” story in Clarkesworld
- Environment as “bad guy”
- [Eldritch location, genius loci]
- Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris
- Kameron Hurley – The Stars are Legion
- N.K. Jemisin – the Broken Earth trilogy
- “Evocative descriptions without specifics” – A.T. Greenblatt
- Book/media recommendations for interesting settings
- Stranger Things
- Blade Runner 2049
- Saga (comics)
- Jodorowsky’s Incal (comic)
- Amiculus (comic)
- Children of Men
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl [ “Why no solar?”]
- Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House (or the movie The Haunting)
- Dark City, esp. The director’s cut
- Shaun Tam (artist, graphic novelist)
- [Cormac McCarthy, The Road]
This was a good general overview of the topic. I was kind of hoping that there would be more focus on concepts like Genius Loci and the like, but on reflection the panel’s approach makes more sense, as setting qua setting is the environment in which the story exists, not a personality with agency per se.