May it be known, now and forever, that by twenty-four, I have read only two Ray Bradbury stories. I have only read two Bradbury stories, and I read both of them on the train while on my way to an event celebrating Ray Bradbury. This is professionalism. This is the study of the craft. This is watching the movie version of Fahrenheit 451 in seventh grade and thinking it was too campy of a movie to warrant reading the book.
At my second home, Columbia College Chicago, they have this big festival of writing/writers called Story Week. Perhaps you have heard of it? There are four events that I go to every year: 2nd Story kick off, the undergrad open mic, Literary Rock and Roll, and Chicago Classics. These are my jam. These are my jam because I can either read or drink at them. And reading and drinking go so well together. The panel talks are always pretty ok. These take place during the day time, typically when I am in class or at work. The few that I do go to are always… well… ok.
I say with absolute certainty that the reason I can’t rave about panel discussions is that they always, ALWAYS have an open time for questions. So, at this panel of experts, who know a great deal about what they are talking about, we are going to collectively let the type of people who ask questions in a public forum to go about doing that. People with no background in the field. People who are afraid of the internet and Google searches. People who are old.
And I understand the need for question and answer sessions. Q&As, the kids call them. I just don’t want to sit through them as questions like “What do you think about this semi-related event?” or “What is your favorite book?” or “WHY CAN’T YOU HAVE CAPTIONS TO READ AT THIS LIVE EVENT? I CAN’T HEAR AND I CAN’T READ SIGN LANGUAGE!” get asked. Are there any questions that can expand the understanding of the craft of writing? Are there any ideas that can stem from an outside voice asking for clarification? Sure. The problem is that the queue for the mic is always too damn long for those to get through.
Which is why I sit in the back of the auditorium, watching and laughing to myself as panelists struggle to make a salient point during these Q&As.
Ray Bradbury, known for writing everything, was a huge influence on many professors in the Fiction Department at Columbia (College Chicago. Not the Ivy, but maybe there too). This led to an anthology based on Bradbury’s writing called Shadow Show. This anthology was edited by freelance writer extraordinaire and official Bradbury biographer Sam Weller, and the preeminent authority on horror writing, Mort Castle. Both men were at the panel, along side contributors Joe Meno (The Great Perhaps) and Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife). Meno and Niffenegger read from their stories in Shadow Show and then all engaged audience members as they asked questions ranging from “Which is the best Bradbury short story collection?” to the aforementioned gripe about the volume and lack of captions.
The stories that were read were great. The book sounds marvelous (this was, after all, a glorified commercial for said anthology). I think the issue that I pick with the panel is that, for me, in order for a panel to be remotely worthwhile it should be moderated by someone who knows what they are talking about, not by people in the audience who want to know what their voice sounds like over a microphone.
Before I descend into an Andy Rooney-esque rant about people these days and their questions, I should diverge and go back to Bradbury.
Filed under: Event Reviews