ReaderCon Panel Recap: “Folklore and its Discontents”

“Folklore and its Discontents” was a Saturday panel featuring Nicole Kornher-Stace, Faye Ringel, Darrell Scheitzer, Michael Stanwick and Judith Berman, who moderated the discussion. The focus of this panel was on the evolution and creation of folklore over time, and how it relates to how people perceive the stories as authentic elements of any given culture from which it arises.

Most of the panel members suggested that folklore, as a definition in a form of nostalgia, is a way of looking into the past to undocumented claims or stories—things people believed to be true as opposed to something that was empirical and well documented. Someone on the panel probably said it best when they said: “A folk song is something that nobody ever wrote.” This makes a bit of sense, in that larger, commonly known songs are often attributed, passed along from person to person, in a giant game of telephone that stretches over decades.

People’s assumptions change with time, and often it seems that these sorts of stories and songs will reflect current attitudes and trends within culture, as some people shift meanings to more relevant ones. In a large way, this panel was about how people’s assumptions help to impact stories, demonstrating that people will work to update stories to fit the relevancies of the present.

Something that was touched on throughout the presentation was the modern mediums in which stories are told and brought into the public consciousness. Throughout the talk, I couldn’t help but feel that internet memes, YouTube videos and other things along those lines are becoming a modern method of storytelling for popular and modern myths, a folklore in and of itself, that is updated constantly as more people have access to it.

Andrew Liptak is a freelance writer, historian and longtime science fiction fan. He currently holds a master’s degree in Military History from Norwich University, and has written for SF Signal and io9, as well as for his personal site, Worlds in a Grain of Sand. He currently lives in the green (or white, for most of the year) mountains of Vermont with a growing library of books and a girlfriend who tolerates them.


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