“Speculating on Fiction” at the NYPL with Grossman, Scalzi, Valente, and Westerfeld

The New York Public Library kicked off its Sci-Fi Summer in style Tuesday night with its much-buzzed about “Speculating on Fiction” panel, featuring some of our favorite authors (and occasional Tor.com contributors) Lev Grossman, John Scalzi, Catherynne M. Valente, and Scott Westerfeld.

The event featured a stellar set of readings by each member of the panel, introduced by Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press and accompanied by original music courtesy of the multi-talented Brian Slattery, author of the upcoming Lost Everything, leading a four piece band. Lev Grossman set the bar exceedingly high with an excerpt from The Magician King (the sequel to The Magicians), coming out in August—it was clever, and intriguing, and left everyone wanting more, and it certainly started things off on a high note. Cat Valente read from the beginning of her gorgeous middle grade novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which debuted on last week’s New York Times Best Sellers list.

Scott Westerfeld read from Leviathan, the first book in the trilogy that will be completed in September with the release of Goliath. If you’ve never been to a Westerfeld reading, I highly recommend it—not only does he incorporate a slideshow of Keith Thompson’s incredibly detailed illustrations for the series, he even does accents (in this instance, mainly gruff English army officers and the delightful Scottish burr of his heroine, Deryn Sharp). It’s definitely entertaining (especially if you’ve read the books)…

And then there was Scalzi, whose excerpt required a little bit of background. He set the stage by filling the crowd in on Tor.com’s Best of the Decade Novel Poll, and our post on the most popular words in SFF titles, and the now infamous comment thread in which he offered to write the ultimate SFF trilogy in exchange for a lifetime supply of pony glitter, a robot butler that fights crime, and a visit from the money truck…all of which eventually led to a little April Fools’ prank known as Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City. He then proceeded to read the first three sentences of his “prologue” to SWotND in his best William Shatner accent (noting, “it may not be a good William Shatner accent, but it’s my best…”).

It was the worst William Shatner accent, and it was amazing. Unfortunately, as far as I know no one recorded the NYPL event, but you can check out Scalzi’s reading of the piece earlier this month at Borderlands:

In short, it was a fantastic night, jam-packed with ridiculously talented people (not to mention fiddles, accordions, Shatner jokes, and some fun spoilers about upcoming books), and was a wonderful start to the NYPL’s Sci-Fi Summer program, which aims to introduce and encourage older teens and adults to explore the SF genre. The series offers everything from anime screenings to “Intergalactic Gaming” nights to online discussions of Rudy Rucker’s classic Software, and of course, SF movie screenings throughout June, July and August. For more information, updates, and schedules of events, check out the NYPL blog here, and thanks to everyone involved for putting together such a great night—if this event was any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a summer.

Bridget McGovern is wondering whatever happened to that crime fighting Robo-Butler we ordered.


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