I met some great people at MARCON, and also participated in a reading and some panels. As a new panelist, I was a bit nervous about these but I enjoyed them immensely! The only downside was that I did not get outside to enjoy the sun at all on Saturday, in spite of it being reportedly the nicest day of the year so far.

Consolation prize was this view from the hotel towards the Short North:

Looking toward the North Market, wishing I was *outside*
Looking toward the North Market, wishing I was *outside*

Also, I got a panelist badge for the first time with an added ribbon that says “I Make Stuff Up”, which is so true and wonderful.

My job description
My job description

My favorite panel was the one on SF and Religion, which I participated in along with several other panelists.  Obviously this is a huge subject, far too broad in scope for a one hour panel — but it made for an enjoyable discussion.

We discussed how a character can be motivated by his or her religious beliefs. We discussed the pervasive role that religion plays for those who have specific beliefs, in culture and ritual, and how that could be used in making spirituality resonate with the reader. We mentioned SF’s ability to ask “what if?” and how this lends itself to exploration of different scenarios. Most of us named favorite novels that illustrate the role of religion.

For me, those favorites (some mentioned at the panel, and some I have thought of since) include:

*Malevil, a 1972 postapocalyptic novel by Robert Merle. In this novel, the protagonist — an atheist or at least an agnostic — tries to defend his small group against the growth of a theocratic government in another village, while both communities struggle for survival.

*Godspeaker, a trilogy by Karen Miller. This series has a protagonist it is hard to sympathize with, and I must confess I didn’t make it all the way through — yet it’s an amazing study of a character who will make any sacrifice for her brutal god.

*There is Gwalchmai in Gillian Bradshaw’s Hawk of May (an Arthurian fantasy) who worships the Light and fights the ancient Darkness.

*And Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan. This is the second in the classic Earthsea Trilogy. In this novel, Arha is dedicated to the service of the Nameless Ones. When an outside influence enters her realm she discovers not everyone views her service in the same light she does — and she learns more about the ones she serves.

*Of course there’s the Narnia series and other works by C S Lewis, with a strong Christian influence.

And many more excellent examples! It’s a popular subject in speculative fiction, because spirituality has always been a part of our cultures. In fact, even rejecting spirituality can have an effect on a protagonist that makes for a good story.

So it’s obvious I really enjoyed the subject of that panel. And MARCON in general, though I was exhausted after all Saturday’s activities. I am already looking forward to having a good time at next year’s MARCON as well!