NoirCon 2014 | Report #3

NOIRCON-sqEric Miles Williamson continues to write because no matter how bad it makes him feel, it feels worse when he doesn’t.


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There were a lot of panels at NoirCon 2014, many illuminating different aspects of contemporary noir (e.g., Jewish noir, Politics of Noir) or specific writers in the tradition (e.g., Patricia Highsmith, Ross Macdonald). This is not an academic conference and I’m not writing a term paper, so I won’t try to summarize everyone’s arguments and points of view. Instead, here are 10 interesting facts and observations garnered from this year’s panels:

  1. Among writers not published by Soho Press, Gillian Flynn is one of publisher Bronwen Hruska’s favorites (and she definitely considers Flynn a writer in the noir tradition).
  2. Soho Press still discovers authors through the slushpile—i.e., by reading unsolicited manuscripts of unknown authors…although not for the Soho Crime series.
  3. Kenneth Millar, better known in the noir world by his pseudonym “Ross Macdonald,” wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on Coleridge and was an important figure in the California ecology movement.
  4. In real life, according to keynote speaker Eric Miles Williamson, “Death isn’t pretty like it is in the movies.”
  5. Williamson considers writing “the curse of my life,” but continues to write because no matter how bad it makes him feel, it feels worse when he doesn’t.
  6. Japanese author Fuminori Nakamura was less influenced by American film noir than by the work of Akira Kurosawa.
  7. Nakamura recalled appearing at a conference in Toronto where half the audience cited as their favorite book a work that came from a country other than their own.
  8. Michael Gills thinks a good indicator of class in America is whether you go to the dentist for any reason other than to get a tooth pulled.
  9. Many panelists agreed that politics is not so much about Republicans vs. Democrats as about who has power and who doesn’t.
  10. Following up on point #5, many also agreed that one of the functions of noir is to question the power structure of society, and thus a novel can be political without being overtly so. | Sarah Boslaugh

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