Fannish idea-virus crosses into NYC literary society

Mafia is this fiendish game that has completely eaten fandom, turning science fiction conventions into all-night gaming sessions. In the game, players compete to lie effectively to one another and collude to carry out the sham. It's a game of alliances, betrayal, and dissembling, and I've stayed the hell away from it on the sensible grounds that it appears to be a black hole whence I shall never return.

Jonathan Lethem is a genre writer who has crossed over, more or less, into NYC literary society, and he's brought Mafia with him, with predictable results:

These days, if you’re looking for a bunch of New York writers, magazine editors and publishing types on a Friday night, track down Mr. Lethem, who has become a kind of mob boss among an ever-growing salon of poker-faced literati obsessed by the spiky parlor game they call Mafia. There’s no money involved, everyone stays clothed, and the alcohol intake is surprisingly moderate—but to witness Mr. Lethem’s disciples in the throes of their favorite game is to know that the stakes run high.

"People got so upset," said Ms. Schappell, "stalking around and screaming: ‘I can’t believe you don’t believe me! How come you don’t believe me?’"

On that evening, Ms. Jackson ended up trusting Mr. Lethem, but she shouldn’t have: He was lying his face off, and everyone knew it. But Ms. Jackson was swayed. "He gets excited about pleading his case," she said, explaining why she trusted him. "My knowledge of his character worked against me, because I had too many ways to interpret his signs. And it confused me."

Link Discuss (via Gawker)