Making Conversation: 59 lively and delightful essays from Teresa Nielsen Hayden
It's been more than 20 years since the publication of Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's collection of essays, mostly drawn from the pre-online days of fanzines and letters columns; this year, in honor of Teresa's stint as Fan Guest of Honor at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press has published a second volume: Making Conversation, a collection of essays drawn from the online world on subjects as varied as moderation and trolling, cooking, hamster-rearing, fanfic, narcolepsy, the engineering marvels of the IBM Selectric, and more.
In all, Making Conversation contains 59 essays, ranging in length from a few paragraphs to several pages. Some started out as posts on Making Light, the rollicking and essential blog that she founded and co-edits with several others (including her husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who was her co-guest of honor at the Worldcon); some were comments on others' posts; some are even old forum posts carefully saved from Genie, the national dial-up BBS where the science fiction industry found one of its most intense conversational homes.
As the title implies, much of Making Conversation is about discourse itself: how people talk and what happens when they do. Some of the sharpest observations concern online moderation (Teresa was a long-serving Boing Boing moderator), but others are more general, about how it comes to pass that some people get on so very poorly in online forums, and what can be done to nurture those who are shouted down in those situations.
But the "conversation" part of the book is at most a third of it -- the rest is a rather glorious miscellanea that highlights Teresa's eclectic interests, lively prose style, and keen observations about social phenomena. Whether she's examining how a convention volunteer's running gag about being "Punch Bowl Czar" can, in the wrong hands, turn into a destructive whirlwind that shatters a close-knit community; or explaining, with hilarious economy, what it's like to trick a hamster that likes to fling itself at the door of its cage by quietly undoing the latch, so that it ends up literally hanging by its teeth as its escape attempt succeeds beyond its wildest, furriest dreams, Teresa is keen-eyed, sharp-witted and thoughtful.
Making Conversation picks up exactly where Making Book left off, like running into a friend you haven't seen in years and finding that you can seamlessly continue the jokes, debates, and weighty conversations that made their friendship such a joy.
Making Conversation [Teresa Nielsen Hayden/NESFA Press]
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