Voices raised at the technology and literature panel


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Shelley Jackson, David Kipen, Lee Siegel, James Marcus

No matter how hot it might get later, it was still cool this morning. I hustled off to the panel on technology -- getting lost along the way -- and arrived to discover moderator David Kipen sitting on the stage, despite it being a bit early, soliciting questions from the audience. Eventually one woman piped up and admitted she was panelist Shelley Jackson. She’s got green bangs. I’m cool with that.

They talked for a while about her works, which include the hard-to-describe novel ‘Half Life’ and the ‘skin project,’ a novel in tattoos.


The two other panelists showed up late. Lee Siegel has written a book that Kipen calls ‘a critique of the Internet.’ Siegel explained that he saw the Internet as something to be stopped -- ‘I want to be that figure between you and the tank in Tiananmen Square.’ His eyes kept returning to me, the only person in the room typing on a laptop. I guess that made me the tank.

The final panelist, James Marcus, has accomplished much, but the James Marcus in Resident Evil is not him. He is the the voice of the-Internet-isn’t-so-bad on the panel, and said he goes up and down on its possibilities. Which seems measured and sane. The conversation moved forward interestingly.

But then Siegel was openly critical of the anonymity of posting on the Internet, which is strange ground, if you know his history. The conversation turned as the idea of what can be communicated through the written word was debated, heatedly. Jackson said communicating through words is the business of writers. ‘Surely you distinguish between blogging and writing,’ Siegel said, raising his voice. A murmur swept through the audience. I think a couple of people walked out.

But I was typing, and wasn’t watching closely. Soon things calmed down. Kipen cooled off the panelists and brought up the Kindle, Siegel interrupted to ask if you can electrocute yourself if you drop a Kindle while reading it while indisposed. Oh no, another panel going into the toilet. (And then resurrecting itself in the end.)

-- Carolyn Kellogg