Alas, I lost my notes on who the panelists were and immediate thoughts I had on the panel. In fact, I've lost all my notes, which is why I've been slow on posting, in the hopes of finding them.
Either no such luck, or they will turn up as soon as I post this.
The central questions of the panel: What is the role of sex and romance in science fiction and fantasy? Do they even belong in science fiction and fantasy?
The panelists included four women and one man, all of whom were authors. One writer writes romances as well as sci fi romances, one writes primarily sword n' sorcery adventure, one was a short story writer who writes erotica and children's stories, one writes...science fiction, I think, and the man writes fantasy, I remember (I really wish the website had left up the schedule so I could get these people's names).
In any case, their collective answer to the second question was a resounding yes. The romance writer in particular was emphatic that she was delivering a particular need, but even the fantasy writer, who admits he stays away from sex scenes in order not to be remembered for that, felt they both had a place. Some of them qualified that sex especially had to move the story along or be crucial to the development of a character.
Here is where I wish the structure of the panel had been different.
While I appreciate that there were previously thought out questions in order to shape discussion, thought the panelists were well qualified, and was very interested in their answers-I was itching to get in on the discussion myself!
I had to sit there squirming while the panelists answered questions and then audience members were allowed to ask additonal questions.
Why not open up the floor to the audience?
I realize there can be timing issues, but first of all, the panel was an hour and a half long, there weren't THAT many people in the room, and an authoritative moderator would be well placed to set time limits or just let a particular topic of interest take over.
For example, I have a somewhat different take on the issue. Do sex and romance belong in SFF?
For me, it depends.
Sex is part and parcel of A Song of Ice and Fire, and while it's something that bothers me about that universe, it's not something that could or should be removed from it. Romance is essential to The Hunger Games and is a major motivation and game-changer for the protagonist.
But does sex belong in Ender's Game? Even romance?
Assuredly not. It would change the entire nature of the book. And I don't think that means it's lacking anything.
In conclusion, Sex and Romance in SF was a thought-provoking panel and I'm glad I went. I liked that the panelists extended the question to fantasy, and answered questions in a way that gave insight into their writing processes and philosophies. I wish I could remember their names! But next year, maybe let audience members answer questions too? Pretty please?