We are not alone: The sci-fi writers are coming

'Think the unthinkable, do the undoable': Readers and Writers Festival will explore literature's uncanny side

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  • Gordon Van Gelder, Moderator, is a sci-fi/fantas writer in his own right. He worked at St. Martin’s Press for 12 years and edited The Magazine of Fantasy Science Fiction before becoming its publisher. He is also the managing editor of the New York Review of Science Fiction.

  • Lawrence C. Connolly, the guest of honor, is known for his dramatic readings of his works from memory. His novels include “Veins, Vipers, and Vortex,” a trilogy in The Vein Cycle, a contemporary fantasy adventure set in rural Pennsylvania.

  • Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, and “Tremontaine,” an episodic novel now in its third season at serialbon.com . Witcover teaches writing at Gotham Writers Workshop, UCLA extension and at Southern New Hampshire University.

  • Robert Levy is the author of several stories and plays. A Harvard graduate trained as a forensic psychologist, his novel “The Glittering World” was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. His story DST (Fall Back) is set in Milford.

  • Lillian Longendorfer, panel organizer, learned to appreciate science and literature from her father and science fiction from the dime, paper novels available in her early childhood.

  • John Grant has written about 70 books, including young adult non-fiction, “A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir,” and all three editions of “The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters.” He has won the Hugo Award twice, and various other international literary awards.

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— What do Lillian Longendorfer, The Virginia Kidd Agency, The Milford Writers' Conference, and the Readers and Writers Festival all have in common?

They are all local to Milford

They represent the best in the sci-fi/fantasy genre

They have a solid national and international following

They stretch the limits of our imagination

And they will all be here in Milford, at the Readers and Writers Festival on Saturday, Sept. 16, for two special free events.

First up is the "Twilight Zone" marathon, with original episodes of the classic show from the sixties shown continuously from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pike County Public Library, 119 East Harford Street.

Next comes the beer tasting, with readings by featured sci-fi/fantasy authors and an autograph signing, from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Dimmick Inn, 101 East Harford Street

And then there's the main event — the pièce de résistance — from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Milford Theatre, 114 East Catherine Street. A slide show, panel discussion, and Q&A with the star–studded cast of publishers, editors, and authors. Tickets are $25 each.

The coldest planetLillian Longendorfer of Milford organizes the sci-fi/fantasy events at the Readers and Writers Festival. She is also a physician, wife, mother, and artist, and herself the author of a sci-fi/fantasy novel, "The Quad Consortium and the Sword of Bale" (available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon). Bale is the coldest and most distant planet from the sun, and one of the four planets in the Quad Consortium. Longendorfer takes us through the cast of characters on Bale, with twists and turns, intrigue, mystery, and even a love interest. She is currently writing a sequel called "Battle for the Sword of Bale."

Longendorfer credits her father for her intense love of science and her husband, John, a fantasy artist and Chelsey Award winner (and owner of the Golden Fish Gallery and Museum on Broad Street), for her interest in fantasy. Their son is a fantasy artist as well. L

Last year Longendorfer volunteered at the first Readers and Writers Festival last year, and discovered that Milford has been called "The Science Fiction Capital of the World." She is happy to bring the genre home with a flourish.

Bloomsbury in MilfordThe Virginia Kidd Agency, at 538 East Harford St., at the very end of street near the Old Ice House and the Sawkill, is difficult to find. They like the seclusion.

The agency is one of the oldest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world specializing in sci-fi/fantasy. Their past and current client lists read like a "who's who" of science fiction. Their authors have won numerous professional honors and awards, including Hugos, Nebulas, World Fantasy, National Book Award, PEN/Malamud Award, and many others.

A bastion of sci-fi/fantasy in the 1950s and well into the 1970s, Milford attracted a small but historically important literary group, including Virginia Kidd and her husband, James Blish, and Damon Knight. They ate, lived, and breathed science fiction and fantasy literature and would hold salons in one another's houses, most notably Arrowhead, the home of Virginia and James, and The Anchorage, Damon Knight's home. Other acclaimed writers flocked to Milford, including Judith Merrill, Harlan Ellison, James Sallis, Ann McCaffery, and Algis Budrys. It was the Milford version of the Bloomsbury Group in London, led by another famous Virginia (Woolf, that is).

The Virginia Kidd Agency was officially formed in 1965 and continues its business into the present at Arrowhead, an idyllic place to delve into sci-fi/fantasy manuscripts. They currently have three full-time literary agents dealing with short fiction, film, and the international foreign rights market.

One of its agents, Christine Cohen, said the agency is working closely with the Readers and Writers Festival and is excited about bringing the genre home.

"The genre has had a surge and is now growing in leaps and bounds," Cohen said.

The 'Milford Method'Kidd, Blish, and Damon Knight started the Milford Writer's Conference in Milford in the 1950s at the height of the last century's science fiction boom. The conference moved to the U.K. in 1972 and still exists today. The critiquing practice originally known as the "Milford Method" emerged from that conference. It's the protocol in which writers sit in a circle, and their work is read and critiqued by the writers, one at a time. The writers may only answer yes/no questions, but are allowed to respond without interruption at the end of the circle.

The "Milford Method" is known world-wide and employed by many writers' groups outside the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

The Saturday night event at the Dimmick Inn has authors reading from their works in an informal setting in the upstairs lounge, a return to the Dimmick's heritage of literature readings begun years ago by Fannie Dimmick.

In addition to beer, there will be specially themed cocktails, such as The Manhattan Project and Agent Orange Crush.

Tickets for the Sunday sci-fi panel are on sale now for $25 but will increase on Aug. 15. For more information about other festival events, public, including “Women Writing Their Lives,” “Restaurants that Changed America,” “Artists Writing about Art," and “Triumph Over Trauma," visit milfordreadersandwriters.com.

The Milford Readers and Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River valley region.

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