It wasn't bad. It was just as I expected. It was made easier by the fact that there were only about 6 people in the audience. Which was also as I expected. :-) Two of those people were not even from Austin, but from places like Minneapolis, so I'm not sure what they were hoping to get out of this panel. I could fantasize that they came to hear advice about running a science fiction reading group, so that they could start one in the place where they live, but I think it's more likely that they were just killing time on Sunday afternoon before their flight home. :-)
According to the program, the panelists were supposed to "...go over the books they have read over the past year letting you know which ones got a thumbs up and which ones were stinkers. They will also talk about how you can join the bi-weekly reading group." We followed these instructions to the letter. :-) As a moderator, I made a list of books that received the best reception with the FACT reading group, and wrote it on a whiteboard. We briefly talked about each of those books, as well as the "stinkers".
The FACT reading group holds power over authors' careers :-)
AT, the reading group coordinator (who wasn't supposed to be on the panel, but joined us halfway into the panel -- the game of Pictionary ended prematurely :-)) told an amusing anecdote about a time when a certain author received an especially bad reception with the reading group. She called AT during the meeting so that the readers could ask her questions about her book, in case they needed her to clarify something. However, people were so unimpressed by her novel that they couldn't think of questions to ask. They unanimously decided that this author didn't know anything about the three main elements of her book: private investigators, Catholic church, or the internet. According to AT, a highly negative review of her book on the FACT reading group website kept her from selling her subsequent novels, and she had to start writing under a pseudonym.
The thumbs-up list
And here is the list of the thumbs-up books. (I won't post the list of the stinkers, because I've already critiqued them in separate posts on my blog, and I don't want to dwell on the negative. :-))
John Moore "Bad Prince Charlie" -- a light, humorous urban fantasy everybody liked
Terry Pratchett "Going Postal"
Jasper Fforde "The Big Over Easy"
Charles Stross "Family Trade", "Atrocity Archives"
Naomi Novik "Her Majesty's Dragon"
John Scalzi "Old Man's War"
Cordwainer Smith "We The Underpeople"
Stanislaw Lem "Cyberiad"
Vernor Vinge "Rainbows End"