Dropped the dog off this morning - I've never seen her prance and squeak like that before - and hit the road for a very windy drive to Columbus. Got off an exit too early and wound through the less ... prosperous parts of the city, then ran into a detour my GPS didn't know how to handle and had to just keep driving until it got back on track. Was surprised the hotel didn't have its own free parking lot. Ended up walking in from the garage with my laptop bag and my luggage, then adding the truly mammoth WFC freebie bag before stumbling up to my room. I carry a harp around all the time. I'm tough. But that was work.
(Maybe it will make up for all the candy corn. Yes, I had a craving for candy corn, so I bought some.)
Sorted through the conference bag - a great collection of books, including Ian Esselmont's Night of Knives, which I've been meaning to read. (I didn't care for Erikson's first Malazan novel, but heard that this book in the same setting was worth checking out.) Far more hardcovers than I remember there being in the past. One too many urban fantasies, so I went back to the trade table and exchanged it.
Also put out some freebie flyers and postcard-ish things for Gypsy Shadow Publishing on the freebie table. Hope I picked a good spot!
First three panels of the day:
The Art of the Mashup (Jeff Connor, Jay Franco, Jim Frenkel): Three great, funny guys with a lot of intriguing things to say about the growing popularity of mashups - loosely defined as taking something classic and twisting it by the introduction of something that doesn't seem to fit. The originating book of this recent fad-wave, of course, is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I have to point to a couple of personal favorites: "Franz Kafka, Superhero!" (a short story in the Mike Resnick-edited "This Is My Funniest") and Jana Oliver's Sojourn, which while not strictly a mash-up takes some elements (time-travel, Victorian shapeshifters) that you wouldn't necessarily find together and fuses them. The fellows discussed this as a fan/nerd-driven phenomena, with connections to fan-fiction and comic book crossovers.
(Topical to me, since my planned NaNo novel is basically a mash-up of heroic myth and reality television.)
The West Doesn't Exist (Marie Brennan, Dennis McKiernan, Freda Warrington, Liz Gorinksy): I thought this panel was misnamed - sorry, guys. I expected it to be about cultures that aren't often used in fantasy. Instead - a wonderful turn of events - it was about the proscribed / forbidden / impassable zones on fantasy maps, about whether the world even had to be round, about considering climate and human ingenuity in crossing obstacles, about places that weren't mapped because they were very constantly changed. There were reminders that peasant geography is often proscribed into a tiny sphere: this village and our neighbors is as far as most people might think. Ultimately, leaving the blanks leaves room for wonder.
(For the record, my NaNo novel has the "weird / mysterious" culture in the west, not the east - though I am guilty of the barbarians in the north.)
Vampires Thick as Fleas (Melissa de la Cruz, Linda Robertson, Peter Halasz, Alex Bledsoe, Sandra Wickham): I didn't have much hope for this panel, and really got a pleasant surprise. There was a lot of discussion about vampires as symbols, and where their power is really accessed versus just being the "bad boy" in romantic fiction. What about scientific vampires? Why has the religious aspect almost vanished from most modern vampire fiction? Vampires speaking to fears of disease and sexuality. A modern obsession with the redemption story - but maybe some people can't be redeemed.
(Unfortunately, side-effect of this was it made me want to go back to an old project of mine, a post-mana-apocalypse real-world setting which had some traditional, non-mainstream vampires. I have resisted because a) it's a very, very dark story and b) it would require a lot of setup I don't have time to do for Nano, esp as it was always intended to have two plotlines: one the current story of the MC after she's defected from a rebel cause, and the other her flashbacks to the progress of that rebellion.)
And upcoming tonight, possibly the most topical panel for me of all: The Logic of Absurdity. The topic is the line between absurd fantasy and satire which essentially describes the real world ... and that line, and staying on the "right" side of it, is going to be my foremost challenge.
Three hours and I am so, so happy I committed to doing this.