As I sit in the Toronto airport, blasted out of my mind with exhaustion, I try to gather my thoughts about the last few panels and some of the initial decisions that came out of the conference as a whole.
Maps In Fantasy Literature (Bill Willingham (m), Robert Boyczuk, Laura Goodin, Matthew Johnson, Sara Simmons, Jo Walton): I was really intrigued how different this panel was from the one I (vaguely) remember at the last WFC. Of course, they started with the idea of the obligatory maps, those that tell you what kind of book you're about to read, and reiterate that if you need to consult the map, something is wrong. But then they diverged into the idea of whether or not the map should include things not in the story, what purpose that serves, the reminder that ancient maps weren't nearly as accurate ... and that often, maps were metaphorical, emotionally true even if they weren't literally accurate. The panel also talked about the attiudes of travel, and that the "three weeks later" is in some ways very modern: in older cultures, travel was infrequent and perilous, and even in modern England, the psychological concept of distance is far different than it is in America. Even a journey of a few hours requires preparation.
One thing that was brought up was maps as agendas, and how the evil overlord's map is like to be very different. I wondered if there were any books where two conflicting versions of the same map had been used, and got a recommendation - Tourists by Lisa Goldstein - although in that case, the maps are internal / plot-based rather than provided in the book. There was also some intriguing discussion of maps that actually alter reality by their existence ...
Reality Made Fantastic, Or Fantasy Made Real (2) (Isobelle Carmody, Sally Harding, L.E. Modesitt Jr. (m), Greg Wilson, Karl Schroeder): Another second take, this one much fresher on my mind ... and venturing into waters even further afield. Modesitt picked up the moderator slot at the last minute and had a lot of thoughtful questions prepared - I was impressed. (But not surprised: every time I've seen Modesitt, he's been funny, eloquent and organized.) Schraber is actually an SF writer who discussed his approach as seeking possible wonder within the constraints of the real world. (Someone) state that reality was human nature; the fantastic was the way through which it expresses itself. Carmody brought up the idea of the world resonating from the character, which is very much opposite the way I do things, but fascinating. Much of the discussion focused on the use of language - of using prosaic descriptions versus poetic / fantastical descriptions, and using the turning point in the language to help signal the turning point in the story.
I went up to Wilson later - who contributed much of the discussion about this - and asked about how you make the speculative element a "surprise" in the context of short fiction, where, of course, the reader is expecting just that - or the story wouldn't be in F&SF, for instance. He talked about focusing less on surprise than on turn of language and of making the story evolve naturally. Sounds like good advice to me.
So now I sit in the airport, having had my flight delayed and now rebooked on an earlier (... than my original) flight, and I'm thinking back on the experience. I've made a few resolutions:
Next year, I want to contribute more. I want to attempt to get on a panel, though I suspect I may not have the gravitas for Brighton ... but I will try, whereas this year, I just chickened out. I've decided I want to attend the banquet, read all the award nominees (if I can; sometimes "award-worthy" fiction just seems Literary (tm) for the sake of it, and nothing turns me off faster) and have my own opinions.
In January, I want to go back over my WFC notes thoroughly, distill story ideas, and actually write at least one of these. I would like to buy some of the (multitude) books I've written down over the many WFCs, but I suspect I just won't have the money.
And if I am more involved and better read, maybe I'll party a bit more, too.