Saturday, October 30, 2010

WFC Day Three: Part 1

I have a nasty little cough going. It's allergy related, so not a health concern, but sort of embarrassing. Pay no attention to the coughing brunette in the corner.

The Story Cycle vs The Novel (Suzy Charnas, L.E. Modesitt, Dennis McKiernan, Mette ivie Harrison): Discussion of the difference between a cycle of closely linked short stories and a novel ... and standalone novels in a series versus a broader arc, because of course all writers are editors and they like to make tweaks to the text at hand. Also the difference between a collection and a story cycle. The central difference, of course, is that standalone stories require an ending / climax, whereas each chapter doesn't ... and, of course, collections really don't sell.

(I thought about trying to frame a question around my time traveling stories, which are written all out of sequence - both in the "real" timeline and the eras my characters are traveling to. I decided not to break anyone's brain.)

I also posed a private question to L.E. Modesitt about titling, because I'm curious about how folks do it - and specifically, when they do it. (I find that all the titles I've come up with after completing the work are unsatisfactory and were certainly a struggle - I'll share some stories after the WFC.) He pointed out that shorter titles are better for a simple matter of marketing - the longer the title, the smaller it is on a cover.

That leaves some concern about "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" ... though they're all very SHORT words. (It's not much longer than "Butterfly's Poison," as a string.) And makes "Flow" the best title ever? ;-)

Moving along ...

The Continued Viability of Epic Fantasy (Blake Charlton, John Fultz, David Coe, David Drake, Freda Warrington): Conclusion here was that epic fantasy is very much alive, but it is evolving towards a shorter, more standalone form as a simple question of economics ... and with the success of the LoTR movies and the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, it is a much more viable form of fantasy than it was five years ago. It's no longer agent / editor anathema. Those big, thick fantasies apparently have another name in the industry: chihuahua-killers. So if you take the book, hold it out at arm's length, and drop it ... you get the idea.

All this is great news for me, but I am still am content with the "mannerpunk" label I've put on Journal of the Dead. Though I did ask the panel about mannerpunk and they were, honestly, boggled. I am sort of encouraged by this.

Lunch break! Free Panera. Two two-thirds of a broken chair.

Guest of Honor Presentation: Lee Martindale Interviews Esther Friesner: Awesome, as you'd expect. Esther Friesner is a ham. She's lively, funny and an engaging speaker. She talked about the experience of winning a Nebula (then another, the next year) and how she came up with the Chicks In Chainmail series - browsing the art show at a convention (so many of these stories started, "I was at an SF Convention ..." to the point where Esther led the crowd in a chorus near the end) and thinking about SF concepts, she rattled through trashy babes behind bars movies and then ... boom. She's also the queen of the SFWA Muskateers, who put on charity fencing demonstrations. The money goes into the SFWA medical fund, for SFWA members who have medical emergencies and can't pay for them. Nifty stuff.

Btw: I learned yesterday that "Death and the Librarian" was titled due to a gift from Terry Pratchett. He gave her tiny figurines of two of the figures from his books ... yeah, you can see where this is going: Death, and the Librarian. The story, mind, has nothing to do with it. (And I really wish I had brought my DatL collection with me to be signed. Whine.)

Slaughtering the Evil Hordes (Robert Redick, Eric Flint, Dennis McKiernan, Patricia McKillip, Tom Doherty): This was a very thoughtful but quick-moving panel about how to handle the evil horde in a day and age when it's no longer fashionable to automatically assume the "other" is monolithic and villainous. There was discussion, particularly from McKillip - who, though quiet, is very deliberate and contemplative about her process - about the idea of the evil from within, of having to conquer that ... either before, after or completely unrelated to the horde. It was pointed out that many of the hordes are the aggressors, coming to take what you have rather than work for it themselves, so in that sense they can be painted as evil ... and that maybe, ultimately, the fantasy horde hasn't gone out of style because psychologically, soldiers have to picture their enemies as faceless to function. Still, there are many ways beyond / outside of the horde to write solid fantasy, even war-based fantasy.

I need to ruuuun ... next panel in ten minutes. I am going to skip the ConSuite and actually pay for my dinner so I can escape back up here and hopefully get a 40 min - 1 hr nap before the last session of the day and then my reading (oh gawd oh gawd I am going to DIE). See you on the flip side!

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