Saturday, November 03, 2012

WFC 2012: Day 3 - Sucking The Life Out Of Me

Today was a slower day as far as panels were concerned.  Beside lunch break, I spent two hours sitting at the BroadUniverse table with Laurel Anne Hill.  I was relieved she stayed, because I would have muddled through, but I am quite shy if I don't have a five foot instrument to hide behind and sound knowledgeable about, and she was also fun to talk to.  We discussed anthologies a bit; I've always been frustrated by my inability to find closed calls and invite-only anthologies.  Since my real love in short fiction is the anthology, not the magazine, this is something I very much want to change.

I keep haunting registration, waiting for them to put out the sign-up for Brighton (WFC 2013).  By now, I imagine the volunteers working the table are sick of seeing me.

On to the panels!

(With a caveat:  I only saw the first 40-some of this first panel because I wanted to make it to the BU table before the dealer's room was officially open, and I also missed the first few minutes of the next one I attended.  Neither was due to lack of interest, just timing and my desire to be diligent.)

Relevance of Revenants (Barbara Roden (m), Jeffrey Ford, Paula Guran, Michael Kelly, Kit Reed):  The panel discussed ghost stories as one of the last oral traditions - the stories kids still tell each other; the interest in scientific explanation of ghosts (a mention of EVP, which has always fascinated me); and the evolving of the ghost story to fit with modern settings and technology, such as cellphones, email and computers.  Doesn't the very concept of internet communication - disembodied figures floating through our lives? - sort of sound like a ghost story?  Paula shared a moving personal story that illustrated how thin the barrier between life and death can be for the next generation.

I came to this panel thinking, "Gee, I'm not really interested in ghosts."  Uh ... no, Lindsey.  I'm always writing about mediums, spirits, and really, if you look at it from a certain perspective, Journal of the Dead is one massive ghost story (and it's sort of Victorian, the age of ghosts ... hmm, that was totally accidental).  Even Flow has a ghostly apparition appearing at a crucial phase in the story.  And, of course, I think of Dead Like Me, which remains my favorite portrayal of life after death.  Hands down.

Eerily, I came out of this panel and noticed several tables with Kleenex.  My immediate reaction was, "What?"  Then I discovered there was a memorial service occurring concurrently in the neighboring portion of the ballroom ...

The Real World In Fantastic Fiction (Ian Drury (m), Donald Crankshaw, Geoff Hart, Kristin Janz, Christopher Kovacs Kenneth Schneyer):  "Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle fantasy."  This was an amazing panel, with a lot of thoughtful discussion about how to approach the verisimilitude in fantasy, such as:  pay attention to the consequences, especially in elements of the world where breaking basic assumptions of reality; consider the attributes of control and access when introducing magical elements that can muck about with basic economics (teleportation, anyone?); when using real world societies as a starting point, try to avoid modern judgment and see the society from within; aaaand ... do your research.  But, of course, it's not what you know, it's what you think you know and you don't - the unperceived needs of research.  I was also fascinated by a discussion of idiomatic language being central to a story, which is something I love to muck about with.  You see it a lot in Butterfly's Poison; it's a world with very little contiguous landmass, so there's a lot of water / ocean / sailing language.

The Changeling (Jeffe Kennedy (m), Holly Black Karen Dales, Graham Joyce, Sean Williams):  Another panel that got deep into the psychology and the deeper meaning / expression of fears that the changeling represents, more than just the outward shape.  I love fairy and what they represent (hi, Flow), so I adored this panel.  They discussed the protean, changing nature of the fairy, and the fact that it may be that they look just like us, and we don't recognize them because we don't recognize themselves.  The feeling of being a changeling was traced back by a few panelists to childhood experiences of deciding they must be adopted.  

(I remember my mother telling me a story about how she convinced her older brother that he was, and how much it traumatized him.  Of course, she said she found a document in the desk drawer, and my grandmother had to point out, "She's five.  She can't read.")

The panel also discussed the changeling story as a coming of age - stepping between two worlds and having to decide which to become a part of.  They concluded that fairies and humans are psychically interdependent:  one cannot exist without the other.  And fairies are also necessary to shift the blame and shame of society - scapegoating.  The case of Bridget Cleary came up, and I really want to get my hands on that account.  It's apparently online somewhere ...

It occurred to me that another variant of the changeling story giving parents an excuse to abandon unwanted children goes back to Greek myths, where many of the classical heroes were abandoned as children, sometimes by the order of the gods, sometimes by a jealous father ... but these children always were raised in good (sometimes better) circumstances by kindly rescuers.

Lunch break!

Special Guests Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon (interviewed by Fiona Patton):  These two seem like the perfect writerly couple - separate studies, strategic togetherness, brainstorming on road trips ... they were a blast to listen to, though they goofed juuuust a bit too much for my tastes.  I loved how Lackey discussed balancing writing with the other endeavors in her life:  writing until she runs out of brain juice, then switching to something else.  She also recommended a screenwriting book that sounded fantastic for writers, Save The Cat by Blake Snyder - first as outlining, but also valuable for characterization and even pitch.  Finally, the pair admitted that they had, every now and again, used fan sites to double-check facts on Valdemar ... which I think cracked the entire audience up.

Pencils, Pixels and Paint (John Picacio, Todd Lockwood, Charles Vess):  This panel featured three artists displaying works and walking us through the process of creation.  A lot of technical difficulties and snafus, but I was utterly absorbed by their various methods of working and how they let spontaneity influence their creativity.  Vess believed that paintings shouldn't be overly rendered, leaving viewers space to fill in the gaps.  Picacio has a fascinating technique of drawing in black and white, then creating paintings in the desired color scheme ... then overlaying and performing transparency in Photoshop.  I would give a lot of money to have enough skill in either to attempt this, because it sounds like so much fun as a creative process.  The color was also his way of introducing a chaotic, non-linear element.  Lockwood, too, mentioned the incorporation of chaos with a random pattern, to simulate organic forms.

After Twilight:  Whither The Vampire (Michael Rowe (m), Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Sean Hayden, Nancy Kilpatrick, Rio Youers, Nancy Baker):  This panel was less interesting than I had hoped it would be, because the panelists got focused perhaps a bit too much on the Twilight phenomena specifically, but I still found they had a lot of interesting things to say.  They discussed the charting of sexual mores by the development of vampire fiction; the "Abercrombie and Fitch"ization (yes, really) of vampires by Twilight; the trivialization by reducing them to highschool; and that a fantasy that was originally of the other has become increasingly a fantasy of privilege.  They concluded that each generation is reinventing the vampire.

The fantasy of other vs privilege immediately made me think of the "vampires don't age" rule and how it's usually applied now - young and beautiful forever - versus ... well ... probably THE vampire for me is Claudia from Interview With The Vampire.  I'll admit I'm not well-read in vampire fiction, but she struck me like a lightning bolt.  If I were going to write in this particular vein, I think that's the angle that's most interesting to me:  the vampire who is eternally stuck at the wrong age.

Dinner break!

Broad Universe RapidFire Reading (Kathryn Sullivan, Brenda Carre, Me!, Ada Brown, Laurel Anne Hill, Carol Berg, Julia Dvorin (m), Cat Rambo, Heather McDougal):  Short excerpts from a wide variety of fiction in just as many styles - a great sampler of female writers.  We had an unexpectedly large audience, too.  Ladies, you all were excellent - dramatic, funny and enjoyable to listen to, and I was glad to meet those of you I hadn't before.  Of my own contribution, the less said, the better.

I found that I shared a table of contents with Ada Brown - in the compilation issue of Crossed Genres she brought with her, no less!  Her "Nadirah Sends Her Love" (Tragedy) appeared with my "Bird Out Of Water" (Opposites) in Quarterly #1.

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