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Ahh, the panels.
This was where I needed one of those time spinner things Hermione has, because at times I had to choose between three different panels that I wanted to go to. There were that many, and there was that many hours straight of good programming. I have this undiagnosed blood sugar issue thingy, and it means I shouldn’t go hours upon hours without eating. When given the choice between going to yet another panel and eating, I chose wisely: I went to the panel (and then started shaking). They were scheduled to be 50 minutes long, which included Q&A time, so everyone would have 10 minutes to eat and potty break inbetween. The way it really worked was most panels went over, the next group would have to kick the previous group out, and people were late to their next panel. Surprisingly, that turned into a win-win for nearly everyone. I have no idea when the authors got to eat or go to the bathroom.
Highlights of the panels I attended include (and sorry for the horribly blurry photos):
Worldbuilding 101, moderated by Cat Rambo, with Patrick Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett and Brent Weeks – there was discussion of how to introduce the reader to your world, and how much information to give and when. Infodumping is the classic no-no, and the authors seemed to agree that it was best to give the reader less that you think they need to know. . . so they are interested in always wanting to learn more instead of feeling like they are getting inundated with information. Building the world through characterization, because if you’ve got good characters, you can overcome just about anything.
Trilogy, the base unit of Fantasy? moderated by Joe Abercrombie, with Brad Beauliea, Saladin Ahmed, Michelle Sagara West and Jay Lake – Everyone seems to be writing trilogies these days, but why? It was brought up that most of use grew up with either Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or both, so our mind is already attuned to trilogy = greatness. Publishers seems to like trilogies, it allows them to “test” out an author, yet give that person more than one book. But large bookstores seem to shy away from carrying anything beyond book 2 in a series, so it carries challenges too. Even more, what happens if you write your three books, but the character’s stories aren’t done yet? Ongoing episode series were also discussed a little.
Non-Western Fantasy, moderated by Peter V Brett, with Saladin Ahmed, Kameron Hurley, Christian Klaver and Howard Andrew Jones – Finally, authors are starting to move away from Mideval european settings, and many writers, it seems, are moving into “the desert”. It came up, is this a reaction to current politics, and although some people thought it was, I realized no one makes a big deal out of fantasies that take place in Egypt or Greece or The mediterranean, but once you move into a desert culture, suddenly it’s a big deal. There was some discussion about “pasty white guys” writing outside their experience, and Saladin Ahmed’s response was that he’s a guy from Detroit, who in a sense, is also writing outside his experience. Hurley said she’d gotten mail from readers asking why she was pushing a certain religion, or even atheism (she’s not pushing either, as anyone who has actually read her books would know). The concensus seemed to be to do as much research as you can, and place your story wherever the hell you feel like it.
Women in Combat, moderated by Carrie Harris, with Jim C. Hines, Scott Lynch, Kristine Smith, and Kameron Hurley (this was when I started following Myke Cole to his panel, and ended up following Scott Lynch). Opening with some jokes about if we were going to get any demonstrations (specifically Jim Hines vs Scott Lynch), this quickly turned out to be one of the more interesting panels I went to, and probably the only one where the audience was split about 50/50 male/female. The topic was not only how should female characters be written in dangerous scenes, but why do authors insist on having their female characters do these things, and how are readers reacting? Hines put it wonderfully, saying he wrote his Princess series (about fairytale princesses who kick major ass) for his daughter. Hurley said when she was doing her Masters Degree in South Africa that she was so inspired by the ANC who recruited 20% women and allowed them to be in very dangerous situation. Everyone agreed that there is no reason women shouldn’t be able to do all the things men do. Lynch said something about fantasy being wish fulfillment, and why shouldn’t women have that too? He said he’d gotten near hate mail about there being too many women in “male” roles in Red Seas Under Red Skies. Kristine Smith said when told her father about her developing military SF series that featured a woman, his question to her was “where is the guy who saves her?” the audience was speechless. The conversation flowed into not just women characters in traditional male roles, but any character who didn’t fit the default description of male, white and heterosexual. One of the best panels I went to.
by the way, Jim Hines isn’t as short at he looks in this photo. He’s leaning way back, and Kameron Hurley and Scott Lynch are leaning way forward. and Lynch is a fairly tall guy. I heard him referred to as “the Viking” more than once.