Worldcon, Part II
By Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
So I’m safely home from World Con. Back at the day-job-ball-and-chain, and missing the carefree immersion into a society I feel totally at home with. (Well, not so at home that I would dress up with a bowler hat, goggles, and a bullet proof corset.) But the science fiction community are very accepting and accommodating of other’s idiosyncrasies.
I learned at one panel discussion that Urban Fantasy now is defined as stories with vampires and werewolves in them. (Don’t shoot the messenger. That was the story I got from one panel on Urban vrs. Urbane fantasy.)
Tim Powers was guest of honor, though he wasn’t on this panel. I think he would have disagreed. I listening to his book, “Declare”. It is very urban, and more and more fantastic as I delve deeper into the story. And there are no vampires at all.
The panel’s point was, I believe, that the stories that are currently being bought under the title “Urban Fantasy” are vampire stories, and mostly paranormal romance. The vampire stories seem to have a culture, without and within the story. So to do really well with one of these, you need to read enough of them to have it recognized as fitting the tropes of the genre.
Therefore, I have decided to write a vampire/paranormal love story and violate all the rules that say vampires are Urbane. I’ll release it on Pirate’s cove, if I ever get it written. (I tried outlining the plot as completely as possible. This is something new to me. I will see if this actually works. The rough outline had more than 1000 words, so it may be a long short story.)
I attended a panel on “The year’s best Science Fiction” anthologies. It seems that there are actually about five “years best” sci/fi. Then add in a few for fantasy, horror, and other boarder genre, and you have a bunch of short fiction to choose from. There were four editors on the panel and all agreed that each chose stories to their taste.
They also said that there is usually one story that makes more than one of the anthologies, but it is rare that a story will make it in all. They also spoke of Novellas and Novelettes, and the mixture of different length stories in the anthology. There can be as much as 240K words in one of these books, baring out to be 15 to 18 stories.
Again, there was agreement that there should be more good stories than you can use. If you have to leave out some really good ones, you know, or at least should feel, that you have a lot of solid work in your publication.
This panel turned out to be more about physics than the creative process of putting a believable world together. Particuallarly because one of the men on the panel was a physicist and dominated most of the discussion. While there was some interesting stuff about astronomy and other related physics, the boiled down idea was “the less you explain, the more you can get away with.”
So rather than telling us how the planet stays in orbit without its atmosphere being blown away by solar wind, tell us a good story.
A panel on the middle ages made it clear that if you decide to write something in that period, you better check your sources on all kinds of stuff. The dark ages weren’t so dark and they had a lot more technology that we consider. And you had better consider the peoples attitudes, because gender roles were much more rigid that we have today, and there is less wiggle room to mess with these if you want to try and stay true to the period.
Another panel on writing short fiction. There were five authors that I felt I should have recognized, from the way they talked about their work. I only recognized Jay Lake.
The main point was that you need to imply more about the world than you can actually say. In a novelette, 7500 to 17,500 words, or a novella, 17,500 to 45,000 words, according to the SFWA, you have room to play around and describe. When you have only 4000 to 7000 words to describe the world and tell the story, you have to pick your words carefully.
All five of these writers described short fiction as their favorite over writing novels. In short fiction you can address, “that one” event or item or relationship. Even in a novella, you can thoroughly address a single plot without having to clutter it up with secondary plot lines.
Finally, the panel with the most big names in it was religion and religious structures in fantasy writing. This panel had the most big names (that actually showed up). There was a woman named Carol Berg, who I will look up and try some of her writing to see if it as good as she sounded. L. E. Modesitt, who I recognized from the bookshelves and from my Darrell K. Sweet trading card collection. And finally, Tim Powers, who I have already mentioned.
The general feeling was that all fantasy has some religious base to it, whether it is a church base, a pantheon of gods, or magic. They all agreed that to used one of these religious structures in a novel, it must be completely thought out, if even if it is touched upon only lightly. Otherwise there will be readers/sceptics happy to pick you system apart from inconsistencies.
In conclusion, high points were:
Meeting Philippa Ballantine, including feeling stupid when I asked her to sign my copy of Geist, which I ordered from Barnes and Noble before it was released. She asked if I had read it…. Of course not. I don’t get to read anything but “selections from the slush pile”. I then went into her reading from the second book of that series. Tee Morris showed up late, so didn’t read anything with her. I bought the second book, and the first book of the Ministry of Unusual Occurrences: Phoenix Rising. (Which I also bought from Audible.com, so that I could actually listen to it. That review to come in the future.) And took them to their assigned book signing time the next day.
I met Tim Pratt. If you listen to the Drabblecast you’ll recognize that name, because, “everyone loves Tim Pratt.”
From different panels I developed an interest and purchased five books from Audible.com .The first book in George R. R. Martin’s series, “The Game of Thrones”. (He had book signings and readings from his books, but I didn’t make it to any of them. They were too crowded, or conflicted with things I really needed to attend.) “The windup girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi. “the Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin, “Phoenix Rising” by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, and “Declare”, by Tim Powers.
Reviews of each of these books to follow in the coming weeks.
Philip ‘Norvaljoe’ Carroll is a staff editor at Flying Island Press, a repressed repulsive gambler and a dreamer prone to wild flights of fancy.