I've got to say, setting my initial schedule via jet lag avoidance has had the wonderful side effects of (a) letting me be really well rested and (b) having me wake up early enough in the day to chat with friends online and get some electronic housekeeping done before the con starts.
Anyway, I went to six panels on Friday:
What we publish (Patrick Nielson Hayden [Tor, I think], Toni Weisskopf [Baen], Ginjer Buchanan [Ace and Roc], Alex Adsett [Australian publishing consusltant] attending): I really, really enjoyed this panel. The panelists were all very engaging and there was a lot of interesting information about the publishing industry, most of which I'm not going to repeat here because I'd probably misquote someone, but I was fascinated.
I'm amused to note that a lot of the comments I wrote down because I liked them were made by Patrick Nielson Hayden. I believe he has a LiveJournal; I shall have to friend it. Some of my favorite tidbits (many made by him, but not exclusively...I think...):
* The limiting factor in the entertainment industry, including publishing, is not money, it is attention span.
* How do you decide what format to publish a book in? "We take a poll of our readers of what size shelves they built, and then we screw them up."
* Why are books late? "Despite the military rigor with which all authors comport themselves..."
* The amount of the advance is not a sign of enthusiasm. Sometimes you want a smaller advance. (It's easier to earn out.)
* The hardest novel to get a publisher to buy is the third novel.
* A very long, moderate selling career is a good career path
Keeping Pace (Carrie Vaughn, Jay Lake, Howard Taylor, Peter V Brett attending): Another really fun panel. All the panelists had great energy, and jaylake is an excellent moderator. It was also a really good balance of panelists for the topic, because there was someone who did a long running but daily strip formatted webcomic (Howard), someone who does epic fantasy (Peter) and two authors on the spectrum in between (Carrie and Jay). So the panel was able to talk about a lot of different formats and how they influence pace and what each tells us about pacing tools and such.
They were also all very witty, and laughing through a panel while still learning something is definitely my ideal. :-) I went to this panel primarily to see Carrie and Jay, but it ended up being awesome in and of itself. I did have a moment of "OMG, I suck, who will ever read me?!?" in the middle of this panel, mostly because they were all being so awesome and intelligent. *wry*
* Each character is not motivated by how they relate to the main character, but by their own goals, and they should relate to the main character through that. That's what makes them real.
* Howard asks a couple of friends to read his books and identify where he made a promise to the reader
* Tight first person is a very challenging POV to write -- how do you feed information to the reader?
* Be careful of saying things twice: i.e., having your main character telling what they're going to go do, and then show them go do it
* Jay Lake -- "Green is 150,000 words without a chapter break. No reviewer has ever mentioned that."
Howard -- "That's because they all starved to death."
* If you want to write novels, short fiction isn't really going to help you. They develop different skill sets.
Foundlings and Orphans (Mur Lafferty, Sarah Parker, Delia Sherman, Gillian Polack, Mary Victoria): This panel got boring fast for me. I think I made it through twenty minutes before I started playing Tetris. It's not that they weren't saying interesting things, it was partly a lack of energy and partly... Listen, maybe this is showing the negative effects of a male dominated culture on my thinking etc. etc., but I find that panels made up entirely of women almost always end up having discussions that I either don't care about or that irritate me because they define certain things as "men's" and other things as "women's" and I inevitably prefer the "men's" things and then I feel like a bad feminist or something and...yeah. It's like this comment from one panelist: "You have to be careful of the quest, because it's a guy thing. Historically it's a guy thing."
And what, it historically being a guy thing means that a woman can't or shouldn't write it? Blargh.
So I mentally checked out of that panel pretty early on.
Then, to my surprise, I had an hour with no programming to go to. [That's when I wrote everything up to the end of this paragraph.] The only things running at 2pm were the Shaun Tan GOH speech (I have no interest in speeches) and the Film Programming. This is like what I discovered yesterday; all the programming ends at 5:00pm. This is downright weird to me. I'm used to cons like Norwescon, where the adults programming goes to midnight, and there are dances every night, and other stuff like that. This con feels really short on stuff to do, even though there are a lot of simultaneous programming streams. Odd.
Despite taking a large part of that hour to write the above, I also had more than enough time to find and explore both the dealers room and the art show. Both were small, which was expected, not being in the large continental market that is the U.S. I haven't bought anything at the con, largely because it makes no sense to buy books here that I can get at home for half the price. I contemplating t-shirts, but really, I never wear t-shirts. So I had a quick browse, but felt no need to buy. With the art show, there was interesting stuff I hadn't seen before, which is always nice given that I go to a lot of cons, but nothing I felt interested in bidding on.
And then it was more or less time for my next panel:
The rise of the graphic novel (Bernard Caleo, John Retallick, Jo Waite attending): I love comics. But I have to keep reminding myself that people who regularly use the term "graphic novel" tend to think of comics as...well, the equivalent of pop music. There's not necessarily anything wrong with it, in their view, but it is a somehow lesser genre.
These particular panelists didn't seem to be looking down on comics, which puts them head and shoulders above a lot of "graphic novel" folks, but the tone of the discussion was nevertheless a bit too...high brow for my taste. Hey, what can I say, I like NSync and Mercedes Lackey, too, and they're looked down on my music folks and literature folks in the same way.
Anyway, this meant that I took almost no notes and left the panel after about 25 minutes. I almost went back to my hotel room (for the night, since I'm several blocks away), but I really wanted to see one of the 5pm panels, and I was still debating going to the two hour mapmaking workshop for fantasy authors versus two other panels. Half an hour wasn't enough time to go out for a break, because the Convention Center is a good seven minute walk in from the street, but I figured I'd wander down to the lobby and see if I could clear my head. I ran into a fellow comic book fan there and had a nice fifteen minute chat, which energized me enough to attempt the rest of my planned panels.
I decided to go to the two other panels instead of the mapmaking workshop because, despite the fact that I need a map for my novel, I need a map of a Labyrinth, and I'm pretty sure the workshop would be more focused on world maps. So I went to these instead:
Creating believable space travel (Ian Nichols, Jeff Harris, Greg Benford, Amanda Pillar listed, G David Nordley also attending): I'm sure other folks found this panel fascinating, but I should have known better than to go. I've been to this panel every Norwescon for five or six years in a row now. When will I learn? I have heard this discussion many times. I almost fell asleep and was wishing I'd just gone back to my hotel room for the night.
Since I hadn't, though, I decided that, as tired as I was, I might as well go to the panel I'd been hanging in there for:
Military SF revisted (Toni Weisskopf, Howard Tayler, Jean Johnson attending): Damn, was I glad I held out! Excellent panel. Note to self: Howard Tayler makes any panel entertaining, and Toni Weisskopf is almost as good. By this time I was tired enough that I'd stopped taking notes, but I do remember their criterion for distinguishing military SF from war pornography: military SF has context and consequences; war pornography just glories in the violence.
They said more awesome stuff, I was just too tired to write it down well enough to feel comfortable reposting it. Suffice to say that, despite having read and enjoyed military SF for years, I learned quite a bit about military SF as a genre.
And that was the end of my second day.
Parker Strahn's Journal
- Aussiecon 4: Day Two (Friday)