World Fantasy Convention 2013 – Friday 01/11
I’ve been staring at a blank page for over an hour now. Where do I begin to describe the awesomeness that was this weekend? WFC 2013 was my first ever convention. I was extremely excited when I saw that the World Fantasy Convention would be just across the water, far easier to attend than the ones across the big ocean. For the most part of this year I was counting down the days ‘till this weekend, but last week the doubts began to creep into my head. What if everybody there knew each other and I would just be standing there in a corner for the most part of the convention? What if nobody had any clue who I was or didn’t appreciate what it is a I do? What if they are only interested in the big book bloggers? I couldn’t have been more wrong. The convention was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more! I’ve met so many really kind and interesting people who all share the same passion. That alone made it an unforgettable experience, but there was so much more that made it insanely awesome. Most panels I attended were really fun and thought-provoking, the readings gave me a taste of new authors and a familiar journey into the words of some old favourites. The free books were a great bonus too 😉
We arrived late Thursday night and immediately crashed at the hotel so we would be well rested for the following first day. Friday started out dreary, but nothing could dampen my mood and I purposefully made my way to the Hilton. At first it was really overwhelming, all those people milling about in the lobby. The first thought that entered my mind was “I’m so not going to recognise a single person in here!”, then Patrick Rothfuss walked by and I was put at ease. At least one person I would be able to recognize! Also, Patrick Rothfuss!! I made my way to the registration area where I got my name-…wallet(?) and someone told me I could pick 8 different books from a table. For free. If free books aren’t a good start of a weekend, than I don’t know what is. After that I headed to the Dealer’s Room and got smacked around the head with more books. And what does a bookgeek do when she’s suffused in a room full of books for sale. She buys them. And so I bought 4 more books, all of them from authors attending the convention so I could get them signed later that day.
At 10 I attended my first panel: “Should You Always Judge a Book by Its Cover?” with John Picacio, Bob Eggleton, Les Edwards ,Chris Moore and Jane Frank as moderator, where I learned that the publishers actually have a lot to say about the covers that eventually make it as the representation of a book. Demands like ‘Not that science-fictiony’ or ‘No green, please’ and stuff like ‘We know what sells books’ seems a common thing to hear when you’re an illustrator. It seems like the hardest thing is the fact that everyone has an opinion about how the cover is supposed to look like and to get all these opinions on the same line. The anecdote about the fact that they sometimes have to make the cover for a book that isn’t even written yet seemed to resonate with the other panel members too. I really didn’t think a publisher could demand that. In my opinion the cover should represent the book and not be some random image stuck on the front. The big question is: do you as an illustrator follow the demands of the publisher or do you try to make your own thing? John Picacio told us he once made another cover than the one that was demanded of him and it actually sold pretty good. Are publishers all-knowing on the subject of Cover art? No they are not, but generally they do know what might sell better.
Another question being asked was if illustrators should focus on drawing realistic covers. The answers were almost all on the same level: the audience doesn’t want hyperreal covers (we’re talking about SFF books here…).
Les Edwards made the remark that covers aren’t as important anymore that the word of mouth is now far more important when selling a book. Not everyone seemed to agree with that though. The consensus was that there is a future for art in SFF literature but that the actual painting is being replaced by digital art.
To rap this panel up in one sentence that really rang true: “Go for the right audience, not the big audience”.
At 11 o’clock we had another panel on the program: “All But Actors on a Stage: Creating Memorable Characters” with Stephen Gallagher, Jasper Kent, Suzanne McLeod, Robin Hobb, Fiona McIntosh and Thomas F. Monteleone as moderator. The panel started off with all of the members telling about the most memorable characters they had ever read. Fiona and Thomas both went with Hannibal Lector because it’s amazing how he’s the bad guy and you can’t help but root for him. Robin chose Mowgli because she really connected with him when she was a child, she said he was her ‘best friend’. Suzanne name Harry Potter as her inspiration to start writing and therefor begin the most memorable character she ever read. Jasper went with Petrovich from Crime and Punishment because he was able to create this character in his head the way he wanted to, because the author didn’t give that much information about him.
The big question here was: how do you create a character that last a whole series of books, a character you want to return to as a reader. Someone on the panel compared it to a racing car: you take create a character that’s missing some parts you would otherwise use in a standalone novel. It’s some kind of stripped down character. You create a pact between writer and author/character, creating a bit of mystery about some parts of the character that will bring the readers back.
Fiona told us she usually creates a character through a few questions like: ‘What is the conflict in this person?’, ‘What do they want?’, ‘What is standing in the way of that?’, ‘What really makes them tick?’. After that she just goes with the flow, calling herself a ‘gunslinger’. She didn’t agree with the previous notion of creating a stripped down character. She throws everything in in the first book and doesn’t even think about the second book at that moment. She stated that the connection with the reader on an emotional level is the most import thing about creating a good character. If you can achieve this, the character will grow on its own.
Robin doesn’t always create a character consciously. She said her characters just take the stage and start talking, it just happens like that. She also added that every story should challenge the character in a new way, it can’t return to the same starting point and bad things should be allowed to happen to your character, however much you cherish that character.
Suzanne always creates a certain background for her characters and builds around it from there on, but some of her characters just come out of nowhere.
Jasper is a plotter, he tries to write a plot first and puts his characters in the middle of this plot to see what happens to them and how they react.
The answers to the question if the characters ever took over were really diverse. Robin, Suzanne and Fiona said that at some point the character just does something different than what you intended them to do but you have to keep in mind that this is mostly your subconscious working. Jasper and Stephen made the environment where they want to put their characters in first and then the character sort of takes over, he/she comes alive in there.
At two o’clock we went for a coffee with the lovely Juliet Marillier, author of the Sevenwaters series and Shadowfell. I’d heard of her before but I’ve never read any of her books. After meeting her I’ll definitely be doing that. Another add to the To-Be-Read pile!
Three o’clock was Terry Prachtett o’clock! Wonderful to see this SFF legend in the flesh, although it was only from afar. At 15h30 we slipped away do attend a reading. I chose to go the John Gwynne’s reading because I really loved his debut ‘Malice’.
After the readings it was time for the panel that made the twitterverse explode when it was announced: “Broads with Swords”. I can honestly say this was a fun and interesting panel thanks to the wonderful ladies Trudi Canavan, Robin Hobb, Juliet E. McKenna, Gaie Sebold and Laura Anne Gilman as moderator. I got some great tips about female authors writing strong female characters, especially in a military sense: Elizabeth Moon, Marie Stewards, Barbara Hamley, Stella Gemmel, Francis Knight, Kate Elliot, NK Jemisin, Helen Lowe, Freya Robertson, Elizabeth Bear, Anne Lyle and Robin McKinley only being a few of them. Most of the ladies on the panel had grown up with women with swords but they couldn’t really pinpoint when the change to a woman in a military context had changed. Some suggested it was when women started to enlist in the army, Robin Hobb mentioned ‘AMAZONS!’ from 1981-82. The question was asked if there is a noticeable difference in a female or male author describing martial arts. Juliet didn’t notice any difference and said that she has been compared with Joe Abercrombie but that she has more experience sword fighting (in real life) than Lord Grimdark himself! Someone mentioned that fighting scenes written by women tend to be shorter and more to the point. Robin Hobb said she saw it as some kind of spectrum from man to female and that you can be at either end of the spectrum at any given day. Someone from the audience also mentioned Teresa Frohock’s gender experiment earlier this year, which showed that readers can’t tell the gender based on the writing style.
The important thing is that nowadays people tend to look more to the style of the writing, not the gender of the author. To conclude the panel the panelists stated that you don’t have to be a ‘broad with a sword’ to be a strong character, you have to succeed at other thing too, like trust and common sense. “‘Fighting like a girl’ isn’t an insult, we fight dirty and we fight to win”. Girlpower!
In the evening we made our way to the mass signing to get all our books signed. I hauled 9 of them with me and got them all signed! With all my signed books and goodies I could go to bed a happy girl.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about our second day at the World Fantasy Convention, so stay tuned!