World Fantasy Convention 2013 – Saturday 2/11
Saturday started way too early but man, what a day! I met so many people on Saturday, my head is still spinning from it. All of them were equally lovely and recognizably crazy. You have no idea how good it feels to meet people how are equally passionate about Fantasy/Science Fiction as you are. There’s no effort needed with these people, something just clicks when you start talking. And once you start talking, there’s no stopping of course.
I started the day with one of the best panels I attended this WFC: “The Best of All Possible Worlds” about worldbuilding with Hal Duncan, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Silverberg, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Ellen Kushner as moderator. We started off with the question: “Where do you start?” Patrick mentioned Tolkien as a great worldbuilder and that he defined the path that many walk today. He said that when you create a new world it should have some languages, but that he really isn’t a language expert. Is this a bad thing? No! You want someone who is enthusiastic about what he’s describing, not a professor. Everyone has something he’s a geek about and Patrick’s geekyness focusses on currencies and economy, so that features heavily in his novels more so than the languages for instance.
Adrian starts with a setting, a place: ‘what if there was a place where this or that…?’ From there on he just lets the plot and characters grow organically.
Robin always starts from a character and says once that’s done everyone around that character falls in to place. Hal also thinks the voice of the character is the most important part of the story. He says the setting is best seen through the character’s eyes, as a process of discovering. He calls his approach ‘worldblazing’ instead of ‘worldbuilding’, he makes it up as he goes along. Ellen agreed with this, you have to live the world through your character’s eyes.
With Patrick’s mention of geekery, the moderator got curious about the other panelists geek-obsessions in their books and what was at the other end: their smoking mirrors.
Hal admitted to being a language geek, but couldn’t be less interested in science and plausibility in his novels. Robin is a real geek where the biological basis of her magic is involved. Adrian is a science geek, especially evolutionary biology. He also said he’s quite obsessive when it comes to worldbuilding, he wants everything worked out in detail, even the clothes.
Patrick then began talking about a spectrum of worldbuilders: at the left side you have the setbuilders. They create wooden sets and paint them, like in Hollywood. The other side is for the Model Train builders with an extreme eye for detail. I thought this was a wonderful way of describing the different shades of worldbuilding.
Ellen went on to say that there is a really big reader-writer partnership going on here. The reader has to believe in the world, it has to present a wonderful experience for them, but they are also able to have their own input, to fill in the missing bits.
The panel also touched upon the role of magic and at what point it enters your novel, where most panelists answered it is already there from the very beginning. Also the role of the culture the author grew up in on the world they create for their book was discussed. Patrick said that culture is imbedded deeply into a person. He described an experiment he did as a teacher, asking all his students to give a swear word. ¾ of them were women-related. He said that no one would say at a dinner table ‘that women are icky and they are uncomfortable about them’ but that it shows in our swearwords how much it is still imbedded in our culture that women are ‘less’. Interesting point, returning to the gender debate that’s been going on for a while now.
After that I went to my second reading: Scott Lynch. I was surprised and delighted Wesley Chu was there also to read a small bit of his first book: ‘The Lives of Tao’. I’ve heard so many good things about that book and after hearing him read from it I will most definitely buy it. Scott Lynch read a short story of his, which was amazing, but I hadn’t expected anything else to be honest.
Just before noon I went to Joe Abercrombie’s reading. He read from his forthcoming Young Adult novel “Half a King”. I really liked it, he stopped right at a suspenseful moment which made me yearn to hear/read more. Sneaky Joe, very sneaky!
The next panel I attended was in the afternoon, called “Nifty Shades of Fae” about fairytales with Lisa L. Hannett, Joanne Harris, Graham Joyce, Tanith Lee, Angela Slatter and James Barclay as moderator.
How do you define a fairy tale? Is it even possible to define it? Joanne thinks it is something that begins deep inside the human psyche and has parts of myths and legends and is something that resonates through time. Tanith sees fairytales as something to give fear a personality, to deal with it. Graham sees coded tales imbedded in them, young people can understand stuff that they will have to live through better this way. He made the comparison of marrying and ‘Beauty and the Beast’: marriage is scary and used to be arranged. The man may look scary at the start, but it is possible to fall in love with him and maybe he will turn into a prince at some point. Lisa said we use these stories to rationalize what we can’t understand otherwise.
Angela pointed out that nowadays these ideas are being used again, we’re putting danger back in the tales and make them a version of what they once were.
Translators and illustrators sweetened the stories, because some of them used to be very bleak and grim, because they are morality tales. Fairytales were not written for children but for adults who had dark and complicated, sometimes challenging lives. They mentioned Angela Carter as a big influence and example.
Another question that was asked was if fairytales are a modern version of mythology. Most of the panel thought there was a real distinction, mythology being about gods and fairytales being the written incarnation of the folk tales. Graham does see a connection though. He says that mythology and fairytales live side by side and that they are not always exclusive.
The rest of the day was filled with parties and awesome people. We went to the Titan Books party that had a Fun Fair theme. It was extremely fun. You could shoot miniature crossbows or throw hoops to try and win a variety of prices. I won a little Doctor Who gadget (a Dalek) that is now protecting my books on my bookshelf. We met a lot of wonderful people including Adam Dalton, Sammy Smith from Kristell Ink who we joined for dinner.
After dinner we went to the Jo Fletcher Party where I met Jo Fletcher and was able to thank her for the awesome books she has sent me the past year. I also met Michael Molcher from Solaris, who is hilarious! Geoffrey Gudgion and Clifford Beal joined our conversation and later on I met Brady McReynolds from JABberwocky literary agency. We all met up in the bar after the party and ended the night with laughter and drinks.
Big shout out also to Sorcha O’Dowd, Katy Kenaz and Kenya Lee who we met earlier and were with us throughout the day!
I also met Robin Hobb in between panels, which was awesome!! And I had a chat with Patrick Rotfuss in the bar, he is the sweetest. I was fangirling quite a bit though, but he was so lovely and friendly and gave us good tips about attending our first con.