A great way to start the day, we overslept. We didn’t manage to get down to the Dealers’ Room until almost 11am. It opened at 10am. I missed a panel that I was really looking forward to at 10 also. Oh, well it happens and we really, really, needed the sleep. (My poison ivy is back–and that’s another story.)
12 (noon) Fantasists as Modern Philologists. Faye Ringel (L), Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe, Debra Doyle. Philologists believe that the study of an ancient language is inseparable from the study of its classic texts in their historical and cultural contexts–that understanding a language, the people who spoke it, and the stories they told in it are ultimately the same thing; there is no doing one without the others. It strikes us that this fascination with the interplay between language, culture, and story, is reflected in the works of some of the best writers of fantasy, beginning of course with Tolkien, himself a philologist of renown. Who are these writers? How do their works reflect this attitude even when they’re not actually inventing the languages of their imagined societies?
All the panelists had an amazing array of information to share. The topic ranged over how Tolkien actually went back to basics to discover (not create) the languages as they would have been if they existed. A slightly different distinction than having invented a language — he rediscovered the languages instead.
We speak words and words have power and thus create images in our mind — we “bespell” the world, creating it with words. There was a wonderful bit quoted from one of Ursula K. LeGuin’s books between Ged and his magician teacher about how an object can be changed by changing its true name, but that such a change would radically change the nature of the world itself and should never be done.
There was a lot more — language in a story should be consistent with the character, the world, and the story. My brain was full after this one.
1:00 pm “Are You Writing a Sequel?” Walter H. Hunt, Beth Bernobich, Suzy McKee Charnas, Michael J. Daley (L), Ellen Kushner, Judith Moffett, Sarah Beth Durst, Paul Haggerty. Readers love them. Editors want them–sometimes. What do writers think about them? When do they think of them: before during, or after work on the first book? How do they think of them: all planned out or a grope in the dark? What’s the difference between a sequel and a series? Our panelists will answer these and the questions that naturally follow them.
I really wanted to sit on this as it’s only the second panel Paul’s been on. He was the only non-published author. As a reviewer, he more or less represented the reader on the panel.
The panelists discussed their books, the first and succeeding ones. Whether they knew from book one that there would be a second or not. The problem is that once the first one is written and published the second has to deal with what happened in the first book (while some authors have done a ‘do over’ it’s not advised). So, if you know there will be a sequel, you can write accordingly, making a follow-on book a bit easier to write.
There was some disagreement on whether there was a difference between sequels and series. Moving on, the audience and most of the panel agreed that the most successful follow-ons are those in which the characters grow and change based on what has happened to them before in the book(s).
Well, it’s sort of granted that I should break in here. I was honored to be asked to sit in on this panel, and it was a great deal of fun, despite the rather large number of participants. When Michael Daley was pitching the idea to me during the summer, we thought there would just be three of us. Then when we arrived the other day, we find that there will be eight. Oops! Slight change in plans. But I think it went really well. The conversation zipped back and forth across the table, with no single person hogging the spot light. And with the experience of the authors from seasoned professionals to relative newcomers, to one lone, non-published (but with 10 chapters written!) reviewer, I think a solid array of opinions were espoused. And, I think I managed not to embarrass myself. Okay, back to Gayle …
Then back to the table to help out. Met a lot of folks and talked about SFRevu, the convention, and books.
3:00 pm Gatekeepers to the World of Letters. Michael J. Daley, Nancy Werlin, Charles Oberndorf (M), Sarah Beth Durst, Cassandra Clare, Judith Berman. “[The book is] the oldest and the first mass medium. And it’s the one that requires the most training to access. Novels, particularly, require serious cultural training…I make black marks on a white surface and someone else in another location looks at them and interprets them and sees a spaceship or whatever. It’s magic.”–William Gibson. We know that YA writers take very seriously their responsibility to tell young readers stories that reflect what they feel is true of life. How aware are they of their responsibility for training young readers in the magic Gibson speaks of? What kinds of stories cultivate lifelong readers?
The authors said they write the stories they want to write and the publisher supplies the labels of lower YA, middle YA, upper YA, or whatever. Mostly the labels have to do with the age of the protagonist.
All agreed that the writer needs to, at the beginning of the book, give the reader the clues as to how to read the story and that goes for all books whether for younger readers or adults. That good writing is good writing and that most bad YA is written by those “writing for children” as opposed to those writing to tell a story. That an agenda does not make a good book if you start with the moral or the agenda. That the story is what drives everything even though you may have a theme running through the book.
Never write down to the readers and never forget the stories are key to keeping anyone reading.
Then it was back to the Dealer’s Room until it closed at 6pm. Finally, food. We drove to the mall and its food court — good solid food at reasonable prices. Then we walked through the mall top floor and bottom after eating to walk out the kinks. Finally, back to our room for an early night. We’re across the hall from the con suite and it’s not too noisy but it does mean there is the siren call of munchies and drinks all evening.