So this is World Con


So this is World Con.

Panels! discussions! artwork in the exhibit hall! parties! people dressed in costume! your favorite authors strolling down the hall in passing!

I am incredibly tired today. I was up tooo late last night. I went to the Masquerade which is a kind of combination talent show/costume fashion parade and then to a party where I met George R.R. Martin. He is very nice and was holding court in a room where raffle tickets were being sold to raise money for a children’s literacy program. The prizes were books that had been donated by various authors including Martin.

I started feeling wonky yesterday like I was getting sick and so I made a point of eating three meals and I took a nap. There are so many panels and discussions to go to that it is hard to know when to take a break!

I will write more later if I can find internet and I get a chance.

Mascots at World Con

This year at World Con mascots were given the opportunity to have their own badge for $5. This is my first World Con and I did not know about mascots. Mascots are stuffed animals that people carry and they are just that– they are mascots. Last night I had the opportunity to meet Buffalito.

This morning I was introduced to Riker Bear who is the mascot of U.S.S. Pioneer. He is the mascot of the Denver Science Fiction group who will be putting on the Mile HIgh Con in Denver in October and have been in existence since 1995. Riker Bear wears Build A Bear clothing, has his own car, and has been on a cruise. he travels extensively and has traveled without his owners. He is the bear pictured in the photo.

World Con: Writing Across the Genres

This morning I went to a panel discussion about writing across the genres. The panelist were James Patrick Kelly, Michael Swanwick, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman, and Preston Grassman. Delia Sherman has a new book out called the Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. She writes realistic material with folklore elements and is associated with the Interstitial Arts Foundation. Jim Kelly and Michael Swanwick are names that I am familiar with. They joked back and forth with one another and when Swanwick came in late, Jim Kelly shot a purple rubber band at him that almost hit me. Grassman is a freelance writer who has been living in Japan and is currently collaborating on a new novel with KJ Bishop. Klages described herself as writing the type of stories that people get in to bar fights over what they are not.

In this panel various different ideas for writing across genres or not were presented. The main reason for not writing across genre was economic. Swanwick described an article that Piers Anthony wrote where Anthony advocated for writers to write one funny fantasy story and then another and build up a following. In Anthony’s model the writer would create fiction that was similar to what they had written before and with each successive book they would pick up readers and earn more money.

Kelly brought up another point in that authors who write across genres are sometimes viewed as not being serious and lacking focus.

Another reason that was discussed for not writing across genre that was discussed was that if the fiction is not easily categorized it may not easily find a publisher or a place in the bookstores. Klages pointed out that short stories is a place where writers usually can write across genre and play with things. She relayed an anecdote however where “Green Glass Sea,” a short story that she wrote, she could not get published because the story was not considered “science fiction”– it was about science and was fiction. Swanwick told about hanging out with Dozois and Dozois telling him that whenever Dozois published something that did not have the impossible he got flack.

From this point came another set of ideas.

Genre categories in some ways ghetto-ize fiction. Klages pointed out that Chabon had won a Pulitzer and then he won a Hugo. She asserted that he might not have won both if the order had been reversed. It was also brought up that in science fiction circles the word literature is said with a sneer. Swanwick talked about problems in defining categories. He mentioned that in biology, species are defined by type specimens. Type specimens are dead. You cannot define a species until after you have killed it. In order to define a genre you must first kill it. He says that he tries to defy every possible rule and play with people’s expectations and minds. Boundaries are redrawn every time that someone does something that no one has seen before.

So. What are the benefits of writing across genre?

Sherman said that art is always a moving target. There is nothing wrong with staying within genre— such as Patricia McKillip. Practitioners of the epic tradition are writing beautiful things and she does not want that to stop. However, she would like to move past formula fiction. The genre has to grow in order to provide something that will be talked about in fifty years. It used to be just that literature grew. The way that things grow is that you create things that people do not have the rules to know how to approach it and have to approach it on its one terms. If it does not fit these rules– then how does one unpack it. How does one examine it? The thought process inherent in this is what keeps a literary tradition alive.

Klages said, “You have to have people who are not easily pigeon holed or else all you have is pigeon holes.” She went on to say that we learn by being exposed to new things.

A lot of the people on the panel are trying to write something else because they want something new. Writing boring fiction is boring. Swanwick said that he pays a price for writing things that are not easily classified, but he wants to do different things. He said that he could make more money in advertising or by writing the same things over and over. Swanwick said that he thinks the rules of genre pull the stories down. He says that he is not trying to break the rules but he doesn’t want to tailor down to expectations. He aims to produce something satisfying and new.

Swanwick told this joke, “What is the difference between a science fiction writer and a large pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four.”

I AM AT WORLD CON!

Today was a day of movement and travel. A day of shifting time and space. I traveled over a mountain range flying into the rising sun. The mountains became little more than patterns of shifting color and contrasting values. I landed in Denver airport with its Dr. Seuss-like peaks (that is the second image above). The sun and I crossed paths and I lost two hours from my day when I arrived in Montreal.

Traveling is a sensory experience. I love the sensation of being pressed back into the seat on take off. I love closing my eyes and feeling the subtle motions of the aircraft as it defies gravity and uses the power of air to lift its too solid and heavy frame above that which is lighter.

I traveled from Montreal airport in a taxi. We weaved in and out of downtown traffic in smooth fluid curves.

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I am in my hostel room four floors above the busy street. From my window I can see the balconies of the building across the road. The grand vistas of Woody Creek where the magpies fly and you can see forever are gone (the upper most image is from Highway 82 on the way to Aspen, CO). The language here is French but not Parisian French. It is the French of Quebec.

Traveling is a reorientation. It highlights both the familiar and the unfamiliar. I think traveling to go to a convention focused on the fiction of ideas doubly expands the experience. I am looking forward to both the convention and to Montreal.

The image below is the Palais des Congres de Montreal where the convention is to being held.

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