We started day 2 with a walk around the Exhibit Hall during the 10 a.m. hour. We grazed through the hospitality suite to pick up soda, chips, pretzels and raisins; before wandering the dealer floor again. Since we haven’t used any particular pattern on the dealer floor, we really weren’t certain what areas we had hit and missed. So we wandered through a few various aisles, said our hellos to Rob Howell at his table, and then wandered toward the exit. We finally discovered the art show and creator’s gallery, but only had a few moments to visually sip at it before heading to our 11 a.m. panel session.
We had looked at several options for the hour, and finally settled on:
11 a.m. – Great Characters in Young Adult Fiction
The room quieted exactly at 11 a.m., which the panel moderator noted and got a good laugh. They had a panel of five people, who all seemed very passionate and amusing.
The first question was which YA character do you relate to best. Peadar O Quinn said he relates best to the villains. He suggested that we might relate better to characters that aren’t as true to life, but he relates to them in a wishful way rather than realism.
Chelsea Mueller enjoyed characters that overcome obstacles without special powers.
Fonda Lee liked the girl who was able to badass play with the boys.
Mark Oshiro appreciated two lonely figures looking for parental/father figures.
Sunil Patel mentioned the raw honesty of the romance of a couple of characters, having a crush and not being able to tell them. He also mentioned a character from “The Star-Touched Queen”, a truly Indian cultured setting that was well-done.
The second question asked about the role or lack of strong parental figures. There are few strong parentals in YA fiction. O Guilon mentioned it was because when adults are there they fix the situation. They need to have the teens standing on their own. O Guilon hates stories where it is as if the adults never existed.
Lee said missing adults lets the teens in the story go off and get into trouble, for story’s sake. She also suggested a move to helicopter parents as antagonist being a new trope coming into the fiction.
Oshiro mentioned relating to something not because you went through it but because you got inside the other character’s experience.
The next question was how to make a memorable character. Lee suggested the rules weren’t much different than any characters. The one difference is a young adult comes at everything from a fresh perspective. How the character reacts to the firsts is what makes that character unique.
Oshiro said his one difference was the state of transition that they are in. Adults have less likelihood to change. The adults in his book are more stagnant. He wanted to write teens because of the volatile period of life they are in.
The next question mentioned the trope of betrayal. Sunil discussed the first betrayal is a shattering experience because “if I have been wrong about this, what else am I wrong about?” Oshiro mentioned it doesn’t have to be individual betrayal, but a more general realization about how life works, about society.
The last major question was about trends in YA. Lee suggested a need for more female characters that aren’t strong badass and just doing the stuff the boys do, but instead a more nuanced character. Patel suggested more complexity in the choices and issues she has to deal with, and not always making the right choices.
Oshiro mentioned moving away from “checkbox diversity”. He gave the example of creating a world as pointing a camera, and who are you pointing the camera at? (Someone came up and took his picture at that time — big laugh).
I found all the panelists interesting and insightful, but found Oshiro the one who made the most “Sad Puppy” or “Human Wave” concepts, whether he would feel himself affiliated with those groups or not.
12 p.m. – No, Really, That Makes Sense
The idea of this panel was to give reasonable explanations for wacky sci fi situations. They covered things from sounds of engines in space to how quickly radiation sickness leads to lesions in movies.
Other topics were those blocks Captain Kirk pumped on the sickbay walls (charges the tricorder), and how de-evolution works (A civil war by the junk in your DNA).
I could go on, this was a fun session, but it is hard to capture in a writing synopsis. Let me just say that choosing one of these off-the-cuff sessions is usually an excellent choice.
1 p.m. — wandering time
Two panels in a row is enough for the beginning con-goer. At least that is what we have decided. We took another tour up to the great hall and checked the hospitality suite. This time they had brownies and cheese cubes to add to the mix. We walked around the dealer floor some more, and ran into another “local” con-goer that we had met the previous evening – Tully from Wichita, KS (Note to readers — correct me if I get people references wrong. Unlike my reporter days of 20 years ago I don’t have a notebook out all the time putting down the names and facts.) We had a nice conversation about first conventions and how the recommendations have changed. Yesterday’s 6-2-1 rule used to be 4-2-1 Tully said. Getting older we apparently need more sleep.
2 p.m. The Care and Feeding of Minions
Panel members Lynn Gold, Mur Lafferty, David Levine and Julia Mandala discussed the difficulties of minions in a collective bargaining world.
The “evil overlords” started by detailing their evil plans.
Julia’s was taking over the world, “Brain wasn’t available, and unfortunately Pinky was, which explains my need for minions.”
Lynn’s was taking over the press by tricking management to think they are in control.
David wanted to control the world’s supply of bacon. He detailed the weak link being the 5 bacon smokers for the entire country. He already had infiltrated 4, and was in town to take over Hormell.
Other questions included how to control your minions. David was big on mind control.
Julia believed in university training as a good training for young evil-doers.
Again I could go on, but again it is hard to convey in writing.
What I will do is mention the one question I did pose to David: KC being such BBQ town, what factor does he think all these individual smokers have on his attempt to corner the supply.
Between Indie and traditional smokers, in the long run volume is the way to go, he said. People don’t want to wait. The small independents aren’t going to be able to smoke. Indie smovers are only a distraction.
This reminded me of the indie/traditional publisher dichotomy. It almost sounded like he was talking about that, yet for publishing, e-books erase the volume disadvantage.
4 p.m. — intersection of Puppetry and Science Fiction
This session with Mary Robinette Kowal was another excellent session, and one I can write about fairly well.
She discussed puppets as the art of bringing life to an inanimate object: “I get paid to wiggle dolls”.
She described five types of puppets: hand, rod, string, shadow and body. Kermit the frog, for example, is a moving mouth, hand and rod puppet: “The steam punk of puppetry – two genres mashed into one.”
She also described the difference between body puppets and a costume. With costumes the parts line up, while in a puppet something is displaced. By her example: Big Bird is a puppet (hand lines up to mouth), while Barney is not (mouth lines up to mouth) — “we do not claim him.”
The other distinctions were covert or overt puppetry — whether or not you can see the puppeteer. Ventriloquism is overt puppetry.
This led to the four principles of what makes a puppet look alive, which can be applied to writing. She demonstrated those by using her boot for a puppet.
1) Focus indicates thought ;what it looks at is what it thinks about. Fiction: what your character is noticing is what they are thinking about. Use focus to control what audience is thinking about.
2) Breathe indicates emotion. We only notice breathe when it carries emotional content. Fiction: breathe plays out through punctuation. Breathe and rhythm are loosely aligned.
You combine focus and breathe by changing speed. This translate to how long you describe something in fiction.
3) Muscle or internal motivation — idea character is capable of moving by itself. This is also called compress and expand or tuck and curl. This also involves engaging focus. It works with Internal motivation — fiction — free indirect speech, which you use where something is ambiguous or needs emphasis.
4) Meaningful Movement – every move should mean something. Movement motivated by thought and reason, why is your puppet moving? This deals with internal narrative. Look for things that remove ambiguity or mean something.
5 p.m. Creating the 1632 Universe
We went straight from puppetry to Eric Flint and the 1632 universe. Amend that: we went around the block figuring out which room number 3501 meant, since it wasn’t the room labeled 3501 — it turned out to be 3501B, right next to the room we had been in.
Hearing the history of 1632 from the mouth of Eric Flint was very interesting, though I had expected more of a panel discussion than the solo dissertation that most of it was.
The interesting part was how Flint didn’t give 1632 to Baen publishing first because he thought Baen as a conservative Republican wouldn’t like a story about union members. Yet Jim called and said it was the best idea Flint had ever had. It was the second time in the convention I heard a panelist make a comment about conservatives that totally showed misunderstanding about us. I’ve often commented that Flint’s common man theme lines so well with conservative libertarian themes.
Publishing with Baen allowed Flint to do a lot of things that couldn’t be done with larger publishers. From the Baen’s Bar where discussions occurred to the development of the Grantville Gazette and the technical discussion onboard. This developed the entire collaborative approach that the universe has become.
Flint didn’t intend 1632 to become a series. Every other series he has been a part of he had a definite end in mind. This is entirely open. What allows it to stay focused is the actual history it has to deal with and the real technology it has to use.
6 p.m. — Olympus Mons doesn’t erupt.
The Flint panel was the first one to run over and not seem to be aware of missing its time window of the panel we were in, so we left before they had finally wapped up. But we did manage to make it to the Exhibit Hall in plenty of time to wait for the eruption of Olympus Mons. They had transformed the river to red from blue sometime before we got there, but had some sort of technical difficulty. The volcano didn’t explode. Eventually someone slipped inside and tossed candy out the side to the waiting kids.
With that we left the convention center to visit a private party, and then returned around 8 p.m. to see how the hospitality suite parties were doing. They had a few going, but some of them still didn’t have much. We apparently didn’t stay late enough for anything extravagant or wild. Bits of cake and cookie at New Orleans, Pavlova at New Zealand, was the level of celebration (we skipped the alcohol).
But we did manage to pack on a few more ribbons during the day, as can be seen below: