Thursday, September 2, 2010
Events at WorldCon weren’t scheduled until 2 pm, so in the morning I visited Beautiful Silks to get supplies for my next embroidery and got talking to the assistant about my Chinese-style WOT dragon embroideries (here is one; the other is well advanced in the making) and how I’d like to embroider a phoenix as part of the series. In Chinese thought, the dragon, the most yang animal, was the symbol of the Emperor while the phoenix, the most yin animal, was the symbol of the Empress. The headdress of Chinese noblewomen was called the Phoenix crown, but only the Empress’ crown had phoenixes on it. In Western thought, the phoenix lives 500 to 1000 years (sources vary) and at the end of its life builds a nest wherein it is consumed in fire and a new phoenix or phoenix egg is born from the ashes. It is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. RJ didn’t use phoenix symbolism for Tuon – her symbol is the raven and roses. Yet Tuon is trying to restore something of Artur Hawkwing’s empire and she will also one day have to face the question of reviving the Seanchan empire on Seanchan, so the phoenix symbolism would work.
Anyway, after I described the Wheel of Time series a little, the assistant noted down the title and author to read it herself. I did add the disclaimer that it is long, being finished by another author and probably not to be read unless you like fantasy but she wasn’t fazed. I must be a better promoter than I thought!
At WorldCon I was delighted to find Cory Doctorow’s For the Win in the Dealers Room after trying to buy it here for the last 2 or 3 weeks. At last! Now to get it signed...
The first session I attended was an academic one on sff writers using history. The author, Gillian Polack, interviewed over 20 sff writers on how they viewed and used history in their work. Most interestingly, she found that how writers classify their work – alternative history, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, historical fiction, etc – influenced how they used history and how much they changed history for their setting. Story always is more important to them than history.
Next up was a panel of 3 authors looking at the city as a fantasy location and much good stuff was discussed here by all 3. Ellen Kushner was one of the first authors to break out from the Tolkien dominated rural fantasy. Once one moves out of a medieval time setting then cities become increasingly important. She sees the theme of the individual in society to be important in urban fantasy; the quest becoming whether to belong or not. Another theme is healing the wasteland since cities often deplete the surrounding environment. Carol Ryles regarded consistency more important than description. When Trudi Canavan is really stuck for a name she hits the keyboard randomly. Eyes closed, I guess. All three agreed that it is great to continue writing in the same city but in a different time period of its history – so it can be added to, or changes shown.
The last panel for the day was a Lovecraft one – on the Necronomicon. Fascinating stuff. It is a book Lovecraft invented (he said the title meant "an image of the law of the dead") and mentioned a few times in his works, so convincingly that its existence is/was believed by many readers. He never wrote the actual book because he believed it was more terrifying if he left it to the reader’s imaginations and that if he did write it, it would only disappoint. Shades of figs and mice! It is supposed to be a very rare book, with only a few in existence, but has been ‘recreated’ quite a few times by various authors since Lovecraft’s death. Even more amusingly, it’s supposed to send you mad or kill you if you even glimpse a page, yet is requested of libraries quite often! The lure of the forbidden is hard to resist.
I met three WOT fans after the sessions: Emma/Isabel and two Jameses, which was very nice. Emma and one James post on Theoryland. The other James doesn’t post online, but "reads and thinks a little" (his words). I think he might need his medication adjusted. ;) Then it was off to dinner with Emma and two of her friends. They were great fun; lots of discussion and laughter.