Saturday, September 4, 2010
World Con Day 2
First up was a half-hour reading session by China Mieville. He read two pieces, starting with chapter 25 of his latest book Kraken. I’m currently reading that book and had luckily read that chapter only the day before. So no spoilers. :) Then he read The Rope is the World, a fascinating short story I had not even heard of before, about space elevators on earth. He imagined them as a comparatively short-lived phenomenon compared to their tremendous expense, that developed their own cultures. Immediately after, he had a book-signing. I got King Rat and Kraken signed and told him that I swore at him when I read the ending of Iron Council even though I accepted it was artistically correct. He seemed delighted. Later in the afternoon I was one of ten people at a Kaffeeklatsch with China and we asked him questions about his books and writing. He is very productive; he is currently writing one book, but mapping out two more and has a firm idea of what the two after that will be about.
The foundlings and orphans panel discussed why foundlings and orphans are a common theme in fiction and what their appeal is. The panellists regarded the theme as almost exclusively for Young Adult fiction. Yet Lord of the Rings isn’t aimed primarily at this age group and neither is The Wheel of Time. (Neither series was mentioned.) They were quite right that there is the risk the theme could be overused. Garion in Eddings’ Belgariad is the example they cited of a blank slate character who was useless at first. Foundlings or orphans must not be a plot device but has to be real part of the story.
Shaun Tan is a brilliant Australian artist who is the guest artist at World Con. He’s written and illustrated books and also done magazine covers. In his keynote speech he said the best illustrations aren’t literal to the story, but arouse interest in the story. They should convey the essence of the story. Neither writing nor drawing has primacy.
He describes his body of work as fine arts crossing over with spec fic, children’s illustration and comics. What he explores is the disconnection between people and place and he starts stories with the landscape not the characters.
I hope to get him to sign The Red Tree and Tales of Outer Suburbia signed Sunday or Monday.
Last session on day 2 was a two hour workshop with geographer and sff author Dr Russell Kirkpatrick. He really knew his stuff and was entertaining as well. I am one of a group of eleven embroiderers who are making embroidered maps for an exhibition we plan to hold in 2012 so this was a very interesting and relevant session for me. He had plenty of useful advice for creating fantasy maps.
Dinner was with four other readers of fantasy: Emma, her friend Linda, Luckers (of Dragonmount) and Josh. Much discussion of WOT ensued. Great fun.
World Con Day 3
I attended two events on Day 3. First was a reading by George R R Martin of the Prologue of A Dance With Dragons. The POV was of a warg/Varamyr Sixskins, survivor of the battle at the Wall. It was excellent. Varamyr was brooding over events since the battle and his current condition and tried to take over another creature. GRRM said the next POV in the book is that of Tyrion (and teased us by saying it wasn't very interesting). The ‘prologue’ to his reading was that he won’t estimate when A Dance With Dragons might be completed.
Thinking in Trilogies was a panel about an issue largely limited to sff: publishing in trilogies. Three Australian authors (Glenda Larke, Trudi Canavan and Fiona McIntosh) and one New Zealander (Russell Kirkpatrick) were on the panel. The panelists all considered that the publishers’ push for trilogies is stronger in Australia than in UK or US. Publishers want the three books published in quick succession, lately only a month apart, partly because readers won’t buy until the third book out. Long series are currently discouraged by publishers. While stand-alones are very difficult for new or fairly new authors to get published, the panel thought that if the book is good enough it will sell. Trudi Canavan also encouraged new authors to look into the possibility of writing a sequel. Russell Kirkpatrick said that there was the incorrect perception that trilogies are lazy, bloated writing and need an edit.