Thursday, September 9, 2010

World Con 2010 Day 5

By Linda

In the How New Technologies Bring New Narrative Techniques session, the panellists (Chris Lawson, Grant Watson, Peter Watts, Ben Chandler) pointed out that the biggest change ever in storytelling was the writing down of narrative. After all, widespread distribution of novels could not exist until the printing press was invented. The aim of prose is to get reader to imagine and respond and part of joy of reading is the personal imagining of the story (which visual narratives can’t do). The introduction of a new narrative medium doesn’t destroy the old, but the old medium may change its role. With technology Story is more accessible to everyone. (They really should have qualified this to: everyone who can afford it). I was surprised to learn that the Epic of Gilgamesh has foreshadowing in it – so it’s a technique as old as Story itself.

Of necessity the early video games had simple narratives. It is the demands of the users/players which improve story media. Most games are designed around the levels and the story retro-fitted. I know my son doesn’t think the World of Warcraft (an MMO game) story worth reading. (He’s now engrossed in For the Win which I brought back from WorldCon, by the way.)The story is the first thing cut if the money starts to run out. There is limited choice/control of narrative or outcomes for players in most games. Actors are now being hired to do the voices or narratives to sell games.

The panel talked about the World of Warcraft plague and how its development and effects were studied by academics: narrative as scientific exploration.

I was top of the reserve list for the second Kaffeeklatsch with George R R Martin and almost got to participate because someone was late. So close!! Outside the Kaffeeklatsch and signing hall some Star Wars characters were fundraising.

PRK, Luckers and myself comprised the Robert Jordan panel and we discussed the reason behind the Wheel of Time’s popularity and what makes it stand out from the fantasy crowd, and also how Sanderson’s volume/s compare to Jordan’s own novels, and whether we are seeing a fitting conclusion.

Our explanation of why WOT is great is that the books can be read on so many levels, from a rollicking story with riveting fight scene to a complex plot with layers of symbolism and myth adding depth. The magic system is really good. The major characters are appealing and arouse passionate reactions in readers and the minor characters are rounded, and live their own lives, often undergoing development (eg Teslyn). The theme of incomplete knowledge, not just for the characters, but the reader too, leads to mysteries and theories.

Most authors bury their sources deeply, but RJ’s premise of cycles, with history turning to myth and myth to legend, our world history forming their myth and their history our myth, means his sources are only partially buried and that there are a plethora of allusions and sources. RJ puts a twist on them though to keep them fresh. This appeals to the reader with an analytical, dissecting type mind (like me) and challenges them to dig them up.

The series is remarkable in that RJ tried to show the Light struggling and stymied for a few books as the Shadow gains the upper hand. Few authors would dare do this even if it is realistic or artistically correct. PRK thought that RJ was also trying to show everything in his world and played with it too much in the middle books. The audience was equally divided over whether they liked the very complex books or the first three books best.

Sanderson had a huge job to pick up someone else’s world and characters, especially one so complex. He has managed to marry his style to RJ’s and captured most characters – nearly all - very well. The character development is good and he thankfully kept the symbolism intact. Three large books (as in each over 300K words) in three years are, or will be, a phenomenal achievement. But then, RJ's creation of the world, the characters, and the story in the first place was even more so.

At the end of our panel we showed Jason Denzel’s Towers of Midnight trailer, which was well-received, earning spontaneous applause, and made the audience long for the book’s release.

That was the last session for me and one of the last at AussieCon4. I then sat and talked with Luckers for a while and left for the airport with more luggage than I arrived. World Con 2010 was a lot of fun and passed all too quickly.


tes said...

i began to read the books on 1990 when they were published here in Spain and i must say you do a wonderful summary about the whole serie. Short, clear and fitting.
I'll have it in mind while trying to convince some of my friends to read the books.
btw, you do a prodigious work at the Depository. Many thanks.

Linda said...

And many thanks to you too, tes. I'm glad you like the blog.

Marcia said...

Another great summary of a day at WorldCon Linda. And so cool that you folks in Ozland get to be on the cutting edge with your own Con for a change! Would have loved to hear you and Luckers wax lyrical about WOT, the perceived slowdown and all the mythological paralells, etc. Any recording by chance? If not, you guys should be thinking about that.

And WOOT!! to you for being on the dedication list for the little ToM prologue excerpts released on the various "i" apps this weekend. Being old school, the only "i" I have is me. But thanks to Terez at Theoryland, I've read the bits and have been appropriately pumped!! Teasers like this are soo much like foreplay... :P

Linda said...

Thanks Marcia. :) It is a nice change indeed to be at the forefront here. WorldCon only comes to Australia every 10 years or so. There is a recording of 25 min of our panel on There would have been more, but Luckers' phone played up at the crucial time. They always do, don't they?

And thanks for your congratulations about the dedication. It was such an unexpected honour. I don't own an iphone either, so I only found out about it on Facebook. Terez is very generous of her time in transcribing and posting material for others. Very good of her.

The excerpt is indeed arousing anticipation!

Steven Cooper said...

The panel was good fun, but I was a bit surprised at the small size of the audience. Do you think it was just because it was the last afternoon of the convention, or has the WOT fandom really shrunk so much over the last decade? I expected the room to be at least half full.

Linda said...

I wish you had introduced yourself Steven. :)

I don't think WOT fandom has shrunk, but WorldCon put the panel on very late. Some people were back at work or were heading for the airport by that time. I asked for the panel to be on any day except Monday because I was originally planning to fly out in the morning so I wouldn't have to take an extra day off work, but was told this was not possible.

I know of at least one scheduled panel after the WOT panel that was cancelled. No reason was given.

Steven Cooper said...

Yes, I saw a notice for a cancelled panel that afternoon as well. Putting a panel on at a time when people have to take time off work will certainly cut down the potential audience.

I was the one who asked the "Does anyone still care who killed Asmodean" question. I did actually intend to approach you guys after the panel was over, but unfortunately I've always been shy about initiating conversations with people I haven't met before. So, stupidly, I let the opportunity go by. (*headdesk*) Ah, well; some other time perhaps... :)

Linda said...

Ah, that was your question! A good one. :) Asmo would never have been important if his murder was shown on screen.

I understand about the shyness. I would love to have met you though, if only to say what a great job you've done on the timeline and how much people, including me, have used it over the years.

Steven Cooper said...

Thanks for the compliments. It's lovely to know people are finding it useful. I'm looking forward to the release of TOM and hopefully getting rid of some of the question marks in the latest sections... :)