Finally, a Norwescon report

The bad news is that the Man left today. I am unhappy as are the kids. I also did some cleaning and laundry today. Yesterday we had dinner with friends, which was a lot of fun, and we also made some enchilada-lasagne to freeze. We made a total of four of them, and the Man took one back with him. One we’ll eat tonight, and the other two we’ll freeze for later. I like these. I layer enchilada sauce (mixed red and green with green chiles), corn tortillas, cheese, and a mixture of pureed onion, olives, and bell pepper stirried into hamburger, frozen corn, and black beans. It’s really fabulous.

But on to Norwescon. I’m starting on Friday, since I already told you about arrival and the reading.

My first panel was Friday afternoon with Gregory Wilson, Heather Hudson, and Linda Pearce. I did not know any of them, but it was delightful meeting them. I was the moderator (I think I moderated all my panels, come to think of it). Here’s the description:

Countless novels have been set in the intertwined worlds of monarchy and fantasy, often involving epic battles. Given that many fantasy novels are set in worlds drawn from medieval Europe, it’s no surprise to see so many stories based around monarchies–kings and queens, tyrannical emperors, and long-lost heirs to the throne. How much of fantasy’s appeal is grounded in this familiar setting, and how can this long-standing tradition be updated or refreshed? Or should it be abandoned entirely?

We talked a lot about why a monarchy or a centralized government was useful to fantasy settings. One important conclusion was that with a monarchy (or centralized authority–dictatorship or what have you), you don’t have the slower plot elements/decision making processes and so forth that would trip up pacing. When you have more cooks in the kitchen, you have to spend time on talking heads or on waiting for decisions to happen. That can be useful when a lot of the plot revolves around political intrigue and backstabbing (Tudors anyone?), but it’s less useful when your book depends on wars or invasions what have you. That doesn’t mean that we thought that the tradition couldn’t be updated or given new twists, but we didn’t think it would be going away any time soon. When you think about it, monarchies of some form or another have existed all over the world for thousands of years, so they aren’t particularly European or Western. The panel was quite well attended.

My next panel was on Writing A Series with Ken Scholes, John Pitts and Rhiannon Held. What a fun panel. Ken and John are tremendous fun. But let’s see. Panel description first:

Many of the most commercially successful speculative novels are series. Authors talk about how (and whether) they planned to write a series. How do you avoid repetition while keeping the setting and characters consistent from book to book?

Well, that description pretty much covers it. It was really enlightening to hear how other writers have approached their series. I was the only one on the panel with multiple series, which was something new for me. This was well attended, in a room about twice the size of the other panel rooms I was in. I enjoyed it. It’s hard to pick out specifics. There were a lot of questions and discussion of how each author came to write their books and how each of us tried to balance a complete story in each volume of the series and still continue a longer arc.

Saturday started at 10 a.m. with another packed room: Rogues and Anti-Heroes in Fantasy with Brenda Carre, Peter Blanton, and Mark Nelson.

From Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, to the denizens of Thieves’ World, to Alec and Seregil of Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series — loveable rogues and anti-heroes have been part of Fantasy since the early days. But why do we love them? Do they fulfill some need in us when we “aim to misbehave?” Come join us as we talk about our favorites and muse about which ones show promise in current fantasy fiction.

This one was a lot of fun because we spent time hammering out what an anti-hero v. a rogue was. I personally am not so fond of anti-heroes, although I really did like Elric of Melnibone. We also discussed the way a hero can go anti and vice versa. Very few of us liked Tomas Covenant, though there were definitely fans in the room. We talked about why those who were fans were fans, and those who weren’t, weren’t. The point wasn’t to be judgey, but to hammer out what the authors were doing and how and what made the characters successful or not. As for rogues, Sergil of the Nightrunner qualified, as did a number of Urban Fantasy protags. We didn’t get a chance to talk about female rogues, since there seem to be fewer of them. We talked movies also. Merry and Pippin were rogues, as was Jack Sparrow. I could only come up with Tang Girl for the female rogue.

Next was the autograph session which didn’t bring me a lot of traffic, but I did sign a few things. Then on to How to Write Vivid Scenes with Karen Kincy, S.A. Bolich, and William Nolan (of Logan’s Run fame).

What makes writing vivid? What does vivid writing do for the reader? How can you edit existing writing to make it more vivid? How to use all five senses.

This was a really fun panel because we went really far beyond all five senses. Those are basic, but we went on to unexpected turns of metaphor and simile, using really interesting and precise nouns and verbs, capturing voice, using euphemisms and colloquialisms, using dialog and action–doing whatever it takes to help the reader to make a connection with the work and really feel like s/he’s experiencing it. This panel was standing room only. Seriously. Crowded room.

The last panel I was on was also standing room only. It was called Congratulations! It Sucks! and was with Ryan Boudinot, and Steve Barnes (who, incidentally, was fabulous fun.)

How to tackle a major rewrite. Rescue your story from your writing, and actually learn from your mistakes while you fix them.

This is hard to sum up because Ryan and Steve and I each have very different approaches, and they were much more touchy/feely all-about-the-art in their approach. Don’t get me wrong. I think the work should be artful and develop from your passion and your heart, but I also thing you can’t wait for inspiration or the muse. I point you to Kelly McCullough’s rather fabulous play about muses and gorillas in tutus. Anyhow, it was a lovely panel and very lively and I had a lot of fun.

After that, I was done and the next day we started home. I didn’t get to any parties, though I had a lovely time visiting with a number of people. In the future, as the kids get older and I’m actually living with the Man again, I expect I’ll get to more of the other con activities. I saw some of the masquerade costumes and many were just stunning. I would have loved to go and see more. I didn’t get a chance to meet Terry Brooks again–we met some years ago when he and I shared a signing at the Glasgow Worldcon.

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