Sunday, November 4, 2007

World Fantasy Con -- Day 3

The day began with a 2 1/2 hour breakfast with Gardner Dozois, Susan Casper, and Joe and Gay Haldemann. The discussion ranged from what fantasy readers really want (Susan: "a big interesting world to explore;" Gardner: "dramatic, soap-opera plots;" Joe: "irrationality") to the state of publishing (transitional), to sex (the PBS documentary THE HUMAN ANIMAL, which I now want to rent), to collaboration. Gardner's new novel with George Martin and Daniel Abraham, HUNTER'S RUN, is out in the U.K. now and will be out here in January. Melinda Snodgrass joined us for coffee and so the discussion switched to the impending writers' strike in Hllywood, since Melinda writes scripts as well as fiction. The whole breakfast was enormous fun.

Roamed the dealer's room (Gardner's book not available anywhere) and the art show. Later in the day I went to Ellen Klages's reading (very funny). Late afternoon drinks in the bar with Ellen, Therese Piecynski, Walter Jon Williams, and the always entertaining Jay Lake. People wandered from table to table, schmoozing. This is what I like best at cons. As a writer, I spend a lot of time alone, talking to fictional people. Corporeal ones make such a nice change.

Dinner at an Italian restaurant with Sheila Williams, Jim Kelly, John Kessel. Sheila was very enlightening on the fiscal aspects of publishing ASIMOV'S. I asked if she does, indeed, try to choose stories that will create a smorsgasbord in each issue, appealing to a broad range of tastes, rather than choosing stories simply because she likes them personally. She said yes, although she never publishes stories she dislikes. Jon said that if he were to publish JOHN KESSEL'S SF MAGAZINE, it would have a readership on one because his taste is both specific and quirky. This may or may not be true; I know from experience that John is a good writing teacher.

My 10:00 p.m. panel (and what a time to schedule a panel!) was on "When Fantasy Becomes SF or SF Becomes Fantasy." Nobody was actually sure what that meant, but the topic was attacked with gusto by George R.R. Martin, Lee Modesitt, Walter Jon Willams, Joe Haldemann, and me (moderating). George expounded his furniture theory of fiction, which is that SF and fantasy stories are the same house but merely contain different furniture. I asked if that meant he could have written GAME OF THRONES as SF with no substantial changes, just different "furniture." Astoundingly (to me) George said "Yes." Joe disagreed and we were off and running.

The Tor party, afterwards, was held in a room packed with people and at roughly the temperature of blood. Shouted to be heard for a while, then went to bed, perchance to dream of Victorian furniture on a generation-ship.


Wordly said...

It sounds like so much fun! I've only been to one big convention: WorldCon, 2006, and it was excellent. I never wanted it to end!

I'd like to talk about this a bit: //The discussion ranged from what fantasy readers really want (Susan: "a big interesting world to explore;" Gardner: "dramatic, soap-opera plots;" Joe: "irrationality")//

Oh, but before I do, I wanted to say how much I appreciate your three how to write books, your novels and your stories! I so enjoy them :) "The Price of Oranges" is on my top-faves of all time list :).

Anyway, onward! I love fantasy short stories because they don't have these things (interesting world to explore or dramatic soap-opera plots), but I'm wondering if you know what was meant by irrationality? That could fit okay, as I do enjoy out-there ideas :) Is that what was meant, do you think? Which, that's fine! but I was wondering.

Anyway, regarding novels, which is what I suspect was the topic, I prefer SF novels because they are cleaner and faster, and don't demand so much suspension of disbelief. In other words, to me, aliens who have come and taken over New York City is much easier to swallow than that a pack of werewolves have done the same thing.

Sad but true! ;D

Well, I was wondering what do you think fantasy readers really want? I noticed that you'd discussed what they'd said, but not what you'd said, and thought I'd ask. Not that you have to say, of course not! but thought I'd ask.

Oh, oh, oh, and I wanted to add how much I love Ms. Williams' choices for Asimov's. Gardner was fine, too, of course! but she's got a great point of view.

That's it, and I'm so glad you're having such a good time :)

Nancy Kress said...

What Joe Haldemann meant by "irrationality" was that in his opinion, fantasy readers prefer magic to the rational extrapolation of SF. Joe writes both but seems to have a much higher opinion of SF.

I don't KNOW what fantasy readers want. That's why I spent the weekend asking people.

Wordly said...

I hesitate to say he's not correct, but, well, of course he has his point of view. And I would never argue with that.

I suppose it might seem that way, but really, fantasy is the same as any other good story--the magic should fit the context of the world. It should be solid and correct and not at all irrational. Irrational = boring, just the same as SF :)

And of course, many fantasy stories have no magic at all, but still, the "kilter," if you will, has to make sense. It all should seem correct in story context.

Really, fantasy readers want the same thing as every other reader on the planet: good story and writing, great characters, and something special to the story beyond itself.

Have you tried reading "Fantasy Magazine" or "Realms of Fantasy" for short stories? They're both very good. Not all the stories for every person, but in a general way.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

"Victorian furniture in a generation ship"... A lovely, evocative image.

Ruhan Zhao said...

bluesman miike Lindner said...
"Victorian furniture in a generation ship"... A lovely, evocative image.

November 5, 2007 1:41 PM


Icarus said...

I doubt you'll see this unless you have some feature that points you to new comments on old posts, but what the heck. Is it worthwhile, in your opinion, to go to big conventions if one is not a published writer? Is all the schmoozing pretty much big names hanging out with each other in private parties, or would someone like me have a chance to meet and chat with all the various authors there?

I have a friend who is trying to convince me that I should go to Denvention. In particular, he indicates that it could help me find someone interested in my writing. Does that really happen, or is that a myth?