This was a panel from my first go-round at Dragoncon, and it was a really fun one–both because the Tolkien track at Dragoncon really sets things up well, and because the turnout at these things is insanely crazy. I got the chance to focus on redemption in LOTR and Star Wars, and it was a fascinating experience to delve into the aspects of work which (though I love Star Wars) I hadn’t analyzed in detail before. In the end, Tolkien and Lucas were much more similar in various aspects of their stories than I had expected them to be.
I’ve done a few of these sorts of talks over the last couple of years, corresponding to my own (I hope) increasing presence in the genre and my branching out into other fields of endeavor (such as streaming on TwitchTV. Here Kris Siuda (lead developer for the Icarus video game) and I talk about combining fan bases and building an online presence, and using your specific promotional strengths (short version: not just Facebook posts) to improve your work’s visibility. We had a great turnout for this talk, and I really enjoyed the response we got (and Wizard World runs a tight ship, too).
This panel was a bit of a surprise for me, as Cathy Hird, Gail Martin, Peter Prellwitz, and I looked at portals, doors, links between worlds, and spaces–which meant I got to talk a lot about liminal space, a topic near and dear to the academic part of my heart, something I hadn’t expected to be able to do. In general this was a really thought-provoking panel, the sort of conversation I love to be a part of at conventions like this.
This panel wrapped up a very busy Saturday for me at Norwescon as I moderated a panel on writing effective and believable dialogue with fellow authors and panelists Tori Centanni, Cymbric Early-Smith, Carol Berg, Patrick Swenson and the inimitable Simon R. Green. Among other topics we chatted about the differences between spoken and written dialogue, differentiating character voices, and the importance of reading and listening to dialogue, and I admit that I hadn’t expected the panel to be as funny (for me and, I think, the audience) and informative as it turned out to be.
I wasn’t expecting attendance for this panel to be overwhelming, but in fact the room was standing room only as Steven Barnes, Susan DeFreitas, Matt Youngmark, Mike Selinker and I spent almost an hour tackling the finer points of plot structure: different forms, modes, uses, how and why we care so much about plot, does it override the characterizations, and so on. As it turned out, the lively audience and panelist interaction made this one of my favorite panels from the 2015 edition of Norwescon.
This was an interesting panel on avoiding the dreaded pitfall of “putting things off until some indeterminate later time,” a particular problem for authors. Nina Post, Jennifer Brozek, Stephanie Herman, Kevin Scott, Harold Gross and I (pretty sizable group for an hour long panel) talked quite a bit about why we tend to procrastinate and strategies for getting back on track–along with some fairly serious discussion on listening to your best inner voice, not your “you’re terrible and everyone knows it” one.
I really enjoyed this panel, a discussion of war and peace (and the movements between those conditions) in speculative fiction. Timothy Zahn, David Mack, Mike McPhail and I spent the better part of an hour talking about ways to render war and conflict both on the macro level, and how real life war and peace necessarily flows into our writing about the same topics in our fiction. We weren’t one hundred percent in agreement (not surprisingly), but the conversation was both civil and productive, and my favorite one from Farpoint this year.
This was a really interesting panel at World Fantasy (which tends to have a lot of them) on the subject of place and geography in fantasy fiction. Joshua Palmatier, Marie Brennan, Robert Redick, Max Gladstone, Siobhan Carroll and I spent about an hour looking at the way various fantasy novels consider the subject of place and environment in a number of different ways. I’ve always been fascinated by place and space (in fact that subject made up much of my early academic work), and the conversation here was a really enjoyable one. A word of warning–we were placed in some random area of a larger floor, and so the audio quality is not optimal.
This was an interesting panel on the difference between twists vs. gimmicks, and how authors can use the twist (not the gimmick!) to hold and heighten the reader’s interest. Brian McClellan, Howard Andrew Jones, Don Bingle, Cassandra Rose Clark and I also talked about the distinctions between twists and gimmicks, and how the sometimes unfortunate transition of the former to the latter should be avoided at all costs…and how to do that in practical terms.
This was a topic I hadn’t had the chance to talk about before in a public setting, and I found it really interesting to watch Aaron Rosenberg, Jaym Gates, Bill Willingham and I try to hash out what the monomyth actually is as opposed to how it is often presented. We disagreed quite a bit at the beginning of the panel, but I think by the end (of the hero’s journey, he said not so cleverly) we were actually more in agreement than otherwise. (I was also jazzed about the whole thing since my band’s second album was entitled Monomyth, but that fact wasn’t particularly relevant to the panel…)