Before I leap madly into catching up with chores around here, a few explanations and so forth.
My summation of the con? It was, this intense, sprawling, disorganized, mad conversation that ranged over hours, with people coming and going, sometimes in the formal setting of the panels and breaking out of it. This is not just exhilarating, but necessary. Even though it has its irritations--like being blown off (again) by X, and hearing Y, who really should know better, say from a panel what sounded to me like (and context is everything, see below) "Oh, those horse and castle fantasies--they're all exactly the same. I haven't been able to read them because they are indistinguishable from one another--nothing new for the past twenty years." My first thought, "You haven't read any because they are all the same, is that judging books by covers?" Though he did reference one he'd began, and it felt like others he'd read--so . . . that means they are all the same? Second thought was, "Is this a jab at women writing epic fantasy?" Another irritation was missing several people I'd wanted to meet up with but we never seemed to get into the same physical space--and when I finally caught up with one, it was at moment when so much else was going on we barely had a chance to communicate.
But. The exchange of ideas, the correction of misapprehensions, the new ideas, the sense that others are in the same boat on this or that issues--that is as necessary as food and air.
Funny moment. I'm in a conversation with an editor who started as a junior aid in publishing when young, and was telling some crackup stories about various happenings in publishing of the past. Then a name of an author now dead came up, and I said, "I heard he was a nutbar."
The editor looked at me, and there was this suppressed mirth, the lips slightly parted, the hold-the-breath hesitation, and I said, "What. No, I know. You're about to say, 'You writers are all
nutbars.'" And hoo boy, then came the laugh!
From the comments and a couple of emails I see how easy it is to misstate, or to lead to false conclusions, especially when just throwing down quick summaries without the context, etc. No vocal tone. You know how it is.
So a few things.
First, the "Mormons" question.
I clearly made a mistake by conflating conversations, and what happened at panels, at Sirens, with conversations early on at WFC. In my head, there's this jumble of voices and images, and sometimes I see patterns ranging across these differing moments and start yapping as though everyone sees them, too.
First issue: the sense that many readers, especially feminists, on hearing Stephenie Meyer's background, began reading that background into the books. (Compare early reviews, when nothing is said about Meyer at all, to later, when there are reviews that assume an LDS ideology being sekritly fed to girls in order to turn them into Stepford wives. Yes, I am being sarcastic, but yes, I did come away from reading some reviews that bring up the M word in this manner, and also I heard some people speak pretty much in those terms. Including at a panel at Sirens.)
Second issue--"Mormons" and science fiction and fantasy. Actually, I think there is an awesome panel topic here, because there are a lot
of hot new writers on the scene who are, or have been, members of the LDS church. How do they deal with the negative vibe from the genre? How do they deal with the more conservative element of the church, who may look askance at the spec fic world? Why are there so many fantasy and SF writers from the LDS community--is the yearly con at BYU, "Life, the Universe, and Everything," the inspiration? I've been to that con--it was a fantastic experience. [See above about WFC]
Sidenote and plea: I so hope this topic is not going to loose off a spew of LDS-hate; the church has its range of voices and points of view just like every other segment of society. And Us Against Them lines aren't always so easy to draw if one strives to understand and not just to condemn--for example, take a look at the spewage aimed at Orson Scott Card after he wrote sympathetically about a gay character
--I've always loved this book for the way he just pegs what music can do to you. Anyway, I think there is a possible interesting discussion here.
Second clarification and its context.
Bad editors. Actually, I should have said there were two conversations, one about rude
editors, and how writers have to take it and pretend not to notice the slamdunk, because bitching about it online is sure to make it real tough to sell anything.
And yes, I know that there are rude writers. See above about past writers who were . . . not known for their elegant manners. At WFC I experienced this enormous sense of relief
to be among a bunch of writers who felt they could finally talk about vexing issues without the shadow of public exposure that is a big part of being online. And some of what we expressed was that anxiety-making sense of being helpless about series cutoffs, crap advances, phone calls never returned, weather-vane vibes, etc.
O am fully aware that three tables away, four editors sitting in head-bent, earnest conversation could very well have been core dumping about writers who are late, who turn in messes, who rant about more money when their books just aren't selling, who post crazed riffs that cause an avalanche of necessary cleanup, and the editors have to sit lip-buttoned.
The potential for adversarial tensions resulting from being on either side of the negotiating table is a part of this life. It is good to be able to share, to vent, to get your perspective straight--it does not mean that the talkers all go away with the conviction that "all editors are bad."
Okay, now there was also
a conversation about bad editors. The crux of this one was noting who didn't stay long in the business, and why they would want to edit when they don't actually know how to edit. How did they get there--the whole "got a business degree, and books are widgets" thing--editors who are strategic editors--that is, see the whole story, and those who are tactical, that is, really get in at the prose level, and different editing styles--who's been around a long time, and whose editorial viewpoint seems to have changed over the decades. When writers edit.
Last, YA, YA versus general genre, when writers (some encouraged by editors) write YA. The context of this one was a friend (who can speak up here or not as they choose) who has a long backlist of adult work, who is thinking of commencing YA. Whom to approach about that proposal? Will that long backlist work for or against the writer? Who is actively seeking YA--editors in both YA and general--whose lines are working and not led to a discussion of what makes YA work, and what doesn't--and why some books read like adult (are the kids reading them?) and some don't, and why some fail but they should have taken off. My example was Graham Joyce's delicately spiky The Exchange
--here's this terrific writer for adults who really pegged a teen book. I liked that book, but more to the point, I could see myself checking it out several times as a teen, as I tried to assimilate it all. Why isn't it a big seller? It should be! We talked about this kind of thing the entire weekend long--in fact, I would say that there was a YA subtheme to my experience of the con.
Anyway, there was a lot of consensus, as Melinda Lo commented on yesterday's post, on emotional immediacy being a key ingredient. She didn't write Ash
aimed at the teen readership, nor did Cindy Pon intend to write a YA with Silver Phoenix
--but someone saw the potential to reach teen readers, and was right. So we, a bunch of writers, were talking round and around about this.
Then yesterday, I had breakfast with someone who has that strategic vision--has always has, but it seems to me from my distant vantage to have gotten sharper over the years. She said she knew first thing out the gate that Harry P (and Twilight) would be big enough sellers to cross into social phenoms. She said they had all the markers--and my thought is, a lot of those markers are "wish fulfilment" and "accessibility." She also described that tension between the things that sell big and the things that we readers might love passionately, but which sell for beans, as the conflict between story and art. They do not have to be mutually exclusive--Pride and Prejudice
still works because it's a brilliant marriage between story and art. Lord of the Rings
But even being conscious of this tension doesn't give a magic recipe for success.
Okay, I think I got it all done--now to work off the calories from the DAW dinner Saturday night, which was absolutely fantastic (food and company) and get cracking.
First, a couple of really nifty links--after a reminder that thistleingrey
has put up some superb panel reports. From randwolf
and the Symphony of Science from from estara