Notes from WorldCon 2016: Day Two

Enjoying urban fantasy

  • diana rowland: white trash zombie
  • melissa f olson: tor.com novellas
  • what do you like about uf?
    • city as character
    • looking at things just a little differently
    • what if your gross terrible neighbor was a real monster?
    • a way to crack open the puzzle of the weird world we’re in and understand it better
    • it’s a way to be sneaky: can talk about deep things in a fun way, with people that don’t notice
    • perception: history has been edited down from multiple conflicting perspectives; urban fantasy lets you deal with these different perspectives for more immediate events
    • no real bad guy: bad guy is someone pursuing their goals in a fanatical sense, still think they’re the good guys
    • people are always writing urban fantasy from their primary experience; in feudal days it was fears from lord of the manor, today it’s shopping malls and steelworks (instead of fairy rings)
    • changeling stories are ufo kidnapping stories, just told in a different time
    • uf is the intersection of contemporary fiction and fantasy fiction
    • danger: to cover over real experience with a fantasy gloss; example: the magical homeless people of the 80s)
    • can use unreliable narrators to try to avoid the problems with covering over messy experience
  • why first person?
    • immediacy
    • tight perspective
    • noir influence: almost all first person, huge influence on urban fantasy and its style
  • adrian mcinty: leicht’s favorite irish noir writer
  • rowland: j d robb’s books

Finance for writers

  • put 40% away for federal govt, 10% for state, pay quarterly income taxes estimate, will usually get something back at the end of the year
  • most first books don’t make back their $5,000 advance
  • don’t quit your day job, even after signing tge first contract
  • some contracts don’t last past 2 or 3 books
  • not a steady income
  • be careful with your money; lots of authors aren’t good with their money
  • get good agent: writers tend to not read contracts, approach it very emotionally; good agent will catch things and get you the best deal possible
  • okay to lose money on your craft at first, but have a budget and be aware of it
  • spend money on your craft (take classes, do workshops) and your network (attending cons, etc)
  • but: if you’re at cons, write down what you want to accomplish before you go
  • if you self-publish, spend money on quality: an editor and a cover designer; everything else you can half-ass, but not those
  • keep all receipts for your craft in a shoebox, use them (plus your spreadsheet) to fill out your schedule c for your taxes
  • if you don’t make a profit every seven years, the irs considers it a hobby, not a business
  • average income for writers is $5,000
  • don’t quit your day job until you have 2 years’ worth of living expenses saved up
  • rule one: write, finish, send it out
  • one benefit of incorporating is the ability to defer income from one year to the next (should you score the $70,000 advance)
  • 78% success rate for publishing projects on kickstarter if they get 25 backers; difference between people that are prepared and know what they’re doing and those who don’t
  • bud: turns profit every 5 years; how? Doesn’t report all his expenses that year
  • lots of ways to use kickstarter: events, book tours, playgrounds inspired by literature, self-pubbing books, magazines; can get really creative
  • margot: think of marketing as sharing these stories you’re passionate about with others and inviting them in, not “selling yourself”

Idiot’s Guide to Publishing

  • all scifi community on genie network at the time
  • doctorow hadn’t written a novel yet, so got karl involved
  • patrick: liked it because it was very practical
  • rejectomancy: shouldn’t read too much into rejections; form rejection could be from someone that loved it but didn’t have time, personal could be from someone that doesn’t like the story but likes you personally
  • schroeder: never sold any short stories to the magazines, has only ever sold stories to anthologies
  • at the time, discussion over ebooks concerned fact that they never go out of print, so publishers argue that they don’t have to revert the rights to the author
  • would not try to write today, because has no idea how to get into the field now

Nifty Narrative Tricks

  • bear: what character is like matters less than how you handle the character
  • kowal: people want the familiar in the strange; familiar makes you feel smart, the strange is compelling; when have character engaged in activity or emotion that readers find familiar, then when i engage them in something weird they already have a hook
  • kelly: characterize people by what they own. before walking them on stage, go into their room, or their car: what’s there? is it messy? neat? what’s hanging on the walls? bonus: gives you things to use later in the plot
  • walton: writers get some things for free, and some things they have to learn; easy to teach the things you learned, but almost impossible to teach the things you got for free; she got interesting characters for free, so…story is contract with reader, try to get what story is right up front so reader doesn’t feel betrayed
  • bear: beginning writers make mistake of writing passive characters
  • bear: give the character something to love; instantly makes them more engaging
  • gould: best way to intro tech is to show it when it breaks down; very engaging to intro character when frustrated
  • kowal: frustration will show what character wants, what they love, and give you a measure of their competence
  • kowal: figure out what character wants, and smartest way for them to get it, and then you block off that way (and keep blocking off ways)
  • walton: __ starts with character really having to go to the bathroom while giving speech on history; is pure exposition but you don’t care because you sympathize with having to use the restroom
  • walton: farmer in the sky (heinlein) has similar trick, with tons of worldbuilding done in describing a father and son making dinner
  • term: incluing
  • kelly: how can you tell beginning from middle from end? beginning -> middle: character goes through one way door, and can’t get back to the start; middle -> end: character goes through another one-way door, and story has to end one way or another
  • kowal: stakes are something particular to the character; we’re all going to die, so death is not great stakes; “you’re going to lose your right foot” is more personal
  • kowal: focus indicates thought; what you’re looking at is what you’re thinking about; rhythm and breath: same action at different speed gives you different emotion; how long you linger on something shows how important it is to the character
  • walton: pacing very different between genres; same story told at different pacing can change the genre of the book
  • kelly: look at the story; if you see a section of solid text or solid dialog, that’s probably a pacing problem
  • common mistakes?
    • bear: starting with bloodbath, before you care about the characters
    • kelly: end of story is not the climax, you need a moment for the character to come to grips with what the climax means for them
    • gould: leave some things for the reader to figure out from context
    • kowal: starting with way too much backstory; solve by getting deeper into point of view
    • walton: too fuzzy, character not in focus; can fix by switching to first person, forces you to focus on personal experience
  • walton: often rushes endings, has to go back in and fix pacing after draft finished
  • kowal: best trick: dumping exposition into a sex scene
  • kelly: world-building will happen almost without trying; less you can do of it, the better

Evolution of Epic Fantasy

  • tessa grafton: the united states of asgard
  • sarah beth durst: queen of blood
  • epic fantasy: need close in shots, and medium shots, and landscape shots, all mixed in
  • leicht: research into irish time of troubles taught her everything involved in world-building: how economics is tied to politics is tied to religion is tied to class is tied to language
  • kate elliott: crown of stars
  • leicht: viking skeletons found in bogs: no one checked if they were male or female; many of them (warriors) are female
  • elliott: archeologists finding statues mostly female, labeled one male statue as priest-king and all female as just “fertility”, then were mystified as to why they kept finding female statues

Notes From WorldCon 2016: Day One

Writing fight scenes

  • perspective of character that has been in a fight versus one that never has is completely different. People who experience regular combat (bouncer) have different frame of mind and see things differently
  • also person not in fight can see things that those in the fight can’t
  • can use training sequence to describe the moves in great detail, and then keep it brief when the actual fight happens
  • daily exercises or training routine can serve a similar purpose
  • fight’s aftermath: talk to emts and paramedics about the kinds and causes of trauma they’ve seen
  • think of fight musically, with rhythm of blows and building to resolution in a limited amount of time
  • don’t forget: characters that have been in a fight are going to carry injuries with them for rest of book
  • remember that fight is happening because of conflict, two or more characters that want different things, and they’ll be thinking about their goals during the fight

50 years of star trek

  • people knock the new movies, but even old movies were often about finding someone to fight instead of exploring; classic series had fights, but central theme was exploration and making friends
  • jar jar abrams
  • star trek at its best when its about discovery and making friends
  • what would you want in new series? snodgrass and gerrold: shut down holodeck (or find out it causes cancer)
  • no media? snodgrass: they tried, wrote episode where they showed wesley’s cabin, with pinups on wall, and they were not allowed to show it
  • snodgrass: in original series, their time in rec room created sense that they liked each other and hung out together; she created the poker game in next generation because she felt that was missing
  • snodgrass: please ditch the bodysuits from TNG, they limited who they could cast in each role because they were not forgiving; much prefer the uniforms from the first few movies
  • star trek: new voyages: fanmade series that gerrold did an episode for
  • star trek: continues: finn fancy necromancy author really lovesĀ it
  • could we do non starship star trek? Gerrold: yes, if about star trek academy, or federation council, etc
  • house of picards

As you know, bob

  • hiding the infodump: article in april 2015 analog
  • tamora pierce: works in genre where extra exposition gets cut mercilessly
  • “teenagers pay my bills, i don’t explode them” pierce
  • exposition can get too detailed because in first draft writers are figuring out what’s happening as they write it. It’s fine, so long as they take it out later
  • know as much about your background as possible, tell as little about it as you can get away with
  • know your audience: some them can really get into detailed exposition, while others will skip it
  • don’t load it in as a block, slip it in as part of the action, because it’s fatal
  • tnh: expository chunks can happen because authors with clout can be late, and rather than push book release out, editors will edit book less than they normally would because they ran out of time
  • tnh: don’t tell people things before they want to know it; rowling is a great example of how to do it right: she intros sorting hat as just talking hat, only later introduces other properties when they’re needed
  • conflict can also be a driving force of exposition
  • or: new guy comes in, has to have everything explained to them
  • pierce: usually starts with character at cusp of new phase of life, transition drives exposition, will drip exposition into story as it goes, have characters act it out rather than infodump
  • tnh: technical master of exposition of our time is joss whedon; watch first few minutes of serenity, within ten minutes you know everything you need to know about the universe
  • pierce: early stephen king, elizabeth bear
  • jodi shapiro: new books, well done exposition and context
  • reader can infer a lot from context, can trust them more than you think
  • when chapter has ended, preferably with a hook, it’s clear that something new is coming, you can get away with slipping a little omniscient viewpoint exposition in there
  • tnh: get a 14-yr-old beta reader. Their brains are fully developed but they don’t have any tact
  • tactic: when people are angry, they’ll state obvious things (“look! Water *is* wet!”)
  • tnh: every time you explain something to the audience, you give them a chance to argue with you; great example is time machine: don’t explain how it works, because they don’t, tell me how it smells, how much cargo it can carry, how much time it needs to recharge between trips

How to write a mystery

  • clues can be great, but if characters aren’t three-d, will feel hollow
  • misdirection: all clues have to be there, but distract reader at same time
  • mystery great tool for other genres, can reveal aspects of world for spec fic using mystery tools
  • why is it important that characters solve this?
  • would this mystery have happened in any other world? What does this crime reveal about the greater society and the people that live in it?
  • harris: beat, beat, beat; explication, explication, boom! Follow the rhythm of the book
  • try/fail cycle: characters try something, fail, try something else, fail, etc
  • harris: have to provide false suspects, but not so many that you wonder why the victim didn’t get killed earlier
  • harris: when you have something that you think is too mean to do to your characters, you should do it!
  • small mystery and large mystery: can add texture to the book; small mystery small stakes, answer can be humorous; can also tie the two mysteries together, link the two mysteries
  • thematic echo: guinea pig squealing in the night out of fear; person had murdered another because they thought (wrongly) that they were being threatened
  • turn tropes on their head to try to get something new (no more detectives with tortured pasts)
  • harris: people love to talk about what they do. Undertakers? Don’t nobody ask them what they do.
  • amateur detective: has to have compelling reason to get involved and not leave it to the police
  • randall garreth; darcy series
  • the last policeman
  • nora roberts’ detective novels set in the future
  • do you read mysteries? Yes, all the time; new j d robb; anne bishops’s written in blood series; expanse series by james a corey; mike connolly; steven hunter; stewart mcbride; ben aaronovich rivers of london series

Crafting and Editing the Short Story

  • how involved are you in the process?
  • datlow: will buy imperfect stories, but will dig in and ask for changes, work with author to make it better; harder with new writers that may not take editing well
  • clarke: take everything from slush, always open to submissions, often working with new authors more; will work with author if they believe in the story
  • uncanny: usually buy more fully-cooked stories; there are enough submissions that they just don’t take the story if they don’t think it’s ready
  • swartzmann: often buy ready stories, but will sometimes pluck out a rough diamond and polish it, which makes him very very happy
  • williams: will work more with authors she hasn’t seen before; still rare though
  • what stops you from reading?
  • datlow: bad writing
  • swartzmann: pacing
  • uncanny: has to care about the characters
  • clarke: zombies…really anything that indicates they haven’t read the market guidelines
  • datlow: have to want to spend time with the character; don’t make them boring
  • what about problem endings?
  • datlow: usually means 3/4 of the way through they took a wrong turn
  • clarke: very frustrating for good story to have bad ending
  • uncanny: the sigh of having given up on a story
  • williams: wait to send stories out; your subconscious can come up with things to improve it if you give it a chance
  • uncanny: problem she often sees is the tendency to describe everything instead of only the things relevant to plot and characters
  • datlow: not supposed to do talking head stories, but can use descriptions of events around them to prevent it from being boring
  • clarke: seek out slush reading opportunities; good way to see what’s out there and what mistakes people make
  • williams: buys 6 stories a month; receives around 1,000 submissions a month
  • swartzmann: in humor, don’t try too hard, and make sure reader can enjoy story even if they don’t find it funny
  • uncanny: take chances, don’t reproduce what you see out there
  • datlow: humor a harder sell for her because she usually doesn’t find it funny
  • uncanny: many stories are bittersweet, so will look for whimsy to lighten the mood

Mind of villains

  • psychopaths are born not made
  • reactive attachment disorder comes from environment, inconsistent caregiving before age of 2
  • not good or bad caregiving, just inconsistent
  • passed around from caregiver to caregiver, start to view people as providers of services, not worthwhile as individuals
  • pdf from doj on problems with criminal justice in the united states
  • most psychopaths choose to follow the rules of society for their own benefit
  • if you have a psychopath as your villain, you need something to kick them out of their natural rule-following
  • don’t know what fear is or what love is
  • but can have long-term relationships or get married, just don’t feel love
  • 10% of murders in US are committed by children (under 18)
  • kids released at 21 have no higher incidence of crime as adults than anyone else
  • children kill for different reasons than adults; when take them out of that environment, they stop (take them out of abuse, teach them anger control, etc)
  • in court cases, often someone sitting in the back crying; usually the mother; “why are they picking on my child?”
  • hitler attached to his dog, attached to his cousin; would he have had anyone killed if he’d gotten into art school?
  • there’s a way to raise a psychopath: reward good behavior immediately and punish bad behavior immediately; give them the praise that they crave
  • BTK killer was church leader, good husband, good father
  • tend to see people that do evil as “really” evil: he was a good father but really he was a serial killer. It’s not but really, it’s *and*.
  • most people that do evil are people, with good and bad that they do
  • bones is a great example (in early seasons) of a successful psychopath
  • psychopaths are normal: 1 out of 100 people is one
  • psychopaths can empathize with other people
  • if you call psychopaths on their bs, they’ll try to spin it with them as victims or play it off as an accident
  • psychopathy and high intelligence are not correlated, but intelligence and being in prison is: prison population of us is more intelligent than general pop (though with lower education level)

Wednesday Grab Bag: Sad Puppies

Background:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/04/06/the-hugo-awards-gamergate-edition-2015/

Human Shields, Cabals and Poster Boys

http://grrm.livejournal.com/420090.html

I think if these tactics had been used to ensure that only women got nominated for the Hugos this year, or that only PoC did, the Sad Puppies wouldn’t see that as right or fair.

I also think that they had — still have, I guess — a chance to act on their feelings of rejection in a positive way, by starting their own convention. No one could fault them if they started a Con that promoted the authors they prefer, nor would anyone be this mad if they’d launched their own awards at that Con.