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Fantastic Females – writers discuss feminism at WorldCon

Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger

It is perhaps no surprise to hear some excellent points of view when a panel includes Gail Carriger, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Glenda Larke, Delia Sherman, Catherynne Valente and Alaya Johnson. AussieCon4 was a great event and it is a shame panel discussions like this one did not receive wider distribution.

Alaya Johnson

Alaya Johnson

Many on the panel write and also read and review a wide range of fantasy and speculative fiction, including Young Adult (YA). Tansy summed up the frustration of noticing a lack of feminist content in many fantasy and spec fic books. Alaya had a strong interest in a female buddy theme but, more particularly, “one that worked”.

Tansy Rayner Roberts

Tansy Rayner Roberts

Gail‘s approach is to use Victorian settings, and the bias of that age, alongside Isis myths as she prefers not to artificially include feminism before its time. Cat wanted to write positive but noticed it could be easier to describe sexist situations and to include sexist characters rather than create something “honest” that reflects a bisexual modern woman.

Cat summed up the views of many of the panel and the audience comments when she said she has no interest in female antagonism but wants realistic characters. Cat was concerned, also, that our culture as a whole is still at 101 while female speculative fiction and YA writers are at 501 already.

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Posted by on September 12, 2010 in Fandom, Social Media, Writing, YA

 

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Cyberpunk and the City – the view from AussieCon4

Commentary with great validity from the 2010 WorldCon echoed many traditional science fiction themes. A panel discussion with Marianne de Pierres, Charles Stross, Russell Blackford and Gord Sellar looked at genres and modern examples.

Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres

Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres`

Although influenced by cyberpunk but suggesting they may not be cyberpunk writers, both Charles and Gord agreed with Marianne on a basic point of view – we are living in a world that is exhibiting phobias brought on by future shock. Examples from the panel and the floor included the seeking of power and the resulting repression and “police security” culture in some countries, and even some states or regions within countries.

Clarkesworld by Gord Sellar

Clarkesworld by Gord Sellar

The “city as a character” was examined, including Gotham and the writing of Dickens, while it was also suggested cities have not achieved their full promise yet. The city need not necessarily be dystopian or bleak although the rise of China and Japan offered potential storylines of cities with vast populations and the impacts on the citizens.

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

The panel also suggested sub-genres, for example biopunk, and books like Shockwave Rider were essentially concerned with people in extreme future shock. The discussion included examples of post-cyberpunk – which has changed organically – but the overview suggested the underlying aesthetic from William Gibson still exists. The themes of fundamentalism, whether political, cultural or religious, inform many steampunk novels, short stories and the related sub-genres.

One stream of discussion wondered if William Gibson and other early writers of cyberpunk were using a personna building methodology and so “punk” is about the writers rather than an integral element of their stories.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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Pitching The Novel – advice from AussieCon4

An important stream of panels at the 2010 WorldCon concentrated on the publishing issues facing authors and artists, including John Berlyne, Simon Spanton, Rowena Cory Daniels and Ginjer Buchanan speaking on how to approach agents and publishers.

The blogs of agents and publishers – plus the Twitter feeds from agents, authors, publishers and editors – are full of advice for new and established writers. Nonetheless the panel gathered together most of the important issues and techniques that now assist authors in their quest for publication.

Rowena Cory Daniels

Rowena Cory Daniels

Rowena is an author and also runs workshops on pitching. Her advice summarised many key requirements of how to approach getting a novel published:

  • define the genre you’re working in
  • create a brief “elevator pitch” and polish it til it shines
  • develop a powerful synopsis
  • determine the market strengths of your work
  • undertake extensive research into agents and publishers

Simon is deputy publishing director at Orion and Gollancz and added some pointers:

  • the novel must be finished
  • never under-value the research into agents and publishers
  • don’t rely solely on pitching
  • use the web or workshops to get your name and work known

John from Zeno literary agency added:

  • the quality of the writer is exhibited in the pitch although that may not accurately reflect the quality of the novel
  • the quality of submission needs to be professional rather than clever
Ginjer Buchanan

Ginjer Buchanan

Ginger is editor in chief at Ace, alongside many other key responsibilities in the publishing empire she inhabits. The advice from the other panelists was underlined repeatedly by Ginjer with a number of humorous anecdotes from her experience.

Ginjer added that pitching to an editor is the same protocol as pitching to an agent, and please desist with bold, underlined, red, green and/or blue “emphasis” (or indeed any other “tricks”) in your pitch documents. While mildly amusing for a moment, such devices do not create a professional impression and may ruin the publication hopes of a well-written novel.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Writing

 

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The Steampunk Playground Within Speculative Fiction

The issues of “what is” and “where is” could be more important to steampunk than the conventional “what if” of science fiction themes, according to Richard Harland, John Berlyne and Jay Lake.

John Berlyne

John Berlyne

In fact, Jay considers steampunk is fantasy rather than science fiction, while Richard pondered whether steampunk is a style rather than a literary movement in itself. Nonetheless the panel said style can continue as a standard and separated steampunk from being just “a fashion” which could be seen as a date-related fad.

Richard Harland

Richard Harland

The panel considered steampunk today is historical and Victorian to a large extent, whereas Wells and Verne were writing contemporaneously so, in a sense, not steampunk although their themes and concerns inform the genre today. The panel also viewed medieval and Dickens and gothic within the style, while suggesting Dune as an archetypal steampunk movie.

Although the writing style exists in its own right, games, costumes, movies and art probably return more revenue than books.

Steampunk requires strength in the characters and in the storylines so it appeals to the eccentric and the non-sterile mindset, and John added that it has a link to raw invention, making it pre-technology to an extent.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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The Eternal Border, a discussion on taboos at the 2010 WorldCon

An AussieCon4 panel including Deborah Biancotti, Richard Harland, Jason Nahrung and Catherynne Valente took a starting point that dark fantasy can push at boundaries and examine various taboos.

Deborah Biancotti

Deborah Biancotti

Deb is a Sydney-based writer, psychology graduate and a dark fantasist who likes “playing with” the taboo of death. She also notices the differences within cultures and how there are many alternatives to a Christian or “western” approach.

Catherynne Valente

Catherynne Valente

Cat has written over a dozen novels and won many awards for her challenging work. She cites Lolita as an example of a work that is so powerful because it is so beautifully written. The skill of Nabokov’s story can be seen as shocking because it implicates the reader. Writing about subjects a particular culture is afraid of can lead to some backlash. Cat mentioned that Americans and Italians, particularly, are not happy if Christian teachings are treated in stories as mythology rather than fact.

Richard’s prolific output includes Steampunk and he mentioned stories with a macabre emphasis, for example involving body parts and also torture, can now be accepted by librarians.

Richard Harland

Richard Harland

Of note was the thought that there are no longer any taboos in comedy or horror, and perhaps speculative fiction and fantasy have reached similar acceptance when dealing with many taboos.

Cat found, however, that what appeared to be autobiographical content distressed a small but nonetheless significant percentage of her audience. Polysexual themes are “accepted in spec fic” however, she said, and suggested that is why there are many poly people in that community.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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Artists’ Paradox of “a knock at the door” at AussieCon4

Cat Sparks, Nick Stathopoulos and Shaun Tan spoke to an enthusiastic audience at one WorldCon 2010 panel, with Kyla Ward acting as moderator.

Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan

Shaun explained a key feature of art, for him, is that it must be interesting, which doesn’t mean overloaded. His own work is often edited and pruned back to the essence of what he wants to express. Shaun also said he prefers indirect rather than literal. All the panel used examples of their own work to explain their approach, with commentary by each other on particular works.

Cat Sparks

Cat Sparks

Cat said she is a graphic designer and not an artist and so was embarrassed to be on panel with “real artists” as she mainly works in collage. Cat has an artist father and she learned from a young age the mechanics of collage. Nick and Shaun believed Cat was being too modest and said many great artists used the collage medium, and that they did also when it suited a project.

Nick Stathopoulos

Nick Stathopoulos

Nick works primarily as an artist although added that for his book cover commissions he will sometimes use digital constructions in PhotoShop. The projects can start as paintings and he may use tools and effects to create a particular result. He doesn’t see this as an issue, merely a new approach for an artist to use when it suits.

A key part of the discussion centred on the way a phrase can be a starting point, yet the result can be extraordinary. The example of how an opening line like “there was a knock at the door” could lead to many interpretations of what type of door, so a starting point of “the knock” being from the inside of a microwave door can lead to interesting and captivating art.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2010 in Art, Fandom, Social Media

 

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AussieCon4 – a ‘science’ failure

AussieCon4 was held at the Melbourne Convention & Entertainment Centre (MCEC) from 2nd-6th Sept 2010, in theory the premier event for science fiction fans around the world. New fans and old were presented with a rich choice of panels and activities over the five days of the Con.

AussieCon4 the world science fiction convention 2010

The world science fiction convention 2010

The facilities were excellent apart from one huge waste. Thousands of people from around the world were gathered in one place at enormous carbon expense. But the enormously rich content from the minds of the collected leading lights of literature and fandom was wasted to an extravagant extent.

The 10 hours approx each day of panel talks, presentations and discussions were allowed to live briefly before they faded into the ether, the first minute evaporating before the second was delivered. This didn’t occur just once each day but at up to FIFTEEN times each hour at the contemporaneous panels.

So around 150 hours of fabulous content was created and crafted each day, then mindlessly allowed to trickle through the enormous gaps of readily available but shockingly unused technology.

This was the 68th year of a SCIENCE fiction convention! The con was held AWAY from 99.99% of the population of the planet! Yet EVERY word spoken and even every image used could have been captured for, at the LEAST, a podcast! WTF fandom! Why this diabolical WASTE!

Even the most perverse dystopia wouldn’t countenance such short-sightedness being perpetrated by assembled geekdom!

MCEC intelligent lectern

MCEC intelligent lectern

This stupendous lack was irritating at the MICRO level as it prevented interested and committed fans – some having travelled thousand of miles – from accessing content from two or three or even four panel discussions, often in ADJOINING rooms on a single floor of a supposedly high-tech venue!

At the MACRO level the 2 or 3 or up to 6 panelists presented around 1,000 hours of rich, mostly unique and definitely VALUABLE thought which was allowed to decay instantly apart from within the minds of just 20 to 50 to 100 attendees! WTF fandom!

SCIENCE fiction? SPECULATIVE fiction? MIND fiction? Sorry fandom but this was MINDLESS waste! Either the technology was there and ignored, or it should have been adapted to provide, at the minimum, a capture of all panel content to use in podcasts and/or streaming.

Steampunk, even, would be able to capture and provide universal access to these lost treasures of thought! The new millennium of fandom, post-2001, has no Odyssey journal to speak of and not even a SINGLE collection of thought – on paper or audio or video – from the live events! WTF FANDOM!

Who? Where? When? What? No-one will ever know!

Who? Where? When? What? No-one will ever know!

The sparkling diamonds of thought from fantasy authors, agents and fans (AAFs) are lost, needlessly wasted alongside the depth of knowledge and commentary that was delivered.

The sharp, finely-honed discussions from science and/or speculative fiction AAFs vanished faster than the speed of light.

The new generation, aka the talented and challenging YA spec fic AAFs, came and delivered and must have watched in amazement as their golden words suffered a half-life of nano seconds. YA expertise at the convention came from many, including Bec Kavanagh, Zoe Walton, Kate Forsyth and Helen Merrick.

Meanwhile, in another room, not that you’ll be able to see or hear, assembled fan luminaries are angry at the LACK OF ACCESS to older print-based fanzines and other types of documentation and memorabilia from decades past!

Even at the celeb level there must have been some frustration that a person sitting on a panel would be unable to hear a transcript of another panel, in many cases with valuable content delivered by their peers or even colleagues.

W T F   F A N D O M !

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing, YA

 

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