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Semi-Stale Worldcon Partial Report



Sat, 9am: Author Reading: Greer Gilman, Catherynne M. Valente

Josh and I made this one bright and early, not least because the con suite in the Delta had genuine bagels and cold cuts. My notes say that Catherynne Valente is working on an Arthurian novel, fully illustrated, due out at World Fantasy. I also have a note about a limited edition of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I know that she and Greer Gilman mentioned a couple of other things they were working on, but I don't have notes on that.

Sat, 10 am: WSFS Business Meeting

This was actually a lot of fun. The chair did a good job of keeping things moving and making sure that the newcomers could follow what was going on and participate. He explained the rules of the debate. Each side had equal time to speak, and, I think he said that folks should not interrupt to correct factual errors.

Chair: I know how frustrating this is, but debate need not be factual.

Someone: And you may bring your own tofu if you want to.

Someone: I can lie if I want to.

That said, I don't believe anyone told deliberate untruths. The debate on the semi-prozine remained extremely civil, and I'm happy that the award will be kept. But, I'm also very glad that there's a committee working on fixing the definitions of some of the categories.

Sat, 11 am: What are the French Books We Should be Reading?
Elisabeth Vonarburg, Donald M. Hassler, Jean-Claude Dunyach, Laurent Genefort

I came in halfway through this one, and I had an additional disadvantage: I found it very hard to parse the French titles people mentioned well enough to figure out what to write down. Fortunately, a couple of people let me photograph their notes. My own are sparse.

Babylon AD
Steampunk: There's a musketeer story, the first in the chapbook we all got when we picked up a badges.
Noosfere website
Look for what's won the various awards. There are three main types of awards.
Spitz. Translated at least once in English

Elisabeth Vonarburg. In the Mother's Land

Donald Hassler seeing two themes. Territoriality. Family romance: inclusion / exclusion.

Christian Sauve. Writes in both. (I think this means both languages.)
English is an infinitely programmable language. You can make it do whatever you want.

Fortress -- Banchard

Horror writer whose name I didn't catch. Canada's Stephen King.

alire.com

Yves Meynard. I was sad that there's no English translation of most of his stuff. Ironically, he wrote Book of Knights, which I adored, in English, and only later translated it into French.

Tesseracts Q

Some question of what works best left untranslated.

Hassler said that the dominant metaphor is gastronomical.

The new [illeg]

Hitchhiker's Guide to French SF

Sat, 12:30: Inspiration, Homage or Appropriation
Ada Palmer, Lev Grossman, Kaaron Warren, Kij Johnson

LG described his novel, The Magician, as an intellectual pissing match with C. S. Lewis.

KJ has three novels, The Fox Wife, Fudoki, and Lost in the Mists of Time (Star Trek -- is it actually out yet?). She is currently working on a novel about Tashkent 1778, and one about investment banking.

The why am I here on this panel question: Maybe because people don't always make a distinction between first world alternate history and secondary worlds? She noted -- as we all were noting, silently -- that everyone on the panel was white Indo-Europeans.

Frustrated at lack of economics of fantasy worlds. Not just exchange of money, but also exchange of goods. Alternative systems picked up from other writings.

LG: Realism in fantasy panel (I think he had come from this). There is more and more requirement of the genre that fantasy worlds have internal logic. Tolkienian strain of world building from principles (Tolkien focused on language), and then build it up from that principle. Lewis strain -- just did whatever they hell they want.

[Note to self: It seems to me that there's a strain -- Lewisian or overlapping both Tolkien and Lewis -- of a moral grounding. This becomes the, or at least one of the, founding principles.]

Audience: Heard of the hard / soft fantasy division.

LG: Larry Niven's fantasy. Warlock stories, magic as a natural resource. Magic projected into the economy [something about the structure or the culture].

[Note to self: The dichotomy between the desire for Hacking / Cleverness and Emotional / Moral. These are hardly exclusive, of course.]

KJ: Grata exempla weasel people.

[Note to self: Greer Gilman's comment from an earlier panel on folklore vs myth]

AP: Studying details, give other plot threads. Manga / anime audiences don't seem to mind lack of consistency.

Audience: As opposed to transferable Star Wars [or that's what it looks like I wrote]

KW: Real cultures are proven to work in the real world. The rituals have been tested.

KJ: Hal Clement plotting. Pushing characters and alliances through [illeg] settings. Why outsider comes in.

Audience: Not stop to think about [illeg] culture.

LG: Can it be too rule dominated? Does it remove wonder? Many past rules -- to deeper locking that can't be quantified.

AP: And how is that not a rule?

Audience: Not necessary to express all rules to the reader.

KJ: Challenge of the Exception for any fantasy world.

Me: Both sets.

AP: Strictly defined [Either "Theodyssey" or "The Odyssey"]

Audience: Rules in our won world change. Galileo. Can we break the sound barrier? Now we know -- yes.

KJ: We don't know all the rules of an internal combustion engine -- or at least, we don't think about it.

Audience: Scientific world view.

[Note to self: Ah! As opposed to anime / magic]

KW: What happens when someone dies?

AP: Death customs being a great way to figure out what a culture values. [Quote from whom? Gibbon?] North Europe focuses on the first year anniversary of the dead. Corpse still [illeg].

South Europe not so much. Not the tech for [illeg].

In Japan, your spirit can haunt someone even if you are alive.

Audience: Sometimes, horror comes from the rules. "The Lottery", Shirley Jackson. "With Folded hands", Jack Williamson.

AP: Twist: You thought that the rule was X, and it turns out to be Y.

Aud: Star Trek: "For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky".

KJ: James Gunn -- All sf is [illeg] from Mary Shelley on. True of fantasy. For years, all about Tolkien. Now, last 15 years, it's broken out.

Audience: Appropriating question.

KW: For Australian -- Aborigines. no white author will go anywhere near them. We don't want to get it wrong. But, then we don't have any aboriginal characters.

KJ: The race fail discussions. Most useful advice, from Mary Anne Mohanraj: You will get it wrong, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.

Audience: Do we have a working definition of appropriation?

The chili pepper is vital to India and China, but it comes from South America.

AP: There are not cultures that [illeg] off a great deal.

LG: Context is important

Audience: Idealizations of cultures that aren't your own?

Mix and match culture ideas?

[Notes to myself: Tolkien's Rohirrim, the Tondekemon episode set in King Arthur's court]

AP: Invaluable literary tool. Challenges your own culture. E.g., first [illeg] Persian letters (all made up). Incredibly powerful tool -- it got folks wondering about the Persians.

KJ: Idealized Other gives us a safe way to explore cultures which might scare us. But had to slap down three people in writing workshop for "Our X-Skinnned brothers".

Audience: ?

AP: Make youre intention clear to the reader. E.g., "I know that X is not true, but for my purposes..."

[E.g., Nigel D. Findley's into to his Chill supplement, Voodoo, where he says up front that he's using Movieland Voodoo, not the real world religions. While I'd rather he didn't do that, I do appreciate his being very clear about what he was and wasn't doing.]

And communicate respect and intention, not disrespect.

KJ: Uncle Tom's Cabin is bone racist, but a noble attempt at communication.

Audience: Interesting afterword to Charles de Lint's Mulengro, written before cultural appropriation dialogue became so big.

Audience: Questions about author's assumptions. Assume European audience. As transgender, X books are not for you. Us Books vs Them Books.

Audience: The King and I -- the Uncle Tom play has several layers of inaccuracy. Not a very accurate portrayal of Thai culture. Anna Leonowens's own memoirs had biases too, of course. She was a suffragette, anti-slavery, and she made up a lot to sell more books.

[Cf. wikipedia reference]

E.g., the graphic novel Rose of Versailles, a Japanese manga set in Marie Antoinette's France, we laugh at the inaccuracy of French characters committing seppuku.

KJ: I read a lot of diaries from several cultures.
--Tolkien
--inside / outside

However much, you'll get something wrong. When is enough research enough?

AP: Eggs of parasites found -- everyone in Europe was in constant intestinal pain. The nobles even more so, from data from the privies.

KJ: Eleanor Arnason puts toilets in her books.

Audience: Original Star Trek show had a 5 year mission, 400 people, and no bathrooms.

AP: So toilets and [illeg -- looks like "socks"] are now political, calling attention.

All Quiet on the Western Front has the most famous toilet scene in Western Literature.

Me: Good point about appropriation. Where does one stop research?

KJ: Good question. Investment banking is all white [at the top]. If I made a Hispanic banker, it would be all about his being Hispanic, by definition. [illeg -- looks like she's saying that two of her characters pretty much have to be white] Everyone else doesn't have to be white.

How do we do it so [illeg]

Me: And so it doesn't suck [I think that's what I wrote]

KW: So it's about the story -- not these issues.

Audience: Get consultants. "I'm trying. What have I missed? What do I need?"

KJ: Caveat: No one has the duty to be our token X who we give it to to vet. It's a wonderful thing if someone will. But, it is not their duty.

Same Audience as above: If you're going for depth, it is your obligation to find someone to vet it.

--Isn't always comfortable
--Doesn't always have to be

Shogun Macbeth
Clytemnestra Japanese

KJ: Most great literature comes from discomfort.

Audience: Good idea if you can get a beta reader for X. You as a writer want a larger audience.

KJ: Highest praise from a first generation woman reading her book: "It felt Japanese". But, there is no such thing as the Japanese. The next Japanese reader in line might say I got it all wrong.

The more respectful you are, the more likely folks will be to help.

Audience: Not about not offending -- about getting the book better.

Audience: Can't not offend.

Audience: Satire wants to offend.

Audience: As opposed to not even trying.

KJ: Where do we draw lines for ourselves?

LG: First draft of The Magician, worried that he was too aggressive toward Narnia. Folks said no, it was not sufficiently aggressive. Too close to plagiarism. Anyway, Lewis is so cruel to his own creation.

KW: Lacking link in other culture, I am the other as the only western person.

KJ: Not just race / color / gener -- neighborhood <-- define. "All X are Y -- except the ones in my neighborhood".

AP: SF & F can invent a group and not offend everyone. [illeg] to make up aliens.

KW: Slights Mistification

LG: Codex

[LG had copies of a small booklet with the first chapter of The Magician, the first of that sort of item I've ever actually read. I like chapter one enough to want to read more.]
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