Monday, June 3, 2013

ConCarolinas 2013 Report, Day 3

Final day of ConCarolinas – wish it didn’t have to end so soon!

A quick breakfast with friends started the morning, then it was off to the Baen Travelling Road Show. Gray Rinehart hosted, and though the audience was small, we had a great time. The roadshow is a fun display of cover art on old and new books, and a discussion of what’s coming out soon from Baen Books. They have been busy republishing some old classics by authors such as Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein, so these don’t disappear from people’s shelves and awareness.

Timothy Zahn was on hand to introduce his new book in the Cobra trilogy, as well as to talk about that double trilogy and his other project, working in David Weber’s Honor-verse. I was amused by his description of how well thought out and mapped out the Honor-verse has become, leading to his epithet, “Curse you, and your laws of physics and ridiculously over-engineered warships!”

Gray particularly praised a new book, How Dark the World Becomes, by Frank Chadwick, which Gray pulled out of the slush pile and Tony Weiskopf, Baen’s editor, wasted no time bringing in house. He also praised Charles Gannon’s Fire with Fire as an example of an author who really worked with the editor’s feedback to make the book as good as it could be.


I ducked out of the roadshow (I didn’t even take any swag!), to catch the “Gods and Goddesses” panel. Aaron Rosenberg moderated Wolfgang Bauer and Glenda Finkelstein, as they talked about real-world vs created pantheons. Wolfgang talked about working with Russian and Slavic pantheons, and Aaron wondered about our current obsession with all things Celtic. They discussed aspects around bringing the old gods into current day settings, which seems to lend itself to urban fantasy.

There was an interesting discussion about gods’ morality, that they’re not clearly defined “heroes” or “villains”, but often both. They don’t follow human morality. Glenda referred to the “inherent cruelty of the ones in charge”, and how they often hurt humans seemingly on a whim or for their own pleasure. There is no reconciliation of their different aspects - they simply are!

Is it the nature of gods to be rediscovered?

Aaron brought up the idea that gods are created and perpetuated by human beliefs.

They talked about nature religions, such as voodoo, and Wolfgang said William Gibson once called AIs “kind of like loas”!

A discussion of horror, especially Cthulhu…

A discussion about super heroes and how Marvel just slaps a cape on some god figures. No question that Marvel has brought renewed interest to some of the old, less well-known gods in the Greek and Scandinavian pantheons. But there aren’t any mainstream comics/graphic novels about Jesus or Christianity. Other religions are “fair game”, but that has protected status. I had to leave the panel early to take care of some departure logistics.


After lots more hall discussions and lunch with friends, I made one final panel, suitably enough, “Satisfying Endings”, moderated by Ed Schubert, with Barbara Friend Ish, Aaron Rosenberg, and James Tuck.

“A good beginning bring them in. A good ending brings them back for more.”

“A good beginning is a promise you make to the reader, and you have to fulfill it for them to be satisfied.”

The ending should be surprising *and* inevitable – the story *had* to end that way.

By the end, you should answer the questions you’ve setup in the story, and tie up loose ends with story, subplots, and characters.

Barbara says that she thinks a good story starts with a failure of some kind, and the story is how the characters learn, or not, from that failure.

“In books, we go bigger than in life.”

Some writers write their last scene first, others think that puts limits on the creative process during the story’s evolution.

Some have trouble actually writing the end – why?
  • Might not be ready to leave the world
  • Might not be the right ending
  • Might be “protecting” the work from the outside world – got to have faith and be brave enough to let it go!

Ed shared David B. Coe’s analogy of talking/thinking about a work to opening a new bottle of soda over and over until you’ve let all the fizz out.

Unsatisfying endings:
  • JK Rowling delivers surprises that the reader could *not* have guessed based on what she has told in the story.
  • Zelazny’s 5th Amber book negated the whole previous stories!
  • 3rd Hunger Games book
  • Quantum Leap TV series – final episode “erases” Sam from the timeline
  • Eragon 3rd book
  • Avatar movie
  • Dan Brown’s Deception Point (deus ex machina)

Deus ex Machina literally means "god from the machine", and in literature it basically means when a surprise ending solves everything in a way that could not have been anticipated by the reader, because it comes out of nowhere. In Deception Point, for instance, the main characters are sliding down an iceberg headed to their deaths when a submarine surfaces *by happenstance* just in time to save them. It’s unsatisfying, because there’s no way the reader could have anticipated or figured that out.

Readers look to book endings for closure, because life often doesn’t provide it.

American’s are trained from an early age to expect happy endings. The country was settled by people who left their own countries in search of it!

Ed talks about the power of expectation with regard to reader frustration over an unsatisfying ending. He recalls an experiment where men were exposed to burning brands, then touched with ice cubes, and their skin actually *burned* because their minds were convinced that was what was going to happen.

Circling back to the beginning: Big difference between character’s promise within the story and what they think they need or want vs the author’s promise to the reader!


And still more hallway goodbyes before finally heading home, tired and fulfilled and energized and already looking forward to the next con!

Oh, fittingly enough, Jason Carter was the last person I saw before leaving, as he too was heading out with his entourage.

Dogs in house:

Guitar Adagios

Time writing:
~ 1 hour

June word count:

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