Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Con Report: ConGregate, Winston Salem, Saturday (Day 2, part 1)

...Continued from Day 1

I began the day meeting up with three friends for breakfast. We decided to walk around the corner to a local bakery. When we arrived, it looked (and smelled) delicious—but all sugary goodness. No protein in sight. So with great reluctance—I mean, I walked away from a chocolate croissant, people—we returned to the hotel for their breakfast buffet. Where we had to wait for over ten minutes while they “refreshed the tables”…Seriously? The omelette maker is an artisan, however, and all was forgiven.

One of my friends accompanied me to the 9am Epic Fantasy panel, moderated by Danny Birt, and featuring Debra Killeen, Gail Martin, Tricia Barr, and David B. Coe. Here are my lightly edited notes:

Question(s): What is epic fantasy? How do you know when you’re writing an epic fantasy? Is length the determining factor?

  • Gail Martin pointed out that while Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series is considered urban fantasy, by the11th book, with the story sweeping far beyond the natural and supernatural borders of Chicago, it has certainly taken on an epic scope.
  • Multiple points of view (POV) is another hallmark of epic fantasy
  • Scope, size, POV, and worldbuilding contribute to the definition of epic fantasy

Question: When you’re reading, what do you look for in epic fantasy?

  • History – it’s *big*! It has everything: kingdoms, individuals, geography, special forces, like plague, cultures, “sweep”
  • A lot of moving parts that all come together
  • Avoid the info dump! Work it in pieces!
  • Story moving to a final event – don’t meander without making clear *why* the diversion is there
  • How quickly can the author get to the “you bumped me out of the story…but then you hooked me with the next story!
Character is a major part of epic fantasy

Quote: “Scifi is about how. Fantasy is about why.”

“Why” is all about the people!

David disagrees with the quote –Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is an SF novel, that’s all about the “why” – it’s a very personal story!

Question: Can epic fantasy be short?

Sometimes shorts are based on longer works, so not as much worldbuilding needed

Very impressed that Tricia Barr was apparently live tweeting throughout the panel, though she may have had someone else tweeting in her stead -- or she can talk and tweet at the same time ;)

Question about crossover with other genres/subgenres/styles?

  • Ellen Kushner, Sword Point, alternate world, urban fantasy, epic sweep
  • Butcher’s Dresden Files
  • Fanfic has lots of crossover
  • Neil Gaiman, “Fortunately the Milk”
  • Gaiman and Charles Vess, Stardust
  • Willam Goldman, The Princess Bride
Labels can limit us from readers, as well as help guide them to us

Sean McMullen’s Glass Dragons series, the Moonworlds Saga
Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series – she always insisted was SF because it’s on another planet, but many people consider fantasy

One tradition of epic fantasy is that it’s removed from our time by 100-200 years in the past or future (in terms of society, technology)

Epic fantasy doesn’t *have* to be a “Chihuahua killer”! (that if you dropped the book on a chihuahua, well….)

  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry is historical, but reds with the feel of epic fantasy in many ways
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson is another historical non-fiction with the scope of epic fantasy

Dr. Who… what’s the difference between a sonic screwdriver and Harry Potter’s wand?

Australis refers to all of the subgenres collectively as “Speculative Fiction” – perhaps we should adopt this more inclusive model!

  • Reese’s Collision [I can’t find this reference—anyone have more details?]
  • Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow, starts off as SF space travel, but once the adventurers reach the planet, reads more like epic fantasy
  • Esther Friedman Coldfire trilogy begins with space travel, but the culture loses technology in favor of magic…
  • James S. A. Corey, Expanse series, going to be an HBO series, combines space opera with noir and fantasy elements
  • Simon R. Green, Secret History – James Bond feel, alternate dimensions, Mars
  • David Weber, Safehold
  • Maleficent, the new Disney movie, is part of an epic fantasy
  • Jean Claude Bemis, Clockwork Dark series
  • Diane Basteen, Irish fantasy
Arthur C. Clarke: “Any science sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic”

POV can determine how the story evolved

Epic fantasy is the “Rasputin” of speculative fiction – it cycles through popularity

It’s driven the market in the U.S. for the past 30 years!

As a reader, you can really settle in for awhile and get comfortable in the world
As a writer, you can have lots of stories to tell in the world

Time writing
~1 hour

July word count

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