Sunday, January 11, 2015

Con Report: IllogiCon 4: How Schroedington Got His Groove Back, Friday Night

Life intervened, as it so often does, and I wasn't able to get to IllogiCon as early as I would have liked. Daughter and I are looking forward to our third year at this fun, small con, including the beautiful Embassy Suites with their lobby featuring walkways over the koi ponds. Easy hotel check-in and con registration, and quick hellos to a few familiar faces in the lobby.  Then off to dinner at nearby BurgerFi, with their delicious burgers and deadly shakes.

On our return, we were about 20 minutes late for one of the panels I was most interested in: Visions of Hell in Fantasy and Science Fiction, with Debra Killeen and James Maxey. If you've been following Writers’ Spark for awhile, you may recall I have a story about Angels and Demons brewing that I’m reluctant to write for a few different reasons. I was interested to hear from other writers who've tackled the subject, or maybe learn about some resources for research or reading. Again, if you've read any of my previous con reports, you'll be familiar with my rather stream-or-consciousness, bullet-point narrative style...

·         As we walked in, James Maxey was recommending Iain Banks’ Surface Detail, where the Culture creates virtual Hells for the souls of "sinners" rather than give them the release of death.
·         An important idea or construct of hell: consequences of actions while living
·         Maxey’s blog is called “Jawboneof an Ass 
·         Maxey’s new novel, Bitterwood, one character based on Old Testament prophet(s) – not a hero, but not really a villain either
·         I asked about non-Christian visions of Hell
·         Debra Killeen points out the Norse hell is a frozen wasteland – Maxey adds they’re always in battle, too
·         Maxey say "One of my favorite hells" is the Greek Hades…in The Odyssey, Odysseus goes there and meets a prince (maybe Achilles?), and says it looks like he’s doing pretty well down there. The prince says it’s better to be a pauper among the living than a prince in hell!
·         Killeen suggests that Hell, as we popularly think of it, is really a Christian construct
·         Maxey agrees, saying that Muslim and Buddhist faiths have very different visions of the afterlife
·         Maxey adds that there’s actually not a lot of Hell described in the Bible or religious texts. Much of our modern vision of Hell comes from some early literary sources, such as Dante’s Inferno, which he in turn took from Greek and Roman pagan traditions.
·         Maxey says people are often surprised to learn that the character known as Lucifer, the Lightbringer, isn’t actually Satan in the Bible (as detailed in this Wikipedia article)
·         Maxey suggested another vision of Hell as The Isle of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells. Moreau gives life & law, just like a god.
·         Maxey concludes with an intriguing idea that the “Being” who is most holy causes us to suffer the most…

The next panel was Bwa ha ha ha, not humor, but villains that overcome stereotypes or caricatures, with Misty Massey, Bill Ferris, James Maxey, moderated by Gail Z. Martin.
·         What's necessary for a really wonderful villain?
·         Stop at nothing & look good/cool doing it
·         Signature move (Vader neck choke, Joker card)
·         A common trope is “sympathy for the villain”… Can a villain really just be crazy or evil?
·         Gail points out that real world political dictators doing terrible things have backing and support of lots of people
·         Some are just bad seeds – these can make for interesting stories
·         Villain vs monster (amoral, such as the shark in Jaws)
·         Banality of evil - enablers in the middle (the train engineers taking prisoners to the Nazi death camps)
·         Misty loves Boyd Crowder in Justified - he’s a villain who sometimes "helps" the hero, that is, his own interests align with the hero’s, even to the hero’s chagrin!
·         Gail says we all love Butch Cassidy & the Sun Dance Kid – they’re just so likeable even though everything they do is wrong
·         Bill says Willy Wonka is an objectionably terrible character
·         James says Lex Luther done right (none of the movies): he’s a genius, sees himself as the crowning achievement of humanity overshadowed by this alien, he believes worshipping Superman is wrong for humanity
·         Babylon 5’s Londo Mollari is blinded by ambition, can't get out of his role, but in a few key episodes, he makes a few stabs at redemption
·         With the “Noble Villain” - where do you start? Working for an admirable cause. They think it's for the greater good
·         What’s the difference between a hero and a noble villain?
·         The Hero's win is for the larger group, the greater good
·         The Villain “wins” if he and his “cronies” (or small circle) come out ahead or on top, and the rest be damned
·         The villain usually believes the ends justify the means - what you're willing to do or the lengths/depths you’re willing to go to achieve your goals
·         Who benefits when you're all done?
·         As an author, you have to really get in their head
·         An audience question was for examples of villains who are scary without violence?
·         Gaslight - in which the villainous husband uses psychological manipulation to try to drive his wife insane
·         Audience question about the “Dark Protagonist” – how is this difference from Villain? The lines can be really blurred
·         As an author, a great goal for the dark protag is saving someone they love (story wise) – the audience will forgive a lot when this is the underlying motive! Then it becomes and interesting moral dilemma – how much is “okay” to save someone else?
·         I thought of two other “sympathetic” villains I wanted to highlight for discussion, but we ran out of time:
·         Megamind 
·         Bonnie & Clyde, especially the Broadway Musical  

That Which Yields Is Not Always Weak: Feminism & Submission
GOH Jacqueline Carey, Allegriana, Con Chair Kellye

·         So how do we define feminism? Let’s call it the belief that men and women have equal rights
·         Sexual submission has nothing to do w/social assertiveness
·         Phedra subverts all the tropes of submission
·         That which yields is not always weak – her strength, her very survival is through her ability not only to submit to what is imposed on her, but to accept (and even enjoy), and even to give back to her dominant sexual partner(s)
·         How can you resolve feminism & submission? Why is this even a question?!
·         One of the many appealing elements of the Kushiel series and the worldbuilding of Terre d’Ange is that consensuality is a sacred tenet of all the various religious groups. The sexual as sacred
·         More on feminism: Body autonomy - private (sex), political
·         Jacqueline talks about rereading Kushiel’s Dart for first time in over a decade w/her own book club
·         Phedra's ability to yield shames Jocylyn's rigidity into surviving
·         Inara (Firefly) - we didn't get to see how her character and relationship w/Mal played out
·         Kellye relates great internet exchange between an overbearing/obnoxious dom and a prospective sub, who finally informed him, "It's submissive, not doormat"
·         Jacqueline says physical tension and friction are at the heart of a sexual encounter – it’s literally about give and take
·         Why is surrender hot? Why dominance? One may appeal to you more. Or both. Or neither
·         Recent study showed that more men enjoy submission fantasies than women. Also that more socially assertive women enjoy submission fantasies than less socially assertive women. There’s a strong appeal/desire to have a safe place where they can give up control, not be in charge
·         Allegriana and partner have a leatherworking business: Ribbons & Rivets 
·         As a costumer, experience has been that people at fetish conventions are more respectful, where she’s never been grabbed, propositioned, etc
·         Consensuality and respect are an integral part of the community, which is why they so enthusiastically embraced Kushiel’s Dart
·         Another example of strong sub character?
·         David Weber & Eric Flint’s Torch of Freedom or Crown of Slaves – a female soldier runs a group of genetically enhanced Amazons, but is a sub in the bedroom
·         What is "equal"? Will we ever reach equality?
·         Rights? Physical? Strength?
·         “Make of the self a vessel where the self is not”
·         Phedra vs femme fatale
·         A femme fatale uses men (or women), without getting any pleasure for herself
·         Phedre makes use of the information for herself, doesn’t just get it for a man’s use
·         Jacqueline wrote it in 1st person to really get the reader into her head, avoid voyeurism
·         Note: There was a rousing performance next door during this panel, with several coincidentally timed "Hail, Barbarian"!
·         The Boss (book) by Abigail Burnett -  rec from Maura Wilson (played Matilda) after a Twitter fight w/author of 50 shades
·         Tiffany Rice - The Siren
·         Anne Rice
·         Girl on the Nets - British blog short stories etc

To be continued with Saturday’s panels and other adventures…


And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


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