Monday, February 23, 2009

Tales from the Con

I'm in post-convention recovery mode today, which means it's taken time to form coherent thoughts. I saw someone wearing a button that said something to the effect of "Parties are extreme sports for introverts," and that seems to sum things up for me, especially with it falling in my extreme introversion/borderline agoraphobia phase of the year. A convention becomes something of an X-Treme Enduro Iron Man Pentathlon event. It's fun while I'm doing it, but then it leaves me drained of all energy. It doesn't help that either there was a fast-acting Con Crud, I picked up something from someone last weekend or else it was yet another drastic weather change, because by the end of the weekend I was seeing the beginning signs of something that looked a lot like something several of my friends seemed to be recovering from. I kind of needed today to be a gray, rainy, crawl under the covers kind of day because sunny days make me feel like I should be doing something productive.

Still, in spite of feeling like I was run over by a truck now, I had a great weekend. The biggest giggle fit was triggered by Brad Sinor, and it was not in a panel I was on. It kind of had to do with a chick in chain mail, a dragon and a cat, and you had to be there, but just thinking about it makes me grin even now. Sunday I just had a bad case of the gigglies in general because everything set me off. I spent a good part of the panel I was on that day shaking helplessly in laughter for no specific reason I can think of (okay, I was sitting next to Selina Rosen, and if you've been to cons in this area, that probably explains a lot for you).

The local Steampunk group had an afternoon tea on Saturday, which was rather delightful. There's something about the idea and look of Steampunk that appeals to me (probably my fondness for Victoriana), but I'm not sure about actually getting into it beyond reading and maybe writing because doing the costuming and all that looks suspiciously like it might involve work and effort. And probably leaving the house. I do like the hats, though.

Otherwise, there was much hanging out with friends and talking books, TV, movies, generational theories, publishing business, etc. I think the dealers sold a few of my books or else I had a number of fans there because I didn't get bored during my signing (and that wasn't just because I got a few giggle fits and was very sidetracked a few times). I had some of my writing processes validated by Jim Butcher on a panel. Shannon Butcher and I realized we had the same watch, except I had the black watch face and she had the white, which is kind of the reverse of what you'd expect given what we write.

There was one really thought-provoking question asked by an audience member during the Sunday panel on "mythological plotholes," and it's got me still thinking. Fantasy is the genre where the legends are real -- where the magic works, the dragons, beasts and monsters really exist, where the heroes aren't just the figments of someone's imagination. But is there room in fantasy for myths and folklore that aren't literal or true, that are just stories? I've been running that through my mental processor, and I can't think of too many cases where there's a mention of a story in a fantasy story that's just a story without any literal truth to it -- the fantasy world's equivalent of Cinderella, etc. Using the example the questioner gave, why can't there be a story about the monster in the lake in a fantasy world without there being an actual monster?

I suppose to some extent, it has to do with what you focus on in stories. There's not a lot of conflict or drama that will impact your characters in a story that's pure fiction, so you're not going to spend a lot of time talking about a monster that isn't there. Your story is about the monster that is there. But I can see where the stories a culture tells could be part of the worldbuilding and can set up certain expectations that can be used. So what if there is a story about a monster in the lake, and everyone's pretty sure it's just a story, but that's part of the local folklore and they even have lake monster festivals where there are contests to build the best lake monster boat, or there's a ritual "sacrifice" where they send a boat full of flowers into the middle of the lake with much ceremony (and plenty of souvenirs and snacks on sale beside the lake). Those people are going to be really surprised when a real monster comes out of the cave on the hill overlooking the town.

And I think I just plotted my short story for the FenCon program book.

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