May 25th, 2007

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Bittercon: Napoleonic Wars in SF/F

Seen various places: panels for Bittercon, the virtual con for those of us who'd like to be at any of the cons this weekend. I'm going to toss out several in a row, starting with:

The Napoleonic Wars in SF/F: What's the Appeal?

Space opera's been using the naval parts of the Napoleonic Wars as models for a while. Susanna Clarke and Naomi Novik have recently set fantasies in slightly alternate versions of the Napoleonic Wars. What's the appeal? Is this just the influence of Patrick O'Brian and Georgette Heyer showing through? Why are the tactics so fascinating to space opera writers? And what's so interesting about society of the time that both Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and the Temeraire series make an effort to fix it?

References: prior LJ post asking for suggestions to propose a Readercon panel that never went anywhere; Crooked Timber's seminar on JS&MN; my booklog posts on the Temeraire series (bonus: an old LJ post on platonic romance as the second book's structure).

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Bittercon: Risky Narrative Strategies

Bittercon panel number two. Yes, my personal biases are showing; what of it?

Risky Narrative Strategies

Sarah Monette's Mélusine sends one of its two first-person narrators into a tailspin on his third page and drives him crazy before the chapter's over. It certainly doesn't play safe, but it's also risky because it gives the reader very little baseline for the character—particularly since the POV is so tight and he doesn't cross paths with the other narrator for a while. What other narrative strategies are risky, and how? Is information flow the principal kind of risk? In what books do risky strategies work, and in what don't they—but in interesting ways?

Presume that there will be spoilers for Mélusine and The Virtu within; for any other works, ROT13 spoilers or put them between <span style="color: #999999; background-color: #999999"> </span>.

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Bittercon: Levels and Limits of Metafictionality

Bittercon panel number three. And dual-purpose of getting something off my to-write list!

Levels and Limits of Metafictionality

Stories about stories. When can the teller of a story successfully interact with the story, and when is it a cheat?

Examples that I think work (how they do is spoiler-protected and cut for length): Pamela Dean's Secret Country trilogy, in which kids cross into another world and it looks like their "let's pretend" game is real; the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, where a fan of a musical plays a record, imagines the production, and talks to the audience about the songs, staging, artists, and story; Katherine Blake's (Dorothy Heydt) novel The Interior Life, in which a housewife has detailed daydreams about a secondary fantasy world. What else? And is Dream of the Endless automatically disqualified?

(Don't spoil people, please: ROT13 spoilers or put them between <span style="color: #999999; background-color: #999999"> </span>.)

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Bittercon panel: Thieves Guilds and Other Criminal Societies

Last one; I really hadn't meant to spend my night doing this.

Thieves Guilds and Other Criminal Societies

The Thieves Guild is a common staple in fantasy novels. Terry Pratchett's Discworld books parody it; Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora critiques it; and Steven Brust's Taltos novels examine a more modern Mafia-style version. What's good, bad, interesting, boring, otherwise worth talking about when it comes to this idea?

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Bittercon: Wish Fulfillment

Really last one:

Wish Fulfillment

A wish-granting entity shows up and tells you that you can have, be, do, etc., any one thing in science fiction or fantasy. What do you pick?

Me, this is a no-brainer: I join the Culture.

This post brought to you by another half-hour of my life wasted doing stretches for the bursitis in both hips, not to mention all other minor medical stuff, and the ever-present knowledge that I will never have enough time to read all the books I want to.