July 12th, 2015

wood cat

Readercon: Successfully Writing About Horrible Things

I'm going to try to do as much blogging of my own panels tonight as I can, because memory fades. I am skipping "The Parental Undertones of Fannishness" because within the first ten minutes, we all disagreed that parental was the right metaphor, and from there it devolved into general talk about transformative works. I am also skipping the book club panel on Persona because I'm going to do spoiler and non-spoiler booklog posts.

So that brings us to "Successfully Writing About Horrible Things," which I moderated. This has been recorded and will be going up on YouTube, but here are some highlights for people who prefer text to audio/video. As always with panels I'm on, I usually have only the sketchiest notes and it's easiest to remember what I did as opposed to anyone else; no slight to the other panelists, who I'm glad to say were all awesome this year, is intended. I offered to moderate this as a non-writer who thought the topic was really interesting and would be glad to facilitate the discussion.

Edit: and now the video is up, thanks Scott Edelman!

Description:

If you're not writing horror but your plot calls for something horrific to happen to a character, how do you handle it? You might go overboard and be detailed to the point of undermining or derailing the narrative, or might be so vague that the horrific event has little effect on the reader or the story. A reader who's been through a similar experience might be offended or distressed by a description of awfulness that's lurid, gratuitous, clichéd, or bland. What strategies can writers use to help readers empathize with the characters' suffering and build stories that respectfully handle the consequences of terrible events, without falling into these traps?
Mike Allen, Catt Kingsgrave, Shira Lipkin, Kate Nepveu (leader), Patty Templeton

I started by saying that I thought that it unlikely that people would need to give details about the horrible things in question, but that if they really really were sure they needed to, please give a "in a moment I am going to talk about the details of X thing," and people could step out or do whatever they needed to. Also my standard notes about if-you-can't-hear-us (which got our mics re-leveled, so that was good), and taking questions at intervals, and so forth.

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I thought this worked pretty well, all in all: it covered a range of stuff and people were thoughtfully circumspect about the details of horribleness, which was the major failure mode I feared. People said nice things about it, too, which is super-appreciated. However! If you were there, or if you see the video, and you have constructive criticism about my moderation, I would very much like to hear it: I take the job of moderator very seriously and I want to improve. Also, substantive discussion welcome, on the same groundrules as the panel, of course.

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wood cat

Readercon: Fandom and Rebellion

I called this "Fandom as Rebellion" the whole panel. Whoops.

Description: ifeelbetterer on Tumblr writes, "No one is more critical of art than fandom. No one is more capable of investigating the nuances of expression than fandom—because it's a vast multitude pooling resources and ideas. Fandom is about correcting the flaws and vices of the original. It's about protest and rebellion, essentially.... Fandom is not worshipping at the alter of canon. Fandom is re-building it because they can do better." Our panel of creators and fans will dig into the notion of when, why, how, and whether fan works and remixes are "better" than the original, especially when they come from a place of protest and challenge.
Gemma Files, Catt Kingsgrave, Kate Nepveu (leader), A. J. Odasso, Ann Tonsor Zeddies.

See prior report for usual disclaimers.

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And, seriously, I know we talked about more, and I am completely unable to remember what--I took no notes during the second half of the panel, and then I did one right after, so a lot of that brain space got overwritten. If you were there and would like to chime in, please do! (Also, as mentioned in the prior panel report, concrit of my moderating very much desired. I think I may have had some angst about how I tried to keep the panel moving with regard to audience questions for this panel, too.)

Finally, I am very sad that I didn't figure out an organic place to have Catt mention how Marvel comics writers are fanficcing Stan Lee right now.

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Readercon: A Visit from the Context Fairy

Last one! Can I do this before I faceplant into the keyboard or the Pip wakes up?

Description: In a blog post at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith writes about the opposite of visits from the "Suck Fairy": going back to a book you disliked and finding that the "Win Fairy" (to coin a term) improved it when you weren't looking. Are the Suck Fairy and the Win Fairy really two faces of a unified Context Fairy? If context is so crucial to loving or hating a work, how does acknowledging that affect the way a reader approaches reading, or a writer approaches writing? How does one's hope for or dread of the Context Fairy influence decisions to reread, rewrite, revise or otherwise revisit a written work?
Kythryne Aisling, Stacey Friedberg, Gwynne Garfinkle, Kate Nepveu, Sonya Taaffe.

I moderated this out of an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and think I managed to keep my fatigue and minor end-of-con for-no-reason crankiness in check. It was surprisingly well attended for being in the literal last slot of the con, too. Check the first panel report for disclaimers.

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I have notes from panels I attended, but since those are a matter of tidying up my typos and occasionally unpacking my marginal disagreements, they can wait until later. Which is good, see aforementioned wall of non-remembering!

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