Yesterday I went to four events. First up was a panel that ended up more of a round table discussion on how games of all kinds are changing. It's a pretty broad topic, but we still managed to hit the three major types of games -- tabletop (meaning board and card games), role-playing games, and videogames -- and many current trends in gaming, both good and bad. Topics included the role of Kickstarter (great for board games and card games, perhaps less suited to videogames), the rise of co-op board games and how that might relate to the popularity of Pokemon GO, and the ways in which gaming relates to learning, such as this research on virtual reality games as a potential treatment for dementia.
The next panel I attended was entitled "Looking Forward/Looking in the Mirror", regarding the ways in which stories about the future inevitably reflect the time in which they were written. The panelists freely admitted that this question has a different weight to it than it would have in early November, and there was some speculation about how speculative fiction written in the next year or so might change. One panelist freely admitted that she has much less interest in writing dark futures right now, to the point that she's trying to revise story to give it a more hopeful ending. There was quite a bit of talk about Arrival, and the ways in which it sometimes feels like we're living in a dystopia right now (to quote Debbie Notkin, "Get me out of this bad Harry Turtledove novel!"
Next up was dinner with forestofglory and Robyn, a writer who we'd sat next to during the previous panel. After that we went to our last formal panel of the night -- which Robyn happened to be on, although we'd already been planning on it -- which was about writing across genres. Discussion began with the question of why we have so many sub-genres in speculative fiction anyway; marketing is the obvious answer, although some panelists also talked about the value of knowing what to expect from a book before you open it. Sometimes you want a new and exciting experience from a story, but sometimes you want predictability, and ultimately there's nothing wrong with that. Of course, this brought us to one of the inherent dangers of cross-genre writing, because when readers doesn't get the experience they were expecting, the resulting disappointment can affect book sales and reviews. The panelists, who were all pro authors, each brought up various examples from their own experiences, some causing more trouble than others. Someone in the audience asked why genre bending seems to be more of an issue with speculative fiction than other genres, and after some discussion we all came up with an intriguing theory: other genres of fiction (mystery, thriller, romance, etc.) tend to be defined by their plot structures, while speculative fiction genres are defined by their elements (spaceships, wizards, being set in the future...) but can follow almost any structure. I suspect this makes specfic highly flexible but also gives the writer more places to "go wrong" in terms of reader expectations. In the end, the panelists concluded that you can't be too worried about those expectations -- write the story that calls to you, and worry about how to sell or market it later. Lots and lots of book recs out of this one.
Last but never least: ConTention, the annual tradition where a bunch of con attendees get together and argue for an hour and fifteen minutes. This year's debates included some oldies but goodies (Star Wars vs. Star Trek, privacy vs. safety) and some newer ones (The Force Awakens vs. Rogue One, what's the scariest Dr. Who monster, can WorldCon survive if it continues to be primarily based in North America).
And now it's late (and soon to be even later, yay Daylight Saving Time), so I'll come back with today's report tomorrow.
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