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May 26th, 2008

Wiscon, Looking Back

I know I gotta write a Wiscon report. I was there for four days, all of which were jam-packed with action and panels and lovely conversations. Parties, not so much. I like hearing the person I'm talking to, not to mention being able to devote my full attention to them instead of to the person standing behind us who might possibly need somebody's attention. I do, however, love the Fancy Dress Party, and always go just to see everybody dressed up and looking fine. Also Elise's Haiku Earring party, where I scored a lovely pair of bronze glass lilies, titled "Cleopatra's Attitude." My haiku?

Salad days behind,
Octavian before me.
Please bring on the asps.

Good thing I'm not a poet.

I moderated two panels and attended two more. I can't remember much about the panels I moderated, except that all the panelists were exceptionally intelligent and articulate. Really. I already talked about "Grammar: Do We Really Need it?". On Saturday, Catherynne Valente, Theodora Goss, and Jeremy of Nightshade Press presented an impromptu and completely unrehearsed symposium on the subject of Magical Realism, Threat or Menace? (Yes, that was really what it was called). It could have been as dull as ditchwater--definition panels tend to be, even when they have provocative titles. But it wasn't. We talked about the politics of magical realism and whether it could be written by North Americans or fantasy writers and several other topics I can no longer remember. No firm conclusions were reached, but everybody had a good time, including the very lively and engaged audience.

The panels I attended were one on Fantasy cities and Urban Fantasy and another on how art and writing inspire each other. I really can't remember a lot of details about the Cities one, except that Ellen reminded everyone that Terri Windling's Bordertown shared-world anthologies were the first appearance of Elves-in-the-City. I was surprised that nobody mentioned Ankh Mor-pork when talking about fantasy cities, and said so when the floor opened for questions. A lot was said about the multiplicity of cultures and social layers in the best cities--real and invented--with examples: Perdido Street Station, also Swordspoint and Charles de Lint's Milford, among others. Someone in the audience wondered, somewhat wistfully, why there weren't more urban fantasies set outside of London, New York, San Francisco, New York, London, and San Francisco. A writer in the workshop I led was actually working on a version of Tam Lin set in Las Vegas, and I can think of a number of fantasies set in Midwestern cities or Southern cities, so I suspect the problem's not as dire as the wistful wonderer thinks. But there certainly could be more of them.

The art panel was lovely. Connie Toebe and Lisa Stock (the former a builder of very interstitial boxes with scenes painted, constructed, and arranged in them, the latter a maker of dreamy and mythic independent films) have put together a movie (and, I think, a website) that combines pages of a short story and constructed images that move and live-action video. It's called The Cobweb Forest. They didn't show us enough for me to figure out what it was about, but what I saw was evocative and beautiful and really, really cool. There was talk about whether making jewelry was art or craft, and whether it could be narrative, and a fascinating riff by Mary Robinette Kowal on puppeteering, which I don't remember well enough to reproduce.

I wish I could be more specific about all this, since what I've written sounds like a terrible tease, but really, it's the best I can do. My memory's not all that sharp to begin with, and over-stimulation seems to dull it even more. To be sure, I'm less over-stimulated than I was when and Ellen and I and three writer friends got in a car packed to the rafters with the necessaries of 5 adults for a Writing Retreat in Two Rivers, WI. Full decompression will not set in, I suspect, until tomorrow morning, when I wake up in the Bernard Shwartz House on the shores of Lake Michigan, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939 as one of his "affordable" Usonian Houses for the relatively impoverished middle classes

I'm planning to work on the rewrites for Magic Mirror. Another thing that happened during Wiscon was a long lunch meeting with the indomitable sdn, during which we hammered out a way of making the beginning of the book not suck while still retaining some of the non-standard things I wanted to keep. It was all very useful and exciting, and I think the changes we discussed will make the book much better. Now all I have to do is make them.

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