Monthly Archives: November 2013

World Fantasy Convention Brighton 2013 – Grab Bag #2

I’m back stateside,but that won’t stop me from sharing more nuggets of awesome from WFC 2013 in Brighton. For context, I’ll group them by panel and in the bearded one’s case, by author.

The first three are from Patrick Rothfuss in a panel on world building:

1. The spectrum of world building authors runs from set designers to model train set builders. Hollywood set designs looks great from the front, but once you move around the side, they are just propped up plywood that’s been painted. Model train builders on the other hand will create insane amounts of detail.

2. Rothfuss has to self-apply the brakes to keep himself from discussing currencies in great detail in his books … and even in the halls of cons.

3. The vulgarity of a culture reveals a lot about that culture. What is considered taboo? What is considered a curse word?

Two more from the world building panel for which I don’t have attributions:

4. Clark’s third law (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”) has a corollary: Any sufficiently reliable magic system is a scientific technology.

5. “Mozart the Barbarian” – a term for an unintentional cultural reference in a fictional world that pierces the immersive bubble of the reader.

Five from the “are agent’s still necessary” panel (staffed entirely by agents, by the way):

6. One younger agent’s submissions by the numbers: 50-80 submissions a week, 90% are instant “no’s.” In the last week she received one manuscript that the author purported was dictated  by a ghost and another that the submitter claimed was written by God. She was a little concerned about the potential for smiting if she rejected the latter. Potential haunting seemed less of a concern.

7. One very famous Scottish writer wrote 6 novels over 14 years before his first novel was published.

8. One well known, very selective agent said that his placement rate was still only 75%. Before he became as selective, the rate was closer to 30-50%. He also said that pretty much everything he placed was also rejected by at least one editor.

9. The last book that was submitted to each UK publisher to get an offer from each UK publisher was some book called A Game of Thrones.

10. One agent said she represented almost the full spectrum of books, pretty much everything except diet books – because they were absolutely immoral.

One from the panel on editing anthologies:

11. Most editors do not like to do open submissions for themed anthologies for two related reasons –

  1. They have difficulty going through the 1,000’s of submissions, and
  2. They do not want all of those rejected stories written to their theme flooding other magazines (that may publish quicker) and diluting the market for their themed anthology.

Two from a panel about whether epic fantasy is played out (titled “Is Elvish Dead?”):

12. Lord of the Rings is “one book with extra bits of cardboard” – attributed by a panel member to Jo Walton.

13. Steampunk is a mass-consumer-goods, urbanized society’s nostalgia for the bespoke and handmade just as Tolkein’s fantasy was a newly industrialized and urbanized society’s nostalgia for natural green spaces.

Five from the panel on making a living writing short stories:

14. On why short stories are better than novels: short stories are like Faberge eggs, wonderfully detailed and beautiful. We love Faberge eggs, but we wouldn’t want a Faberge room.

15. The two factors that led most panelists to think one could not make a living writing only short stories were (1) having children and (2) needing healthcare/insurance. They thought that if one didn’t mind living with a subsistence level income, not having a family, and rolling the dice on never needing serious healthcare, it might be possible to survive just writing short stories.

16. One panelist pointed out that if you were going to do it, you would need to collect stories into eBooks and effectively build a self-published backlist. (Essentially what Dean Wesley Smith ran the numbers on in this blog post.)

17. One panelist once traded a contributor copy (all he had been paid) for a haircut.

18. Another panelist eventually made the most money off a story that initially seemed stuck in a nightmare. The story didn’t sell at first. Then when it finally sold to a smaller market, that market experienced an editorial coup and was returned by the new editors. Finally, it was published by a nonpaying market. THEN it was reprinted in the Year’s Best, bought by Pseudopod, and optioned for three years in Hollywood.

Three from the panel on writing the second novel:

19. “Always write your best work next.”

20. On Norway – “A nation obsessed with skis can’t be up to anything good.”

21. One author puts in random unexplained happenings in early novels in series. Then he figures out later how to weave them into the rest of the series after the fact.

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World Fantasy Convention Brighton 2013 – Grab Bag #1

The World Fantasy Convention is happening right now in Brighton, UK, and I am lucky enough to be there.

So here is a sampling of some of the interesting tidbits at the halfway point. I’m not vouching for any of this information. I haven’t researched it myself. I am merely repeating them for those unfortunate souls not able to be in Brighton this weekend.

1. The TV series Buffy broke new ground for YA books. When Buffy moved from a static episode model to having arcs that spanned multiple episodes or seasons and when that move was incredibly popular, it changed YA writing as well. Prior to that time, YA writers were discouraged from writing anything but standalone books. After Buffy‘s success with long running arcs, YA writers were encouraged to write series. Buffy convinced industry people that young readers would follow characters and plots across multiple books.

2. Centipede Press makes some beautiful books.

3. Favorite phrases from a Tor editor: “Discoverability Hell” and “Urban Attack Lawyers”. Not sure if the first is accurately attributed, but the second certainly is.

4. According to Gallup Poll data, the top reasons people buy a particular book are:

  1. 1.They liked another book by the author.
  2. A friend recommended it.
  3. The cover appealed to them.

Those three reasons account for the top 95% of responses.

5. Neil Gaiman’s first published book was a non-fiction account of Duran Duran’s first few years of fame.

6. Neil Gaiman’s first published short story was originally 8,000 words long. When the publisher said he would publish it if it were 4,000 words, Gaiman edited it down to 4,000 words.

7. According to Gaiman, he got the idea for the serial killers convention in Sandman #14 while in the crowded bar at a World Fantasy Con.

8. Canada is potentially a great place to start a small press.

9. Sir Terry Pratchett uses Dragon Dictate for all of his writing now. They uploaded the entire Discworld series into it so that it would better recognize the names. The program still struggles with his accent at times and they occasionally hove to sound out what the program typed out to figure out what Sir Terry meant. Example: “pie on ear”.

10. Sir Terry Pratchett has a chicken named Biggles. Biggles can fly, but doesn’t know how to land.

11. Fanzines were the blogging of the pre-internet era, complete with flame wars on the Letters pages.

12. Richard C. Matheson drew a cat under his autograph in my Programme* Guide at the Mass Signing tonight. After that, I convinced Pat Rothfuss, Mary Robinette Kowal, Joanne Harris, Lee Moyer, Robin Hobb, and Tad Williams to draw cats for me. I’m going to be the amusing story they tell at the next Con.

*It’s in the UK – that’s how it is spelled!


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