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.

1 Comment

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One response to “World Fantasy Convention Brighton 2013 – Grab Bag #2

  1. I still haven’t unpacked my notes, but I’m pretty sure that #4 was said by Robin Hobb.

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