Last week I had a jam-packed weekend participating at Continuum while entertaining my old friends the Marc Karver and Jen Marshall (and their not-so-old son, Kirin) who were visiting from Florida. I didn’t have time to see everyone as much as I would have liked, but it was always a pleasure to see and hang out with the likes of Amanda Bridgeman, Justin Woolley, Amanda Pillar, Alis Franklin, Margo Lanagan, Lindy Cameron, Narrelle Harris, Gillian Polack, Stephen and Ormsby, Russell B. Farr, Liz Grzyb, Jason Nahrung, Kirstyn McDermott, Lyn C, Jane Routley, Kyla Ward, David McDonald, Geoff Brown, Gerry Huntman and all the others I’ve forgotten to mention because, well, I’m a bit of a bastard. Big thanks to the Continuum committee for putting on another awesome, fun, well-run event.
This year I participated in 6 panels, which is a record for me. These days an author expected to be able to speak in public and, since I am not a natural performer, these convention panels are my attempt to improve in this department as well as to make myself known to peers, readers, editors, agents, and any Hollywood producers who happen to be passing through looking to hand out six figure option cheques. (It could happen! Shut up!) This was the first year I didn’t publicly embarrass myself, so I guess I’m improving in this regard.
My first panel, Computer Geeks and Computer-Fail in Visual Media, was a heap of fun. Kathryn Andersen, Alis Franklin and Lisa Sinclair were funny and smart and well informed and I think everyone had a good time ripping apart Alis’ compilation of Computer-Fail clips. IT is so ubiquitous these days, you’d think screenwriters would have started to get it right a bit more often by now. (Hey, Hollywood? We panelists are available for consultation any time.)
Comedy in Genre went off nicely as well. I guess it helped that our moderator, Katherine Phelps, was a comedienne, but together with Jane Routley and me I think we had a pretty good interrogation of how different styles of comedy interact with genre, rather than sitting around quoting Monty Python at each other (always a risk on a topic like this one). I was particularly interested to look at the similarities between horror and comedy, as you might expect.
On the Villains and Anti-Heroes panel Margo Lanagan, Freya Ashman, Kathryn Andersen and I all had different views on what made good a good villain, and how a villain differs from an antihero. There’s a lot of plasticity in the terms as they are currently used, if not in the literary sense, and I think that was a fruitful discussion.
Sunday morning, Anthony Castle and I presented a Comics How To panel. I did not expect much of an audience, given the timeslot, but we got a pretty good sized room full of interested and engaged participants, including some well-known writers, comic fans, and readers. This was the most interactive panel I had. Anthony and I spoke mostly about the discipline of writing comic script, but we also spoke about how to find and collaborate with artists. We could easily have run this as a half-day workshop. I’d love to do some more of these at a future convention.
The Heroine’s Journey, with Amanda Bridgeman, Katherine Phelps, Jason Franks, Amie Kaufman, Lindy Cameron, was perhaps my most lively panel. I’ve been asked many times why I chose to deploy a female protagonist in my first novel and my answer is still the same: if Clarice wasn’t a woman Bloody Waters would have no story. I didn’t set out to write a book about a Strong Female Protagonist–I started writing the book in 2000, before that was really a thing people talked about. The whole conflict comes from the way Clarice is treated because of her gender. This panel in many ways looked at the converse of that: how female characters are so often excluded from the hero’s journey, or parts of it. I guess this is part of my antipathy towards the hero’s journey as a template for plot and character. Now if there was a Villain’s Journey… well, then perhaps I’d be out of business.