Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I Survived NorWesCon

I'm back from NorWesCon.


I did what I set out to do, which was meet the folks who send me rejection slips and attend a few pannel discussions. I'm not sure if I will go again -- parking, checking into and checking out of the Doubletree was so obnoxious that I think I'll stick with OryCon (where at least it's not a five hour drive).

What was fun was being able to talk with other writers and editors.

This time around I applied the "Internet Rule" to pannels. If in the first five minutes of a pannel it looked like I could get the same experience by reading a newsgroup or web page, I left. I also didn't go to a couple of writing pannels because going to Wordos for the last two years has made them redundant. Finally, Mark forbade me from attending either the "Peter Jackson vs Tolkein" discussion or the demonstration on tying people up. A quick and dirty summary of the pannels I went to follows.

  • Lots of interesting things happened in the first second of the universe's existance, but it was too hot for a really really long time before hydrogen could clump together to form stars.

  • Don't start your pannel discussion, "I got all this information off of the NASA web site..."

  • When publishing stories, it's usful to think in terms of your long-term franchise.

  • When writing aliens, start with the biology and work backward to the planet (and star).

  • You can change the wavelength at which quantum-sized crystals flourece by cooking them for different periods of time.

  • Humans wont be able to understand really alien languages.

  • The editors of big publishing houses don't read short fiction magazines or anthologies; so if you're writing short fiction to jump-start into writing novels, just write the novel.

  • The Tengwar character for voicing "GH" is good for words most commonly found in the Klingon language, but not for the beginning sound in "ghost."

  • Most poor character development can be fixed by writing very specific details.

  • As long as you don't bore the reader or waste their time, you can use almost any fiction cliche.

The participants at NorWesCon fell into the usual categories: writers, editors, publishers, gamers, people with leashes, elven princesses, Aragorn- and Legolas- wanna-bes, fantasy artists, Boris Vallejo model wanna-bes ("ya want a spangle with that?"), pirates, furies (people who believe they are animals trapped in human bodies), Hogworts students, and people with latex prosthetics (everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads). For most of these folks, Black is the new Pink.

I must conclude that the Peter Jackson movies were really big at NorWesCon. Although I wore cream colored courderoy pants, a white sweater and "The Loadstone of Atlantis" (a basalt rock with a hole in it on a cord) I was asked if I had danced at the disco party as Aragorn. It must be the hair.

- John

Friday, March 25, 2005

Your Own Personal Isis, Astarte...

The Friday night dance was lots of fun. I did have to pause when I realized that I was bouncing around to a 20-year-old (at least) pagan song, Burning Times. The chorus is a perky chant of various goddess's names; the verses are a rehash of the Margart Murray burning times thesis. This would be fine except that it doesn't jive with any historical records.

  • While certainly people were burned at the stake for being witches, the number of burned witches was probably much less than 9 million -- more like 1 million (still bad).
  • An examination of court records from the times suggests that where the Church's civil authority broke down, people were more likely to be burnt as witches.
  • Pagans today have problems organizing; so far little evidence has been found that would support the theory of a pan-European, organized goddess religion.

So it was weird to look around the disco-ball lit room and see very earnest con-goers mouthing the words to Burning Times who were probably born after the song was written. It would be like discovering your parents cha-cha-ing to a song about the hoax about the US Congress taxing e-mails -- the information's wrong, but you know that they'll dance to it because it's got a cool beat. I've tried imagining using the tune of the song to set Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon to music, but it would probably be too long to put into a song (and very dry in some places).

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At least they followed Burning Times up with a very funny selection.

I'm Not Moving This Car... No... Uh-uh, uh-uh.

Recorded, live, from the last parking space available.

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this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play