May 30th, 2009

red panda eating bamboo

Wiscon panel notes: Reinventing the Adventure

Reinventing the Adventure
Track(s): The Craft and Business of Writing
Description: The adventure story archetype lies at the heart of both science fiction and fantasy, and is the oldest and arguably most profound literary form in human history. How come contemporary society has ghettoized this art form? Even in science fiction, many authors have shied away from adventure in their desire to be taken seriously. How can we reverse this trend? What does it take to write fiction that's fast, fun, shamelessly adventurous, and at least as challenging as what passes these days for mainstream lit?
Panelists: 4 Carol F. Emshwiller, 1 John Helfers, 3 P. C. Hodgell, 2 Monica Valentinelli

I arrived at this panel late.
I'm ruthlessly leaving out anything that I found uninteresting or that I can't reconstruct accurately from my notes.
I'm paraphrasing from my notes; any words I incorrectly put into anyone's mouth are my fault.
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red panda eating bamboo

Wiscon panel notes: Romancing the Beast

Romancing the Beast
Track(s): Reading, Viewing, and Critiquing Science Fiction (Feminism and Other Social Change Movements)
Description: Paranormal romance almost always features the hero as a paranormal being and the heroine as an ordinary human. How does this resonate with gender relations and power relationships in our society? And is it emblematic of women seeing men as Other?
Moderator: Vito Excalibur
Panelists: Catherine Cheek, Stef Maruch, Heidi Waterhouse, Janine Ellen Young

I was a panelist so I didn't take very thorough notes.

When I read the panel description I immediately thought of a bunch of counterexamples, so I played the panel contrarian.

--Anita Blake books (everyone is paranormal. However, heroine starts out more human. In one sense she stays more human than her entourage, in another sense she becomes more paranormal than they are)
--Marjorie M. Liu, A Taste of Crimson (a romance in which the lovers are a male vampire and a female werewolf)
--First Underworld movie (ditto, except a female vampire and a male werewolf)
--My unpublished vampire erotica story, with a female vampire and a male human (Vito asked if my vampire character is very old. She isn't. However, she is older than the human character.)

We discussed stories in which the male beast becomes human (e.g., most versions of Beauty & The Beast) vs. not (e.g., Robin McKinley's Sunshine, although I gather this isn't a bog-standard romance)

I mentioned Cocteau's version of Beauty & The Beast, in which the beast becomes human but he resembles a man who had been pestering Beauty, and she expresses some displeasure/distrust at the change.

Things that were mentioned, but I don't remember what was said about them:
--Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance by Jayne Ann Krentz (Editor)
--The beta hero (I think this referred to a less dominant, more sensitive male hero. I didn't say this on the panel, but Liu's A Taste of Crimson had some gender-role switching between the protagonists and the vampire could have been said to be a beta hero.)
--Dark Hunter series
-- (the beast remains "beastly")
--Reaper TV show: Hispanic boy has relationship with demon woman
--Queer reading of paranormal romance

Someone suggested there should be a panel in the future about the uterine replicator.

Toward the end of the panel we began discussing "male human, female sexbot" romances. A theory was promulgated for why women prefer beast romances and men prefer sexbot romances: Women fear loss, and men fear failure. The beast is only attractive to the particular woman who sees his inner beauty, so she won't lose him. A man can't mess up with a sexbot (is this what was said? I can't remember), so he doesn't experience failure. (In her writeup  [info] - personalvito_excalibur said that this was interesting but these arguments could get too essentialist. I agree.)
red panda eating bamboo

Wiscon panel notes: Male Answer Syndrome

Track(s): Power, Privilege, and Oppression (Feminism and Other Social Change Movements)
Description: Although it's not absolute, there's a strong tendency among masculine people to always want to have the definitive answer for everything, even if they don't necessarily know. In panels and elsewhere in life, it can be hard for men to admit they don't know things. Why is this? How can men deal with the pressure (either internal or external) to always have the right answer? How do women and other non–masculine folks deal with Male Answer Syndrome? If you think the answers to all these questions are obvious, then you need to come to this panel!
Panelists: Suzanne Allés Blom, Moondancer Drake, John Helfers, Stef Maruch
Moderator: John H. Kim

In my pre-panel post, I said: "I wanted to be on this panel because it's All Answer Syndrome All The Time at my house...and the XY person in the relationship is not the only person participating. So I have experience from multiple sides. I also have funny stories and techniques that you'll want to know about!"
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red panda eating bamboo

Wiscon panel notes: Your Electric Critics

Your Electric Critics
Track: The Craft and Business of Writing
Description: Writers groups and slush piles are two of the basics for new authors. Traditionally, writers met with a group of other local aspiring authors and critiqued each others work. Then they would send off their newly polished babies to a publisher, where they would be smothered in the slush pile. With the web, there are some interesting new wrinkles in this formula. Online critique groups like Critters make it easy to find other writers, and sites like Baen's Bar and Authonomy promise to make the slush pile a visible, living thing. How useful are they? Can you really get published using them? And what the best ways to make them work for you?
Moderator: Jack McDevitt
Panelists: Laurel Amberdine, Carol F. Emshwiller, Gary Kloster

Jack McDevitt and Carol Emshwiller are seasoned professional writers; Laurel Amberdine and Gary Kloster are newer at it.

The following notes organize what I thought were the highlights of the panel into various topics.
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The list:
There was also a handout listing various interactive slush piles and online writers workshops. I have mislaid it. I only remember that Baen's Bar was one of the slush piles (more information here: and that Gary and Laurel had positive experiences with the following online writers workshops:, which is paid for by donations, and, which is $50/year with a free one-month trial membership.
red panda eating bamboo

Wiscon panel notes: Wish Fulfillment in Fiction

Wish Fulfillment in Fiction
Track: The Craft and Business of Writing
Description: What is the role of wish fulfillment in fiction? If you're a writer, what personal wishes do you want your stories to fulfill? Are they the same ones you want to read about? How do our fictitious wishes affect our everyday dreams?
Moderator: P. C. Hodgell
Panelists: Beth Friedman, Anne Harris, Stef Maruch, Caroline Stevermer

I wasn't really happy with my performance on this panel, but I was glad that I did get on the panel because we had a really interesting pre-panel email discussion. Basically PC and I were talking about problems with using wish-fulfillment as a driver of fiction writing, and Anne and others were talking about the benefits. And what we saw as the problems they pretty much saw as the benefits.

For example, PC brought up "Mary Sue" fanfic, and Anne said let's not diss fanfic, a lot of good pro writers got their start in fanfic. So then PC said that she was thinking about a particular story where the writer tortured one character so the other character could comfort him, and Anne said oh, hurt/comfort stories: one of my favorites.

We decided not to make the panel into a debate though.

Some highlights from the panel (again, I paraphrased and I might have got it wrong):
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