I’ve just returned from ConDor 21, a science-fiction and fantasy convention in San Diego. It was a small event, maybe a few hundred people. Despite its size, the range of events and attendees was expansive. In a span of twenty feet, I saw steampunk costumers, whovians, ghostbuster-gunslingers, hard sci-fi authors who have been writing since the 80s, fencers and inventors. I saw mummers perform, and learned line dances from the time of the American Revolution. I learned about anti-heroes, how to sustain tension in romance, the development of airship technology in the real world, and how fantasy elements like magic affect large-scale war tactics (I.e., being able to ward off dysentery or preserve food is FAR more useful than being able to chuck fireballs).
That’s some incredible variety.
(Except for the photos, I’m always getting killed in those)
What struck me about the pro/fan interaction was that no one had the same frame of reference. No matter what the subject, when someone mentioned their favorite example, no one had read that book. I think that’s why genre writers and fans have latched on to older material from the 30s (Conan) 50s (Lord of the Rings) 60s (Doctor Who) and 70s (Star Wars). I can’t say for sure if there was less competition; but mass-distribution of science fiction and fantasy was rarer. It’s interesting to note that something like Lord of the Rings would never be published in today’s market — the standards are much more specific. As a result, we’re re-booting the popular items all the time. We are the generation inspired by those big, sweeping stories to either ‘do it justice,’ or write our own.
It makes me wonder what it would take to stand out in the age of self-publishing. It makes me wonder what the difference is between writing fanfiction and being hired to write a novel set in the Dark Crystal universe. There’s really only one answer — you have to keep going, and you have to love it. Worry about fame and recognition later. If I learned anything this weekend, it’s that there’s enough room on the bookshelf for all of us. I tried to find a quote, but I found this poem instead. Please enjoy, and I’ll see you around.
“Style is the answer to everything.
Fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous day.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style.
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art.
Bullfighting can be an art.
Boxing can be an art.
Loving can be an art.
Opening a can of sardines can be an art.
Not many have style.
Not many can keep style.
I have seen dogs with more style than men.
Although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.
When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun, that was style.
For sometimes people give you style.
Joan of Arc had style.
John the Baptist.
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is a difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water, or you, walking
out of the bathroom without seeing me.”
— Charles Bukowski