TFOB Part III – Generations of Sword and Sorcery

Dammit, this was too long in coming, I meant to have this done weeks ago.  At last, I can wrap up the panels from the Tucson Festival of Books.  I did sit on another panel (Surviving the Apocalypse) but sadly, I lost my notes for it, so this one has to be it.

I apologize for the delay but consider yourself lucky.  I have been painting all day and my arms are exhausted, so I am writing this by poking the keys with my tongue.

(Muse:  Wait, what?)

Never mind.  Anyway, Generations of Sword and Sorcery.

This was a really fun panel.  Members included Charlie Jane Anders of IO9, Jeffe Kennedy, Sam Sykes, and Terry Brooks.  Yeah, that Terry Brooks.

Side note on Terry Brooks:  the guy is really funny.  I read the Shannara books but nothing else by him, so I don’t know what I was expecting.  I guess I thought he would be kind of stodgy but he was nothing of the sort.  He had a very understated sense of humor.  I also think I was sitting right next to his wife, so I hope that as I was leaning forward to listen to the speakers and writing furiously, she didn’t think I was so kind of stalker.

The panel was just kind of a general discussion on how sword and sorcery has evolved and what trends have emerged.  On that point, they had a variety of answers.  SS made the observation that fantasy has gone “grimdark,” a consequence of the popularity of A Song of Fire and Ice.  CJA mentioned the rise of urban and vampire fantasy, noting that the umbrella of fantasy is constantly getting bigger, a view echoed by JK, who pointed to the numerous genre crossovers, specifically with romance.  TB noted that compared with when he started writing, even through the massive changes in technology and evolution of publication practices, that the interest in spec fiction remains as strong as it was then, if not more so.

When asked what themes they wanted to explore but hadn’t, Sykes immediately said he wanted to write about some perverse sex act mingled with fantasy elements.  Color me shocked.  JK had an interesting answer, saying she’d like to write about a xenobiologist.

One question came from the audience asking if personal relationships (among characters) were important.  SS made the point that young adult outsells adult spec fiction and it is nothing but personal relationships.  (It would be easy to assume that because he swears a lot and has a raunchy sense of humor that Sam Sykes is a little lowbrow, but he’s pretty damn perceptive and smart.)  TB followed by paraphrasing a point that I have long made and that it is all about connecting characters with readers.  He said, “No one cares about the fate of the world but they do care about the fate of people.”  I love it, since I am a big proponent of writers making an effort to connect their readers with their protagonists – and if possible, their antagonists.

There was a question about the source of magic and whether that mattered.  The general consensus was that magic shouldn’t be a free pass, that it should cost something, whether that something was life force, part of the soul, or something else.  Good points.  I almost fell into that trap writing Pilgrimage but I think I avoided it since-

(Muse:  Shut up with the spoilers!)

Right.  I think I avoided it, will leave that alone.

Then came the question I really liked.  Someone asked if writers had a social obligation – you know to tell socially-responsible stories.  Most of the panel hemmed and hawed a little.  I must have been channeling Terry Brooks all these years since he yet again echoed what I have thought all along.  He said, “A writer has one obligation:  to tell a good story.”

Bless him.

Like I said, it was a very good panel and I enjoyed it, like the others at the Book Fest, very very much.

So that concludes my TFOB reporting.  I meant to have this done some time ago but real-life, as it has a tendency to do, got in the way.  And I meant to make it a four part series but as mentioned, my notes have taken a hiatus.

Next time we will, as the Python Six might have said, be moving on to something completely different.  Until then, dear readers, cheers!



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