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September 17, 2008

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Those carrot muffins in the green room were heavenly! Also, more importantly, the con seemed to have a fairly young age range-I met several students from NYC area schools who were involved in various events. While I have no problem hanging out with "grown-ups", it was nice to see such a vibrant group.

And you have to keep that hat even if you decide on a brown steampunk outfit-it was splendid!

Oooh, yeah, I should have mentioned the age range. Definitely skewed young, especially given the age minimum of 18. Mostly 20- and 30-somethings, but enough older folks that I didn't feel out of place.

I had to have them dance in shifts.

Much easier than dancing in all those heavy layers of Victorian formalwear, to be sure.

Paul A.:
I am vigorously ignoring you. :)

(I've actually worn just my underwear to a ball at an SF convention once or twice - I have some very pretty frilly stuff and usually never gets seen under the dresses.)

Sounds like a fun convention... if we decide to go visit my in-laws out East next year, I may try to convince DH that we need to go later than usual so we can hit SalonCon too ;)

The over-crowdedness can probably be blamed on the sudden explosion of steampunk. The people who organized the steampunk event at Comic Con expected about 20 people, and had to turn folks away from the 100 person capacity room they'd been given.

It's very interesting to me to watch the growth of this subculture. I was born way too late to watch Goth grow, after all ;)

Clocks/watches. As hair accessories or jewelry. Built into clothing or hats. Little clocks everywhere.

In 2006, did you ever notice that my Time Traveller's vest had buttons made to look like clocks?

If you must wear a corset as outerwear, get an over-bust model that is not particularly historical but covers the territory adequately.

"You've got to know the territory!"
(An anvil-selling travelling salesman in The Music Man)

Serge:
I did not in fact notice this. Such buttons are available at a number of places around the net, so someday they might show up on a steampunk outfit of mine...

AJ:
Yeah, it's very interesting and I'm trying to figure out a good way to exploit it as a dance teacher. :)

I took a look at your jewelry by the way. It's very beautiful! If I were more of a jewelry person I'd be interested, but I wear nothing but earrings, and usually the same pair every day.

Well, I think you might want to see if the con-runners were willing to shadow sf conrunners, like Philcon or Balticon, maybe. You can take in the vest with safety pins vertically, probably at the underarm seams.

And the people who think you can't be allergic to natural scents? They've been convinced by the people who sell natural scents.

Marilee:
I'm a seamstress; I can take in the vest properly, though I may also decide to just go ahead and make a nice Victorian one. It would look good on me at the current new-and-improved weight.

I really would like not to be allergic to flowers, but it's not a significant enough allergy to be worth taking years of shots for when I can just avoid them and their natural scents. The last time I got a truly beautiful bouquet of roses (huge, cream-colored, obviously expensive) I slowly moved it from my second floor living quarters to the first floor foyer to the porch and eventually into the hands of a friend who promised to take them away and enjoy them. Their natural scent was so strong I couldn't even have them in the house! I felt bad for the givers, who clearly meant well, but what else could I do?

AJ... It's very interesting to me to watch the growth of this subculture.

How did it come to be, by the way? In the late 1980s, Gibson & Sterling wrote The Difference Engine, which, because of its authors's association with cyberpunk(*) was quickly called steampunk. It looked like it might be the beginning of a new trend, and a handful of books came out with similar themes, but the whole thing never really caught fired. Dare I say that it quickly ran out of steam? ("No, Serge, you dare not," says Susan with a gaze that would make Bangladesh Dupree blanch.)

Then, there was nothing - not on the literary front anyway. What did rekindle the flame? Was it Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen then Agatha Heterodyne?

Did they talk about that during the con? Maybe not, since Susan says that "...it seems not to be rooted in traditional SF fandom at all..." That'd seem to imply that the con's members don't come from a background of written SF, or from comics, or from movies. Which makes me wonder what their background is.

(*) I understand that, as a response to that, Susan Shwartz would host tea parties with cyberpreps.

My impression is that steampunk had a few literary examples coming out regularly but mostly perked along quietly in film (I loved Time after Time myself) and role-playing games until it started to explode with League. There also seems to be a lot of "found steampunk" like some of the early movies you've been mentioning in the other thread. But I'm hardly the expert here!

From conversations with people at the con, it's not that they don't read SF, it's just that they don't have a background in SF fandom as such, so they're creating conventions more-or-less from scratch with the outward style but not some of the underlying concepts or the same volunteer base or ethos. It's not a bunch of SF fans throwing a tight-focus con; it's a new and different crowd. That's both neat (fresh and unjaded!) and a problem, since SF cons have by trial and error come up with a lot of effective ways of doing things and a lot of people who willingly do them which Saloncon didn't (to my eyes) have access to. Or perhaps deliberately didn't want; I don't know.

I guess we've been with fandom so much that we tend to forget that there are lots of people out there who love F/SF who may not know about fandom. Or they know about it, but their perception is colored by TV reports about the weirdos in Star Trek costumes. (By the way, is it my imagination, or do worldcons have far fewer people in hall costumes than they used to?)

Anyway. I wish the con well, and I'd go if it not for the distance between there and New Mexico.

I've meant to ask... Have you ever read Stephen Baxter's steampunk novel Anti-Ice? He also wrote The Time Ships, a sequel to The Time Machine. I'm not sure I'd call it steampunk as it takes us to a Future where our solar system has been turned into a Dyson Sphere, and in the Far Past of Earth, before taking us to the Beginning of the Universe.

Serge,

The "birth" of steampunk, such as it is, is a pretty long story and one I'm not quite an expert on ;) Steampunk Magazine has covered it very well, though. I think their longest article about it was in their first issue, which you should be able to download from their website for free.

I really think that one reason why it's growing so fast now, after years of being a relatively small thing, is the internet. It's so *easy* to find steampunk resources and network with other people who are into it, and that makes it easier for people to get sucked in.

My own interest in it came in a very round-about way. I was already reading Girl Genius, and I had Gothic tendencies with a definite leaning towards Neo-Victorian, and then my husband kept telling me about this co-worker of his who would bring in his steampunk inventions to work, and then he was on Brass Goggles, and I looked at a few things on there and said "Hmmm... this is cool. I could make steampunk jewelry!" At the same time, Melanie from Earthenwood Studio was thinking "I could make steampunk beads!" and we started swapping links and movie suggestions with each other, and we both got sucked in.

Oh, and Susan, thank you for the compliments on my jewelry :)

Oh, and I'm not sure who you were directing the Anti-Ice comment to, but I haven't read it. The only steampunk books I've read are "The Difference Engine" (which I wanted to like and did not) and China Mieville's Bas-Lag trilogy, which is some very bizarre dark sf/f steampunk that I really enjoyed and force most of my friends to read.

I haven't even read any of the classics that inspired the genre, much to my shame. I need to remedy that fact.

AJ... "Steampunk Magazine"? Duly noted.

Who was I recommending, or rather mentionning, "Anti-Ice" to? Everybody who might be interested, of course.

As for "The Difference Engine"... I also wanted to like it, in spite of Bruce Sterling being a co-author. I didn't care much for it. Maybe because of Bruce Sterling. Do I sound like I have no interest in his oeuvre?

Of course, there's Jules Verne out there. It's still quite readable, at least in the original language. I wouldn't know how good the English translations are.

Serge:
I haven't read anything by Baxter. But I have League Vols. 1 & 2 and Larklight, which Raven recommended to me, winging their way to me right now by way of sampling the steampunk literature. I could spend plenty of time just being enchanted by the costumery, though.

And yes, worldcons have fewer hall costumes overall than they used to. CostumeCon and Dragoncon between them have drawn a lot of costumers away from worldcon, and there's no longer as much support structure as there used to be for costuming there. It's part of the unstoppable but regrettable splintering of fandom into a lot of special-interest groups/cons at the expense of the general ones.

Note, by the way, that Seattle is pushing a Steampunk theme for its worldcon bid for 2011.

Susan, re: scents -- a friend of AJ's and mine makes soaps (and cool bags and stuff) and I got a box from her today with a spearmint soap. I have massive gag reflex from spearmint anything, so I'll have to give it away. It's not so bad now wrapped up and dry. I once told an x-ray tech that I couldn't have spearmint-flavored barium for an upper-GI. He insisted I could and I vomited on his shoes.

Part of the reason we don't see costuming so much is that then people want masquerades and they're one of the most expensive parts of cons. Big spaces, stages, having to pay union stagehands, light techs, etc., and a lot of cons needed to cut back on expenses. Minicon has started having a night where costumes are encouraged (although, of course, some folks wear them all the time).

Marilee:
No, speaking as a costumer, that's not really it, especially since worldcon and many other cons still have masquerades. It's that most of the serious costumers of the 70s-90s have dropped out of SF fandom in favor of costume-specific venues or (if their interests run that way) media cons or anime cons or the SCA, and we haven't managed to develop a new generation of SF lit/costume fans. It's depressing for those of us who are interested in both. That's why masquerades have been shrinking dramatically as well. Worldcon's this year was about a quarter smaller than Balticon's was twenty years ago.

Cons that are overtly hostile to costumes (Readercon) or have a track record of being so in the past (Boskone, Minicon) are a different matter. I'm amused that Minicon is reversing course a little bit; I've heard wistful comments from regular attendees (including one person who was instrumental in revamping Minicon ten years ago) that they had realized they sort of missed the colorful stuff in the hallways.

(I should perhaps clarify that by support structure I mean things like a good costume program, a costumer's suite, costumed events for adults, costumers' guild meetings, etc. None of these cost cons any extra money. It's hard to sort out cause and effect here; some of these have vanished because the costumers have, but their vanishing is now contributing to a lack of new people being drawn into SF costuming. Death spiral!)

Thanks for the explanations about why con masquerades aren't what they used to be. I had thought that it might have been because the costumers were getting older and now had to be more worried about paying off the mortgage and other such mundane concerns. I mean, Susan spent quite a few pennies on the InterPlanet Janet presentation and I don't even want to think that 1983's worldcon presentation "turn of a friendly card" would cost today. Still, it's a great loss for those of us who like all aspects of F/SF.

OMG! Someone else who remembers "Turn of a Friendly Card!" I loved that one! I actually own the Queen of Spades costume from it.

Of the people I know in that group, one (Karen Dick, formerly Karen Turner) is still active in east coast costuming fandom and runs Castle Blood with her husband Ricky. It's her costume I have. One may still be active in the San Diego area. One (Kelly Turner, King of Spades) is dead. The two others I know are divorced and remarried but have pretty much dropped out of fandom. I don't know what the other three are up to.

Most people don't costume at that level for more than ten or fifteen years (Karen is a notable exception). As you say they get mortgages and kids and it gets harder to keep going. The ones I know who've really stuck with it are notable for mostly not having children. So you need a constant stream of new people coming in, and we're just not getting them. We've also lost a lot of people to Burning Man, Dragoncon, Costumecon, and Costume College. Even when the dates don't conflict, there are only so many large events one can afford and make costumes for each year.

Interplanet Janet cost a few hundred dollars. A serious worldcon-level costume can cost considerably more; easily into the thousands for a large group with fancy costumes.

Serge:

My issue with Difference Engine was that I felt like the narrative kept the reader at a remove. I couldn't get close to the characters or the plot, and then every time I started to get into a plot thread, it would just... end. With no real resolution. Not sure if it's a fault of one author or the other, or just something they were trying to do with the book, but it pretty much ensured that I won't read anything else by either of them.

Re: costumes and conventions. I can't imagine going to a convention and not wearing a costume, because I like any excuse to dress up. But since I'm not a seamstress (yet!), my costumes are all cobbled together out of thrift store finds, things my Mom sewed for me, and clothes that I buy from Ren Faire. There *are* young people who are into costuming (I'm only 26), but I do think that they're more likely to go to Comic Con, Dragon*Con, or an anime convention, where cosplaying is more popular.

Susan: On allergies, you could point out that peanuts are a common allergen and that they are perfectly natural.

I was on staff on the lit track at Dragon*Con at the beginning of this month, and we had a panel on steampunk that attracted more than three hundred people. The problem was that the room had a capacity of eighty. So we had to keep turning people back. Some of the overflow went into an empty room, but we still had over a hundred and fifty unhappy (and costumed) people.

Susan.. you need a constant stream of new people coming in, and we're just not getting them

That may be because the Masters aren't there to inspire them. Kind of a vicious circle, yes. As for "friendly card", I remember it because it was absolutely gorgeous, and also because, until they showed on stage, the group I was in was nearly sure to win. After that, not so much.

Fragano:
And, happily, peanuts are something I'm not allergic to! That's a scary allergy to have. My scary one is bee stings, for which I carry an epi-pen around with me all summer just in case. Bees, of course, are also extremely natural. They just exude nature from their furry little bodies and scatter it like pollen from their little bee knees. Can't get more natural than a bee, unless maybe it's a bee with a peanut!

AJ... Come to think of it, I had pretty much the same problems with "Difference Engine". I don't remember this being an issue in what little other stuff I had read by Gibson.

Back in the mid-1990s, a lost novel by Jules Verne was rediscovered. "Un Parisien au XXième siècle" was about Paris in 1960. It was flawed, and had a depressing ending, but it might be of some interest to steampunk fans. It was published in English by Random House in 1996. I've got a copy of that (besides the French edition of course), in case someone wants to borrow it.

Last year, John Kessel wrote a story that I haven't read yet, but the premise of which sounds intriguing. "Pride and Prometheus" has Mary Bennett involved with Doctor Frankenstein.

Susan... Note, by the way, that Seattle is pushing a Steampunk theme for its worldcon bid for 2011.

I can just see someone doing a masquerade presentation about the Cognoscenti, scientific defenders of the Realm against such villains as the Shifty Gears, and the evil Flywheel.

Serge:
I'd just like to see Seattle win the worldcon race, for starters!

Susan... So would I. Their only competition is Reno. Nothing against Reno, but, as far as I'm concerned, any state that swims in coffee has my vote.

I'd gladly travel to Seattle for a steampunk-themed World Con. One of my local friends wanted to go to Denver this year, but didn't have the time and money... would be fun to go to Seattle with her :D

AJ:
Become at least a supporting member of Montreal and you and your friends can vote...

If I still had my copy of Un Parisien au XXième siècle, I'd give it to someone. I think I made it through the first 20 pages or so before throwing it at the wall.

Yeah, Seattle would be good for a worldcon, and I'd like to be in Seattle again. I might see if I could muster the money for a Seattle worldcon. I suppose I should support Montreal.

Wow, I think the only thing I've ever thrown at the wall was the very worst of what I had to critique for my writing class.

Marilee! We could both go to World Con! It would be awesome! I'd bring Chris, too! *mental image of me stuffing my husband in a duffle bag*

What is this "supporting Montreal"? Is it donating to a convention held in Montreal?

You disliked it that much, Marilee? It was Jules's first novel, after all, and it was put aside and never reworked. I thought it was interesting to see him show such a pessimistic view of technological Progress, where it affects a whole society instead of having the technological innovation be an anomaly owned by one single person.

AJ... A 'supporting' membership means that you're not expecting to go to that con, but you want to encourage them financially. Should you become capable to attend, due to a change in commitments and/or finances, the membership can be converted to 'attending'.

Me, I'm planning to attend Montréal's, and Seattle's. Luckily, my wife wouldn't put me in a duffle bag because she couldn't lift it. Hmm. She has been muttering about some Reducer Ray.

AJ:
To expand on what Serge said about supporting memberships --

Worldcons operate on the intellectual basis that they are gatherings of an ongoing community which convenes in a different location every year. Not all members of that community can make it every year, given the floating location (especially when it floats to places like Japan or Australia), but the community wishes the event to thrive nonetheless and wishes to remain involved with it to the limited extent possible when one can't actually show up at the annual gathering. Hence the concept of a supporting membership. One sends off money and one is considered a member of the worldcon even without a physical presence. You get whatever publications they put out, including the generally large and ritzy program book, and you get to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards and to vote for the location of the next gathering plus the warm fuzzy feeling of being a part of the greater worldcon community. Technically you're joining the World Science Fiction Society, but WSFS determinedly does nothing each year except hold a worldcon. It's sort of an imaginary society. :)

The most common way people end up as supporting members is they vote in the site selection, which runs two years out from the convention. When you vote (and pay the voting fee), you automatically become a supporting member of that convention (voting in 2008 was for 2010, so I am now a supporting member of the Australia worldcon.) You can then choose to pony up additional money to become an attending member, or not. So by joining Montreal, you would get to vote for the 2011 site selection, which is between Seattle and Reno, and then would become a supporting member of whichever one won.

Don't think about supporting memberships as a "what do I get for my money?" thing; on that basis, they're not really worth it. There has to be a (unusually selfless and abstract for today) feeling that the worldcon as a concept is worth supporting even if one doesn't personally get to go. That's a hard sell nowadays; the SF community is no longer as small and tight-knit as it used to be. That's good in most ways, but a disadvantage in this one.

But, of course, it's nice to get to be a Hugo nominator and voter. This year, they sent out free electronic copies of four of the five Hugo nominee novels, which actually would have made the supporting membership financially worth it, if you consider the cost of four hardcovers.

A final note: the cheapest way to get a worldcon membership is to vote in the site selection and then convert to attending within 90 days, during which they hold the rate down for voters. After that, prices climb rapidly.

AJ, Worldcons are big places - I'd have to rent a scooter. But it would be fun to go, and more fun with you and Chris there, too! Here's the English version of Anticipation's website -- they're next year's Worldcon -- and Site Selection is over on the side. That page will direct you to whichever site you want to support. Ah, Seattle is only $25 for pre-support, I'll wait until my next check comes in a few days and go ahead and pre-support.

(filling in helpfully)
AJ, pre-supports are yet another thing, basically donations to the groups bidding for the different sites for worldcon. If that site wins, you usually get a further discount on the attending membership. If that site doesn't win, well, you've helped them throw some spiffy bid parties (costs for which otherwise come out of the pockets of the people bidding).

Has anyone written a guide to all this, I wonder? Maybe someone should. Maybe I should. In my copious free time.

After the daily grind of yet another 14-hour session that ended one hour after midnight in my home office, I decided to treat myself before turning in, and went online to purchase all available issues of Steampunk, and also their erotica anthology Steamypunk. The latter's concept intrigues me.

"You villain! I don't shift gears for just any handsome mechanic!"

I am expecting to find Larklight, both volumes of League, and two pairs of goggles waiting in my PO box tomorrow or perhaps Saturday (the books are coming from Amazon and will ship fast; the goggles are coming from The Gentleman's Emporium; I don't know how fast they ship.)

I want Professor Ocularo's X-Ray Monocle!

Thank you all for explaining, I think I understand the support thing now! A handy tutorial for SF/F fandom outsiders like me would be helpful. I'm usually not involved in fannish things... I read SF/F (mostly fantasy), and write fantasy, and then I go read the blogs of Marilee's friends when she says they're talking about steampunk ;)

I'm a little scared of the idea of the Steamypunk anthology. The fiction in Steampunk Mag ranges from really good down to barely readable. Serge, I hope you'll fill us in on the quality of the content. Or I may have to give in to my own morbid curiosity...

AJ... Hopefully the fiction will be closer to 'really good'. I'll let you know.

The other reason Saloncon attracted me was that Catherynne Valente (of the wonderful Orphan's Tales duology that I rave about to everyone) was a guest.

First, a kaffeeklatsche without the kaffee has been the norm in all the ones I've attended. As for Valente herself, there was an interview with her in Locus's May 2008 issue. I especially liked this:

Because of my classical background, I don't make the same distinction between realism and genre work that most people do. Most of the things I read in college had beyond fantastic elements - the hydra, the minotaur - so that just seemed normal to me. It took me a long time to figure out that quirky dramas were realism, minotaurs are not.

Then again, back in those days, minotaurs were part of the Natural Order, and so were not fantastic elements. Today though... Would a family-based sitcom called Everybody Loves the Minotaur be realistic or fantastic?

(Hmmm. I do hope that last bit didn't come off as making fun of Valente's comments. By the end of my post, I got this silly image of a Greek sitcom, probably from watching The Attila the Hun Show too many times.)

Serge, it doesn't matter what it's marketed as, it would get canceled halfway through the first season to make room for another reality show ;)

You don't want to get me started on literary vs. genre. I'm still bitter from my writing class experiences.

AJ... You don't want to get me started on literary vs. genre

C'mon.
You know you wanna.

Meanwhile, Norman Spinrad seems to have a love/hate relationship with genre fiction, if I am to believe his column in the Oct/Nov issue of Asimov's. There he goes, saying that Genre science fiction is dying, and refering to Tor, a long-standing bastion of genre science fiction of literary quality (and that is by no means a contradiction in terms). If I remember correctly (and I may not as a prolonged shortage of sleep is know to affect one's capacity to recall), his argument is that more and more people from outside the genre have been using the tropes of SF in literary works, and some of them have even done so understanding what they were handling. One of his examples is Michael Chabon. (I think that Our Hostess would beg to differ.)

As for Everybody Loves the Minotaur, yes, it probably would get cancelled quite quickly, especially if they explain how and why his mom and dad conceived him. Maybe it'd get retooled into Everybody Loves Talos, a proto-steampunk known to build mechanical men, and wings for his son.

Oops. I knew I was tired, but not to the point of conflating Talos and Daedalus.

AJ:
What sort of fantasy do you write? Are you published? And do feel free to do literary vs. genre. :)

Serge:
I've been to kaffeklatsches that actually had kaffee at them! But since I go to so few of them in general and in any case don't drink coffee, I didn't actually realize they usually don't have it.

On Spinrad, I'm not sure how one gets to genre "dying" given that there is an immense quantity of new SF being published. Maybe too much. I think the collective community swoon over Yiddish Policemen's Union suggests some serious issues with self-esteem and self-hatred. And as for Tor and literary: they publish Piers Anthony's Xanth stuff. Need I say more?

(Anyone else out there I can offend while I'm on a roll?)

I seem to remember that The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break was published as just fiction. I like the idea of a Greek mythology sitcom. If you made it essentially Mork and Mindy or Third Rock from the Sun or maybe My Hero but with mythical beings rather than aliens it might not get cancelled. I'd still probably only watch it every third episode or so. (partly indifference, partly lack of organisation)

(Kaffeeklatsch mit keine Kaffee! That really is offensive.)

Susan... Tor and literary: they publish Piers Anthony's Xanth stuff. Need I say more?

You probably need to as I've never read anything by Anthony. Is that his humorous fantasy series? That being said, even if the books are less than literary, heck, if it sells enough that it allows Tor to take some risks with less commercial stuff... (I presume that Derek Jacobi prefers stage work to movie or TV roles, but the latter probably allow him to do the former without becoming a starving artist. He's a better reason I'd consider watching Underworld 2 as there's only so much that one can take of Kate Bakingsale's rubbercoated derrière.)

Neil Willcox.. How about The League of Mythological Gentlemen? Somebody call Kevin Sorbo pronto! Wait a minute. There once was a movie that had Hercules and Ulysses teaming up with Samson in his fight against the Phillistines, who wore Nazi helmets. Italian cinema that makes Fellini's oeuvre look like drek.

Serge:
Let's just say the books are written on about the level of maturity and pre-adolescent humor you'd expect with a title like The Color of Her Panties. It's not clear to me that Anthony has ever matured sexually or emotionally beyond age twelve. Or maybe seven. I recall the first book (A Spell for Chameleon) as being not-bad, but they then went off a cliff pretty fast.

Tor publishes some good stuff, but that doesn't make them particularly superior to any other house; they are a business, not a charity, and publish a great deal of (presumably money-making) crap as well.

Serge:
Weirdly enough, the issue of (fanzine) MT Void I received in the email today talked about what Mark Leeper calls Italian "pepla" movies, which were a 1950s-1960s genre that featured mythologically-based muscle men running around in Greek drapery. "Swords and sandals" epics. I think you can see the issue here.

Neil:
(Kaffeeklatsch mit keine Kaffee! That really is offensive.)

To be fair to Saloncon, they didn't bill it as a kaffeeklatsche. They billed it as a salon. What it turned out as was a group of us in a circle of chairs in a program room. No food or drink attached. The kaffeeklatsche comparison was mine.

The last two kaffeeklatsches I've been to, I believe, were in 1997 with Lois McMaster Bujold, where they served scrumptious desserts, which prevented me from noticing whether there was coffee or not (but I assume there was), and one with Karen Joy Fowler at Readercon in 2007, which was held in a hotel room and may or may not have had coffee. So I am probably no judge of typical practice.

Mythology in modern times: Thorne Smith's The Night Life of the Gods.

Susan:

Thank you for asking! I am unfortunately not published yet, as nothing I've written is ready to be shopped around yet. For the past couple of years, I've been working on a slightly dark urban fantasy/mystery series, but Book 4 was going nowhere and I realized I had to take a break from that. So in the meantime I'm finally making progress on a little stand-alone traditional fantasy book that I've started about 5 or 6 times since I first came up with the idea when I was 18. I'm very happy with what I have planned for it and hope to try to get it published when it's done. Of course, I'm not even halfway done with the first draft, so that's a long way in the future.

And my favorite bit of mythology in modern times is of course Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and then the tabletop RPG that is practically a blatant rip-off of that novel, White Wolf's Scion. It's fun to play a daughter of Hephaestus building animatronics for casinos in Vegas.

Literary vs. Genre will be a separate post...

Susan...

The Color of Her Panties? Oh, he's the one. I've never read it or anything else by him because humorous or tongue-in-cheek fantasy just isn't my thing. Let me rephrase that. I moderately liked the movie adaptation of Gaiman's Stardust, but I didn't care that much for the original novel, which I read first. That's because when I read humorous fantasy, my mind conjures up something with cheap sets and visuals.

There is probably something wrong with my head.

That must be because, when I was of a tender age, my brain was made to rot from watching all those peplum movies starring Hercules and Maciste. The latter once even teamed up with Zorro and, no, time travel wasn't involved.

The last two kaffeeklatsches I've been to, I believe, were in 1997 with Lois McMaster Bujold, where they served scrumptious desserts, which prevented me from noticing whether there was coffee or not

Was that in the Anaheim Center? If so, you and I were in the same room. As for myself, if there was dessert, I didn't notice because I prefer coffee.

Serge:
I don't like most humorous stuff either, though I got a good laugh out of Diana Wynne Jones's A Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which isn't a story but hilariously sends up all the stereotypes of the fantasy genre.

The one virtue the Xanth novels might have from your perspective is that they are packed full of puns. That is not sufficient to sell me on them given the overall juvenile attitude of the author.

Frustratingly, I can't quite seem to connect with the Discworld books, though I like British humor in general and plenty of my friends assure me they are great. I've tried a couple and just bounced right off of them.

The 1997 klatches were in a hotel in San Antonio. I suspect you're thinking of 1996...


AJ:
At least I don't have to feel like an idiot for failing to recognize your name. :) I hope your writing goes well and that you'll stick around and keep us posted on progress even when we're not talking steampunk.

I liked American Gods, but didn't love it to death or go Gaiman-gaga like some of my friends have.

(One of my favorite Gaiman pieces is actually a poem or song - it's been set to music and performed by the Flash Girls and Lorraine a'Malena. And, marvelously, it's a waltz, so I can dance to Gaiman lyrics. "A Personal Thing".)

And now for the novella I like to call "A Genre Writer's Adventures in the Community College Writing Department."

Prologue: I was homeschooled. At the time of this story, I had never participated in any sort of formal class. For the most part, I had taught myself how to write simply by reading. I was blissfully unaware that there was even a differentiation between literary and genre fiction. In my mind, all books had a genre, and people read whatever genre they liked, and the only reason they didn't read the other genres was that the subject matter didn't interest them. In my ignorance, I figured that literary fiction was written just the same as my beloved fantasy books, except it concerned the lives of normal people and was rarely epic in scope.

And now the tale of my rude awakening.

I was about 23 at the time and I was working on the first book of the series I mentioned above. My father was also working on a book at the time, and had decided that he wanted to get it polished enough to try to publish. As such, he managed to get into a class which we will call, for brevity's sake, the Novel Class. It was an advanced writing class specifically for people who were working on a novel, and it covered not just proper novel writing, but information on editors, publishers, agents and other novel-related issues.

On the first day of class, the teacher mentioned that the class was a bit small and she was hoping to get more students. My father decided to ask me if I wanted to take it with him. I dragged my feet, because remember, I had never taken a single class in my life and I was sure that I wasn't good enough to just get into an advanced writing class without having so much as taken writing 101. But my Dad and my husband both insisted I should give it a try, so I sent the teacher my most recent short story that I actually felt good about, and she read it and said I seemed like a good fit for her class.

This was a good temporary ego boost for a young aspiring author. My story was good enough to get me into an advanced writing class! Hurray! Little did I realize what was to come.

On my first day of class, we had introductions, as I wasn't the only new student. There were about 20 people. The first thing I learned was that sci-fi, fantasy, horror, romance, and mystery were all considered "genre fiction" and were looked down upon by readers of "literary fiction." By the time introductions reached me, I said with grim humor, "I'm another one of those Dreaded Genre Writers."

There were six of us in the class. Three women writing fantasy (me included), two men writing sci-fi (my Dad included), and one woman writing a mystery who appeared to want nothing to do with our genre title. The rest of us cheekily adopted the Dread Genre Writer (henceforth DGW) tag, and pretty much stuck together for the rest of the class. We sat together and encouraged each other, because we needed all of the encouragement we could get.

To be fair, although the teacher was a Literary Author, she did admit that there was some good genre work out there and used some of it as examples in the class. But she would frequently say "Genre writers tend to " and otherwise denigrate the quality of non-literary fiction. She referred to several popular genre authors (mystery mostly) as hacks.

There were three components to the class. Our teacher would discuss something related to novel-writing, and we would perhaps do some exercises based on it. Once or twice this was replaced by someone else coming in and giving a talk. We were assigned three short (literary) novels to read, and the class was divided into three panels, each one covering one book (more on that later). And the largest part of the class was bringing in your work for critique, and in turn critiquing the work of your classmates.

Each week, three to five people would have to bring in about 15 pages of their work, with enough copies for everyone. Throughout the course of the class, each person would end up bringing 3 of these packets into class. The rest of the class would then have the entire week to read what they were given, write a brief critique (including marking things down on the copy, areas that didn't make sense, errors, things they liked, etc). Then during class, there would be a discussion period. Each person in class would have to say something about the piece in question -- what worked for them, what didn't, questions or suggestions for the author -- and then at the end, the author would have a couple of minutes to respond.

So the best thing about this class was that I learned how to critique writing. Our teacher taught us how to offer constructive criticism, how to analyze what we were reading, and stuff like that. It totally changed the way I read (sometimes that's actually a bad thing, as I discover that authors whom I previously liked actually really suck). And of course, I also had to learn how to accept criticism!

I'm the sort of person who likes to do whatever she does well. So even though most of my classmates were writing literary fiction, and even though some of it bored me to tears and some of it made me want to gag, I gave each and every piece the sort of attention that I wanted my book to receive. I pointed out what didn't work for me, admitted that some things might just not be to my taste, and always tried to find something good to say to soften the criticism.

I did not get the same consideration! A few people were very good at critiquing my work despite not liking the genre. One of our classmates taught a different writing class in the same department, and she was great. Insightful critiques, very encouraging, well-presented. And there was one guy who just had a very wry way of looking at things, his observations would always bring a smile or chuckle.

But then there were people who clearly did not get what I was doing (one person accused me of POV shift when my empathic character was sensing someone's emotions. her empathy had been well-established and discussed during previous classes), and people who obviously didn't even care enough to read it. At the end of the class, I sorted through all of my critiques and tossed a bunch because they were just empty.

I did get some valid critiques that helped me tighten my writing, and I learned a few things in the class that helped me not make stupid author mistakes, but it was still very frustrating that I was doing my part to help my classmates and they couldn't do the same for me.

And now, the panels. When I went into this class and discovered that everyone was all about Literary Fiction, I said to myself, "Well self, it's time to broaden your horizons. Maybe this Literary Fiction isn't too bad, just like some drama movies end up being surprisingly good."

Apparently there is good Literary Fiction out there. It was not assigned for reading in this class, however. Our three novels, in the order we had to read them (and in my personal opinion, in descending order of quality) were "In A Shallow Grave" by James Purdy, "The Doctor's House" by some woman, I think her name was Barbara, and "Garden State" by Rick Moody.

I was on the panel for "In A Shallow Grave" I picked it because out of the three, it sounded the most interesting, having the word "grave" in the title. I read it on a flight to Vegas and found it to actually be OK. Not really my thing, but a few weird things happened in it, and the tone was almost Gothic.

Now remember. I had never taken a class before. I was on this panel, but I had no idea what to do. I'd never given a presentation in my life! I tried to coordinate with my panel-mates (none of whom were my DGW buddies). There was one failed attempt to get everyone coordinated during the break at class one night, but otherwise, no one responded to my e-mails. So I chose what I wanted to talk about -- the Gothic tone -- and hoped my classmates would do their part.

My husband gave me some good advice. He told make a list of everything I wanted to cover/say, so I didn't forget, and if that didn't fill my allotted time, BS the rest. I love that man.

So I went in, I gave my presentation, I discussed the Gothic tone, compared and contrasted it to a Lovecraft story I had read recently (can't remember which one now), and discussed the weird happenings that almost pushed it over into genre territory.

As for my panel-mates, let's say that I'm glad my grade wasn't dependent on their performance. One hadn't even read the book; another one gave a presentation that consisted of nothing more than some information about the author that she'd printed off of the internet and read from the print-out without adding any commentary of her own.

"The Doctor's House" was a horrible, unhappy little book that annoyed me because nothing happened. I like character-driven fiction. Really I do. But what's the point of having a character-driven story if at the end, the characters haven't changed or developed and they're still in the same stupid messed-up situations they were in at the start? The only redeeming quality of this book, if it can even be considered such, is that it sparked a very lively discussion in class as to whether the brother and sister in it were having an incestuous relationship.

"Garden State" only had one redeeming quality, too. At the end, the characters seemed like they might actually be moving on with their lives. Otherwise it meandered along, not really going anywhere, and was horribly written. Oh yes. There was one other funny part. One of our other DGW was a rather punk-ish 20something gamer girl, and she was on that panel along with my Dad, but she couldn't make it to class that day, so she gave him her presentation. Listening to my 40something father talk about emo music and how it influenced that book was personally very amusing to me.

By the end of the class, there were really only three DGWs left. The other sci-fi author had dropped out early on, the punk girl missed so many classes that she gave up at the end, and then there was Dad, me, and the other fantasy author who ended up becoming one of my best friends.

Although I learned some good things in that class, it left a really bitter taste in my mouth. I felt like to some people, no matter how well I wrote, my work would always be considered some sort of tripe because it had elements of the supernatural. I felt irritated that we were told to find our "own voice" while at the same time being told that you can't ever use "said substitutions" and you have to trim out every single word that might even possibly be considered superfluous to someone somewhere down the road. I felt discouraged by the fact that when our teacher came back from some publishing conference, none of the magazines that she brought back information on would even consider genre stories.

And yet, as has been mentioned upthread, there are literary authors who use genre tropes. I've seen "Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell" shelved with SF/F or with General Fiction, depending on the store. "The Prestige" is shelved with General Fiction. I've read both books, they're both full of genre stuff, they're both great. "World War Z" is shelved with General Fiction. Seriously. ZOMBIES? That's not genre work?

Anyway, I'm never going to take another general writing class. If I find one geared towards genre writers, I'll jump on it, but I'm not about to pay to put up with that sort of snobbery again.

(Are you sorry you asked?)

<< I liked American Gods, but didn't love it to death or go Gaiman-gaga like some of my friends have. >>

I'm gaga. I admit it. I used to deny being one of his fan girls, but I wasn't fooling anyone.

And don't worry, I wouldn't have been offended if you didn't recognize me ;) I will stick around, that's for sure! These discussions have been too much fun.

re. Gaiman:
I think the problem is that I missed Sandman. I have been assured that if I read Sandman, I will go Gaiman-gaga. I made a start at it with some of the stories in Fragile Things, but it didn't quite take.

In the meantime, I would love to get him alone in a quiet room, peel that butch leather jacket off him, gaze deeply into his eyes, and start a conversation about Modesty Blaise.

AJ:
How awful! I also think of "literary" (meaningless term, that) fiction as just another genre, one that is way too much like real life and real problems for me to enjoy it much. And I'm so tired of the idea that good F&SF or F&SF by non-genre authors is not F&SF, it's "literature" (see: Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, etc.). Yawn. One thing I'll say for Chabon: at least he doesn't run away from genre.

Now I'm curious, if you don't mind my being nosy. Did you not go to college, that you were taking your first class at 23? Are you employed or home with kids?

(And how NEAT to have your father share your literary tastes and also write! My father doesn't approve of the entire F&SF/fandom/etc. thing at all.)

Susan... The one virtue the Xanth novels might have from your perspective is that they are packed full of puns

It will probably come as a surprise, but I wouldn't want to read a novel filled with puns. Having pun sessions with my buddettes and buddies, yes, but a novel that relies on those would be like my going on a week-long diet of lime-flavored ice cream. I love lime-flavored ice cream, but I'd get sick of it, and I might get sick, and it'd play havoc with my boyish figure.

The problem I had with Gaiman outside of comics is that he seemed to have troubles with the structure of long stories that don't rely on an episodic structure. He may have gotten better at it.

By the way, has anybody else seen his miniseries Neverwhere? It's very low-budget, but absolutely wonderful.

Susan... I would love to get him alone in a quiet room, peel that butch leather jacket off him, gaze deeply into his eyes, and start a conversation about Modesty Blaise.

You didn't try to do that after he emceed the Hugos at the 2004 worldcon in Boston?

Susan... how NEAT to have your father share your literary tastes and also write! My father doesn't approve of the entire F&SF/fandom

Me, I was the sole reader in my family. Or among my relatives.

Kaffeeklatch OHNE Kaffe. Bad German - now that's offensive.

As for League of Mythological Gentlemen I believe Alan Moore has suggested that the League can appear in a variety of time periods. The pre-publication adverts for volume 3 (titled: Century) suggest it will cover the entire 20th Century. I'd have preferred looking at earlier versions, but not so much that I probably won't go out and buy it anyway. Also: I'm pretty sure Hercules was dead (and deified) before the Trojan war (a generation? two?), making a Ulyssses/Hercules team-up problematic. (I suspect if such a team-up happened in a hypothetical League, Alan Moore would at least attempt to explain this away, which would probably be pretty interseting in itself)

In the meantime, I would love to get him alone in a quiet room, peel that butch leather jacket off him...

If we stop there for a moment can I have the jacket? Although from the pictures I've seen of Gaiman I suspect it won't fit.

Also: Were we talking about steampunk at some point? I don't know what's actually going on in these previews, but something very retro has happened in this Astonishing X-Men comic.

AJ... Genre writers tend to...

...write stories that people really want to read, as opposed to stories they're reading because they're supposed to want to read them.

I'll make a confession. I did know early on that there were SF stories, and stories that were not SF. I might have tried some of them when I was growing up, but I ran too much into the attitude that what I liked was inferior. As a result, I rebelled by refusing to be interested in the Classics, aside from Molière, especially if School demanded that I read them. Years later, after school was far behind me, I started peeking at the abhorred Classics, such as Flaubert's Salammbô. And I liked those I read. I am still predominantly a reader of F/SF, but I don't automatically reject the not-SF stories.

I've actually not read all of Sandman yet. I've read the first volume, one somewhere in the middle, and the second to last one. I like the story and characters enough, but find most of the art to be blah. My introduction to Gaiman was the novelization of Neverwhere (I've seen the mini-series, too, and it's fun, although most of the characters didn't look like how I saw them in my mind's eye).

Susan, I have not been to college, aside from my writing class adventures and a semester of Mandarin 101 (201 got cancelled! It was a very sad day!). I stay at home, sans children, and run my jewelry business. I'm likely going to get a business degree someday, or something far less practical but more interesting, like a folklore degree.

My Dad writes *a lot* and both of my parents read genre fiction. They wanted my brother and I to grow up loving books as much as they did, so we got to read lots of fun stuff, and pretty much no classics. I read the Narnia books and the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was a kid, but was mainly interested in "girl/boy and her/his horse(s)" books until I hit my teenage years and rediscovered SF/F.

Boy, you guys have been busy since I was here yesterday.

First, Spinrad: He was a successful writer for a long time and then he wrote an unpublishable book: He Walked Among Us (you'll have to scroll down on the awful website to get to it). The book satirizes a convention and Spinrad insists this is why it didn't get published. That's silly, since Sharon McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun got published (stereotyped fans in a mystery -- either loved or hated by most of fandom -- I like it and the sequel), and Diana Wynne Jones' Deep Secret is a fantasy set at an SF con and not only has some stereotypes, but some recognizable people.

The problem is that it's a truly awful book, and in general, real publishers don't buy those. So you can now download it (he says shareware, but also free, so I'm not sure of the terms) and read it, if you really want to. Once the book had been rejected by everybody, he decided that the genre was failing. After all, a book of his had been rejected! He's taken this attitude in his book review columns for Asimov's, which is why I don't read his columns (they have review columns by other people, too).

Second, Kaffeklatsches: I've been to three, all in function rooms, and all with water rather than coffee. That's okay because I don't like coffee.

Third, Xanth: It's not the puns or the humor or fantasy that made me stop reading them. It was the little-boy-sex-snickering. In every book, and from a number of characters. He has a trilogy that I like and reread every now and then: Of Man and Manta and I kept that.

Fourth, Neil: I like him better than most of his books. Come to Minicon, you'll meet him!

<< Fourth, Neil: I like him better than most of his books. Come to Minicon, you'll meet him! >>

Well, I have always wondered what it would be like to actually swoon...

AJ...

You're going to swoon if you meet Neil Willcox? I wish I had that effect on the ladies.

("Serge! Psst! It's Neil Gaiman.")

Oh.
Nevermind.

Marilee...

I've read some of Spinrad's books, The Solarians, Bug Jack Barron and might still like them. As for Iron Dream, it was an interesting idea, but it might have been more efficient at a shorter length. There is only so much one can take of what if Hitler had moved to America and become a pulp writer.

As for his reviews, I read a couple and I figure I'll skip them from now on. By the way, there is a certain absurdity in having him say what he says within the pages of an SF magazine.

I think we're working out a plan here. AJ and I get Neil Gaiman alone in a room. I peel off his jacket and quickly hand it out the door to Neil Willcox while AJ is swooning. Then Neil Gaiman and I talk about Modesty Blaise. I would arm-wrestle Neil W. for the jacket except that (1) I'd lose, being weak of arm, and (2) I already have three leather jackets and a leather trenchcoat.

Does that work for everyone?

More seriously:
I haven't met Neil Gaiman in a person-to-person sense, but I've asked him a question at a reading. My observations of him in public are that (1) he's hot, but not as hot as he thinks he is, and (2) he's incredibly controlled in the public persona he presents, which I suppose is necessary lest he be forced to peel off legions of eager fangirls. I asked him an MB question (about the script treatment he had theoretically been doing for one of the novels, which alas seems to be on permanent hold) and I was stunned when his entire face changed and he actually grinned. I guess the question was enough out of left field to shake the facade for a moment. It slammed back down pretty quickly, but the change was startling. I suspect he's a very different person when relaxing with friends.

It must be difficult to have that level of fame.

Neil Willcox... Alan Moore has suggested that the League can appear in a variety of time periods.

I think that it was suggested in the original comic-book that the earlier League was founded by Lemuel Gulliver. For some reason, I keep thinking of Father Syn being involved, but I think that may be because of a painting seen in M's office in the movie. Too bad. I want to hear that song from the miniseries that Disney had made in the early 1960s, with Patrick McGoohan as the Scarecrow.

>AJ and I get Neil Gaiman alone in a room.

Any plan that starts like this is one that I can get behind!

AJ... Any plan that starts like this

"HA! Got him with my subtle plan!"
"I can't see any subtle plan!"
"Baldrick, you wouldn't see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing 'Subtle plans are here again!'"

Well, Neil's been coming to Minicon before he was a star, so he's just one of us there. A lot of fantasy authors were part of the sponsoring org, MNstf, before they became famous: Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Pamela Dean, Lois McMaster Bujold, Pat Wrede, and lots that aren't coming to mind. It's a particularly fertile place for stories. Probably because of all the snow & ice.

Marilee:
the little-boy-sex-snickering

Thanks, that is precisely what I was trying to express. If one must suffer through Anthony's weird sexual issues, I'd rather reread the Tarot books, where at least it's more kinky and less juvenile.

I don't know about Minicon - I have the impression from its Boskone-like history and comments on Making Light that it's another con that isn't particularly friendly to costumers. Any time someone says a con is one the "right people" go to, I figure I'm not part of that group and should stay away. And Minneapolis is a bit far to go to feel unwelcome at a con; I can just go to Massachusetts for that.

I did, incidentally, rather enjoy the Gaiman-written film Mirrormask. Enjoyable surreal. And Coraline was good.

(wow, lots to catch up on!)

Serge:
You're going to swoon if you meet Neil Willcox? I wish I had that effect on the ladies.

You're married! Although you do have the advantage of the French-Canadian accent, which is probably almost as effective on many American women as an English one, though only if you used it flirtatiously, which you don't. (Which is fine. My nerves are so raw of late that I would run screaming away in horror.)

I don't swoon over Neil Gaiman; maybe if he grew a beard? I have no opinion over whether I would swoon over Neil Willcox, but am not all that swoon-prone in general.

I think with Gaiman and similar, one would hope that such an excellent wordsmith on paper would be similarly eloquent in person and in the whole whispering-sweet-nothings department. But sad to say, my experience is that literary folks get just as tongue-tied and clueless in intimate moments as anyone else. No brilliant witticisms or beautifully-crafted compliments or anything. Quite a letdown. At least actors can quote Shakespeare if they're stumped for lines of their own. (Though I may be slightly out of the ordinary in finding lines from Richard III suitable seduction material.)

Yeah, I think it was Bill Higgins who said on ML that people should come to Minicon and we got a lecture from a church-attender on how awful it was to hold a con on Easter (religious people come, they just go to a nearby church for services). It's not a big costuming con, although there is a fair amount of costumes around.

You can scan thumbnail pages of former cons from the Photo page.

I recommend this for the tattoo contest in the middle. Some costumes in the middle of this. Ah, more costumes and more tattoo judging here. The woman in the hat & bandolier at the top is giving out costume awards. The costuming page on the Minicon page. And this is me in the bottom right corner -- slippers on, feet up, crocheting during closing ceremonies.

It's not unfriendly to costumers, but if you want to spend all day with costumers, this is not the place because we don't have a costuming thread (that's not the right word, but I've been thinking for five minutes and it hasn't come). You would feel welcome. We spend most of our time sitting around and talking. It's kind of like your friends circle, plus their circles, and outward -- people just sit down and start talking about stuff, and find interesting things to talk about even if their main fandom preferences aren't the same. Now, Steven desJardins didn't like it last year (his first, and maybe last, time) because people are not so good about going out to eat at fabulous places. People do get together to eat, but it's not about fancy restaurants. Although if you stay through Monday, there's the traditional sushi restaurant trip. It's hard to describe because the focus really is getting-together, rather than a theme.

Marilee:
Sorry about the spam filtering! Nothing I do deliberately, just Typepad attempting to be protective.

I think "track" is the word you're looking for. I actually don't necessarily want or need to spend all day with costumers, I just get tired of dealing with the "not a trufan" sort of attitude that assumes costumers don't read books and disregards creative self-expression of my sort. Perhaps I'm wronging Minicon, but I had the idea that after they Boskone-ized it ten years or so ago that I was part of the crowd they were trying to get rid of. (Bill Higgins' comment certainly didn't help!) And I don't feel a special need to fly to Minnesota just to do the épate le bourgeois bit, amusing though it might be. Things must have changed some if they're actually doing hall costume awards, though, and since Balticon moved dates I don't have anything special to do on Easter weekend. On the other hand, staying home and having a quiet three-day weekend also has its moments!

I don't, incidentally, have any need to go out to fabulous restaurants. I rarely eat out at home and have no special interest in doing it at cons. Heck, with my diet this summer I was eating the same rather dull food every day for weeks. For local cons, I bring food and eat alone in my hotel room most of the time to save money. And I don't care for sushi.

>I don't swoon over Neil Gaiman; maybe if he grew a beard?

Oh, he's not my type at all looks-wise (as well as being about my father's age, which is always a turn-off). It's a combination of the accent and my admiration for his writing skill ;)

I doubt I'll ever go to Minicon simply because it's a long way for me to travel for a reasonably small convention, especially with air fare costs how they are. Likewise, the only way I'd end up at SalonCon is if I was already in NY/NJ visiting my in-laws.

AJ... being about my father's age, which is always a turn-off

Considering that I am 5 years older that Neil Gaiman, this is quite a reminder that I'm past it. Humph. Today's kids.

Just to show I harbor no hard feeling, here is a cartoon about Gaiman.

When Gaiman emceed the Hugo Awards at the Boston worldcon, the first thing I thought was "Oh my goodness" because - to me anyway - he sounds like Alan Rickman. Which is meant as a good thing. (Ever saw him play an angel in Dogma?)

Susan...

I had heard of Mirrormask and recently decided to buy the DVD. It was fairly inexpensive, and I figured why-the-heck-not. I expected I'd like it. Thanks for the recommendation.

About Neverwhere... I've never read the novel, but I enjoyed that a lot. I once lent the DVD to a gay co-worker, who later said he REALLY liked the actor who played the Marquis de Carabas. Heh. I understand that Gaiman later worked on a movie version of the story. Considering how long ago I heard about this, I expect that it's as likely to materialize as his Modesty Blaise script.

Susan... you do have the advantage of the French-Canadian accent, which is probably almost as effective on many American women as an English one

I'm blushing.

Sorry Serge! But since I have to put up with a lot of "kids these days" type comments, I have to make the occasional comment about all you old-timers ;)

MirrorMask is really awesome. I consider it to be Labyrinth for the 21st century. And that Valentine... what a cutie!

I don't think Neverwhere would work very well as a movie. Too much would have to be cut out to make it the right length. I mean the mini-series was what, 4 or 6 hours? Stardust worked as a movie because the book was very short and light (I've been known to read it in a single sitting). Similarly, American Gods would never work as a movie, they'd have to gut the story to get it down to 90-120 minutes.

AJ... So it's all my fault, eh?

Neverwhere consisted of 6 episode that added up to 3 hours. That would be easier to bring down to the standard 2-hour length of theatrical releases, but it'd probably lose what I liked about it. I'd rather see something with a low budget but plenty of imagination than a bloated big-budget epic.

Susan... Somebody at the nearby Barnes & Noble must really like Katherynne Valente. I went on Saturday, to treat myself as a reward for successfully completing two big projects at the office. I had already decided that, should they have In The Night Garden, I'd promptly acquire it, thanks to your recommendation. They had not one but two copies. Yesterday, while riffling thru it, I decided that this book was yummy and that I had to purchase Part Two, In The Cities of Coin and Spice. So I went back tonight, and saw that there were also two copies of that one. And I noticed that In The Night Garden was back to having two copies on the shelves.

Susan, what happened to Minicon is that there were so many different types of tracks (thanks!) that some of them actually had no relation to fandom at all, and the con was spending lots of money on things that had people coming just for that track and weren't part of the rest of the con. So they pared back to the traditional con. All the folks who lost their speciality tracks felt insulted and three other much smaller cons started up to deal with the fannish tracks -- one didn't last, the other two became more general. So it wasn't a de-costuming so much as bringing it back from state fair size and diversity to more of a regular con.

There's always a lot of creative self-expression at Minicon, and it's more like a big party where you sort of know everybody. Costumes were never banned, there just wasn't a track for them anymore. Some folks wear costumes all day, some change costumes during the day, some wear regular clothes. Here's last year's program grid and you'll see there's really no tracks at all. Usually four panel-type things going on at once, but they're not related in the same room.

If you decided to come early enough, they'd probably really like a panel on costuming for steampunk, or a brief dance lesson. But that won't bring you any expenses or anything. Most of us volunteer in one way or another, even if it's cleaning up in the consuite. It'd be nice to see you there, though, and I already have a room with two double beds reserved.

Serge:
Goodness, don't tell me; go off to her place and tell her about it!

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