Whew! If I thought I was tired after day one of LTUE (by the way, after I finished yesterday’s report, I fell asleep on the floor of my living room), day two has seen me even more tired.
But what a day! And as tired as I am, there’s no way I’m not putting up the day two report, letting those of you who couldn’t make it what was going on and what it was like.
Oh, by the way, do you like the featured image? That is the cover art for A Dragon and Her Girl, the second LTUE benefit anthology coming out in February 2020, which A Game of Stakes will feature in! Looks great, doesn’t it?
So, what adventures did day two of LTUE bring? Well, let’s dive right in. Day two for me kicked off with a panel that was the counterpart of the first one I attended on day one. Naturally, this meant that rather than being on the evolution of Science-Fiction, it was on the evolution of … Fantasy!
Okay, I gotta say, this panel was a bit more historically focused than the Sci-Fi panel, though it helps that Fantasy is … well, in it’s own way older. The panelists started off talking about creation myths and how fantasy grew out of that, before moving through various ages of humanity and how fantasy changed or evolved. One thing that was a very fair and interesting point they brought up that still stands out in my mind, however, was how fantasy was big for most of human existence … but then suddenly stopped being big for a brief period around the Victorian era, only to bounce back, only to become a pariah around WWII, and then finally start to make a resurgence in the modern era starting in the 70s. Some theories bounced around as to why, but it was interesting all the same.
I did get a slight laugh over how both panels laid claim to some of the same works, from Frankenstien to Star Trek, and both for different reasons. Both also laid claim to speculative fiction. Though I will say that both panels also acknowledged that while they could discuss genre, actual tenants of genre have been a subject of debate and comfy tenure for decades among academia (though the fantasy panel touched on it more).
They also touched on academia’s issues with fantasy, which … mostly boiled down to ‘academia is a bunch of smug, holier-than-thou folks basing “proper” writing on a single list from two professors in the 1930s that’s done far more damage to readers than good and legitimately ignores a lot of great literature.’ And yeah, I’d have to agree, having had one of those teachers at one point in my life. That was one thing the panel agreed on: If someone tries to mock you for reading fantasy, their opinion is questionable.
From there, I went to Venus or Bust. Which was very familiar, because at the 2017 LTUE (if memory serves) I also attended a panel of the same name. Why go twice? Well, because the names of the presenters was different, and I wanted to see what (if any) was different about the panel.
Turns out it was a whole lot. While the core concept of “How could we colonize Venus ASAP” remained the same, that of “We need floating cities” everything else about the panel was different. Which was great. Rather than discuss the tech behind it, this panel chose to talk about the drive behind why people would do it. Why would we bother with Venus? What resources were there for people to desire? What could we use Venus for? It ended up being quite informative. For example, with Venus’ huge supply of CO2, which can be turned into, among other things, oxygen, fuel, or carbon, all desirable in space, floating high-altitude dirigible cities could be used to ship said materials to elsewhere in the solar system.
Then there was the keynote, which was given by Brett Helquist, the artist/illustrator for the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events. He walked the crowd through his earliest attempts at art to his latest works, showing the journey along the way from piece to piece.
His ultimate point? That becoming a success at anything, from art to playing the piano, takes work and practice. He’s a successful illustrator because he sketched every day and never stopped. Practice, practice, repeated drafts. Sometimes it comes together the first time, often after many revisions. As consumers who see the finished work, we often forget that. But as creators, we never should.
Then came the panel. The panel I had hoped would deliver, much like a sibling had a few years earlier. I attended, and to my great delight, it did deliver. In spades.
The panel? Sexy Monsters: Mermaids, Vampires, and the Beast. A discussion of why some monsters in some stories are more than just a monster.
Oh yeah, if you think that’s going to be a funny panel, you have no idea. I’d hoped it would be, and it was, even with all the laughter. And lest you think it was just a bunch of men talking about breasts, the panel consisted of three women and two men, and everything from Edward of Twilight VS Dracula to mermaids VS sirens came up.
And while knowledge was given, and there was some solid discussion about things, there were also some great quotes I passed on to my buddies via a message service and can therefore reproduce here:
They’ve already established that it must be PG-13. The panel is bummed.
“Favorite paranormal couple?”
“How human do they need to be?”
“Well, that depends on your needs.” Gives the audience a knowing nod and grin.
“Are there male mermaids?”
“Sex! Let’s talk about sex now! This is getting too philosophical!”
And there were other lines that had both the panel members and the audience laughing. But at the same time … they did talk about why non-human romance (monsters being the chief focus) is so appealing to people, from psychological reasons to emotions, physical attractiveness, and what the attributes of the monster may represent. Sometimes, as pointed out, the stories only existed to sell an idea (Beauty and the Beast, for example, being an allegory for arranged marriage), while other times they really were about the dynamics of relationships and how they worked (or didn’t work).
One panelist was quick to point out that the best book they knew of that was a good example of a monster romance, however, was—and she did laugh a bit about this, but her fellows agreed—Larry Corriea’s Monster Hunter Alpha.
And you know, I’ve read it and she has a point. That’s a pretty good example of the trope going in several directions too.
Anyway, with much mirth, that panel ended, and I moved on …
To a panel on Grand Strategy games! Now, this actually wasn’t what I expected. It was more just a panel for a few grand strategy gamers to geek out about their favorite games and talk a small bit about the design that went into them.
Which was fine. It just wasn’t what I expected. Personally, I enjoy Grand Strategy games that mimic society for their options … but also for their ability to teach concepts like international relations and realpolitik, which I consider essential skills for anyone wanting to write Epics of any type.
Everyone there loved Stellaris and agreed it was the best of the bunch, though, followed by Europa Universalis.
After that? Well, I didn’t make it to any more panels. Instead I hit up the Baen Traveling Road Show, talked with some other authors (shoutout to Cedar Sanderson and James Young who were both very friendly and great to chat with) and then finally added a few more signatures to my signature book. Including the author of the Powder Mage War books, who was thrilled to hear how many people I’d pointed at them.
Then, exhausted and weary, I made my way home. Time to rest for Saturday!