Hello readers! Max here with a quick post-day one LTUE writeup! Basically, I offer some quick thoughts and summation of the panels I attended today so that those of you who couldn’t make it (sadly, but there’s always next year!) can get a small taste of the awesome that is the LTUE synopsium!
So, without futher ado (and because I am beat after this long, marvelous day), here is a quick summary of some of the interesting stuff I noted at the panels I attended/was on. Please ignore typos. Am tired.
Hit the jump!
The Mongol Empire and the Great Khan
While I was a bit late to this panel (I was getting my books to the con bookstore) I still enjoyed what I was there for. One of the unique things I learned in this panel was how smart the Khan was about his expansion, including having set rules for the amount of foraging his armies were allowed to do (instead of stripping the land bare) and—and this one is really cool—since his forces lacked a written language, all military orders were made to rhyme because a rhyming message was extremely unlikely to be garbled in transit! How cool is that?
The panelists did agree that it was almost less an “Empire” than a “really successful long raid” and once the momentum ended the empire was over. Neat panel.
YA Grows Up
This was an interesting one (aren’t they all) about where YA is going and how it’s changing. One thing that really stood out to me was all the panelists talking about how YA is booming in and at large pivoting to indie because the publishers are often too heavy-handed with requirements and restrictions (such as ‘no, all characters must be this specific age’). There was also quite a bit of discussion about the “New Adult” subgenre, which is YA that focuses on explicit sexual material (discovery, experimentation, etc, etc, more aimed at adults than young adults).
They also spent a lot of time discussing tone, and how tone is one of the most important consistent elements across YA (specifically, it’s always hopeful). Also, young adults aren’t the biggest audience—as one panelist put it, adults read YA and then pass it to their kids. The kids aren’t the ones finding them. Also, one pointed out that the audiences are very unexpected, citing what they called a “cutesy fluffly fantasy YA series” that they wrote … and found their biggest audience by far was older adult males.
Oh, one last thing: The most profitable length for a YA book, if you want to maximize on “what will people buy” and “how fast can you write them” is 60k-85k words. That’s the sweet spot. Less words than that, less people will buy it, above that the same number will still sell … but you could be 20,000 words into another book to sell, so why not?
A side note that’s as good here as anywhere else: I was shocked how many authors were independent or hybrid. Through the entire day, I could count the number of Trad-Pub authors paneling—once the juggernaut—on one hand. A number who were Trad-Pub in prior years now gleefully regale the crowd with their new position as hybrids. It’s a changing world, folks.
Bearing Arms and Armor:
This panel, while familiar, did come with some neat points. One historian pointed out that the rise and fall of weapons being openly displayed in a lot of cultures (and the culture being okay with it) has to do with the rise and fall a strong middle class. If I understood this correctly, a strong middle class breeds confidence, while a weak middle class leads to a lack of power, and therefore problems (though as tired as I am, I think it was “strong middle class = weapons worn to defy the upper class, weak middle class = fear of those with weapons, but I might be remembering that incorrectly). Still, a neat point.
Another neat point? Ransoming knights armor. One family collected a ransom for seven years, a solid fortune. Why? Because it was cheaper than making a new set of armor.
Also, an average thing of bottled water is about as heavy as a war mace. You don’t want heavy weapons because you can’t swing them easily for very long! This I knew, but I’ll repeat it here.
Parliament of Wizards Book Launch
Another LTUE Anthology is here! I am not in this one, but I bought it and got it signed both to support the con, and because hey, great stories! As well as a few names I think I know …
Brian C. Hale’s Keynote
There was one phrase that really stuck out to me from this keynote, and I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this: ‘It is very easy to make money and not have passion. And it is very easy to have passion but make very little money. It’s very hard to do both and have a balance.’
But in the end, he encouraged everyone to have some passion anyway.
A Space-Opera Starter Kit
This one ranged all over the place, even discussing for a bit what Space-Opera is outside of spaceships shooting at one another.
However, the bit I’ll choose to focus on here is that yes, we should range a bit to see what the genre offers and improve our own writing. But we should also read what we love, even if others don’t like it, because you are that audience … and that means writing it might find an audience as well.
No Mirrors: Character Description in First Person
As I was on this panel, like the one above a lot of what had would have been note taking was instead me talking and discussing the topic. A few things that did stand out, however.
- Think about what the most important things your reader needs to know and focus on showing those.
- Don’t use mirrors, please. Show by actions, or have the character make a comparison about one attribute to someone else.
- You can introduce/describe someone gradually. Over a chapter or so. We don’t need an infodump.
The panel did go into a lot of tips and tricks that went more in-depth that each of us panelists had used to play with the trope and present unique things about characters in clever ways, but it would be far too much to detail here. All in all, a very fun panel, and we did get a lot of laughs out of some of the trope subversions that we had all played with.
Energy Generation Today and Tomorrow
Another panel of experts talking about a topic, in this case power generation. A few takeaways included the fact that we are already in an energy crisis, but many don’t want to admit it. Renewables are awesome, but our outdated grid can’t work with it (but also can’t keep on with fossil fuels).
Every single panelist was in favor of nuclear power, and in agreement that it was one of the green energies. Given their wide range of expertise (and political leanings) they contested that if you’re against nuclear you are quite simply, at this point, being foolhardy to the point of wanting mankind extinct.
Being anti-technology, they also pointed out, solves none of our problems and will actually make things worse. We need to move forward, not back.
HOWEVER, nuclear power is not THE solution. We need lots of solutions, from nuclear to wind to solar to tidal. But fossil fuels are dead, and we need to move past them, especially given the damage they cause compared to other sources of power.
“What if I could build a huge nuclear reactor and just beam the power to you?”
“That’d be great!”
“That’s called solar panels.”
One last interesting note here: Mankind cannot rebuild if our high-tech civilization collapses. Going back to pre-industry and coming back? We can’t do it. Why? Because all the easy-to-access resources (metals, etc) that we could mine without modern technology are tapped out. A new society could scavenge small stuff, but they’d be unable to build up the tools with nearly the speed and power mankind did last time due to toxicity and the amount of easy-to-access material left. Interesting, no?
My Genre Wishlist
This was an interesting one (and one I was really looking forward to). If I had to condense everything down to two primary takeaways, they’d be this:
- Don’t try to jump on the “new big thing” publishing bandwagon if books for it are already coming out. It’s too late, and you’ll be behind the wave and playing catchup.
- If you like to read it, there’s an audience for it, and you can write it. It may not be big, but it will find its audience, as audience is thirsty for a lot more than the broad strokes of the old publishers, and independent writers are small enough to deliver to those small markets.
Therefore … be wild! Come up with new stuff! Think outside the box!
And write more non-human characters, dang it!
That’s it! I’m out! See you tomorrow for day two!