We sold out, people!
Context, I suppose. As Day Three of LTUE 2022 draws to a close, I can happily report that the entire stock of my work available at the LTUE vendor hall SOLD OUT! In fact, one of the proprietors even told me that I should have brought more copies of Shadow of an Empire as they had sold out so quickly despite the $22 price tag.
Was this awesome to hear? Yes it was. Was it amazing to have a fellow panelist at the last panel of the day pull out a copy of Axtara and excitedly place it on the table for me to sign? Also yes.
Was this LTUE ultimately fulfilling and wonderful? Yes, yes, and yes. I talked with many wonderful people, listened to their stories (literally) and did what I could to push them along. I met starry-eyed new writers with a burning fervor to be the next American great, and grinning fanfic writers who were thrilled to talk about their latest fanwork.
It. Was. A. Blast. I am exhausted, sweaty, smelly, and my brain feels like it’s been stretched and warped for the last several days.
And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. LTUE is a fantastic experience for writers of all skill levels, ages, experience, and position. If you’re wondering “Should I?” for 2023, then allow me to answer:
Now then, on with the write-up! Hit that jump!
Living with Megafauna
This was a very cool panel, and I wish I’d been there for more of it. I was a little late (not unusual for a Saturday) but what I was there for was really well delivered and quite thought provoking.
Megafauna are, of course, massive creatures like the wooly mammoth, and this panel was all about how to use them in your worldbuilding. When I came in they were talking about the physics of flying megafauna and how much wingspan needed to be added per inch a creature grew (the short of it is that a classic “traditional” dragon would need wings at least 100 times the size of their body to fly … which is why we have magic).
They then pinned flying megafauna to come back to, shifting over to sea megafauna and talking about how you need to take the ecology of an ocean into account, from depths to currents to migration patterns. They also pointed out, starting with examples of sea megafauna and then circling back to extinct air megafauna, that megafauna are very vulnerable to changes, many of them often going extinct because one thing vanished or changed.
From here, they moved to practical concerns. Are they intelligent or even sapient. Can they be domesticated, or are they too wild? Can mankind improve them or use them in some way (at this point one panelist cited How to Train Your Dragon with the prosthetic for the tail).
From here they moved to speaking about geology for a bit, talking about how, for example, flying megafauna would be near mountains or places with lots of updrafts to help them not expend energy by flying. So if you’re designing megafauna, build an ecology that makes sense from an energy perspective.
Another thing they pointed out was how humans might underestimate them. For example, if a human is on an alien planet they may still think of themselves as an apex predator and do foolish things. One panelist related a short story about a colony that set up in a great clear spot, only to find that it was clear because of a form of megafauna that migrated through each set season tearing up the ground … and leveling houses.
Anyway, to end the panel, they urged people to consider megafauna and to make good use of them. After all, we did hunt the mammoth to extinction because it was a great food source.
Magic Toxic Waste Dumps
This was a fantastic panel that opened with Jody Lynn Nye pointing out how magic should have a cost … and it doesn’t have to be a human cost! What about an environmental one? From there the whole panel immediately was off running, speaking of looking at contemporary resource gains (and spills) and comparing that to magic. A comparison was made to a dumping ground in a valley for salt that messed up the local ecosystem by killing all the salamanders, and that led to the entire local ecosystem falling apart and the EPA getting involved … which led to the question of “Who’s the EPA for wizards?”
From here, the panel shifted to magic costs and what “fuels” magic. What happens when that fuel grows scarce? Is that possible? The panel even issued a challenge to write a story of a problem or catastrophe of some kind coming from unforeseen consequences of magic use (thinking on this led my mind to a great example from Shadow of an Empire; so if you’ve read it, see if you can figure out what it might be).
They talked about a few more examples, bringing up Monster’s Inc as an example of telling a story where the world is about to run out of some resource. They spoke about people hording energy/magic/whatever, and then dipped their toes into politics, talking first about how people will use things to stay in power, magic included, but then recommending a book called Witch March, which is apparently about a group of witches trying to get a town hall to stop some illegal magic dumping, which as one put it, sounds boring but is made really fun.
From there, they moved into talking about trash, waste, and pollution and how magic might fit into that volatile mixture. Including joking about magic weather caused by weather magic overuse (please don’t use any ice magic today, we’re already raining icicles in summer) similar to how our modern society has air hazard warnings.
All in all, a fun, thought-provoking panel on magic waste dumps and other issues!
How do people deal with garbage and sewage? Crap through the ages!
Now this panel I mentioned even before the con started … and it did not disappoint. They went sequentially through history, starting with mankind’s earliest method of dealing with trash: The refuse pile. Which was fine for a long time, as most trash was organic anyway. Though if there was enough generation of it, these piles could still be a problem, especially as most of the time they were on the streets! In fact, the first known instance of a “garbage system” of carts collecting trash and dumping it outside a city was in Israel during the Roman era. Yikes.
Granted, with so much trash early on being organic, most could be eaten by pigs and chickens. Didn’t stop some piles from getting so high that at one point enemies could attack Paris over her walls by walking up the garbage.
Trash in the ancient world also created taboos and cultures, from castes to social standards, something to think about for your setting. So, for example, a society that simply tosses its trash into a river (not our problem anymore) may see things very differently from a society that cannot.
Jumping to the modern era, the panel switched to recycling, pointing out that it is largely a question of economy, because most recycling is driven by being able to sell recycled material. The panel even pointed out that the global recycling market is currently in a recession because China isn’t buying currently, and so many recycling centers are just doing nothing or scraping by.
Oh, and a side note: Metal and glass are the best things to recycle. Focus on those.
From recycling the panel moved to waste water, talking about how different cultures handle black and grey water as well as noting that no matter what, do not use human poop on human food. The bacteria, as they put it, always win. Even the ISS, which is close to a closed system, uses a centrifuge to separate out things.
They switched gears after this, talking about economies of scale with sewage, from “single home” to “small town” to “city” and how the systems are very different. And from there … they moved to the future!
And in a move that would make me quietly giggle, asked the seed question of “how might a sci-fi submarine handle waste and garbage disposal?” While they let people wonder on that one (save me, for obvious reasons) they talked about orbital debris and space waste, before circling back and talking about how the ISS also uses a high-temp incinerator to burn non-solid trash down into base elements like oxygen.
Kind of like the subs on Pisces. Nearly identical, in fact.
With that, the panel talked for a bit more on high-tech methods, and then concluded with the message that the best way to improve waste handling was simply to use less and be smarter and more focused about what we used/threw away.
And with that … we reach the end. While there were two more panels, I was on both of them, and their topics a familiar discussion here on the site. So, as I am exhausted, I’ll leave them unsaid.
See you Monday for more Being a Better Writer.