The LTUE 2023 Write-Up: Day One!

It’s back, baby! 2023’s Life, The Universe, and Everything convention has officially begun!

And already, it’s taken some unexpected twists and turns. Before I dive into the details of some the panels I attended with the usual write-up, I do have some news.

First: I am beat. When you’re at a con for more than 12 hours, you get pretty wiped out, and day one of LTUE was just over the 12 hour mark for me. Pretty solid, but definitely something that can run down the energy levels. I’ll sleep well tonight!

Second: There’s something unexpected going on this year. Some of you may know that I give out little cards for my books, one for each title, with QR codes on the back. Things I can hand to people when they ask, the QR code giving them the first few chapters on their phone for free to read. Plus I give out bookmarks.

Anyway, this year, some of those cards are flying out. I usually put a small stack on the “freebies” table of bookmarks and a few cards, and at the current rate they’re vanishing, I might run right out of a few before the con is over!

That’s a good thing, but it means I didn’t order enough beforehand if so!

Anyway, as you might expect, the first day of LTUE was pretty rocking, as people settled into panels and the creative talk began. LTUE is just plain awesome, and I’m glad I was once again able to be there.

So, without any further ado, hit that jump, and let’s talk about some panel highlights!

Starting New: Tips and Tricks for New Writers: This was actually one of the first panels of the day, right at nine in the morning, and my only panel of the day in which I was a panelist. So most of you regulars for the site can easily guess what was brought up, given how often it’s been a feature on Being a Better Writer. We talked about why people write, and what their drive is, as well as how to tell the difference between being bogged down because you’ve slipped up with something in the story, or getting bogged down because you yourself are suffering burnout.

And … yeah, this was pretty much exactly what you would expect, at least from my angle. A panel about how to discover what type of writer you are (discovery or planner), how to give yourself goals, how to improve without getting bogged down by fixing a million things at once … All stuff readers of Being a Better Writer will recgonize.

A good start to a solid day!

Growth of a City: Yes, I recommended attending this one, and yes, it was totally worth it. The opening talked about the difference between cities that had a “master plan” and those that grew “organically,” noting that city planning on the whole is a pretty modern invention (but at the same time noting some ancient cities that did give it a shot),. and most ancient cities just rolled with “so where will that fit?” if largely possible.

Though even today (and anciently) the term “city planning” tends to be a bit nebulous, because as panelist pointing out, actually having and acting on city plan involves long-term planning, while most city budgeting is done short term. And, even if you do have someone like a king making plans for a city, all those plans may get flipped the moment their heir takes power.

Basically, I was reminded of this XKCD strip concerning standards. New planners come along, the plan is revised, rebudgeted, etc, and all the while the city itself is taking shape. This led the panel to noting that cities get built in layers, rising over and pushing down what was there before, or just replacing a chunk of what was there … and making for some real tangles of utilities—which would come up again later at another panel.

Let’s see … they also talked about how cities before forms of mass transit tended to be a lot more compact, but birth of forms of transportation allowed them to spread out. They also noted that a big question about what a city would be like would revolve around what the culture or founders would make the city center, both metaphorically and figuratively.

Lastly, one final note I’ll drop from this panel was the note that the great cleanser of all city planning throughout history was, and in places still is … fire.

Taking to the Skies! Another fun panel, this one about aircraft ancient, modern, and mythical, a good chunk of this panel was spent stressing something that the panelists felt a lot of stories overlooked, which was the effects of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. They spent a good amount of the panel discussing various ways it impairs judgement, various studies that have shown that many people think they’re making very good judgement calls while low on oxygen in tests, only to later see when the test was over how terrible their judgement was.

They also talked quite a bit about g-forces, noting that they’re not something that goes away even if you’re flying on the back of a winged creature. If you’re going fast enough, they’re simply there, and short of magic or some form of gravitics getting in-between, you can’t avoid them.

They also discussed air combat, noting that unlike in many stories, a lot of pilots shot down don’t even realize they’re under attack until it’s over, and that most air combat is really just long periods of nothing punctuated by something quick and sudden (and probably violent). The panelists then noted that this is why a lot of stories with air combat punch things up by adding weather and other concerns.

Oh, and you cannot fly a fighter or bomber plane with a stuffy nose, or very bad things happen.

Ultimately, one line that the panel came back to a few times was “You are not designed to fly.”

Fun stuff, and definitely got my brain thinking about airships and how fun they can be to write.

Next up I attended Inventing Games for Your Fiction, which was about exactly what it says on the tin. And the #1 thing the panelists agreed on?

It needs to be important to the plot. Somehow. Some way. Good games in stories will deliver something to an audience, such as understanding of characters, or advancement of the plot. They will also make sense in the context of the world, as something people would play and create.

They then made a lengthy stop into LitRPG, a genre that is very game-related and vastly popular right now, And they all agreed that while the genre could work, there were some things that a “good” LitRPG would do, such as figure out its power curve, endgame, and system ahead of time. They also noted that a story is much better when the overpowered protagonist figures out or discovers the overpowered object of their success on their own merits and talent, rather than just being handed that.

From there, the panelists switched over to another topic: Not drawing from an empty well. As they put it, when reading books, it was very obvious when a game had been created by someone who’d never played competitive games, versus someone who had. Their advice? Try some competitive games! Play hard, and see what happens!

Now, they did note that you should build a story first, and the game later. The game is part of the framework of the story. It isn’t the story. There has to be something else going on.

They then noted that if your reader understands the game being played, you can ratchet the tension through the roof.

All in all, a good panel.

Now, the last panel I’ll talk about—though I did go to others—was one of the ones I promoted yesterday, the one on Public Utilitie and Society. And yes, this panel delivered.

It was a lot of fun. They opened by talking about how no matter what, all utilities use power of some kind, be that burning something, making use of gravity, or electricity, animal power, or even magic. Or a combination of all those things. Utilities take energy, and energy can be dangerous. Or improperly set up (as one panelist mentioned, sewage lines are by code in the US below water lines so the horrible doesn’t happen, but this wasn’t always the case in history).

Now, at this point someone in audience asked what the most underrepresented utility in fiction was, to which the panel unanimously replied “sewage,” adding that because it wasn’t pretty, most stories didn’t want to think about it.

From there, they rebounded into writing advice, starting with “know your era” and “do the research” (a familiar phrase here). They asked that as creators, we consider what sort of blind spots or focuses our cultures might have when it applies to infrastructure, and then pointed out that the city layers from the earlier panel also apply to utility infrastructure … which meant that it can vary and be all sorts of layered as new sections of the city are plopped down. A line was dropped akin to “How did your city grow, and what did they figure out, take out, or forget as they went?”

Good stuff.

From there, the conversation shifted into roads, another form of utility, talking about weather and maintenance (which, they explained, a lot of worlds they felt ignored). They spent a little time on the architecture of your culture based on where they lived, but then from there transitioned into disasters, noting that the worst ones were whatever you were unprepared for, no matter how minor they might have been to someone prepared.

They also spent some time noting how larger problems can be solved by fixing small ones, such as creating a pure water supply … that is loved by mosquitoes. They spent some time discussing instances of people figuring out this cause and effect, such as the case of John Snow in London, a case that’s so good, there’s an Extra History series on it of which I’ve embedded the first video below.

Now, they ended on a familiar note from the city growth panel: Cities are all about water, then food. Water is what they live or die by in history. If they don’t have water, why were they there (being on a central trade route was one example) and how were they getting it from somewhere else?

Food is also vital. They noted how many stories don’t account for how much farmland it takes to sustain a single city, and that leaders in cities that have to import need to think about stockpiles and supplies should what they import be threatened …

And that’s it for today’s write-up! I hope you enjoyed this peek at what LTUE was, but this was only a small fraction of today’s panels and events.

Seriously, if you can get to LTUE for Friday or Saturday, you should. As for me? I need some sleep. See you all at the con!

Oh, and one last bonus …

Yup! Copies of Shadow of an Empire and Axtara – Banking and Finance at the LTUE vendor hall! Get ’em while you can and get ’em signed!

Alright, peace out! Time to sleep!

2 thoughts on “The LTUE 2023 Write-Up: Day One!

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