Wednesday, October 6, 2010

VCon Report, Day 2

Saturday was the longest, fullest day of the con, at least in terms of scheduling. There was a lot to see and a lot to do, and if I'd had a clone … but I didn't, sadly. I attended a lot of writing panels, and in the hopes that people out there care about what I learned, I'm going into detail again.


You Suck! No, You Suck! - An unfortunately titled panel, because it was actually about critique, not vampires. The panelists covered a lot of territory, from how to give critiques to what should be critiqued to how to deal with criticism. There was a lot of focus on writing groups, but I think that was just how the authors themselves rolled.

  • Be careful using "you" accusatorially. The focus should be on the material, not the person.
  • Avoid using "perhaps" because this also comes off as you forcing your opinion on the writer.
  • The main things to look at: entertainment, credibility, believability, working dialogue, and whether the piece as the piece opens and closes in the right spots.
  • Never patronize readers. Always think they're better and smarter than the common denominator.
  • Don't push people into fixing things a specific ways. Suggest they change problem areas, but don't tell them how.
  • To deal with crit: 1) Listen with an open mind. 2) If there are multiple notes on the same thing, fix that thing. If there are multiple notes about many different things, there's probably just one or two spots that actually need fixing. 3) Don't look at your work or the critiques you've received, for however long you need to. 4) Reread the crit. 5) Change what needs changing in a new draft so that if you backtrack later, you haven't lost anything.
  • Ask yourself if the criticism is subjective or objective. If the critiquer says, "I hate this book because it's got a cat in it and I hate cats" or "I don't like this book because I think your personal politics suck", then don't pay as much attention to them as you would someone who says, "I don't like this book because I think these two plot points are unbelievable." 
  • Critiquers who are criticizing you aren't criticizing your book, and vice versa.
  • You don't have to please everyone. Actually, don't even bother trying, because you can't.
Humans in Space - This wasn't a note-taking panel. They got three scientists and engineers, several of whom have worked with NASA, and the well-read editor I mentioned in the last post together, to talk about our chances for space colonization, particularly within our lifetime. In summary, "Not in our lifetime, maybe not ever, unless we get a massively game-changing technology. Right now, it's too expensive." A major subpoint: "It's all politics." 

Good Villains - Not the best panel, but not bad. It kind of got derailed into a discussion of Buffy about halfway through. But basically:
  • Good villains aren't black and white. They're complex, layered people who are the hero of their own story.
  • Good villains can be made from exaggerated human traits. We're all greedy to an extent. Villains can be very greedy.
  • Isn't it interesting that women often get female villains, and men get male villains?
  • You don't always need a villain, but you must have an antagonist.
Beast of Bottomless Lake Screening - I'd been looking forward to this since I'd heard it was going to be showing. The Beast of Bottomless Lake is a comedy about a bumbling cryptozoologist who assembles a team to track down Ogopogo. There's no plan, and Murphy's Law quickly kicks into action. It's presented as a slightly-meta documentary, because we often see both videographers on camera at the same time and they're characters in their own right. It's a funny film and if you get a chance to see it, do.

I didn't stay for the Q & A. I was hungry.

EDGE Launch Event - A fairly standard reading. Four (I think) authors got up, talked a bit about their book, and read a passage. They signed and chatted afterwards.

Bartitsu Demonstration - Bartitsu was a Victorian martial art that combined boxing, kicking, stick fighting, and jujitsu. An instructor from Academie Duello, a local and apparently renowned fighting school, talked about the history and origins, and showed us a number of the basic moves. It was very cool.

Masquerade - This was disappointing. Everyone thought so, not just be. It started late because they had to track people down, then the speakers weren't working, and then it turned out they only had seven entrants. I'd seen way more cosplayers than that as the day'd gone on, and had expected more of them to sign up to show them off. The organizers apparently had too. But there were several absolutely fantastic costumes, and I'm glad I got to see them.

There was a dance after this which I chose not to go to, partly because they were taking forever to set up, and partly because I'm not the greatest when it comes to crowds and loud music.

Other highlights: Wandered back to the dealer's room and bought a copy of an anthology from EDGE. Figured I should probably read more short stories and hey, it's Canadian. Had a brief chat with one of the publishers, which left me feeling positive. Had a good chat with Heather Dale. Had another good chat, for about half an hour, with a guy chilling in the chair next to mine.


Michael said...

Sounds like an interesting day! Speaking of space travel, check out the new Vancouver-shot webseries Hard Drive 13 at

Hannah said...

Oops. I just left "perhaps"es all over your manuscript...Sorry! :-)

Anassa said...

Michael: That sounds cool! I'll check it out.

Hannah: Eh, no worries. I read over the manuscript last night and didn't notice them. (Also, I've been using 'you' on yours….)

J. Koyanagi said...

Sounds like the critique panel was great. Thanks for sharing!

Anassa said...

You're welcome! There were some fantastic panels.