Thursday, September 30, 2010

DragonCon, 2010, Day 4. Peter David and Will Smith

Peter David, writer of stuff, as a few things to say about his latest novelization project.  But it's a little odd, since the movie wasn't finalized yet. Or produced, or almost anything else.

Comes with a surprise guest: Will Smith.

Part 2

Monday, September 27, 2010

DragonCon Report, Day 3: All Butcher, All Day

DragonCon: the world's largest science fiction and fantasy convention. Ever. Period. Official numbers: over 35,000. But that's what we tell the fire marshal.

The following will be a series of reports made about my visit to DragonCon, mostly broken down panel by panel. I will not spend time complaining about the scheduling, the presentation thereof, the audio equipment, etc. Each panel will be taken down and put together in transcript fashion. There will be some inaccuracies, since I lacked recording equipment... even if I had recorded it, there is a chance that any and all videos of DragonCon posted online may be taken down without warning. This way is safer.

However, there will be some lines that are unattributed, and there may be inaccuracies scattered throughout. Most of what is written down is what was said, accurately quoted and attributed.

Day 3

Panel 1: Spotlight on Jim Butcher

“It turns out there really is a ten in the morning... who knew.”

“I initially started writing because there weren't enough books out there that I wanted to read. I started writing my first book at nineteen. It was awful. Then I wrote my second. It was awful. My third and forth books were hideous. I rewrote the first one, and it was a different kind of awful. I went to get a degree at the State University of Oklahoma, and got a bachelors degree in English literature. And one writing class... they told me some ridiculous things about writing. They must have set me back about two or three years. I mean, I had a bachelors in English lit, and the professor had only published about forty books. And I looked at this stuff, and I was going to prove her wrong. I was going to be a good little writing monkey, and show her that it would turn out the same exactly kind of cookie cutter crap. I handed it in and she said 'It's good.' 'Wazzat?' 'I think you can sell this down the line.' And that was the first book of the Dresden files. So, I showed her.”

Q: Tell us about Codex Alera.
Butcher: Alera started out as a bet on an online writers workshop forum. One side had the premise of the “Holy Idea.” That a book can be a successful novel no matter how bad the writing was, as long as the idea behind it was good. Just look at Jurassic Park.

On the other side were the people who focused on craft. That no matter how old the idea, it could still form something cool and fun. Just look at how many times they've redone Romeo and Juliet. And, basically, at the end of the day, it came down to one mouthy guy on my side and one mouthy guy on the other. Obviously, I was one of the the mouthy guys.

And one day the other guy says “Okay, pal, show us. I'll give you an idea and you write something about it.”

And of course, I said, “No, give me two ideas.”

He said, “Fine. One: Lost roman legions. I'm sick of hearing about them. It's been two thousand years, all of the legions should be found by now.” For those of you who don't know, the lost legion marched off one day into a thunderstorm and was never seen or heard from again.

I said, “Okay, fine, what's the next one?”


… For those of you who don't know Pokemon very well, it started out of two concepts. One was the Shinto religion's believe that everything in nature has a divine spirit, or a Kami. And you don't mess with the Kami of a mountain because it will crush you, and you do the same with a pebble... actually you can step on it all you like, it's a pebble, what's it going to do to you? And the other side to Pokemon was pro wrestling.

So, I basically had the Roman Legion lost in the land of the Pokemon, had it ferment for two thousand years, and you get Alera. When I started writing it, I thought “Wow, this is good,” and I posted that “I think this is too good to post here, I'm actually going to try and get it published.”

Their guy said “You you admit I'm right.” Yeah, whatever, the best revenge is living well.

Q: What do you think about the role playing games for Dresden?
Butcher: I think they're great, like a Dresden Wiki. I don't need to go hunting for information anymore... you have to realize, for every Dresden book, I have rewrites, beta readers, editors, line editors, and a final copy. By the time I'm done, I've gone through seven to nine variations on the book, and fans only get the one final version. So you probably know some of this stuff better than I do. In fact, the guy who made the RPG actually found some stuff I had planted in book one, and I asked him not to write it down, otherwise it would give stuff away in the later novels... he was creepy good about finding those details.

Q: What's your next project now that Alera is done?
Butcher: When I sold Alera, I was halfway through a science fiction series. My protagonist had ejected, falling through a planets atmosphere during a solar flare, and he's been there for three years.

[Time for audience Q+A.... the line backs up.] Butcher: “It looks like we should just give you guys a belt and a coupla knives so you can sort yourselves out.”

Q: What loose threads are left in Dresden Files?
Butcher: I can't really tell you, mainly because there are no loose threads in my head. But I put stuff in Storm Front [his first book] that will come out in the last trilogy. Because my teacher told me I had to.

Q: I have a defective copy of Changes, it doesn't seem to have an ending
Butcher: Okay, I can do that right now. Harry says he will die to protect his daughter, he does, the end.
“There was one cartoon that said, Oh, well, everything looks likes it's turning out all right. I just want to read the last few pages of changes. And it ended with 'I heard the voices of thousands of nerds crying out, and were silenced.' …. By the way, there are some people who are bothered by the phrase nerd. I own my nerdom.”

“When I started working on the Dresden files, I went down to the bookstore and grabbed books on magic and forensics, for background, and because it's cool. I recommend the writer's guides. There was one called Deadly Doses, on poisons. That was neat. It was during research like that where I discovered that there were so many kinds of werewolves, none of which looks like the wolfman. If you ever have to do research on that sort of thing, go to the children's section of the library, they'll tell you the stories. If you go into the adult's, all of the books you find there won't go three pages without mentioning Jung or Feud. Or you can do on location research.”

Q: You ever going to explain how Nicodemus and Tessa got together?
Butcher: The romance between the two of them covers thousands of years, murder, chaos, and cities abandoned. It'll take someone with a stronger constitution than me to do it.

Q: Would you like to talk about Ghost Story?
Butcher: Harry is dead. And he has to solve his own murder, as a ghost. I can't tell you too much, but he will have the line “I always wondered why ghosts were always moaning and screaming when they went through floors and walls. That stuff hurts.”

Q: What did you think of the Scifi channel Dresden? Sorry, I guess I should say Syfy [pronounced "Siffy"].
Butcher: You mean the syphilis channel? It coulda been worse. They only started making them like the books after Howe's kid took some swag home from the press briefing, and told his father, the owner of the channel “Why couldn't this be more like the books?”

Q: Some stories are not in Side Jobs?
Butcher: There are some contract problems. The contracts expire sometime next year, so I'm going to have to write more so I can fill out the anthology.

Q; Where did Bob the Skull come from?
Butcher: It was actually an inside joke with my writing professor. After the first few chapters, she asked me what I was going to do next with Harry. I said I was going to bring him back to his lab, and he'll talk with his personal assistant, who was like a cross between a lab tech and a PC. She told me “Okay, but don't make him a talking head.” A talking head, if you ever saw those old black and white movies, was the science guy who would come on and say “As you know, Jack,” dispenses info, and disappears. And I always wondered “If Jack knows this already, why's he explaining it.” So when she told me not to make Bob a talking head, I made him a literal talking head.

She got to that part of the story, looked at me, and said “You think you're funny, don't you?”

But, yeah, Bob is my inner fourteen year old.

Q: Are there people in your life you used for Dresden characters?
Butcher: Yes. Shiro was actually based on my dojo instructor. He actually grew up being taught martial arts by monks, while he was in hiding during the war. When he was growing up, he had some problems with the Yakuza. They tried to kill him about five times, and he kept killing their guys. After a while, they said “Hey, you want to work for us?” He said, “No, I want you guys off of my street.” It was cheaper in the long run to leave him alone. So they did. And he's more like Mr. Miagi than he has any right to be.

Anna, in White Night, was someone who won a charity auction to earn a horrible death in one of my books.

Most of my female characters I base off of my wife. [Audience “Awwwww”]. Do you people remember how many women are villains in my books?

Q: Is there going to be another attempt at the Dresden files as a movie or tv show?
Butcher: Not yet. As of now, Lionsgate still has the rights for a year, nine months, and twenty some-odd days.

“I'm going to have a final apocalyptic trilogy to end the series. They'll be titled Hells Bells, Stars and Stones, and Empty Night. Despite that Harry just keeps saying them as phrases, they actually mean something.”

Q: Why does Harry have a hat on the covers?
Butcher: Because the artist thinks that a staff and a fedora says “Wizard PI.” I'm actually thinking of giving him a hat later on, just so he can destroy it. Either that, or I'm going to have someone ask him why he doesn't wear a hat. “Because once your hat gets knocked off, you're out of fate points.”

“Lily, the Archive, is like a grown up version of Bob, with better bandwidth.”

“I just tell the characters that You Work For Me. If they don't agree with what I want, then I'll go back and make them. And then I have a rush of power as a godlike creator. MUAHAHAHAHAHA. Next question?”

Q: Why do you have magic screw up electronics? Won't that screw them up as technology becomes more and more prevalent?
Butcher: Magic has always had side effects, and every three hundred years, the effect changes. It used to make cream go sour, or make flames turn color. Harry will eventually say that “Maybe in another hundred years, using magic will make the user attractive and popular with the opposite sex, though I'm not holding my breath.”

“2012 will either be a bumper year for Harry, or it's a time he's going to want to be on another planet.”

“I gave up on my old college when the Dean invited me to give my opinion of the school. And I thought he meant it.”

“I was initially interested in the martial arts because I was not only the smart nerdy kid, but I had a tendency to mouth off in school-- go figure, right? My dad said no. But one day, I was on my bike, and someone pulled a knife on me. So I picked up my bike and hit him with it. Of course I was the crazy kid who beat someone with a bike. I don't my dad about it, it was awful. He said that now I could go train.

“When I was heading off to college, my instructor told me: 'No spar. Other student want to spar with you. You no spar with them.' I told you he sounded like Mr. Miagi. After a while, I finally sparred with someone just to get them off my case. I caged up, blocked everything, until I had one good mid-line punch. And I think I got him on an inhale, he was doubled over and vomiting. I didn't mean to hit him that hard. When I came back and told my instructor he said, 'You make incorrect punch. Correct punch would have killed him. I show you how to make proper punch.'”

NYTimes Bestselling Authors

Panel: Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake seris); Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark Hunters); Jim Butcher (Dresden Files); Kevin J. Anderson (Misc Star Wars); Jonathan Maberry (Co author: Marvel Zombies Return.)

Laurell K. Hamilton: Wow, this is my fourth year at DragonCon, and it's the first time I've actually seen it. It looks like fun. My tenth book, Narcisscus in Chains, was the first one to make it to the bestsellers list. I've had decades of fan buildup... and going whole hog into sex might've had something to do with it.

Kevin J. Anderson: My first three bestsellers were within a month of each other. MY first Star Wars trilogy, with the Jedi Academy books. Before that, I had published nine books in eight years.

Jonathan Maberry: My first bestseller was the novelization of the movie The Wolfman. Before that I had written books on judo. When they gave me the screenplay, it had virtually no details, so I had to add a lot of my own. When the reviews came out, they said “Read the book.” Which proves if you sacrifice goats, God will listen.

Sherrilyn Kenyon: Goats work. As do chickens.

Laurell K. Hamilton: I got in at a good time, right after the Buffy television series kicked off.

Kevin J. Anderson: Sometimes you get lucky, when you ride the wave of a trend's popularity. Da Vinci Code was the last gasp for Dan Brown. His previous novel, Angels and Demons, didn't sell. And suddenly, people are buying books that the industry didn't know the public wanted.

Q: What is your favorite book, what you've written and what you read?
Jim Butcher: My favorite book that I've written, Dead Beat, because you can't beat the zombie dinosaur marching down Chicago. Or, the last five pages of Changes. And I like Lois Bujold's Mirror Dance.

Q: What is your most embarrassing experience as an author?

Kevin J. Anderson: Sherrilyn, you can answer this one.
Sherrilyn Kenyon: Laurel?
Laurell K. Hamilton: Thanks Kevin. Well, there was the first time someone asked me to sign their penis.
Jim Butcher: The first time?
Laurell K. Hamilton: Yes. Now, never feed the crazies. I simply told him that it was illegal to expose himself in public in that state, and that he'd go to prison. And that there were children in the store, did he really want to do that? I sometimes have some really over excited fans, who take the sex in my books way too seriously. I can only assume that he didn't really think it through. I mean, I'm using a ballpoint, did you really think it was a good idea.?
Jim Butcher: And you have a really long name.
Laurell K. Hamilton: That sometimes doesn't help.
Kevin J. Anderson: Crap, now I have to top that.
Laurell K. Hamilton: You wanted me to go first.

Jonathan Maberry: My best moment was at a convention. Someone in an elevator looked at my nametag and said “Oh, you're a guest. And I never heard of you. You must be a writer.”

Kevin J. Anderson: I had one time written an X-Files novel. I went to a bookstore for a signing, and security told me that a guy in a tinfoil hat was waiting for me. Never a good sign. This guy in the tinfoil hat came up to me and said that he really needed my home number, because he knew what was going on, and what the government was covering up. When I told him I couldn't, he said, “I understand the need for a secret bunker. I'll give you my number.” If I were a different person, I would call him up at two in the morning and say “You've been talking to people, haven't you?”

Jim Butcher: As for me, to be embarrassed, you have to have a minimum amount of dignity. I generally don't have that problem. However, one time during an interview with me and Shannon, my kid wanted into the living room. The interviewer asked him if he thought it was impressive that his parents were both authors. My son said “Eh, if these two can pull it off, how hard can it be.” My wife gave him a look that promised death for the boy later.

Jonathan Maberry: I had the problem once that I was jealous of myself. When I was asked to do a novel, I used a penname to write it, because I had written technical books before that. When I decided to write under my real name, I was told that I was ripping off Shane McDougal. But I was Shane Mcdougal. I twas actually an acrimonious relationship after a while. Finally, I killed the bastard. I showed up to a Halloween party dressed as a dead author. I went as Shane McDougal. He's officially dead.
Jim Butcher: I now have to nominate you for the funniest use of the word acrimonious.

Sherrilyn Kenyon: One time my brother was at one of my signings. And he was impatient, and I owed him twenty dollars, and he wanted to go to dinner. After a while, he started telling the line that “She sucks, go home.” “She owes me money.” “What are you people bothering with her for?” We finally got out of there. Later that evening, he called me up at home at two in the morning and said, “Guess what I did.” It was two in the morning, I didn't want to think about what he was doing. He told me “I just finished one of your books. It's pretty good.” “Oh good, you can read, mama had doubts for a while there.”

Q: What is the best advice you ever got from an author?
Kevin J. Anderson: Dean Koontz told me that the first million words you write are just practice.
Jim Butcher: Roger Zelazny told me “Write a bit each day. It adds up. Eventually, you get a book.”
Jonathan Maberry: David Morrell told me that “Writing is an art, but publishing is a business. Just remember that you can't ignore the business end.”
Sherrilyn Kenyon: Harlan Ellison told me “You want to be a writer?  Go home and write.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

DragonCon, Day 2, Part II, The Day the Con Blew Up.

The rest of DragonCon, day 2.  With the ever quotable Jim Butcher, a history of explosives, EMP bombs, weapons, hardware, writing weaponry, and the day DragonCon became a nuclear power.

DragonCon, 2010, day 2 part II


These are notes compiled from my time at DragonCon, 2009, in Atlanta, GA.  Please forgive me if some of these are incomplete.

Day 1, Thursday, September 3rd

Arriving the day before the Convention started, we went to pick up the tickets we had purchased months ago. The line for pre-registration was …. first we went to one hotel, did a U-turn to get onto one line, which u-turned onto yet another line, and that was the line to get INTO the hotel, onto the line for the pre-registration room, where we got onto that line....

Yes, we went from a line, to get onto a line, to get onto a line, to get onto a line.

The preregistration line was was a serpentine deal across a ballroom about 30 yards long, roped off and packed. Organizers kept calling out names, because there was one person to deal with people in select alphabetical segments (Adams-Alabaster, Annoying-Bradbury, etc). It took two hours to get to the front of the line, where they had broken the line up into the segments per group—and we noticed they took 5-10 minutes per member. Later, they had tried to close the pre-registration line at 9 PM, with the room still full. The registrants refused to leave, and they didn’t close until 10:30 PM.

Day 2-- and now the Convention Starts.

10 AM: For the appearance of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (together for possibly the first time in years), the line into the Hyatt hotel wrapped AROUND the hotel. We asked, discovered that Nimoy-Shatner had been moved to the Marriott Marquis—the line we saw was for watching the reunion on remote large-screen TVs. It was originally placed opposite a Babylon 5 panel, but that panel had been moved to 4PM. Our last option was a panel called “Celluloid Heroes”

“Celluloid Heroes,” with Mike Mignola (Creator of Hellboy), Helen Slater (the original movie Supergirl ), Doug Jones (“Abe Sapien,” and Silver Surfer in the films), and Bruce Davison (Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” films).

Items of interest:

Mignola talked about how he wasn’t called to consult for the second Hellboy movie, which gave the director Guillermo Del Toro free reign, which is probably why it was so terrible. However, when Mignola looked at the finished product of Hellboy, he decided that those characters were more Del Toro's than his own. Also, the two of them had tried for eight hours to adapt a plot from the original Hellboy comic for the second film, and failed. Also noted was that Del Toro has a great way for getting around studio “suits”—film in Eastern Europe (aka the back end of Hell), where they would not go.

Apparently, Mignola was brought into Disney to do extra concept art for a movie that would become “Journey to Atlantis”. The artists at Disney are very cliquish, looking at Mignola like “what is HE doing here?” Apparently, the artists never talk to the screenwriters at idea meetings. Mignola, on the other hand, hadn't been informed about that policy, and when he went out to lunch with the writers and talked with them, they came back and they had a different film. He doesn’t know not to speak up. Also, when he first arrived, he had a thought of “Why is there a large poster of Hellboy on the wall?” After hearing about how the Disney artists admired his technique about different things, his first thought about one of the “techniques” was “I did it that way because I can't draw feet.”

Slater attended the High School for the Performing Arts (the “Fame” school), and auditioned for and won the role of Supergirl immediately after graduating. While on set, she performed a Shakespeare sonnet for Peter O’Toole, who was her co-star on the film. Being from New York, she talked with her hands gesturing. O’Toole asked her to hold two dandelions between her thumbs and forefingers and do it again. She learned how to put the poetry over the performance, or, as she put it, “getting the blonde out of her speech”. She would more recently play Clark’s Kryptonian mother on “Smallville.”

Now, originally, the primary villain from John Woo's Mission Impossible II was slated to be Wolverine in the X-Men films, but Woo kept him so long, Singer and company decided to go with an Aussie actor who was playing Curly in “Oklahoma” for the London stage, some guy named Hugh Jackman. They decided “hey we gotta keep an eye on him, he’s gonna go far.” Oh yes, and after shooting, the cast would apparently head to the bar, where Patrick Stewart taught everyone “photon torpedo” acting, moving as if hit, while the camera moved. “Position #7 [Pull to the right.]”

Jones, who also played the Silver Surfer in the second Fantastic 4 movie, is signed on to a Surfer 3-picture deal. The second movie has been written by J. Michael Straczynski.

Panel 2: The Star Trek authors cavalcade: with Peter David, Alan Dean Foster, Keith DeCandido.

When the panel started, there was a brief introduction of everyone except Peter David. He simplified it by asking “Is there anyone here who DOESN’T know who I am?” Answer: no.

Simon and Schuster: the people who bring you the Trek novels have been through a massive let-go of ST editors; they've cut two in the last year. In addition, the authors were told “no more multi-book story arcs”...and there are some who are thinking that this is the end of the Trek book franchise, since the contract is expiring soon.

Editors and Paramount have a great deal of power over the plots. One idiot named Richard Arnold once told Peter David that “there are no female Borg; we haven't seen them on the show, so they don't exist” (This was before the Borg Queen and Seven of Nine). As a result, Peter David's novel “Vendetta” originally came with a disclaimer that it was “not series cannon”. David's reply “So they assimilate everyone but the women? What are they, Hasidic Jews?”

An example of Editorial Power is the Death of Kathryn Janeway—yes, Voyager fans, she'd dead, get over it. It was an idea that was given to Peter David for the book “Before Dishonor.” It was not his idea, don't yell at him for it.

DeCandido had problems writing for Will Riker; According to Peter David, Jonathan Frakes told him that he played Riker as John Wayne. David then went on to discuss how he pictured his creation of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun as Mel Gibson as Braveheart ("I was a teenage warlord"), only without the death and dismemberment.

Alan Dean Foster talked about other projects like the novelization of the first Alien movie, where he could explain things that didn't make sense in the film. Peter David asked “Why did the escape pod only hold four people? Was this ship created by the people who built the Titanic?”

David continued with, “And another thing, I'm still waiting for someone to explain gravity on most of these ships. The only time I've ever seen it done was on Babylon 5, and they even made it a plot point in one story.”

Panel 3: Angel/Buffy guest stars: Kristy Swanson (KS, the original Buffy), Charisma Carpenter (CC), Julie Benz (JB), Felicia Day (FD. Creator of The Guild ).

Miscellaneous facts here and there: Tv sets have doctors to deal with pimples.

According to KS, the original Buffy movie was a Luke Perry vehicle. The soul patch in the move was a fake, and Swanson's cat one day licked it off and ate it.

Felicia Day reads romance novels,on kindle, just because the covers are embarrassing. Also reads JD Robb, which are mystery romances.

After a large round of applause upon her arrival, CC: “I come here for the ego boost.”

Q: “Ms. Carpenter, do you read the comics?”
A: “Well, I’m at DCon, so, yes, of course I do.”

Question on favorite character development:
A, Julie Benz: I was originally supposed to be vamp girl #1.... I got a name and a story arc, so, yay!
A, Charisma Carpenter: It was a little odd giving birth to a 6’2” African-American woman (Gina Torres).
FD: “Your vagina much be huge... on the show! On the show I mean!”
Charisma Carpenter laughs: “Yeah, Franken-pussy.”

Charisma Carpenter was recently filmed for Legend of the Seeker: The lead, Craig Horner, is a Buffy fan and geeked out on her.

Q: Charisma, did you like Buffy or Angel more...?
Charisma Carpenter: “Angel, of course, it had more of me!” [Done for the laugh, I think] “Buffy was fun though.”

Q: “So, Charisma, what did you think of the five seasons of Angel?”
A: “Well, first of all, I wasn’t in the last season; I was cut in season four... then the series got canceled... MUWHAHAHA. No, with the fourth season, it was really tough. I got pregnant, and things became strained with Joss (Whedon), and it reached a breaking point when I found out I would be fired FROM A REPORTER who called to ask about it. When I was approached about doing my cameo in Season 5, I told them, 'Don't kill me. I don't want to do this if you're just going to kill me... don't kill me...' and then I heard the plot of the episode and Damnit, they killed me. When I heard how I was going to buy it, I thought, 'Wow, that’s GOOD! Joss is still the master.' So, we're good now.”

Julie Benz will be in a new movie, a sequel to “Reservoir Dogs”, where her character wears 6-inch Louis Vuitton heels to crime scenes (Charisma Carpenter hugs her and says “I love you!”).

Q: What badass do you want to play next?
Charisma Carpenter: “I wanna play Julie! Or any Quentin Tarantino Heroine.” (Kill Bill’s Bride)
Q: No, I mean a real person.
Charisma Carpenter: “Julie is a real person!”
Julie Benz: No I’m not.
Charisma Carpenter: --Or I'd play Wonder Woman, but Joss isn’t involved with that anymore, so never mind.
Julie Benz: Well, as far as real people go, I was once mistaken for Kristy Swanson.
Kristy Swanson: You don’t look like me.

And, finally, one last exchange.

Charisma Carpenter: Julie bit me once.
Julie Benz: I liked it.
Charisma Carpenter: And then I hit you, and I liked it!

Panel 4: Apocalypse Rising Track,:the writers panel, starring John Ringo, SM Stirling, and Michael Z. Williamson.

When John Ringo's on a panel, by the way, expect to hear very little from anyone else. He doesn't seem to like the sound of his own voice, and though he came into the panel after driving 6 hours in 18, he still takes over

John Ringo: “I find it funny that this is a panel of disasters and someone just handed me a novelization of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen....

“Now, with Post Apocalyptic fiction, it's a way for a writer to make the world over in his own image, using the most unlikely hero—usually a version of themselves. In fact, the Western tradition has been scarred by it, with the Plague, which killed a third of Europe.

“Oh, and by the way, did anyone here see Cloverfield? I just wanted them all to die! Does anyone here known anyone as stupid as those people?

“One of the various problems with our modern world is that the Sun occasionally burbs. And that's fine if you're an ancient Roman, not so good for us. Right now, if we lost modern technology, it would be worse and more devastating than a nuclear war; with technology, we can support a planet of six billion people. If we lose modern technology, the planet has has a max capacity to support only 450-500 million people. Please realize that the “normal” world is not America, it's Darfur and Saudia Arabia.

“In 1869, there was the Carrington event, a solar storm that lasted for hours, hit the entire planet with a barrage of electromagnetic pulse. Now, it doesn't effect telegraphs. Us, not so lucky. Then again, in Tennesee, we can live off of squirrels--75 squirrels per person. And I live in Chattanooga, with the Tennessee Valley Authority. They'd have the power back up in two months.”

Miscellanous someone [most likely Stirling] “As for what's left afterwards... for example, archaeologists found a 3800-year-old clay tablet from town destroyed by Hammurabi. It had a stone letter in it. They were all excited and such, the first such letter they found of this kind.... what was on it? 'This is the third letter I have written regarding the silver you owe me…' The second one was 'You have not written me in the three years since your marriage…'

“And speaking of modern technology, Los Angeles.... You put a city in the desert? Really?”

Ringo: No I didn’t.

MZ Williamson [I think]: “As for after the fall, and what would be left, in my book, I had them retell Star Wars as their myth, only with the siege tower of doom instead of the Death Star, and they found a Star Trek Technical manual and decided to put it together themselves...after all, it had been done before.”

Stirling [I also think]: “James Clavell, the English author, was a POW in a Japanese camp in WW2, which he turned into his novel King Rat. After the war, he walked around the streets of London with two tins of sardines in his pockets because he had learned that he could survive on two tins and a pound of rice should everything fall apart.”

Ringo: by the way, for the record, the average lifespan of a lone wolf is about six months. Humans are also pack animals. Should the crap hit the fan, you can have all the food in the world, but that won't help if there are thirty people surrounding your house. Get friends.

Panel 5, 4PM. John Ringo reading

“Has anyone read Princess of Wands?” EVERY HAND shot up. “OK, then.” Working on the sequel for 18 months. Problems: Should he do it as one novel? Vignettes? What order should the vignettes be? And how do you top the last book?

Eventually, the reading was “Live Free or Die” (“no relation to the Bruce Willis movie”).
Premise of this book: a Libertarian with a napoleon complex becomes richest and most powerful man on Earth.
It starts with a statement of the real Scientific principle “Hm, that’s odd.”

And it leads into SkyWatch: watching the skies and the stars for things that can crash into the Earth and kill us. The joke is those that who can’t teach, go to SkyWatch.

And then they find a 10.4 KM concentric circle in space.

“Is this a joke?”
“It's from the Germans, they don’t have a sense of humor.”
“You do know what shape that's in, right?”
"Yeah, it’s a halo; maybe it’s Covenant. At the speed and angle, it won't hit us, but keep an eye on it, when it hits something, the explosion will be REALLY COOL."

Several weeks later: “Um, it's stopped.” Oh crap.

Cut to the White House Switchboard.

Operator: “White House Switchboard.”
Operator: “A prank call will only be wasting my time.”


Now, to the hero—Vernon Taylor, or Taylor Vernon, no one can recall, not even Ringo. This Libertarian webcomic artist ran a SF site, which died after science fiction was superceded by events. One day, he discovered that the Gleen is addicted to maple syrup; he grabs a big rig full of 50 gallon drums of syrup, becomes their supplier, and is rich overnight.

The first story: “The Maple Syrup War”: Earth is too backwater for the Gleen to interfere, they don't have a world government body, no real political organization that the Gleen find acceptable, and that includes the UN. Every few years, the Rastor come, blow up Singapore and two other cities (because they were the brightest lit), and have tribute.

And then they take Hostages for maple syrup. Vernon sets up a transmission from his moon colony, relays it thru several satellites and Fox News. Green screen is set up behind him to add to the image of him being at home. “It may seem to you that we who collect the syrup are the servants of the people in the cities. To your collective mindset, you don't know this concept of freedom. Of individuality. Of liberty. The people in the cities... THEY ARE OUR ENEMIES. We WANT you to kill them. BLOW UP BOSTON. DESTROY NEW YORK. And please, PLEASE, NUKE DC! This is America. A place of FREEDOM. LIVE FREE OR—”
“We lost the first relay, swtiching to second.”
Picture behind him reverts to Mount Rushmore. “AND WE HAVE CGI AND GREEN SCREEN YOU ALIEN BASTARDS.”
“Lost the second one.”
Afterwards, a CNN reporter says “We were hurt by what you said. You didn't mean the cities are you enemies.”
“Of course I did. They are. They're against everything we stand for. But I didn't want anyone to die.”
“Then why did you say that?”
“To quote the smartest rabbit I know, 'Please don’t throw me into that briar patch.'”

By the second vignette, Vernon has created a warship out of a 10km wide nickel asteroid, 9 trillion tons, armed with Archimedes mirrors; described as “insufficiently ambitious.”
An audience member hummed the Imperial Waltz, Ringo said “Exactly. In this, everyone's trying NOT to do the death star.”
And this armed asteroid is called Troy.

Panel 5: 
The league of redheaded stepchildren: Media tie-in authors Peter David, Timothy Zahn, Robert Greenberger, Catherine Asaro.

Most often line that they hear: “When are you going to write a REAL book? Not some Star Wars novel.” Tie-ins are a rung below SF/Fantasy.

When asked what projects he's turned down, Timothy Zahn turned down B5 —
PD: Don't worry, I did it.
TZ: Then I turned down a Halo novel.
PD: Don't worry, I did it.
TZ: I have objections to writing “Other people’s stories.”
PD: “Would you object to $100K for a screenplay?”
TZ: “Maybe, but that's weeks, a novel takes months.”
PD: “Not the way I write. I burn out keyboards. ”
TZ: My other problem with the Halo novel was that they wouldn't let me see their bible for the mythology.
PD: I didn't have a that problem. The Microsoft people were very supportive. When I was approached, I say “Yes, I love Halo,” and spend days doing research playing the game or reading strategy guides. When I handed in my outline, they said “Oh, you can't do that with this weapon, but you can with this, which is one that we haven't released yet.” But yeah, they were very supportive with me.
TZ. “Mom always liked you best.”
PD: “And is it any wonder? As for what I've turned down, I turned down writing the first Voyager novel; the show bible said Janeway was supposed to hold the ship together with willpower, spit and baling wire, between the Marquis and the starfleet crew members, the show ironed out all those rough edges.. And I turned down the novelization for Iron Man 2; Marvel was so paranoid, they insisted the writer do this with pen and paper. Then again, my theory is that if anyone asks if you can do something, then say yes! Then learn how.

Max Allan Collins wrote Road to Perdition, the novelization of movie based on his comic book. He put in background and stories that he couldn’t fit into comic. Publisher said take it out because “it wasn't in the movie.” The novelization ended up as 40k words. His revenge: he put the material into sequel.

On the Return of Swamp Thing: PD took old Alan Moore comics and rewrote the movie. Greenberger, working for DC at the time, said forget the movie, read the book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's going on with the book? A Pius Man, Doubleday, and the Market

We interrupt this series of DragonCon reports for a news update.......


So, what's going on with A Pius Man and Doubleday, you ask?

Some time ago, I mentioned that A Pius Man was under review with one of the larger distributors of books in America; these are the people who put Dan Brown on the map with a little book about art history and word puzzles. After I mentioned that it was under review, most of you probably noticed that it was never mentioned Ever Again.

I figured that some of you may be wondering what the heck is going on.

The very short version. I had a strong advocate in one editor, who fully supported the book. He liked it, despite some admittedly stupid copy-editing errors on my part (which have since been tended to). Basically, he would support the book no matter what superficial things were wrong with it. This was THE book for him. He would back it all the way....

Then he was fired....

No, there isn't a cause and effect relationship.

Here's the problem...

To start with, the publishing industry is, in essence, owned by about five people. One company is owned by another, and another.

In this case, Doubleday is owned by Random House.

For those of you who don't keep track of economic news as obsessively as I do, a little review.

Around November of 2008, Random House had a minor bloodbath. Employees were slashed in the ten-thousand range. Some blamed the economy, some blamed the rise of electronic media (e-books, Kindles, Nooks, Crannies, etc) and traditional media's “failure” to compensate. Some blamed Random House itself for “wild expansion” during a five year period where the price of hardcovers (their bread and butter) went up as cheap e-books came out by the bushel. (Footnote: NY Times, November, 2008... look it up if you don't believe me)

And it's NOT just Random House that has been hit upside the head by this economy. Books are wounded in general: look at how Barnes & Noble is fairing if you want a good example. Last year, it looked like the clock had started to run out on Star Trek novels; “to be continued” and multi-book series were frozen, because the publisher wasn't going to lay money on how things were going to look three years down the road. Not only that, but in the 2008-2009 year, they had gone through five editors on the Star Trek novels alone. When you consider that Star Trek novels used to come out once a month, and sometimes more, it says something that they questioned the profitability of a long standing franchise. (Footnote, DragonCon, 2009.)

And there are solutions, of course. The Random House Slaughter was followed by massive hiring. Publishers have to cut costs while, AT THE SAME TIME, keep up their output. In the larger houses, this means they still have to put out a hundred books a month. So they have to hire people to replace everyone they had just let go. Personnel who can be hired at lower cost who can do the same job.

However, in a bad economy, personnel hired because they were less expensive can always be replaced by personnel who are even cheaper. (I dislike referring to people as "cheap," but my mental thesaurus isn't firing on full thrusters right now, and “even less expensive” didn't seem right).

My supporter was one of the “cheaper” employees. However, in the current atmosphere (10% or 17% unemployment, depending on how you jostle the numbers), there is no shortage of warm bodies to hire, and it's possible to find employees who are even cheaper still.  And since the rule right now is “Last in, first out,” my supporter wanted a trump card. A property that he could bring into the company, and would guarantee his position... Guess what book he wanted to use.
However, if you have ever played a card game that use trump cards, there is only one major rule. You have to have a sense of timing about when you use the trump cards, otherwise, you don't get anything by using them.

And, of course, speaking of timing, my own timing was also perfect. I finally landed an agent five months into this particular situation (word to the wise: if you have a choice between trying for a Post-Graduation degree in liberal arts, or shooting at your true goal IN the arts, ditch the degree).

Right now, the status of A Pius Man is simple: we're back at square one. I'm going to copy-edit the entire manuscript, again, and then, we start anew.