This week I am doing a continuation of my WonderCon 2014 wrap-up, as well as giving a shout-out to the recently announced Hugo Award Nominees. Last week I talked about all things cosplay; today I will be taking a look at the writers and artists who helped create the stories our fandoms have come to love and celebrate.
Writing at WonderCon 2014
There were a lot of panels on writing at WonderCon. From writing for teens to writing for comics, there was a panel to cover any topic an aspiring writer could possibly have an interest in learning about. Although I was unable to attend most of these due to scheduling conflicts, the few writing panels I did attend were quite excellent.
Layers Upon Layers
Saturday April 19, 11:30am Room 213
This panel was full of well-established storytellers in the fantasy and science fiction genres (Peter Straub, Django Wexler, Christopher Long, Marlene Perez, Richard Kadrey, Cameron Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, and moderator LeAna Herrera), discussing the importance of how characters, setting, and tone affect the believability of a story. One of the major themes from every panel I attended, which was quite well explored here, was the overwhelming importance of character, because without engaging characters the audience won’t care. And if the audience doesn’t care, there isn’t much point to the writing. The panelists also discussed how much detail the author should prepare vs. how much detail the author should reveal, and how and when it should happen. It was a wonderful discussion of craftsmanship, and provided a lot of great insight into the complexities of creating a well written story.
The Long Game
Sunday April 20, 1pm Room 207
This panel consisted of many current comic book writers, including Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), Francis Manapul (The Flash), James Robinson (The Fantastic Four), Tony Daniel (Detective Comics), Robert Venditti (Green Lantern), and moderator Mark Waid (Daredevil). Although this panel was supposed to be about how character re-boots need to tie into the existing cannon, it became very much about the problems of writing longer multi-book comics series vs. writing quick One Shots. It was interesting to hear how publishers like to throw monkey wrenches (aka crossover events) into the works, or how re-boots (like the New 52) can mean weeks of wasted work for writers. The panelists themselves were quite enthusiastic, and their dialogue was quite engaging, even for someone who hasn’t been fully immersed in the fandom. There were definitely great tidbits of advice for all aspiring writers - not just those in the comic field. And it provided an interesting perspective on how the act of creating can be similarly difficult and rewarding for everyone, whether they be a professional comic book author wanting to create a fun story or a fan looking to create the perfect cosplay.
Other Panels at WonderCon 2014
Although these panels weren’t directly related to cosplay, cooking, or writing, I found myself rather interested in and inspired by their content.
Psychology of Cult TV Shows
Saturday April 19, 1pm Room 210A
This panel was packed! It was (unfortunately) crammed into the smallest room at the convention, most likely because the panel consisted of a bunch of psychologists (Dr. Janina Scarlett, Josué Cardona, Dr. Travis Langley, and soon-to-be-doctor Elizabeth Ann of NerdLush), and not a bunch of TV celebrities. The audience was entirely enthusiastic and treated the hosts like celebrities regardless. There was a lot of hooting and hollering when beloved television shows were named (Buffy, Firefly, Sherlock, Dr. Who, Arrow, even a few throwbacks to my beloved Quantum Leap). Although the audience was determined to have a lot of fun, the panel did discuss serious issues like anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, etc. Most of the panelists work to overcome these debilitating issues by using the universal themes from television pop culture to help their clients create emotional connections to characters or other fans of the show. There was a discussion of the role that television plays in today’s society, and the conclusion that it is a positive emotional force in the lives of many people.
Spotlight on Cliff Chiang
Saturday April 19, 10:30am Room 213
I wasn’t able to attend this panel in full, but I did manage to catch the second half of what was essentially a one-on-one interview with comic book artist Cliff Chiang, who is currently working on the New 52 Wonder Woman comics. Discussion included inspiration for his designs, and discussion over clothing choices and fashions, as well as the difficulty of updating a character’s iconic look while remaining true to the spirit of the character. Although this wasn’t a panel I had originally intended to see, I found the discussion of characterization through costuming rather fascinating, especially from a cosplay perspective. I may have also found some unexpected inspirations for future cosplay projects. Which only goes to show - inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time, so don’t be afraid to try something new at a convention!
Cover Story: The Art of the Cover
Sunday April 20, 12pm Room 207
This was another panel I did not attend in full, but found rather interesting once I was seated. Although the panelists were perhaps not the most engaging, they did offer some interesting insight into the planning of scale, color, and text placement on comic book covers. Each panelist had an amusing anecdote about rushing to finish a cover piece only to have it rejected, lost, or ignored by the publishers. They also lamented the problems of poor color choices and inking goof-ups that led to some rather awkward cover art. Not one of the best panels I attended during the event, but definitely some great insight, especially for those looking to break into the comic book art world.
WonderCon 2014 Wrap-Up
All in all, WonderCon 2014 was a pretty fabulous weekend. The weather was lovely, the event was well run, and the community of fans was fun to be around. My only complaint was the scheduling of the panel rooms - there were several panel events that had lines running literally out the door onto the balcony of the second story at the convention center for tiny rooms that could barely hold a few hundred people (looking at you Frozen and Avatar, not to mention all of the cosplay panels and the Psychology of Cult TV Show panel), whereas there were several panels in the larger ballrooms that were attended by only a few dozen. And it also seemed like a lot of panels that would be of interest to the same crowd were scheduled simultaneously (Star Wars costuming and alien makeup at the same time, really?). I can definitely appreciate the challenge of organizing the schedules of presenters, rooms, and events, but there were just a few too many room choices that didn’t make sense with the popularity of the panel events. Otherwise it was a really great convention. I think the largest takeaway is the inspiration that comes from being surrounded by so many talented and creative people. Comic book conventions are essentially giant celebrations of creativity, and that was completely evident at this year’s event. Listening to the panelists, seeing the cosplayers, and hanging out with nerdy fans allows one to get really excited about their own personal fandoms, and maybe even find some new passions as well. WonderCon 2014 was a fantastic event, and I know I speak for everyone here at Geek Say What? when I say we can’t wait until it comes around again next year!
Hugo Award Nominees Announced
In other nerd news The Hugo Award Nominees have been announced! Including one of the most controversial nominations in recent memory - the entirety of The Wheel of Time series has been nominated for best novel! This has occurred based on a somewhat obscure rule that states that a work published in many parts is eligible for nomination as a whole in the year of the release of the final portion of the work. Although it is difficult to imagine anything taking on such a behemoth work, it stands some tough competition from Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Other highly contested categories include: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), where the screenplays from Frozen, Gravity, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Iron Man 3, and Pacific Rim will be duking it out, and Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), where “The Rains of Castamere” will be battling with “The Name of the Doctor” and “The Day of the Doctor”, among others. I know I will be looking up a slew of new podcasts to add to my playlist based on the “Best Fancast” nominees, and I am excited to see who is the stand-out for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Also fun - in honor of the 75th anniversary of the first Worldcon, there are nominees for 1939 Retrospective Hugo Awards this year as well. It looks like some truly great works have been nominated, and am sure we are all excited to see the results in August!
Until next time, this is Dr. T reminding you to get your hands nerdy.