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Friday, August 21, 2020

Of NASFIC And Other Virtual Conventions!

 A few weeks ago I was talking about ConZealand, the World Science Fiction Convention 2020. It was online, the first Worldcon to be completely digital. I enjoyed it very much, bought far too many books and saw four catch-up panels just before they were taken down. They were on subjects that interested me - 

Urban fantasy in the 21st century, Writing Alternative Universe, Golden Age of SF Movies and TV In Space. It’s probably a bit late to be writing about them now, but they were all enjoyable. 

I wrote a post with the shortlist for the New Zealand awards, the Sir Julius Vogels, and mentioned that we had not received them in time to vote. However, since then we have been sent a SJV packet just so we could have them. So, another pile of goodies to read! I did buy three books before I knew we were being sent these, but still plenty of freebies, and hopefully I will have time and energy to review some.

Since then, other conventions have moved on line. I have joined the World Fantasy Convention, which I believe is more of a professional development for authors than just another con, but that’s fine - I’m a writer, and it’s always good to learn something new. This one will be about 16 hours behind Australia, possibly 17 hours behind, as we will be on Daylight Saving Time by then, the end of October. I paid by PayPal, where I had nearly half the fee already, due to having been paid for my story in Oz Is Burning. Nice! 

If you are interested in joining this convention, here is the link. - do check it out, even if you aren’t a writer. Anyone can join.

This weekend I am “attending” another con, NASFIC, which is being held in Columbus, Ohio, but run online. The organisers have very generously decided to make it free, due to having to do it all online, though you can still make a donation. I might just do that before it’s over, but there is no requirement to donate. Here is a link for you

Columbus, Ohio, is 14 hours behind Melbourne, so last night I set my alarm for 2.00 a.m and “attended”(curled up in bed) a panel on the subject of using history in fiction. It was good fun and featured my friend historian and novelist Gillian Polack. 

There was very little, if any, talk about historical fantasy or SF, just historical fiction, but it was well worth waking up in the middle of the night to watch. There were some very good points made in the discussion. For example, Regency romance writer Georgette Heyer vs Jane Austen. One of the panellists described Heyer’s work as basically Jane Austen fanfic, which is true, but suggested that Jane Austen would not be happy with it(the actual word used was “horrified”), because she never portrayed aristocrats sympathetically, whereas Heyer - and, for that matter, other authors of Regency romance - did. Think about that for a moment. Okay, Darcy of Pride And Prejudice is related to the aristocracy, in the form of Lady Catherine DeBurgh, but until late in the book he is very snobbish, though never truly awful. Think about his first proposal to Elizabeth! 

In Regency romance, the hero is usually a Duke of this or a Lady Whoever. Austen’s heroines might be rich, like Emma, but are not usually Duchesses. 

There were discussions of missing cultures in Regency fiction - as Gillian commented, there were no Jews in Heyer , except as moneylenders. There was a mention of Moors/Muslims in Robin Hood stories - yes, there was a Saracen Merrie in Robin Of Sherwood and another in  Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves, plus a Saracen female Merrie in the BBC Robin Hood. That’s true. And all of them were there for a reason. The Assassin Nasir(Robin Of Sherwood) had come to England with a returning Crusader. The one in Prince Of Thieves had returned with Robin, when both had escaped from a prison in Jerusalem. Djaq, the Saracen woman, had been brought to England as a slave, with a bunch of others, and joined the band, warning them she was “rubbish at cooking”, so Much the Miller’s Son kept having to do it. 

That was all fine, but when someone on the panel said that they had been in the original stories, as opposed to film and TV, I said, “Huh?”  I read a whole collection of mediaeval Robin Hood ballads and can’t recall any. It was a long time ago, of course, I may have forgotten. There were, yes,  Muslim knights in the Arthurian legends(they end up converting to Christianity if they are the good guys, and they never get the girl! Not if there is a good Christian knight available, anyway.). But that is not Robin Hood.

There was a mention of Zen Cho, who has written some delightful Regency romance fantasy with Malaysian characters. I read the first one and enjoyed it, some months ago.

After this panel, I slept a few hours lest I find myself watching panels all night when I had to be up early to make breakfast and warm the kitchen. 

Waking up, I managed to see a panel on urban fantasy and  COVID, and that was also very interesting. Much of it was, should we be writing COVID stuff right now, while people are still affected by it, and really don’t want to have to deal with it in fiction as well? Someone gave as an example the post-9/11 US. Fiction written at the time was often set ten years later. 

But a lot of the panel was fun speculation on how, say, werewolves and vampires were going to deal with it. Werewolves have bodies that can heal, so would a werewolf have to keep changing to deal with the nasty side effects of COVID? What about vampires? How do you bite your victim while social distancing? Would it affect you anyway? Someone reminded us that, in Love At First Bite, Dracula got drunk from biting a homeless drunk! Would vampires have to get jobs delivering pizza, with everyone locked down? But they would also have to deal with being invited in. 

There are so many ideas floating in my head from this discussion, though my only urban fantasy so far is an as-yet unpublished novella with a couple of werewolves doing detective work to catch up with vampires who have been sneaking into Australia via teenagers using paranormal romance web sites. It’s hard to sell a novella these days, but I could use the same characters again...

Anyway, I will enjoy the con again from bed late tonight! 

If you’re interested in doing the same, check the web site. It’s very simple to join, so check it out. 


Gillian said...

That was a fun panel to be on. Sherwood does excellent moderation.

I talked about silencing, but someone else made the comment about Jews in Heyer. And we didn't really talk about the Robin Hood - it was a throwaway line. If we had more time, I would've asked what she thought was the original Robin Hood, but my ideas are different to many people and I didn't want to disrupt the flow.

Brian Joseph said...

These conventions sound great. Now that they are online I really need to attend a few. I have been fairly busy even on weekends but I need to make the time I really would have loved the panel on the golden age of science fiction movies.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Brian! Well, if you’d like to go this weekend, just click on the link and enjoy!

Hi Gillian! I’d swear that was you, but then, it WAS two thirty in the morning. As for the Robin Hood thing, it was more than one line, it was a discussion, if brief, about how silly people are for thinking there were no “Moors” in England in those days, lol, because... and someone actually compared it to the Arthurian stories, which is apples and oranges. A pity you didn’t get a chance to put in your own two cents worth, alas! I’d have liked to hear it. 🙂

Gillian said...

We were referring to different things then! I didn't get involved in the Moors discussion because, honestly, it would have complicated tings impossibly. They knew I was an historian, but had not quite processed what kind of historian and saying "I may know this about the Middle Ages" would have derailed so much. My main concern was making sure that it was clear that our historical baggage can change according to the genre we're writing at a given moment.

I'm not good at discussions when there are 3 topics at once and when they're also tangled with bunches of other things - I need to focus on just one. And I also hate saying But..." when it's something as complicated as the Robin Hood culture which is almost all of it post-Medieval. Not quite all, but almost. Anne, I think, was combining that with the arguments given on the PoC Medieval blog. Telling her that the only clear Medieval appearance of Robin Hood was as a name given by people caught in the act who didn't want to give their own name would have totally taken the discussion away from the tendency of many writers to leave non-Christians out of their narratives.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ah, well. There was only fifty minutes for the panel anyway, and EXACTLY fifty minutes(I was amazed when you guys were cut off!) and you’re right, it would complicate a discussion which was meant to be just for fun. I remember once seeing Robert Jordan and Ben Bova nearly come to blows on the stage at the Melbourne Writers Festival!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I read a lot of Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager. I should have read Jane Austen instead.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debra! No need. You read Jane Austen first, then Heyer when you run out and get a craving. Not the same, but still enjoyable. And she did start the Regency romance genre, I think.

Guillaume said...

I hated Prince of Thieves with a passion. Making Robin Hood American and unheroic was unforgivable. And there were far too many anachronism and inaccuracies. The BBC Robin hood was maybe even worse.

Sue Bursztynski said...

You might like to try Mel Brooks’ Men In Tights, then. It sends up Prince Of Thieves mercilessly. And in it, Cary Elwes says proudly, “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak it with a British accent!”