San Diego Comic-Con: In Which I Host a Fantasy Panel, and Subsequently Hit Bottom

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I will leave it to Matt to talk about the Simpsons panel, which I just walked past the line for. It took me 10 minutes just to walk the line. Then I paid $4 for a pretzel and sat down on the floor to gnaw it. (Dry, because my personal beliefs prevent me from paying $3 for a soda.) It is Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con and I’m bottoming out.

I don’t think humans were meant to go to all four days of Comic-Con. There’s too much stuff, and the conditions under which you experience it are too unpleasant. The canned air, the constant jostling, the endless lines. The presence of the major studios here, while conceivably at least partly well-intentioned — look, it could happen — has blown the whole event out. It’s a major national event grafted onto the infrastructure of a niche event, and as a result all pores and orifices have clogged and jammed. Even subcultures appear swollen to the size of overexposed, overexploited mass phenomena. The line for the Steampunk meetup was easily a quarter mile long. The line for the Steampunk meetup.

So I’ll take a second to talk about a relatively sane event, which was a panel called “The Evolution of Fantasy,” which I moderated about 30 year ago, on Thursday. The panelists were Jacqueline Carey (NAAMAH’S KISS), Lynn Flewelling (SHADOWS RETURN), Patrick Rothfuss (THE NAME OF THE WIND), Thomas Sniegoski (DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PIN), Greg Van Eekhout (NORSE CODE) and Cindy Pon (SILVER PHOENIX: BEYOND THE KINGDOM OF XIA).

I started out asking about Harry Potter and the general mainstreaming of fantasy. Greg V. E. — taking point — came out powerfully pro-Potter, and some fur flew right away. To the extent that there was consensus, it was that Rowling had raised the profile of fantasy, and possibly expanded the market for it, in a good way, while not materially moving the chains on the evolution of the genre itself per se.

YA and fantasy. On paper there were both young adult and adult fantasists there, but nobody was particularly in love with that distinction. All agreed that it was fabricated by publishers and bookstores and didn’t mean much to anybody, though it’s certainly easier to sell a book if publishers can be persuaded it’s YA. (Jacqueline C made noises of alarm at the idea that pre-teens might read her stuff, which is pretty graphic.) We went on to the hybridization and interbreeding of fantasy with other genres: horror, western, romance, etc. etc. which all agreed was an ongoing trend and a good thing. Though again, there’s a certain amount of randomness as to how one’s work is going to be classified by the industry. Except that if there’s vampires, it’s going to be called a vampire book.

I wish I’d asked more about urban fantasy, and epic fantasy, which got some mentions as major trends. Patrick R. — who caused much squeeing, being as he is a living god — gave thanks for how much baggage has been cleared away by authors who have pushed the envelope re: sex, violence, adult themes, etc. in epic fantasy, and gotten it out from the under the shadow of Tolkien.

All were asked to, and did, plug their favorite new and exciting works. Joe Abercrombie and Naomi Novik were mentioned, as were other writers whose names I wish I’d noted down. In general it was a great room. Everybody cheered for everybody. It was the last moment of the con when I felt in touch with any kind of subcultural community.

I’m off to buy something weird and fluffy and Japanese for my daughter.