22 September 2010

Con report: day 2, part 2

My third session was Shaun Tan's Guest of Honour speech. I'd pretty much heard this before at a SCWBI session a few years earlier, but it was well worth hearing and seeing it a second time. One of the things I found most interesting was that an earlier version of The arrival had a small amount of text, in terms of letters being written home. But Tan discussed how when there's words we read too quickly, that we rush on to the next set of words. Isn't that an arresting thought? He wanted to slow down the reader's experience so he took the words out. I would've thought that was the opposite to what would happen, but that was my thinking on a superficial level. If I put myself in the reader's shoes, I can see he is right. (He also said that the letters would have been in English, and that would have been too culturally specific for the effect he was trying to create.)

My fourth panel for the day was more of a chill-out-and-enjoy rather than you'd-better-concentrate-because-you-might-learn-something panel: "Eowyn and Sam: unappreciated heroes in LotR" with Laurice Mann, Helen Lowe, Rose-Marie Lillian and Alison Croggon. This panel covered some interesting ground with thoughts such as Aragorn had been feminised in the film. [What?] That Faramir is the character the film let down, that what they lost was the possibility of pure honour that Faramir embodied. He had to be far more human in the movie, but in the book he was both. So there was speculation that this was because Aragorn was humanised more in the film, and they had to differentiate him from Faramir so Faramir also had to be humanised more.

An audience member posed the theory that had Eowyn been male, she may have been cast as a traitor as she abrogated her responsibilities of looking after the people, but the panel thought perhaps not because a) she was royal and b) she was successful. One decided that in the military she mightn't be branded traitor but probably would have beeb court-martialed. Another said the book does make a point of it being wrong, but another panelist disagreed and said it was a very English attitude that you should do what you're told rather than take action, which brought in the audience member again with the rejoinder "But she abandoned her post!". So, even this left me with something to think about.

My final session was a double session -- a workshop on map-making with Russell Kirkpatrick. This was the session in the whole con that I most wanted to go to, but I did go in feeling guilty that I wasn't at the Clarion get-together, which I also wanted to attend.

Kirkpatrick had us looking at maps in new ways -- starting off with why we shouldn't put borders on our maps. (They constrain people, whereas he wants them thinking about what's beyond the border.) We looked at cadastral, thematic and topographic maps.

He talked about fantasy maps needing to include things that aren't in the story -- about the need to suggest a bigger world. And about whether maps need to be accurate or not. About how things are deliberately left off maps.

He said one of the main reasons for fantasy writers doing maps was not so much for the publishers as for the writer to feel like their world is real. And his advice on drawing maps: don't draw the coastlines first. [What? That's always where I start!] He said it's too constraining. He said and showed us a lot more of course, and it made me wish I could go and study cartography at university, so I was very glad I'd done the panel, despite what I'd missed out on at the same time. Oh, if only there weren't so many compromises.

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