Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic-Con 2010

Comic-Con, the annual pop culture extravaganza in San Diego, has one more day to go, but I think I’ve had my fill for the year. My nightstand and wallet can’t quite take anymore book purchases! Comic-Con has nearly been taken over by the Hollywood marketing machine such that comic book artists, writers and retailers are an after thought, shoved into the far corners of the exhibit hall. But interestingly enough, book publishers such as Penguin and Del Rey have a fairly strong presence and bring in many well known genre writers for signings and panels.

I sat in on 4 of these discussion panels, and was as always entertained and wowed by how interesting and intelligent these authors are. Well read, as you would hope, and articulate, as you would also hope, and full of interesting opinions and a passion for their favorite genres.

This was the third time I’ve seen Christopher Paolini at Comic-Con, and once again he was delightful. The topic for his panel was “The Hero in Epic Fantasy”, and the question came up about the trope of the protagonist being a “chosen one” or having a “destiny to fulfill”. The first author to address this, Patrick Rothfuss, enthusiastically proclaimed he detested it, that it was a weak and hackneyed plot device, just a bunch of crock perpetuated by weak writers. Christopher Paolini was sitting next to this guy, and said, “Well, as someone who has invested most of my life now to writing a series about a boy with a destiny, I have to disagree with you,” and then he went on to very eloquently defend the trope. I wish I had taken notes on what he said, but I was really impressed by him, by his bringing up examples from literary history to discussing how and when the trope works.

I did buy Patrick Rothfuss’s book, The Name of the Wind, as he was a riot on the panel and I myself am rather sick of chosen ones in every fantasy book I read. Got him to sign my copy, too!

I was also very taken with China Mieville who was a special guest of Comic-Con. His recent book, Kraken was reviewed in the New York Times Saturday. What I love about him is between his intimidating looks (shaved head, lots of piercings in one ear) and his educational and political background you’d expect his books to be dark, brooding and full of heavy political themes. In reality he is a regular geek who simply lets his active imagination flow onto the page. He was very funny, humble, thrilled he can make a living as an author, and clearly intelligent. I’m really looking forward to Kraken and exploring his other titles.

The one author I wanted to meet but just didn’t get to was Naomi Novik, who writes the Temeraire books. I did get to see her on a panel of authors who mix genres. They talked quite a bit about the challenge of pitching their ideas, of publishers and booksellers categorizing their books. I would have loved for them to talk more about how they research and plan these mixes of genres, but they ran out of time.

I waited in line for a signing with some other fans of scifi and fantasy, and we talked about not having books for authors to sign as we use e-books and audiobooks. We were joking about autographable skins for iPods and iPads and Kindles. As we talked we shared favorite authors, and one woman recommended I try Lynn Flewelling, so I picked up The Bone Doll’s Twin.

I also wound up with free copies of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. I now have quite a stack of books to get to between these new titles and the books already queued up at home such as the rest of the Temeraire books, all the Discworld books my son wants me to read.

When I wasn't in panels or waiting for an autograph, I was busy taking photos of people in costume. I'll post some of those in the next few days.

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