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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ICFA-34 - Day 3 report

This is the account of my time at ICFA 34, March 19 to 24, 2013. This is as much a personal journal as it is a report, so it's long! You can see all of my posts on ICFA-34 here.

I started out the day with an 8:30 panel on adapting fairytales (and I did a lot of panels in general on fairytales this time!). It consisted of Kij Johnson, Helen Pilinovsky, Charles Vess, Christina Baccilega, and Delia Sherman, and they all talked about 
  • the concerns of using fairytales from outside your ethnic heritage
  • of how they chose and adapted them
  • what the differences between writing and art were
  • about the trend of 'grimdark' recreations of stories / the 'grimification' of fairytales--how people are making them all gritty and brooding
  • the issue of how preadolescent girls in fairytales can get stuff done, but so often, the adult women they would grow into are trapped and passive
  • spontaneously-generated folklore like Bloody Mary, Slenderman, etc
  • the way, with the internet, old versions of stories--any stories--don't fall away and out of reach, but are always accessible
  • whether superhero stories are folklore
  • how an adaptation has to be close to the original enough to be recognizable, but not so close that there's a lack of innovation

And all this in, like, an hour and a half!

The coffee break was after the 8:30 panels all week, which I find to be cruel and unusual...but perhaps it's actually cruel and unusual to ask the catering staff to set it up for us at, like, 7am? 

After break, it was onto another panel: Scott Vander Ploeg, Dorothy Hendricks, Thomas Simko

Scott talked about how people impose story on reality, and how literary ancestors are almost automatically made into new things, just because they're there, available. 
Dorothy talked about how people are going on actual roadtrips to see where Shadow and Wednesday went in American Gods, even though some of those places are fictional or fictionalized, and what it means that people are seeing real places through a connection to a fictional story.  
Thomas talked about how Gaiman attacks all the questions about why we need gods, why we need them to care about us, what drives our interactions with them, and what it means to us through Sandman

At lunch, the first of the Banquets, where Gaiman gave a speech. Here's the actual reaction I wrote about it after I got back up to the panel-halls afterward:

Today at lunch, over samosas and curried cauliflower, we were treated to Neil Gaiman's guest of honor speech. I was sad we weren't sitting closer, but just to be in the room was a treat--he's quiet, but not unhearable, charming but not overwhelming, warm but not intrusive. He writes his speeches the way he writes his stories: start with an idea, roam all over the place, show us new things, make us laugh, moments later make us cry, say strange things that we take with us to chew on along the way, and somehow, inexplicably, it all makes sense. 
Even if I don't get to meet the man in person here, I'm glad to have had this chance to hear unfiltered how he talks, how he reads his own work, what some of the stories behind the stories are.

After lunch, a panel on childrens' lit: Greer Watson, Mike Levy and Emma England

Greer talked about British Regional Childrens' Fantasy and how the tropes it established were incorporated into other regional fantasies, with varying degrees of success. I really liked the parts of discussion on The Dark Is Rising, which I need to read again; it's great. And she gave us a list of classics of the genre, which is going to be all sorts of fun reading my way through over the next, like, million years. 
Mike read the first few chapters of a book he's working on with Farah Mendlesohn. It's a book on the history of childrens' lit, and since it's the first part of a book, it was dense and didn't have much in the way of conclusion (that's for the rest of the book to do), but it talked fascinatingly about the balance between books meant for children and books children take over as their own, the way tropes pop up again and again, some about tricksters and such, and what all counts as folklore. 
Emma had a detailed and extremely interesting look at how children's picture book adaptations of Bible stories alter the meaning of and context for the stories themselves by cartoonifying, adding fantasy elements, shifting relationships between humans and the world, and otherwise strangely portray what they're meant to be portraying.

Once Q&A was done, Emma and I went to the first Supernatural panel. We were both excited to have a whole panel on the show, and I think it was pretty interesting. Panelists: Regina Hansen, Katherine Torrey, Patricia Grosse.

Regina talked about the Apocalyptic storylines of the first five years of the show, and how it's all always coming down to family relationships--between the brothers, between the angels, between angels and man, between a missing god and everyone, and on and on. The show is really concerned with these things, and it's a main drive of plots. I adore a good preapocalypse, so there's lots of stuff I need to mull over here.
Katherine talked about how the traditional and esoteric views of angels were pretty open-ended and could be several things at once, and how the show goes about making them fundamentalist and soldiery and keeps insisting we 'read the Bible' but also keeps giving us a single-point-of-view that isn't in the Bible.  
Patricia talked about the problem of how Sam could have been walking around and doing things without a soul if souls were really as intrinsic as we're always led to believe, and came to the conclusion that souls must be made of up of parts. She then used Plato's view of a soul made of parts to try to explain the plotlines. I think this was the most interesting concept in the panel--that exactly the part of Sam that would care about Hell is the part that is severed off and trapped there, and the rest of him, that wouldn't care, is dragged free.
(I was literally all the way back; that teeny dot by the guy in plaid's head is Neil Gaiman)

After this, a few of us talked for hours instead of going to dinner, and then they kept talking while I went to Gaiman's reading and the Adapting Shakespeare panel at night. The reading was beautiful--a chilling and creepy short story that's up on The Guardian, which I have to find; a poem that tells the story of two saints on the Island of Iona in Scotland, and how one kills the other, but the other doesn't stay all the way dead and messes up the first's plans; and the first three chapters of the new book, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. It sounds amazing--sad and strange and haunting. People are saying it's his best book yet, and it does seem to be off to a good start if the whole thing is like those first chapters. It's also probably the most literary start to one of his novels I've seen, and it kind of annoys me that literary = good, if that's how it happens to be...but I think the praise is deserved none-the-less, at least with what I've heard. It's in my cart in Amazon; I just need to find the cash to afford to order it!

The Shakespeare panel was great fun--everything from wacky mashups like Kill Shakespeare, a comic I really do need to get my hands on now, to stage shows that move around settings and contexts, to Gaiman's own work. My inner English Major was happy!

They showed Mirrormask as the late night film, and I love that movie, but I couldn't spend another moment in those horrible-on-the-back chairs.

Sessions attended today:
  • Adapting the Fairytales
  • Guest of Honor Luncheon: The Pornography of Genre or the Genre of Pornography. Or Something.
  • Defining Childrens' Fantasy: Establishing a History and (Fuzzy) Boundary
  • Supernatural I: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives
  • Neil Gaiman Reading
  • Special Panel: Adapting Shakespeare

Ideas generated and questions asked today:
  • The idea of a pervasive cultural character that can be in any sort of folklore, and can be used in any modern application--commercials, plays, jokes, street-storytelling, whatever
  • Why do we have such an urge to fit the comic-book hero onto a folktale story?
  • In Brave, what's most notable about the bear-story is that they didn't save he old, embittered male here of the old story--they let him get killed, and focused instead on the relationship between the mother and the daughter.
  • Why does a world full of women with full stories, like, say, the Oz of the new movie before the Wizard shows up, have to have a guy in it to make it sell?
  • Problem: Excusing the weaknesses of TV stories for being on TV, even though that shouldn't be an excuse, and even though you sometimes have to to get past that failing?
  • All the different ways to take on the issue of Fate vs Choice
  • There seems to be a dominant idea in our culture that women can't be Powerful, Sexy / Enjoy Sex, Maternal AND Active all at once--and sometimes can't even pull off two of these things at once. Powerful + Sexy = Evil; Powerful + Good = Boring and Inactive
  • "Dark" as a way of naming grim fairytales is problematic because of cultural associations of the word with evil, manipulative, racial tension, etc
  • The idea that the book is the unhappy parent of a much more entertaining movie, and how that's not really true at all
  • The multiple ways authors create stories, both on their own and all together
  • The way revision allows the same story to be retold in hundreds of different ways, and how those different ways now have more mediums than ever to get to us through--TV, movies, online, comics, music, books, ebooks, websites, radio, etc
  • Fiction as a mapping of physical, actual space
  • The idea of a place as being a personal and a public narrative as well as a physical location
  • The idea that writers can draw attention to places and things that we overlook or pass right by every day, and yet can create a familiarity that rings true once they make us notice these things
  • The Gods have no existence without the consent of physical space--the Land
  • What if the gods that we believe in stop believing in us?
  • The idea that ideas are malleable, and if gods are living ideas, they're malleable to and can change as we change
  • If Old Gods were made by man's needs, what gods are we making now?
  • The idea of Serious Play--of playing with something to generate newness, but to have fun while doing it and produce something interesting and valuable in the end
  • Will the adaptation of American Gods to the TV change the way people see and interact with actual US places they haven't been?
  • How some people's main concept of America (and, really, anywhere) comes through fiction, and how actually seeing that place is a mix of the way the real place doesn't live up, the way it actually is in comparison, and the way you know this fictionalized stuff about it
  • If we level the playing field between all the myths, are we flattening what makes each one special and local and distinctive?
  • Is it possible to have Heroic Fantasy / Epic Fantasy based in the normal modern world and starring normal modern people? Is that something else, if we do that?
  • Are there stories like the British Regional Children's Fantasies based in, say, Brittany, where a lot of the ancient culture would be similar, but the modern stuff is different? Celtic legend makes a good base for stories, apparently.
  • Actual custom in a real place + mythology of that place + local legend + other, related legends = regional fantasy
  • The idea that the past is ideologically and culturally Other as well as historically Other to the protagonist of a time-travel portal-tale
  • The fear that fantasy literature will get children into magic / old religions / satanism / etc are actually the fear that such things are actually already real and are threatening--regardless of the actual historical fact of them, the actual tone or point of whatever aspects are real, and whatever the usage is in the book itself. Also a fear that kids can't tell the difference between fiction and reality, when it's been shown that kids who read fantasy can tell reality from non-reality better than adults who don't read fantasy.
  • The way fiction makes human issues universal
  • The Supernatural universe cannot function with the New Testament--there's no Jesus in Supernatural, and they never mention him or mess with him. The god in the show is angry and inscrutable and old, and there's no way to reach him, no intercessors, no one who dies for our sins and brings forgiveness.
  • In Supernatural, if you're bitten by something--a were, a vamp--you're not just changed physically, but spiritually--your soul goes somewhere other than Heaven or Hell, you're so changed.
  • What if God in Supernatural isn't missing--what if he's all the angels together, and because of the various Winchester-linked adventures and misadventures, they've been torn apart and that's why no one can find God?
  • "The Tempest is a story about ending stories" - Neil Gaiman
  • At what point does something stop being adaptation and start being a whole new thing?
  • Palimpsestuous - so inbred with its own roots that the art in question is deformed
  • A definition of genre: "The thing you expect to see there and the thing you miss when it's gone" - Neil Gaiman


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