Yesterday I told you about the first day of NerdCon. How about the second day?
There were two morning panels that looked interesting, No Pressure: How to Keep Creating Once You’ve Technically Succeeded and Life Online: Putting the Meme in Memoir. We decided to go to the Life Online panel. It was moderated by Maureen Johnson and the panelists were Hank Green, Maggie Stiefvater, John Scalzi and John Moe. And it was hilarious! Maureen Johnson is one funny woman. She was particularly freaked out by the steep seating in the auditorium and kept saying funny things about how she was concerned about all of us falling down on top of her. I also learned that Hank Green apparently invented the internet in 1996. And we all thought it was Al Gore! Amazingly, John Scalzi began his personal website two full years before the internet was invented.
All of the panelists remarked in various ways that being online is not the same as being offline. Scalzi stressed that his online self is always mediated and tuned to the context and audience. John Moe said he finds that increasingly his online and offline lives are merging. Both Scalzi and Stiefvater commented on this as well and remarked that they have both been freaked out by people showing up on their doorsteps wanting autographs. Hank Green noted that he wasn’t interested in being an online personality, his goal was simply to make good stuff that people like because it is good not because he did it. All of them also noted that while they may put personal stories online, there is always a line they will not cross when it comes to their children or arguments with significant others, etc. Also, all of them agreed that Facebook was stupid but that once you have created an account you can never leave.
The early afternoon session on writing about sex I was not able to get into and I wasn’t interested in the other two sessions. Bookman and I took the opportunity to tour the very small vender area and decide we did not want an overpriced NerdCon t-shirt or any Cthulhu or Lord of the Rings jewelry. We found a semi-quiet place and enjoyed the lunch we had brought. After that we sat in on the last fifteen or so minutes of the Welcome to Night Vale panel Q&A. Do you all know about Welcome to Night Vale? I had never heard of it before. It is a twice-monthly podcast of updates from the fictional desert town of Night Vale. Bookman and I listened to the pilot podcast after the convention and it is pretty good. Since it has been going since 2012, we have a lot of catching up to do!
The final panel of the day we attended was But it’s Just a Story: The Moral Responsibility of the Storyteller. Patrick Rothfuss was the moderator and the panel was Paolo Bacigalupi, Nalo Hopkinson and Lev Grossman. The topic of the panel was actually proposed by Rothfuss because, he explained, it is a topic that he thinks about and wonders if others thought about it too. Because it was something he was so interested in himself, he ended up doing quite a bit of talking which was fine because he is interesting and personable.
Rothfuss thinks writers do have a responsibility and he told us about his dilemma when he was writing Name of the Wind and realized he had just written a big scene in which his male protagonist rescued a woman in peril. He tried to rewrite the scene with his character rescuing his male best friend but it didn’t have the same impact. Yet he did not want to perpetuate the women-need-to-be-rescued trope, so he rewrote the scene to show the female character trying to save herself from the fire but she ended up trapped by the flames. Then he made sure that after the rescue, she and the male character had a conversation about what had happened and made it clear she was not helpless but circumstances had required rescue. It was really interesting to hear this and how deeply concerned he was about it. I have read the book and knew exactly the scene he was talking about and I appreciate the thought he put in about it behind the scenes as it were.
Hopkinson views stories as a discussion and she tries to put many types of people and many types of experience in them. That is how she understands her moral responsibility, beyond that — in one of her stories she has a character kill his father and it is represented in the story as a good thing — she can’t be responsible for other people’s actions.
Grossman said this is an issue he has never thought about before. I was surprised, but not really as I had some issues with how a few of his female characters were represented in The Magicians. He said he wanted to be on the panel because he was interested in what other people thought about the topic. He therefore didn’t really have much to contribute.
Bacigalupi on the other hand, thinks about it a lot. It sometimes keeps him up at night and it is something he really worries about. He said that we can’t just say “it’s only a story” because stories are important. He worries that people of the future will look back at the mythologies/stories we have created about ourselves and say, “wow, they were really fucked up.”
A really interesting panel to conclude the convention with!
I have found a couple pretty decent videos on Youtube to give you a flavor of what the event was like. One of the main stage happenings was several authors reading something they wrote as a teenager. David Nadelberg told us he had decided as a teen he was going to be “sensitive poetry guy” and he was not going to write about sex. However, he wrote a terrible poem about bag pipes and reading it as an adult he realized it was filled to the brim with sex. The poem was so bad and he was so embarrassed as he read it he had the sign language interpreter laughing so hard he could barely continue signing. Unfortunately no one seems to have got it on video. Someone did get Holly Black though. She too was hilarious and so embarrassed by how bad her story was that she had to keep stopping because she was laughing so much:
And as I mentioned yesterday, the morning and afternoon main stage gatherings had various people talking about why stories matter. Here is John Green who also discovers his fly is down and tells a very funny story about another time he was in front of an audience with his pants unzipped:
I’d say the event was a success and I hope they do it again next year and I hope it is in Minneapolis. And maybe some of you might consider coming too! Wouldn’t that be a hoot!