While I really enjoyed Westercon, I was surprised at how small it was compared to Norwescon. I wondered if this was a result of being a moving convention in a bad economy when people are re thinking their leisure travel expenses. I chatted with someone who was involved in organizing the Writer’s Workshop and she said she heard that the organizers had achieved the numbers they were aiming for, but she didn’t know how it compared to previous years.
The result was that there were less panels and events I wanted to go to, but the ones that I did go to were very interesting.
I particularly enjoyed “Inventing Culture” and “Magic & Religion” though I would have liked to have a more intensive conversation in the second.
Perhaps the most useful part of “Inventing Culture” was the discussion on strategies to avoid an information dump on the reader when you, the author, has years of history and culture figured out. Additionally, one of the panelists, S. A. Bolich, said “History is full of secrets.” This is a huge idea to unpack and mine for plots and twists, etc. It’s one of those things that I used without thinking about it, but having it said makes me conscious of the opportunity it presents.
In “Magic and Religion” there was a long discussion about the definitions of magic and religion in a fantasy context. It was interesting because it was easy to see who on the panel was religious or comfortable with religion or other people being religious, and who was very uncomfortable with religion and, I suspect, despite their politically-correct open-mindedness, didn’t understand what it means to be religious other than acting in ways that seem arbitrary to the non-religious.
One of the panelists, Gregory Wilson, sort of addressed this when he said “Religion is the underpinning of culture. Even anti-religion is religion.” I agree with what he’s getting at: the narrow viewpoint and absolute adherence to a doctrine is just as possible and visible in a scientific or atheist mind set as it is in a religious, and though the content is different, the way both groups of people approach outsiders and the wider world can be remarkably similar.
The panelists left the audience with the advice to be open minded, respectful and listen to other people’s experience. Always good advice.
The most useful part of the event was participating in the Fairwood Writers Critique group. I got a lot of good feedback on "The Silvered Sword" and am diving into a rewrite.