Loscon 35
November 28-30 2008, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Loscon

Writing Panels

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING Inside you there’s a hundred stories, crying to get out. Characters who need to be brought to life. But you still need to eat and pay the rent. What do you have to know and do (besides how to write)?

BUSINESS, COPYRIGHT, AND PUBLIC DOMAIN Congress keeps extending the life of copyrights. Is this good for authors and other creators or just for the mega-corporations? Where is “intellectual property” going in the US? In the world?

CARE AND FEEDING OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS What sort of actions and environments are most conducive to getting and staying productive? How do you tell being blocked from being too tired?

THE CONTRACT BETWEEN READER AND WRITER An arrangement of convenience? How can we define the process, and what does each partner bring to it?

CREATING BELIEVABLE ALIENS There’s little that’s more annoying then to be reading a good SF story and to come across an alien that’s either `just a guy in a suit’ or too far from what evolution and the laws of physics would allow to be believed. So what does it take to create a believable alien?

CREATING LANGUAGE Language and culture are linked. What concepts need words? How does the environment affect the language? What does it take to create a realistic, usable language?

CROSSING GENRES Some writers work in more than one genre. SF. Horror. Mystery. Romance. Westerns. Whatever. Does working in one area influence the way you write in another? Also, some books are in more than one genre. Does that ever work?

DIFFERENT TYPES OF WRITING? The Novel, Novella, Short Story, etc. Is one just longer than the other or are they really different? And what about screenplays?

ESCAPING THE SLUSHPILE What makes an unsolicited manuscript catch an editor’s eye? Magazine editors discuss what they’re looking for, what they see too much of, and the do’s and don’ts for genre short story writers and poets.

FROM SMALLVILLE TO SECRET IDENTITY Kurt Busiek, Jeph Loeb/Alfred Miller, Grant Morrison, and others have found radically different ways to retell and re-invent Superman’s story. Panelists discuss approaches that add to and detract from the collective myth.

GETTING STARTED WRITING SF Going from amateur to professional is a big step. How do you get started? Should you write every day, whether the muse strikes or not? What mistakes shouldn’t you make?

GOOD ENDINGS Writing is hard. There’s lots of work, lots of thought that goes into every sentence. But no matter how good your story is, how compelling your characters are, if your ending falls flat, so does everything else. How do you make your ending work?

GREAT FIRST LINES There’s nothing like them for hooking a reader. “Call me Ishmael.” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” “Lessa woke, cold.” “His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god.” “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” “Once upon a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith.” What are some of your favorites? And can you do anything special to force a great first line or do they just happen?

Loscon’s Writer Guest of Honor John Scalzi hops onto the stage for a free-wheeling Q&A session about everything and (most) anything, from his Hugo-nominated works of science fiction to his having been an in-house writer for AOL and, perhaps, even about taping bacon to a cat.

HOW TO DO RESEARCH The trick to “getting it right” is doing research. Experienced researchers and writers will tell you the secrets to good research.

HOW TO KILL OFF A CHARACTER You spend time crafting characters, thinking about who they are, what they want, what they care about. You tell stories about them, lovingly crafted. Now it’s time for them to die. How do you do it? And what can happen if you do.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: COPYRIGHTS, TRADEMARKS, AND PUBLIC DOMAIN The current legal opinions on who owns what and how, relating to books, art, films, television, and the internet.

INTERMEDIATE WRITING So you’ve sold a couple things. Now what? How do you keep up your motivation, overcome writer’s block, and reach your next goal? And what should that goal be? How do you maintain your momentum?

IRON POET POETRY CHALLENGE It’s Iron Chef for sonneteers and other poets. Come to this Bouts-Rim├ęs event and write a poem with the day’s mystery ingredients, share your work, maybe even win prizes.

IS “REALISTIC FANTASY” AN OXYMORON? What does it take to create “real” fantasy? Are there rules in a universe run by magic? How do you build a fantasy world?

LITERARY VS. MEDIA SCIENCE FICTION Why the feud? Can’t we all just get along?

MAKING SCIENCE STUPID EASY Innovative ways for the ordinary person to comprehend complex scientific concepts, both in the real world and in fiction.

MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE Paying so-called agents a fee to represent them? Calling agents and editors every day to see how they like their novel? That ain’t the half of it. Come hear established writers and editors give you a heads up on things you should know better than.

PARANORMAL ROMANCES It used to be easy. This book was in that genre; this book was in this other genre. Now the lines aren’t so clear. There seems to be a boom in romance novels and stories involving the paranormal, fantasy, and SF. Why is this area booming? Are romance readers looking for more? Or are the SF fans looking for romance? Or are the readers coming equally from all camps? And what does it take to make one of these work? Hear all about it from some of the people writing them.

PARODY, PASTICHE, AND HUMOR There’s a time and place for everything. Or is there? Does humor have a place in modern fiction? Can there ever be too much?<b> </b>

THE QUERY LETTER You’ve come up with the idea, worked out the story. Maybe you’ve written the entire novel. Just one thing left to do. Sell it. There’s little harder than writing that synopsis. How long should it be? How hard should you sell? Just what will it take to get that agent, that editor, to want to read your work or to offer you a contract to write it?

A QUIET PLACE TO WRITE Does where you write matter? How about whether or not you face a window? Authors will talk about how they set up their writing spaces — a separate office, the living room couch, the dining room table? — What’s in the room, what they listen to, and what they wear (if they wear anything at all)?

REVISE, REVISE, REVISE! Often the difference between an amateur writer and a professional is that the pro knows how to rewrite and the amateur thinks he got it right the first time.

SCIENCE FICTION POETRY What is it? Is there a market for it? How do you start?

STYLE VS. SUBSTANCE Is science fiction becoming too concerned about literary style at the expense of storytelling?

WHAT I DO WHEN I SHOULD BE WRITING Me, I read e-mail. What do you do? How do you get yourself back to writing?

WHY IS SCIENCE FICTION SO WHITE? An exploration of minorities in Science Fiction, both the writers and their characters.

THE WORST IDEAS IN FANTASY OR SCIENCE FICTION We’re always hearing the science fiction is a literature of ideas. And that this or that was a great idea. What just didn’t work? What seemed like a good idea at the time but…

WRITERS & ILLUSTRATORS OF THE FUTURE The Writers of the Future contest has been going on for several years and many budding SF and fantasy writers have entered, won, and gone on to make professional sales. Now there’s a new contest for Illustrators. How do go about entering these contests and why should you enter?

WRITING FOR TV ANIMATION A panel discussion on writing for the cartoons you see on TV — creating the story and characters, writing and editing scripts and making it all fit inside half an hour!

WRITING SCIENCE FICTION FOR TELEVISION & MOVIES Script writing is whole different medium from writing novels and short stories. How is it different from writing prose? And what’s it like working in television and the movies?