Patrick Rothfuss. Panelists noted that he will be the GoH at Vericon, March 21-23 of 2014, so for those of you who are interested, there’s a Rothfuss-spotting event. There was division amongst the panelists as to whether the second book made the first retroactively better or worse. The panelists all found Rothfuss compulsively readable but varied about whether his extensive use of negative capability at this point was a good thing. There was also division as to whether Kvothe’s horrible dooooom mitigated or enhanced his Mary Sue (Gary Stu, if you prefer) status.
It sounded like a great deal relied on whether or not the reader trusted Rothfuss to pull it all together, and if so, in what areas and to what degree the distrust kicked in. However, at least some of Rothfuss’s readers are having an experience gossiping and speculating about the characters that they compared to media fandoms wherein people are waiting for the next episode, so it sounds like these can be a very social read with the help of the internet.
Writing Uphill. This was the “that’s another panel” for the year, and I was on it. It’s about writing against the currents of story, against the expectations of both the reader and the writers him/herself–that is, both in communication with the audience and in sticking to one’s own internal guns. It’s about telling the stories you want to tell for personal, ideological, or narratively surprising reasons, rather than the stories that are standard. The undermining of the standard story does not in any way have to be unhappy, although that’s some people’s association/preconception of deconstructive narrative.
The common expectations and preconceptions about story have a lot of genre specificity, so one of the ways out from under the weight of expectations–if you are a person who experiences the weight of expectations at all–is to hybridize genres/modes. We also talked about writers who don’t seem to have gotten issued the expectations and preconceptions in the first place, which gives them less of a wall to bounce things off of but also less of a wall to surmount. Some of the cross-cultural differences in non-Anglophone movies and fiction can be helpful here also.
There was also some disagreement among panelists as to whether having had a factual, personal experience with the counter-narrative thing you wanted to depict was particularly helpful or not. I think it’s probably never un-helpful, but may not reach the levels of helpful depending on the individual writer.
We also talked about a cultural suspicion of reassurance, and how books earn their own endings (their wyrds!) regardless of emotional tenor. And then I got up on my hobbyhorse about the good hard work of writing books for which a hopeful ending feels earned, and one or two other people may have petted and possibly ridden similar hobbyhorses as well, I could not possibly comment.