Sunday, April 21, 2013

Convergence Panels July 4-7, 2013

These are my panels for Convergence, a very large local, mostly media con run by very, very nice people.

I am only going to add that Will Shetterly is on all three panels. I am on three panels with Will Shetterly.

Friday, July 5
Successful and Unsuccessful Alternative History
Creating a Monster: How to Write Villains
Sunday, July 7
How to Write an Interesting Hero

The question that really interests me about alternative history is: why is there so much of it now? I tend to think it's a failure of nerve. Rather than write about the future, which is looking dark and coming at us quickly, we try to rewrite the past. The book I have coming out at Wiscon, Big Mama Stories, is mostly about time travel. There's a connection between time travel and alternative history. How contingent do you think history is? Will small changes cause big results? My stories, both time travel and alternative history, assume that answer is no. But that's only my opinion. I think it's easier to change the future than the past.

As far as villains go, I don't find them interesting. People who are pathological in fiction -- Jim Moriarty in Sherlock, Loki in Thor -- are fascinating and impressive. One is a master criminal. The other is a god. But in real life, we have street criminals and people with bad wiring in their brains and business people and government officials.

Patrick spent years working in locked psych units and met many people who had done terrible things. He said they weren't very interesting. What's interesting about people is their good qualities and how they struggle to overcome problems.

I don't think I believe in personal evil. Most bad behavior takes place within a social context, and it's hard to separate the behavior from the context. When you spend a lot of time looking at personal evil, you are likely to ignore social evil. You are focusing on the people who act out in obvious and usually fairly petty ways: street criminals, hackers, the homeless who camp in empty lots in violation of the law, gay people in a homophobic society. The police pull them in; we say they are bad or evil.

But you are not seeing the white collar criminals who are comfortable in the system. The harm they do is systematic and done in such an ordinary, everyday fashion that it doesn't seem like a crime. The CEO of Nestle has said that water is a commodity like everything else and should be bought and sold. People have no right to enough water to survive. If you denied water to someone dying of thirst, asked him for money when he had none, that would be a terrible evil act. But if you do the same thing to the planet, it's business.

As far as heroes go, I set out to write about people I like and who interest me. Why would I want to spend time with boring or depressing people? I do my best to avoid them in real life.


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