Friday, October 1, 2010

My Last DragonCon Post, Featuring Mike Lee, Food, and Other Stuff

I've been busy working on Escape from the Wastelands and stuff that caught my attention, so I haven't yet put up everything from DragonCon.  This post won't be as long and detailed as my last one because in the "What Women Want" panel, I spent more time writing down ideas for Escape inspired by the panelists' discussion than writing down what they actually said.

At DragonCon, there was a panel on writing for gaming universes that featuring Warhammer 40,000 author Mike Lee (who is absolutely hilarious and fun to talk to) and a father and son, one of whom was a writer and the other a graphic designer.  Here are some things I learned...

Firstly, gaming companies consider the licensed novels a marketing tool primarily.  Novels are timed with product releases--a novel about the Black Templars Space Marine chapter would be released at the same time as a new Black Templar gaming codex.  Time is tight--Black Library often gives writers 90 days to put out a novel.  Around three tie-in books come out per year.

Secondly, established characters are products and gaming companies are very protective of them.  It is rare for book characters to enter the game-canon (i.e. appear in codices, become playable characters, etc.) 

This is something I was already somewhat aware of due to writing for the BattleTech universe--new writers are advised to avoid using "name characters" like Victor Steiner-Davion because what they've been up to is documented to the nth degree.  Good stories have been rejected because they feature established characters doing something when established canon has them somewhere else.

That's why, in "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge," I invented an entirely new Oberon Confederation MechWarrior named Arnold Hoefer to be my protagonist and his Clan Wolf antagonists were names from the Clan Wolf codex who didn't have any established back story.  I intend to write more stories about Hoefer and the Clan Wolf characters and I can't imagine them crossing paths with any canon characters with the possible exception of Phelan Kell (who served as bondsman to Ulric Kerensky, the ruler of Clan Wolf, and was inducted into the warrior caste for saving his life) and then it would be very brief.

A fun fact I learned about Games Workshop's headquarters in Nottingham, UK, is that it is locally known as "the Reichstag."  It's a huge black building with a giant Imperial eagle (symbol of the Warhammer 40,000 Imperium) on it.  One can ask a local cabbie to take you to "the Reichstag" and he'll take you to GW.

During the discussion of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and the different strength levels of the diffferent factions, Michael Coker said something that at the time was absolutely hilarious:

"Every time the Necrons show up, the Imperium gets its ass handed to them.  Because they're the goddamn Necrons."

But back to writing stuff.  Lee described having to rewrite part of his novel Warhammer: Reaper of Souls to feature a character being near a burning city in order to accomodate a poster that depicted one of the characters from the novel near a burning city.  I guess this was to ensure continuity between the novels, the gaming canon, and the promotional materials.

The "What Women Want" panel gave me lots of interesting ideas for Escape, including elaborating on one character to make her a "strong female character" and making the racial situation in one of the nations more diverse.  However, as I said earlier, I was too busy writing those down to get a whole lot of the general advice.  The one bit of advice I can remember is that a trait women like in male characters is fatherliness/being a father.  I think they said there were too many "boy-men" in fiction.

I also got into a brief argument with one of the panelists about whether Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox's character from the live-action Transformers films) could be considered a strong female character or not.  My contention was that she was, based on her combat capability (hotwiring a car to pull a wounded Bumblebee back into the fight in the first movie and crushing the Decepticon imposter-bot "Alice" in the second).  I probably should have planned what I was going to say more before stating my disagreement, since I neglected to mention her loyalty to her father to the point of getting criminally cited for not testifying against him and her ruthlessness in torturing the Decepticon spy in the second film.

The author, whose name I cannot recall, said in response to my kill-the-Fembot defense that anyone could have done that, that her intelligence/mechanical skill was not elaborated on enough, and that she ended up needing to be rescued.  I don't agree with any of those points--in fact, I could make the argument that Mikaela is even more hard-core than Sam himself.

(I distinctly recall her referring to Sam as a "little girl" at one point.)

Also, if you're ever at the Peachtree Center building in Atlanta, be sure to check out Cafe Momo.  It has a buffet there where you can buy food by the pound.  This means meals are a bit on the pricey side, but they're really good and you can get a balanced meal (fruits/vegetables), which is pretty unusual at a mall food court.  When I was at DragonCon, I had at least two meals there and they were good, with the exception of some marble cheesecake I had to pay extra for.

Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, I went to the Metro Cafe Diner.  The first time, I went with members of my Lawrenceville writing group and didn't eat anything.  The second time, I had a chicken-and-cheese quesadilla at the bar.  I now know that both salsa and honey mustard both make good sauces for the quesadilla, which was really good in and of itself.

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