One of the panels I hit on Thursday was called “Twisting Genres,” and brought in a bunch of authors who had all written books that mixed and matched traditional genres. (western and horror, historical fiction and dragons, etc.) It was essentially the same topic as the “Blurring the Lines of Genre” discussion I saw at Westercon, but with a completely different set of authors who stayed a bit more on-topic (possibly because they had a moderator).

Of course, just because they stayed on topic doesn’t mean they weren’t funny.


“Where do you shelve that?” Maryelizabeth Hart on the impact of mixed-genre novels on bookstores.

“I’m part-Australian, and required by law to put Australian content in my book. It was either that or the Sydney Opera House.” — Scott Westerfeld, explaining the presence of a Tasmanian Tiger in the Leviathan Trilogy.

“You have these ideas in your head and they start having sex with each other, and these strange webbed babies come out…” — Daryl Gregory(?) on how genre mash-ups are born.

“Awesome plus awesome does not always equal two awesome. Sometimes it’s an abomination, like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.” — China Miéville, a few minutes after Naomi Novik cited them as an example of how mixing things does work.

“It’s Dinosaur Love Story!” China Miéville on the classic Hollywood “X+Y” pitch.


Something that came up at both this panel and the Westercon discussion was that mainstream literature is a genre in itself, with its own sets of rules and expectations. I think it was China Miéville who described it as a genre with a successful thirty-year marketing campaign to convince people that it isn’t a genre.

Justin Cronin explained that he crossed over from mainstream literature when his nine-year-old daughter was terribly concerned that his other books might be boring, so he launched a project with just one rule: it must be interesting. He eventually submitted The Passage under a pseudonym so that his name wouldn’t set up the wrong expectations.

Robert Masello said he once had an editor try to “help” him by explaining that they could take the supernatural elements out of his story and it would work just fine… (Ouch.)

One author had a friend who had written a serious novel with the word “Spices” in the title, and got on a radio show to promote it. The host hadn’t read it, and introduced it as a cookbook. So he spent the next half hour giving out recipes. “Why didn’t you correct him?” “It’ll sell more as a cookbook.”

The question was asked whether there are any two genres that are inherently disastrous. Naomi Novik suggested that no two genres were automatically so. China Miévelle said that his brain immediately responded to that question by trying to think of ridiculous combinations…and then figure out how to write a brilliant book with them.

But yeah, a driver’s manual with an unreliable narrator is probably a bad idea.

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I’ve been re-reading Robert J. Sawyer’s original Flashforward novel

Flash Forward and Flashforward

…for obvious reasons.


It’s been interesting to look at both where the TV series diverges from the book: the setting, the time scale, recordings, and in most cases the cast — and where it tracks: the concept, the impact of the worldwide blackout on people now, the way different people approach their foreknowledge, a main character investigating his own murder, and the way the viewpoint organization just pulls together to take point on investigating the incident.

And every once in a while, a specific conversation is adapted. Demetri’s “You’re going to be murdered” phone call from Hong Kong and Theo’s phone call from South Africa are very similar. And there’s a discussion on the likelihood of an event hitting exactly on the hour that was practically lifted for episode two.

I doubt the TV show will tackle the question of whether the universe exists without observers (sort of “If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?” taken to the extreme) or the long-term implications of life extension. And somehow I doubt the Large Hadron Collider and search for the Higgs boson are involved (though I noticed the TV show’s Lloyd Simcoe works at Stanford, which does have their own particle accelerator).

It’ll be interesting to see where they go with this.


Entirely separate from the TV show, it’s also been interesting to look at the book’s predictions for the present day. Most of it takes place in 2009, but it was published 10 years ago. I list a few items — like getting the Pope’s name right, but missing the explosion of cell phones — in my review of the book from when I read it last year.

Then there’s the suggestion made that one could prove the future can be changed by demolishing some major landmark that many people saw in their visions, but “I don’t suppose the National Park Service is going to let us do that.” In my head, I imagined a deadpan voice saying, “You can’t blow up a national monument.” Hmm, I doubt the cause of the blackouts in the TV show will be robots from space. 😉

About a year ago I posted a list of authors I wanted to catch up with. I read quite a few books last year, but how did I do with this list?

In the Company of OthersJulie E. Czerneda — I read the Trade Pact Universe trilogy last year, and I’m about half-way through the stand-alone novel, In the Company of Others, which means I’ve read just over half her novels. That leaves the Web Shifters trilogy and the two books so far of Stratification.

RollbackRobert J. Sawyer — since last year I’ve only read two of his books: Rollback and Flashforward (reviewed here). Though I made a point of attending his panel at Comic-Con International in July.

Robert Charles Wilson — Somehow managed not to read anything of his last year.

The Hounds of AshGreg Keyes — Re-read the first three books of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, then read the final volume, The Born Queen, after it was released. Received The Hounds of Ash for Christmas, a collection of short stories set in the same universe as The Waterborn and Blackgod, and I got two stories in before I decided I wanted to re-read the novels.

The Graveyard BookNeil Gaiman — I read The Graveyard Book when it came out last fall (thanks to my brother for sending a signed copy from the SF reading!), but I can’t think of anything else (other than his blog) that I’ve read during the past year.

Other authors/titles I’ve read over the past year: Connie Willis (Bellwether), Robert Asprin (several Myth Adventures books), Naomi Novik (Fifth Temeraire novel, Victory of Eagles), Larry Niven (entire Ringworld series), George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones, sorry, not a fan), JMS (various B5 scriptbooks). Soon I Will Be Invincible (reviewed), Gateway, Night in Times Past, The Flash Companion, plus bunches of comics and tons of stuff online.

Earlier this month I read Robert J. Sawyer’s novel, Flashforward. It’s about what happens after, during a scientific experiment, the entire population of the world blacks out for two minutes and sees a vision of what they will be doing twenty years from now. It focuses on the question of free will, and looks at the different ways people might react to learning exactly what their future has in store.

Like most of Sawyer’s stuff, It’s a good, fast read that makes you think. It’s also been in the news lately, since ABC is developing it as a TV series to pick up the Lost audience as that show wraps up, and they’ve been announcing casting for the pilot.

I’ve posted a review of Flashforward at Speed Force (update: moved to Kelson Reviews Stuff).

You may have noticed I’ve been thinking about fan conventions lately. 🙂

It started after last year’s Comic-Con, when I decided I wanted to go to something a bit less…intense. 😯 Last year’s Wizard World LA was nice, but a bit sparse, so I went looking for more comic and general sci-fi/fantasy cons within driving distance of the LA/OC area. Surprisingly, I didn’t find much. Gaming conventions, costuming conventions, Anime Expo, sure, but sci-fi? Pretty much just Loscon, which we both gave up on after 2002 (and from what I’ve heard, hasn’t picked up again). I asked around a bit on some forums, and someone on either the Comic Bloc or Newsarama forums suggested WonderCon, and suggested considering the city as a vacation destination, not just a place to find a hotel for the con.

Since WonderCon worked out so well, I’m looking at what else might be fun. That’s part of why I did my price comparison last month, and Kevin Standlee’s comments got me looking at WorldCons and the like again. Not for this year, but maybe a few years out.

Looking at all these cons, I realized that beyond a certain threshold, distance doesn’t matter. Only the destination. If it’s far enough away that you have to fly, the only thing that distance impacts is the cost of your plane ticket. Whether your flight is 5 hours or 10 hours*, it’s still going to take up most of a day or night when you factor in dealing with the airports. Everything else, from hotel prices to whether you need a passport, a phrasebook, or currency exchange, is a factor of the destination.

WonderCon, I think, was at the boundary of driving distance from here. We could make the trip out in one day, but it was a lot more fun to break it into stages and make it a road trip. San Diego is at the boundary of commuting distance. We could drive out there in the morning and drive back at night (and I did that with my parents for over a decade), but it’s not practical to do for more than one day. Whereas if I wanted to, I could easily commute to Wizard World Los Angeles 2 or even 3 days. (As it was, we only went for Saturday.)

With two cons in Q1, and San Diego coming up in July, any traveling we do later this year is probably not going to be convention-related. As it is, we’ve talked seriously about three possible non-con vacation spots. But it might be worth casting a wider net for cons in 2009 or 2010.

*Katie and I were talking about this, and realized that it’s probably different if you have kids. In that case, a 5-hour flight probably would be significantly harder to manage than a 3-hour flight.