Life, Writing Process

Denver Pop Culture Con 2019 — “Death in Fiction”

denver comic con
Photo by Josh Starbeck

This summer, I went to Denver Pop Culture Con, once Denver Comic Con until San Diego made them change the name. The convention had the usual—the cosplay, the contests, the artist alleys and merchant mesas, and many, many literary panels.

Being a dabbler of morbid subjects, I went to a panel, entitled “Death Becomes Her: Representing Death in Fiction,” which sought to explore our literary fascination with death.

The panelists were Brenna Yovanoff, Sherry Ficklin, Cat Winters, and Paul Kreuger, and the moderator was Amalie Howard. I found each of the authors had something to say of importance, and I will collect their best statements below:

Brenna Yovanoff

  • Literary deaths can be a safe space for readers who need to cope with their emotions. Books allow you to process at the spend you want to process. You have control. You can always put a book down and think a while.”
  • “Zombies compel and repel us. It’s the uncanniness. A thing that is supposed to be empty and still getting up and moving around.”

Sherry Ficklin

  • “Often YAF characters are experiencing things for the first time. First love, first death. It’s a fun playground because everyone reacts differently, everyone copes differently. It’s kind of like coping mechanism origin stories.”
  • The death of an inanimate thing can impact us as much as the loss of a life. The loss of a job, the destruction of an ideal. In fantasy, this can change from ‘my roommate moved to a different city’ to ‘my roommate turned into a cat.’ It’s still the loss of a friendship.”
  • “Death is not judgment. Time is the enemy, wearing down heroes and villains alike.”

Cat Winters

  • “Death in fiction can give us hope that there’s life beyond. Even the restless spirit appeals to us. Says—This might not be it. Death is not a stopping point. However, even if death is not finite, we still will not have what we have now. Death increases our appreciation of life.”
  • “Edgar Allan Poe was able to write about being alone, about not knowing how to handle the death of loved ones, the weirdness in our souls. He got away with horror and murder and madness under the stamp of literature.”
  • There is often hope in horror. Sometimes the story ends with the character destroyed, sure, but usually we get to see our protagonist once the horror has passed. We see what the character looks like on the other side of darkness. A stranger, broken, but on the path of healing.”

Paul Kreuger

  • “I often think of the post-apocalyptic story. The death of normality, of stability. And compare that to my experience as a millennial. The death of that promise I’ve had my whole life that if I get good grades and graduate from a good college, I will have a happy, cushiony job waiting for me. A house, a car.”
  • Fiction sometimes romanticizes death, but there’s a wide gulf between 13 Reasons Why and the economy of hot or not. I like hot monsters. I’d be okay with the grim reaper having ripped abs. If death were sexier I’d welcome it. But often, when suicide is glamorized, the author is usually the least affected by death, and the least responsible for the effect of their books. I question purpose. Unless its a martyrdom for loved ones, self-destruction is not congruent with hope.”
  • “Zombies can be whatever we want. They’re a blank slate. Romero had zombies represent the glut of U.S. capitalism. In Kim Eun-hee’s Kingdom, zombies literally eat the rich. They’re the external manifestation of the rot in South Korea coming from greedy rulers.”
Life, Writing Process

Comicpalooza 2018 — Writing Unforgettable Characters

I went to a literature panel entitled “Writing Unforgettable Characters” featuring Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Joe Lansdale, Carrie Patel, and Bev Vincent.

Well, Joe Lansdale kind of took over the Q&A in the best way possible. The others had some insights, but Joe exuded this pragmatic writing presence. A manuscript messiah miasma. Predatory parable pheromones.

A few of his best points:

  • The writer gives 50% of the story. The reader brings in the rest.
  • Some think character is giving someone a cane or an eye patch. That if they’re from Mars or were raised by Indians, they’re interesting. Don’t confuse oddity for character. When writing character, you need to think of motive. Why they do stuff. There’s Surface Motive. What they tell themselves is their Motive. And True Motive.
  • Characters must intrigue. They don’t have to be likable, just interesting.
  • When writing, there has to be music in the prose. Otherwise you’re just lining up turd after turd. Hemingway had a masculine poetry. Fitzgerald had a magical poetry. Learn how to combine rhythm, style, and character into the poetry of prose.

Comic Con 2010

As I watched from afar, Gandalf stood before the entrance to Comic-Con, stuck his staff defiantly into the ground, and shouted “Thou Shalt Not Past!” The on-coming nerds passed him anyway and he dropped his head crestfallen. Later, a Jedi shouted “Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope!” before being consumed by mobs of bag-toting zombies.

“Oh heinous dodecahedron gods,” a geek exclaimed. “We’re at Comic-Con.”

Comic-Con indeed. How awesome art thou Comic-Con? Awesomer than your Mom, doth Comic-Con reply. Never have I seen so many nerds, mega-nerds, hunchbacks and nerds. To describe it as nerd mecca doesn’t do it justice. Nerdvana? The Nerdiverse? Anyone who’s anybody to anyone to anything in geekistory was accounted for this sunny San Diego weekend… even the dead guys. It was nerdageddon.

To spoil some spoilers: Joss Wheldon’s directing The Avengers (woot!), Mark Ruffalo is Hulk, and they’re still letting M. Night Shyamalan make movies…? Plus Tron 2Die Hard 5 (with Willis), Brad Pitt in World War Z, another Haunted Mansion and another Resident Evil (meh…), Cowboys & Aliens (which I’ve been anticipating 4-forevs) and The Walking Dead as a TV Show are all in our immediate drooling future.

I wanted to visit the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World showcase, but my comic companion, dressed as Gideon from Scott Pilgrim and flirting with all the purple-haired chicks with hammers, insisted I read the damn books first. Then I ran into Matthew Fox and Daniel Dae Kim from LOST, and the entire cast of FRINGE, and the creators of The Venture Bro’s (including Patrick “Brock Samson” Warburton), and didn’t mind missing out.

But the worst part “Highlight of the Convention!” was a Webcomics Lightning Round, during which Scott Kurtz (PvP), Robert Khoo (the third guy from Penny Arcade; yes, there’s a third guy), and Brad Guigar (Evil, Inc) discussed furries. I mean Webcomics. Webcomics. The Q&A focused on creative and business aspects in Webcomic design. Amidst the awesomeness, some bearded ass in Sith robes made an off-hand comment during the sesh that the crowd was only there for a subsequent LOST panel, which Scott Kurtz turned into a world of hurt for the poor Sith bastard.

Kurtz: Jack dies in the bamboo field by the freaking dog!

Stupid Darth Asshole: Yeah, but uh… my question is-

Kurtz: By the way, the Dharma Initiative? Completely FUCKING irrelevant.

Afterwards, I picked up How to Make Webcomic, had all the authors sign it (suhweet), and split. Comic-Con was MANacular, my weekend was great, and – oh, whoa, whooooa, before I sign off, I need to mention one last little diddy: Tessa Stone’s Hanna is Not a Boy’s Name. I found her paranormal comedy (what she calls “sugarcoated horror”) right before Comic-Con, was deeply entertained, then ran into her in the Webcomic Artists’ section. Let’s just say she’s totally awesome.