Skip to content

[Today a Month Ago] A Slimy Skull, an Antlered Cat, and a Hundred-Year-Old Dress

December 6, 2014

By day 3, I was already falling behind with my journal, and had not yet gotten back into the habit of taking notes at panels, so I have very few scribblings to back up my hazy memories.

I remember breakfast, or rather how I didn’t feel like eating at all.

I remember signing up for kaffeeklatsches and art tours, which was badly organised, chaotic and irritating in a way I remember very clearly, but don’t want to write about, because I prefer not to think too much about things that make me angry when they’re not things I can fix.

I remember meeting Marian – another one of my Smarch-friends, another one I met for the first time (and for not nearly long enough) and having lunch with her.

Rajan reading

Rajan Khanna

I remember Rajan’s reading. Rajan Khanna is also a Smarcher (he may not have been active for a few years, but once a Smarcher, always a Smarcher), who has recently published his first book, Falling Sky. Which to my shame, I still haven’t read. (I think, after I finish this post, I might go to bed and start doing that.)

I remember going to the dealers’ room, although I didn’t remember it was that day. Wandering around looking at books I wasn’t really tempted to buy, since I’m already drowning in unread books, and trying to find some copies of Falling Sky. There were only two, not nearly enough.

Firs and I were quite amused by this cover:

Is this the Storm King?

I don’t know who this is supposed to be, but we joked that it might be Ineluki from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, who wore a crown that looked like antlers, and belongs to a race often described as “cat-like”. But I don’t think they’re quite that cat-like.

I remember going to a panel about cover art, mostly because of Michael Whelan, who did the cover art for many of Tad Williams’ books. I remember they showed some covers and talked about them, but I took very few notes there:

Cover Art Critique

Lee Moyer (moderator), Les Edwards, Irene Gallo, Chris Roberts, Michael Whelan (the program also lists Edward Miller, which turns out to be a pseudonym for Les Edwards. The program doesn’t indicate this in any way, just makes it look like there should be six people.)


Irene Gallo, Chris Roberts, Les Edwards, Michael Whelan, Lee Moyer

(expanding this one a bit from my notes, with the help of Google and Firs’ post about the same day):

Donald A. Wollheim claimed that books with green covers wouldn’t sell, so Michael Whelan tricked him by turning in the artwork for Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer so late that it was too late to change it.

Les Edwards: “If a book sells well, it’s because it’s a good writer, if it doesn’t sell, it’s because it has a bad cover.”

One that I remember, even though it’s not in my notes at all, is a picture of a slimy, red-eyed skull (in the cockpit of a plane, I think, wearing some kind of hat). It was originally just a normal, non-slimy skull, but the artist (I don’t remember who it was), was asked by someone (the publisher’s art director, I guess, although again I don’t remember) to add some green slime. And then some more green slime. And then the red eyes. There was some joking about how he should just have painted the eyes with paint that could be washed off afterwards – but then what would happen if someone wanted to buy the original art, and asked, “But where are the eyes?”

And another thing from memory, Michael Whelan talking about how he doesn’t usually paint scenes that are not in the book. After some googling, I think the one exception that he talked about, where he was pretty much forced to do it, was Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

And I remember Ylvs going to talk to Michael Whelan afterwards to make sure we’d get a chance to have him sign some things for us.

I assume we had dinner after that, back in one of our hotel rooms, since my journal says, “Indian food for dinner”. Ordering food is always difficult for me, since I usually eat only what I’ve cooked myself, the same things my mother has cooked all my life, so very often I feel like I don’t know what anything is, which makes it hard to choose. The funny thing is that now I’m home, I feel like being a bit more adventurous with my eating habit, and eating out a bit more.

My journal also informs me that we went to the opening ceremony, but I don’t remember them at all. I vaguely remember that Mary Robinette Kowal, the toastmaster, was quite funny, but I don’t actually remember a thing she said or anything else that happened.

The opening ceremony was followed by an ice cream social, but all I remember of that is that my stomach didn’t feel up to eating ice cream.

I also have vague memories of meeting some people we met last year in Brighton, Matt and… yeah, I don’t remember her name. But I very clearly remember seeing the guy we know as Random Fanboy.

And then Cyan and I went to another panel, so late at night that it was astonishing we stayed awake for all of it. Although I gave up on taking notes halfway through because I was just too tired.

Women’s Roles in Fantasy Fiction Changed by World War I

Robert Killheffer (moderator), Mary Robinette Kowal, Laurie Tom, David Simms


Mary Robinette Kowal, David Simms, Laurie Tom, Robert Killheffer

(I’m just typing up the scribblings in my notebook here… I won’t even try to turn them into proper sentences. That would take much too long, and I want to be done before midnight.)

suffrage → women were already organised
→ perfect for volunteer stuff in the war (hospitals…)
→ proved their abilities to the men working alongside them

some women fought in the war
French bomber pilot
(adding this from memory: some of them disguised as men, I think)

eugenics – “best families”
(I always thought of eugenics as something from Nazi Germany, but it existed in the US, too)
post WW1
not just looks are important any more
but intelligence/abilities
advertised in newsreels

eugenics as preparation for the next war
(to create a better/stronger/healthier/more intelligent population)

after the war, women in ficiton started to have their own agency

before: women wrote short stories
after: also novels
→ also with female protagonists

“I mean, I love my Austen. But there is no swashbuckling.”
– Mary Robinette Kowal

women writing about the war, for newspapers/magazines

writing as a way to help with psychological trauma
also helps readers
women more likely to write than men, because men “just suck it up”

Mata Hari as model for fictional characters

That was the point at which I gave up on taking notes, but I have a few things to add from memory.

After wars, societies tend to try to return to an idealised version of the time before the war. This is often bad news for women. One example Mary Robinette Kowal used was the Romantic period, following the Napoleonic Wars, during which women’s dresses were made in such a way that they could not even lift their arms, and often there would be blood in the armpits because the dresses were so tight, they chafed so much. (And I don’t remember her saying this, but I think we can take the constricting dresses as indicative of their role in society.)

Every time a group (be it women or people of colour or whoever) wins more rights/equality, there is a pushback and things get worse again. It doesn’t get quite as bad as it was, but they still have to fight again to gain back the lost ground. And there is always a generation that grew up when things were good, and took them for granted, and didn’t learn to fight.


Mary Robinette Kowal, interrupted while showing off her dress from 1911, because the time for the panel was up. I believe she was just saying, “We have to leave this room.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2014 00:04

    Good post. I am really enjoying your comments on your trip. One note: Edward Miller was technically at the cover art discussion: “Edward Miller” is the pseudonym of Les Edwards. 🙂

    • December 7, 2014 00:07

      It would be nice if the program mentioned that! One more thing to file under “things the WFC organisers messed up”, along with Cyan’s badge and the kaffeeklatsch sign-up. 😉

      • December 7, 2014 00:19

        Yeah, the program had several irregularities, but so did the website, come to think of it. And I’m glad I wasn’t the only one irritated by the kaffeeklatsch sign-up snafus. Makes me feel less grumpy.

        • December 7, 2014 00:26

          As I said, I don’t want to think and grumble about it too much, but it was a mess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: