Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 22, 2014
I went to the Salt Lake City Comic Con FanXperience (or “FanX”) over the weekend. With over 100,000 people there on the final day (Saturday), it was crowded but fun. The emphasis for FanX, as I understand it, is more on the broad spectrum of pop-culture fandom, whereas the Comic Con event (to be held again in September) will be more focused on the geekier side of things.
I’m not really much one for getting pictures with celebrities. It’s cool for gee-whiz factor, I suppose. Signed books are a little different, as it’s more of a personalization (something, sadly, that’s harder to do with digital media). But I don’t put signed books on the shelf or in airtight containers to preserve some illusion of value. I read ‘em.
But it was a lot of fun listening to some of the stories from James Marsters, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Karen Gillen, the cast of BYU-TV’s “Studio C”, Ghost Hunters International, and so forth. And learning about writing (especially from a gaming perspective) from guys like Larry Correia, Dave Farland (AKA Dave Wolverton), Tracy Hickman, Michael A. Stackpole, and others was pretty awesome. I attended some good and some less-good panels. Here are some little tidbits of information I learned:
#1 – The designers / producers from the mainstream video game publishers really don’t have any more of a clue than the rest of us as to where the industry is heading. We’re all just plunging ahead in unfamiliar territory together.
#2 – Traditional book publishing is still pretty screwed up, but – just like games – it’s not like going indie or going with small press publishers are magical path to success, either. There is potential with all three paths.
#3 – This was kind of a side note, but it sounds like some professional writing organizations / guilds are getting pretty politicized these days. As in “burn the heretic!” Utah has a lot of heretics.
#4 – James Marsters never steals from a set. He’s a minister’s son and a former producer for a theater group, and always hated having to pay for / replace the stuff out of his own pocket that his actors stole from the set.
#5 – One book editor told (Michael A. Stackpole?) that he could always tell which authors had been game-masters for tabletop role-playing games before: They tended to be much better than average at world-building, but worse than average at creating characters. The reasons make sense: Game-masters have to spend a good deal of effort fleshing out their worlds, because the players will inevitably start poking around and looking behind the curtain. But the game-master’s characters are always NPCs, not primary characters, so they never have to flesh out too much detail.
#6 – Nathan Fillion’s pants split three times on the set of Firefly. Once, he says, when he was just standing.
#7 – Turning a D&D adventure into a novel is a terrible idea. Trying to make a storyline to fit a game production plan is also a terrible idea. On the other hand, developing a game world based on books or (as happened in the Mechwarrior series) based on a collaboration between writers, designers, and producers can yield awesome results.
#8 – Who would win in a fight between Jayne Cobb and Colonel John Casey? According to Adam Baldwin, “Casey’s a better shot, but Jayne is ten years’ younger, and is better at fighting dirty.”
#9 – Nathan Fillion played Dungeons & Dragons only once. It was… slow. He avoided saying the word, “boring.”
#10 – While he’s happy to do it, Adam Baldwin put voice-acting for video games as the most difficult (and less fun?) acting work – mainly because you are usually working with a producer rather than with other actors, and are running through a ton of lines that represent emotional states and circumstances in the game that are dependent upon what the player does.
#11 – Good “Space Opera” is just like good stories of any other genre – they start with good characters. (As an aside – that is something that can be challenging to do in a computer RPG that tries to avoid making assumptions about the kinds of characters the players will create).
#12 – While publishers may buy stories based on the current “trends,” it’s hard to chase trends as a writer, because it takes too long to get a story written and to market in time to take advantage of it. By the time it goes through the whole process and to market, the market will already be saturated with similar titles. I believe the same applies to game developers.
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