RavenCon 2010, which I attended this past weekend, was the first convention I’ve been to since Deadtown’s release. It was tons of fun. RavenCon has a strong track for writing, and there were some great guests, including Guest of Honor Rachel Caine, fellow Ace/Roc author Kalayna Price, science fiction author Catherine Asaro, Pamela K. Kinney (who also writes as Sapphire Phelan)—and many others.
There were a couple of really good panels about the direction of urban fantasy. The consensus seemed to be that urban fantasy has room to grow in many different directions. Already it’s a blend of genres, with elements of action/adventure, horror, fantasy, romance, mystery . . . These elements combine in different proportions, depending on the writer and the series. That blending allows room for endless inventiveness, which helps keep the genre from getting stale. Rachel Caine said she’d love to read a Western urban fantasy. (If I remember right, Devon Monk is coming out with a steampunk series set in the 19th-century Wild West that sounds like a lot of fun.)
There are also mythologies to explore that are currently underrepresented in urban fantasy. Panelists thought that Middle Eastern and Native American mythologies hold a lot of potential for urban fantasy, although no one wants to see authors cherry-pick the mythology of another culture merely to find something different. That approach fails to convey the richness of the source mythology and shows a lack of respect for the culture that created it. And it doesn’t come across as authentic, which will kill a story.
A related panel asked whether romance was the future of science fiction and fantasy. The discussion ranged widely, from whether romance readers were more likely than SF/F readers to adopt ebook reader technology to whether male readers of these genres enjoy romantic elements, avoid them, or merely tolerate them. Kalayna Price made the point that fantasy, like any kind of fiction, needs to engage the full range of human emotion, and that includes romance. Convincing characters, whatever the genre, must experience emotions that readers can relate to. Romance is increasing in popularity in these genres, but there’s room for all kinds of stories.
One question that didn’t come up in that panel but I was wondering about later was whether the sex of the main character makes a difference. If a fantasy or science fiction novel has a female protagonist, do you expect stronger romance elements that you do if that protagonist is male? That’s not a rhetorical question; I’d love to hear what readers think.
I’ll be posting more of my impressions of RavenCon throughout the week, along with more photos. Stay tuned!