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The weekend before last, I went to Supanova in Sydney. I thought it would be a pretty low-key year - my only goals were to check out two panels and say hi to whoever was around - but I ended up chatting with quite a few people. It was nice.


Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations: Seeing Ourselves in Popular Culture

* A panel on diversity at conventions as well as in media. I didn't catch all the panellist names, but there was an author, a cosplayer, a Supanova HR staffer, and two representatives from the youth mental health service Headspace.

* Some of the discussion points:

- We're supposed to be grateful for the tiniest things, eg superhero movies: "You have Wonder Woman, you should be happy now."

- Joss Whedon being asked, "Why do you keep writing strong female characters?" "Because you keep asking this." Chris Pine being asked, "What's it like working with a female director?" "..."

- Movie studios might include diversity for profits, but it should be diversity for diversity.

- Privilege is invisible to those who have it. They don't realise the positive impact of seeing yourself in media. They need to understand the positive impact of representation for other people.


Brandon Sanderson

* He's one of the big name authors in fantasy, but until that week, I'd never read any of his books. But I really love the Writing Excuses podcast that he hosts with three other writers. So I decided it would be worth it to go hear him talk, especially since he probably wouldn't come to Australia often.

* I figured I should read at least something of his before the talk, so I borrowed the shortest thing I found - a novella called The Emperor's Soul - and I ended up really liking it. A great redemption story, with a fascinating magic system. And it was a cool surprise to discover it featured a fantasy Asian setting and characters.

* I'd expected them to hold the talk in a theatre, but it was in one of the normal seminar rooms. And it was packed out. People were standing in the aisles.

* I'd gone in prepared for spoilers. But he actually asked the audience to try to avoid spoilery questions!

* He was asked about working on the Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan had touchstones and wrote towards them (the audience laughed, and Brandon ruefully acknowledged this). What Robert left behind was 200 pages - 100 pages of prose, and 100 pages of interviews by his assistants. Unlike writing in a franchise universe, Brandon had creative control, subject to final approval by Robert's widow Harriet. He said to her, "We have to take risks, because Robert would have taken risks." The Wheel of Time was the hardest but most satisfying thing he's done.

* On the importance of fantasy. What in our world has ever changed because people were satisfied with the status quo? Fantasy is imagining a different world: flight, race relations, Star Trek. The world becomes a better place when we imagine something different.

* You can have many genres in fantasy - literary, romance, mystery - but with dragons!

* He freewrites characters to work out who they are and how they will fit into the outline of the story.

* Why create magic systems? It's hard to innovate plot because it needs to be satisfying, but you can innovate setting.

* He avoids burnout by switching projects, eg a novel in one series, then a novel in a different series.

* One of the things that kept him motivated, was imagining a cubicle chasing him, and if it caught him, it would transform him into an insurance actuary.

* His work-life balance: wake at noon, write from 1pm to 5pm, spend time with his wife and kids until they go to bed, write from 11pm to 3am, goof around for an hour, then go to bed. Also, he has to respect the time with his family, he can't be writing in his head then.

* He wasn't much of a reader as a kid, especially after reading three books in a row about a boy and his dog, the dog dying, and it being a metaphor for life. But one of his teachers encouraged him, showing him a shelf of her own books that she lent out to her students. He picked Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, because at least it had dragons. He really shouldn't have liked it as much as he did, because it was about a woman having a midlife crisis. Her mentor was telling her that she could be the best mage in the land, if she wasn't so focused on her family. She answered, "But I love my family!" Brandon's own mother had been a brilliant student, won a scholarship, but gave it up to raise him. As a teenager, he'd taken this for granted: "Of course she did, I'm important, that's what parents do." But reading this book, he felt like he understood his mom better for the first time. It was a powerful emotion. And he decided he wanted to do this.

* I lined up to get my book signed. It was a very long line. But worth it.


Shopping

I picked up a copy of The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, the Origin Story album by Meri Amber, and two cute colour comics - "Sleeping Chick" and "Counting Sheep" - by Queenie Chan. I also discovered the gorgeous artwork of hawberries, and picked up a cute print of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine gang, a lovely print of Yuuri and Victor dancing, and four gorgeous bookmarks for Captive Prince and Yuri!!! on Ice. (Also for sale at her shop!) I was really not expecting to buy so much, but SHINY! It's lucky I didn't also come home with a Totoro terrarium.


Photos

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (I heard a passerby whisper, "Where's Donatello?")

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Final Fantasy cosplayer. (Amazingly detailed armour.)

Final Fantasy cosplayer

My Little Pony cosplayers. (Their wings were gorgeous.)

My Little Pony cosplayers

The Hammer of Thor. (A sign said, "Please do not touch Thor's hammer. Thanks.")

The Hammer of Thor

Totoro terrarium!

Totoro terrarium

Anime terrariums!

Anime terrariums

Pokeball terrariums!

Pokeball terrariums

My haul of gorgeous bookmarks from hawberries: Damen, Laurent, Yuuri and Victor, Yurio and Otabek.

My haul of gorgeous bookmarks from hawberries
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