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Gail Carriger at Lone Star Worldcon 2013

Gail Carriger at Lone Star Worldcon 2013

About a month ago, at /LoneStar/WorldCon in San Antonio, I attended the “I Married A Werewolf” panel on Paranormal/Romance. The panel was made up of authors: Darlene Marshall, Carrie Vaughn, Charlaine Harris,  and also two authors with Steampunk credentials, Gail Carriger, well known author of the The Parasol Protectorate and the Finishing School series, and Jean Johnson, who in addition to her paranormal and sci-fi books wrote, Steam, a Steampunk short story in the The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance.

The label of paranormal romance came up and Gail Carriger mentioned that Orbit struggled with how to label her first book, Soulless. The label on the spine read – Fantasy/Horror.  Jean Johnson said, “I considered my book The Sword to be a Fantasy/Romance, but I don’t deal with labels, that’s the marketing department. The publisher labeled The Sword as a Paranormal/Romance.”

Gail Carriger explained that she played with actual genres in Victorian literature in her five books in the Parasol Protectorate series. The first was based on Gothic Romance, the second on Gothic Cozy, the third on an American Boy’s Adventure, the 4th on a Sherlock Holmes Cozy, and the fifth is in a Travel Journal style.

In another LoneStar/WorldCon panel I attended, Gail Carriger spoke about world building. Along with Gail Carriger — Bryan T. Schmidt, Amanda Downum, and Robin Hobbs made up the “Intricate Worlds Panel”. The first question the panel addressed was what are some of your world building pet peeves?

Bruan T Schmidt’s answered, “Things that get overlooked.”

Amanda Downum’s said, “A static world or a world that hasn’t evolved. Where things have always been this way. For example, they have always used swords and horse drawn carts and nothing will change.”

Robin Hobbs said, “Cities that have no reason for being there. Cities that are hard to get to, so the characters have difficult challenges in reaching them but there doesn’t seem to be any other reason for the location of the city.”

Gail Carriger mentioned her pet peeve was not making use of objects representative of the characters’ culture. “Don’t discount objects your characters own or have with them as they can be very telling to the readers about those characters.”

Steampunk at World Con 2013

Steampunk at World Con 2013

Ms. Carriger also gave advice for research and world building: “Call your local university. They are one of those untapped resources. Also, one of the secrets of world building is to piggy back on a culture that is little known or pick and choose and meld two cultures that never did blend in actual history.” She further advised, “You are the god or goddess of your own universe – you just have to explain the rules of your universe properly. You’re drawing up your own laws for this universe, so you can’t break those.”

The panels at LoneStar, WorldCon in San Antonio were great, full of interesting information and advice for my writing. Feel free to comment below with your own world building pet peeves or world building advice.

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Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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