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Thoughts on New Media from WorldCon

One of the best panels I attended at WorldCon this year was the one on “New Media”, despite the tendency of all the panelists to conflate the media form with the method of delivery.

What I liked about this panel was that the authors saw no problems with the advent of the Internet and the one non-author loved the idea of merging media to tell stories.

The participants were (below, from left to right): rock musician Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole), authors Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Tobias Buckell, Steven R. Boyett, and Cory Doctorow.

participants in the 'new media' panel
(thanks to Dr. Amy for the pic)

First of all, I have to say that Ellen Kushner did a fabulous job of moderating this panel, which could easily have spun out of control. She’s a radio host, in addition to writing “choose your own adventure” books and other fantasy stories.

Secondly, I was impressed by all of the panelists, but none more than Melissa (the rock musician) for her unabashed Ludditeness and love of the mash of media. There’s something very cool about the way that she is interested in telling the same story in multiple forms. Of course, that is easier said than done because many media have their own sets of rules and regulations, which are not always easy for one person to grasp.

Which leads me to the other neat part of this panel, which is that even the die-hard authors in the group understood how liberating it can be to work in concert with other artists. Neil Gaiman told a great story about how the experience of watching an Off-Broadway production of Coraline affected him (in a good way).

I also loved his anecdote about Twitter, in which he asked for help in doing a Latin translation from his (I’m sure legion) followers: “The signal was tiny and the noise was huge.”

Apparently, most of his followers thought that Neil did not know how to use Google, but luckily, an old classmate of his become a Classics scholar, and could provide a worthwhile text. (And shall henceforth, if what Gaiman said is to be believed.)

The other person who really stood out at this panel was Steven R. Boyett, who’s written a couple of SF novels and who has had a storied career in podcasting, notably as Podrunner, who understands that in the digital age “the unique experience becomes the commodity.”

Ultimately, this is why I was there. I wanted to know how an author of novels makes the same kind of leap that many musicians have been able to make: i.e., your [album/novel/publish work] is your calling card and your performance is the thing that makes you money. But for those writers who are writers precisely because they’d rather sit in a room and type rather than “perform”, what hope?

Alas, there was no (viable) answer.

One Comment

  1. […] The discussion revolved around the impact of new media forms on storytelling and its effect on artists and their work.   I thought that Melissa Auf Der Maur brought an incredible amount of insight to the discussion and balanced the perspectives of the authors. Gaiman and Doctorow had a playful back and forth when discussing how they write and edit their stories (Gaiman with the traditional pen & paper vs. Doctorow’s The most amazing part of the session was how the panel, which appeared to have almost diametrically opposed personalities, came to a general consensus on the value and opportunity of using a variety of avenues to tell a story.  The one message that resonated the most with me was Melissa’s point on chasing the media that will tell the story as envisioned in the artists mind.  She went on to describe how, despite already using music, video, and graphic art to tell her stories, she is still seeking the perfect media form to share a beautiful dream/vision she once had years ago.  Two other excellent blogposts on the session can be found here and here. […]

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