So this past weekend, I enjoyed the sights and wonders that are LibertyCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In a word, amazing. In several more words, it was– as it has been every time I’ve gone in the past few years– a lot of fun and quite informative, to boot.
If you’ve never been to a convention like this one (and even remotely enjoy science fiction and/or fantasy), you really ought to try to find one. There are panels on every possible subject from the messiest ways to kill zombies to how close scientists are to designing actual Star Wars technology. That’s not to mention roundtables on what’s new in military sci-fi, if you still need an agent in the publishing world, and various goods or objects that effectively crippled civilizations throughout history. Top that off with an art show and a dealers’ room filled with more weapons, books, jewelry, and apparel than you know what to do with, and you’ve got yourself a real LibertyCon. Oh, and did I mention that such writing giants as John Ringo and David Drake (and so many others) came to this year’s festivities?
While all of that is remarkably fun, I also enjoy meeting new people there, many of whom come from out of town but just as many of whom live locally. I even met a local artist, Anita Moore, who creates 3D environments for table-top strategy games, got to take a look at some of her work, and was able to chat with her about how in the world she creates such beautiful and lifelike environments.
I also went to a panel on space opera fiction, where an excellent point was made that I wanted to share here. It’s an old adage that you should “write what you know.” While there is a lot of truth to this saying, it should be taken with a healthy dose of salt in certain circumstances. After all, if we only ever wrote what we know, how vastly limiting that would be– let’s face it, entire genres of literature would vanish. While it’s helpful to have a lot of life experiences when you set out to write, I hardly think you have to have experienced everything about which you’d like to write.
I think “write what you know” refers far more to the representation of human emotion. I’d say for the most part, we’ve all experienced fear, betrayal, heartbreak, rage, joy, giddiness– perhaps in varying degrees and all obviously prompted by different circumstances. I think it is the ability to portray these emotions, these things that make us so very human, that is part of what makes good fiction. Now, does there need to be a kick-ass plot as well? Of course. But without good characters who we’re invested in, who feel things as we feel them, the best plot in the world can become largely worthless. At least in the humble opinion of yours truly.