Science fiction convention short on cosplay, big on literary advice
By Richard Whittaker,
2:39PM, Tue. Aug. 19, 2008
ArmadilloCon is just like any other literary convention: It just happens to be about science fiction, fantasy and interstitial literature. The three-day convention (see our advance coverage here) wrapped up Sunday, and the emphasis was often on the practical side of writing and getting published.
It's events like this that firmly debunk the trite and tedious stereotype that science-fiction enthusiasts are a virginal male hive-mind entity that has never done anything outside of their parents' cellar. Take the all-female fantasy-romance panel or the fact that over half the writers on the Forever Wars panel about military science fiction were actually former service personel (including Dave Duggins, guest of honor Joe Haldeman and local author Elizabeth Moon) as proof of that. The H.P. Lovecraft discussion on Saturday night kind of degenerated into a moderator's worst nightmare, where the audience knew more than the panelees (although, to be fair, there were several published Lovecraft essayists in the crowd.) But a recurrent theme was the interplay between genre literature and other media, most especially film. The quick synopsis? Big money, big money, no whammy.
Several authors attending have, if not become rich from selling the options on their books, at least took the edge off the bills for a few months, weeks, or even years (Several guests noted that, while the film Jumper plays out little like Steven Gould's novel Jumper reads, the fact it got optioned and made means he can concentrate on writing full-time.) Just don't expect anything to happen apart from the odd check: as Wendy Wheeler pointed out during the Hollywood: Book to Screen panel, only one in 15 optioned books actually gets filmed. Some are snapped up to prevent anyone else adapting them: for example, in the early 1990s, Columbia snapped up the right to every Dracula-related work so nothing would compete with Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 Dracula.
Joe Lansdale, who has seen more options come to nothing than ever pan out, also recommended all aspiring authors taking a big dose of patience juice before they talk to any producer (a point he illustrated with a series of anecdotes abut various time he'd basically been dragged, cussing and swinging, from a pitch meeting by his agent.) On a positive note, Lansdale's working with 2007 Texas Film Hall of Fame inductee Bill Paxton to bring his book The Bottoms to the big screen, and seems up-beat about it.
But the boiled-down message seem to be take the cash, don't worry if it never gets made, and don't even worry if the film-makers make a mess of it. As Faulkner (or Michener or Chandler or Cain, depending who was telling the story) once said when someone asked him whether he minded what Hollywood had done to his books, he just gestured to the shelf and said, "What do you mean? They're all still up there."