As you may have heard, this past weekend was New York Comic Con 2011!
Every October, hoards of true believers make the arduous trek to the Javits Center, outfitted in their finest geek-garb. Though it’s smaller than the UberMegaMorassOfPeople that is San Diego Comic Con, NYCC is no joke and thousands of people attend the four-day long event. This year, I had the privilege of attending as a member of the press, and roamed Javits’s crowded halls on Friday and Saturday to absorb all of the awesome comics, art, film/tv news, panels, signings, and, of course, all of the lovely books being promoted by publishers of all sizes.
Here are my adventures at NYCC, the 2011 edition*:
*I do need to apologize for not tweeting and doing any live updates from the con – but if you’ve ever been to an event at Javits, you are familiar with the BIG BLACK HOLE OF NO SERVICE that is the convention center. Damn you, AT&T!
Day 1: Friday, October 14
A large part of the whole NYCC battle is getting to the location and beginning the dreaded zombie-like lurch forward to get one’s pass and credentials. Setting aside an extra hour for that, I made my way to Javits bright and early on Friday morning and prepared myself for a weekend of pure awesomeness (and inevitable blisters, hand-cramping due to copious note-taking, and utter exhaustion of the best kind). After doing a quick circuit of the Artist’s Alley and show floor – making sure to stop by all the big six publishing booths – I made my way to my first panel of the show:
Zombies, Fallen Angels and Other Paranormals Give New Meaning to “Undying Love” – Friday 10:45AM
This was a fantastic panel, comprising a number of debut and seasoned authors who were thrilled to talk about zombies, paranormal creatures, and the human condition reflected in their fictions. The speakers were: Bob Fingerman, author of New York City zombie apocalypse novel Pariah (and earlier, vampire novel Bottomfeeder; Veronica Rossi, debut author of the forthcoming YA dystopian novel Under the Never Sky; Stefan Petrucha, author of the recently released Dead Mann Walking, a novel about a recently deceased and revived private investigator; Nancy Holzner, Urban Fantasy author of the Deadtown series, starring a shapeshifting dreamwalker and her zombie sidekick; Tahereh Mafi, debut novel of the *highly* anticipated YA dystopian novel Shatter Me (which has already garnered critical praise and been optioned for film); and Thomas E. Sniegoski, Urban Fantasy author of the Remy Chandler series, following an Angel-turned P.I. (Author Lia Haber, of debut YA steampunk futuristic novel Dearly, Departed, was slated to be on the panel, but could not make it – though I would see her later that day!). The panel was moderated by the wryly funny Drew Magary, author of satirical dystopian novel The Postmortal.
The biggest question the panel tackled after introducing themselves, was that of addressing what their particular stories reveal about the human condition – life, love, relationships, or otherwise. Bob Fingerman elaborated that he writes about average people in extreme situations and takes a de-glamorizing view of humanity – or “romance as it happens in a prison cell”. For Veronica Rossi, Under the Never Sky is a study in opposites and the dichotomy of human nature, as well as a love story, and a post-apocalyptic tale. In a half-serious joke about addiction to her iPhone, Ms. Rossi took a note from Battlestar Galactica’s playbook and, with her novel, explores the different scenarios of where humanity goes with technology – particularly with a focus on the consequences of our rapid adoption of new technologies (citing the infamous baby-on-ipad-then-magazine video). Stefan Petrucha talked about his inspiration for Dead Mann Walking, which sprang from an idea planted in his mind after listening to a discussion of the death penalty on NPR. Nancy Holzner talked about her academic career as a Medievalist, which has deeply influenced her writing in terms of style and form. Focusing on the inherent commonality of being an outsider, of feeling ostracized and a desire to fit in, Tahereh Mafi passionately talked about her young adult novel Shatter Me and her heroine’s desire – the universal desire – to find acceptance and love for who she is. By using hyperbolic situations (like a heroine that can kill with a single touch in a dystopian future), Shatter Me explores this feeling of being different. In Thomas Sniegoski’s books, Remy Chandler has had a deep, romantic, loving relationship with his wife when she dies of cancer – and through this loss, he uses his hero to examine humanity and empathy.
When asked to quickly list their respective influences, the panelists communally rattled off an impressive list. Nancy Holzner singled out the Mabinogi (a collection of medieval Welsh legends) that inspired and shaped the mythology of her Deadtown books; Stefan Petrucha shared his love for George Romero, Raymond Chandler, and Joss Whedon (an awesome, perfect list that basically convinced me to read Dead Mann Walking ASAP); Bob Fingerman named the two Philips – Philip K. Dick (for the trippiness factor) and Philip Roth (for the shit-kicked-outta-you factor); Veronica Roth cited the A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman as hugely inspirational, examining the magic of the everyday; and Tahereh Mafi closed out the panel with her list of ridiculous coolness: The Giver by Lois Lowry (which changed her life in middle school – hells yes!) and George Orwell’s 1984, as well as the films Lost in Space and Soylent Green.
The panelists also discussed how to get around writer’s block (Bob Fingerman has a particularly hilarious remedy), how to deal with “originality” (panel consensus: there is no such thing as an original idea), and how their relationships would fare should the zombie apocalypse actually strike (short story: not well).
The panel was entertaining, illuminating, and basically convinced me that I need to read Shatter Me, Under the Never Sky, and Dead Mann Walking as soon as possible. And, luckily, there was a signing for those books, and more, following the panel.
Then, it was on to panel #2:
The Del Rey Spectra Steampunk Zombie Invasion – Friday, 1:15PM
Starring the Del Rey Spectra editorial team, and authors Lia Habel (Dearly, Departed – the only steampunk zombie novel on the list, really), C.E. Murphy (Worldwalker duology, Truth Seeker and Wayfinder), Naomi Novik (The Temeraire Books), Peter V. Brett (The Warded Man and The Desert Spear), and the one and only Scott Westerfeld (The Uglies series, The Leviathan books, and so on). Unfortunately, this panel had nothing to do with steampunk or zombies, and really wasn’t a panel at all – rather, it was a springboard for the Random House team to talk about their upcoming fall and spring titles. Don’t get me wrong – it was cool to hear from this panel of authors talk about their upcoming books and to see what is in the grinder for Del Rey/Spectra, but it did feel a little like nomenclature cheating. Of the list, the books that I found the most exciting included C.E. Murphy’s completed Wayfinder duology, in which a heroine is incapable of telling a lie and can sense when others are being untruthful, then stumbles into the world of the fey. I also found myself intrigued by Naomi Novik’s Termeraire books (which I swear, I will catch up with one of these days) but far more excited for her manga project in the works, titled Will Super Villains Be on the Final? – set in a world where being a superhero is a basic vocation, and starring a heroine that can intuitively manipulate matter on an atomic level (bonus: excerpts are available online HERE!). In other enlightening news, Peter Hamilton’s previously published Mandel Files scifi novels will be republished (awesome!), and I find myself salivating for Paula Brandon’s recently released The Traitor’s Daughter and 2012 release of the second book in the trilogy, The Ruined City. Also mentioned that piqued my interest was The Games by Ted Kosmatka – a novel about a near future society where genetically modified monsters fight to the death, gladiator style. Yes please.
The standouts of the panel, however, had to be the lovely Lia Habel, who enthusiastically talked about her steampunk-zombie-future in Dearly, Departed and cited the student musical Zombie Love as her current favorite zombie film (apparently, you can only get this movie by directly buying it from the director – and it contains Bollywood numbers. With zombies. I don’t think there are any more words necessary for that ball of awesome ridiculousness). And then, of course, Scott Westerfeld talked about his project with the publisher, a graphic novel drawn in manga style and titled Uglies: Shea’s Story and covers – you guessed it – Shay’s side of the story. Beginning before the events of Uglies and elaborating on Shay’s relationships with Zane and David pre-Tally, this promises to be a really cool story for the Uglies fan. Very exciting, indeed.
Following the panels there was plenty of signing action, mingling with authors, and perusing the morass of material for sale and on display on the con floor – I am a little ashamed to admit that I had a hard time restraining myself and came home with, once again, far too many books. And that was only day 1!
Day 2: Saturday, October 15
Day 1 of Comic Con (the Friday) is always referred to as “the slow day” – and with all of the Saturday tickets sold out, I knew that Day 2 would be even more packed.
This also was the day that I got the wonderful opportunity to conduct not one but two author interviews – with Hollows author extraordinaire Kim Harrison and author of the House of Comarré gothic urban fantasy series, Kristen Painter (these interviews will be posted later today in their full glory).
It also was the day of AWESOME signings, galleys, and irresponsible book buying. The highlights of Saturday (besides the interviews)? Getting a copy of Terrier signed by the incomparable Tamora Pierce, getting signed Eon and Eona posters from Alison Goodman, and chatting with favorite urban fantasy author Rachel Caine about her new Revitalist series.
Tamora Pierce signs TERRIER for me
There was also a rather disappointing panel on Sci-Fi Prototyping: Designing the Future, from the people at Intel and the always entertaining Cory Doctorow. The panel itself was interesting, but much smaller and narrower in scope than I was hoping for. In any case, the anthology, which has Cory Doctorow’s “Knights of the Rainbow Table” as its keystone, is available for free download HERE.
At the end of the day, I was one very tired fangirl, but it was, as always, worth the crowds, the jostling, the weird smells, and general uncomfortableness of mass humanity crammed into a too-small location. Though I didn’t make it into The Avengers panel (there are some lines that simply cannot be broached), I did catch a glimpse of Chris Evans, which is icing on the cake of what was a truly awesome day.
So, for now, it’s adieu NYCC 2011 – and I look forward to 2012!