DragonCon 2017: From the Beginning: The Evolution of the Urban Fantasy Protagonist

The authors on this panel have played vital roles in the advancement of the Urban Fantasy genre. We’ll discuss how their seminal characters have developed & changed over time, all while continuing to influence the field.Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Skim this particular video one.

Why? I think you’ll see why, after a while.

I have never seen Jim Butcher go passive aggressive before, but when he says, “I think Joss Whedon has something to do with Urban Fantasy. Just a little,” he sounds just a might put out.

Best lines

Butcher: “Laurell writes Hammer villians, Harry Dresden is a magical Spencer for Hire. We take archetypes of different genres and use them. Genre is just a publisher’s problem.”

Pat Briggs: College writing progessors can rip books apart, they can’t put them together.
Kenyon: I was kicked out of a writing track as being too disruptive.
Briggs: I got a C on a story that ended up in a NY Times bestselling anthology.

Butcher will also be doing a Goodman Grey Spinoff, as well as one for Maggie Dresden. Yes, really.

Fun fun fun.

amzn.to/2wF41P2

DragonCon 2017: The Logic of Magic

A panel on developing magic systems, with Jim Butcher, Kathryn Hinds, Faith Hunter, and Elizabeth Moon.Yeah, sorry about the audio on this one. Turn the volume up to maximum, and concentrate real hard. Otherwise, you may not be able to hear anything.

Again, I didn’t do this video, so I have no control over how it turned out. Though I’m going to have to listen to this one later. I couldn’t get into this one for love or money.

Enjoy.

DragonCon 2017: Keeping the Peace: Liaison Characters in UF

Whether striving to improve communication & relations between supernatural & human communities, or between different groups within the supernatural world, our panelists’ characters often find themselves in the position of peacemaker.Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Delilah S. Dawson, Kim Harrison, Nancy Holzner, Faith Hunter.

This is another one I couldn’t get into. Because, again, the hall was WWWAAAYYYY too small for Jim Butcher ALONE, nevermind all of the other authors.

And the audio is a little finicky at times. The farther away you get from the camera, the less you can hear people. Even with headphones, you might want to edge the volume higher and higher. That’s all.

amzn.to/2wF41P2

The Superversive from the East: Giant Robo – The Animation

Giant Robo is, as the linked article states, both one of the oldest of Japan’s comic franchises and the source of one of the best original animation series in the last 30 years. As such there’s some familiar issues that any franchise faces, starting with multiple continuities that often drastically reshape the premise into something very different from other versions. That’s why I’m specifying the OVA series: “The Animation”.

The reason for this specific incarnation’s enduring appeal is that this story is one of the most boldly Superversive stories to come out of Japan. Just take a good look at the trailer below:

That’s all you need to know, right there. The details that really deliver on the story’s promise aren’t in the trailer, but you will see that every element gets used–and used well–to tell a tale that uplifts the audience, inspires them to face great fears with courage, and press on even when you think you’re done for. That boy, Daisaku, is your protagonist and he gets put through the ringer over the course of this short series, but he does make it happen at the end–albeit with help (and a Pellenor Fields moment that is ridiculous, awesome, and (by that point) makes logical sense).

And it is thoroughly entertaining at all levels. The music is fantastic, the aesthetics are brilliant, and the production team did your Avengers or Justice League style of “heroes band together to stop a world-wide doom” story better than Marvel or DC have to date, in any medium. Daisaku’s the plunky youth you want to cheer for, Big Fire’s villains range from love-to-hate to completely despicable, and the other Experts of Justice may be rough around the edges but they are still heroes.

And, as for the necessity of virtue, the plot centers around two virtue-related matters: the origin of the Shizuma Drive, and the truth about the disaster that nearly derailed its introduction. Big errors got made, and everything about this story is a logical consequence of those errors, but there is no fixing it without fixing those errors- and that final bit shows this story’s value as a Superversive work.

The commercial availability of this animation isn’t what it once was, but you can get it at Amazon in a boxed set on DVD at a reasonable (for commercial anime) price. It’s not a long series: just under 6 hours, total. Agent Carter‘s first season ran longer. Recommended highly!

The Superversive from the East: Legend of the Galactic Heroes

In the 1980s, one of the greatest works of science fiction ever to come out of Japan first hit the shelves as a light novel: Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It would later get adapted into a 110-episode anime series, produce two movies, and several side-stories mini-series. Unfortunately, only recently did the original light novels get licensed for release into the West. (You can fix that here)

Whether you read the novels or watch the anime, you’ll find a truly epic Space Opera that hits most of the things you want out of a Superversive work. While the moral clarity is muddled at times, as this story reflects the mood of its day, the protagonist and the deuteragonist (and their key allies) are clear heroes with heroic virtue and epic flaws.

There are no supernatural powers. There are no aliens. There are no giant robots, laser swords (save for those shown as part of an in-fiction feature film), transformable machines, or other tropes popular with the famous SF/F franchises arising in Japan at this time. The fantastic elements are confined to FTL travel, cybernetics, the many technologies implied by the fact that galaxy-wide human colonization occurred, and high-end medical technologies. Yet there are massive fleet battles only eclipsed by E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series, and cultural conflicts (with attendant political intrigues) that drive the plot overall (and thus many subplots therein).

What there is, however, is true love (but often filial instead of romantic). What there is, however, is courage against often ridiculous odds. Faith held against powers willing and able to destroy you and yours, and fortitude in times of struggle are what you will find here. And, while individuals can succumb to their tragic flaws, the overall conclusion is hopeful in both absolute and practical terms. If you can find a good playlist online, and you can deal with subtitles, the long-running series and its related works will bring you up without lying to you on what it often takes to climb that mountain to a better tomorrow.

Moreso than any other work of science fiction or fantasy out of Japan, I recommend Legend of the Galactic Heroes, especially if you like your key characters to be competent as well as their opposition. Victory here is earned, and therefore deserved- including the hopeful end.