Programming at Fabletown and Beyond
Sometime around the end of January we’ll post all the specifics about our programming – the locked in details of which programs happen in what room on what day and hour. Since we’re still adding guests to the show, all of whom come with marvelous ideas on what they’d like to do, we can’t yet know for certain who will be featured on every panel. We will, but not yet.
In the meantime, we do already know a lot of what will be coming up at Fabletown and Beyond. We have a lot of great panels and discussions lined up and we’d like to share them with you now. Here’s a sampling of what we have in store:
Our Guest of Honor Speech
Mark Buckingham, our Fabletown and Beyond guest of honor, has something to say and he’s going to say it. We don’t know exactly what he’s got on his mind, since we gave him a free hand with the subject of his speech, but he does speak awfully well, is quite artful in entertaining an audience, and has been in the business long enough to know what’s what. I suspect he will delight, enlighten and enthrall us, with the grace and elán which typifies this fine fellow.
One on One
First of all, we’re going to do interviews, quite a few of them, where one guest interviews another guest, who in turn interviews him right back. Comic convention panels don’t often have room for sustained and in-depth conversations about much of anything. We’ve decided to change that. Since we’ve got some of the most interesting and thoughtful minds attending this show, we’d be passing up a big chance by not digging in deep and seeing what makes these folks tick.
Grilling with the Stars
Then again, we promised unprecedented fan access to our stars and we’re going to deliver on that throughout all phases of the convention, including during the programming too. Some of our panels will devote the entire hour to questions from the audience. During this time they’ll also take questions from a select group of comics journalists, who want scoops and are determined to get them.
What’s With All the Mice?
Chainmail wearing mice, armed with swords, spears, axes and bucklers are whacking away at each other and at monstrous things, like snakes the size of dragons, stoats, ferrets and weasels bigger than lions, and owls the size of an old man’s regrets. We have Mouse Guard and Mice Templar. We even have the Mouse Police in Fabletown’s Farm. Why all these martially inclined mice? Isn’t the lowly mouse supposed to be a symbol for timidity to the point of cowardice? Why do we suddenly have so many stories making them bold and heroic? And why are such tales as popular as they clearly are? We’ll ask the creators of Mouse Guard, Mice Templar, Fables and maybe even a few interested guests to opine on these matters.
Mythology for the Plucking
“Norse myth has the best monsters,” Mike Mignola once said, when talking of his wonderful Hellboy series. True enough, but the Greeks had their gorgons and krakens. The Egyptians mixed their gods and monsters in the same beings, with wonderful and reckless abandon. Rakshasas and nagas haunted the Hindu past, while Leviathan and Behemoth shook the ancient worlds of our own Judeo-Christian beliefs. In this panel we’ll shamelessly wallow in the mythology of other lands and lost times, and try to scope out why they’re so attractive as the raw material from which the modern Mythic Fiction crafts its stories. We’ll also debate the ethics of borrowing great legends that were religions before they were myths, including so many that still straddle that elusive line.
We Don’t Need Another Hero
That’s what the song said. Are true heroes overdone, passé and a thing of the past? Does true, un-cynical altruistic heroism actually exist, and did it ever really exist? Do we owe it to our readers to explode the myth that there are good and decent, larger than life, heroes out there, who’ll come to your aid, when need is greatest? Any cursory examination of the current state of superhero comics, a staple of the medium for half a century, might argue there is no such thing. “With great power comes great opportunity to settle grudges, beat the hell out of anyone who pisses you off, and have our own way,” seems to be the watchword of our current hero crop. “We don’t need another hero,” the singer sang. But then again, it was the theme song to a tale about the exact opposite – where a hero was exactly what was required.
Work for Hire
Is it pernicious to the point of being downright evil? Or is it a reasonable way to make a good living in this business we love, working with characters and stories you don’t own, but get to play with for a while? Will this matter ever be settled to anyone’s satisfaction?
We’re All Born Rich
If folklore belongs to all of us, then we’re each born owning a fortune in stories and legends. Is that why so many of us are making use of the old tales? Is it just a case of cashing in some of our treasures? And why all the changes to so many well-known characters? What right do we have to change so much? We’ll discuss.
Beyond Goes to Oz
Oz seems to never lose its popularity. Almost everyone in the story business wants to play in these magical lands. Heinlein did it, in the same novel in which he played with the sprawling Edgar Rice Burroughs fictional universe, and many others. Comics folks can’t keep their hands off of Oz either, as evidenced by some of the recent Fables tales, and the startlingly wondrous work of Skottie Young. Let’s visit the Land of Oz for an hour and see if we can pin down why it keeps calling us back.
Building the Places That Never Existed
If you set a story, even a fantasy story, in the existing world, a lot of your work is already done for you. You don’t have to create whole cultures and nations. You don’t have to work out languages and trade routes, religions and monetary systems. You don’t have to create a billion new species from the genes up. But, if you set a story in a whole new world, then you’ve got a truly daunting amount of work ahead of you. Our panel of writers and artists, world-building experts all, will tackle this lovely dilemma, show how such hard work can be one of the great joys of the storytelling profession, and undaunt it before your very eyes.
It’s the Best of Times, It’s the Worst of Times
That’s an apt description of the comic book business today. There has never been a wider selection of subject matter available in the comics medium. For the first time comics are celebrated by a wide spectrum of everyday people. They’re welcome in libraries and mainstream bookstores at long last. And Hollywood has hitched its wagon to comic properties in a major way. Comics are also no longer considered a tawdry and disposable medium now. Old and new, our stories are finally considered worth collecting and preserving. But comics are also at an all time low in sales. Numbers that equal a runaway hit today would have been low enough to get every comic cancelled twenty or thirty years ago. So what’s the deal?
In comics, the art is at least half the story, and usually more. The visuals take the place of the exposition in prose tales and bear the burden of implying a thousand scenes for every image presented. It’s a tough job, done alone in a room, often at the cost of what anyone else would consider a normal life. What are its rewards, beyond a paycheck? What sort of person can do this arguably toughest of all jobs in the storytelling field? Let’s ask a few and find out.
What is it and why does it matter? At least one of its proponents has been shooting his mouth off in public, calling this the most vital and interesting movement in comics, since the superhero movement came in to dominate comic books for half a century. Let’s spend an hour putting that bold statement to the test.
Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox
A good half of our guests have spent a significant fraction of their career working in someone else’s fictional universe. Fairest, as one example, is all about inviting other writers to play for a time in the Fables worlds. Sometimes it’s a good way to start a new career – attracting readers to your own work by first showing what you can do in stories and settings they’re already familiar with. And sometimes it’s a break from other projects. We’ll look at some of the glories and pitfalls in working in fields not our own.
All of the Problems of the Comics Industry Solved!
And all in a single hour! Our carefully selected panel of know-it-alls, grudges well in hand, chips firmly on shoulders, will solve every problem plaguing the comics business today. If you have a gripe, or know of something wrong with comics, air it out here and get it fixed on the spot. We’re pretty sure we’re doing this one just for fun, but don’t be surprised if a kernel or two of real wisdom comes out of all the silliness.
Conversations at the Bar
Not all of our programming will be structured. We’ve crowed before about having our own bar during the show, which only guests and attendees of Fabletown and Beyond can visit. It’s a spot for a drink, a bite of food, and a chance for some conversation with our guests on a more informal level. At any time that the Kill Shakespeare Bar is open (we’ll post hours soon) at least one of the invited guests will be there to chat and socialize with whomever happens by. Of course other guests are welcome too, on their own schedule, but we’re assigning times for the entire array of guests, so everyone will have a shot at less formal, more personal time with the readers and fans. These assigned times will be posted at the bar and in the program book, so you can plan your bar breaks accordingly.
Yikes, all those words, sentences and paragraphs and yet we’ve hardly skimmed the surface of what we have planned.
You’ll note you don’t see a lot of Publisher Presentation panels listed above – none in fact. While we’ve got nothing against such things, because it’s a good idea for comic book publishers to do everything they can to talk up their books and get the word out to as many potential readers as possible, this isn’t the kind of show where all of the prime program hours are taken with folks trying to sell you something. Nothing against selling. Most of what you own was sold to you by someone. But this is a show for conversation about the art and techniques and nature of story, and that’s where our time is focused.
And looking above we can see that we haven’t even covered the panels devoted to creators introducing a specific new book, or to drop news about storylines coming up in ongoing series. We’ll have panels where you can learn what’s coming up in Fables, The Unwritten, Kill Shakespeare, Mouse Guard, Mice Templar, and so many others. We’re going to find time and venues to introduce you to new projects like Four Norsemen of the Apocalypse and others.
And, if all goes well, we’re going to try to program a few things you just don’t get at other comic book shows. We’re working on some surprises.
So please check back here, from time to time, and as always, if you think you might be coming to Fabletown and Beyond, or if this peek at our programming has ignited any interest, this is the time to act. The nature of this convention precluded unlimited attendance.