Anton Strout
October 9, 2010
Face the Fiction
Saturday October 9, 2010
7:00 p - 10:00 p
Borders Books & Music
235 Interstate Shopping Center
Ramsey, NJ 07446
201.760.1967

This group meets on the second Saturday of each month and
spotlights guest speakers from SF and genre related fields of
interest.  For those arriving early, please join us at 7pm for
our open mic-style Whispers From Beyond from 7-8pm. This
group meets on the second Saturday of each month and
spotlights guest speakers from SF and genre related fields of
interest.

This month we welcome author Anton Strout..
First off: I apologize for the delay in posting this write-up.  
This past weekend was a bit busy, and I really wanted to
give the fun that we had on Saturday its just due, and make
sure that all who missed it are acutely envious that they
failed to attend!  

The evening stared early with Paul and myself discussing Filk
music, the indomitable Jean, and the joys of XKCD.  By the
way, Paul, these are the pictures of the Dark Eldar to which I
was referring during our conversation: Dark Eldar Advance
Order.  As you can see, from a sheer model perspective,
these are pure awesomeness.  Luckily for me, though, Anton
showed up and took over being the center of attention.

Upon hearing that his co-panelist, Ekaterina Sedia, had to
cancel due to the flu, Anton realized that he was going to
have to shine extra bright, and shine he did.  Anton was an
excellent sport, sitting down at the table with us and
chatting like old friends about all manner of genre topics.  
We started, of course, with the impressive spectacle of NY
Comic Con.

Anton, who works for Penguin in addition to being a writer of
great SF stories, regaled us with tales of the convention,
starting with the fact that the shipments of books that had
been requested for the convention not showing up and the
bosses at the con running to Anton's office to pick up the
boxes of books that he kept there.  This anecdote was
brought on by the fact that Borders, whose management
staff had ordered the books weeks ago and who had been
told that said books were on the way, had none in stock for
the event.  The redoubtable Anton solved this by allowing us
to purchase the few books that he had with him (causing the
Borders inventory system some degree of indigestion, but
helping the store out with a half-dozen extra sales of books).

Conversation turned from books to movies and music as
Anton explained that he was unable to attend a
con-sponsored panel at 7pm the night before due to a
previous engagement with the Lord of the Rings: The Tow
Towers with live orchestral accompaniment at Radio City
Music Hall.  This led to a discussion of Fantasy novels and
the latest tropes and the best of the new bloods, include a
half-dozen anecdotes about Patrick Rothfuss (an author that
both Anton and I rather like).  Patrick Rothfuss' sequel to his
best selling debut novel, The Name of the Wind, should be
hitting shelves next year, so reserve your copy now (along
with the fourth book in the Simon Canderous novel).

Mentioning other writers brought us to the works of Jim
Butcher and a laughing segue back to the con as fans
pestered Anton for information on the elusive writer/ninja
who is famous for bringing us Harry Dresden of Dresden Files
fame.  One colorful fan, who was lamenting the ending of the
recent novel, Changes, in many things happen that I am not
going to spoil for you, was consoled by Anton with the
statement, "Well, if you are really upset about Changes, and
you really love Jim's work, might I humbly recommend my
own books..."  As a fan of both series, I have to say that I
suspect that this campaign will gain him quite a few converts.

One topic of discussion revolved around the concept of
process, a subject about which Anton regaled us with great
relish.  One statement, which caused Chris to guffaw
heartily, was, "Writers are liars."  Another nugget came in
the form of song lyrics, "You can't please everyone but you
have to please yourself."  One of my favorite suggestions
was not to overload readers with data.  Too often writers
tend to think that because they have a cool idea about the
character or world, they have to put it in there somewhere,
but Anton advised that if the idea does nothing to enhance
the scene it should likely be set aside and held until a time
when it was important.  BJ and Anton entered into a great
discussion about character development and background,
which left both of the chuckling in the end.  What was said...
Ah, well, you had to be there, but let us just say that the
Benjamin Franklin Necromancer story is a perfect illustration
of saving something for the perfect moment.  Another neat
point that Anton made was that as a writer, you have to put
yourself in the position of the reader and ask yourself, "Do I
give a !#$^#! about this as a reader? If yes, why?  If no,
why?"

Anyway, we discussed the Simon Canderous books a bit,
and Anton announced that he tried to apologize to Jim
Butcher for inadvertently copying his pamphlet schtick.  In
Dead to Me, Anton introduces a series of pamphlets based
on the old Chaosium Call of Cthulu Monster guides which
called upon investigators to leaf through the book and ask
questions.  Anton's pamphlets were all things like So You Are
Being Chased by Zombies, Now What?  and such.  Jim had a
similar trope in the first Dresden book, which he
subsequently forgot about so thoroughly that when Anton
brought it up, his response was a flummoxed "What
pamphlets?"  Moving on to more discussion of process in the
books, Anton reminded us of something our old pal Dallas
Ketchum told us: You have only one shot to hook them
early!  Forget prologues, concentrate on writing a good,
solid first scene that places the reader in the narrative and
sets up the present (setting up the future is problematic as
it will likely give too much away).  Anton starts the story of
Dead to Me with Simon bringing a beautiful woman to his
apartment and accidentally having his power triggered.

I could likely go on for pages and pages about how much fun
we had just sitting around that table and chatting, but
frankly, I don't want to give too much away since Anton will
be returning in April for more fun and mayhem!  Really,
though, we stayed talking at the store until well past
closing.  Anton, who had to resume duties at the NY Comicon
in the morning, reluctantly left for home as BJ, Mike P., Paul,
Gene, and I hied away to the Stateline Diner to chat about
movies, science, Paul's explanation about Lunar cycles and
their effects on his event attendance, Mike P's proof of really
special relativity, BJ's fun with words, and Gene's fun with
packages at Columbia.  It was a fun close to an awesome
night.

Oh, by the way, lest I forget, we did discuss shape-changers
as Anton had a short story featuring the Lupercal, evil
cherubs being drowned in cups of Iced Hot Cocoa, and a
chase through the streets of Manhattan.  Intrigued?  Just
you wait until April!