Laura Anne Gilman
November 13, 2010
Face the Fiction
Saturday November 13, 2010
7:00 p - 10:00 p
Borders Books & Music
235 Interstate Shopping Center
Ramsey, NJ 07446
201.760.1967

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 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 Laura Anne Gilman, author
of the amazing Cosa Nostradamus and Vineart War series.  
Join us for a fantastic author and what promises to be a
great time!
Face the  Fiction Presents:
Laura Anne Gilman
November 13th, 2010

Dateline Borders Ramsey

It was a crazy day for everyone on Saturday as we all raced
to Borders for Face the Fiction's monthly author
presentation. The beautiful weather of the day provided
concealment for Loki, who was apparently running about
and making everyone's life a bit more hectic than normal. Car
problems, back-wrenching patio block installation, missing
books, and allergies were just a few of the issues plaguing
the attendees, but in spite of the machinations of Norse
trickster gods, we managed to have a really grand night out.

Kate Landis and I arrived nice and early and were met by
Gene McGrath. We helped the kind folks at Borders set up
the chairs in what Bill Wagner referred to as a 'Bifurcated
Arena' in order to make sure that Borders' customers were
able to access the Psychology and Children Sections. Laura
Anne Gilman arrived nice and early, no thanks to her rented
Kia (which led to comments about the road-worthiness of
the visor-less punchline-mobile), and as folks filtered in we
began to discuss a variety of topics from automobiles, to evil
delicatessens, to getting oriented in the City, to finding the
best places to have fun in the metro area. All the while,
apparently the Borders team was being plagued by
inventory elves who showed books on hand that never
arrived in the store, much
to our collective chagrin.

As many of us settled in, I gave Laura Anne a quick
introduction (people were not there to see me after all), and
the night took off like a shot. We started by talking a bit
about the Retrievers series of Urban Fantasy novels and the
concepts that went into that fun series. Laura Anne
explained her process of world-building and her need for a
rational and scientific process behind the magic in her
setting. For those who have never read the series, which is
set in
Laura Anne's Cosa Nostradamus universe (as Laura Anne
pointed out, she is not averse to playing with a loaded pun),
the magic of that world is based off the idea of electricity and
something called Current. The idea is that the human body
uses electricity and processes Current, but some special
people can channel and direct that Current to perform
magical actions. In the case of each of the
protagonists in the Cosa Nostradamus Universe, they have a
specific ability that they have learned to use in an interesting
way.

The Retrievers, which I highly recommend as it is a great
series which I highly enjoy, features the character of Wren
Valere. Wren's main ability is in being unnoticed and
unnoticeable. The way that it was described by Laura Anne:
Have you ever met folks who just seem to appear out of
nowhere or have been standing next to you for a while but
you never noticed, well that's Wren. Finding a way
to use her handicap for best effect, Wren realized that she
could make quite the career as a thief, however as she did
not want to end up on the wrong side of the law, she mainly
gets hired to steal back items that have been wrongfully
taken from their owners. This is an occupation that she is
quite adept at, and with the aid of her business partner,
Sergei Didier, and her demonic friend PB (a miniature
red-eyed polar bear sporting a fedora and a wicked sense of
humor). One of the recurring themes that we discussed at
length was the concept of fitting in between human nulls
(non-magical folk), human talents, and fatae (non-humans),
and of bullying between the more powerful creatures and
their less powerful neighbors (a subject that has been in the
news a lot lately). We discussed a lot of Wren's adventures
and the tie-ins to the P.U.P.I (Private Unaffiliated Paranormal
Investigators) or PSI series featuring Bonnie and her pack of
paranormal criminologists.

We wandered then into a long discussion of the whole PSI
series. The second book of this series just came out (though
it was in stealth mode due to Borders book elves and Loki's
trickster nature), and so we were forced to imagine the cool
cover art and awesome stuff inside. Thankfully, Laura Anne
was a good sport and helped our imaginations with great
descriptions of the characters, even more about the setting
and its denizens, and a whole lot about the way in which
she gets to have input in the cover art. The idea of the PUPI
is that they are a scientific band looking to investigate,
analyze, and solve mysteries of the Talented and Fatae,
learning and expanding knowledge wherever they go. An
interesting side-conversation here was about the character
of Bonnie, herself, and her hedonistic tendencies, which
Harlequin did not even bat an eye-lash in allowing, in spite
of their fairly conservative leanings. I won't give anything
away, but I will say that I think that Bonnie is one of the
most intriguing characters in an Urban Fantasy series to
date, and a better role model for any teenager looking for a
responsible and logical outlook on relationships would be
difficult to find. This is based mainly on our discussion
comparing Bonnie to Bella from the Twilight series by
Stephanie Meyer and the horrid example that said character
provides for teenagers in regards to
relationships.

One important thing that we discussed in regards to all of
the series set in the Cosa Nostradamus universe is the
concept of universal consistency. As Laura Anne said during
the event, she kind of wishes that she or one of the fans
would put together a Wiki for her universe as it would make
things a lot easier. Making sure that the laws and rules are
consistent is fairly easy, but making sure that some of the
smaller bits and bobs stay on track can be worrisome. As
a game designer, I can completely sympathize with the
intricacies of keeping macro issues in scope. It becomes
problematic for Laura Anne in that she now has three series
which are going on side-by-side in the same universe. She
joked that it was great fun stealing her own dialog for book
three in the PSI series as the scene in which Bonnie and
Wren are interacting was shown in one of the Retrievers
books.

Yet another cool thing that got discussed profusely during
the night was the use of the city as a character. As Thom
pointed out, if you are in New York and not using the city as
a character you are probably doing something wrong, a
sentiment with which our guest wholeheartedly agreed.
Laura Anne explained the process of researching the
Brooklyn Bridge, and of a Transit Security Officer in
a booth watching her as she took pictures and made notes.
When she introduced herself to the fellow in the booth and
explained her purpose, said TSO regaled her with interesting
tidbits and factoids (bet you didn't know that the underside
of the bridge is purple, did you). As Laura Anne pointed out:
it is the little things like that which have to make it into the
book as they are just too cool not to share.

Having spent the better part of an hour on the Cosa
Nostradamus, we turned our attention to the Vineart Wars
series. The roots of this series can be found in a
conversation between Laura Anne and her agent about
finding ways to make a wine tasting event into
tax-deductible research. While she did not get to write-off
the wine tasting, Laura Anne did get to craft an amazing
series set in a fantastical version of 14th century Bordeaux,
France, where wine and the crafting of the vine are used for
more than just something to go with delectable viands. An
interesting insight came when Laura Anne explained the
Dragon image on the cover having come from an awesome
piece of art at the Louvre. It is so cool hearing about these
little tidbits and anecdotal stories of what truly inspires an
author. At any rate, we delved deep into the subject of wine,
comparing some notes on varietals and the lamentable
over-commercialization of 'white' Zinfandel from its amazing
robust red stock.

At this point we realized that we had been laughing and
having a great time for over 2 hours without surcease, and
that the store would be closing soon (curse these new short
hours at Borders). Several of us ran up to purchase our
books and get them signed, and we slowly made our way
out to chat in the parking lot until nearly 10:30. Sadly,
several of us were under the weather, and I wound up not
going to the diner, so I have no idea what shenanigans
went on outside my presence. Kate and I chatted about
music and books and art on the way back to Rutherford.

(writeup by Todd V. Ehrenfels)