Phoenix Comicon 2014 Panel: Fantasy Authors

By Alex Hamilton on in Phoenix Comicon 2014, Q&A. Permalink.

Fantasy Authors at Phoenix Comicon

Fantasy Authors at Phoenix Comicon

As I was about to walk into the panel, I noticed Patrick Rothfuss standing next to me outside the door. This struck me as rather odd seeing as how he was supposed to be part of the panel I was going to watch, and normally guests of honor enter in through the back door instead of the main door. We exchanged a few words before walking in, at which point the Line & Access Control staff directed us to the open seats in the back corner.

Oops. Probably best for staff to see photos of the people they’re supposed to be hosting. To her defense, though, most guests of honor wouldn’t normally be entering at her port.

Patrick politely informed her that he was actually part of the panel and was waiting for a couple ladies to bring him coffee. Apparently he was in the coffee line and running  a little late when he realized the two young ladies next to him were intent on attending this panel. Upon this realization he asked if they would also buy his coffee so he could get to the panel on time. The agreed. *cheers – people helping people!* What none of them realized is just exactly how packed with attendees the panel would end up being, and by that I mean literally every seat was filled. Fortunately for both Patrick and the young ladies, their act of kindness did not prohibit them from gaining a seat – there were just enough left for them when they arrived.

Patrick Rothfuss. Waits in lines. Drinker of coffee. Uses the front door. Man of the people.

He joined the panel along with fellow fantasy authors Jim Butcher, Myke Cole, Sam Sykes, Stephen Blackmoore, and Jaye Wells to discuss how magic systems differ in epic fantasy vs. urban fantasy. The panel was fully moderated so no audience questions were entertained, but this is one of the instances where it might have been for the better. The following is a collection of the authors assorted responses and comments. I will tag the responses with the authors initials in the cases where I knew who said it. I only recognized three of the six authors voices, however, so capturing names while taking notes was nigh impossible for me unless I recognized the voice.

Patrick opened it up, and a fan wasted no time getting in the first zinger of the day…

PR – I took a nap today like the old man that I am.

Fan – Yeah, it was while you were signing autographs!


JB – To me, a magic system is how I make things worse for my protagonist. [If you've read any of his works - particularly the Dresden Files - this seems legit]


JB – I like Dungeons & Dragons because you can take all the spells and do things you weren’t supposed to do with them because nobody told you you can’t.


? – Everyone who follows all the rules in (George) Martin’s novels gets beheaded.


PR – Part of the appeal of magic is its magical. [Is Yogi Bera in the room? Did Yogi Bera put you up to this?]


? – You don’t need all magic, all the time, for it to be cool. You just need dragons in the real world.

Fan – Like Reign of Fire?

? – [After a pregnant pause] That’s a bad movie. [Pause. Again. Guess it was twins.] And  you’re a bad person.


JB – What’s gonna *sell* your story is the characters. Magic is what you use to *tell* the story.


JB – If I say they met at Walmart at 1am, I can be reasonably sure my audience will know what that’s like. I don’t have to describe it.

? – You could do it just by smell if you wanted to.

Fan – It smells like fear. And poo.


PR – Unless you’re Joss Wheddon, how do you encore Armageddon?


? – The thing about stories is they have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Nobody likes getting tot he end, but you have to or else it’s not a story. It’s just rambling.


Moderator Question – What is the worst thing someone can do when building a magic system?

? – Rob a bank?


MC – The only thing that’s interesting are people. Nothing else is interesting and nothing else matters…if you look at all the most popular TV shows, they have one thing in common – they are almost plot-less (and just focus on people). Don’t focus on y our magic system. If you’re gonna write a good book, then amazing, complicated, flawed people have got to be in the story.

We’re about 25 minutes into the panel when I realize that these authors really like the word “numinous,” as they’ve said it at least eight times now. I didn’t even know what it meant and I had no way to look it up at the moment since there were about 30,000 people shoved into half a square mile, all trying (and failing) to access the internet through their phones. I’ve since educated myself, but man, I was starting to feel dumb.

Moderator Question – What is your favorite magic system that you didn’t make?

? – [Immediate response] Avatar: The Last Airbender – the animated one. [The entire panel agrees, all calling it one of the top two or three systems on TV, and generally gush over the show.]

Note to self: queue up Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.

They just said “numinous” again.

And again. WTH? That’s ten times in 40 minutes, where I’m not sure I had heard the word once in my lifetime. Some people have bromances or girl crushes. These folks seem to have word love, which would make sense given their profession.

? – If you can’t get ahead of the curve (of popular magic systems in literature/tv/film), you might consider running in the opposite direction of it.


SS – Brandon Sanderson has never made a magic system where a character could urinate fire. And he never will, because if he does, that means he stole it from me.

JB – Penicillin will clear that right up, y’know?

A fan got the first zinger of the panel, but Jaye Wells gets the last one…

JW – It takes a long time to write a book. (Pregnant Pause) And if you’re writing a series, it takes a really, really long time (stares at Patrick Rothfuss).

Alex Hamilton

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