As you may have heard, this past weekend the LA Times Festival of Books took place at my alma mater, UCLA.
Over the weekend of April 24th – 25th, thousands of book lovers, authors, book sellers, publishers and other industry folks made their way to Westwood. And I’m happy to report that I was one of the throng, thoroughly enjoying the (basically) free panels, stages, author signings, book tents, and other assorted bibliophile paraphernalia. I’ve been going to the LA Times Festival of Books since I was a wee baby froshling, but this is the first time I’ve gone with the intent and capacity to blog about it – so it’s kinda cool. And new. And different.
Here are my adventures in the wild hills of Westwood (the 2010 edition):
Day 1: Saturday, April 24, 2010
After dragging the poor, reluctant boyfriend (who is soooooo not a reader) with me to the festival (hereafter LATFOB), finding a place to park, and hiking our sorry asses to campus (we’re both UCLA grads, so it was something of an eerie experience), we finally got situated and mapped out what areas we needed to hit immediately. First on the list was…
Mark Waid in conversation with Jonah Weiland – Saturday 1PM, Etc. stage
It’s no surprise that we Smugglers are a fan of Mark Waid’s – Ana’s recently given rave reviews for his Boom! Studios original “superhero” comic, Irredeemable (Vol 1 & 2), and of course we are both fans of his multiple Eisner Award-winning Kingdom Come, of his 52, and other remarkable works. The fact that Jonah Weiland, executive producer of the always excellent Comic Book Resources was the interviewer? Well, that just added icing to the cake. As a relatively newbie to the comic scene and someone that hasn’t been to many author events in the past, it was quite a treat to see these two in conversation!
Amongst the topics Mr. Weiland and Mr. Waid covered were the idea of comic books and their rise to fame, especially on the Hollywood front. Comics adapted to movies are increasingly popular, as major studios in film and television push out multiple adaptations a year, when there used to be only one every few years. Both men remarked that they do not think the bubble is going to burst any time soon, and that it will take more than a few box office duds (hello The Spirit, Ghostrider, Superman Returns) to staunch the flow. I found it kinda funny and really cool that Mark Waid admitted that when he heard that Iron Man was going to be adapted to the big screen, he (and other industry pros) kind of laughed and did a, “good luck with that.” If it weren’t for Robert Downey Jr.’s perfection as Tony Stark, Iron Man would not be the phenomenon that it now is – and I tend to side with Mr. Waid on that front. On the movie note as well, both men have high hopes for Green Lantern…
Also discussed were the digital application of comics in the form of Motion Comics, which neither Jonah nor Mark seemed to be very enthusiastic about (if you’ve seen the Watchmen motion comic with its weirdo voiceovers, you’d totally get why). But both were supportive of the move to digital media for actual comics themselves, via the iPad, and other webcomics.
Unfortunately, not a single mention, not even a passing throwout of female superheroes was made during the full hour.
Other observations and musings:
- Apparently, though Batman is the fan favorite (according to a good majority of the audience, myself included), Mark Waid says we are ALL wrong and Supe’ is where it’s at.
- Mark Waid thinks of himself as an incurable optimist – with the overarching theme of “hope” running through all his books. Which is pretty uplifting, given that a lot of books (comic and prose alike) tend to take the more jaded, cynical approach.
- Of all his work, Waid’s favorite, most notable accomplishment is his first issue of Fantastic Four.
- WIll Waid do 52 again in the future? Only if the dream team reunites.
In terms of future projects, Mark Waid talked about Boom! – he hopes that his Irredeemable universe will continue to grow over the next few years (also, Waid wearing a sweet Irredeemable hat). In the pipeline is a Stan Lee collaborative project which sounds really gorram cool – Stan is starting a line with Boom to create an ENTIRELY NEW universe of superheroes. How freakin’ awesome is that?
Overall, I was really, super impressed by both Jonah and Mark. They seemed like nice, sharp, funny guys – and I got my own copies of Irredeemable (volumes 1 & 2) signed by Mark Waid after the panel, after only a few name misspelling issues.
Then, it was on to…
Blood, Fangs, and Temptation: Everything Vampire with Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine, Heather Brewer, & Melissa de la Cruz
Moderated by Aaron Hartzier
I only stopped by this stage pretty quickly to listen to Rachel Caine (one of my favorite contemporary UF authors) and Richelle Mead – and both ladies were undeniably cool. Everyone read an excerpt from their latest book, talked a bit about vampires in fiction and their own particular series’. I tried to stick around to get books signed at the end of the event, but holy CRAP was the line long. The stage itself was super crowded, and considering this was the first year the LATFOB had a YA stage, it was pretty impressive – and indicative of the popularity of YA fiction overall. For while there were many eager, fangirl teens at the event, there were also some equally eager mothers and older readers (like myself), eating up what each of these talented authors had to say.
After a long, sun-drenched day of squirming my way through crowds (SERIOUSLY, the crowds were so thick and muggy that it was like how I imagine being born feels), I made my back to Westwood to meet with a delightful group of bloggers. Even though we don’t necessarily read the same books, these were some sweet ladies (and gentleman) – so a huge thank you to Lisa (Books on the Brain), Florinda (3R’s Blog), Ti (Book Chatter), Amy (My Friend Amy), Danielle Smith (There’s a Book), Trish (Hey, Lady!), Jen (Jen’s Book Thoughts), Jill (Fizzy Thoughts), Leah Hasenoehrl (Amused by Books), and Ashley (Ashley’s Library).
Day 2: Sunday, April 25, 2010
Day 2 of the LATFOB proved even more action packed than the first – this was the day I explored every tent on campus (multiple times for some), and ended up buying a few books (gaaaaaaaaaah).
Books Purchased include Feed by Mira Grant (YESSSS!!!! Love Seanan McGuire!) and Boy Proof by the remarkable Cecil Castelucci (every geek girl’s hero). Also walking around I stumbled upon VMK Fewings, author of A Stone Master’s Reckoning, which I reviewed last year. Vanessa had her very own (very coolly decorated!) booth, and even remembered who I was and gave me a free copy of her new book. SQUEE!
As for the day’s panels…
Comic Books: Indie and Beyond with Ed Brubaker, Simon Oliver & Mike Mignola
Moderator: Geoff Boucher
When I saw that Mike Mignola was on a panel, it was an autobuy for me. You may have noticed that we Smugglers love Hellboy. And with another big name in Ed Brubaker (Captain America writer, at the moment) and Simon Oliver, I was sold. This panel was interesting, especially in comparison to Mark Waid’s interview the day before – while Waid was funny and more softspoken, this crew was more boisterous. Less interested in superheroes, and moregenerally chatty. After seeing how hopeful/non-cynical Mark Waid was, it was funny to hear Ed Brubaker, who is a wryly cynical as they come (but not necessarily in a bad way). Ed Brubaker was late to the panel.
Mike Mignola is awesome, incredibly humble and wonderful, and he kinda looks like a friendly Tom Colicchio. He talked a bit about what he’s working on – he just came back from a 10 day stint in New Zealand helping with a segment of Guillermo del Toro’s The Hobbit, and hopefully his work will make the final cut. SImon Oliver (of The Exterminators fame) was kind of marginalized, but funny and interesting when he did speak.
On new projects – Brubaker talked about how he lost a pilot he wrote specifically and originally for TV; but has Secret Avengers out later this year (and a follow up to Incognito – which is awesome – later too). I’m super stoked for Mignola’s new chapter in Hellboy/BPRD (as Hellboy has quit, and apparently we can expect LOTS of changes). Simon Oliver has a new crime noir book out at somepoint soon, but can’t remember the artist’s name (a huge LOL moment).
Following the panel, I got to meet up with Kris, awesome book blogger behind Voracious YAppetite – who shares a LOT of the same YA interests as Ana and I. We met briefly at the YA Stage (after I mistakenly harassed a girl that fit Kris’s clothes description – whoops), and talked about our book plans before bullying an innocent bystander into taking a picture of us. All in all, a fun time!
After that, it was time for my last panel of the event – and the most entertaining one, at that.
Book: New Media Meets Publishing with Pablo Defendini, Dana Goodyear & Wil Wheaton
Moderated by Carolyn Kellogg
For pretty obvious reasons, I was most looking forward to this panel addressing New Media and publishing, especially since I (kind of) know one of the panelists. Pablo Defendini is someone Ana and I knew from Tor.com. Recently (as in, one month ago) he left the MacMillan imprint to join Open Road Integrated Media (the new, e-book company brainchild of Jane Friedman, former CEO of HarperCollins). And, in person, (well, from my audience seat) Pablo is freakin’ AWESOME. He even used headdesking in a sentence. Come on now. (And, I might mention, in a festival FULL of mystery/crime/thrillers and literary fiction, it was cool to hear from a fellow SF/F geek – name droppin’ Scalzi, Gaiman, Elliot and others!)
Wil Wheaton, actor, blogger, self-published author is adorable and really, *really* goddamn funny. Like, integrating LOLCAT speech funny. Poking fun at stuck-in-the-1900s-publishers funny. He had a lot to say about self publishing that doubtless helped many aspiring authors in the audience.
Dana Goodyear had a lot to say too about her work – she’s a regular contributor to the New Yorker and founder of Figment, a new mobile platform for readers and writers of young-adult fiction, based on the bestselling Japanese form of cell-phone novels. Figment sounds pretty cool – although I’m not sure how well it will work out in its early days here in the United States (especially considering Japan’s very…different culture of cellphones), but it’s an intriguing, forward thinking concept. And we’ll be keeping our eye on Figment, which launches this summer.
Of all the panelists, Pablo was the most enlightening. One of the most interesting things he talked about was how when they launched Tor.com (which I remember like it was yesterday!), the site offered free e-books – the first book in assorted SF/F series’ (i.e. Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Kate Elliot’s Spirit Gate) – which panelist Carolyn Kellogg likened to the pusher mentality of “the first hit’s free” (hilarious). Pablo then talked about how after that first hit DID the job, at Tor he started getting desperate requests from readers that WANTED to pay money for the ebook version of the rest of the books in the series – but were for, whatever reason *cough*MacMillan*cough* unavailable in e-book format. Pablo described this as the most headdesking moment evah.
Other tidbits of note:
- PDFs suck for e-books (duh). Mobi should be taken out back and shot, placed in a shallow grave. EPUB is sooooo where it’s at.
- Thieves will always be thieves; but people WILL buy e-books and print copies too. Whether it is a print “souvenir” (as Dana Goodman says of Japanese readers that purchased the prose versions of the cellphone novels they participated in) or to just have a concrete copy of a book, or if it’s a Scott Sigler type of deal (who changes his story with each iteration of a book – and his books are awesome by the way. Start out with Earthcore).
- A lot of people are driven to illegal downloads because they have no other alternative! This especially applies to international readers…which is something, as an international blog, we can relate to.
- They touched on pricing of ebooks – how people do not want to pay these expensive dollar amounts for books. Inherently, people know that spending the same amount of money on a print book as an e-book just doesn’t make any sense. (And on that note, the moderator kind of misses the point by suggesting that people who have already spent hundreds on a reader should be able to afford to give authors a few more bucks…yeaaaaah, that’s not quite the issue at hand. If I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for an e-reader, you damn well better bet that I want MORE bang for my buck, and I am not going to be complacent paying ridiculously inflated costs for an electronic version of a book that should by virtue of common sense be cheaper than its printed counterpart.)
The coolest thing about this panel? I saw Trish of Hey Lady! walking in, and we grabbed a seat together. Which made for a fun panel, especially with some of the…colorful characters in attendance.
Gripes about the Festival:
This was a great, fun weekend, no doubt about it. I was SO stoked to see a YA stage and YA section this year 0 and holy crap it was crowded all weekend long!
My only gripe, however, was that there was shockingly ZERO representation for Speculative Fiction (that is SF/F/H). I love that comics are becoming a bigger part of the festival, even earning their own graphic novel award this year, but….come on dudes. SF/F/H is a HUGE market too, with tons of die hard fans. Don’t we deserve a little reppin’ too?
On that note, there was ZERO Romance either! As Ana is a romance reader, and as I have many blogging buds that are dedicated romance readers and reviewers, and considering that romance is the best selling genre of fiction, period, this strikes me as a bit bizarre. There’s something wrong with this picture.
Hopefully next year, we’ll see some better representation. And who knows? Maybe even a panel about blogging or something of the like!
Overall, a successful, lovely weekend. Next stop – BEA!