One of the highlights of the San Diego Comic Con book events is the Epic Fantasy panel, and like expected, it didn’t disappoint. There was a stellar line-up of fantasy authors there to talk about what puts the ‘epic’ in epic fantasy. The panel, moderated by Colleen Lindsey, consisted of Melissa de la Cruz (‘Frozen”, ‘Blue Bloods’), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and the Coin series), Brandon Sanderson (‘Steelheart’, ‘Mistborn’), Robin Hobb (The Rain Wilds Chronicles), Raymond E. Feist (The Chaoswar Saga), and Django Wexler (‘The Thousand Names’).
Right out of the gate the moderator tackled the main question: what makes fantasy epic? Wexler started off by talking about the importance of world building, and how it allows a writer to “mash stuff together”. Feist said that he keeps all his world building in his head, but talked about how many labels are marketing driven, whereas epic is rooted in the old pulp fantasy. Hobb said that regardless of the world, she always needs to know the stories of the people’s lives in the world. Sanderson added onto that, commenting about how it was scary to build in someone else’s world, but that the characters are what it was all about for him too. Plus, epic allows him to ask “why not?”
The question evolved a bit when Abraham was up. The moderator asked him what it was like to finish a series, and he said it was a lot like high school, being happy to leave but sad to say goodbye. But stories end. Next up was Paolini, and the moderator wanted to know how the story evolved with his age. He replied that a lot of it was already established from the start, but that some things had to change as a consequence of things he created in the world. De la Cruz was asked what the difference for her in writing contemporary verses epic fantasy was, and she simply said “Dragons! Dragons are cool.” But she continued, talking about worlds, and how our world is always ending, and yet it still goes on. In her new book this shapes a scary future.
Up next were some comments about writing these type of stories and the importance of research. Sanderson suggested when writing epic fantasy to give the world quirks and shape the characters, and vice versa. Wexler stressed the importance of having a support structure for the story based on research, and Hobb added to this, saying that you have to know as much as the characters. She actually goes and reads children’s books on certain topics, as they have not only the basic facts, but often interesting and unusual tidbits you can’t find in large books. Feist said to fake it, and Paolini added to this, saying make sure you know enough to get by but also know how to say something with conviction. De la Cruz stated that reading is the best research, especially articles on various topics, which helped her make the future in her story more gross.
At this point the floor was opened up for audience questions. Among the common ones of “Where do you get your ideas,” and “do you listen to music when writing,” there were a few that focused more on some specifics of writing. One guy wanted to know about the physics of magic and how compatible and constrained the magic is. Also, how do authors know how much to communicate to the reader? Paolini answered first, saying that after the initial leap of faith in his books that magic exists through the manipulation of energy with the mind, the rest of it in his world follows the laws of physics. Sanderson added to this, saying that being consistent is the most important thing. If the writer establishes rules and sticks with them, they’ll be fine.
Want more? Stay tuned for more of our coverage of the book panels at San Diego Comic Con 2013, including exclusive interviews with Lauren Kate, James Dashner, and a special video interview conducted by Christopher Paolini.