For those who didn't attend, Penguicon 5.0 was a grand convention. It was well organized, and had quite a variety of programming -- where else can you drop in a panel on airport security, scripting, manga, and H.P. Lovecraft in a single day?
There was a strong turnout for the Lovecraft's Legacy panel, and a number of interesting topics where raised. In fact, too many to cover in the time allowed. One of focuses was "How to make Lovecraftian works" pack a punch today. Or, put in other terms, is there any horror left in Lovecraftian fiction?
A number of answers where proposed, but the consensus seemed to be "exploring a universe that cannot be understood." (Cosmic Horror) This is a broad answer and covers everything from war to personal terrors. Nonetheless, it is an important issue for fans of Lovecraftian writing. Does the fiction today inspire fear, or is the appeal the nostalgia? I doubt there is any one answer, but thinking about the issue (if you're a fan of this sub-genre) is worth the time.
[Above is a photograph from the panel; appearing left to right are Sarah Shefferly, Charlie Stross, Sarah Monette, Jeff Deluzio, and me. As there was no moderator, Sarah kindly offered to moderate. And that is a Cthulhu Plushie on Charlie Stross's head. The photograph to the right reveals that the Plushie is lurking in the audience.]
Another element discussed was the influences upon Lovecraft's writing. Of course, these are wide and varied, and often highly speculative. Something that I raised was the cultural influences of his day, which are commonly overlooked -- excluding his overt racism. To follow-up on this topic, I thought I'd post a series of brief articles about one of Lovecraft's tales, following it with its connection to the little known American Eugenics movement. That will come in the next post, and probably continue over several.
Another panel that was thin on panelists but had a strong audience was Writing RPG Fiction. This was an early morning event, and as such they seldom see much attendance. My thanks go out to those who pulled themselves out of bed to get there early Saturday morning.
Other than raising nebulous questions, the meeting did produce a number of valuable ideas and approaches to writing fiction for RPG companies. I regret there are too many to cover here, but to summarize, approach RPG fiction like any form of fiction. Create strong characters, a engaging plot, and pay attention to the setting (in this case the RPG universe).