Magic x Mayhem for Tor Authors: Loving Jerks, Centering Women’s Voices, and Tossing Safety Nets

“Fantasy is a reaction to reality,” Vengeful author V.E. Schwab said at Tor’s BookCon panel Magic x Mayhem in Science Fiction & Fantasy. “It is reality plus ‘what if’?” In the case of Magic x Mayhem, it’s what if we shifted away from good-versus-evil narratives to more messy, morally ambiguous characters? Like a private detective who lies to everyone but especially herself. Or a swordswoman used to looking out only for herself, who must stand up for the Ninth House of her birth. Or, Schwab’s favorite, villains.

Charlie Jane Anders (The City in the Middle of the Night) moderated a spirited panel featuring Tor Books and Tor.com Publishing authors Schwab, Tamsyn Muir (Gideon the Ninth), Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars), Annalee Newitz (The Future of Another Timeline), and Kel Kade (Fate of the Fallen). Read on for nonbinary robots, intersectional feminism, and the most interesting parts of writing morally complex SFF worlds.

In the true spirit of magic x mayhem, we tag-teamed the live-tweeting with Tor Books’ Twitter account. Check out the fun below!

tordotcom: Packed room for Tor Presents Magic x Mayhem in SFF! #BookCon19

featuring @veschwab @tazmuir @gaileyfrey @Annaleen @Kel_Kade moderated by @charliejane!

torbooks: We’re here, we’re livetweeting, and our authors are chatting about unconventional protagonists.

tordotcom: Like @Annaleen’s The Future of Another Timeline, which asks “When is it ever morally acceptable to use violence as a way to overthrow society?”

torbooks: @TorDotComPub is livestreaming our #MagicxMayhem panel on instagram

tordotcom: Talking protagonists: Ivy Gamble knows what she doesn’t want and drives toward it anyway. Gideon Nav doesn’t usually fight for anyone but herself. @veschwab gets rid of the heroes and makes you root for villains instead.

torbooks: “Fantasy is a reaction to reality. It is reality plus ‘what if?'” — @veschwab

tordotcom: [email protected] crediting teenagers like Greta Thunberg as inspiring Gideon the Ninth, about two teenagers who are at the forefront of their own collapse of society, finding no adults there, who have to step up instead.

tordotcom: Writing Magic for Liars, @gaileyfrey had to strip out the safety nets in the book and the safety nets in their own life, that feeling that “everything can be OK, and nothing can get that bad”—recognizing how the world is changing. #MagicxMayhem #BookCon19

torbooks: “I want this book to be hard and harrowing and challenging but I want it to be hopeful…
Hope doesn’t have to be fake it doesnt have to be phony. It’s good to have that hot, hard hope like the center of a star.” @Annaleen on #TheFutureofAnotherTimeline

tordotcom: SO MANY SNAPS at this panel

What’s the most interesting part about creating a complicatedly moral world? What is the best part about readers coming to you obsessing over these worlds? #MagicxMayhem #BookCon19

“It’s never actually what we do, it’s why we do it.” @veschwab creates mantras for her characters, then breaks those mantras.

“Am I gonna get this mean??” Yes, @tazmuir, yes.

For Gideon the Ninth, @tazmuir created nine Houses—think the Sorting Hat, but for your very own flavor of jerk.

“I don’t write worlds that are fun places to live.” – @gaileyfrey

torbooks: @gaileyfrey: in this world where hippos want to murder you. Who want nothing more in their lives than to murder you, readers still say… they want a hippo. #HippoMayhem

We want a hippo…

tordotcom: “Paladin’s getting a lot of respect from my readers that she doesn’t get in the novel.” @Annaleen on thoughtful questions of whether Autonomous’ robot is nonbinary; though she changes her pronouns from he to she in the book, at this point would probably prefer they/them.

What can we do as storytellers to make our feminism more intersectional?

torbooks: [email protected]_Kade “Females do not need to be perfect…
Its ok for women to have flaws. We’re human.”
Kel responds getting reader complaints about her female characters’ imperfections, but never for her male characters.

tordotcom: In #TheFutureofAnotherTimeline @Annaleen “wanted to have a lot of scenes where white women shut the hell up + let women of color take charge.” + “I don’t think I could be writing a story like that without lots of women of color being published + having their stories out there.”

torbooks: “Trans women are women & deserve have their stories and voices centered.
WOC are women & deserve to have their stories and voices centered….

Indigenous women are women & deserve have their stories and voices centered.
Disabled women are women & deserve have their stories and voices centered.” — @gaileyfrey

tordotcom: What are the biggest misconceptions of writers and writing?

@veschwab “That you love it all the time.”

@Annaleen “A day job is still a job.”

@gaileyfrey “That saying, ‘if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life,’ is GARBAGE.”

What are your favorite characters to write?

@tazmuir: JERKS
@veschwab: Villains.
@gaileyfrey: Sadists? Hot people.
@Annaleen: Someone who’s on a redemption arc that never ends.
@Kel_Kade: I like really stubborn people.

#MagicxMayhem #BookCon19

And that’s a wrap on #MagicxMayhem!

Check out more of Tor.com Publishing’s photos from today, as BookCon 2019 comes to a close!

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