wMay 31, 2008

Wiscon 32 Panel Report: Nordic Trek

2 Nordic Trek

Reading,Viewing, & Critiquing Science Fiction and Fantasy ♦ Friday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. ♦ Senate B

The long journey across the Gethen Glacier in Left Hand of Darkness. The Svalbard of Iorek Byrnison in The Golden Compass. Even the Alaskan village of 30 Days of Night. The frozen north holds allure for more than Green Bay Packer fans. Whence cometh this fascination? Panel may include dramatic readings; the highly imaginative (or suggestible) should bring sweaters.

M: Adrian Simmons, Evelyn Browne, Maureen Cohen, Lori Devoti

I am fuzzy on a few details, and am too lazy to look them up. Please don't hate me.

This panel had a lot of audience participation (including some by a woman who I later realized was Tamora Pierce!), and I didn't really feel like the panelists were totally prepared for the topic. Luckily, the audience participation was thoughtful and intelligent.

Still, non-preparation of panelists seems to be a pet peeve of mine for stuff like this. I would have rather analyzed from "whence cometh this fascination" in more depth. Oftentimes, panels become a great opportunity for people to reference various movies and books they've read, but I'm more interested in exploring the nature of the motif, I guess.

Lori writes (or reads?) books on Norse mythology, and thinks that snow represents a danger that nothing else can.

Adrian was traumatized by the movie "The Thing." Also that Pullman's The Golden Compass was a period setting that used the North Pole as a need for exploration. It's a frontier that can be explored without lots of technology.

E mentioned Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter as being her favorite in the series, as it dealt with a shrinking world and complete isolation from the rest of society. I was really excited by this reference, as I reread entire The Little House on the Prairie series at least once per year between the ages of 6 and 14.

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. Paulsen races the Iditarod every year, and writes quite accurately about what it takes to survive in the wilderness. This isn't really a "Nordic Trek" narrative, but it also deals with themes of isolation and limited resources. This was also a favorite book of mine in elementary school.

It was mentioned that bad things happen to people who dare to venture north, as in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, when the Fellowship encounters an avalanche. It was also pointed out that this was one of the rare times in a book that the protagonists failed at their attempt to make it across the snow.

Barbara Hambly's Time of the Dark was also mentioned as an instance when the protagonists could not defeat the ice or the dark, and had to live with it instead.

Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness was mentioned in the panel description. Her scenes of snow-traveling are written in gorgeous and sometimes chilling prose, and the trek fit into the story as a whole.

It was pointed out that desert narratives can be very similar to nordic trek narratives. Frank Herbert's Dune is a classic example (as is the planet Tatooine in Star Wars, and Hoth for ice). In religious stories, prophets are sent there. Unwanted children are sent into deserts to die.

L. said that writers don't keep going there [returning to the motif of the Nordic Trek], but a member of the audience argued that we (authors/movie-makers) do. I agree with the audience member - why else would we be having the panel?!

It was pointed out that in movies especially, the cold is used for its starkness and beauty, but the reality of constricting lungs and visible breath are not often shown.

H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness was mentioned, although I don't remember what specifically was said, except for the basic premise.

Arctic summers are very different than arctic winters, but aren't often written about. Maureen F. McHugh's China Mountain Zhang is an example where arctic winters are discussed.

If anyone else attended the panel and has information that I forgot, or different opinions about how the panel went, please express them!

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scribbled mystickeeper at 7:44 PM


By Blogger OgRe, at 10:26 AM, June 01, 2008  

Thank you! I like it, too!

By Blogger Jackie, at 7:45 PM, June 01, 2008  

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