Oneonta turned out to be a lot of fun. It was weird in the beginning as I realized about 20 minutes before the show started that it was my first solo college appearance and I was all alone! Other than Robb Thibault, who was busy getting things organized, I had no one there with me. The nerves were a’jangling!
They had a great turnout for their first show of the year – 180 people, the most ever! (Coincidentally, it was their 13th show overall!) After a brief open mic, I went up for a 30-minute set, dropping Reality, Manifesto, The Long Walk Home, Prodigal Son, The View From Airplanes and Other Leaps of Faith, Mozer, Betha and I, and Breathless. After the slam, Robb brought me back for one more piece so I went with the energy and did 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Minute (Post 9/11 Remix).
While the whole night went well, it was that last piece that got the best response, driving home a point I’d come to accept long ago. People appreciate the well-written narrative stuff but they love the high-energy, easy-to-grasp, pop culture stuff the most. Even when it’s antagonistic and self-critical, like 33-1/3.
The trick is to be able to give them both, kind of like slipping the medicine in with the ice cream.
Something else interesting was the difference in the interaction when you’ve been invited by students versus faculty. The college shows the ’98 Nuyorican team used to do – always sponsored by a collection of vibrant student groups – were high-energy affairs with after-parties full of alcohol-fueled debate and discussion and the slightest tinge of star-fucking mentality to it all. This time, there was a very cool – literally – feel to things where I felt like the adult at school on career day. The students that talked to me – beyond the ones already active on the college slam circuit – were almost annoyingly respectful, coming just short of calling me “Mr. Gonzalez.”
After the show, I hung out with Robb and some of the faculty and had a good time – not to mention an early night – but the difference was glaring. Made me feel a little old, but not really in a bad way.
Slept in the next morning and finished reading Children of the Shaman before I hit the road back home, skipping a side trip to Cooperstown. Shaman’s ending was a bit abrupt and rather brazenly sets up for a sequel, something that seems to be the norm in the fantasy genre. The drive home gave me a lot of time to think about my own project, fleshing out characters and backstory. There’s a pretty standard formula to the fantasy-adventure genre but there’s so much room to play within that formula.
Rydill’s strong suit in Shaman is her characterization, so even when events slip from the fantastic to the unbelievable, she doesn’t lose you because the characters are so strong. That ability to create an entire world and populate it with characters that you care about is what most appeals to me about the genre. There’s still a couple of other books I want to read (currently: Cormyr, by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb) before I actually start writing mine but the juices are definitely flowing.