Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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So, this time next week? WorldCon!

Or should I call it Chicon? Frankly I find it confusing to have two different legitimate names for this convention.

Anyway! WorldCon is in Chicago which is SO CONVENIENT because it is a) within driving distance and b) my twin brother lives in Chicago and will be attending also, which will be great!

So, I’m on three panels:

1) Designing Fantasy Animals and Monsters — Friday at 10:30 AM. I asked to be on this panel because, and I know this doesn’t come across in my writing, but I have a master’s in animal behavior and evolutionary theory. So I will enjoy this panel very much! Plus I could easily just go gaze at my personal library and note down 20 or so books on the behavior of various animals that are both good and also intended for a general audience, so I hope panel attendees will find that helpful.

SO MANY BAD FANTASY WOLVES, I CAN’T STAND IT! I actually don’t mind a writer using symbolic wolves, but when an author thinks he or she knows what wolves are like (or wolf-dog hybrids) but actually doesn’t, it drives me batty.

In case you’re curious: wolf-dog hybrids usually don’t have nearly as much wolf in them as they’re advertised as having, but the more wolf a hybrid has in it, the more likely it is to be: extremely skittish and shy, extremely traumatized by being re-homed or subjected to a new environment; extremely difficult for strangers to handle; extremely difficult to train; extremely prey-driven; extremely dominance-driven; extremely unpredictable; and quite dangerous. All of these traits are likely to be worse if one of the parents was a German shepherd, which is NOT AT ALL LIKE A WOLF behaviorally. (An actual pure wolf is much more predictable and much safer to handle, but still very shy, very hard to re-home, very prey-driven, very dominance-driven, and very difficult to train.)

Now, how much does that sound like the wolf-dog hybrid in RA MacAvoy’s latest book DEATH AND RESURRECTION? Or the wolf-dog hybrid in SM Stirling’s DIES THE FIRE series? Why, not at all! Because people have absolutely no idea at all what real wolf-dog hybrids are like! Which I am used to, but detest.

Excellent wolves are shown in Kelly Armstrong’s werewolf books, btw. Several of my friends from grad school independently commented about how good her wolves are, how much like real wolves here werewolves are when they change shape. They’re such a pleasure to read about!

So, off that soapbox!

I’m also in a panel on Essential Worldbuilding at 7:30 PM on Friday night. I felt like I had something to say about this because I really do know pretty much what my worldbuilding influences were for my more recent books. Got some writers I really admire on that panel, too!

And the last one I’m on is a panel on Write What You Don’t Know — the panel description includes: “We’ll discuss how a little research and common sense can give you just enough background to really write what you don’t know.” I read that and thought: A little research, exactly! No need to spend a year reading everything ever written about China if you want to write a book set in China! So I have suggestions about what to do instead.

I did feel curious enough about the other panelists on my panels that I ordered several books by ’em. Don’t know if I’ll have time to read them real fast before WorldCon, but I’ll try. Some of them sound pretty good — I’ll let you know how they are when I read ’em.

I already know I love Jacqueline Carey’s books, though I haven’t read them all by any means. And I have read DESERT OF SOULS by Howard Andrew Jones, which is set in a fantasy Baghdad and which I quite liked. But I now also have DRUIDS by Barbara Galler-Smith; THE CLOUD ROADS by Martha Wells, about which I’ve heard excellent things; and THE COURTESAN PRINCE by Lynda Williams.

Plus there are other authors I know who will be there. If I get a chance, I want to swing by one of Sharon Shinn’s appearances and at least, you know, wave.

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3 Comments So, this time next week? WorldCon!

  1. Elaine T

    Not long ago, I saw an article about wolf-dog hybrids being used at a prison as guard dogs. Now where was it….. Wall Street Journal July 31.
    (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444130304577561273226636482.html – mostly behind a paywall, it looks like – I read the paper version.) AIR, the hybrids didn’t sound AT ALL like you are describing – except for being dangerous. Marketing, or training, or sheer ignorance and assumptions on the part of the reporter, I wonder. The color photo at the link looks an awful lot like a German Shepherd, too.

    Yesterday’s WSJ had an English bulldog on the front page, too! He’s the Marine Corps mascot. Some people still know of the breed.

    I know you haven’t used it in a profession, but what options are there for people with degrees in animal behavior? Other than Temple Grandin, that is.

    Have fun at the Convention! I second Matthew’s request that you write about your panels afterwards.

  2. Rachel

    People who produce hybrids routinely lie through their teeth about the percentage of wolf in the animal, because they can charge more for an animal that is a higher percentage wolf and because buyers are determined to get an animal that is mostly wolf.

    If you breed a “half-wolf” animal that is really an eight wolf with a “three-quarter-wolf” animal that is also an eighth, well, you can see how you wind up with an animal that is really almost entirely dog but the buyer is sure it’s really mostly wolf.

    It’s also easy to do this because the buyer really will be a lot more satisfied with a dog than with a wolf anyway — and because almost no one knows what a wolf actually looks like, which is why people are always asking Malamute owners whether they have a wolf. Um, no? A Malamute looks about as much like a wolf as it looks like a fox, which is to say, almost not at all.

    Besides research? Ummm . . . stuff with zoos? Practical behaviorism (as in dog psychologists. Not quite sure how much is out there where you’d really use your degree other than academia.

    Yes, I’ll definitely report on how the panels go! I will attend several, too, and take notes on those if they seem helpful.

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