LTUE Con Report

LTUE (also known as Life, the Universe, and Everything) is a science fiction and fantasy symposium held every year at BYU. It’s also turning into one of the best “aspiring writer” cons out there, which is even more amazing since it’s completely free. This is my report.

Wednesday, Feb 10:
This was the night before LTUE, technically, but it counts because I spent it with the delightful writing group Inking Cap, who took my wife and I out for sushi. We talked about writing, and writing groups, and I tried my best to be helpful, and they were nice enough to pretend that I was.

Thursday, Feb 11:
The first day of the convention I had only one panel, Mormons and Horror, which was pretty interesting. If you’re not Mormon I don’t think this article will make any sense to you, but if you are it’s a neat little discussion on why Mormons are so quick to embrace fantasy (especially compared to a lot of other Christian religions) and so reticent to accept horror.

My favorite story from Thursday came while talking to Larry Correia, the totally awesome guy who wrote Monster Hunter International, out now from Baen. We were chatting in the hall when my friend Nick walked up and said “Hey Dan, I forgot to tell you that I finally saw Isolation.” Isolation is an indie horror movie from Ireland about mutant calves who terrorize a farm–I know that description makes it sound ridiculous, but it’s awesome, with a focus on suspense and ambience that’s extremely rare in today’s horror films. It’s an incredibly rare, unknown film, but Nick sought it out because it’s the first film made by Billy O’Brien, the director who’s optioned I Am Not a Serial Killer. So anyway, no one’s every heard of the movie, so I was all set to answer the inevitable “what’s that?” questions from the group in the hall, when out of the blue Larry’s eyes got wide and he said “Isolation? Is that the killer cow movie?”

I nodded, amazed. “You’ve heard of it?”

“Of course I’ve heard of it–I’m a diehard horror movie buff, and that’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

At this point the fanboy geekout began in earnest. “That’s who’s doing my book!” I said. “Isn’t he awesome?”

“He’d be perfect for your book!” cried Larry. “The tone and the tension and everything he does would be a perfect fit!” I’ll spare you the rest of the geeky details, but the point is this: people who know their horror movies know that Billy O’Brien is The Man. I’m meeting him next month in Brighton to talk more about the movie, and I’m very excited.

Thursday night was another dinner, this time a Goodbye party for Stacy Whitman, a YA super-editor who’s leaving us for New York. I don’t know how much of her new job is public info, but suffice it to say that she’s on a meteoric rise in the publishing world.

Friday, Feb 12:
Friday was my big day: I had a solo presentation at noon, and three panels in the evening. The panels went great, but the big success was the presentation, which was practically standing-room-only; there were so many people there we actually had some sitting behind the screen, where they couldn’t even see, just because there was no room anywhere else. That was a lot of pressure, but everyone seemed to like it, and I could barely escape the room afterward for all the people asking if they could get a copy of the presentation. I think next time I’ll need handouts or something.

The presentation itself was a greatly-expanded version of my Story Structure system, based on a system I found in the Star Trek RPG Narrator’s Guide. For all of you who’ve been waiting for it, yes, I promise I will post it here soon, and I’m also pleased to report that the awesome Stephen Nelson is working AS WE SPEAK on a video version, which will be on youtube any day now, and which I will link to the second it’s available.

My favorite panel of the day was Abnormal Psychology, which was a lot of fun and very informative.

Saturday, Feb 13:
Happy birthday, Dad! Sorry I didn’t call you–I was at a conference!

On Saturday I had another panel, a reading, and the biggest Writing Excuses recording session in the history of the world. I’m not exaggerating when I say we had easily more than 300 people there. A lot of that was probably due to our special guest, James Dashner, author of the YA mega-hit The Maze Runner. We spent the first half of the session telling the story behind the podcast, and how we got started and how we’re organized and all sorts of Behind the Scenes info that we thought would be interesting. I don’t know how much of that info we actually shared, though, because it degenerated pretty quickly into a 3-man stand-up act where Dashner could barely get a word in edgewise. The crowd seemed to love it, and we had a ton of energy in the room when we finally recorded our two episodes (in which we actually let Dashner speak). It was a lot of fun, though it ran over by about 15 minutes (making me late to my own reading). Next time we do a local con we’re going to ask for two hours.

All in all, this year’s LTUE was the best organized, and the best attended, I have ever been to. Kudos to the staff and the gophers and everyone who made it possible. I can’t wait for next year.

10 Responses to “LTUE Con Report”

  1. Suey says:

    I went to many of your panels and totally enjoyed them all! The Writing Excuses taping was a blast. And someday, I WILL get a hold of that book of yours… I will! And then I’ll even read it and review it on my blog. Some day.

  2. Peggy Eddleman says:

    Your presentation on story structure was my favorite of LTUE! You did a fantastic job. I only wish it could have been a two-hour presentation instead.

  3. Miranda Mann says:

    Hi Dan,

    I attended the conference and your presentation on story structure was one of my favorites. I was hoping you would post the whole Power Point, however. You were going so fast, I couldn’t take notes fast enough! I want all the examples, and that whole chart on the Matrix.

    This has been extremely useful to me already. Thank you so much!

  4. Roine says:

    The Structure presentation and the Writing Excuses pod-casts were among the most entertaining events of LTUE this year.
    Thank you very much, it was a pleasure…

    (I must agree that the Bacon mints had quite a unique taste though)

  5. j4k says:

    I don’t know if all the crowd was for Dashner. I missed the first half of the BYU hoops game just to hear my favorite podcast in person. It was great to hear what went into it, and I appreciated that Brandon didn’t want it to be just another podcast that is all hangout and no content. That’s what I appreciate about WE.

  6. Naazju says:

    I’d have to agree that this year’s LTUE was great. I was able to attend your panel about blogs and listen to the podcast session with Dashner. I’m a little sad that neither my roommates nor I were able to speak to you one on one about “A Night of Blacker Darkness” which was a hilarious read and makes us interested in your first novel coming out this spring. Can’t wait to hear everyone else’s reactions!

  7. Sam says:

    I came down from Idaho and only got to see Writing Excuses and your reading, but all three of you give such great advice. More importantly, listening to Writing Excuses keeps my mind on track, and keeps me writing. It was neat to get to meet you three and get my Serial Killer book signed. Hopefully, I’ll get to make it to more LTUEs in the future… that structure panel sounded awesome.

  8. Katya says:

    Interesting article about Mormons and horror. Do you think there’s still some lingering suspicion of horror writers because of what happened with Brian Evenson, or is that mostly off of people’s radars, any more?

  9. admin says:

    Since I don’t know who that is, I think it’s safe to say that it’s off the radar.

  10. Katya says:

    Heh, fair enough. (Evenson was a BYU professor who lost his job and eventually left the LDS church over controversy surrounding his first published book, a collection of horror short stories.)

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