We came. We saw. We asked provocative questions in a half-filled room. So what did we learn?
- The emcee didn’t show up, then Chelsea Cain called me lazy for making authors do their own introductions. I became flustered and introduced myself as “J.C. but you can call me Jeff.” Yeah. It was masterful.
- I cited research showing males don’t read as much as females. The authors more or less agreed this bears out anecdotally. Peter blamed, in part, the male brain and the evolutionary design of men to run, hunt, and throw things. Jonathan disagreed, saying the modern male is more likely to be found on a sofa watching football than running or throwing anything. The audience was split.
- Chelsea and Peter spoke of their travails in getting the right covers for their books. Chelsea made the observation that a red book with a heart on it is not likely to find itself a wide male audience. Peter was pleased his cover didn’t end up looking like an advertisement for vodka, as was originally planned. Jonathan remained oddly silent, suggesting he ♥s his cover. But there’s no heart on it.
- Although the issue of covers and titles can be a strong push or pull for male readers, Jonathan made the observation that until boys see men reading (as opposed to simply being read to) they are unlikely to see reading as being valued by males in their society. Peter agreed, saying there are plenty of good stories for boys already out there — the problem is getting them to pick these stories up. From the crowd: much nodding and affirmation.
- Chelsea Cain committed panel perjury by stating she’d NEVER made a change of theme, scene, or character based upon editor concern about appealing to male readers. She then recanted her testimony and told the touching story of a water rescue.
- Peter talked about the ever-changing nature of literature, hand-held devices, and the impending obsolescence of television. Jonathan said the novel is not necessarily the end-all-be-all vehicle for storytelling, then segued into comments about early 90s comic books being the low-point of that particular medium. Chelsea chastised Jonathan for ghettoizing comic books. This went back and forth. In the end, it seemed clear they both actually love comic books.
- THEN — in a culminating, revelatory moment, Jonathan L. Auxier admitted he derived his given name from his father’s desire to match his initials with his second-favorite superhero team: The Justice League of America. I was unable to hear his father’s 1st favorite superhero team over Chelsea’s laughter.
The authors were gracious. They were witty. They were wonderful. Much thanks. So all’s well that ends well . . . or is it?
You see, co-blogger Bryan Bliss was conspicuously absent for the panel and has yet to respond to phone calls or emails. Is it possible he was kidnapped by someone who took the session’s title too seriously? Was he lynched by angsty, middle-grade readers at the Knowledge Universe Children’s Stage upon being spotted in his Boys Don’t Read t-shirt? Or is he simply at home, still playing World of Warcraft?
Stay tuned for the answer. So long as one of us survives . . .