Like most big, multi-day cons, this last weekend at WorldCon in Montreal is impossible to sum up. So I won’t even try.
Instead, what sticks with me are all of the meaty ideas that floated out of the event. Some, of course, wafted out of panels.* But great ideas lilted around the dealer’s floor, too. Or in the halls. Or bars. Or in the elevator line. Nothing can replace meatspace interactions between people, no matter how much we rely on social networks.
Online forums have many equally fulfilling uses, mind. And I’m about to try to tap into one of them. At Saturday morning’s “SF and the Arts” panel, the conversation shifted to a discussion about the iconography that makes a piece of visual art sell. Cats are a huge seller. As are animals with wings. Cats with wings fly of the shelves like, erm, cats with wings.
Taking that as a given, the question is simple: why?
I’m not looking for an argument about how winged cat art is aesthetically bankrupt. Its lovers are more than welcome to hang whatever they want on their walls. Fans of a genre that features spaceships, half-naked women and/or dragons shouldn’t throw stones.
I’m more interested in the emotional state that cats or winged animals evoke in enough people that they will dig out their wallets. What aspect of the human condition does this imagery speak to? And what new iconography could evoke the same response? Is it, as Mary Robinette Kowal suggested, otters with mermaid tails? Or is that making the substitution too direct?
* Speaking of, I’m sorry (for relative values of the term) to have missed this one.