The Lost Maguffin session, Friday night at 8pm, was the first one I attended. The panelists were Rosemary Clement-Moore (M), Tim Frayser, Joe McKinney, Gail Dayton. Here's the write-up that enticed me in the room: "Adventure novels sweep us up and take us away. Our panelists talk about the way adventure novels work in spec fic and why we love them."
The audience totaled about 20 people including A. Lee Martinez, an author an panelist of other topics. Rosemary, the moderator, had with her a sheet with guidelines and questions to help the panelists and audience members discuss various topics within the subject. The most obvious question is about the appeal of adventure fiction. Why is it important. Tim answered with an obvious statement: adventure fiction is a character study. In an adventure story, certain traits of a person's character will be revealed through the trials of the story. Most of the panelists agreed.
Next, we discussed Joseph Campbell's Myth arc and whether or not the "Thing" being sought ought to be physical or metaphysical. Gail agreed that the Thing can be either, especially in light of the character-based definition of the previous question. Joe McKinney, a homicide detective in San Antonio, reminded everyone that the ring in the Lord of the Rings was something to be destroyed, not obtained.
From this lofty discussion, the panel quickly started discussing science and plausibility in adventure fiction. Unfortunately, a certain archaeologist with a bullwhip didn't fare well. For most, the Atomic Bomb/Fridge scene in Indy 4 was so bad as to make the film unwatchable. For others, it was the aliens and the flying spaceship. Rosemary did say, however, that since the film was supposed to be about the 1950s and all the stuff we were fixated on, aliens and invasion was actually okay with her. Others brought up the tricorders in Star Trek as examples of things that use spurious science.
The gradual consensus was summed up in Nora Roberts single rule of writing: Don't Bore the Reader. If a writer sets up a world with certain rules, even if they have questionable scientific merit, a reader is more than willing to go along As Long As The Story Is Good.
In all, the session was fun and informative. It helped me sort out my current WIP (the steampunk thing; see here and here for sample sentences) and has put me on a new course for the project.