CLOSING NOTES: Below you'll find my annual ReaderCON post...it's a bit disjointed and there are typos everywhere. I'd start at the bottom of the post and work your way to the top. Eventually, I'll edit the blog--but for now, here is the raw form. I want to say a BIG thank you to those who made ReaderCON an amazing experience for me (again) this year:
Mike & Anita Allen, John Clute, John Crowley, Paul DiFilippo, Peter Dubé, Scott Edelman, Theodora Goss, Liz Hand, Jim Kelly, Mikki Kendall, Melissa King, Shira Lipkin, Yves Meynard, Jim & Kathy Morrow, Allen Steele, Peter Straub, Gregory A. Wilson and so many others who make the ReaderCON experience amazing. The panels were fantastic this year and I'm already looking forward to Readercon 25 in 2014.
Special shout out to my dear friend and co-conspirator, Glenn Skinner.
And Steve--for five years you've been my bartender at the Marriott. Thanks for always making sure my glass was never empty.
I hope you enjoy what follows.
3:31 PM 07/14/13 (Close of the Con)
Arrived just in time (HAD to stop at Starbucks this morning...I wonder why?) for my first planned activity.
Reading: Allen Steele
Hugo award winning author and fellow Massachusetts import Allen Steele was the first author I recognized and spoke with at length at my first ReaderCON (does anyone remember the “Rich didn’t recognize Scott Edelman, so the newbie asked Scott to take a picture of Allen and I” incident? No? Good. Let’s never speak of it again). He has a new alternate history novel—V-S Day—coming out next February and he read us the first chapter and shared the cover art. Last year he read from Apollo’s Outcasts which was a fun YA read and I just adore his Coyote series. The fun bit of trivia is that V-S Day is a throw back to his first short so technically his new novel was 26 years in the making.
Workshopping as a Lifestyle
Jedediah Berry, Richard Butner, Craig Shaw Gardner, Theodora Goss (leader), Nicholas Kaufmann, Gregory A. Wilson
I was looking very-much forward to this panel. One of the things I’ve been wrestling with is continuing my writing education—do I want to go after an MFA or do I want to participant in intense workshops (assuming I’d be accepted to either)? I was hoping to gather a bit more data and the panel did not disappoint.
Since there were two professors on the panel (Jedediah Berry at UMass Amherst and Gregory Wilson at St. John’s in New York) I wanted a balanced view of the intense atmosphere of the workshop verses the classroom. What I learned was a lot more complex and appealing.
Yes, workshops can be intense—I spoke to a couple of fantasy authors who have just finished the Odyssey Workshop (Class of 2013) about their experience—but it doesn’t have to be. Although Theodora thought she might be the only dissenting vote on the pitfalls of the workshop, a balance was struck between the cautionary tales and the glowing reviews. I took additional notes on a range of resources and will be spending some serious research time in the coming months on next steps.
Crowdfunding: The Glory and the Peril
Mike Allen (leader), Kevin E.F. Clark, Matthew Kressel, Ken Schneyer, Cecilia Tan.
I sat with Gregory Wilson and Anita Allen (Mike’s wife) and this talk which centered on sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo (which we used successfully to raise funds for author Max Cynn’s son under the ‘IndiesUnite4Joshua’ banner) and how they can be used effectively to raise funds for individual and collaborative projects. On a side note, Dr. Wilson’s own Kickstrter campaign, Time Traveled Tales: A Speculative Fiction Anthology finished just a short time ago and they raised nearly four times their goal of $7,500. I may, or may not have rushed to donate as I’d meant to back in June…
But Mike and team supplied some common sense, but critical tips –something to consider for the next Orange Karen Anthology perhaps…
Stranger Danger: Secrets and Discoveries in Urban Settings
Amanda Downum, Lila Garrott (leader), Maria Dahvana Headley, Stacy Hill, Patricia A. McKillip, JoSelle Vanderhooft
Every ReaderCON, there is always some discussion about Urban settings verses the old time forest or natural settings of fairy tales of the past. This year’s panel spent more time on the ‘under cities’ such as that of Seattle, Chicago and Paris. And enjoyable panel, if for no other reason then the number of stories mentioned that I HAVEN’T read. Yet.
7:30 AM 07/14/13 (Sunday Morning)
Need to jump in the shower shortly and drive up to Burlington for a 9:30 Reading, but I wanted to do a quick post from last night.
Worldbuilding by Worldseeing.
John Crowley (leader), Sarah Smith, Romie Stott, Harold Vedeler.
Kipling's Kim, Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, Dickens's "sketches"... who is writing about the present day this way, and what can worldbuilders learn from these Victorian-era worldseers?
Many of the core fantasy themes in the panels I attended on Saturday revolved around or had discussion points or realism in fantasy. As an Urban Fantasy writer, I've set my stories in Boston. I have a scene in the upcoming The Young Practitioner that takes place on a Green line train--and instead of looking at a map for the setting, I road the train a couple of times to get the feel of the scenery outside, the smells on the train (important point--don't eat before hand) and observation of some of the regular writers.
The point here is that your fantasy can be more effective if there are realistic components that have been truely vetted and observed by the writer.
I'm not saying you should become a murderer to experience that for your book--nor can I help you if your story takes place on a gas giant planet--but do your research. Give the reader just that much more. Otherwise, you'll get letters.
A Most Readerconnish Miscellany.
I'm going to be honest about this one and remember--this is MY perception. I completely encourage new things to keep the 'con fresh. I also support (both in concept and moniterily) the two charities this program was meant to support: Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and Operation Hammond. A LOT of people worked hard on the show, and there was love definately in the air for the the performers and donators alike. But it didn't work for me. This program took the place of the old mainstay and program favorite, the "Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition."
Bring back Kirk Poland. There are other ways to raise money for worth causes--with the ReaderCON firepower of talent, build an anthology that is to be released each year at the con with proceeds split between the two organizations (you could do readings and tie-in panels).
Please. Fix this for RC25.
Meanwhile, the rest of the evening was spent with fellow writers in the make-shift bar.
4:49 PM 07/13/13 (Saturday pre-dinnertime)
One of my very favorite spots to hide and indulge myself is the bookstore in Salon E at the convention. It is a place of rare finds, populist gems and serious credit card accidents. Looks like I'll be bringing my lunch to work. For a decade.
Architects and Gardeners
Dale Bailey, Peter Dubé, Stacy Hill, James Patrick Kelly (moderator), Cecilia Tan, Gregory A. Wilson.
“Girls. Boys. What does it matter as long as you’re fabulous?”
The Architect vs. Gardener (or plotter vs. pantser in the Indie world) question is explored in detail with each panelist discussing their approach to the craft. Very quickly, each of the pros dismissed a strict adherence to ANY approach as the method of writing is as individual as the writers themselves.
Instead, a stance was taken on how these different styles—or really tool sets—can assist in the over all development of stories on a project-by-project basis.
The Relationship of Reality and Fantasy
Scott H. Andrews, Andrea Hairston (leader), Anil Menon, James Morrow, Julia Starkey.
In a 2012 essay titled "PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical," Foz Meadows addressed the notion that "deliberately including POC, female and/or LGBTQ characters can only ever be a political action." She demonstrated that history, the historical record, and commonly accepted historical narratives are in fact three distinct things, and pointed out the irony of fans who accept magic and dragons in their fantasy but balk at the idea of female pirates or a black Lancelot because they're "unrealistic."
An intellectual panel on realism and perception and the impact of the dominant form (realism) on the 21st century stories. For example, a story with dragons (which are not real, yet have been written about quite a bit) would be accepted far quicker than a story about, say, a black Lancelot.
Now a bit of fun--off to a Koream Barby with some friends...
11:35 AM 07/12/13 (Saturday Late Morning)
"Yeah. I'm Good."
The Work/Work Balance
Dale Bailey, Kevin E.F. Clark (leader), Resa Nelson, Tom Purdom, Bud Sparhawk.
One of my most serious struggles as a “part time” author is the balancing act between work, family, writing and life in general. I was looking forward to this discussion since I first read the program schedule.
SPEAKING of life balance…
Those of you who follow me on twitter and/or Facebook may have noticed some posts a few days ago regarding a series of power failures at the house. The result was that the main circuit board on our ‘fridge blew out—the replacement of which arrived last night. So in order to make the 9:00 panel—I was up at 5:30 to feed the animals and to get the new circuit board installed. All were successful and my poor wife is now transferring food and frozen good back to the main refrigerator.
This anecdote dove tails nicely into the gist of the first panel—namely life choices and discipline are the keys to balance. Fellow artists spoke about the time to write—and I think, in a nutshell, my fundamental problem is I’ve set unachievable goals--for myself and my writing--in conjunction with life’s necessities. I’ll need to revisit this with my very supportive wife and work out something that is doable.
Making Love Less Strange: Romance for SF/F Writers
E.C. Ambrose, Paula Guran, Victoria Janssen (leader), Natalie Luhrs, JoSelle Vanderhooft
I’m not the best romantic scene writer.
I have many friends who write romance or erotica. And I certainly know the difference between good and bad scenes and stories in these genres. But I need to get better at relationship, romance and yes, sex scenes.
This panel filled with romance authors discussed methods and structure for romantic scenes within Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. The complexities of relationships and depth of character are critical to the success of any relationship scenes; whether sexual or not. And Fantasy--especially with the ‘world building’ that’s needed often are a great setup mechanism for a romantic scene or scenes.
A Visit from the "Suck Fairy": Enjoying Problematic Works
John Benson, Cathy Butler, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Yoon Ha Lee, Adrienne Martini, Kate Nepveu.
A discussion of works where things such as bigotry, sexism or homophobia—problematic areas—are prevalent. Taken from a historical or a cultural perspective, perhaps these things can be overcome in favorite works. Examples from Little House on the Prairie to the works of Orson Scott Card and H. P. Lovecraft are dissected and examined.
5:05 AM 07/13/13 (Saturday Morning)
Got in well after midnight last night. Why up at this ungodly hour is a hairraising story involving pussy...three in fact, all wanting to be fed. And I figured the missus could us a bit of a lie-in this morning.
Besides, I get to take a bit of time over my thoughts and comments regarding the last few hours of Friday.
Glenn Skinner and I ate at the bar (show of hands -- anyone shocked at this staement?) and we shuffld off to our next panel
Formatting for E-books - LJ Cohen
I have to be honest - Lisa did a great job walking through the tools she uses and her workflow process for developing properly formated eBooks for any platform. And she passed around a series of devices that had a particularly tricky sort of style and it was perfect.
However, as a Mac and Scrivener user, the tech she used revolved around Open Office, Calibre and other tools which work extremely well for her based on the output Glenn and I saw. It just didn't address the tool set I've already invested in.
The Magic of the 'Hood
Mikki Kendall (leader), Daniel José Older, John Shirley
Mikki Kendall is an absolute treasure and I thought this panel was amazing. I attended with Melissa King and the conversation focused on the community, family and customs that make the 'hood (the projects) a unigue and quite frankly a magical place. Mikki is from Chicago (do NOT ask her about Jim Butcher's representation of the 'hood in his The Dresden files) and was raised by her grandmother and told stories not only of her upbringing that exampled the closeness of the community, but the traditions and beliefs she was brought up with.
Fascinating study and I could have listened to this panel for a few more hours.
Kaffeeklatsch - Shira Lipkin.
This late klatsch started off with a bang as a bottle of rum may--or may not--have been brought in for the attendees to sip while discussing the writings of this flsh fiction and poetry talent. Shira is also local in Massachusetts and is a friend. In typical fashion, the group spoke about everything from Shira's novel (work in progress) that she read from earlier in the day, through to her flash fiction, a crazy superhero anthology in progress (she asked me to do a Bat Mite story--wheels turning) and just life in general. The was laughter and drinking and it felt more like a group of friends sitting in the living room catching up. And it was glorious. 🙂
Meet the PRO(se) Party.
The ballroom was the setting for the met the prose party. I find myself covered in stickers--quotes from author's stories. The goal is to collect as many as you can while drinking and meeting people. It's a party, folks...and it was a good one.
5:55 PM 07/12/13 (Friday Evening)
Starving, but have a couple of things I wanted to participate in first—
The Silent History: A Killer Serial
Samantha Henderson, Maureen F. McHugh, David G. Shaw (leader), Graham Sleight.
The Silent History is a unique story experience utilizing media (iOS devices), serialization and a ‘geocache-like’ ability to enhance the story via fan-fic and a GPS.
It’s absolutely a brilliant use of new media and you can learn more and enjoy the fully completed story by heading over to http://www.thesilenthistory.com. Discussion centered on the quality of the arc and the technology involved. Fantastic insight from the team who were virtually spoiler-free in their review, interpretation and discussion points.
I’ve got a copy on my iPad now. I seriously suggest you pic this up as it is one of the first use of the eCodex I’ve seen that I liked—the format, movie and intactive fan-fic aspect just works.
Reading: Peter Dubé
What, I’m going to miss one of my favorite people at the con reading a different scene from The City’s Gates? I think not!
Reading: Shira Lipkin.
Shira read from her upcoming novel—a brilliant scene between her main character and a dancer she had been observing at the club. The use of 2nd person—while difficult—is used to perfection here. And the cadence of the passage is written so you feel the nightclub ‘thump thump thump’ backbeat as the scene unfolded.
Kaffeeklatsch with James Morrow.
Another favorite author and a true intellectual and satirest—the hour long session with Jim had me crying with laughter. We spoke about his ever-present work on Darwin and his upcoming The Buck Rogers Stuff. I just adore the man, his writing and his outlook on life.
Break time. Food, a drink then back to it.
12:50 PM 07/12/13 (Friday Afternoon)
Registration was a raucous and hilarious affair, despite the fact that I arrived an hour early. The good news is I got through it and had time to grab a coffee and grab a seat with Glenn Skinner and Peter Dubé for the first panel of the day—and it was a good one.
Steve Berman, Richard Bowes, Elizabeth Hand (moderator), Patricia A. McKillip, Kathryn Morrow.
I always love listening to Kathy Morrow at ReaderCON—she adds a passion and scholarly take into any discussion. And Liz Hand lead a marvelous panel discussing fairies, the fey and the various forms they take. The panel bantered about many different takes on the fey—from the Tolkien-esque high-browed elves to the cruel and nasty fairies of Holly Black.
A lively debate on the origin of the fairy courts and the creatures that inhabit them. I know enough now to realize that I need to research some of the scholarly works on the unseelie.
Of Gods and Goddesses
Richard Bowes, Lila Garrott (leader), Greer Gilman, Sandra Kasturi, Patricia A. McKillip, Sonya Taaffe.
In fantasy—especially Urban Fantasy, the genre I write in—are more and more prevalent. Gods behaving badly is a constant through out history and the discussions focused on (initially) Greek mythos and focused more on modern works such as Gaiman’s American Gods or Discord's Apple. The panelists, again, were brilliant—especially Sonya, Sandra and Lila.
This linked nicely with the first panel as the debate continued with a discussion of the potential overuse of both fairies and Gods in modern fantasy writing—are they interchangeable or is it a result of one trope becoming overused, so the ‘next set’ of ‘more powerful than mortal’ creatures are used.
An interesting theory was proposed that the proliferation of stories with the Gods as characters are a direct result of the Gods themselves make sure us mortals remember them.
A personal note: There was a woman in front of me knitting and I was reminded that my dear friend Leah Petersen isn’t here this year…
5:24 AM 07/12/13 (Friday Morning)
The cats have woken both the missus and I up. She’s getting ready for work and I’m updating the blog.
Today, is of course, the first FULL day of ReaderCON. Last night was the primer—two hours of free-to-the-public programming. Multiple readings and panels offered up to wet the appetite and to get people in “Con mode”
As opposed to “KHAAAAAAAAAAN!” Mode. Um. Ahem.
Forgive me, it was a late night.
Thursday evening started off scary. The old Irish pub—a mainstay of ReaderCON’s over the years—was closed for renovations. I could almost hear the ominous organ chords of an old timey horror flick playing in the background.
Where once had been a lobby along with the pub, now a bare white wall with a “pardon our appearance whilst we screw with ReaderCON” banner stood.
I exaggerated that last bit. Nobody uses “whilst” anymore.
Pictured: Angels Weeping
Anyway, I went to the restaurant, which thankfully has its own little bar, and had a quick drink before attending my first panel.
Have You Seen Me?: The Absent Children of Urban Fantasy
Toni L. P. Kelner, Shira Lipkin (leader), Natalie Luhrs, Veronica Schanoes, Romie Stott.
Sitting in the first row, I could hear and see the excitement for this panel as I arrived a few minutes early. I especially wanted to listen to this discussion as children characters were in The Prodigal’s Foole and they play a role in the next book along with the future of the series. I don’t remember if it was Shira who mentioned something about rum first, with Veronica adding “with something sweet,” but I found myself on an entertaining mission to find both rum and coke for a panel of five beautiful and intelligent writers.
I missed the first half of the panel, which was sad—but scored a bottle of Bacardi and a two-liter Coke and placed it on the table for the team.
Without missing a beat, the ladies poured while continuing the discussion.
The Q&A commentary was already in full swing, and it ranged from Grimm’s original tales through to a discussion of the new child actor rules impacting how we perceive children on TV. My personal take is that children are used—in many instances as a plot device to ratchet up the tension, as a red herring or as a ‘hand-off’ for the next generation. I have a different set of plans for the “Hell-spawn” children rescued in my first book.
A very relaxed and professional panel that was fun to participate in.
The Nuances of POV
John Chu, Eileen Gunn, James Patrick Kelly (moderator), Darrell Schweitzer, John Stevens.
I have a conundrum.
I want to write a book from completely different points of view. The Arcana Chronicles is a first person series told from the Symon Bryson’s perspective. However, I want to use a plot device where we hear Symon’s thoughts, but also hear the titular character’s thoughts from my protagonist’s perspective. Can I do a first and third POV novel? I settled in next to friend and fellow fantasy author Glenn Skinner to find out.
And I wasn’t the only one interested in this panel. Yves Meynard was there (we exchanged greetings—he is one of the nicest people I’ve met at the con) as were dozens of other participants.
Including Scott Edelman, who missed his first ReaderCON ever last year. But I’ll get back to Scott in a moment.
This panel was suggested by John Stevens and PHD candidate Meriah Crawford (who was unable to attend). Meriah is actually finishing her thesis on Point of View, so I was expecting strong opinions.
Back to Scott. Jim Kelly (who was in great form) used Scott as the example in discussions mostly around first and third person. The panel agreed rather quickly that, while in use, second person is a rare device used in writing today.
Although the premise of this panel states “When writing genre fiction, many authors begin with the approach that first-person point of view (POV) is useful for horror and heroic quests to bring immediacy to the story; third-person is necessary for epic world-building; and second-person is too confusing and best avoided.” Although the last point was basically agreed to—they rejected the statements about first and third person except to say that those perspectives are expected in that genre.
I was at first heartened to hear that a couple of the panel members started in one point of view then switched mid-manuscript. But that was a change that impacted the entire story. Although Tolkien used something called ‘third person omniscient’ allowing him to (rather successfully) head-hop, no one really recommended changing POV. The advice I received was basically “try it and see.” Perhaps this explains my struggles with The Young Practitioner.
Two panels behind me, Glenn and I shared a drink in the bar and discussed both our works in progress. Glenn’s WIP (Book 5 of The Keya Quests) is building and realizing what’s been built before. It’s exciting stuff as he was kind enough to send me the first four in the series which I devoured (Yes, I know Glenn. I owe you a couple of reviews).
On the way out, we ran into Shira Lipkin who was in process of sharing the rum I’d purchased for her with a group of friends. I ended up staying an hour or so longer than expected—enjoying conversations about family, children, life and of course laughing until tears streamed from my eyes.
And now I need to find the anthology I have that has one of Shira’s short stories…I know it’s around here somewhere.
Seems like the lack of the old pub won’t impact the fun after all.