Category Archives: ReaderCON

ReaderCON 28

This is my Readercon 28 (2017) Conference update.  The latest posts are at the top, so start at the bottom to get the full picture. 

No. I don’t know why I do it that way. 

Sunday, July 16th 11:05 PM

Final thoughts-Readercon was the first writing conference I ever attended, starting 8 years ago. I have met so many inspirational people, made so many friends. The Con is changing–and that is a good thing. There were many more younger writers in attendance this year than I remember from years past. There were a few more panels on horror this year–a testament to the resurgence of that genre.  Multiple writing groups were reciting their art (and I want to join them all), and overall there is a greater sense of inclusiveness.  It’s not perfect, but it is better.

I think the management team has done wonders with their code of conduct and safety regs. in the years since the “troubles” and I hope Readercon will continue to enforce its stated safety policies.

Above all, continuing the thought-provoking conversations and ideas brought up in literature is the fundamental joy of this conference for me. In the nearly ten years I’ve been attending, I feel personally that I’ve grown and learned…and continue to ask questions.

My late father used to say “every day you learn something is a good day.”

Before I close the post for 2017, I wanted to say a special thanks to a couple people who make Readercon amazing for me every year. My Guinness pal, Glenn Skinner, along with Melissa Burkart and Deanna Rice. The most wonderful James & Kathy Morrow, who have been mentors and an inspiration for some time, and Scott Edelman who is charming, funny and full of energy.

This year especially I loved chatting with Liz Hand, Paul Tremblay, Peter Straub, John Langan, Eric Mulder, Cam Roberson, The Boston Speculative Fiction Writers and the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers…

So many others.

I missed a few people who couldn’t make it this year–namely Peter Dube, Yves Meynard and Allen Steele specifically.

I know I’m waxing on ad infinitum, but when I finally hit “post,” it means the end of ReaderCon 28.

“All Good Things,” I guess…

Bring on Readercon 29. See you at Boskone 55 and StokerCon2018…

Peace,

RBWood

Sunday, July 16th 11:05 PM

7:35 PM Munching on the traditional post-ReaderCON Chinese takeaway, my lovely wife by my side, it’s time for the final notes for The last day of Readercon…

Grimlight: Life after Grimdark Martin Cahill (leader), John Kessel, Alena McNamara, Nnedi Okorafor, Wes RistGrimdark stories in fantasy and science fiction openly deal with themes of abuse, war, pain, and death. These themes can be used to revitalize one-dimensional genres in which heroes have unrealistically easy adventures, but over time, readers may nd that all the destruction and misery becomes debilitating or boring. Grimlight fiction, a term coined by Emily Wagner in late 2016, strikes a balance between acknowledging life’s sorrows and finding sources of optimism. Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death and Max Gladstone’s Craft sequence certainly don’t shy away from the bleakness and tragedy of life, but the characters and readers can stare into the heart of the bleakness and still come out with hope. This panel will examine stories that balance pain with cheer and perhaps take a stab at constructing a first draft of a grimlight canon.

An interesting panel discussion that–instead of drafting a definition of “Grimlight”–came up with a total of five nuanced genre’s within the Grimdark umbrella. I still feel that these genre definitions are applied “after the fact” by some marketing dude somewhere…I think writing is a product of the times. Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, for example, was a direct result of the fear felt during the “Great Recession” of the last decade.

Shirley Jackson Awards

(From the SJA Website): In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc. has been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

NOVEL

Winner: The Girls, Emma Cline (Random House)

Finalists

  • Foxlowe, Eleanor Wasserberg (Fourth Estate-UK/Penguin Books-US)
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout)
  • Lily, Michael Thomas Ford (Lethe)
  • Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow)
  • The Wonder, Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown)

NOVELLA

Winner: The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com)

Finalists:

  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com)
  • Maggots,” Nina Allan (Five Stories High)
  • Muscadines, S.P. Miskowski (Dunhams Manor)
  • The Sadist’s Bible, Nicole Cushing (01 Publishing)
  • The Warren, Brian Evenson (Tor.com)

NOVELETTE

Winner: “Waxy,” Camilla Grudova (Granta))

Finalists:

  • “Andy Kaufman Creeping Through the Trees,” Laird Barron (Autumn Cthulhu)
  • “Angel, Monster, Man,” Sam J. Miller (Nightmare Magazine)
  • “Breaking Water,” Indrapramit Das (Tor.com)
  • “The Night Cyclist,” Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)
  • “Presence,” Helen Oyeyemi (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours)

SHORT FICTION

Winner: “Postcards from Natalie,” Carrie Laben (The Dark)

Finalists:

  • “Animal Parts,” Irenosen Okojie (Speak, Gigantular)
  • “The Apartments,” Karen Heuler (Other Places)
  • “Postcards from Natalie,” Carrie Laben (The Dark)
  • “Red,” Katie Knoll (Masters Review)
  • “Things With Beards,” Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

Winner: A Natural History of Hell, Jeffrey Ford (Small Beer Press)

Finalists:

  • Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, D.P. Watt (Undertow)
  • Furnace, Livia Llewellyn (Word Horde)
  • Greener Pastures, Michael Wehunt (Shock Totem)
  • We Show What We Have Learned, Clare Beams (Lookout)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

Winner: The Starlit Wood, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Saga Press)

Finalists:

  • Autumn Cthulhu, edited by Mike Davis (Lovecraft eZine Press)
  • The Madness of Dr. Caligari, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Fedogan and Bremer )
  • Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories, edited by Kelsi Morris and Kaitlin Tremblay (Exile Editions)
  • An Unreliable Guide to London, edited by Kit Caless and Gary Budden (Influx Press)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS AWARD to Ruth Franklin in recognition of the biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.

Congrats to all the winners & finalists!

Sororal Friendships in Fantasy Greer Gilman, Naomi Novik, Julia Rios (leader), Tui Sutherland, Fran Wilde.

One of the central relationships in Guest of Honor Naomi Novik’s novel Uprooted is between the heroine and her best friend. Agnieszka and Kasia were raised together and have a deep bond that is explored throughout the novel. This depiction of female friendship is unusual in fantasy fiction and gave rise to much discussion (and no small amount of fan c from fans who either wanted to see more of the friendship or felt it ought to have been a romance). This panel explores sororal friendships in fantasy and the ways they can alter or comment on familiar tropes such as the maiden in the tower and the questing band of brothers.

Kaffeeklatsch – James Morrow & Steve Berman

It’s always good to see Jim and to hear about his latest and greatest works in progress (he had read from Lazarus is Waiting just the other day). However, the ‘klatsch became a serious discussion of gender tropes and marginalized people (with via skin color, sexual orientation, what have you)in the industry. This stemmed from the announcement of the “13th Doctor” to be played by Jodie Whittaker and the subtle inference of lesbianism in the recent “Wonder Woman” movie. Passions blossomed in this discussion. As a Heterosexual white middle-aged male, it was inferred that I could not understand nor celebrate the diversity in both the BBC choice of Doctor nor the lake of a sexualized Wonder Woman. However, as neurologically challenged, handicapped person, I certainly have experienced significant bias and marginalization first hand in the past two years. No, I’ll never know what it’s like to be a gay man nor a woman in a society that seems to negate both, but as a writer, I feel I have to at least try and understand these feelings and my friend’s perspectives.

Needless to say…it was a lively discussion. And I never got my Jim Morrow books signed.

Saturday, July 15th 10:40 PM (Saturday Part 2)

10:40ish PM The evening is done as is day 3. I can not believe the con is almost over at this point. A couple panels and a marvelous group reading to report on, so let’s get to it!

A Technology Not Traveled Inanna Arthen, John Chu, Chris Gerwel, Jeff Hecht, Sioban Krywicki

Alternate history and historical fantasy often engage with technologies that once seemed like the way of the future: airships, clockwork, mechanical computing. There’s a certain dreamy wonder around many modern depictions of early industrial inventions. Why are we fascinated with what became technological dead ends? There are many magical fantasies where wizards can’t use computers; is this a different expression of the same anxieties about modern gadgets? Is there really a possible timeline where clockwork became ascendant while electronics never took off, or is it all just an excuse for some gorgeous cosplay?

Deep Time Glenn Grant, Jeff Hecht, Sioban Krzywicki (leader), Tom Purdom, Vandana Singh, Ian Strock

With so many planets discovered in “habitable zones” around other stars, why haven’t we encountered evidence of other civilizations? Could it just be a matter of scale? Civilization is short, while space and time are vast, so perhaps we simply haven’t overlapped with alien civilizations yet? The universe is vastly old and we’ve only been able to detect some possible forms of transmissions from other civilizations for less than a century? Alistair Reynolds has explored the idea that the slowing of time at relativistic speeds could enable civilizations to meet one another. Panelists will discuss this enticing possibility and what we might find in the far, far future.

REALLY interesting discussions around time travel, relativistic speeds, impact on societies and the definition of ‘civilization.’

Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers Group Reading

Marcy Arlin, Adanze Asante, S.A. Chakraborty, Teri Clarke, Randee Dawn, Elliotte Harold, Puloma Mukherjee, Bradley Robert Parks, J.M. Plumbley, Cameron Roberson, Sam Schreiber, Essowe Tchalim, Marcus Tsong

 

 

 

 

12 snippets in an hour. An incredibly wide range of story beginnings, and I wanted to hear how they all ended! A very active group that makes me miss New York. They are also the producers of the most marvelous Kaleidocast which they are running a kickstarter for their second season

 

Saturday, July 15th 1:55 PM (Saturday Part 1)

1:55 PM Going to try and breakup the notes for day into a couple of parts so it makes it a bit easier and (quite frankly) I’ve been invited to have a few adult bevies with a couple horror writers whose work I enjoy.  It’s always nice to find folks with the same irreverent sense of humor you employ on a daily basis!

But that’s pretty much true of all the people I hang out with at ReaderCON…and my wife’s wit and jokes fit right into that mold as well.

But I digress.  Here’s a bit about the morning:

The Life-Changing Magic of Outlining Your Novel. Daryl Gregory, Elaine Isaak (leader), Yoon Lee, Mark Oshiro, Terence Taylor

Developing a novel outline can be nearly as complex a process as writing the novel itself. Our panel of plotters will discuss the many techniques they’ve used for developing the skeletons of books, and consider which outline creation skills and tools lend themselves to particular genres and styles of writing. Hybrid methods of outlining and making decisions on the y will also be discussed.

This was an amazingly fun panel, for a) a dry subject and b) 10:00 AM. And it wasn’t all “Scrivener is great go buy it!”

One of my difficulties post-strokes has been the organization and mapping out of complex plotting. Short stories up to 6 or 7k words is one thing. Whereas I used to be able to keep all the elements of a 100k novel in my head, my brain just doesn’t work that way anymore. So I’m finding whatever workarounds I can to makeup for the damaged noggin.

I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, Scrivener was discussed. So was the use of MS Word (with macros) and MS Excel. But Mind-mapping, the “Snowflake method” and even the old fashioned use of index cards to create pert diagrams were discussed. I have a lot of notes and things to try once I’m back home.

Reading – Scott Edelman

I’ve enjoyed Scott’s work since I was old enough to really pay attention to the writing credits on Marvel comics. His writing is descriptive and fun, and his storylines are very interesting and many times surprising. He read (and then signed a copy for me) from his latest zombie collection of novellas called Liars, Fakers, and the Dead Who Eat Them. He read from the first story in the collection (Only Humans can Lie) which is the story of Tim, owner of a vegan restaurant in a small southern town during the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse.

It’s always good to see Scott, and I know he recorded a few episodes of his podcast Eating the Fantastic (no, it’s not a zombie podcast) while at ReaderCON. He interviews various writer’s during lunch, breakfast or other meal. I know he was chatting with James Patrick Kelly…and another show with George RR Martin is around the corner as well.

Kaffeeklatsch – Paul Tremblay

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the closet I’ve ever been to a hangout-klatsch. Paul was relaxed, despite and evening of hoops and chats that ended around 3:00 AM. We discussed his upcoming book The Four which he read from yesterday, some of the thoughts and insight from bothHead Full of Ghosts and Devil’s Rock and Vampires with fangs coming out of their eyes (in fairness to Paul, that last bit was John Langan’s fault).

 


 

Friday, July 14th 11:50 PM

Wow. It’ll be past midnight when I finally get to bed. Eighteen hours of personal ReaderCON goodness to report on so let’s get to it:

6:00 AM Dear Alarm Clock: Suck it.

5:50 AM The Caffeine is racing through the system. Showered. checked into social media and will write for a couple hours. Finalizing my selectionsfor the panels, readings and kaffeeklatsches  I will be attending. Thinking about a few people I won’t see at the con this year for various reasons–miss them (Peter Due, Yves Maynard, Allen Steele, Mike & Anita Allen, Shira & Adam Lipkin).

But there will be others to see…and new friendships to make. The Thursday night program is the free portion of the convention. Friday morning is when things really get moving in earnest.

One more sip of coffee, double-check to see if I’m wearing pants…ready!

1:55 PM Holy time warp Batman! That went fast. A bit of what the morning events were:

The Politics of Villains. Maria Dahvana Headley (leader), Darcie Little Badger, Hillary Monahan, Naomi Novik, Cameron Roberson, Gregory Wilson.The villains of speculative fiction (and fiction in general) often reflect the biases of their times. Race, sexuality, disability, and gender have all been and continue to be used as shorthand for evil; some supposedly villainous physical traits, such as hooked noses on witches, have been around for so long that many modern authors don’t even realize they’re rooted in bigoted stereotypes. In response, some authors have deliberately created villains who stand in for oppressive power structures. This panel will dig into the concept of a villain, a person who embodies evil or wrongness, and discuss whether it can ever really be separated from the writer’s culture-infuenced understanding of which categories of people are most likely to be villainous.

As you can imagine, the talk of this panel (and of the con so far) surrounded our current political environment. Really interesting discussions of “Rich White Guys” (who are the current favorite villains) verses the signifiers and stereotypes of the past.

Reading – Paul Tremblay

I like Paul very much. He’s a native to the Boston area, an educator and a connoisseur of fine beers. And he writes scary shit. What more could one ask? He read from his upcoming book The Four. I finished Devil’s Rock about a month ago…He has a way to build a “subsonic” type of tension into his books that grows into terror slowly…inevitably. From the snippet we heard, sounds like The Four will be a wonderful read!

Reading – Gregory Wilson

Was really excited to see Greg. He has the second book of his Gray Assassin Trilogy coming out (The first of which was Grayshade), and I was hoping he would read a bit of book two. I was delighted when he read from the first bit of Renegade! He and I chatted a bit about academia and he wished me well with the MFA starting in the fall. He–like many others I met through out the day–had asked hoe my health was doing. It’s always amazing to me how writers of any level and notoriety seem to be genuinely good people. Greg also has a podcast called Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, which I highly recommend you check out.

Our DystopiaSusan Bigelow (leader), Cameron Roberson, Tui Sutherland, Gordan Van Gelder, Sabrina Vourvoulias.

Since the election, many on the left have been calling attention to George Orwell’s 1984 as a missed warning. Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor said in a radio interview that she believes Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower is a more appropriate dystopia for our current climate. Orwell’s Animal Farm, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and other books have also warned of surreal authoritarianism. Do they map to our current world or are we projecting? What other books have warnings for us that we might heed?

I’ll be that many of you can guess the main topic here…but I wanted to attend specifically because I’m taking a course this fall in Dystopian literature and i wanted to hear the recommended works that the panelists would have. I wasn’t disappointed as I’m now armed with a few more gems to add to my studies beyond what’s mentioned in the course description. The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Uglies by Scott Westerfield and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We were discussed as well.

7:05 PM Writing this at the start of my 7:00 panel…so I’ll be quick.  A Kaffeeklatsche, more readings and a meeting with a few of the Boston Speculative fiction writers is next…

Kaffeeklatsch – Elizabeth Hand

It’s no secret that adore the writings and the humor of Elizabeth Hand. Liz is one of the reasons I chose to go for my MFA, as she works with the MFA program for  Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. We and a few others sat down for a chat and discussed, among other popular concerns, the environmental impacts and her with with the US Government on the story and planing for megafires of the future. Google it. It’s terrifying.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this would lead to the piece Liz would use for her reading later. We discussed the “hinted at supernatural” in her Case Neary series and upcoming works.

Reading – James Morrow

Like Liz, Jim has been a major influence for me over the years. He agreed to be one of my references for my MFA application (something I found out just this weekend from his wife Kathy that he almost never does) and has kicked me in the backside when I needed it. He is one of my favorite literary writers and Shambling Towards Hiroshima is still one of my books I love to reread every few years. I thought he might read from The Asylum of Dr. Caligari this year as it was just released, but I was in for a different treat when he pulled a few pages from his upcoming Timetraveling story Lazurus is Waiting. Filled with his normal wit and satire, for 30 minutes Jim delivered his patently dry, sophisticated wit to the audience.

One note…I went up and spoke to him afterwards, thanking him again for his reference, when he asked me to sign a copy of Offbeat: Nine Spins on Song. He new it was the first story I had published after my strokes.

Having one of your heroes ask you for an autograph is kind of amazing…and incredibly humbling.

Reading – Elizabeth Hand

Liz read to us a captivating short story called “Fire,” from a recent collection of short stories and essays of the same name. Based on Liz’s real-life experience as a participant in a governmental climate change think tank, it follows a ragtag cadre of scientists and artists racing to save both civilization and themselves from fast-moving global fires.

Reading – Boston Speculative Fiction Writing Group Andrea Corbin, Gillian Daniels, Eric Mulder, Emily Strong, Rachel Zakuta

Five members of this local writing group read stories in progress (or about to be published). An eclectic range of tales entertained the audience–from a necromancer trying to us her magic to get the NYC subway system up and running in a post Cthulhu world, to an alien world birthday trip and a purple “muppet-like” alien. Good, crazy group and I was delighted to speak with a few of them, including the president of BSFWG Lyndsay Ely. The seem funny, smart and very nice and I might have the opportunity to join this group in the future, so stay tuned.

Also, they provided snacks.

The Commonalities of Magic and Science. Erik Amundsen, David Bowles, Rosemary Kirstein, Naomi Novik (leader), Nnedi Okorafor

Specialized and secret fields of knowledge create barriers to understanding and can become mechanisms of cultural control. They can also be foundations for resistance. They can support or destroy communities and instill gratitude or resentment. All these things could be said of both magic and science, and the wielders thereof. The tradition of pitting magic and science against each other goes back to Tolkien’s anxieties about industrialization, but today’s speculative works have moved beyond it to recognize that the two can coexist and are often used similarly as metaphors. We’ll examine Guest of Honor Naomi Novik’s mix of historical technology and dragons, Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor’s mix of futuristic technology and sorcery, and other successful amalgamations and integrations.

It was wonderful to finally have the opportunity to see and hear this year’s GoH Need Okorafor speak! I lively discussion of fantastical magic and sciences and how they could be used in various societal situations for good or ill.

11:55 PM That’s it..I’m done for the day. Haven’t checked this portion of the post for typos etc., but maybe tomorrow.  It’s been amazing so far…tomorrow should be even better!

 

 


Thursday, July 13th 10:30 PM

This is the second year I’m actually staying at the conference. I spent two days packing and unpack then repacking. See, this year I brought some books I want to get signed.

Along with a dozen copies of Off Beat: Nine Spins on Song to dole out. If you want one, give a shout out in the comments or find me during the Con.

The ex-Marine Uber driver with the semi-automatic strapped to his waist very kindly helped me load and unload his Infinity. And he didn’t shoot me, so the day started pretty well.

Pictured: My Gear and Books. Not Pictured: “Jorge” and his Beretta.

Got settled in, had dinner with Glenn Skinner, and am typing up some notes from  the two free panels I attended this evening before bed.

No, I do not believe any of the panelists were armed.

Footsteps in the Dark: The Sensory Range of Horror. F. Brett Cox (leader), John Langan, Darcie Little Badger, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Paul Tremblay.

 

Horror is frequently thought of as a visual medium, and is often adapted for film and television. However, other senses are vitally important to the development of horror stories, and the experience of fear for the reader. Consider Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, which erased sight for the main characters, or the pounding in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Consider also the recent uptick in films with disabled characters, such as the Deaf writer in Hush and the blind antagonist in Don’t Breathe. This panel will explore these and other works of multisensory horror, and address how writers can create vivid horror experiences for readers.

This was a lively panel discussion about sensory range in horror–Josh Malerman’s Birdbox (the story of supernatural entities driving people mad and to suicide if they see them–the reader follows survivors who wear blindfolds) was discussed briefly with more emphasis on Shirley Jackson’s most marvelous The Haunting of Hill House. The point was made that only two senses can bee utilized in movies (sight and sound) while all five can be used in the written narrative. Patrick Susskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murder  and The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (Up for a 2017 Shirley Jackson award for best novella) were also referenced.

Highway to the Weirder Zone. Samuel R. Delany, Max Gladstone, Maria Dahvana Headley (leader), Chandler Klang Smith, Marissa Lingen.

Surrealism, magical realism, paranormal romance, and other genres of the weird have different methods for getting the reader to suspend disbelief and acclimate as the roses rain down and the protagonist turns into a cockroach. Can authors of less-weird science fiction and fantasy borrow those tricks to ease reader’s dislocation, or is dislocated exactly what a reader should be? Are there different approaches that work for a phantasmagoria of ideas or a phantasmagoria of sensory impressions? And what problems arise from applying the assumptions and techniques of one genre or subgenre to another?

This intro evening to ReaderCON was a marvelous starter and tiny taste of what is to come. Back up in the room now after saying hello to some old acquaintances, eating a meal, and enjoying time at the bar with an old friend…Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

 


 

Reflecting the week before ReaderCON 28

Next week is ReaderCON 28.

It’s amazing how quickly a year goes by.

In the picture above, there are seven badges–seven years since I started on this writing journey. First as a hobbyist, more recently taking the curveball life gave me and turning it into something new and marvelous.

My first ReaderCON (Readercon 21) is sort of my starting point for my writing exploits. I had no idea what I was doing back then. Still don’t, but I’m learning all the time.

So before the conference each year, I like to take stock of where I am as a writer, refresh the short & long term goals and reflect on the generally positive things that have happened since last year’s (and my first) ReaderCON.

First, I’ve published six short stories since last year’s conference. Ink Washed Cat as a part of the Once Upon a Cursed Time anthology, Poison Pen in The Unforgiven Anthology, The Glass Bauble in Christmas Nightmares, Thanksgiving in the Park as a part of Off Beat: Nine Spins on Song, and Fine Print–a story I wrote for Richard Thomas’ Contemporary Dark Fiction class was picked up by Sick Lit Magazine a couple months ago.

I currently have nine stories out for submission…wait. Eight. Just got a rejection from Apex. I’ll put it in the file with the other 2 dozen.

Second, I’ve been accepted by Emerson College into their MFA program for Popular Fiction…and they threw a lot of money at me to attend. The online program is for three years, but I’m going to finish it in two.

2014-07-11_10.04.52Third, while I’m only up to short stories at this point…I have ideas for full-length novels.  Continuations of my series (I plan on revisiting the first book as a task for my MFA and using that as a stepping stone to seek out the right agent), and a couple new ideas rattling around. More on those at a later date.

2012-07-15_11.41.08Fourth, I continue to meet some amazing, talented writers in the past year who are more than willing to not only read/critique my stuff, but help with general writing craft tips and shoulders to lean on occasionally. Specifically I’m talking about Richard Thomas, Becca Borawski Jenkins, S. L. Coney, Dona Fox, Matthew Munson, Emmett Spain, Maria Haskins, Eden Baylee and Bill Kirton among many, many others.

Most importantly, the limitless support of my partner and best friend, Tina Lampropoulos.

IMG_1754I think that is a lot of wonderful things to focus on, don’t you? Writing continues my rehabilitation post strokes…and I’m learning work-arounds for this cognitive functions that have been permanently lost.

It has been a hard few years–but I am blessed. Something I’ve very recently come to understand and embrace.

Which brings me full circle to ReaderCON.

meandjimI will be seeing and catching up with friends I’ve made through the years at the con. There are amazing panels that I’m planning on digging into. There is a stack of books I want to get signed.

There is fiction to read.

My normal daily updates will be posted as usually. Look for them to start next Thursday (July 13th).

Until then,

Peace, love and hair grease.

RB


Past ReaderCON Posts:

ReaderCON 27

 ReaderCON 26

ReaderCON 25

ReaderCON 24

ReaderCON 23

ReaderCON 22


 

Readercon 27

Note: I tend to separate various entries by timestamps.  They are in reverse order, with the latest posting at the top. ALSO Note that it has taken me a couple of days to put this together.  As my first time out in public for months post-strokes, the entire experience was…overwhelming to say the least.

RClogo

Sunday 10 July

It’s over and I’ve driven home. The sadness that always follows the end of a Readercon will come tomorrow.  For now…for RIGHT now, I’m exhausted. I will always go back to Readercon.  Not because I have to.  But because I’m drawn to it by some immeasurable force.

Magic! In! Spaaace! Chris Gerwel, Mikki Kendall, Matt Kressel, Sioban Krzywicki (leader), Bethany Powell- It was only during this panel that I heard about a controversy at Readercon this year.  Mikki Kendall addresses it on her blog HERE. However, she was the consummate professional on this panel and–having not witnessed what had happened directly–never would have known about the issue.  Mikki was her normal, witty and very funny self (even early on a Sunday morning). The Panel was a discussion of Magic and Sci Fi–a blending of two genres normally kept very separate.

It was the only panel/reading I attended on Sunday.  I’d hit my limit and it was time to head home.  Even as tired as I was, I had an enjoyable time.  Knowing how well the Readercon folks eventually handled the crisis a few years ago, it’s my hope they will turn their eyes to fixing the  lack of diversity brought into sharp relief this year. After all….a Con is supposed to be a fun experience for everyone.

Saturday 9 July 1:00 PM

To start the day, I had a conundrum. See, on the one hand I wanted to hear Jim Morrow read from his work in progress.  On the other was a panel on the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein-on the panel was Jim’s wife Kathy and FB friend Theodora Goss. What to do? Well Glenn Skinner and I decided to split the difference.  So I went to the reading, and he to the panel.

2016-07-09 09.56.59Reading: James Morrow-Jim read from his work in progress “Asylum of Dr. Caligari” which, if you will, is a literal translation of the events before the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) takes place. Jim’s story has art, intrigue, travel and fantastic set-pieces as well as a morality tale about what’s happened, and what yet may occur should we not heed the warnings of history. Marvelous stuff!

2016-07-09 12.01.44

Engineering in Fantasy. Scott Andrews, Richard Butner, John Chu, Ken Liu, Fran Wilde (leader)- This is the kind of panel I would LOVE to see more of at Readercon. I think this subject could have easily been 5 or 6 different panels. Multiple engineers addressing “the machine” underlying all speculative fiction.  From logistics and social engineering challenges, to the actual building of infrastructure, the panel (lead with a very sweet, iron hand of Fran Wilde from Tor) barely had enough time to scratch the surface.

Enjoyed a bit of lunch after with Glenn Skinner, Melissa King and Melanie Meadors from Ragnarok Publishing…

2016-07-09 18.00.062016-07-09 16.00.15

2016-07-07 16.58.24-2

 

 

 

Startling_Stories_1950_Jan_coverReading: Allen Steele- It was good to see Allen.  Not quite recovered from his surgery, but in good form.  Like Jim’s passion with old movies, Allen has a similar feelings for the pulp stories of the 40’s and 50’s. Along with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, there was a hero called Captain Future. Allen, with permission of the owners of the character, is rebooting Captain Future into a more 21st century type of story. From what I heard, this will be a marvelous set of books!

2016-07-09 13.31.53

David Hartwell Memorial Panel. Robert Killheffer, Ellen Kushner, James Morrow, Sarah Smith, Gordon Van Gelder and many others.

David-G.-Hartwell-FM-2013small1

It is safe to say that Readercon would not exist in its current form today if it weren’t for the late, great editor David G. Hartwell. Preferring to operate behind the scenes, one of the most generous men with his time in this speculative fiction industry passed earlier this year. My personal story of him goes from teasing him about his tie (he LOVED his ties) to a realization of who he was to a most brilliant discussion of Science fiction story telling. He spent over an hour with me. This panel–made up of some of the most influential people is Science Fiction in their own right, was funny, beautiful and touching. His favorite tie will be framed and memorialized in the book dealer room from next year onward. I encourage you to read about David–start with his Wiki page and go from there.

After this panel….I was done, emotionally for the day.  I spent the next few hours with close friends discussing ways that my next book could be improved and discussing stories and writing in general.

Friday 8 July 11:50 PM

Exhausted.  Need to put some notes together, but it is now obvious to me that I set a task upon myself that was a bit lofty. It looks as though I will need to finish these notes in the coming week.

2016-07-08 15.01.51Reading: Elizabeth Hand. I adore Liz Hand. I have read pretty much everything she has written and her Cass Neary series has one of the most deliciously flawed main characters I’ve ever gotten to know.  She read from her upcoming forth book in the series. It’s funny–Liz does such a wonderful job with Cass’ voice, that’s what I hear now when I read them.

2016-07-08 16.04.40

Harry Potter Goes to Grad School and Gets a Job. Jim Freund (leader), Max Gladstone, Josh Jasper, Ellen Kushner, E.J. Stevens. –The Concept of this panel was wonderful–what sort of jobs are available for wizards?  We all know Hogwarts didn’t really prepare students for life after school (where was the ‘building a Time-turner class?’).  But unfortunately, the topic meandered a bit and lost the focus.

2016-07-08 17.04.04

Clockwork Phoenix 5 Group Reading. Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Keffy Kehrli, Barbara Krasnoff, Cameron Roberson, Sonya Taaffe, A.C. Wise- Ah.  Now THIS was a real treat! I meet Mike and his wife Anita at Readercon years ago.  Liked them then, love them both now.   They are talented and genuine “salt of the earth” people.  Brilliant, funny, talented and both have a darker side that is just tasty.  I’ve picked up Mike’s latest short story collection (The Spider Tapestries) based on his work with the Clockwork Phoenix series of anthologies. That, and I like him. He had a few of the authors in the series participate in the reading.  Was well handled and well done.

2016-07-08 20.03.04Stupendous Machines or Rat’s Nests: The Wonders of Cells and Why They Are Not Perfect but Just Good Enough. J.M. Sidorova- A Scientific presentation on the human body and a fascinating discussion of the ‘vampiric,’ ‘zombie-esque,’ and ‘immortal’ cells of the human body. A lovely talk on what is beautiful and the flaws of the human body.

Kaffeeklatsch. Elizabeth Hand-Ended the evening with Liz at a wonderful discussion with a group of us about her work and her life. Was so tired at this point, made a bit of a fan-boy of myself.  Fortunately, Liz is rather gracious!

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  I look like death warmed over.  Or an extra on "The Walking Dead."
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I look like death warmed over. Or an extra on “The Walking Dead.”

Friday 8 July 3:00 PM

A discussion of the “Warm and fuzzy” dystopia of Harry Potter and similar YA fantasy works.  From the program:

2016-07-08 14.01.40Cozy Dystopia. Gili Bar-Hillel, Bart Leib, Shariann Lewitt, Kenneth Schneyer (leader), Sabrina Vourvoulias. When we think of the world of Harry Potter, what comes to mind rst—the magic
and childish delights of Hogwarts, with its cozy dormitories and feasts and ying lessons, or its numerous, creeping dystopian elements (even discounting Voldemort!), from the enslaved house elves to Umbridge to the Dementors, which are, frankly, the tools of a fascist state? Can we make an argument that HP is actually more like a dystopia than a fantasy? Even if we’re half joking, there’s still an interesting discussion here: how do these two sides of the wizarding world play off each other, and how do they compare with other dystopian YA? Maybe we need a new subgenre: Cozy Dystopia.

2016-07-08 11.02.30Attended my first panel of Readercon this year. From the Program: Background and Believability- Danielle Friedman, Carlos Hernandez, Kathleen Jennings (moderator), Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Sarah Smith. When a reader calls a story “implausible,” what they often mean is “I’ve never experienced that” or “I’ve never known anyone like that person.” Writers creating their own wish-ful llment stories (e.g., wielding a shotgun to rescue a woman from zombies) may fail to connect with readers who don’t share those wishes (e.g., paci sts, women who want to rescue themselves, oppressed minorities who’ve been threatened by authority gures with guns). How do we bridge the believability gaps within ourselves to connect with stories stemming from experiences we’ve never had, and to write for readers whose ideas of possible and plausible don’t match up with our own?

The Second panel was on a subject I am very-much interested in.  From the program:

2016-07-08 13.03.59Why Don’t Animals Use Magic?- Erik Amundsen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Lila Garrott, Theodora Goss, Ann Tonsor Zeddies. Rules-based magical systems draw on an alternate set of natural laws to develop a kind of technology: Dumbledore waving a wand and saying “Apparate” is no different in principle or practice from Scotty beaming you up. Animals also develop tools and take advantage of natural laws; why don’t they use magic? David Eddings simpli ed more abstract magic as “the will and the word”: the desire to do something, and a word to focus that desire. Animals have willpower and can make consistent sounds; why don’t they use magic? We’ll deconstruct the assumptions underlying this animal/human divide in Western fantasy ction, and explore ways of weaving magic so deeply into the fabric of the universe that animals can use it as easily as they use physics.

There was a lively debate about different “Magic Creatures” verses the breakdown of the world if animals could use magic like humans.  My opinion on this is that animals would use magic for their basics: Food, shelter, sex.  And who says cats haven’t already used magic on US to make sure we bring them into our warm, safe homes?  Certainly would explain why Tina and I have five of them…

Thursday 7 July 11:00 PM

2016-07-07 20.02.52Reading: Livia Llewellyn- Livia read something different then a snippet from her upcoming novel for us.  A bit of a story she wrote called “The Acid Test.” It will be included in Black Feathers, an anthology by Ellen Datlow due to be released in 2017 by Pegasus Books.

2016-07-07 20.32.52Reading: Scott Edelman– Scott reads a bit of “The Man Without the Blue Balloon and the Woman Who Had Smiles Only for Him.” Since he’d JUST gotten to the reveal when time was up, I told him he needed to read the rest to me before the con was over! Afterwards he and I spent time catching up and he showed me some photos from the Bram Stoke awards in Vegas earlier in the year.

2016-07-07 21.04.08Reading: Jim Kelly-Jim’s story that he read for us was picked up earlier in the day for the tenth anniversary issue of Clarkesworld. I wish I’d written the name down, but it was the story told in the first person by a 20 year old woman working in a bakery in a tourist area in the future…

Chatted with folks for a while more then headed up to crash.

Thursday 7 July 7:00 PM

2016-07-07 19.42.19Saw a few people come in–the familiarity of the faces negates any misgivings I had about attending this year. Mike and Anita Allen, Phil Merkel, Walt Williams (and his wife Margo and daughter Hannah), Yves Meynard, Scott Edelman, Liz Hand…so many others. Had dinner and hung out with Glenn Skinner who is usually the first person I seek out at the convention.  He and I took a brief look at the program, decided on our evening’s events, and parted ways with a promise to catch up later. I choose to hear some readings.

Thursday 7 July 3:40 PM

“The Gathering” continues.  Like myself, I bump into a few folks who are getting to know the new digs.  Since I’ve been attending Readercon, it has (up until this year) been held at the Marriott in Burlington, Massachusetts. This year, the Marriott in Quincy is our hosting hotel. I have a room on the 8th floor with a nice, if distant view of the Harbor Islands.

2016-07-06 19.55.45

Wednesday 6 July 7:00 PM

There are a few things that make me feel alive, beyond the whole breathing thing I mean.

The touch of my wife. The laughter of my children. A good story. Writing.

Readercon.

I know this is starting off rather dramatic. But I shouldn’t be at Readercon this year. See, last November I should have died.

Twice.

The story is long and boring and I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell it with a few amusing asides and gripping pauses. I even throw in a pirate occasionally just to spice things up a little.

Blackadder as a Pirate. I thought the concept was gold.
Blackadder as a Pirate. I thought the concept was gold.

But the bottom line is this: from hospital bed, through rehab and radiation….I was determined to hit many milestones during my recovery. Attendance at my favorite con is…was…one of those milestones.

Now that I have you all weeping, ready to rent your garments in grief over the bizarre story I never quite told you, it’s time to put my big-boy pants on and write about the readings, the panels, and the people that bring me back year after year.

 

 

Pre-gaming Readercon 27

RClogo

This will be my seventh Readercon.

All my followers (both of you) will know that last fall I had a series of unfortunate events that continued through the death of my dad in March, my cancer diagnosis, and subsequent radiation treatment (NO gorram superpower, by the way.  What a gyp!).

Oh. Never mind.
Oh. Never mind.

“What does this have to do with Readercon Pre-gaming?” the two of you may be asking yourselves. To which I would reply “How did you two get out of the locked basement?”

Or, to provide a less disturbing answer: “Everything.”

See, I wasn’t going to go to Readercon this year. Yes, I adore the conference (if you need proof, see here.  And here.  Aaaaand herehere, and finally, here) and  this year it’s even closer to my house than ever,

IMG_0651-2
Yes. I’ve kept the badges. Don’t judge.

Part of the cognitive damage that occurred last fail was caused by a cluster of strokes. Physically there has been only a slight impact.  But   there have been some subtle personality changes, not the least of which has to do with a dislike of crowds. And guess what a ‘Con consists of?

My Neurologist and other medical type professionals have encouraged me to go. My wife is encouraging me to go. They all said it would be good for me.

So. I’m going. I am excited to see friends.  I’m interested in a lot of the panels they have in store for us. I’m going to get a lot of writing done. I’ll do my semi-streaming blog, as usual. So I’ll need to pack the Mac and the iPad.

Perhaps I should go get a new hat, too. See y’all in Quincy.

IMG_0139

IMG_0140

 

 

IMG_0141

 

IMG_0138

 

 

 

 

IMG_0142

IMG_0137

ReaderCON 26

Final Update Sunday, 12 July 2:00 PM

***A note on reading the full post.  The RED timestamps indicate separate sections. Start at the timestamp at the bottom of the post and work your way up ***

Sunday is both a thrilling and depressing day at ReaderCON.  The parties have ended, friends line up in the lobby to check out.  Taxis and ride shares begin to leave with ever increasing rapidity.

Let’s walk through the abbreviated program day first, and then i’ll share my final thoughts.

IMG_10629:00 AM  Wish Fulfillment for Happy Adults. John Benson, LJ Cohen, Betsy Mitchell, Sheila Williams, Ann Tonsor Zeddies

And interesting discussion on how speculative fiction can capture older audiences. What defines happy for older readers is somewhat different than the younger generations. Mystery stories have that “sense of justice” at the end (for the most part). Romance formulae dictates that the lovers end up together in the end.  How can SciFi, Fantasy and other such genres satisfy the happiness gene for adult readers?

Personally, I’m satisfied when the demons are blasted to ash by the protagonist.  But I’m simple like that…

From the program:

Wish fulfillment for teenagers and wish fulfillment for adults with happy stable lives are necessarily going to be different. Speculative stories are great for navigating the trickiness of coming-of-age, but there’s precious little for those who are already of age and have started to prioritize comfort over adventure. Female readers in particular often turn to romance novels for stories about families and love and kindness, and to mysteries for stories about grown women with agency and purpose. Can speculative fiction draw in those readers by fulfilling different sorts of wishes?

IMG_106310:00 AM  Ghostbusting Lovecraft. Mike Allen, Gemma Files, John Langan, Adam Lipkin, James Morrow.

What does “dogs and cats living together” have in common with Cthulhu? More than you think–as the panelists compare Gozer, the Gatekeeper and the Key Master to Lovercraftian ideals.

Who ya gonna call? Lovercrafters!

In Max Gladstone’s blog post “Ghostbusting Lovecraft,” he writes: “Ghostbusters is obviously taking the piss out of horror in general. But while the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist–cum–art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian.” Unlike typical Lovecraftian protagonists, however, the Ghostbusters prevail over the eldritch horrors by exploiting the power structures and emotional connections that exist between people. Is the Ghostbusters story arc an alternative to the standard horror tropes, one that replaces fear with humor, defiance, and camaraderie? How else does it subvert our expectations of the conflict between humans and horrors?

IMG_1065

11:00 AM The Shirley Jackson Awards. Mike Allen, John Chu, Ellen Datlow, Daryl Gregory, Nicola Griffith, Gary K. Wolfe

57155-o

In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916–1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, The Lottery. Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2014 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

NOVEL

Winner: Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)

Finalists

  • Bird Box, Josh Malerman (Ecco)
  • Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes (Mulholland)
  • Confessions, Kanae Minato (Mulholland)
  • The Lesser Dead, Christopher Buehlman (Berkley)
  • The Unquiet House, Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)

NOVELLA

Winner: We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)

Finalists:

  • The Beauty, Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)
  • Ceremony of Flies, Kate Jonez (DarkFuse)
  • The Good Shabti, Robert Sharp (Jurassic London)
  • The Mothers of Voorhisville, Mary Rickert (Tor.com, April 2014)

NOVELETTE

Winner: “The End of the End of Everything,” Dale Bailey (Tor.com, April 2014)

Finalists:

  • “The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com, April 2014)
  • “The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta)
  • “Newspaper Heart,” Stephen Volk (The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, Spectral Press)
  • “Office at Night,” Kate Bernheimer and Laird Hunt (Walker Art Center/ Coffee House Press)
  • “The Quiet Room,” V H Leslie (Shadows & Tall Trees 2014, Undertow Publications/ChiZine Publications)

SHORT FICTION

Winner: “The Dogs Home,” Alison Littlewood (The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, Spectral Press)

Finalists:

  • “Candy Girl,” Chikodili Emelumadu (Apex Magazine, November 2014)
  • “The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May/June 2014)
  • “Shay Corsham Worsted,” Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries, ChiZine Publications)
  • “Wendigo Nights,” Siobhan Carroll (Fearful Symmetries, ChiZine Publications)

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

Winners: Gifts for the One who Comes After, Helen Marshall (ChiZine Publications)

Finalists:

  • After the People Lights Have Gone Off, Stephen Graham Jones (Dark House)
  • Burnt Black Suns:  A Collection of Weird Tales, Simon Strantzas (Hippocampus)
  • They Do The Same Things Different There, Robert Shearman (ChiZine Publications)
  • Unseaming, Mike Allen (Antimatter Press)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

Winner: Fearful Symmetries, edited by Ellen Datlow (ChiZine Publications)

Finalists:

  • Letters to Lovecraft, edited by Jesse Bullington (Stone Skin Press)
  • The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris (Spectral Press)
  • Shadows & Tall Trees 2014, edited by Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications/ChiZine Publications)
  • The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron, edited by Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele (Word Horde)

IMG_106712:00 PM  Reading: Mike Allen. Mike Allen reads Selections from my Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story collection UNSEAMING as well as some poetry.

I have a great deal of time and respect for Mike. I could wax on about is editing for Mythic Delirium and the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, his poetry collections or his novel The Black Fire Concerto.  But I enjoy Mike’s readings not only for the content (the short Monster he read from Unseaming was especially creepy), but his presence and deliver is outstanding–the most theater-esque reading I attended and a great way to end ReaderCON.

 

 

Final Thoughts

I’m in the middle of putting my ReaderCON 26 badge in the hidey-hole that contains similar mementos from five previous conventions (along with a Glory Hand–but that’s a whole other story). I’ve already finished putting the dozen or so book purchases on the “to be read” pile and sealed up the few books I was lucky enough to get signed. As Monday, and the return to the “day job” looms, I find myself wistfully fantasizing about what it would be like to really make a living as a writer.

I know I have a long way to go to get to the point where my work will be seen as anything more than pulpish fun. But it’s fun to think about.  Hard to do.

But anything worthwhile takes effort. So the next steps are truly up to me.

ReaderCON 27 can’t come soon enough.

 

Peace.

RBW

 

 

Sunday, 12 July 6:58 AM

IMG_1176The social aspect of ReaderCON is one of the cornerstones of the weekend.  I know I alluded to seeing friends in an earlier part of this post, but I never do it justice when writing about ReaderCON.  Every year I decide to commute to the Marriott–and every year I regret not staying.  Yes, it’s an opportunity to network–but it’s way more than that for me.  I see people who I’ve come to know, working in a field that excites me more than any job I’ve ever had. There are cliques, of course–just like any gathering of a large number of people. But everyone is approachable–no matter if they are a multi-award winning internationally recognized author, or a fan.  I have coffee with Hugo award winning SciFi writers, drinks with NY Times best selling authors, break bread with poets, and debate with editors.

I enjoy spending time with these people. I learn something every time.

And I have a lot of fun.

Saturday shaped up to be the busiest day of the weekend.

9:00 AM  The Author’s Voice. Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Kate Marayuma, Tom Purdom, Paul Tremblay, Gregory Wilson.

IMG_1173

I admit, I will read what I write out loud.  I’m sure I look like a homeless dude discussing conspiracy theories while pushing a cart of tin cans when I do this.  The panel discussed ways to find the author’s voice, techniques used and advise for “newbies.” From the program:

An old writing advice chestnut is that you should read your work aloud; supposedly this will help you notice awkward phrasing. Let’s dig a little further: when, how, and why do writers do this, if at all? How has it helped—and has it ever hindered? Do authors who are performers have the opposite problem, where their ability to make something come alive in a reading obscures the fact that it’s a bit dead on the page? How does reading aloud square with things like footnotes, parentheticals, illustrations, digressions, or visual representations of dialects? Is anyone emphatically against the practice of reading aloud as an element of process?

IMG_117410:00 AM  Successfully Writing About Horrible Things. Mike Allen, Catt Kingsgrave, Kate Nepveu (leader), Mary Rickert, Patty Templeton.

There things in life that happen–horrible things.  Writers often have to add these elements to their work.  The key point was simple–if it’s necessary for the story–if whatever horrible thing you are writing furthers the plot or changes your characters, then it must be done. The program states:

If you’re not writing horror but your plot calls for something horrific to happen to a character, how do you handle it? You might go overboard and be detailed to the point of undermining or derailing the narrative, or might be so vague that the horrific event has little effect on the reader or the story. A reader who’s been through a similar experience might be offended or distressed by a description of awfulness that’s lurid, gratuitous, clichéd, or bland. What strategies can writers use to help readers empathize with the characters’ suffering and build stories that respectfully handle the consequences of terrible events, without falling into these traps?

IMG_117511:00 AM Not Just Pointy-Eared Humans. Susan Bigelow, Don D’Ammassa, Sioban Krzywicki (leader), Allen Steele, Fran Wilde.

Moving from the deep and disturbing discussion of horrible things, I switched gears to a SciFi oriented panel discussing aliens. Many times in writing, TV and the Movies, aliens are portrayed as basically human.  Whether it’s the limitations of special effects (like in the old Star Trek series from the 60’s) or a desire to have an audience relate to the aliens on a human level–the panel discussed ways to introduce aliens to the story without making them look like or have motivations similar to us human meat-sacks.  The program:

How do authors create aliens that are drastically different from humans, and how do readers respond to them? Many non-humanoid aliens are insectoid, such as the Buggers of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and the parasites in Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild; to what extent does this allow for aliens who are clearly nonhuman but still recognizable? How do aliens like Octavia Butler’s Oankali, who evolve to become more humanoid, or China Miéville’s sexually dimorphic species, which have one humanoid sex and one nonhumanoid sex, play into or subvert this dichotomy? And how might portrayals of truly alien aliens continue to evolve?

12:00 PM  The Animate Universe. Judith Berman, Max Gladstone, Mikki Kendall (leader), James Morrow.

IMG_1177

Every ReaderCON has that one panel that just doesn’t work. Unfortunately, this was it. Each of the participants had a different take on what the panel should be about and it really became a bit of a disaster. As you know, I have all the respect in the wold for Jim Morrow.  And I adore Mikki Kendall. Judith and Max are fabulous too–but I don’t know them as well.  See if the program description makes sense to you:

In Western post-Enlightenment thought, the universe is seen as inanimate, acted upon by other forces. In some cultures, however, the universe is an actor with agency. What is the role of the universe in our stories, and in the worlds we create to house them? How does an animate universe inform or subvert the author’s and reader’s understanding of meddling gods, dead gods, prophesies, fate, Chosen Ones, and quests?

IMG_11781:00 PM  Hero/Antihero. Jeanne Cavelos, Daryl Gregory, Elaine Isaak, Sonya Taaffe.

All well developed characters have flaws and quirks–just like we all do.  The concept of the perfect Superman type character doesn’t work anymore (if I continue the metaphor, the Man of Steel flick optimizes this deeper character development). A discussion of heroes who do truly horrible things during their journey toward the “right thing.”

From the program:

The more well-rounded and realistic a character is, the less they seem like a traditional hero. Is it possible to have both heroism and realism, or does the introduction of multiple character flaws automatically make that character an antihero? How do shifting and competing definitions of heroism influence this discussion?

IMG_11802:00 PM Reading: Elizabeth Hand. Elizabeth Hand reads Hard Light, the forthcoming third Cass Neary novel

I’m an Elizabeth Hand fan-boy.  There.  I said it.  The Cass Neary series is a favorite–After all, who doesn’t like a main character who is a photographer (briefly famous for her work in the 70’s during the Punk Rock craze), who is a drug addict, alcoholic and kleptomaniac?

Hard Light continues Cass’ journey and the scene Liz read takes place at a London party.  The wit, cynicism and sheer brilliance of the deeply troubled Cass was a delight to listen to…

She also had a book launch the same evening which I couldn’t attend due to a wonderful opportunity that I’ll write about in a moment.

After going back to back from morning until 2:30 PM…I found myself looking forward to lunch with Glenn Skinner and a potential cocktail.

IMG_1183
Pictured: Foreshadowing

IMG_11823:30 PM Reading: Mikki Kendall. Mikki Kendall reads An excerpt from a dragon short story.

Mikki is one of my favorite genre writers.  She asks questions that most people do not and approaches her writing from an oblique angle–always interesting and thought provoking.  With a healthy does of snark.

She decided on changing what she would read for ReaderCON, and I’m glad she did.  I wonderful interview with a dragon–outlining the dragon’s perspective on humanity.  Look forward to seeing this one in print.

During the con, I met a man I’ve know from the 80’s – Walt Williams. We both grew up on Long Island and now live in the Boston area.  I had the pleasure of meeting his wife Margo as well.

During his reading Thursday night, we ran into someone who went to High School with Walt-Phil Merkel. He does a radio show on Long Island–and after he and Walt caught up on old time, he invited the very talented Mr. Williams to appear in an interview for his radio show.

Then I was gobsmacked when Walt suggested–and Phil agreed– to interview me as well.

I closed out the Saturday program talking about writing, my series, my podcast, Ragnarok Publications (who want to pick up my series), the latest short story just published in Tales of Magic and Misery and the work I’m doing to submit to Clockwork Phoenix 5 (Edited by Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium). It was an experience I’ll never forget and I’m humbled by the “ask.”

IMG_1187

 

IMG_1029Saturday, 11 July 6:24 AM

With Friday behind me, and a great night’s sleep under my belt (aided and abetted by a Jack Daniel’s or two) I wanted to update you all on activities for the day before diving into the Saturday program. Bumped into quite a few friends as I made my way to Salon F (The biggest panel room) first thing Friday morning.  Shira and Adam Lipkin, Mike Allen, John Clute, among many others.  Of course, I also eventually found partner-in-crime, scotch drinker and fellow IT nerd Glenn Skinner, and he and I attended the late morning panel.

11:00 AM  Mystery and Speculative Crossovers. Meriah Crawford, Chris Gerwel, Greer Gilman, Nicholas Kaufmann, Adam Lipkin (leader)

As my Arcana Chronicles series is a noir type of mystery stories wrapped in the supernatural, I was very interested in this panel–how have speculative fiction writers handled this previously?  Am I missing an opportunity–or am I heading down a bad path? The Prodigal’s Foole has been pretty well received since it was published in 2012–and the prequel short in Tim Marquitz’s Tales of Magic and Misery is receiving similar kudos. But a writer can always be better–and this panel really showed me how long I have to go to button up this sort of story-telling.  From the con program:

IMG_1030

There are many books that draw from both the speculative fiction and mystery toolboxes, in both macro ways (China Miéville’s The City & the Cityand Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road are catalyzed by hard-boiled murder investigations) and micro ways (urban fantasy was initially defined by its relationship to noir, now often more evident in tone than in plot). Where is this crossover most satisfying? How do magic and advanced technology open up new avenues of investigation or methods of befuddling the detectives? How have trends, tropes, and developments in each genre influenced crossover works?

Afterwards, I caught up with Adam pipkin and we spent a few minutes discussing Effinger’s When Gravity Fails–my first introduction the a Mystery within SciFi.

IMG_1032Realizing it was well after 12:00, I decided not to be “that guy” showing up incredibly late for a panel.  So Glenn and I grabbed lunch and caught up.  Discussing the trials and tribulations of trying to write while working a full-time (plus) IT job, Electric Smart cars, story plot points and a general catch up was on the menu.

It was nearing 1:30 when I realized I needed to go hear a reading from a friend of mine.

 

1:30 PM  Reading: Shira Lipkin. Shira Lipkin read from her upcoming novel –the title of which was finally revealed, but (as of this writing) Shira hasn’t posted it.  So I’m not going to spoil the surprise!  Needless to say, the title is very different then I expected–but based on the thirty minute reading and what I felt building, it’s amazingly appropriate.

Shira is the type of writer who puts multiple layers within the words typed on a page.  Last year, I realized dialog for a different story changed to unconsciously imitate the back-beat “thump thump” of a dance club.  Bloody brilliant.  This year I was amazed how seamlessly she changed the Point of view of the various characters (each chapter is a different POV–and in some cases a different time).  The seven year olds SOUNDED like seven year olds, the tension in the adults were palatable and there was one scene that was so fucking creepy, that I’m getting goosebumps while typing this nearly 18 hours later.

IMG_10342:00 PM  Where the Goblins Go: A Tour of Hells and Underworlds C.S.E. Cooney, Greer Gilman, Jack Haringa (moderator), Faye Ringel, Sonya Taaffe.

For such a dark topic, this panel was one of the most delightfully bubbly and evil panel I attended Friday.  Greer Gilman had my favorite quote of the day: “Dante is kind of the interior decorator of hell.” #snort.

The discussion revealed around the various depictions of the underworld from different writers and cultures. From the program:

Many types of underworlds feature prominently in religion, folklore, horror, and fantasy. We will discuss the varied roles of hells and netherworlds in world mythology and how authors from Dante to Valente have explored (and exploited) these concepts in fiction.

I was about half-way through the panel when I realized another friend and writer had a reading at the same time.  I snuck out of salon G and nipped across the hall to listen to Allen Steele.

IMG_10352:30 PM  Reading: Allen Steele. Allen Steele read an excerpt from the forthcoming novel ARKWRIGHT. This is an expansion scene for background on the fictitious writer Nathan Arkwright–from what was a short published last year.  The story has now been expanded into a soon-to-be-released novel. SF Signal says:

Written by a highly regarded expert on space travel and exploration, Arkwright features the precision of hard SF with a compelling cast of characters. 

In the vein of classic authors such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, Nathan Arkwright is a seminal author of the twentieth century. At the end of his life he becomes reclusive and cantankerous, refusing to appear before or interact with his legion of fans. Little did anyone know, Nathan was putting into motion his true, timeless legacy.

Convinced that humanity cannot survive on Earth, his Arkwright Foundation dedicates itself to creating a colony on an Earth-like planet several light years distant. Fueled by Nathan’s legacy, generations of Arkwrights are drawn together, and pulled apart, by the enormity of the task and weight of their name.

This is classic, epic science fiction and engaging character-driven storytelling, which will appeal to devotees of the genre as well as fans of current major motion pictures such as Gravity and Interstellar.

The scene he read had to do with the first Science Fiction convention in 1939 and the baseball game held at the end.  Wonderful background scene.  Ray Bradbury was score-keeper (a historical fact). 🙂

I stayed in the same room, as the next reading was by a man I’ve respected for many years.

IMG_10363:00 PM  Reading: James Morrow. James Morrow reads from a soon to be published short story.

I met Jim as a fan-boy over a decade ago at a wedding of my friend Sean Develin (who is distantly related to one of my favorite authors).  Sean–knowing how much I enjoyed Jim’s work, sat me at the same reception table and we struck a friendship which has delighted me over the years.  The work he read from will be published this fall and it was a brilliant satire of Hollywood in the 1950’s. In thirty minutes, Jim entertained the audience with his biting wit, charm and brilliant flowing style.

Following a down-on-his luck author whose brothers run a shady studio called PARC (yeah–it reads backwards in a most appropriate way for the shlock movie production company), our man character finds himself in Mexico reviewing Black and white horror movies that can be exported to the study, re cut and dubbed for quick release and sale.

Tongue-in-cheek and reminisce of the type of TV movies the SYFY channel puts out today, our poor author friend finds himself ghostwriting stories for a fabricated Mexican screen writer.

Jim’s SciFi work is always thought inducing–but is satire is deliciously evil and I always adore his word play.

Another reading followed.  This one by a man who made me cry last year.

4:00 PM Reading: Scott Edelman. Scott Edelman reads “The Pillow of Disappointment and What Was Found Beneath It”

Scott has been busy in the year since he left as editor for the SyFy channel’s web articles.  And I’m happy to hear that as his writing always makes me feels though I’m running in his dreams.  Last year, he read an extremely emotional tale.  This year he wrote about the tooth fairy.

And it worked brilliantly.

I won’t say to much about it, when he’s posted the video of his reading on his YouTube channel.  Take a listen for yourself:

After this, I spent a bit of time in the book story, grabbed dinner with Glenn and ran out to grab the rum from the car because it was time for my first Kaffeeklatsch–or as we have now redubbed it—the rumklatsch.

7:00 PM  Kaffeeklatsch. Shira Lipkin.

I’ve mentioned before the amazing work of Shira Lipkin.  Joining this intimate group discussion, were a few writers I hadn’t met before along with Mike and Anita Allen.

The rum flowed as did the “iced tea” a concoction that included Makers Mark bourbon.  We spoke about Shira’s novel, her poetry. Life in general and the fact that she is submitting the the upcoming anthology Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike.

To which I found out submissions close on the 26th of July.  And THEN I was told by Shira that I better be sending in a story.

Crap.  More work to do!

There were other activities that ran until the wee hours of the morning, inclusive of the “Meet the Pro(se)” party and an 80’s dance.  But it had been a long day, and between the battery of tests and the non-stop activities of ReaderCON Friday, I was exhausted.  So I drove home and fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of story ideas for Clockwork Phoenix 5.

*  *  *

 

Friday, 10 July 7:00 AM

The first evening of readings and panels for ReaderCON are open to the public.  Many of the regular guests and attendees are there as well–certainly for the free program, but more importantly (IMHO) to see and reconnect with friends.

Within moments of walking into the Burlington, I’d bumped into Yves Meynard (who supplied me with raspberries), Jim Morrow, Leah Bobbitt, Greer Gilman and Walter Williams.  I saw Liz Hand and Scott Edelman briefly and hope to catch up with them later today (after a few hours undergoing some testing–not for the raspberries, I swear).

I also had the opportunity to have a glass of wine and a chat with Peter Dubé.

Pictured: My definition of wine
Pictured: My definition of wine

Brilliant start to my favorite con!  What I attended:

IMG_10208:00 PM (Thursday) A Reading with Walt Williams. Walt Williams (who writes under W. B. J. Williams) reads his work in progress, the nearly complete novel the Hacker of Guantanamo Bay. This was a pretty special reading.  Both Walter and I grew up on Long Island and met in the mid 80’s.  The funny thing is that we were both writers at the time (unpublished back then of course) and never knew about each other’s work. So it was wonderful to hear him read from HoGB which will be coming out soon.

Walt applies his skills to what will be a futuristic thriller–and from the chapter or so I heard, I suspect it will be a marvelous read. I own both his printed works–one is work related.  The other–The Garden at the Roof of the World is on my to-read list.

 

 

IMG_10259:00 PM  (Thursday) If Magic Has Always Been Real. Karen Burnham, Lila Garrott (leader), Max Gladstone, Romie Stott, Walt Williams

This panel intrigued me–so many fantasy authors who write in the Urban or Dark fantasy genres have a magic system where by the “art” is hidden from the real world, how does one address if magic really exists?  It’s the idea I’m playing with longer term as an over-all arc in The Arcana Chronicles but it was a fascinating and lively panel.  From the ‘Con program:

“Regarding the challenges of “the world we know, but with magic!”, Monique Poirier wrote, “If magic has always been real, why did colonialism and genocide roll the way it did?… It couldn’t possibly be the world we know without all the painful, fucked up history. And what good is magic if it can’t have altered that?” Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books address this by keeping many elements of history familiar but dramatically changing others. In Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, paranormal entities have always been there, but they hid from ordinary humans for safety and therefore lacked the ability to influence the course of history. How do other authors of historical fantasy and urban fantasy balance the inherently world-changing nature of magic with the desire to layer it on top of the world we have?

Magic. Techno-thriller. Authors and friends. ReaderCON 26 has begun!