|A DRD (Diagnostic Repair Drone) came all the way from Farscape.
Here’s the rest of it.*
I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming (i.e. whatever tickles my fancy or chaps my hide) next week.
Breakfast with a dozen or so conventioneers, only a few of whom I knew, now I know more genre people. The delicious, if expensive, buffet went a long way toward soothing the rather prevalent hangover situation.
The How To Write a Short Story panel had a great lineup of some of my favorite writers dispensing nuggets of pure, golden wisdom:
|Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelly, Vylar Kaftan, and Cat Rambo
- Short fiction is where the new ideas and forms are forged.
- Aim high, not just the next sale, aim to make all science fiction to date obsolete. Now that’s shooting for the stars.
- Short fiction is a good place to work on beginnings, middles and ends.
- Short fiction is also a great place to find your voice.
- Stop looking for heroes, look for who gets damaged in the story
- If a story isn’t working, sometimes you need to put it in the drawer to let it mulch with other story ideas
- Don’t hoard your ideas – use them all up. Using them up is what generates more.
- Try everything, find what works for YOU.
- Kaftan pointed us to her great blog post The super-cool magic short-story formula. I plan on trying this as a writing exercise as soon as I’m finished with this post!
I sat down with Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki of Skyboat Media. They’ve been in charge of the Lightspeed podcasts for some time now. I’ve listened to their voices narrate so many stories, it was trippy to sit down and have a conversation with them. They are just finishing up with a full cast audioplay of Ender’s Game called Ender’s Game Alive. They were amused and maybe a little appalled when one of the other attendees admitted that she bumps up the playback speed on her podcasts when she’s in a hurry.
After that, I sat down with Tobias Buckell and David Nickle. I know Buckell more from his blog than his books though I have Arctic Rising on my to read list. Nickle brought some of his books, published by ChiZine, and they were gorgeous. Both Buckell and Nickle were friendly and generous with writing advice and anecdotes.
Another panel about short fiction, this one titled Short Stories – What’s Next? Another stellar group of writers and editors: Kij Johnson, David Levine, Steven Silver, John Joseph Adams, and Damien Broderick
- There was a lively discussion as to whether length is becoming irrelevant. Certainly electronic publishing does not have print costs, and print-on-demand also mitigates up front print costs, but Adams points out that if you’re committed to paying writers pro rates, the costs are still a factor.
- Kij Johnson noted the premise that Science Fiction is a literature in conversation with itself (true of all art IMHO), and sees many stories embellishing or rebutting other stories out there. She noted that stories can now respond to each other nearly in realtime because of new technologies. The panel agreed that there are many stories in dialogue with all kinds of media (i.e. responding to movies, comics, TV – and not just recent material, e.g. Star Trek).
I’m not a cosplayer, but I enjoy admiring other people’s costumes, so I checked out the Masquerade. The costumes ranged from fantastic to strange to hilarious. The kids category was adorable through and through. Paul Cornell, Master of Ceremonies displayed his aplomb throughout a technically challenged show (I believe the tech was run by volunteers, God bless ’em. Seriously, tech is hard!) Cornell kept everyone entertained through all the glitches.
After that it was off to the room parties. Patrice scored an invite to a party thrown by a Texan scifi fan in the presidential suite. There I got to chat with David Brin, Michael Swanwick, Neil Clarke, Rachel Swirsky, and Ann VanderMeer! And Patrice got to talk with Lois McMaster Bujold. Honestly, I could have gone home after that and been completely satisfied with my WorldCon experience. But we soldiered on and went to more room parties including the Drabblecast party where we caught up with Matthew Bey and Norm Sherman. I also met Abigail Hilton, an indy author and podcaster. While I don’t have the time or gumption to go the indy publishing route, I am always interested in hearing about how others do it.
|One of a myriad of room parties.
Disaster and the Literature of the Supernatural, wasn’t so much a panel as a presentation about the nature of ghost stories in Japan both in the past and today. In Japan there is a deep connection between the literature of the supernatural and natural disasters such as the Tsunami of 2011. Here’s a quote from a short film the panelists brought about the ad hoc shrines to the dead that sprang up amid the devastation the Tsunami left behind:
“Each of us alone is weak and powerless, but even the longest story begins with a single letter.”
Of course I had to check out the panel with the wildly optimistic title of The Anthology Renaissance: The Return of the Short Story Market. It boasted another great line up of editors: Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Gordan Van Gelder, Kasey Lansdale, and Rick Klaw. They discussed:
- the growth of flash fiction on the internet.
- that there are more novella markets doing chapbooks – more but it’s still a tough market.
- that unthemed anthologies don’t sell well. This was an interesting fact for me. I prefer unthemed anthos for the variety, and the panel noted that many people SAY they prefer unthemed anthologies, but they don’t BUY them. Hence the proliferation of themed anthologies.
- how they ordered anthologies. (Even though people often read anthologies out of order, they still order them with the idea of reading straight through.) The first and last stories are usually the strongest ones. The first story has to be accessible, to invite the reader in and set the tone of the book. The longest story often next to last, with a shorter one at the end as a grace note.
- the impact of Kickstarter on the anthology market, which is generally positive. From an editorial perspective it has its own challenges, but can be an excellent option if an editor wants complete artistic control over a project.
Selling Poetry, with Mari Ness, Jo Walton, Rachel Swirksy, stayed true to its no nonsense title and was stuffed with lots of interesting information about speculative poetry markets and also poets that I will have to check out.
Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, and Mythic Delirium.
Poets (including the panelists!)
Mari Ness, Jo Walton (posts most of her poetry on her LiveJournal, scroll down), Rachel Swirksky, Nancy Hightower, and Catherynne M. Valente
- I discovered that awards shows are much more interesting if you’re invested in what the awards are for and who’s on the ballot.
- The short story I voted for didn’t win, but they were all good stories so it’s hard to hold a grudge.
- I watched George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones cream three episodes of Dr. Who. in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Nothing against Dr. Who, but seemed apt somehow, GOT being so warlike and all.
- I have decided that Paul Cornell should host the Oscars. Someone make that happen, OK?
I was pretty exhausted at this point, so I focused on finding some gifts for the family in the dealers’ room and chatting with old and new friends and acquaintances. I did manage to go to a science panel about the Cambrian explosion (I love me some biology).
The last thing I went to was Nancy Hightower‘s reading. She read from her forthcoming novel Elementari Rising, a flash fiction piece, and three amazing poems. She also mentioned that she’s been published in Bourbon Penn, a magazine I am soon to be an alumni of as well!
File under miscellaneous:
- I got to meet one of my Online Writing Workshop crit buddies, D. L. Young. We had a long talk about fitting writing in around family and kids and about the pros and cons of different kinds of face-to-face critique groups.
People who I didn’t see or talk to nearly enough:
* This isn’t an exhaustive report, just the highlights. WorldCon was great, but it’s gone on long enough!