Category Archives: Events

My Readercon Schedule!

Hello, lovely people!

This weekend I’ll be attending Readercon – a local scifi/fantasy convention in the city directly adjacent to my lovely hometown, Boston. That city is Quincy, Massachusetts – the City of Presidents! Ah, yes – I spent many a childhood year in Quincy Center, lurking through the aisles of New England Comics, Hobbytown, and the two local bookstores. It remains the first place I ever saw a pigeon with no feet, and also was the place you were most likely to see someone smoking directly underneath a No Smoking sign. And that person would probably be a cop.

But I digress.

The convention is to be held in the lovely Quincy Marriott, high atop a rocky granite knoll, a little like Castle Ravenloft, but with significantly brighter decor and better guest amenities. I will be there along with many other writer friends from the Boston area and beyond, and I entreat you to join us!

If you have a hankering to see me this weekend, here’s where and when I’ll be about:

Friday, 11am: Gamification of Story Development (Panel)

Story-focused games can be useful tools for authors. What happens when a writer draws up a character sheet for their protagonist and lets someone else play it out? Which gaming systems are best suited to developing stories? How can games support writing without creating chaos?

Friday, Noon: Book Signing!

I’ll be signing any and all copies of anything I’ve ever written at the autograph table! Please come visit! I’ll even have a few books stuffed in my pockets for sale if they aren’t on the Dealer’s Floor.

Friday, 3pm: On Dislike: Between Meh and Rage (Panel)

Writers know that reading widely is vitally important for a multitude of reasons, including learning from great books and learning what not to do from poor ones. But what can writers get out of books they feel indifferent to? Or should they just DNF and move on?

Saturday, 1pm: Finding Fairy Tales (Panel)

Did Charles Dickens write a Little Red Riding Hood novel? Is Jurassic Park a take on “Sleeping Beauty”? Our panelists will embark on a fairy tale hunt, finding them in unexpected (and perhaps unjustified) places.

Saturday, 8:30pm: Reading

I’m doing a reading! Not 100% sure what I’m reading yet, but probably one of my previously published short stories. Please come! I promise to be entertaining!

So there you have it! I’ll also be puttering around the Dealer’s Room, going to panels myself, and am always happy to meet fellow writers, fans, non-fans, or even just people who seem nice. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

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My Boskone Schedule, 2018

Hello, friends! Are you in the Boston area? Are you planning to attend Boskone? No? Why the hell not?

What’s Boskone, you say?

Well, it’s only the New England Science Fiction Association’s annual scifi/fantasy convention, held each winter in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts! This year, it will be February 16th-18th at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.

It really is a top-notch convention, too, drawing writers, editors, and agents from all over the country, but most particularly the northeast (which includes a little town called New York City) and even the UK (given that Boston is about as close as you can get to England and still be in the US). I went last year as a fan and had a ton of fun. This year? They invited me to participate!

So, if you’re coming, here is my schedule of panels and what-not. Most of it is on Friday and I have a signing on Sunday. Perhaps most interestingly, I’m hosting my own Kaffeeklatch! Basically, you sign up/sit down with me and a small group of people and get to pick my brain for an hour. I hope to see some of you there!

My Schedule:

My Favorite Game

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2018, Friday 15:00 – 16:00, Lewis (Westin)

Join us as we explore the wonderful world of board games. Our panel of expert gamers will discuss their favorites from the past 10 years. We’ll compare bragging rights, and swap tales of our victories (or defeats). Let’s include our top ten lists — feel free to bring and share your own!

Auston Habershaw, Walter H. Hunt (M), Carlos Hernandez, Dan Moren, M. C. DeMarco

 

Law and Justice in Speculative Fiction

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2018, Friday 17:00 – 18:00, Burroughs (Westin)

In an SF or fantasy world, justice may be meted out by a familiar legal system, by religious hierarchies that rule through faith, by some corrupt order that props up an evil regime, etc. How do you show the complex evolution/interplay of a society and its justice system in a single tale? Why do so many stories concentrate on crime and criminals? How do you quickly sketch out a justice system for a culture that’s different from our own?

B. Diane Martin, Bracken MacLeod, Kenneth Schneyer (M), Alan Gordon, Auston Habershaw

 

The Sword in the Stone: A New Beginning for the Arthurian Legends?

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2018, Friday 18:00 – 19:00, Marina 2 (Westin)

First published in 1938 as a stand-alone tale, T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone departs from older sources to (wonderfully) imagine King Arthur as a boy in Merrie Olde England. What did it bring to now-popular tropes such as shapeshifting, the hidden prince, or the magical education? Later incorporated into the first part of White’s 1958 novel The Once and Future King, it helped spark the musical Camelot. (And, of course, Spamalot.) Would we remember much about King Arthur, his Knights, and their Round Table without these books? How did they influence the wider fantasy genre? Have they been replaced by the stories they inspired?
Faye Ringel, Elizabeth Bear, E. Ardell, Auston Habershaw, Heather Albano (M)

 

Kaffeeklatsch: Auston Habershaw

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
16 Feb 2018, Friday 19:00 – 20:00, Harbor I – Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

Auston Habershaw

 

Autographing: Auston Habershaw, Christopher Paniccia, Max Gladstone

Format: Autographing
18 Feb 2018, Sunday 13:00 – 14:00, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)

Christopher Paniccia, Auston Habershaw, Max Gladstone

 

Come on down this February! I look forward to meeting you all!

Me on Stage! Tomorrow at ImprovBoston!

Tomorrow, if you live in the Boston area and have a free evening, you should really come on down to Improv Boston in Cambridge to see me interviewed on stage for their Spotlight Series, after which I gather there will be comedy improv based upon the things that I say. IB has a talented

Don’t worry – my henchmen aren’t very bright.

bunch of performers and it should be a hilarious, good time. You can also say hi to me afterwards, no doubt, as I will be there in the flesh and what-not. I mean, assuming you want to talk to me. You can also duck out the back door and dodge the goons I’ll have there waiting for you. That’s an option, too. But, you know, sooner or later you’re going to have to pay me that money you owe me, sooooo…

But I digress.

This will be the first time I will be on stage in this kind of performance setting since I left Improv Boston as a performer in 2005. In my five years with the theater, I performed in 12 different shows of varying sizes, directed and assistant directed a few shows, and was one of the architects of Quest – IB’s super-popular fantasy serial show. It was a great, great time and I made a lot of friends and learned a lot of things.

As the years have passed, I find my improv training comes in handy just about all the time. I am delightfully devoid of anything resembling stage fright – I will get up on stage in front of any number of people wearing anything and say whatever without really breaking a sweat (just don’t ask me to dance). I am a champion of doing things by the seat of my pants. It is very hard to knock me off-kilter when I’m teaching a class – I can work the class clown right back into the lesson without breaking stride. All of these things are life skills I either learned or honed through improv theater and have served me very well in my day-job as a lecturer and teacher.

It also helps my writing. Improv, in a lot of ways, is like the antithesis of writing a novel or story – what you do on an improv stage is collaborative, frequently aimless, and usually ephemeral. Writing a story is solitary, firmly directed, and intended to last. However, one of the biggest questions every writer fields is “where do you get your ideas” and nothing gives you a better answer than the skills you develop in improvisation. See, improv comes from everywhere and can be inspired by anything. There are stories and jokes and moments all around you, waiting to be observed. The improvisor sees these bits of inspiration, seizes upon them, and lets their imagination run rampant, free-associating and inhabiting the story they are weaving on the fly until some kind of pattern emerges to ground it. Writers basically do the same thing, just not out loud and not as quickly and not

Pictured: the writer’s mind.
Improv training can help you sort through this.

quite so randomly. Basically, improv is accelerated storytelling, preferring spur-of-the-moment inspiration to meticulous plotting. Now, this does mean that improv rarely rises to the dramatic heights that the plotted, well-considered, well-planned, well-crafted story can, but it manages to capture the excitement of creation and the feeling of wonder that eludes authors so often in an almost effortless way. And it is absolutely perfect for brainstorming new ideas, making new connections, and approaching your outlines loosely, giving your story the permission to breathe and change organically. Improv, in short, teaches you how to be loose without being out-of-control. It teaches you to work with chaos and make something rational out of it, and there are few more apt skills you can learn to become a writer.

So, this is basically a very long and involved way of saying: why don’t you come out Thursday evening, see me in a show, and maybe get exposed to a whole new way of storytelling. I think, in the end, you’ll really enjoy it.

 

World Fantasy Con 2017

Hello, friends!

First, allow me to apologize for my relative inactivity here over the past month. Things have gotten a little crazy in Habershaw-ville – there’s a novel deadline looming, the semester is in full swing, and a new baby has recently arrived, all of which has cut in to the time I use to keep this place updated. I’m certain my routine will stabilize sometime soon (I hope) and I’ll go back to posting once or twice a week.

But that isn’t why you came, is it?

San Antonio!

San Antonio’s scenic riverwalk, by night

This past weekend I attended World Fantasy Con in San Antonio and had a grand old time. I didn’t get on any programming myself, so I was worried it wasn’t going to be a productive trip, but boy was I pleasantly surprised to be wrong! Here’s what I did:

Panels

I got in on Friday afternoon and immediately attended some readings. I saw friend GV Anderson read from her story “I Am Not I” from the July/August F&SF. Then I went to see friend William Ledbetter read a bunch of flash pieces from various venues. It was a delight to finally meet both of them in person and their readings were very good.

During the rest of the weekend, I saw five panels.

Panel #1 – Borrowing From History: Intention and Appropriation

This panel interested me because, as a white man, I am concerned that I have not always done justice to other cultures I have portrayed (however indirectly) and wish to do better. I was hoping to get some tips on how to responsibly explore and portray cultures other than my own. Unfortunately, I didn’t really learn that. The panel was chiefly concerned with exclamations that appropriation is a problem (which I knew) and that publishers and gatekeepers have a lot of responsibility in giving persons of color greater voice (which, while true, wasn’t especially helpful for authors trying not to be exploitative). The general advice was to do your research and tell stories that do other cultures “well.” While I applaud the sentiment, such advice was sufficiently vague as to be practically useless.

Panel #2 – Religions of the African Diaspora: Beyond Zombies, Ancestors, and Giant Apes

This panel, made up almost entirely of African American academics and authors, was intended to discuss the vast array of African religions and discuss how to portray them in fiction. This, as it happened, wound up being mostly a panel about cultural appropriation, however it was much more useful and concrete from an author’s perspective. Panelists pointed out the hypocrisy of European views of Voudoun (“voodoo”), for instance, which is portrayed as a wicked blood magic when, at the same time, the Christian church frequently displays a corpse (the crucifix) and engages in blood magic itself (the Eucharist). It is not the ritual of voudoun that is frightening to a white audience, it is the fact that it is black people worshiping.

The panel was comprised of a lot of observations like this, demonstrating how so much history goes unresearched and  unknown because of accepted cultural and racial biases. It did a good job of getting me to be aware of those biases in myself and give me places to look to dispel them, which made it a lot better (in my opinion) than the previous panel.

Panel #3 – Ancient Cultures, Modern Sensibilities

This one was all about how and whether to use problematic aspects of ancient cultures (human sacrifice, incest, slavery, etc.) in modern fiction and how to portray characters living in those times as sympathetic even though their behavior doesn’t mesh with modern morality and taboos. It was interesting, but I don’t have any tidy soundbites for you.

Panel #4 – Which Witch is Which? Power and Portrayal of Magic in Fantasy Literature

This panel contrasted fictional witchcraft with historical (and contemporary) practice. It was very interesting, especially from a world-building perspective, as witchcraft has an incredibly varied history, ranging from simply local women practicing traditional medicine to those identified as the political enemies of the church all the way to modern Wicca and other traditions.

Panel #5 – The Secret History of the Hyborian Age

This late-night panel was basically for Conan enthusiasts and fans of Robert E Howard’s work. Panelists – mostly anthropologists and Howard historians – explained new revelations about Howard’s life, his work (and world-building) and his correspondence with HP Lovecraft (which was quite extensive, apparently – those two fought like cats for decades). The basic thesis was that Howard was far more conscientious about his world building than originally thought and was in some ways a precursor to the complex fantasy worlds common to the genre today. Fascinating stuff.

Books and Signings!

This year’s haul.

As usual, the WFC bookbag was amazing. I would post a picture of it, but wordpress is not cooperating and won’t upload any files. It contained such highlights as Martha Wells’ All Systems Red (which I later had signed), Cargill’s Sea of Rust, The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera, an issue of F&SF, and a bunch more stuff, too. I didn’t take all of it home (limited suitcase space), but the satchel bag was nice and the haul was probably the best I’ve gotten.

At the mass signing on Friday night, I ran into a lot of friends. I saw Sara Beth Durst with her super-professional spread (her own bookmarks and everything!). I ran into Beth Cato, who was hawking her super cool short fiction anthology Red Dust and Dancing Horses and, as usual, had cookies on-hand. C Stuart Hardwick was there, too, sitting in the corner and pretending not to be a science fiction author among fantasy authors (and, seriously, don’t we all read both?). I met Martha Wells and got her to sign her book, said hi to lots of other people, and overall had a great time.

People!

Beyond the official events, I spent a lot of time meeting new people and catching up with folks I already knew. I went out to dinner with a bunch of folks from my agency, had breakfast with Charlie Finlay of F&SF and a bunch of fellow F&SF authors, reconnected with Scott Anderson of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and met a bunch of folks from Boston, of all places, who happened to be out in San Antonio and also happened to know people from my Writers of the Future year.

As a final note, my friend GV Anderson won the award for best story! How awesome is that?

So, yet another good year for the WFC. Next year is Baltimore, which is a short trip from Boston. I’ll definitely be there – I hope to see you, too!

Scifi/Fantasy Writing Twitter Chat! Today at 1pm and 8pm!

Hey, the real world is full of bad news today! Need to escape? Come join me and a bunch of other authors to chat about writing. 1pm EST and 8pm EST. The handle is #SFFChat. See you there!

WorldCon 75 Report!

Now that I’m back from Finland and suitably recovered from jetlag to do substantive work, I feel ready to tell you all how it went. Curious? Read on!

Helsinki

One of the primary reasons for me to go to WorldCon this year was to just check out Helsinki, as I rather doubt I’ll have many excuses to get to that corner of the world again. Overall, it was a really nice place – calm, clean, and easy to get around. The convention gave all members a metro pass for the duration of the convention, which was super convenient.

Though I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of the city, what I did see showed me a few things about how much nicer some American cities would be if they made necessary investments into public transit and bike infrastructure. The noise level in Helsinki was surprisingly low, traffic and congestion were minimal, and everybody seemed fairly calm. The quality of life there looks pretty high.

I was worried when going over that I would have trouble communicating, as I was having a hard time picking up any Finnish. Lucky for me, most of the Finns I met spoke enough English for me to get by (and a great many were wholly fluent). Everybody was very nice and I really don’t have much to complain about regarding my stay.

The Convention Center

It became clear really early on that the Finns had vastly underestimated how many people were going to want to go to WorldCon this year. This wasn’t exactly their fault – they based their estimates on previous years’ WorldCons in Europe and expected, based on membership sales, to host about 3500 people. They evidently got about 6500, many of whom purchased in the final week leading up to the kick-off.

Messukeskus, the Helsinki Convention Center, isn’t the biggest convention hall and, with that many extra bodies, it was really crowded. The corridors were kind of narrow, making it hard to get around, and getting into panels was difficult. You really had to line up at least a half-hour ahead of time to make it into any given panel, meaning the best you could hope for was a panel every other hour. The first day I was there (Thursday), I failed to get into most of the panels I wanted to because I hadn’t quite figured this out yet. It was a bit frustrating.

To their credit, the organizers *did* manage to get some extra space for Friday and Saturday panels, but even still it was a mob scene.

My Signing

Don’t I look all official?

My book signing was on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t exactly crowded, but I did manage to sign a few things and even sold a book to a convention goer (I had brought 4 books of my own, since the dealers floor didn’t have any of them – largely my own fault, as I should have been in better communication with my publisher). I also met urban fantasy author Russel Smith (writing under RA Smith), who was sitting next to me. We had a lovely chat.

Panels

Of the panels I attended, perhaps the most interesting was the last one – it was on how to write a fight scene and featured Elizabeth Bear, Sebastien de Castell, and a few others whose names are slipping my mind at the moment (sorry! Can’t find my program schedule!). Anyway, there was a lot of back and forth about how detailed a fight scene should be, but the biggest take-away was that fights aren’t interesting or entertaining unless the stakes were clear and the audience is engaged with the characters’ plights, which I agree with and is good to be reminded of sometimes.

I attended a bunch of other panels – too many to go over individually – but one thing I will say is that this particular convention had a much more academic slant than other conventions I’ve been to. Pretty much every panel had one or two academics on the subject present, rather than just a table of writers, editors, and agents. This gave a lot of the panels a more serious tone than usual and meant that a lot of the discussions reached into realms of literary criticism and academic theory rather than concrete craft-building advice or idea brainstorming. The academic side of me found this really interesting (at times), but the writer in me kinda wanted a little bit more practical and concrete writing discussion and less theory.

@winterhazelly even did an illustration of us all! Cool, right?

My own panels went well. The first – “Any Sufficiently Immersive Fantasy is Indistinguishable From Science Fiction” – featured me as moderator, Max Gladstone, Finnish academic Hanna Rikka-Roine, and British academic Farah Mendelsohn. The discussion was basically a genre distinction discussion: does Science Fiction do worldbuilding differently than Fantasy? The basic answer there was “not necessarily” and we talked a bit about what allowed fantasy or science fiction to be what was termed as “immersive.” One interesting point brought up was that science fiction more often had a clearer “what if” driving concept that affected how worlds were built, whereas fantasy often did not. Of course, all of these distinctions were subject to exceptions and variations and we were hasty to point out that rules in literature were made to be broken.

My second panel, on Saturday, was “It Can’t Happen Here.” It was a panel about the horror show of modern politics and how science fiction and fantasy can (or should) work to improve the world around us. It featured Cenk Gokce as moderator, me, Edmond Barret, Evil Ivo, and Cat Sparks. Overall, this panel was a surprising amount of fun (especially considering the subject matter) and, while we did spend a lot of time complaining about politics, we also spent a lot of time talking about how science fiction has the means to potentially reach people, give them ideas, and present problems in such a way that future generations can be inspired to find solutions. That is, of course, if global warming doesn’t kill us all first, I guess. Fun times!

People

RA Smith and I

While there, I met with my agent and my editor (good discussions both) and saw a few friends. I also made a bunch of new friends, too, including Russel Smith (my signing buddy), fellow swashbuckling fantasy author Sebastien de Castell, German military scifi author Robert Corvus and his friend Martin Schneider (who runs one of the best scifi conventions in Germany). I met a variety of Finns (Pasi Kallinen, in particular – hello!), Dutch, Irish, Americans, and British – new friends all. I also spent quite a lot of time alone, riding the trams and looking at the city.

I saw Max Gladstone (again) – I seem to see him at every con these days – and I met Joe Abercrombie for the first time (though I doubt he remembers me). I saw George RR Martin everywhere I went, but I didn’t talk to him (he always had a gaggle of fans around him). I met my editor’s wife (whom I gave a copy of

Sebastien de Castell, Robert Corvus, and me

my book), and met a great many other people besides.

 

Overall, a successful trip to Finland for WorldCon 75! Hopefully I’ll be able to go next year, too. Maybe I’ll see you all in San Jose!

I’m Off to Finland for WorldCon! (and my schedule)

Hello, Persons-who-read-my-blog!

In a few hours, I will be boarding a plane. This plane will cross an ocean and land in one place, and then I will get on another plane which will cross a continent and land in…

HELSINKI!

That’s right, campers – I’m off to Worldcon! To distant Scandanavia! So close to Russia and yet so far from Japan!

(but seriously, I need to get that song out of my head. The Finns will think I’m insane.)

Hopefully I will see some of you there. If not, hopefully I’ll see somebody I know. If, by some lucky confluence of events, you will happen to be there and happen to also wish to see me/meet me/accost me, this is where you’ll be able to find me:

Panel #1: Any Sufficiently Immersive Fantasy is Indistinguishable from Science Fiction

Thursday 15:00 – 16:00, 216 (Messukeskus)

In Rhetorics of Fantasy, Farah Mendlesohn made the observation that “immersive fantasy is that which is closest to science fiction”. Might there be any corollary on the side of science fiction, and what rhetorical devices make a work feel more as fantasy or as science fiction? And can the method used in Rhetorics of Fantasy be used fruitfully on science fiction too?

Signing: Auston Habershaw

Friday 14:00 – 15:00, Signing area (Messukeskus)

Panel #2: It Can’t Happen Here

Saturday 18:00 – 19:00, 216 (Messukeskus)

It can’t happen here:  Looking at the headlines these days, and many people seem to be thinking bad things can’t happen where they live, but then we get Brexit.  President Trump.  Turkey sliding into authoritarian theocracy.  Russia annexing Crimea with the international community watching.  What can history teach us about things that can happen, and how do we write SF that is not going to be dystopias after dystopias?  Heinlein’s story, Logic of Empire ends with the line “Things are bound to get a lot worse before they can get any better.”  Is this inevitable?  What can we do about it, and how can SF offer hope for the future with our fictional worlds?

So, there it is – my schedule! I hope to meet new people and see new things and learn new stuff. I also hope my book signing isn’t an hour of me sitting alone at a table (grand ambitions, I know).

See you all on the other side!

I’m Gonna Be On TV – TONIGHT, 8pm EST!

Watch it live! Or taped! Or whenever!

Hey, gang! I’m going to be interviewed on the Steve Katsos Show tonight at 8pm EST. Short notice, I know, but very exciting! If you’ve ever wanted to hear me talk or watch me be a real, live person, tonight is your chance!

I’ll be talking about my books (current and upcoming), my journey as a writer, and other things of (hopefully) popular interest.

It should be a fun time! Tune in!

Convention Report: World Fantasy 2016

Hi there! Haven’t posted in a while. Did you think I was dead? Well, I was. As it’s Halloween, however, I have risen from my grave to tell you what I’ve been doing in the Underworld Columbus, Ohio.

That’s right – just got back from the 2016 World Fantasy Convention! Great times were had and now, in brief and pithy statements, I shall explain such times to you.

Lovely Columbus

First off, I have to say that, despite my little crack above, Columbus is a pretty nice little city. The food was good, the neighborhood around the hotel was really cool, and the weather was downright pleasant. As a highlight, I got to go to a burger place that served not just regular hamburgers, but also burgers made of turkey, duck, elk, wild boar, or bison. I had an elk-burger with bacon, pepper jack, and a variety of interesting mayonnaises and it was quite the flavor explosion. I could probably eat at that particular restaurant every day for a year and not get sick of it.

So…Many…Books…

WFC is a convention of readers above all else. Nowhere is that more noticeable than in the book bag you get as a bonus for attending. Check out this spread:

Wow.

Wow.

Them’s a lot of books, folks. So many books, in fact, that after stuffing said haul into your suitcase by some feat of spatial gymnastics and raw strength, on the way into the airport on the trip home the TSA will yank that suitcase out of the X-Ray machine and hand examine it. The guy unzipped my suitcase, peered inside, and offered up a non-plussed “it’s…just a fine selection of books…”

Yes, TSA guy. Yes it is.

The Panels!

I went to see several panels over the course of the weekend and even sat on two myself (I’ll explain those two later). The panels and the highlights were basically as follows:

I Believe I Can Fly was a panel on the mystique of flight in fantasy fiction. I saw it because my friend, Dan Koboldt, was sitting on it and I knew he and I would be on a panel later together on a similar topic. I was worried I didn’t have a lot to say about flight, but it turned out that I totally did and I wound up talking a bit much during the panel itself even though I wasn’t on it (sorry, folks). One of the better comments came from Curtis Craddock (I think) who said that, as mammals who sleep on our backs and look at the stars, flight has always been important to us. Alan Smale was also on the panel, and his alternate history novel Clash of Eagles (where the Roman Empire has survived to the 13th century and invades North America) sounds cooler and cooler every time I hear him talk about it.

Trilogies? Small Stuff! This was possibly the best panel I saw. You got to watch Mercedes Lackey and Lee Modesitt argue over who has longer running series and more books altogether (the answer is Lackey, by a country mile as it turns out), got to listen to David Drake and Sharon Shinn and Kay Kenyon talk about how to keep from getting burned out (a lot of them switch protagonists or POV as the series develops) and all of them talked about the size of a story you were planning to tell. Quote of the panel was probably from Lackey: “My muse is my mortgage.”

L.E. Modesitt Jr. Guest of Honor Speech Listened to Lee Modesitt talk about how he wound up being an author (basically spending a lot of his life working in jobs he was poorly suited to), how he writes (2.5 mile walk in the morning, then breakfast, then writing from mid-morning until 7 or 10pm, with breaks to shop, eat, etc.), and how he wound up writing fantasy (he found himself as a junior author on a panel as the only scifi writer among fantasy authors. When asked “what do you think about modern fantasy authors’ takes on economics and politics his flustered response was “they don’t seem to know anything about either one of them!”).

Sword and Sorcery Today: Still Slashing Away featured moderator Scott Andrews (of Beneath Ceaseless Skies) trying in vain to get panelists Mercedes Lackey, David Drake, SM Stirling, and James Moore to talk about contemporary sword and sorcery but instead they mostly argued about what it was and whether they wrote in the genre or not and why it mattered.

How Does Who We Are Affect What We Read was an interesting one featuring Robert J Sawyer, David Coe, and others wrestling with the interaction between reader and text and, more importantly, to what extent can we or should we learn from past writers who held reprehensible beliefs by today’s standards (HP Lovecraft, for instance). I found the discussion really interesting and the panelists got very contentious at times, which itself was instructive. No clear answers were arrived upon, as expected.

Old Stories, New Twists talked extensively about re-tellings and fairy tales – a topic that I’m professionally interested in as a professor, even if I haven’t done that myself. The panelists explored how you get into your head to retell something (the stuff that annoys you about the classic tale and exploring that further) and what new you can bring to old texts. There was also a shout-out to the fact that Belle’s behavior in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is textbook battered wife syndrome, which is something I’ve discussed at length before on this very blog.

The Mass Book Signing!

Look at that! I'm all official and such!

Look at that! I’m all official and such!

On Friday night, all authors who were on panels or otherwise part of the convention gathered in the ballroom to meet and chat with fans and sign any books of theirs that happened to be present. To my mild surprise, I had a name tag and everything and was entitled to a seat at the table with everybody else!

Now, I had but one copy of my novel and none were for sale in the dealer’s room, so I figured I wouldn’t be doing much signing. I parked myself next to Sarah Beth Durst (read The Queen of Blood, by the way – it’s great!), who I expected was going to get a lot of traffic (she did!) and maybe, just maybe some of those folks, while waiting in line, would talk to me. It worked pretty well, actually, and I maybe convinced 4-5 people to buy my book.

Then, to my complete surprise, two people (separately, without coordination) came up and asked me to sign my short story “Lord of the Cul-de-Sac” in May 2016 issue of Galaxy’s Edge. So I did get to sign stuff, after all – cool! Of course, next year I need to remember to bring actual books or see that they’re stocked in the dealer’s room, at least.

My Panels!

I got to sit on two separate panels, both of which were a blast.

An Aviary of Beasties was a panel all about flying critters in fantasy and what kinds were at our disposal and what to do with them and so on. It was me, Dan Koboldt, EJ Stevens, Rajan Khanna, and Susan Shell Winston as moderator. I mostly talked about the difficulty of owning or training flying mounts in a fantasy world (what do you feed them? How do you train them? What do you use them for? How expensive are they?) and a fair amount about the evolutionary role such creatures should or ought to play in your environment. EJ Stevens talked a lot about the role of various fey creatures in her own novels and some discussion was had about the dichotomy between the really big flying things (Dragons, the Roc) and the really little ones (Pixies, sprites, etc.). Dan talked a bit about the meeting of high-tech drones and dragons in his work, and Rajan discussed how his post-apocalyptic airship setting had to do a lot with how flight was an escape – freedom, essentially. Me, being the party pooper of a modernist that I am, talked about how that could also be taken as a myth – how conflict can develop from wishing you were free and then finding that you aren’t.

The second panel, and the last panel of the convention, was Atheist Fantasy: Is God Dead? This one was a real treat, with me getting to share the table with Max Gladstone, Lee Modesitt, Larry Hodges, Kevin Maroney, and Jeff Minerd. This, as you can imagine, was a really heady one. We discussed the origins and purposes of religions and how such things were (or were not) distinct from belief in or the existence of a deity figure. I offered the question of whether or not you could have supernatural, super-powerful beings and not have gods (isn’t a god just a supernatural being with a fan club?) and where the line was drawn. Max, of course, was all over the topic (and if you’ve read the Craft Sequence, you know why. If you haven’t, do so!) and Lee Modesitt was an able and provocative moderator. He left as soon as it was over, though, so I didn’t get a chance to ask him to sign my copy of The Magic of Recluse. Alas.

The People!

Much of the purpose of these conventions is to meet people – fans, other writers, editors, agents, etc.. In that regard, this convention was a great success – much better than last year, where I knew no one and nothing. In addition to catching up a bit with Sarah Beth Durst, I met fellow Harper authors Kelley Grant-Kelley, Dan Koboldt, and Laura Bickle. I saw CC Finlay and met Gordon VanGelder (both of whom are the nicest people!). I went out to dinner with a whole lot of authors and editors, had lunch with aspiring authors and fans alike, chatted with people about Neal Stephenson and The Grapes of Wrath and Black Mirror and on and on and on. It was fantastic, and I’m excited to go again next year in lovely San Antonio.

That’s about it about that. I’ll be back to my regular posting habits soon, I’m sure. Just as soon as I beat back this encroaching con-crud. Ugh…

Has to be a downside somewhere, right?

Wherein I Plot My Hostile Takeover of On the Dot Books

No seriously - this is what I look like.

No seriously – this is what I look like.

This Friday (10/7/16) from 12pm-2pm EST, I will be taking over the Twitter feed of local bookstore, On the Dot Books. Thus will my dominance of all local bookchains be assured, as they will quake in terror of my wrath ever after.

(ahem)

By which I mean I hope to have a lovely conversation with all of you wonderful people out there on Twitter regarding my books (read The Saga of the Redeemed!), writing, scifi/fantasy, and whatever you like. Ask questions, trade pithy jabs, and even be exposed to my vast store of stock photography and memes. It should hopefully be a lot of fun and serve to promote not only myself but also a great independent bookstore here in Boston.

So, this Friday, stop by during your lunch-break to pick my brain on Twitter at @onthedotbooks – great fun will be had!