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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!

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Should I Go To Helsinki?

I am beginning to plan out my convention-attending plan for the year. As of a few years ago, I’ve made it something of a point to go to two or three each year. I’ve found them to be useful networking opportunities, I’ve usually come away with a few interesting ideas to turn over and apply to my writing, and I’ve always wound up having fun. So far, I’ve been restricting my travel to the lower 48 states. This year, though, a new opportunity presents itself:

Helsinki, Finland

Looks nice!

Looks nice!

This year, the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) is going to be held in Helsinki. I had a lot of fun at WorldCon last year – met up with some old friends, made some new ones, ate some good food, and so on. I’d really like to go again. Finland, though, presents some difficulties. For one thing, I’m not really sure anybody I know is going this year (Finland is a bit of a hike for most of my writer-friends). Going to an American city all alone is one thing, but going to a completely foreign city where I don’t speak the language and also don’t know anybody sounds even more lonely. My first convention experience was just me wandering around a convention hall, not talking to somebody, until an acquaintance pulled me out of the crowd and started introducing me to people. Would this happen in Helsinki? Maybe. But I’d also be paying more money for that gamble – that first convention I just drove to.

Then again, there are some really good reasons to go, too. This year I might get to sit on some panels, which would be worth it. The cost is actually surprisingly low (living in Boston, I have probably the shortest distance to go compared to anybody in the US)–it would cost me about as much as it cost to go to Kansas City last year (well, a *bit* more, since I’d probably stay an extra night or two to make the 13 hour flight worth it). Also, from a sheer adventure standpoint, when is the next time I’ll have an excuse to go to Finland? That seems pretty cool, honestly.

So here I am, still going back and forth. Perhaps, as I often do, I should go back and read the old masters and follow their wisdom. Most notably, the gentlemen of Monty Python:

Back From WorldCon!

GMLBpgJFI’ve returned from Kansas City! Though dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I fought my way back through the dread wastes of La Guardia International and American Airlines to deliver this report on what transpired in the distant cattle town.

So, let me explain.

No, it is too much. Let me sum up:

I attended a great many panels, spoke with a great many friends and colleagues, and watched the Hugo Awards get distributed to deserving people and watched thoroughly undeserving people get routed and driven back to Mordor. I will break this thing down, category by category.

Panels

The panels I attended were either panels about the craft of writing or panels about the subjects we are writing about. In the first category, perhaps the most interesting was the panel on how to pitch your work which was hosted by a goodly number of very spiffy agents (of which my agent, Joshua Bilmes, was member). That panel solidified in my mind what I have come to realize – that a good query is not smoke and mirrors and flowery language, but rather spare and efficient and evocative. Not “My novel is a thrilling death ride through canyons of moral ambiguity that asks the question “at what price justice?”” but, rather, “My completed fantasy novel is the story of a mercenary company that loses its way through a toxic wasteland and must rely on its captain, a recovering alcoholic, to see them to safety.”

I also saw a pretty cool presentation on Solar Sails by the guy who actually managed some of NASA’s solar sail projects. I listened to neat narrative tricks by Mary Robinette Kowal (who used her shoe as a puppet to illustrate concepts) and a panel of other luminaries. I watched a panel on immortality that became dreadfully boring so quickly I abruptly realized that the easiest way to live forever is to listen to an MD mumble jargon into a microphone for what seemed like eternity.

And there was so much more!

People!

Let’s see, who did I run into? Well, first there was my Harper Voyager friends: Brooke Johnson, Beth Cato, Bishop O’Connell, Lexie Dunne, Becky Chambers, and editor David Pomerico. Then there were my Writers of the Future fellows, including Daniel Davis, Martin Shoemaker, Amy Hughes, Sharon Joss, Tina Gower, Steve Pantazis, (Quiet) Austin “the Dealer” DeMarco, and more besides. There was also my newest writing “family” in the JABerwocky Agency, including Joshua Bilmes, Ben Grange, Sam Morgan, Megan O’Keefe, and Heidi, Alison, Joe, Joey, and Chris (whom I spoke with during dinner but whose last names elude me).

I ran into Mike Resnick (editor of Galaxy’s Edge) and Shahid Mahmud (publisher of Galaxy’s Edge), I met CC “Charlie” Finlay, editor of F&SF, who actually remembered me right away and gave me a big smile and a handshake (which was awesome) and introduced me to his wife, Rae Carson.

And there were so many other people, besides! I couldn’t hope to name them all, and not least of all because I’m not 100% confident I would apply the right names to the right people!

Places!

Kansas City is a nice little town – very clean and evidently unpopulated (by my northeastern standards, anyway). Like, seriously – not a lick of traffic at any time, anywhere. Not even downtown. Hardly any pedestrians, either. I won’t lie – it was a trifle eerie.

It is a nice place for BBQ, though, and a big thanks to Brittany Constable (friend of Brooke Johnson and writer in her own right) for giving me a ride out to sample some great brisket and ribs. I also got to go to a fancy restaurant and have a Kansas City Strip Steak, which was pretty good (still not a huge strip steak fan, though). Stopped into the Dubliner pub, too, just to do a standard authenticity check on their “Irish” credentials. It was no Southie or Dorchester, mind you, but it was a really nice bar with some excellent chicken wings (though they don’t seem to understand the definition of “medium rare” for a burger). Got to stop into the Kansas City Public Library, which was a beautiful building that was everything a library should be, and got driven around by some of the nicest cab drivers I’ve met.

Awards!

The awards show was a bit loosely organized, though they managed to get it into 2 hours on the dot, so kudos to them. The awards weren’t terribly surprising, for the most part – the Puppies were firmly routed yet again (and deservedly so), though I got the sense that their bitter negativity had driven a number of award winners from attending the awards, as quite a few people were accepting things on others’ behalf. Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech (which was read on stage) was particularly scathing in that respect. Overall, though, I enjoyed the awards show more than I thought I would, as awards shows are usually overlong and deadly dull.

I was particularly happy for Lightspeed for winning Best Semiprozine and for Hao Jingfang and her story “Folding Beijing,” as they were all beside themselves with joy for their win. Jessica Jones also richly deserved the Best Dramatic (Short Form) Hugo, as well.

Drama!

There was, of course, just a little bit of drama during the convention. I missed it, though whether I was fortunate or unfortunate in that regard is uncertain. A Puppy sympathizer by the name of Truesdale decided to hijack a panel on the state of short fiction and rant and rave about his own opinions about how “pearl-clutchers” are ruining scifi and was, apparently, completely unaware of the irony he embodied. You can look up plenty about this online and I’ll largely stay out of the discussion, but I will say this: Persons of color or women winning Hugo awards doesn’t ruin scifi for anybody. Being assholes, on the other hand…

I’m Going to Kansas City, Kansas City Here I Come…

kansas city…which is the song I’m going to be humming in my head the whole time I’m at WorldCon later on this week (I’ll be getting in about midday on Thursday). As I have never been there, I cannot vouch for the sanity of their women nor am I going for the express purpose of acquiring one. I am going because I plan to meet with a bunch of friends, possibly run into my editor (or agent), and basically take it all in. As I didn’t get my act together this year to put in for a panel (mostly because I didn’t think I’d rate one), I am not there in any official capacity. You’ll be able to find me sitting by myself in the back of various rooms, standing alone in corners, and maybe even awkwardly trying to insert myself into conversations with writers I admire and then completely and utterly embarrassing myself so that I will never look at nor speak to that person again.

So, you know, my typical convention experience.

I have high hopes this time around, anyway, that this will be more fun than I typically have at these things. You see, now I know people (well, virtually) who I will be able to link up with and whom, possibly, might not object to my presence or company. That’s the goal, anyway.

In the meantime, I am editing a novel (which is currently a torturous, miserable train wreck of a book), getting ready for the arrival of the fall semester (sigh – why does summer have to end?), and planning for my Book Signing and Reading at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, MA.

I’ll be there between 7pm and 9pm on Thursday, September 8th. If you’re in the area, come on down, hang out, get a book signed, and check out the Boston area’s best scifi/fantasy book and game store.

Anyway, gotta run–I’ve got to bash my head against this intractable manuscript a bit more. I’ll be back next week with a full recap of the magic of WorldCon!