Friday, August 8, 2008

Small Adventures in a Large WoldCon – Part 3a – August 8th, 2008

Live from the Barnes and Noble on 16th street, downtown Denver, courtesy of the local free WiFi….

8 am rise and off to the “Strolling with the stars” 1-mile walk at 9 am, this time guest-starring Lou Anders, John Picacio, and writer Paul Cornell. I got a few words in with Lou, who was very amicable and approachable, just as he was during the 2006 WorldCon, and who shared his excitement regarding some forthcoming short stories. Pyr has truly been producing some fine books, and Lou's anthologies in particular stand out.

At 9:30 am I met with Marlan May of Fantastic Dimensions (http://www.fantasticdimensions.com/), who had asked the previous day if he could do a short video-interview with me regarding Spanish fandom, and to which I had naturally agreed! He had the equipment set up at a cool spot out of the way of the main hustle and bustle and the interview was fun and painless. Marlan let me know it might be up at the above site sometime within a month -- I’ll definitely post an update here with a link to the video-clip, as soon as it’s available.

Panel 1 - SF as a forum for questioning social norms – 10 am
Panel Blurb: As a part of society, we tend to take it at face value, like a fish in water. But science fiction helps us step outside and take a look from a new perspective. Look at how it has been and could be done -- and what can and should be done with the results...
Participants: David Coe, Ian McDonald, ( m) James Morrow, Nancy Kress, Pat Cadigan, Robert Reed

What a stimulating way to start the day! Way more was covered during this excellent panel than I care to summarize here, but a few interesting items stand out. Nancy Kress spoke very articulately about the perils of claiming that SF predicts and even shapes social norms; this is hubristic, and places an undue burden of expectation on the genre. Rather, SF captures the present, and is sometimes at the forefront of social changes, but historically it does not tend to instigate them. She provided some specific examples with dates, like Feminism in the late 1960s; her point is well-taken. Pat shared some interesting experiences from her youth and tied them back to some of the anti-white-men-in-space fury in her work, and David Coe had a really interesting comment about how a certain allegorical post 9-11 motif emerged in his latest epic fantasy series, but did so from previous outlines and plans, rather than in response to 9-11 itself. There were a bunch of meaty questions from the audience (including one on whether technology can cause shifts in moral and ethical perspectives, for which the consensus answer, again led by an articulate Nancy Kress, was that it absolutely can).

Kaffeeklatsch – 11 am
James Patrick Kelly

About ten minutes later I made it to my first Kaffeeklatsch; I got to sit with two other attendees and ask James Patrick Kelly questions about the craft of short story writing. How frakkin’ awesome is that!? I have several pages of notes that resulted; a fantastic learning experience. Of course, I’ll only get to see these theoretical ideas translated into my writing better stories when I implement them in my own work and eventually internalize them. Butt to the chair, practice practice. Still, it was an incredible opportunity to learn from a true master of the short story form (who is also extremely well-versed in other people’s works, not surprising). JPK is an artist. Fellow writer Mark Morehead, former Clarion attendee, had an equal share of great questions, and I look forward to reading his story in Ideomancer. The third attendee, whose name I forgot to note, was a storyteller and joke-teller, and his perspective was also interesting (for example, when considering the use of tenses in narrative). I got to plug my recent critical piece on Silverberg, ahem ahem.

Panel 2 - The Secret of Being a Published - 1pm
Panel Blurb: Is there a magic bullet or is it just hard work and talent? Need some motivation? Need some insight into what could be ahead for you? Join Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch for an hour of discussion on these topics and more.
Participants: ( m) Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Wow. How can I turn that into two words? Wow-wow. Wo-w?
In any case, Dean and Kristine had a TON of energy and useful advice. One could sense huge audience participation and buzz. Everything they said was completely on target. The “secret” largely relies on Heinlein’s immortal rules, but they added much clarification and explained how the rules apply in a realistic sense. This included the write and send out one-story-a-week process I’d designed for myself during the first couple of months of the year. With 57 rejections and 3 fiction and 2 non-fiction sales during 2008 so far, I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Ok, so after this I got the pleasure of spending some quality time walking around the dealer’s room and talking to one of my all-time favorite writers. What a pleasure.

Then, some complications. Apparently, the leasing office back in my apt complex in California never received payment for August, though I am sure I made it on the 1st and 2nd. After some phone calls to my bank and the leasing office, it seemed like a case of a lost check and nothing else, which was comforting—but no resolution would have been possible without the inestimable help of an AMAZING friend, who not only kept me abreast of everything but actually went down to the leasing office itself to clarify things in person!! Thank you!! :-) A replacement check later, everything was cleared up, and based on my payment history the leasing agent assured me I would not suffer any late fees or negative impact to my credit score. Phew!

While all of this long-distance craziness was going on, my phone died, and I’d forgotten to bring my charger to the convention center, so I had to haul butt back to the hotel. Between one thing and another, I missed the next two panels I’d planned for. But no matter – things still turned out great.

I got to speak for a few minutes with another writer whose work I admire, and to throw a somewhat proposal at him, one that may involve some travelling on my part later on in the year or next year. It’s an exhilarating prospect, and he was extremely gracious, funny and well-spoken.

Then off to the dealer room once more, where I purchased five pseudonymous titles by Robert Silverberg (from the infamous Don Elliot series) that I’d asked the dealer to set aside the previous day. Once again, my friend was invaluable, via long-distance txt message, in the purchasing decision.

Panel 3 - Do younger fans still read Heinlein? Are the juvies dated? – 5:30 pm
Panel Blurb: Many people feel that Heinlein's young adult novels (many written for Boy's Life) are his best works. But 50 or more years after they were written, has 21st century technology passed these stories by? Or are they still as interesting to young people today as they were when they were first published?
Participants: Bill Patterson, Eleanor Wood, Geo Rule, ( m) Herb Gilliland, Sarah Hoyt

Very fun stuff. A quieter panel of extremely Heinlein-educated members who invited plenty of relevant questions from the audience. I was pleased to hear some people still believe that THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS is the most finely written novel, in a technical sense, of all Heinlein’s opus.

And…there’s still more stuff to talk about from today, but I’ll have to continue tomorrow!
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