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Posts Tagged ‘conventions’

I hadn’t planned to go to Wondercon today, but events fell out such that I was going to be in the area, and I could get the time off, so we went. When we last visited, three or so years ago, Wondercon was Comic-con’s little brother, colorful but far less intimidating, and far easier to navigate. What a difference three years can make.

Apparently a lot of people have decided that Wondercon might be less stressful, because now they all want to go there. We arrived at the Anaheim convention center area at noon. We actually had our badges before two. Not much before, but still. Yeah, it took two hours to park, shuttle from our parking, and get our badges. And this was with pre-registration. Admittedly, there were times when that was the only fact that kept me in the building (since we’d already paid up).

Finally, though, we got through, and from then on it was everything we hoped for–and less. “Less” as in fewer people, and no more lines (although we had written off trying to see any panels, which might have changed the dynamic). We spent our time in the dealer’s room, a well-stocked and diversified marketplace largely devoted to comic book shops, but also featuring books, clothing, jewelry, and a seller of custom furniture designed specifically for gamers(!). And of course there was the people-watching.

Odd as it may be for a writer, people-watching is not my favorite pastime. But today–cosplay has come a long way in the past several years. I saw some very good character impersonations today, most notably Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.* Many of the most ambitious costumes were apparently manga and anime characters, with which I am not familiar, but they were impressive.

One of the most pleasant (and disappointing) aspects was inspecting the used comic book vendors’ wares and pointing to various items: “I’ve got that,” was good; “I used to have that, and now it’s worth–oh, don’t tell me!” was not so good. There was more of the latter than the former. Who knew they were going to start making X-Men movies when we were kids?

Perhaps the high point was seeing Nichelle Nicholls greeting fans, and at the moment we walked by, she was being approached by two small girls (maybe ten years old) wearing classic Star Trek uniforms. The looks on their faces as they met this iconic woman were priceless. I doubt they will ever forget what they did today.

I won’t forget it soon, either, because by the end of the day I could hardly walk. That’s one big exhibit hall! Will I go again? Probably, but I want to be a guest next time and avoid the lines. Or become a superhero and fly over them…

 

*I know what you’re thinking, and get your mind out of the gutter. I can’t help it if women make better cosplayers. There were a couple of remarkably good Jack Sparrows, too.

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So I was on this panel at Loscon, and it didn’t go all that badly. I made a few points, got a laugh or two, and didn’t feel at all uncomfortable, except the hotel kept the rooms too cold. But we had a standing room only crowd, and lots of audience participation (which actually kept me from saying some things I wanted to, but hey, we were there for the crowd, not vice versa). No fistfights broke out (no matter how I tried), no one raised his voice, and no tomatoes were thrown. All in all, a pretty good return to convention speaking after 33 years.

Also, if you are a writer, I recommend getting on some panels, because you get to use the green room. The food is good and the conversation was lively.

And I used my new contacts to get a line on applying to be a guest at another con next year! I’m afraid I may be becoming addicted to fame…

#SFWApro

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After a hiatus of 33 years, I will be making my re-entry into the world of convention panelists at Loscon. This is actually the first time I have been a guest at a con, since my previous appearances were due to my being on the convention committee.

What if Star Trek Had Never Existed?” will debut on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. It explores the fannish, cultural, and scientific ramifications of a world where Star Trek never aired. I don’t doubt that the discussion could occupy the entire con, but we’ll try to bring in a definitive answer in less than an hour. (Yeah, right.)

Personally, I think that without Star Trek the entire bedroom-poster industry would have collapsed years ago. I mean, without that picture of Jeri Ryan in her Seven-of-Nine outfit…

#SFWApro

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Having been to my share of “Writing 101” panels at conventions over the years, I have noticed an odd trend, a question from (I assume) aspiring writers that runs something like this: “What are your writing habits?” In other words, how many words a day, do you write longhand first and then transcribe, do you listen to music while you write, do you write in the morning or at night…? I used to be interested in the answer myself, until I finally asked myself, after some repetitions: “Why? What difference does it make?”

Were this asked in general interviews, or autograph sessions, or like situations (which it is), I would understand. For all that there is nothing special about writing–it’s just somebody working at that which he does well, just like teaching math or prosecuting a lawsuit–there is still that air of mystery which pervades all of the arts: Those whose talents do not lie in that direction are in awe of those whose talents do, and who succeed thereat, are treated with respect and sometimes reverence by those who appreciate those talents, i.e., their fans.

That being said, I don’t understand why this question keeps coming from other writers, or even would-be writers. Because how Stephen King keeps his desk,* or when John Scalzi writes, or how many words George RR Martin puts down in a day,** has no effect at all on how successful I am as a writer. No matter how much I know about these people, it’s not going to make me better; the only way to get better is to write. And that’s true if you’re a neopro or pre-published (or Stephen King).

It’s not a crime, of course, to want to emulate your heroes, but you’d get more value emulating the qualities that contribute to their greatness. And even then, everyone is different. Even a common requirement like daily word count varies tremendously among writers.

So in the end, it all comes down to the same thing: Be yourself. Blaze your own trail. Let others ask you your habits if they think it’ll help them.

*Actually, I’ve read King’s On Writing, and I recommend it.

**Yes, I know, the answer is “not enough.” ETA: However, Scalzi just published this column in the LA Times, addressing that same question.

#SFWApro

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Well, that was interesting. First let me say that my first time in Kansas City will likely be my last, but not through any fault of KC’s. The beer is good and the barbecue is delicious–what else do you need to host a Worldcon? “A convention center”? Well, if you insist. But the first two are more important.

So what was the con like, you ask? Very nice. I don’t normally attend a con for the panels any more; I’ve been to too many of both that were much the same as their predecessors, but this time there were a surprising number that I thought sounded interesting, even if some did not turn out the way I had hoped…

And yes, I’m talking about that panel. The now-infamous “State of Short Fiction” panel that precipitated Dave Trousdale’s ejection from the con. Reportedly, there were other infractions other than hijacking the panel (which he did), grossly insulting fans and writers (which he did indirectly), and robbing the audience of the chance to hear the thoughts of some of the premier short-fiction editors in the business. I don’t know about anything that happened outside of the panel, but I do know that he made the statements about “special snowflakes” that are attributed to him, and he did dump a load of “pearl” necklaces on the table so that anyone offended by his remarks could wear them for clutching purposes. (What is it about pearls and SF and controversy?) He also began to read from a prepared statement about the decline of SF because of political correctness, but the other panel members cut him off. Although there was some shouting, it came from the audience. All in all, regardless of the full extent of his transgressions, from what I personally witnessed, Mr. Trousdale’s ejection was his own doing,

All in all, although exciting, it was pretty much a waste of time. Which was not the case in the other controversial panel.

I was also in attendance at the “Jane Austen and Mary Shelley” panel which eventuated Mary Robinette Kowal’s loss of membership. Yes, she did offer audience members alcohol, and they did take it, but she hardly hijacked the panel (quite the opposite). And she was scarcely acting as a bartender; it was friendly gesture to encourage questions (which it did), not a cheap gimmick to make a point. Nevertheless, she was censured, and she took it like an adult.

So two panels, one a circus, the other a Dorothy Parker roundtable. And I was present for both of them. Both resulted in the moderator being removed from the con, which only shows that the rules (regardless of the complaints of some who were not there) were administered evenly.

It also illustrates today’s lesson: Don’t let me into your panels if you want to stick around for the rest of the con.

Next: The Hugo Awards

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I finally got around (with a healthy nudge from my much better half) to printing up some business cards. It makes sense, since business cards are the mark of a professional, and I am now a professional writer, if extremely part-time.

But after being at conventions where other writers have asked for my card, and I didn’t have one (other than my mundane business card, which not only is awkward to use, but doesn’t really perform the same function), I thought it was time. I never thought about it before; now I’ve gone from thinking to doing (which is a step up from my usual procedure, in which the “thinking” is remarkable by its absence).

So if you meet me at a con, and ask for my business card, don’t be surprised when I actually have one to give you…

#SFWApro

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I was at a con over the weekend, Left Coast Crime in Phoenix, and I sat in on a couple of panels in which writers talked about writing (because LCC is a mystery convention, and the short story market there is less developed than I’m used to, so I was looking for clues, if you’ll pardon the expression). And even though I was for many years an aspiring writer myself, it still amazes me how, in every panel on writing, someone always asks: “What is your writing day like? How do you work?”

Honestly, I understand the impulse. At these panels, everyone who is not already a writer (usually there to heckle their friends on the panel) wants to be one. And everyone is looking for the key to making it and getting published. And no matter how many times writers say, “The only way to make it as a writer is to write,” they are still asked that question. (And yes, I used to wonder the same thing; I just never asked.)

Well, in an effort to short-circuit the process and perhaps provide some useful information, here’s the story (again, if you’ll pardon the expression): The only way to become a writer is to write. It does not matter if you write in the morning or at night, at your desk or at your Starbuck’s, on paper or notebook or laptop or in crayon. None of that matters. There are as many writers’ styles as there are writing styles. Some writers outline first. Some navigate “by the seat of their pants.” These latter are called “pantsers.” Whether non-pantsers actually write without pants is another question I have never asked (but doubtless someone has.) Choose your style. Then write. And write, and write. And after you’ve written, submit it to a market and write something else. It’s simple. It’s harder than hell, but it’s simple.

The real “secret” is something no one asks about. Becoming a writer merely means you write with the goal of publication. So you write and submit what you write. Sell or don’t, you’re still a writer, you’re just “pre-published” (a state which is treated much more kindly by mystery writers than by SFF writers, though I don’t know why). The real “secret” is not how to become a writer, but how to survive as a writer.

This is vitally important because you will almost certainly spend years “pre-published,” and that’s a good time to develop the necessary skill. (Do not make the mistake of thinking that this skill will no longer be necessary after you’ve begun to publish. You will need it even more.) The skill you have to develop, the one that may be even harder than learning to write well?

I’m not going to tell you. Not until my next post. But I will leave you with a hint: You have to wait until my next post.

Yes, really, that’s a hint. And it probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. In the meantime, go write something.

#SFWApro

 

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