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Posts Tagged ‘conventions’

I was going to call this article “Loscon Post-Mortem,” but that sounds like a real downer; I mean, the con is over, but it’s not dead… So then I thought, “What do you call it? I can’t call it a ‘post-Loscondom’…” So never mind. It is what it is.

It seemed to go very well. I had three panels, one per day (unlike some who had back-to-back panels, which is not fair), and I participated significantly in all three. Only one time did a question set me back, and I managed to make a joke out of it while I organized my thoughts and came up with something tangentially related to the subject under discussion. People even took notes, which I found gratifying.

The convention itself was typical of its ilk, small but enthusiastic, and I thought the programming choices were above average. The age range extended further than normal, with more younger folks attending–always a good sign.

Personally, I was surprised to find that being on a panel made me feel more like a professional than actually selling stories. When you sell, you may see the numbers, but there are no individuals attached to them. When you’re a panelist at a convention, you are face-to-face with people who paid money to see you speak (or as one of my peers put it, “paid money to see Tim Powers speak,” but you’re part of that package). And when they come to see you, they pay attention and take notes and ask questions as though you have some authority on the subject.

To paraphrase Uncle Ben, “With authority comes responsibility.” Those folks are there to learn from you. That means you’d better be professional and prepared. You may think you’re a nobody because you haven’t published 10 novels with New York houses, but those people in the audience? Most of them haven’t published the 35 short stories you have, and they want to be you. I should have realized that earlier, because it wasn’t long ago that I was just like them (still am, but with loftier goals), but until I sat in one of the chairs behind the table, I didn’t really know it.

I was mostly prepared this time, and when I wasn’t, I extemporized. Next time I’ll do better.

Because that’s my job.

#SFWApro

 

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I have been given my tentative panel assignments for Loscon, at the LAX Marriott November 24-26, and as I know that my appearances have long (well, since last year) been a highlight of the early holiday season, I wanted to list them here. They are, of course, subject to change, but if they do, I’ll let you know. (We don’t want a repeat of last year’s near-riot at the Star Trek panel when I didn’t show up!)*

I self-published my first book, and I didn’t die! (11/24, 5:30pm) I believe this panel was specifically named to exclude posthumous-American indie authors from attending. I will be taking this up with the committee on behalf of all of my writer colleagues who feel like zombies (which is pretty much all of them).

Blending mystery and speculative fiction. (11/25, 5:30pm) As far as I’m concerned, everything was speculative when I was trying to become a published author. It’s how I did that which remains a mystery.

Writing & Intuition: What happens next? (11/26, 2:30pm) As faithful readers of my blog know, it’s really the characters who write the story and the author simply takes the credit. So I’m going to allow one of my characters to sit on this panel for me–as soon as I can find one who lives in this century…

Given my schedule, I should be around for most of the con. Look me up and ask me to autograph your e-book. I’ll sign a piece of paper and you can tape it to your Kindle.

 

*Oh, wait, there was nearly a riot at the panel because I did show up. If I’d realized Star Trek was that popular, I wouldn’t have said those things…

#SFWApro

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The storm of events that seems determined to sabotage The Experiment has continued–which is a non-self-accusatory way of saying that progress on the novel this week was almost non-existent. I am at 39,831 words, which is about 2,000 words ahead of last week (as opposed to the planned 6,000). The culprit this week, as you might have noticed, is Comic-Con.

We hadn’t been for several years, but when The Better Half managed to snag tickets (no mean feat), we decided we really had to go. So we went down to San Diego on Thursday morning. This meant, for the purposes of this post, that Thursday was a non-writing day; since I knew there would be no chance to do anything useful, I didn’t even bring the laptop. But it also meant that we had to pack on Wednesday, so that night was lost, too (as was Tuesday, for other pre-event reasons). Ergo, the book was pushed back essentially another week.

I don’t blame Comic-con for this; I was the one who agreed to go, after all. And I thought it might present a marketing opportunity for The Invisible City, currently available for free on Smashwords (hint, hint). Comic-con has rules about these things, however, so our efforts were constrained. (All credit to The Better Half, though, who is far better at getting people to take promotional postcards from strangers than I am. Of course, she’s better-looking, so that helps.)

Comic-con itself was pretty much what I expected, crowded and full of long lines. I was surprised to see how it’s spilled out beyond the confines of the Convention Center; there were some interesting things that you could get into even if you weren’t a member. I had my first taste of VR over the weekend, for example. It needs work, but it’s intriguing.

And it’s one of the few places you can wear a kilt and not be stared at. TBH is a rabid Outlander fan, and I volunteered to attend the panel she wanted to see, in a kilt. This meant wearing the kilt all day. They really are quite comfortable. I might incorporate it into my convention persona.

Okay, yes, there are pictures.

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This week there’s no Comic-con, and no excuses! Full speed ahead! Six thousand words or bust! We have a book to write.

#SFWApro

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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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