RETURNING FROM CHICON 8 AND FINDING A HOME FOR MY WRITING
I’m back sleeping in my own bed after the whirlwind that was Chicon 8, the world science fiction convention in Chicago. Among many fascinating conversations swirling around me, was one that took place in a small gathering of writers and editors for a particular publication. Someone said our group felt like family, to which everyone immediately agreed.
The observation got me thinking how fortunate this little group is. In our field, it’s common for writers, and not only newbies, to feel adrift in the-changeable seas of the publishing industry, despite the fact that some periodicals and publishers have been around longer than most authors have been writing or have been alive. Editors, agents, publicists, and publishers move on to other positions and sometimes leave our field entirely. Moreover, writers soon learn not to count on any editor snapping up their latest story or book, even if earlier related works did nicely. It’s easy for authors to feel like we’ve been cast adrift.
Rather than grousing to each other and bemoaning our fates, it strikes me that the solution is twofold: 1. Write something new. 2. Search out a suitable market where a welcoming publisher may be receptive to more of your work.
For me, Analog Science Fiction and Fact feels like a home. I’ve been reading it as long as I can remember, not just the short fiction, but the multi-issue serials, the fact articles, reviews, editorials, etc. It’s been around for over ninety years. Importantly, it’s a comfort to know that my work has always been given serious consideration by the former editor and the current one. This doesn’t mean they’ll want to run everything I turn in. By no means! However, Analog is a market that will treat my work seriously. In our competitive field, this means a lot.
If I could grant one wish to all my writing friends and the many talented authors whom I don’t know but whose work I admire, it’s this: May you find a corner of our field that is a good home for the pieces dearest to your hearts.
MY CHICON 8 SCHEDULE
The dedicated folks running this year’s World Science Fiction Convention have placed me on a bunch of panels plus a reading and a table talk. If you’ll be there in Chicago over Labor Day weekend, stop by ’cause yanno, it’s been a while.
Three Magical Gifts from Worldcon
This is not your usual con report cataloging who I saw, who I wish I’d seen, and so on. It’s about magical gifts from Worldcon. Because these gifts are assuredly magic, I’m giving one or more of them to you.
1. The gift of a wondrous place. Within the fleeting writerly community known as a convention, there exist wondrous places. I was privileged to give one of these to a newly minted Clarion grad. The place was the SFWA suite. Because SFWA needed to limit access, I could get him in as my plus one. Like the best of magical gifts, this one came back to me when I heard the next day how thrilled he had been to be there and talk with all the creative folk therein. That brought back my own memories of my first time as a guest of an “established pro writer” in the SFWA suite and how it spurred me to continue onward toward my own career goals.
2. The gift of a connection. It’s so simple to introduce someone to someone else knowing they have a shared interest, or maybe several, and can pursue that together. It could be professional or pure fun, doesn’t matter. This gift also came back to me when I was introduced to several good people who already mean much to me.
3. The gift of envy. I’ve come to see that most every writer I know aspires to create more compelling work, to reach a broader audience, to be recognized and make a difference in the lives of their readers. There’s always someone who’s produced more and better stuff than I did or than you did. These are the seeds of envy. Yes, the seeds can sprout into soul-crushing bitterness, but only if we let them. For the longest time, I stuffed that envy down deep because I feared it would harm me. Then I saw that some folks envied me for what I’ve created. Wow, that was remarkable and all-the-more-so when they were the very writers whom I envied.
What I’m saying is that when the green-eyed monster comes to visit, try this: Treat envy as a two-way street. Take some time out from your own yearning for the accomplishments that others already have, whether it’s publications, awards, money, or anything on your career bingo card. Look at how some of those same writers, or others, are envying you for something you’ve done that they see as out of their reach. We all have our unique abilities. You do you.
And now, faithful readers—for if you’ve gotten this far, that is most assuredly what you are—here is your magical gift. It’s meant especially for everyone who wasn’t at Worldcon this year, or any year, and longed to be. You can reach that special place and feel that connection and find ways to deal with envy through the magic created by others. For our fleeting science fiction and fantasy nation, and a batch of its citizens, will come within your reach at some point. Then it’s a matter of letting the magic envelop you. As readers, you totally got this!
See you in San Jose — Worldcon!
Here’s where to find me at Con Jose Aug. 16-20. Bay Area peeps: this means you!
16 Aug 2018, Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, 210F (San Jose Convention Center)
Sometimes, main characters in a story are ordinary people – not everyone is extraordinary. Can such a focus make a story more powerful? What makes them appealing? How does such a story differ from a story of heroes and villains?
Panel discussion with Cecilia Tan (M), Nick Mamatas, Christine Taylor-Butler, Rosemary Claire Smith, Sheila Finch
18 Aug 2018, Saturday 15:30 – 16:00 SFWA Table (San Jose Convention Center)
Stop by and I’ll sign promo materials for T-Rex Time Machine (my interactive fiction game) or any magazines or anthologies you brought with my stories and/or articles.
Clarion 50th Reunion Party
18 Aug 2018, Saturday 20:00 – 23:00
Many, many Clarion classes come together to celebrate fifty years of the boot-camp for writers that launched so many careers. Mine included!
EAT YOUR WORLD (Read Your Food)
19 Aug 2018, Sunday 16:00-17:00 location TBA
Dive into Worldbuilding is throwing a party. Juliette Wade and others will bring foods inspired by fiction. Author attendees will be invited to read food-related snippets from their work.
Best of MIDAMERICON 2 — Part 4
When I grow up, I still want to be Connie Willis or Walter Jon Williams or John Kessel or Michael Swanwick (who took this photo of Marianne Porter and the rest of us). You see, I’m still learning from the smart, funny, insightful and elegant works of some of my great friends who were at MidAmeriCon 2 this year. Wish I’d gotten more photos of some of the rest, but here are a couple more. And if any of these names are unfamiliar to you or if you haven’t read their marvelous stuff, are you ever in for a treat.
Scott Edelman is one of the very few writers of zombie stories that I’ll read. Yes, some of his tales terrify me, but they are so memorable and never run-of-the-mill horror.
My friend Dave Axler introduced me to the incomparable Pat Cadigan, who MC’d the Hugo ceremony on Saturday evening with her trademark wit and candor, giving us so many laughs. I still remember being blown away by Synners and Mindplayers when she wrote some fabulous cyberpunk stuff back in the 80ies.
BEST OF MIDAMERICON 2 – Part 3
Like any good gathering of the clan, one of the great highlights of this WorldCon was spending time with long-time friends. Jim Kelly and John Kessel are both extraordinary writers-separately and as collaborators-whom I am proud to call my friends. They’ve had my back for 20+ years, since they were my instructors at Clarion. Over the years, I’ve brought them various conundrums as to the art, craft, and business of writing SF in long and short forms. They’ve always had sage advice and reassurance. This time was no different. Thanks, you guys!
For any of you who have not read their Hugo or Nebula winning work: Good grief, why not? No time like the present. Plus, dinosaurs!
BEST of MIDAMERICON 2–PART 2
Hey look–Stan Schmidt (former Analog editor and author), Trevor Quachri (current Analog editor), Alec Nevala-Lee (Analog author) and me at MidAmeriCon 2. Stan, Alec and I read stories from our stories in recent and forthcoming issues of Analog. Also participating but eluding the cameras was long-time Analog writer James Van Pelt. My thanks go to Trevor for moderating the panel and to my fellow writers for such entertaining readings.
I have to say that I was a bit dubious when I saw that those in charge of convention programming had organized several of the author readings by the various magazines in which their stories had been published. Well, I sure changed my mind in this case. The room was packed and people had some interesting questions.
BEST of MIDAMERICON 2–Part 1
MidAmeriCon 2 was an all-round terrific World Con for me this year. Rather than ramble about this and that, I’m doing a series of retrospectives on some personal highlights, in no particular order. One was connecting up with writer buddies Cath Schaff-Stump and Christopher Cornell, whom I met at Paradise Lost. They’ve been putting out a podcast, Unreliable Narrators, that’s ridiculously good. For example, they’ve brought on some very talented SF writers like Ann Leckie and Charlie Finlay, who now edits F & SF.
So I was thrilled when Christopher squeezed my MidAmeriCon 2 dinosaur panel into his hectic schedule and mentioned our panel on the podcast. The ebullient Frank Wu led the panelists in a discussion of cool new developments in paleontology plus our conjectures as to courtship and mating strategies for enormous critters that have a row of spikes running down their tails. That’s a subject I’ve tackled in Dino Mate, an Analog story that’s been reprinted by Digital Science Fiction.
COSMOSPHERE AND MIDAMERICON!
Hello Kansas SF readers: I’ll be signing some of my stories at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson on Tuesday Aug. 16 from 1 p.m to 2 p.m. Come say “hi” to me and other writers: Martin L. Shoemaker, C. Stuart Hardwick, Daniel J. Davis, and Steve Pantazis. I’ve never been to this space museum and am looking forward to it. Hope some of you can drop by. Here’s the press release:
Next, I’ll be in Kansas City on Wed. 8/16 through Mon. 8/22 for MidAmeriCon, the world science fiction and fantasy convention. In addition to signing some of my work, I’ll be on panels talking about dinosaurs, time travel, Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, magic, and cloning mammoths. Those are separate topics (whew!). Hope to see a bunch of you there. Here’s my Worldcon schedule:
What’s New in the World of Dinosaurs!
Thursday 1:00 – 2:00, 2205 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Dinosaurs are cool! New discoveries are being made every day as we unearth bones from the past. In a recent discovery, scientists believe that a pregnant T-Rex found in Montana may have fragments of DNA preserved in her medullary bone. What else is out there? What other news from the past is there to share?
Bennett Coles, Michael Swanwick, Mel. White, Frank Wu (M) Rosemary Claire Smith
Amateur Scientists Doing Real Science
Thursday 2:00 – 3:00, 2206 (Kansas City Convention Center)
We all know of amateur astrophysicists and their successes, but what other science is carried out by non-professionals? What can they teach us about doing science and learning about science in real life situations and in our sf-nal worlds?
Spring Schoenhuth, Rosemary Claire Smith, Renée Sieber (M)
Thursday Aug 18 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM (Kansas City Convention Center)
Launch Pad is an annual event whereby a group of invited writers, editors, and creatives learn about modern science, specifically astronomy, so that they can in turn use it in their work and inspire others. Members who have attended Launch Pad discuss how it has affected their writing and ideas.
Fonda Lee (M), Monica Valentinelli, William Ledbetter, Matthew S. Rotundo, Rosemary Claire Smith
To Clone a Mammoth
Thursday 6:00 – 7:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)
We’re trying to clone dinosaurs (because that went so well in the Jurassic Park films), but maybe we should start with something smaller. Perhaps… a mammoth! Then again, what would we do with a mammoth? Where would it live? How would we go about cloning it? What are some of the risks, real or imagined, of reviving extinct species using cloning technology?
Rosemary Claire Smith, Mel. White (M), Frank Wu, Takayuki Tatsumi, Lynette M. Burrows
Autographing: Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Rebecca Moesta, Martin Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith
Friday 10:00 – 11:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)
Rebecca Moesta, Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Martin L. Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith
Archaeology in SF
Saturday 2:00 – 3:00, 2503B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Forget Indiana Jones, learn what archaeologists really do and how science fiction and fantasy get it right and wrong.
Dana Cameron, Rhiannon Held, Jason Sanford (M), Jack McDevitt, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith
When The Magic Goes Away
Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)
In a world once filled with magic, mystery, and beauty, where the Old Magic slipped away from the forests, the gates to Faerie closed, and the last ships sailed to the west, what does it mean when the magic fades? We look at representations of coming back to the real world or letting go, and wonder why it is such a potent part of fantasy writing.
Mr. Jared Shurin (M), Heather Rose Jones, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith, Erin Wilcox, Mr. Kevin J. Anderson
Time Travel and the Search for Redemption
Sunday 1:00 – 2:00, 3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Much of literature involves characters’ fraught relationship with the past. They are haunted by memories or spend their lives regretting a single horrible decision. Time travel permits the character to confront the past directly, to make literal what in mainstream fiction is only metaphorical. Join us as we discuss stories where time travel is a metaphor or device for witnessing and learning about the past or wishing to correct personal flaws and errors.
Kenneth Schneyer (M), Jack McDevitt, Jason Heller, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith
A SHORT STORY WRITER’S THOUGHTS ON SASQUAN / WORLDCON
I’ve returned from Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention thinking about the fact that in two of the three short fiction categories, no Hugos were awarded this year. Nor were Hugos given out to editors of long or short works. While there are reasons for this turn of events, which are discussed at great length elsewhere, I find that there is another troublesome development, even setting aside the political and social divisions running through the science fiction community. Namely, even in more tranquil years, short stories, novelettes, and novellas do not get the love—meaning readers, publicity, and money—that they merit. As a writer of short fiction, I’ve even had intelligent people who love good books out-and-out say with a sniff that they don’t read short stories. While I do share their love of sinking into a wondrous novel, it saddens me that these readers are missing out on so much.
They are missing out on two wonderful things. First, a writer can take risks in short fiction that might crash and burn at novel length. Some fascinating ideas and set-ups are perfectly-suited, even stunning when embodied in short stories but couldn’t be sustained at novel length. (Naturally, the trick for the writer is to discern which ones are which.) The ideas that coalesced into my second-person account of limbo dancing during the zombie apocalypse would have collapsed at a longer length.
The second reason to read short fiction is to discover some terrific new writers whose imagination, attitudes, and unique voices will bring you pleasure for years before these writers get their first novel published. With a minimal investment of time and money, you can try out new writers and unfamiliar magazines. What with so many people bemoaning their lack of time for reading, I want to point out that you can download and read short stories on your smart phone while standing in line at the grocery store or the DMV or while commuting via mass transit. It’s never been easier.
Oh and while you’re at it, make a note of the shorter works that bowled you over with their goodness. Anybody can take part in the selection of the Locus awards, Anlab ballot, and a number of other awards. If you have some selections already picked out, doing so will be a breeze.