deborahjross: (Default)
 BayCon is my local science fiction convention, one I have attended regularly for quite a few years now. At first, the hotel venue was within commuting distance, so long as I did not indulge in too many late night events that left me driving twisty mountain roads when I was already fatigued. But as the convention moved to different hotels, as conventions sometimes do, each successive move took it farther away until I was faced with either driving over an hour in either direction or shelling out for a hotel room. Fortunately, a dear friend and writer colleague offered me a guest bedroom and the chance to carpool from her house. Her adolescent children attended the con, too, so my own experience was colored by becoming a temporary part of her family and also the rhythms and accommodations of young folks. Among other things, I heard about the teen track programs, the gaming room, and other aspects of conventions I otherwise would be oblivious to. The kids reminded me that although conventions are primarily work for me, they can and should be play, as well.

The other difference in this convention is that Book View Café had one of two tables in “author’s alley,” near guest registration (the other was Tachyon Books, featuring Peter S. Beagle). Although the various attending members were not particularly organized, it was a somewhat successful learning experience and some of us sold books, talked about BVC, and chatted with fans.

We arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon, in time to hear both Juliette Wade and Chaz Brenchley read. Listening to authors read their work, sometimes work in progress or yet unpublished, is a special treat. When I have a heavy schedule of panels, I regret not being able to attend, so this was a great beginning to a convention. Not only did I get to hear two very different but equally wonderful stories but sitting quietly in a convention atmosphere helped with the transition.

It seems the older I get and the longer I live in the redwoods, the more difficult it is for me to “shift gears” into convention mode. I’ve become accustomed to long, deep silences, not to mention a slower pace of conversation. I always feel as if I’m moving (and speaking) too fast, which of course increases the risk of mis-speaking or not listening carefully enough to what the other person is saying. Most of the time, no one seems to notice. Being so aware of my own limitations, however, does make it easier for me to respond with gratitude when I am called out on an error. I appreciate not getting backed into a defensive posture.

My first panel – and I was moderator for all of them – got things moving on Saturday with Science Fiction (and/or Fantasy) as a Tool for Social Change, with A. E. Marling, Stephen “Dirk” Libbey, and Carrie Sassarego. In preparing for the panel, I had the thought that the influence of literature can be both good and bad (Mein Kampf and the world of Ayn Rand being two examples). Various members pointed out how pop culture influences people, and the metaphors used in speculative fiction allow subversive ideas to slip “below the radar.” Superheroes and media like Star Trek fill emotional needs but also empower us all to see ourselves as  heroic (for example, how Uhura inspired generations to reach for the stars). Since the theme of the con was “dystopia/utopia, we pointed out how sf/f offers “cautionary tales” of “if this goes on” or “it can happen here.” It offers hope that life can and will go on after a disaster. We need Gandalf and Dumbledore after this last election!

Chaz Brenchley and R.L. King joined me for a lively discussion of Stand-alone or Series. We swapped stories from our own careers and debated the advantages and pitfalls of each form, and how what the publishers are looking for has changed over time. Writers who once regularly got multi-volume contracts found themselves having to market completed stand-alone novels. Chaz pointed out that a stand-alone can and often does become the first volume of a continuing series when and if the publisher decides that book has sold well enough to merit more (“like the first one only different”). R. L. represented authors who have chosen self-publishing to bring out a series in rapid succession. In her case, she set up her own imprint and hired professional editors and cover designers, so the final product had high values. Her urban fantasy series is targeted at a particular reading experience, which reminded me of Amanda Hocking’s highly successful self-publishing strategy. Readers know exactly what kind of experience to expect, and frequent new releases (ever 3 or 4 months) keeps them coming back for more. This contrasts to conventional publishing, where an author might typically take a year to write a novel, which would spend another year in production.

I had further conversations with R. L. King and A. E. Marling when we tackled Writing in Someone Else’s World. I’ve spoken on this topic a number of times, about continuing the “Darkover” series created by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and also writing a Star Wars short story (“Goatgrass” in Tales from Jabba’s Palace). Both other panelists came from a gaming tie-in background, where the rules are a bit different. For example, A. E.’s experience writing for Wizards of the Coast involved NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements, which prohibit him from discussing material in production and other aspects of the job). R.L.’s tie-in novel was set in “Shadowspawn,” a large and varied gaming world.

My friend Cliff Winnig played sitar in concert. He usually accompanies an author reading for one of his pieces, but this year the author he’d invited couldn’t attend, so I filled in at the last minute. I read the sword fight scene from Thunderlord, and Cliff’s music made the dancing come alive.

After dinner, it was time to play and relax. I particularly enjoyed the Masquerade and Variety Show this year. One of my Darkover anthology authors, Jeremy Erman, won “Best in Show” in the variety show for his keyboard performance of the music of James Horner, but all the other entries and costumes were highly entertaining, too. The musical duo “Library Bards” did their usual hilarious and musical job at the microphone.

Sunday morning began with a panel I actually wasn’t on. (That’s not a joke; I’ve been to far too many conventions over the years where the only panels I got to go to were those I was a participant in.) I wanted to hear the discussion of Women’s Utopias or Queer Utopias, with Meg Elison, Heather Rose Jones, Skye Allen, and Wanda Kurtcu, and I was not disappointed. With a huge audience for a 10:00 Sunday panel, the conversation with animated and thoughtful. People are not uniform, so one person’s utopia is another’s dystopia. Meg described her Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife as The Handmaid’s Tale with queers and pointed out that most apocalyptic stories are asymmetrical with regard to gender and sexual orientation. Typically, such tales don’t question the binary nature of gender, and they often reinforce gender role stereotypes (with notable exceptions like Mad Max: Fury Road). Early feminist utopias didn’t even address sexual needs/preferences, assuming celibacy for equality. Novels set in utopias often incorporate the element of misfits or those who resist (Brave New World, Logan’s Run) to contrast and point out the impossibility of setting up a system that works equally well for everyone. “Who is this utopia for?” becomes a central question. While hell as dystopia is a popular topic, almost no one is interested in heavenly utopias, perhaps because “heaven” pertains to life without the body (“meat suit”) and that’s inherently boring, while the structure of a novel requires conflict or dissatisfaction. “People will always find ways to be unhappy.” All-lesbian utopias assume a uniformity of sexual activity, but people aren’t all the same in this dimension, either. “Incidental queerness” occurs when the sexual orientation of a character is not his or her central problem, it’s just one facet of that person.

My last panel was Care and Feeding of Your Creative Muse, with Skye Allen, Jennifer Nestojko, Mark Gelineau, and R.L. King. We talked about how to balance the different parts of your life: family and other obligations, self-care, day job, and writing. How to keep the ideas coming (and not forget them!) and then wrangle them into stories. How to keep the whole process fun. It’s important to develop strategies that work for you to keep you writing on a schedule and not just “when the muse strikes.” Mark encouraged us to have courage, and faith in our creative process. We talked about how to keep that faith alive when our lives fall apart and we can’t write. Hope during difficulties means remembering that “this too shall pass.” We all need reminders of how our creativity sustains and nourishes us during difficult times. Having a writing ritual can keep us going through distractions. Detractors can undermine our confidence in our work by denigrating its importance; instead, we remember that our art is how we fight the darkness.

deborahjross: (Default)
 I'll be appearing at BayCon in San Mateo this year. I hope you'll drop by to say hello (and enjoy a panel or two...or get an autograph). This year Book View Cafe will have a table in "Author's Alley" and I'll be there, at least part of the time. I'll have books to sell and gift bookplates to autograph.


Here's my schedule (I'll be moderating all of them)"


Sat. May 27, 11:30 am. Science Fiction (and/or Fantasy) as a Tool for Social Change. With A. E. Marling, Dirk Libbey, Carrie Sassarego, and Wanda Kurtcu.


Sat. May 27, 1:00 pm. Stand-Alone or Series? Pros and Cons. With Chaz Brenchley and R. L. King.


Sat. May 27, 4:00. Writing in Someone Else's World. With  Kathleen Bartholomew, A. E. Marling and R. L. King.


Sun. May 28. The Care and Feeding of Your Creative Muse. With Skye Allen, Jennifer Nestojko, Mark Gelineau, and R. L. King.

deborahjross: (Default)
Any report I make of OryCon (in Portland OR, on or near Veterans Day weekend) must be seen in highly personal context. For me, it’s never been just another convention, but part of other aspects of my life. I used to attend OryCon regularly. I’d gone to college and then graduate school in Portland and retained a fondness for the city. My best friend from college still lived there, and I’d stayed in close touch with her. So attending OryCon also meant a visit, usually after the con when decompression with long-time friendship, and maybe a long trail ride, were especially welcome. These visits became even more important when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I made a number of trips to Portland to help her and her family through the rounds of chemo that led to a series of remissions. In the nearly five years that followed, our OryCon visits became even more precious. In fall 2013, she entered hospice, and again I was present to do whatever was necessary to support her and her family in that transition. She died in October, when the weather had already turned chill and overcast with the approach of winter. That year, attending OryCon was out of the question, nor could I bring myself to consider returning to Portland for some time. This year, however, I ventured north with my older daughter to a reunion at our alma mater, Reed College. That shifted my thinking enough so that when I received an invitation to be a guest panelist at OryCon, I happily accepted. Of course, the first thing to arrange was a visit with my friend’s surviving family. Two visits, actually; one before and one after the con. A family dinner, complete with home made lasagna (vegetarian and vegan versions) marked an auspicious welcome back to Portland.

I won’t go into a recitation of all things travel and hotel. Needless to say, my usual disorientation upon encountering a new venue kicked into high gear, fueled by the vertical arrangement of the hotel (events were on 4 different floors, or was it 5 plus the green room on the 16th floor?) The OryConOps folks were as warm and welcoming as ever. I had a splendid roomie in Irene Radford, although we were both a bit too old to stay up all night talking.

My panels began Friday morning with the topic “Fantasy vs. Science Fiction,” in which panelists and audience attempted to discern why anyone would think one better than the other when we all loved them both. Conventional wisdom suggests that in science fiction, the laws of physics must be observed (with the notable exceptions of psi powers and faster-than-light travel); whereas in fantasy, magic introduces a fundamentally different system. The level of technology of the setting tends to put low-tech, medieval worlds into the fantasy camp and modern, futuristic, or space settings into science fiction. I threw out the idea that readers expect different experiences (fantasy – emotional, science fiction – intellectual, idea-driven) from the two genres, hoping it would provoke a juicy discussion. We all agreed that with the popularity of cross-overs, none of these distinctions holds true any longer.

Then, after running across the street for Chinese food with a friend, came Finding Diverse Voices and Characters in SF/F. The sad thing was that we had only one person of color on the panel, but we did our best to talk about how to write respectfully about people who are unlike us, and where to go to find stories by diverse authors.

From there, I careened over to Reaching Writers Who Don’t Know You Yet. Although the topic description mentioned strategies for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – that is, making yourself visible to folks who Google you or are looking for the kind of fiction you write – most of the emphasis was on offering free ebooks (as through InstaFreebie) and other ways of building up mailing lists. That is, the focus was indie or self-published writers who must do all their own promotion. I am not convinced of the value of these strategies, but I defer to the romance writers who write 6 books a year, use these methods, and earn a good income. Since this is my blog and I get to hold forth however I want, I present Deborah’s Strategy for Acquiring Readers:

1. Write great stuff.
2. Say interesting things on panels and on your blog.
3. Be kind to fans.

Dinner that night was a sort of mini-bar-con, since someone who clearly does not appreciate the rapacious appetites of fans declared the restaurant closed until 7:15 pm. I thought of snooping through evening panels or parties, but old age got the better of me, like Bilbo, and I oozed off to bed instead.

Sunday morning is usually SFWA meeting time, but I neglected to inform Programming of my unavailability, so I had a panel on Endings: Cuddling with the Reader. I love the idea of leaving chocolate on the pillow for my devoted fans, although sometimes a jolt to the solar plexus is just what the story needs. Although not all the panelists agreed with me, my takeaway is that the ending should fulfill the promise the author makes at the beginning of the book. A steamy romance calls for a very different emotional tone in the wrap-up than does a detective thriller or a fluffy fantasy or a gritty dystopic novel. I believe an ending does not have to be “happy” to be satisfying, but satisfying is what’s needed. Frodo is wounded in ways that can never heal while he remains in Middle Earth; hence “The Scouring of the Shire” sequence in the books (not the films) allow us to mend what we can and grieve what has been lost.

My last two events were a reading (most of “Sage Mountain” from Sword and Sorceress 31) and autographing. Much fun was had by all at both events. Then a wonderful, generous fan gave me a ride to Powell’s Beaverton for their Authorfest. This year, the event took place in a much smaller space with only 20 of us, but it had the feel of a mini-convention, with authors, fans, and people who just wandered in to see what all the fuss was about, all mingling and having a great time.

OryCon will return to Jantzen Beach next year (no more verticality); I have no doubt it will remain the warm, welcoming environment in which to share enthusiasm for books (and graphic novels and films and so forth). If you live nearby and have never been to a convention before, check it out. See you there!
deborahjross: (Tajji in meadow)
Con-Volution is a medium sized (700 ish members) convention in the Bay Area. I first attended a
couple of years ago and was pleased to be invited to return. This year’s theme was “Monsters,” so many of the panels and other events centered around Things That Go Bump in the Night, creepy-crawlies, and the like, a fitting greeting to October.

I arrived in time to attend part of “An Aviary of Beasties,” moderated by Juliette Wade and held in the parlor of a hotel suite, making it cozy and very difficult to find. Nevertheless, the small space was filled, and as I walked in, Juliette was discussing the difference between the wings of a bat and a pterodactyl. Panelists shared myths of flying creatures from many cultures. In wandered one of the residents-in-costume, wearing a marvelous kirin head, whose timing made a perfect introduction to tales about that creature.

My first panel was “Authors: Going to that Dark Place,” with horror author Fred Wiehe, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Loren Rhoads, and Guest of Honor Ann Bishop. We approached the relationship between authors and “that dark place” from two directions. One involved delving into our own nightmares and using them to fuel our stories, and the stories then become cathartic or therapeutic in lessening the hold those catastrophes have over our lives and (hopefully) those of our readers. I was reminded of Octavia Butler saying she took her worst night mares and put them down on paper. This is also what I did in a number of stories (“Rite of Vengeance,” “Beneath the Skin,” “Crooked Corn”) following the murder of my mother, and also used for my hero’s journey in The Seven Petaled Shield. Others take another approach, which is to start with the story and find the darkness within ourselves to give it depth and power. Ann Bishop observed that horror stories are like a journey through a spooky forest with various companions that may survive or not, but we have faith that someone will make it through. “There is no light without darkness,” Fred Wiehe pointed out. Does the dark keep us sane?

For “How Cthulu Became Cuddly,” I was joined by Artist Guest of Honor Lee Moyer, Laurel Anne Hill, and Jennifer Carson.
We began with Lovecraft himself and his circle of followers, as well as authors who followed, who borrowed his mythos, sometimes made it their own and imbuing it with their own interpretive vision. Charles Stross’s “Laundry Files” and the “Lizzie Borden” books of Cherie Priest continue that tradition today. Laurel Anne Hill had brought a soft Cthulu hand puppet, which contributed its own nonverbal commentary, and we discussed the plushification of “nameless horror.” Lee Moyer shared that he had been on a panel with the same topic, where many held the vehement opinion that domesticating or making-cute the monsters that once terrified us is an unacceptable travesty. No one on this panel or audience agreed: we loved the various “takes” on The Elder Gods, vampires, and the like, pointing out that there is no dearth of things to be afraid of in today’s world. Someone—I think it was Moyer—pointed out how the drawings of Charles Addams shifted the view of vampire from an incomprehensible evil to a creature who was once human. Moyer recommended the HBO series Cast a Deadly Spell and the comic book series Zenith.

I attended a wonderful discussion on “Fear of the Other” with Juliette Wade, Lillian Csernica, Gregg Castro, Garrett Calcaterra, and Sumiko Saulson. Recently, much attention has been devoted to how to write respectfully and realistically about people who are different from you (race, religion, gender, ability, etc.), and this panel focused specifically on how we fear or don’t fear those “others.” It was particularly good to hear minority voices in the discussion.

Sunday morning (10 am) is not the most popular time to hold a panel, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a roomful of attendees for the topic I moderated on “Writing in Someone Else’s Universe.” The room was a “boardroom,” a big oval table with executive chairs around it. This limited the number of people in the circle, but was perfect once things got going. Co-panelists Valerie Estelle Frankel and Sarah Stegall helped get the discussion off to a lively start. We talked about the different ways you might end up creating stories in a world someone else devised. You might use a public domain world and characters (as many have done with Lovecraft’s mythos—a wonderful way of tying in to earlier panels—or Sherlock Holmes or the many Jane Austen mashups). You might be part of a senior/junior author collaboration, with the senior author creator supervising the work. Shared worlds like Wild Cards use a bible to ensure continuity. Parody and satire open possibilities for works still under copyright under the “fair usage” rules. Finally, there is fanfic and its cousins, media tie-ins and novelizations. Here is where the “audience” and “panelist” divisions broke down in a wonderful fashion. We all had different relationships to fanfic (from readers only to this-is-the-only-thing-I-write, to deep roots in media tie-ins to both original and derivative writing. In addition, Valerie Frankel has written a significant number of nonfiction treatises on various worlds. As moderator, I felt comfortable letting the conversation bounce around to whoever had interesting things to contribute, and as a result, enthusiasm soared, fueled by a shared love of our common fan subjects. There was not a smidgeon of “my favorite is better than yours” (Star Trek vs. Star Wars); instead, we all got to appreciate what we have loved and discover new worlds to explore. It was a wonderful way to end the convention, with such a strong reminder of how we all got here and gratitude to the creators of the worlds and characters that have enriched our lives.
deborahjross: (halidragon)
I'll be a guest at Baycon in San Jose May 22-25. So far, I'm scheduled only for Friday and Saturday. If you attend, please come up and say hello...or stay for a panel or reading!

Inspiring the Next Generation of Science Fiction Writers on Friday at 12:00 PM (with Juliette Wade, Colin Fisk, The Winner Twins) If hard science fiction is literature about the future, what is the future of hard science fiction? Where will the next generation of hard SF writers come from, if what young people are reading now is stories about wizards, vampires, and mutant superpowers? How do we entice and encourage them to think seriously about life in the future, and to write about what they imagine?

Transgender Issues in SF&F on Friday at 1:30 PM (with Jacob Fisk, Jean Batt) LGBT speculative fiction stories almost always focus on just the "L" and the "G", ignoring the many other gender identities. Some people even consider "LGBT" to be too limiting, and use "QUILTBAG" instead (for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer). What issues do people who identify as transgender, transsexual, or intersex face in real life? Can representations of these identities in SF/F literature and media, such as in the movie "Predestination" (based on Heinlein's "--All You Zombies--") help them be accepted by mainstream society?

Pink Hockey Sticks: Raising a gender neutral child in a highly gendered world on Friday at 4:30 PM (with Susie Rodriguez, Jean Batt, Kay Tracy, Alison Stern) How do you roll with it when your long awaited and imagined little princess wants to wear Batman shoes with her tiara and thinks ballet class is a good place to practice her hockey skills? How to raising a tiny Woman of Wonder and the challenges of doing it in our society and in general.

Themed Reading: Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 11:30 AM (with Marie Brennan, Cassie Alexander, Sinead Toolis) Dragons. Unicorns. Centaurs. All different, yet all are creatures from the genus Mythical. Hear authors give their spin on tales about mythical creatures (also known as "cryptids").

Constructing Fictional Cultures: Sex Without Shame on Saturday at 1:00 PM (with Boston Blake, Diana L. Paxson, Lance Moore) A fundamental aspect of any culture is its attitude towards sex. An unspoken but common attitude present in many people in modern-day culture is that sex is shameful. This is shown through common behaviors such as married people who don't talk with their spouses about their sexual desires or sexual dissatisfaction, women who don't report having been raped because of the shame that they feel, and women who don't carry condoms because they are afraid of slut-shaming from their sex partners. How would a society that felt no shame about sex be different from ours? What would be the advantages and disadvantages? Would a modern-day reader with a traditional upbringing find it too difficult to relate to fictional characters that lived in such a culture?
deborahjross: (Default)
For the last few years, I have rarely attended a convention where I couldn’t commute from home, and they are few, so I was delighted to invited to attend Convolution, a fairly new convention, held at the Hyatt Regency near the San Francisco airport. It was a bit of a drive, but Dave Trowbridge, my lovely spouse, was invited to be a guest, too, and that meant help for the long, late trudge home over twisty mountain roads. For both of us, the convention was an enjoyable, stimulating, and worthwhile endeavor.

The first thing both of us noticed was the quality of the programming: interesting topics over a wide range of interests. Every event (panels, autographing, reading) that I was included on was something I wanted to be on. The logistics were supportive, too: when I commute, I often face the challenge that the programming folks do not listen when I ask to have my panels grouped together. These folks paid heed, and gave me a wonderful lineup of events. The panels were scheduled every 2 hours, with half an hour for break or wending one’s way along the loooong periphery of each floor.

Registration for guest panelists was smooth and uncomplicated, despite the fact we got there early on Friday afternoon, when chaos typically reigns over convention organization. The Green Room – often a place I dash into and out of because of the loud monologs by a few folks who treat it as their private preserve – was a welcoming place, in no small way due to the warmth and friendliness of the volunteers staffing it.

As a result of having many panels at the same time and the remoteness of the locations, many events were sparsely attended. (Not all, as Dave told me that one of his panels – Religion in SF – was packed.) At first, I found this a bit disappointing, until I wandered into the GoH klatch (informal discussion) and found myself in a room with 4 other people and Tanya Huff, so I have decided it did have its compensations!Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)

I'll be a guest panelist at Convolution, Hyatt Regency Burlingame, September 26 and 27.

Friday 2-4 pm The Classics of SF:There is so much to read already with the new stuff, so how do you advise a new reader about SF's great heritage? 


Friday 4-5. The Unpanel. A facilitated listening workshop that turns the panel inside out. Everyone gets a chance to speak without interruption on a topic chosen by the facilitators after learning how to really listen.

We've offered this event at several other conventions, with great appreciation from participants. Usually we ask, "Talk about a book that inspired you" or some other topic just about everyone has something to say about. What makes this event different from the usual panels is that every person has uninterrupted time, and everyone gets to listen carefully and deeply to every other person.

Friday 8-10 pm. Reading (from Lambda Literary Finalist novel Collaborators).  

I'll have copies to sell, too.


Saturday 10-12 am. Book View Cafe. Members of the cooperative publisher talk about their work, their art and what exactly a cooperative publisher is, anyway. 


Saturday 3-4 pm. Autographing.


Saturday 4-6 pm. Handling Rejection in Writing. Sometimes your skin just isn't that thick. How to cope with a chorus of "No" on the path to a "Yes!"

I'm moderating this one, which means it will be fantastic!

deborahjross: (Collaborators)
Please drop by, listen to what are sure to be some fascinating conversations, and say hello!

1. Refurbished History: Looting the Past for Fun and Profit on Saturday at 10:00 AM in Stevens Creek (with Professor David C. McGaffey, Irene Radford (M), Kyle Aisteach, David Weber, Chaz Brenchley) Is it cheating to mine the past for story elements? Can you leave identifiable marks as long as they don't disrupt your story? And what about retooling historical figures? When is using identifiable places or characters truly a better choice than being original?

2. The Unpanel: Deep Listening on Saturday at 2:00 PM in Napa III (with Dave Trowbridge) This panel is a way to come down from the ego-high of an SF Con and spend an hour being heard, rather than just talking.

3. Countering Online Hate Speech on Saturday at 3:30 PM in Alameda [I am moderating.] (with Amy Sterling Casil, Colin Fisk, S.L. Gray, Robert Lawrence) Online hate speech can devastate the lives of the person under attack and everyone around him or her. Panelists discuss effective online responses, ways to support the person, building tolerant communities, and what to do if you yourself are a target.

4. Alternative Lifestyles and Sci-Fi/Fantasy on Sunday at 10:00 AM in Lawrence (with Lynx Crowe, Douglas Berry, Allison Lonsdale From Heinlein's line marriage to Ethan of Athos, a discussion of alternative lifestyles, chosen or otherwise.

5. Science Fiction: More than a Job, It's an Obsession. on Sunday at 11:30 AM in Ballroom E-F. (with Irene Radford (M), Ursula Vernon, David Weber) It's good for the mortgage, but what's the effect on the author? And how do you stay sane when you hit book 12? How often does a series get out of control and continue long past its prime, and how does it affect the series as a whole?

6. Women and Warriorship on Monday at 11:30 AM in Stevens Creek. (with Setsu Uzume (M), Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Taunya Gren, Sandra Saidak) The controversy surrounding the "Strong Female Lead" (we need more of them! vs. Sophia McDougal's call for a wider variety) is grounded in two ideas: our perception of gender, and our perception of warriorship. We'll discuss historical women warriors as well as figures from sci-fi/fantasy that meet our expectations, those who break them, and what the future has in store for this archetype.

Also, I'll be reading from my Lambda Award Finalist novel, Collaborators, at 9:30 on Sunday, accompanied by Cliff Winnig on sitar!
deborahjross: (Default)

Sunday was a day of panels and networking for me. The first was a schedule panel, Sex in Space. I asked to be on it because (a) sex is interesting and fun to talk about; (b) I know a little about it, having attended Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop in 2011and read various materials from NASA -- not about sex; they aren't confirming any direct knowledge -- but social psychology stuff. You can read my previous discussion here: 


Sex in Space:Part One: How Do We Manage To Do It?


Sex in Space: Part Two - Things That Can Go Wrong


Sex in Space: Part Three: No Babies, Please

People Are Sexual, Even In Space

Of course, I was moderator. The panel was a challenge, given the tension between "dirty old man" prurience oh-how-hot-to-screw-in-zero-gee and plodding, overly technical scientific details about the inner-ear birth defects mice develop when gestated in a space station. I think one of the most difficult things about a panel like this is not the subject material, but how hard it is to really listen to one another. So many people are guarded in one way or another about sexuality, all too often retreating into off-color jokes or clinical detachment. Is it possible to talk about sex in space without it turning into an R-rated peep show? How do we include emotions and relationships in our discussion? And leave egos -- our need to appear hip and experienced and oh-so-suave -- aside? 

Read more... )
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
At some conventions, I'm so heavily scheduled for panels, I don't get to actually attend any and listen to the discussions. Sometimes that's frustrating, other times, it's just the way things roll. Typically, panels and other events are an hour or an hour and a half long, wrapping up 5 minutes before closing to give everyone barely enough time to scramble to the next one. This time, Baycon scheduled 2 hours slots with 1 1/2 hour panels, which had the dual effect of ample discussion time, leisurely transitions, and far fewer panels. I think this is a worthwhile experiment. People, both pro writers/artists and fans, attend conventions for many different reasons. I doubt it's possible to create a programming schedule that fits everyone's needs, but trying different things is a good way to find the best balance.

So yesterday was mostly a schmoozing day, connecting with other members of Book View Cafe, as well as friends. I tend not to include Lists of Notable Names in my convention reports, and I won't do so now. Suffice it to say that it's a delight to meet in person fellow writers with whom I've been working with online. The internet creates its own kind of community. Well, many kinds, but mostly mediated through text -- emails, forums, groups, blogs, etc. Occasionally phone conferences and even less frequently video conferences. None of these substitute for face-to-face conversations. When the members of a community (in this case, Book View Cafe) are scattered not only across the US, but over the world, getting more than two or three of us together at the same time in the same place is nigh impossible. This is where conventions come in, because as pro writers, we often attend these anyway, so we seize upon the opportunity to "meet-up."Read more... )

Despite the fact that a number of us specifically requested that we be on the panel on the Future of E-Publishing, none of us were. So a bunch of us went. The panelists included various writers, editors, and publishers, and I have no complaint about the discussion...except that BVC is on the leading edge of innovative epublishing. To the best of my knowledge, we're the first online author's cooperative, we have over 40 members, we've published work that made it to the New York Times Bestseller list, we sell our ebooks to libraries internationally, we include a wide range of genres (sf/f, Romance, historical fiction, YA, nonfiction, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.), and we are actively developing new models of cooperative publishing. Surely such a panel might make some slight reference to what we're doing?

So we made our presence known. At least, one of us went up and spoke to the moderator and got added to the panel. The usual result is that afterwards, panelists and audience members want to know more about us. Some of these conversations get as far as, How do I join? and a few of those go farther. Sometimes we as individual BVC members make contact with other groups of authors and we're still trying to figure out ways of supporting one another. BVC has an organic, consensus-based decision-making process that drives many people nuts and often results in very slow changes.

You meet people, you chat, you plant ideas on one another's minds. Maybe hearing how we do things will inspire other authors to group themselves together in ways that best serve them. Maybe some of the other seeds that are scattered bear unexpected and innovative fruit. Most will likely come to nothing other than a pleasant chat. But you never know...
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If you'll be at Orycon, please come by and say hello (and stay to enjoy the panels!)

Fri Nov 2 5:00pm-5:30pm. Reading.

Sat Nov 3 12:00pm-1:00pm: A touch of Farmer, a pinch of LeGuin. Panelists discuss their biggest influences and what books have changed the recent landscape in SF/F/H literature. Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Deborah J. Ross, Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Sat Nov 3 3:00pm-4:00pm Autographing

Sat Nov 3 4:00pm-5:00pm: Gender and Writing. Gender free? Gender neutral? Stereotyping? How gender affects our writing. What writers do to write effectively in the opposite gender's point of view, and whether they really do get away with it. J. A. Pitts, Deborah J. Ross, Amber D. Sistla, Andy Mangels

Sat Nov 3 5:00pm-6:00pm: Are Book Publishers Obsolete? With the ebook market growing daily, access to that market open to anyone, and Amazon paying authors royalties of 70%, are traditional book publishers headed they way of the dodo, or are the editorial and marketing services offered by publishers indispensable, regardless of publishing format? Can publishers find a way to adapt (and remain profitable) in the
ebook age, and what does the question mean to authors? Deborah J. Ross, M.K. Hobson, Irene Radford, Jason V Brock, Bill Johnson

Sun Nov 4 11:00am-12:00pm: Characters with disabilities. Readers are used to athletic, clever characters who are basically healthy for most of the story. But some of the most unique characters out there have a disability of some sort. Storytelling opportunities, and how to get it right. Michael Alexander, Kamila Miller, Bart Kemper, Nisi Shawl, Deborah J. Ross
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This year's BayCon was one of the best regional conventions I've attended in recent years. This is not to say that every aspect ran perfectly, but that the programming -- the panel topics, the chemistry between the panelists, and the lively response of the audiences -- was exceptional. This is, of course, my own very personal opinion, so here's what the weekend was like for me:

Friday began with "Growing Artistically Through Crisis," which was scheduled right after opening ceremonies. The sole other panelist was a musician/composer named Angelena Kyzar, lovely and articulate. We had a wonderful conversation, sharing stories, talking about how our creative endeavors help us to survive personal crises, but also how we can use what we have experienced and grown through in order to enrich our art.

Next up -- literally next, because I had 3 back-to-back panels (I told you it wasn't perfect) was "Ghostwriting" (meaning continuing the series of a deceased author), with Diana L. Paxson, Brandon Sanderson (the GoH, who finished Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series) and Kevin Andrew Murphy (worked on Jo Clayton's "Drums" trilogy). Diana and I have done the "Worlds of Marion Zimmer Bradley" discussion a number of times before, but we learn more each time we compare notes. Brandon was new to me, and so it was fun hearing his own adventures. I've known Kevin for years through convention-dom, and I'd heard a little of his story working with Jo, but not about how he came to write in the "Wild Cards" shared world series. Interestingly, all of us except Kevin were established writers with track records; Kevin's entry was via his phenomenal memory for details, keeping the minutiae of "canon" straight, a priceless contribution to a series that spans volumes and many authors. We talked about the usual, How did you get to do this, How writing in an established world is like writing historical fiction, How to reconcile your own and the deceased writer's voices, and how you handle it when you feel the story needs to go in another direction.Read more... )
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Here's what I'll be up hanging around, chatting... Please do say hello to me or come to one of my panels. (I'm on one with my husband, [ profile] davetrow, always an adventure in hilarity, not to mention a whole bunch of other amazing and cool peeps.)

Growing Artistically Through Crisis on Friday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM in
Lafayette (with Angelena Kyzar). For any artist, a discussion of the process of expressing our life crises and traumas into the media we create.

Ghostwriting -- Literally! What's it Like to Pick Up a Deceased Writer's Pen? on Friday from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM in Ballroom D (with Kevin Andrew Murphy, Brandon Sanderson, Diana L. Paxson). Many of our favorite authors were in the middle of writing something when they passed away. What's it like to pick up a deceased author's pen? Is it more important to create the author's intent, or is it ok to add your own style when you're now the one doing the work.

Young Adult Fiction: More that Blanking-out the Sex on Friday from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM in Camino Real (with Clare Bell, Ann Finnin, Diana L. Paxson). Young Adult Fiction is a rapidly growing sub-genre. What does it take to write YA, and how is it different from either children's or adult fiction?

Location, Location, Location -- Setting your Story in a Science Fiction World on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM in Lafayette (with Chaz Brenchley, Clare Bell, T.S. Luikart, Allison Lonsdale). Your character has to live somewhere, and that somewhere needs to support the story. It's embarrassing to have a great scene all written involving bikini- or Speedo-dressed people, when they all live in the first permanent settlement on the Moon, and only landed yesterday....

Book View Cafe and ePublishing on Saturday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM in
Ballroom D (with Irene Radford, Chaz Brenchley, Dave Trowbridge, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff). Book View Cafe members discuss their experiences with this authors' co-op and ePublishing.

Once Upon a Time, Brothers Grimm, Fables, and Other Looks at the Modern
Fairy Tale on Saturday from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM in Bayshore (with Kevin Andrew Murphy, Sandra Saidak, Kay Pannell, Lon Sarver, D.M. Atkins, Elwin Cotman, Eytan Kollin, Diana L. Paxson) These are not your grandmother's fairy tales or even your mother's. They show the story behind the story and more. Explore the new look at Fairy Tales in the Modern Age.

The Evolution of Female Characters in SF and Fantasy on Sunday from 1:00 PM
to 2:30 PM in Ballroom D (with Juliette Wade, Veronica Belmont, Daryl G. Frazetti, Brandon Sanderson, Diana L. Paxson). From damsels in distress to sword-wielding, gun-toting, and military masterminds, have women found their place, or are they 'feminized' men? Do the women truly reflect the changing attitudes of the roles of women?

Authors: Stop Blocking Your Own Potential! on Monday from 11:30 AM to 1:00
PM in Winchester (with Tony N. Todaro, Leslie Simon, Brandon Sanderson). For years the publishing industry has pushed and pulled authors into marketable categories that they can quantify, but today's readers are looking for something different. As long as you believe in your work and the enjoyment that it brings to you and those like you, give it to the masses. Figure out who you are, what you want the world to see, and commit to it! Then figure out how to reach people like you and go out and sell books!
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Hope any of you at Radcon will find me to say hello! I'm supposed to be doing a reading as well, but am not sure when, so there may be last minute tweakings and squeakings but all shall be well and a good time had by all.

Friday 5:00 pm Silver Front. Charades. Last year we started with one audience member but by the end had filled the room. Join David Levine and Lizzy Shannon for an hour of hilarity. I love charades and am not timid about making a spectacle of myself!

Friday 6:00 Emerald. Animals in Fiction. So you want to include horses in your epic fantasy novel, dogs in your postapocalyptic yarn and monkeys in your science fiction adventure. The only problem is that blood bays with white manes and tails don’t exist, dogs need to pant to live and monkeys aren’t nearly so cheeky. Let us tell you what’s right and what’s wrong about your preconceptions.

Friday 7:00 pm Bronze Room. Opening Ceremonies, as Writer GoH.

Sat. 9 am Cobalt. That is a Great Idea. Is there nothing new under the sun for story ideas? Can you make YOUR story stand out even if some of your key elements are standard tropes? When is a cliche just a cliche, and when are there still permutations worth exploring?

Sat 11 am Bronze Room. Lunch as Book Signing. Come and meet our author guests and get your book collection signed.

Sat. 3 pm Garnet. Women in Horror. A discussion about the role women play in the horror genre, how it could change and what has been done right. Also a chance to discuss specific women who have contributed to horror.

Sunday 10 am Amber. Religions without an Anthropomorphic God (or Gods). Both fundamentalists and atheists often talk as if religion and belief in God are synonymous and exceptions don’t matter. Bu t for a lot of people this isn’t true. What is a religion, how does it function in a society and how do those without an authoritarian entity perform that function?

Sunday 11 am Sage. Pitching Workshop. Do eyes glaze over when you try to discuss your book, story, or screenplay. Polish your elevator speech. A hands on approach in pitch techniques. Elevators are waiting. Bring pen and paper.

Sunday 12 noon Garnet. Setting The Pace In Your Writing. What distinguishes the book you can’t put down from an interesting character story or a stylistic triumph? How do they do that?


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Deborah J. Ross

May 2017

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