scop (noun):

Old English – bard, minstrel, storyteller

Celebrating the Roots of the Genre:
Pennsylvania’s Place in SF History

August 15th, 2017

Next month, I’ll be helping celebrate the roots of modern science fiction by heading east to Milford, Pennsylvania, where some of the genre’s biggest names helped establish sf as we know it today. It’s an exciting history that will be commemorated on September 15-17 at The Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

I’ll be attending as this year’s science-fiction guest of honor. Needless to say, I’m jazzed.

In the days ahead, I’ll be posting more information about the event. For now, here’s the official press release:

Milford, PA – The Milford Readers and Writers Festival is thrilled to announce that Science Fiction will be back in Milford, providing three separate Science Fiction/Fantasy Events. Milford, though people may not remember, was a bastion of science fiction/fantasy from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and the original home of the famous Milford Writers Conference for writers of science fiction. The Conference was founded by such notables as Damon Knight, Kate Williams, Virginia Kidd and Judith Merrill and held at the Anchorage, Damon Knight’s home in Milford.

Among the many famous writers who attended these Conferences are Harlan Ellison, James Sallis, Thomas M. Desch, Ann McCaffery and Algis Budrys. It is only fitting that today the Milford Readers and Writers Festival includes events that celebrate this great history.

The main offering will be held at the Milford Theater on Sunday, September 17 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and will include a slide show, a panel discussion and a Q & A session. The panel moderator will be Gordon Van Gelder, the editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The panelists will include Lawrence C. Connolly, as guest of honor, the science fiction writers Paul Witcover and Robert Levy and John Grant, encyclopedist and past guest of honor.

Two additional free events will take place on Saturday, September 16. The Twilight Zone Marathon will be held at the Milford Library from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The marathon will consist of a continuous showing of the original episodes of The Twilight Zone. The second event, Beer Tasting and Readings, will be at the Dimmick Inn from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The science fiction writers featured on Sunday’s Science Fiction Panel will be reading from their novels and you can enjoy a beer while listening to the readings. There will also be drawings for SF/F books provided by the Kidd Agency and for tours of Arrowhead, Virginia Kidd’s home in Milford.

In addition to the Science Fiction Panel the Festival also includes the following, all part of the Festival Pass on sale now:

· Love Letters, a two-person award winning Broadway play performed by actors Len Cariou, and Heather Cariou, at the Historic Milford Theatre;

· Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher series has sold more than 100 million copies world wide, in conversation with Stephen Rubin, publisher and President of Henry Holt and Co.;

· Robin Morgan, award winning author, activist and feminist in conversation with journalist Farai Chideya, whose most recent book is The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption;

· Patricia Bosworth, one of the country’s preeminent biographers (Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, Marlon Brandon, Jane Fonda) and author of a recent memoir, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan in conversation with the director of the Woodstock Bookfest, Martha Frankel, author of a memoir (Hats & Eyeglasses) and other books;

· A Plenary Panel with all the above writers in conversation with each other and the audience; and

· A Private Author’s Reception and a chance to meet and talk with all the authors from the main stage panels at the Hotel Fauchere.

Individual tickets for the Science Fiction Panel only on Sunday, September 17, are on sale now for $25 per person.

A limited number of Festival Passes valid for entry to all Festival events as well as a private Authors Reception open only to Pass holders are now available for sale at the special early bird discounted price of $125 per person.

Tickets can be purchased at the EVENTBRITE LINK and more information about the festival can be found here. (Prices for the Pass and the Science Fiction panel will increase on August 15).

In addition to the ticketed events, the festival also offers a host of free programming and events around Milford and open to the public, including “Women Writing About Their Lives,” “Restaurants that Changed America,” storytelling and children’s and young adults events at the Pike County Public Library, “Artists Writing about Art”, “Recovery from Trauma”, poetry, travel writing, conservation at Grey Towers, an open-mic event: “RAW After Dark” at Bar Louis, a “pop-up” bookstore, conversations and book-signings with local writers and more. The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

So that’s the official release. I’ll have more to share in the days ahead, but for now, I hope you’ll consider saving the date for what looks to be a terrific celebration of reading, writing, and the history of science fiction. More details coming soon. For now … scop on!

Images

Damon Knight, Anthony Boucher, and Judith Merril at the Milford Science Fiction Conference in 1956. From Aloud Magazine, October 1992.

Harlan Ellison circa 1970 from popmatters.com.

Gordon Van Gelder from orbooks.com

The Twilight Zone circa 1959

“The Wizard and the Dragon” by John Longendorfer, from milfordreadersandwriters.com

 

Confluence: One of the Great Regional Cons

August 12th, 2017

Confluence, one of the great science fiction conventions, was held last week at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. As always, it provided an opportunity for fans to connect with professionals in the field and for professionals to get out from behind the desk to spend some real-world time with folks they see all too seldom.

This year I served on a number of panels (see previous post) and got the chance to hang out with some of my favorite writers (see photo at left).

In addition, I took the opportunity to drop in on a panel discussion of science fiction and horror poetry (featuring good friends Michael A. Arnzen and Mary Soon Lee) as well as readings by Jason Jack Miller, Heidi Ruby Miller, and Bud Sparhawk.

Jason read from the soon-to-be-released fourth installment of his Murder Ballads and Whiskey series (from Raw Dog Screaming Press), which is due out this November. Like the other books in the series, it looks to be a fast-paced slice of American gothic.

Heidi’s latest release is Man of War (from Meteor House), a novella that takes place in Philip José Farmer’s Two-Hawks universe. Produced in cooperation with the Farmer estate, the book features the kind of vintage sf action and adventure you’d expect from Philip José Farmer, combined with the kinds of insightful reflections on the human spirit that we’ve come to expect from the author of the Ambasadora series.

Bud Sparhawk, one of sf’s top short story writers, read from his new collection Non-Parallel Universes (Fantastic Books), which collects 19 of his favorite stories from the past decade. At his reading, he shared the book’s lead story, “Astronomical Distance, Geologic Time,” which first appeared in Analog, March 2011. Providing an evocative meditation on how distance in time equates to distance in space, the story’s presentation was one of the high points at this year’s con.

I haven’t been doing much blogging this summer. There’s good reason for that. Other writing projects have been keeping me occupied. Big things are cooking, and I hope to share some details with you soon.

In the meantime, you might enjoy listening to a story from Joe Coluccio, one of this year’s Confluence participants (and president of the organization that made the con possible). In the story, Joe shares a tale from his days as a performance artist. It was recorded live a few years back, when the 21st-Century Scop was running a storytelling night at Riley’s Pour House. Where did I ever find the time?

The link is below. Enjoy the story … and until next time, scop on!

Images:

Jason Jack Miller, Heidi Ruby Miller, the 21st-Century Scop, and Joe Coluccio. Photo by Michale A. Arnzen.

Jason Jack Miller and Heidi Ruby Miller. Photo by Karen Yun-Lutz.

The Streams Converge at Confluence

August 3rd, 2017

This weekend, the rivers of speculative fiction will converge at the annual literary event known as Confluence. Launched in 1988 as a cooperative effort between the University of Pittsburgh science fiction club and Parsec, Confluence has grown from a one-day event to become one of the great regional SF conventions.

This year’s program will feature panels on a variety of genre-related topic, and I’m looking forward to joining three of them on Saturday. Here’s a rundown of what I’ll be up to:

 

WRITING FOR ANTHOLOGIES (1:00 pm)

How do anthologies work? How do editors select stories and decide the story order? Why do authors participate in anthologies, what’s in it for the reader, and how has Kickstarter touched off an anthology resurgence?

Moderator: Jamie Lackey

Panelists: Brian Kosciencki, Mike McPhail, Jeff Young, Lawrence C. Connolly, Michael Arnzen.

 

WORLD BUILDING WITH EXOPLANETS (2:00 pm)

The Kepler mission showed us that exoplanets exist. Now, what can SF authors do with them?

Moderator: Lawrence C. Connolly

Panelists: William H. Keith, Barton Paul Levenson, Rob Howell, Tom Peters.

 

SIX DEGREES OF TERMINATOR (6:00 pm)

Artificial intelligence, androids, time loops, political assassinations: what are the predecessors of 1984’s The Terminator?

Moderator: Kenneth B. Chiacchia

Panelists: Jeff Young, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mark Painter, Jay Smith

This year, Confluence is being held at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. If you love speculative fiction and live anywhere in the Pittsburgh area, you’ll want to be sure to check this one out.

More information is available at the official Confluence website.

Looking Ahead to the Nebula Awards

April 14th, 2017

The Nebula Awards are coming to Pittsburgh next month.

The following is from SFWA’s official release for the event:

Focusing on three tracks relevant to professionals in the genre, attendees will be able to choose from career management, professional development, and expert knowledge panels and workshops throughout the weekend. 

You will also be able to meet with major industry partners throughout the conference during scheduled “office hours.” You will also be able to meet with major industry partners throughout the conference during scheduled “office hours.” Often the best conversations at a convention are the ones that carry over after a panel. Here we have provided a space for authors, editors, agents, and our partners to share their expertise in intimate meetings. These can either be a one-on-one about an area of expertise such as hypnotism, sailing, or contract law. Or it could be an offer to talk shop such as brainstorming sticky plot points, world-building dilemmas, or how to set up book tours. 

The four-day event is being held at the Pittsburgh Marriott, City Center.

I hope to post a full preview soon. In the meantime, more information is available at the SFWA website.