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The Portal Closes: Looking Back @ GenCon

August 23rd, 2013

GenCon 2013 crowd 2Imagine 50,000 people packed into a single indoor space. Now add a 20-foot tall Cthulhu (made entirely of balloons), a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (in a top hat, no less), armies of warriors and monsters, and a roster of top sf and fantasy writers. Yes, it got crowded. But that’s GenCon.

Never mind that the Indiana Convention Center provides 500,000 square feet of sprawling indoor space. There were still times when I found it impossible to walk without bumping into someone or something.

And did I mention that there was also a motorcycle convention in town. Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up. I can only imagine what it must have seemed like to the residents of Indianapolis, seeing their city overrun with bikers and mythological beasts (there’s a high-concept Hollywood film in there somewhere). Indeed, it must have seemed as if a trans-dimensional portal had opened.

I was in town as part of the GenCon Writer’s Symposium, a large writing convention that coexists within the sprawling wonder of GenCon. Its panels, readings, and workshops often attract standing-room crowds, and the attending writers provide a fine cross-section of the field.

Larry Dixon and Matt O'DwyerThe Symposium kicked off with a Wednesday dinner, where I shared a table with writer Brandie Tarvin, editor W. H. Horner, and up-and-coming novelists Jeffery Brooks and Matthew O’Dwyer (both MFA candidates at Seton Hill University). Along the way, we were joined by Larry Dixon, who contributed to the digital effects on Lord of the Rings and collaborated with his wife Mercedes Lackey on a number of terrific fantasy novels.

the writing process according to Oscar WildeThe next morning W. H. Horner and I launched Fiction Fundamentals, three days of workshops covering the essentials of genre writing. The sessions explored writing as a process rather than a product, looking at how the experience of reading a novel (moving page-by-page from beginning to the conclusion) has little in common with the act of writing one. The graphic on the left illustrates this difference, showing how the manuscript for one of Oscar Wilde’s plays progressed circuitously from concept to finished work – passing through a series of handwritten and typing-pool drafts along the way.

I also did a couple of readings, one featuring selections from Visions and This Way to Egress, the other centering on an abridged version of “The Fourth Sign” from Paul Genesse’s The Crimson Pact. I did both readings from memory, a form of delivery that harkens back to the roots of storytelling (think Homer or the Beowulf poet).

The Crinson PactI particularly enjoyed presenting “The Fourth Sign.” It’s a rather subversive story, one that gradually removes the wall between reader and story. It opens with a few references to the reader’s world and builds from there, drawing the reader in until it becomes clear that he or she has been a character in the story all along, and that the act of reading the story (or attending the reading) is actually the story itself.

It was fun watching the audience as they sensed everything coming together, and having the story memorized helped me keep the performance in synch with their dawning realizations. You can read Paul Genesse review of the reading (and the convention) at his blog.

I also took part in panels on Steampunk (where Jennifer Brozek, Paul Genesse, and Sara Hans talked about ways in which Victorian-age science fiction can reflect 21st-century inclusivity) and Hard SF (where Wesley Chu and Jason Sanford urged beginning writers not to get bogged down doing research). I may go into more detail on these topics in future blogs, but right now I sense the portal is closing. I need to get out while I can.

Till next time, I’ll see you between the pages.

Scop on!

Image Credits:

GenCon Crowd by Mike Olson Spirit of the Blank.

Larry Dixon and Matt O’Dwyer by Lawrence C. Connolly.

The Writing Process According to Oscar Wilde by Lawrence C. Connolly.

Lawrence C. Connolly, Karen Bovenmyer, Paul Genesse, Patrick Tracy, Stephanie M. Lorée, and George Strayton at the Crimson Pact reading. Photo by Tammy Lyn Genesse.

GoingLIVE with the 21st-Century Scop

July 28th, 2013

Lawrence C. Connolly GoingLIVE2Fiction, art, and the pending release of Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle — those are just some of the things publisher Will Horner and I talked about in our recent interview on FCTV.

The episode was conducted in conjunction with Seton Hill University and the In Your Write Mind Workshops that we both took part in last month. You can watch the interview by clicking on the image.

Here’s a description from the program’s press release:

Going LIVE  was developed by the Coordinated 360 team, subcontracted station operators for Fayette TV, with an idea to celebrate the best in Fayette County arts, culture and entertainment. We had no way of predicting, however, just how much big-city talent existed in our small community.

Blending humor, light-hearted discussion, and interactive games and demonstrations, Going LIVE with FCTV is Fayette County’s first and only live variety show focusing on arts and entertainment. At Going LIVE, we’re also passionate about supporting and providing a platform for live, local music — almost every show begins and ends with a performance from homegrown talent representing a diversity of musical genres.

Will and I didn’t conclude with a performance, but the interview did give us a chance to touch on some interesting points regarding past and current projects.

Special thanks to Heidi Ruby Miller for putting the spot together.

Now let’s go watch that video.

Scop on!

 

The Shape of Things Come

July 2nd, 2013

Arthur RadebaughWearable tech, near-planet colonization, computer-assisted telepathy – the future looks amazing, so why aren’t more people writing about it?

In a literary scene dominated by backward-looking steampunk and pessimistic dystopia, isn’t it time for some forward-looking, problem-solving science fiction.

Last Thursday, during the summer residency at Seton Hill University’s graduate program in Writing Popular Fiction, 32 MFA candidates and I worked together to extrapolate workable futures and brainstorm plots that might give their next SF project an edge in the current marketplace.

The Time MachinesOne of the first things we considered was advice that John W. Campbell gave to his writers in 1939. Here’s how writer Mike Ashley summarizes that advice in The Time Machines, his three volume study of the history of the sf magazines:

Campbell […] wanted the stories to read just as though they were contemporary stories in a future magazine.  New scientific concepts to us would be everyday things to people of the future and wouldn’t require lengthy descriptions. The writer had to find a way to introduce new inventions and yet make them well-known objects.

We talked about how to do this through incluing, which sf writer Jo Walton has described as the process of “scattering pieces of information seamlessly through the text to add up to a big picture.” We also talked about infodumps which can work if done right. Honest. Read Neal Stephenson if you don’t believe me.

RalphAs an exercise we deconstructed and revised a page from Hugo Gernsback’s proto-sf novel Ralph 124C41+, attempting to update the opening scene for 21st Century readers. That was fun.

Along the way, I attempted to make a case for writing real speculative fiction in this backward-looking age, when even Disney’s once visionary Tomorrowland has gone disappointingly retro.

Toward the end of the session, I allowed time for  each writer to submit questions and comments on notecards. As is usually the case, time kept us from addressing all of them.

Here, then, are the two we didn’t get to, along with my responses. Please feel free to post follow-up comments. It’s always good hearing from you.

Where can a writer learn about the latest technological innovations?

For starters, you might try LiveScience, Physorg, Scientific American, and Wired. For your iPod, consider subscribing to the podcasts at Science Friday, Studio 360 (which covers more than science-related stories), and On Science. There are tons of others. These are simply the ones that I usually try to make time for.

Any comments on nanotechnology? William Gibson has said that “he can’t wrap his mind around the concept,” which I why he hasn’t written about it.

You can check out an excellent list of nanotech stories from LiveScience here. Also, the Physorg website has a tab devoted to nano news. Some amazing stuff there.

As far as the challenge of wrapping one’s mind around the topic, I think it all comes down to exploring one aspect of the technology rather than its myriad implications. Check out M. Shayne Bell’s “Anomalous Structures of My Dreams,” which originally appeared in F&SF. Audible has included the story in The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, January-February 2003. Highly recommended.

I think that’s it for this installment, although there’s always a chance that one of the notecards got lost in transit. If that’s the case, or if there’s a question you had meant to submit but didn’t, please post it below. Likewise, if you were not in the session and you have a question or comment about something posted here, please feel free to join the discussion.

WPF SymbolPhaseFinalColorFor my next post, I’d like to take a look at some questions posed during a Time Management for Writers presentation that I did for Seton Hill’s In Your Write Mind workshops (which ran concurrent with SHU’s summer residency). Beyond that, I hope to offer a summation of my WPF presentation on Revision and possibly some comments on the IYWM Book Signing and a TV interview that Will Horner and I did with Heidi Rubi Miller and Matt Dowling (of GoingLIVE TV). More on those soon.

Until then, keep writing, look toward the future . . . and rock on!

Report from the KGB

June 23rd, 2013

KGB SignFrom the outside it looks like a redbrick townhouse, with only a small sign above the door to let us know we’ve arrived at the KGB Bar – the place that both New York Magazine and the Village Voice have named the best literary venue in New York.

The doors are likewise unremarkable, opening to a flight of stairs that leads to a dim room decorated with Soviet art. For a moment I feel as if I have arrived back in Leningrad, or possibly the upstairs gallery of the illegal artist in my story “Smuggling the Dead.”

MM DeVoe Nicholas Kaufmann Alexa AntopolEllen Datlow, one of our hosts for the evening, is already there. She shows us to our seats, and within minutes people start arriving. I recognize some of them. There’s Nicholas Kaufmann, M. M. De Voe, Rick Bowes, Linda Addison, Gordon Linzner of Space and Time Magazine (editor emeritus), Vaughne Hansen of the Virginia Kidd Agency, and Will and Meesh Horner of Fantasist Enterprises. It’s going to be a fun evening.

Tom Connair and Heather SedlakSome newer writers are also settling in, among them are Heather Sedlak and Tom Connair, MFA candidates from the graduate writing program at Seton Hill University; Andrew Alford, who’s made sales to Space and Time and Midnight Echo; and Nicholas Schwartz, a terrific young filmmaker who has recently option my story “Shooting Evil” for adaptation as a short film. Others are there as well. Too many to mention. Soon, the room is overflowing.

Matthew KresselSarah Langan is also there, of course. We’re sharing the bill. She’ll be reading an excerpt from her forthcoming novel. I’ve selected three stories from Visions. Between the two of us, we have what seems a nice mix planned for the evening.

Cohost Matthew Kressel kicks things off with the announcement of a Kickstarter campaign to help underwrite the continuation of the series. He also shares a list of upcoming readers, including Libba Bray, Lucius Shepard, James Patrick Kelley, and Thomas F. Monteleone. Listening to the list, I’m thinking I’ve got to move to New York so I can become a KGB regular.

Lawrence C Connolly Reading at KGBThen Matthew introduces me, and I’m on. The stories I’ve selected are “Step on a Crack,” “Prime Time!” and “Echoes.” I plan to deliver each from memory, a mode of presentation that harkens back to the roots of storytelling. Think Homer or the Beowulf poet, traveling scops who carried their works in their heads and presented their texts live without reliance on the printed page. I’ve blogged about this technique elsewhere, particularly in Scop 101.

The stories are a bit like songs. They’re longer, of course. And they don’t employ rhyme. But each has a vocal rhythm that facilitates memorization. The audience is wonderfully receptive, and the performance goes well.Sarah Langan at KGB

After a break, during which Will Horner does brisk business at the Fantasist book display, Ellen introduces Sarah – the three-time Bram Stoker winner whom the New York Times has referred to as one of “Shelley’s Daughters,” a strong writer of contemporary horror who carries on the groundbreaking work started by Mary Shelley.

Sarah reads the first chapter from The Clinic, and it’s clear from the delivery that she has another Stoker contender in the works.

The reading leaves us all eager for the book’s release.

will meesh heather3After the readings, about 20 of us head out to dinner at the Grand Sichuan Restaurant in St. Mark’s Place, after which Ginny and I make our way back to our Midtown digs. Special thanks goes out to our New York friend for getting us through the subway turnstiles and showing us the way. We never would have made it without them!

Our original plans were to stay in the city one more day, but a gig at another nightspot – Riley’s Pour House in Pittsburgh – sends us packing in the morning. Still, I’m amazed at all we were able to fit into our short stay.

VortexThere’s lots more to tell, including an account of my visit to GQ for lunch with former Twilingt Zone editor T.E.D. Klein. I’ll try to get to some of it in a follow up post. Look for it soon.

I’d also like to share the preliminary cover art for my forthcoming novel Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle. If you were at the KGB and stopped by the book display after my reading, you got an advance look at what artist Rhonda Libby has planned for the conclusion of the series. If you didn’t, I’m going to keep you in suspense a little longer. The art warrants a blog post of its own.

In the meantime, keep reading. And, as always – rock on!

Image Credits:

Screen cap of the KGB Sign is from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Fundraiser video.

Photos of  Milda De Voe, Nicholas Kaufmann, and Alexa Antopol;  Tom Connair and Heather Sedlak; Matthew Kressel; Lawrence C. Connolly; and Sarah Langan are © Ellen Datlow.

Photo of Meesh Horner, Will Horner, and Heather Sedlak is © Lawrence C. Connolly.