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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.

The Portal Opens: GenCon Preview, Part 2

August 13th, 2013

GenConThe portal opens, and for one week the city changes, reality morphs, fantasy rules.

The event is GenCon, the massive fantasy and science fiction gaming convention that takes over Indianapolis each August.  Attendance this year is projected to break past records, which were well beyond 40,000 attendees.

Part of the event is the GenCon Writer’s Symposium. That’s where I’ll be spending most of my time this week – conducting workshops, serving on panels, doing readings, and (most importantly) hanging out with other science fiction and fantasy writers. It’s always a blast.

I’ll post additional reports this week (provided I get the chance). In the meantime, here’s my schedule for the convention. If you’re there, be sure to say hello.

THURSDAY

8:00-11:00 AM

Fiction Fundamentals Workshop (Room 243): The first installment of three days of intense fiction-writing workshops that I’ll be presenting along with W. H. Horner – editor in chief of Fantasist Enterprises. Topics covered on this day will be Structure, Outlining, World Building, and Character.  If you’re seriously interested in learning to write fantasy, science fiction, or horror fiction, you’ll want to be sure to attend.

12:00-1:00 PM

Book Signing (Dealers Hall): The best place to get your V books signed and get promo material on the upcoming Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle. I might even have a copy or two of the newly released Crimson Pact: Volume 5, which editor/writer Paul Genesse will be launching later in the week.

FRIDAY

8:00-11:00 AM

Fiction Fundamentals Workshop (Room 243): Today’s topics will be Tension & Pacing, Connecting with Characters, Dialogue, and The Power of Details. Professional secrets will be revealed!

12:30-1:00 PM

Reading (Room 243): I’ll talk about writing, share some stories, and offer a preview of Vortex. Not to be missed!

5:00-5:30 PM

Crimson Pack Reading with Paul Genesse (Room 243): I’ll be joining Paul for a special presentation of a story that takes place in a city very much like Indianapolis, at a convention that just might be GenCon. Yes, you’re in the story, too. Be there!

SATURDAY

8:00-11:00 AM

Fiction Fundamentals Workshop (Room 243): Today’s topics will be Revision and Editing – the most essential steps in the writing process.

12:00 Noon

Exploring Genres – Steampunk (Room 245): I’ll be moderating this panel discussion of Victorian-age science fiction with Sara Hans, Paul Genesse, and Jennifer Brozek. This panel broke some attendance records when I took part in it two years ago. Looking forward to doing it again.

2:00 – 3:00 PM

Exploring Genres – Hard SF (Room 244): I’ll be moderating this panel discussion of science-based science fiction with fellow writers Wesley Chu, Jason Sanford, and Geoffrey Girard. I’m looking forward to this one.

There are also a number of mass author events planned. I need to get the dates, times, and places for those. Again, I’ll update this report as time permits. It’s going to be a busy week.

Got to go. The portal’s opening.

See you on the other side!

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.