Minicon 50 schedule

I have my schedule for Minicon! If you’re not going to Minicon, you can also see me at Fourth Street, and I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing for Convergence, since some friends are having an event there I don’t want to miss, but I otherwise don’t go to Convergence. So probably just a little Convergence, basically. I have no plans for out of town conventions this year, although life is full of surprises. Anyway! Minicon schedule!

Thursday, April 2, 6:30 p.m.: The Lure of Ages Past. Bronze age mysticism, Edwardian pomp, Civil War relived – what draws us to historical fiction (realistic or alternate)? Which authors are we reading? What makes the past such an alluring playground for authors? Dana M. Baird, Aimee Kuzenski, Magenta Griffith, Marissa Lingen, Ozgur K. Sahin I have discovered a conflict with this panel and will not be able to do it. Argh. My own fault, not theirs, but: argh.

Saturday, April 4, 1:00 p.m.: Adventures in Collaboration. Many of our attending authors have co-authored narrative works with other writers. How did such collaborations come about? How do authors with distinct voices come together to create a cohesive tale? What affect [I believe they mean effect–mkl] (or benefit) does collaborating have for an author at the beginning of his/her career versus when it is well-developed? Adam Stemple, Ctein, Heidi Stemple, Jane Yolen, Jerry Stearns, Larry Niven, Marissa Lingen

Saturday, April 4, 3:30 p.m.: Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin reading [We didn’t provide a description because we won’t decide what to read until…um…let’s say about 3:31 on Saturday, April 4. We will read things written by us separately and/or together. We have options.]

Sunday, April 5, 2:30 p.m.: Middle Grade Optimism vs YA Dystopia Magical wonder abounds in middle grade lit but seems to disappear once stories make the jump to the next age bracket. [coughBULLSHITcough–mkl] Does pessimism go hand in hand with the advent of hormones? Is middle grade more than it appears?(from both reader and writer perspective) [APPEARS TO WHOM WHAT I DON’T EVEN Oooookay we will argue this ON the panel–mkl] Donna Munro, Adam Stemple, Alec Austin, Brandon Sanderson, Jane Yolen, Marissa Lingen

4th St. registration finally!

Fourth Street registration is finally open! Come to the best and nerdiest fantasy convention on the block. June 26-28, here in the Twin Cities area, although if you have flexibility in your travel plans you should know that there’s stuff going on Thursday and Monday also.

I am leading the seminar at 4th St. again this year, along with Alec Austin, Lynne and Michael Thomas, and Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition, this year’s new feature is a critique session going on at the same time as the seminar (choose one!), led by Beth Meacham, Max Gladstone, Patricia C. Wrede, Skyler White, and our very own Tim Cooper.

4th St. 4th St. 4th St. yay! I hope to see so many of you at 4th St.!

Completely unsatisfying 4th St. con report

Look, folks, I’m terrible at con reports. I never take good panel notes, and I feel like I’m name-dropping if I list the people I talked to. Worse, I feel like I’m name-dropping incompetently, because I’m sure to forget some of my favorite people and make them feel like they aren’t valued, which is just plain unacceptable. So we can’t have that.

But Fourth Street! It was a Fourth Street! And Fourth Street is my favorite con. I am an introvert, and I like very chewy nerdy theory conversations. The single-track mode of programming at Fourth Street sets that up perfectly. Everyone is pretty much in the same place, where you can find them easily, so there is no wandering through hordes and hordes of people looking for the ones who might be talking about things you like. There they are. If you’re looking for one in specific, there’s a very limited number of places that person might be. And the conversation is not limited–it’s very far-ranging, in fact–but it does tend to have all sorts of ready-made entry-points from panels and the little extra things that spring up around the official programming.

This was the first time I’d done anything like the writers’ seminar that precedes Fourth Street. It was basically like being on panels solidly from 9-2:30, with one fifteen-minute break in the morning and one hour-long break for lunch. Lunch was provided–which was good, because by the time lunch rolled around, I was literally shaking with exhaustion/hunger. (Keep in mind that I was really sick for the week preceding the con. Wednesday was the first day I was well enough to shower standing up. Thursday was the first day I was well enough to wear clothes. Then Friday I did the seminar! Um, go team!) So having the lunch provided was great…except that it was with the seminar participants, so it wasn’t really down time per se. I’ve talked to the organizer, and things will be slightly different next year, to allow for value for the participants while still allowing the seminar leaders a minute to themselves.

Every year I try to encourage people to come to Fourth Street. This year is no different. Every year I meet new awesome people. Every year I reconnect with some of my old awesome people, and lament the ones I didn’t get enough time with (both at the con and the ones who couldn’t make it). Seriously: think about this con for next June. There are all sorts of ways to stretch and grow as a writer. Fourth Street is one of them. I came back with six pages of notes for different projects, ideas that had been sparked by things various people had said. It’s that kind of con.

One thing I remember saying on one of my panels that I do want to repeat here: I was talking about how my agent reacted (well! she reacted well!) when I told her I’d been struggling with some health stuff. I said something like, “Everyone in this room deserves to work with people who treat them ethically. All of you. You deserve someone who treats you like a person, with consideration and respect.” That was not actually meant to be limited to that room. Wherever you are in your career–whatever your career is–you deserve ethical treatment, consideration, and respect from the people you work with. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. It matters. There was lots of theorizing and arguing about craft and story and art, and all that is important. It really is. But I really want that point to be heard, because sometimes I think those of us who have been striving for something in the creative professions can want it so badly for so long that we can lose sight of other considerations, including some incredibly important ones.

Anyway. It was Fourth Street, it was lovely, and then I came home and found that I’d sold my 4H kids in space story to Analog. It’s called “Blue Ribbon,” and it’s much darker than it sounds; these things happen. Anyway, it was a great ending to a great con. You should think about coming next year.

Items! of! Interest!

First, Alec and I have a story in the September 2014 Analog, “Calm.” The author copies arrived late last week (making the fourth pro magazine I had a piece in last week, eep, what a week!), so it should be hitting stands soon-ish.

Next, my Fourth Street schedule. I’m one of the people doing the pre-convention seminar, along with Steven Brust, Elizabeth Bear, and Seanan McGuire, but that’s already closed, so if you’re doing that, you already know about the times and topics. For the convention itself–for which you can still get memberships! June 20-22!–here are my panels:

Saturday, June 21, 2014 11:00 AM – The Influence of Anxiety How do our fears and worries affect our work, and what we can do about it? How does that change when our anxieties are rooted in brain chemistry and the usual run of nostrums and advice to writers prove ineffective?
Sherry Merriam (m), Stella Evans, Scott Lynch, Marissa Lingen

Saturday, June 21, 2014 5:00P – In and out of frame In fantasy, as with stage plays and magic tricks, a key skill is directing the reader’s attention. What are some examples of successful (and less successful) attention direction and sleight of hand and the motivations behind them? Are there certain topics it’s easier or harder to guide readers toward (or away from)?
Marissa Lingen (m), Catherine Lundoff, Liz Vogel, Maurice Broaddus, Pamela Dean

At least, that’s how it was listed when I got the initial email from the programming chair. I believe that Maurice Broaddus had something come up so that he couldn’t make it, and the programming chair was going to ask a member who had bought a membership after he first figured out panelists to take Maurice’s place. As far as I know, the program has been set but has not been posted to the website–but when I saw that Catherine had posted her panels, I thought, yes, what a good idea, so here are mine.

Various things from Minicon weekend

First, I am pleased to say that my essay, “The Apple and the Castle,” will be appearing as one of the supplemental materials in the book, The Reader: The War for the Oaks. Get yours through the Kickstarter if you’re interested in gorgeous photos or me talking about what makes for a lasting fantasy classic, especially in the handling of setting.

Other good stuff happened besides me selling an essay. I was on a map panel that went pretty well, I thought, despite everyone on the panel being pro-map. (Panels often have a little extra frisson if the panelists disagree a bit more.) I want to particularly point out that while three of us writer panelists were traditionally published at one length or another, the two who were self-published-only were models of how self-published authors should conduct themselves on convention panels. They confined their remarks about their own books to the relevant and interesting, and they talked about other people’s work in on-topic ways, just as a good panelist ought. Later in the convention I encountered both of them, and one didn’t try to sell his book to me at all, while the other did–at a launch party I attended of my own free will, knowing that it was a launch party. Going to a launch party expecting someone not to be trying to talk up their book would just be dumb; that’s what they’re for. So as a result, I came away from it with warm positive feelings about both self-published authors, while I have no idea about the contents of their books, and I’m going to link them both here: Ozgur Sahin and Blake Hausladen. Well done, guys; that’s how to do it right. If this is what the rise of the self-published author brings programming at future cons, it’s going to be awesome. (I expect that this is not actually the case and self-published authors are as much a mixed bag as traditionally published authors. Ah well; at least I had a good panel.)

The middle-grade panel was less focused than the map panel, but several good names got discussed–Mer, everybody likes you–and our surprise last panelist got through her first panel ever without too much difficulty. (She was 14. First panels ever are hard.)

Alec’s and my reading went beautifully–not a huge crowd, but not a tiny one either, especially given that it was scheduled over the dinner hour. Timprov was a hero of the revolution in bringing us hot soup so that we were fortified before the reading.

A question came up in conversation at the book launch party, and I wanted to address it here, and that was: why don’t I post reviews of the books I get sent for review but do not finish? The dual entity known as James S. A. Corey was on Twitter just yesterday saying, “Writers: if people are bashing your work online, rejoice. It means someone has noticed it exists,” and I think that was the basic premise of the writer asking why I don’t post negative reviews: that negative press is still better for the smaller writer than no press. This is probably true. An individual post saying, “I stopped reading this on page one due to clunky prose,” or, “Rape scene chapter one, quit reading,” would still bring at least some attention to the book, and not everybody has the same taste in prose or the same distaste for chapter one rape scenes that I do.

However. I do not get paid for my reviews. My time is valuable, and my time is my own. Any time that I spend on writing reviews is my choice, and I don’t choose to spend that on books that didn’t hold my attention to the end. I am not long on time and energy. I would rather spend that time on my own writing, or on reading something else, or on staring at the birch tree outside my office window and willing the leaves on it to bud out, or on making my godson brownies, or…yeah. Things. “How long could it take?” Oh trust me. I bounce off a lot of books. It could take quite some time. Adding in discussion with people in the comments section, especially if those people want to try to talk me into reading a little further? It could really take quite some time.

Reviewers are good for writers, but reviewers do not exist to be good for writers. Reviewers are good for readers, but reviewers do not even exist to be good for readers. It is awfully nice that people send me free books to review. I am grateful. But what they are buying with the free book is the chance at my attention, and if they can’t hold my attention, they don’t get my time in the form of my reading or in the form of my review. Even if it would be useful to someone else.

Minicon schedule

Here is my Minicon schedule as I finally know it:

SAT 2:30 PM Krushenko’s
Terra Incognita: The Role of Maps in SF&F Literature

A discussion of maps used in speculative fiction, either as endpieces or as part of the story. What are good (and bad) examples of maps of imaginary worlds? Can the inclusion of maps create problems? What can maps tell us of the modes of transportation, natural setting, and politics of the realm? Are maps for modern fantasy novels too modern (i.e. accurate)?

Michael Kingsley (m), Blake Hausladen, Eleanor A. Arnason, Marissa Lingen, Ruth Berman

SAT 4:00 PM Ver 5/6

Younger than YA
Let’s talk about children’s F&SF books aimed at the pre-tween audience.

David Lenander (m), Jane Yolen, Laura Krentz, Marissa Lingen

(Note: I didn’t realize this would involve fantasy also! Even better: I have even more to say about MG speculative fiction broadly than MG SF narrowly.)

SAT 6:00 PM Ver 1/2
Marissa Lingen and Alec Austin – Reading

Our tentative plan is a poem of Alec’s, a co-written story, and a story of just-mine. Come for the fun, stay for the additional fun!

If you look at the programming grid, you may be under the impression that I will also be moderating a panel called Fantastic YA on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. That panel sounds lovely, and I did volunteer for it, but at 10:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning I expect to be on the first verse of “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” next to my grandmother, as I have been on every Easter Sunday I can manage and will be on every Easter Sunday I can manage. She is an active, sharp 82. She is 82. Am I going to drag her (and, not so incidentally, the rest of the family) out to sunrise services at 6 a.m. because programming ignored my very clear statement that I need to not be on anything before noon on Sunday? No, no I am not.

I was not thrilled to not have my schedule a week before the con started, and I was trying to be nice and understanding, because it’s hard work to program a con, and I like the people I know in programming and have no reason not to like the people I don’t know well. It was making some family and medical scheduling a bit difficult, but I was trying to roll with it. But when I woke up this morning to a schedule that directly ignored my one hard and fast schedule limitation (which, as I said, had been clearly stated when I volunteered), I have to say that it did not make me very happy. I doubt that the panel will be able to be moved at this late date, so I expect that they will need to find another moderator and panelist. If I’m wrong, I’ll update my schedule later, but so far as I know it this is what I’m doing at Minicon, and I hope it’ll be fun.

4th Street Registration is open!

My favorite con–the con that is my con, the con of my heart–is 4th St. Fantasy in June. Learn more here! And register: if you register before the end of the year, it’s significantly cheaper.

Also, the seminar before the con begins has a limited number of slots, so if you want to attend that, thinking about it early is a good idea. What’s the seminar like and who’s doing it? Well, the panelists for it are Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire, Steven Brust, and, uh, me. More information here. We will be using a Metamorphosis theme this year. It will be awesome and ideally cockroach-free.

Hope to see you there! It will be awesome. Really. Awesome.

The last Farthing Party con report post: Rothfuss and uphill

Patrick Rothfuss. Panelists noted that he will be the GoH at Vericon, March 21-23 of 2014, so for those of you who are interested, there’s a Rothfuss-spotting event. There was division amongst the panelists as to whether the second book made the first retroactively better or worse. The panelists all found Rothfuss compulsively readable but varied about whether his extensive use of negative capability at this point was a good thing. There was also division as to whether Kvothe’s horrible dooooom mitigated or enhanced his Mary Sue (Gary Stu, if you prefer) status.

It sounded like a great deal relied on whether or not the reader trusted Rothfuss to pull it all together, and if so, in what areas and to what degree the distrust kicked in. However, at least some of Rothfuss’s readers are having an experience gossiping and speculating about the characters that they compared to media fandoms wherein people are waiting for the next episode, so it sounds like these can be a very social read with the help of the internet.

Writing Uphill. This was the “that’s another panel” for the year, and I was on it. It’s about writing against the currents of story, against the expectations of both the reader and the writers him/herself–that is, both in communication with the audience and in sticking to one’s own internal guns. It’s about telling the stories you want to tell for personal, ideological, or narratively surprising reasons, rather than the stories that are standard. The undermining of the standard story does not in any way have to be unhappy, although that’s some people’s association/preconception of deconstructive narrative.

The common expectations and preconceptions about story have a lot of genre specificity, so one of the ways out from under the weight of expectations–if you are a person who experiences the weight of expectations at all–is to hybridize genres/modes. We also talked about writers who don’t seem to have gotten issued the expectations and preconceptions in the first place, which gives them less of a wall to bounce things off of but also less of a wall to surmount. Some of the cross-cultural differences in non-Anglophone movies and fiction can be helpful here also.

There was also some disagreement among panelists as to whether having had a factual, personal experience with the counter-narrative thing you wanted to depict was particularly helpful or not. I think it’s probably never un-helpful, but may not reach the levels of helpful depending on the individual writer.

We also talked about a cultural suspicion of reassurance, and how books earn their own endings (their wyrds!) regardless of emotional tenor. And then I got up on my hobbyhorse about the good hard work of writing books for which a hopeful ending feels earned, and one or two other people may have petted and possibly ridden similar hobbyhorses as well, I could not possibly comment.

Towards a Farthing Party con report: Worldbuilding and Writing Funny

Building Fantasy Worlds. Cuvier was quoted as saying that he could deduce an animal from a single bone. This, the panelist noted, was not guaranteed to get you the right animal, but the deductions Cuvier made were fascinating and detailed–which can be a lot more important in worldbuilding. Other panelists agreed with the “single bone” theory of worldbuilding, starting with something so small as a single word, or with an image or a cool concept. Start with fun! Sometimes things get unfun later, but starting with the unfun guarantees you unfun. For most of the people on the panel, the emotional expression in worldbuilding was a target rather than a starting point or the only point. Unintended consequences are awesome but also inconvenient.

In worldbuilding as opposed to mimetic fiction, small error can have unintended ramifications–if someone says that Napoleon is still ruling France in 1817, in mimetic fiction they’re just wrong, but in speculative fiction they’re giving you information about an alternate world–so get good fact-checkers so that you’re not misleading readers who know more about various things than you do. Or write such fun stuff that the more knowledgeable readers are willing to go on with it; this is less reliable than good fact-checkers. However, the willing suspension of disbelief can in some outstanding cases move into the willing construction of a lattice to hold up disbelief.

No one on the panel did all their worldbuilding explicitly before starting to write, but more than one person felt that the details were implied in what they knew before they started, if not spelled out. Broad intersections were encouraged, as were leaning on history and knowing the metaphysics of the world you’re building. No one used all of Patricia Wrede’s worldbuilding questions, but they can be useful individual jumping-off points rather than exhaustive complete surveys. One of the hardest parts of worldbuilding was agreed to be getting really into really foreign mindsets, such as the idea that Plato had literally no notion of progress, or even of things being different over a thousand years. Shifting one’s brain around to apt characterization of that sort is hard and fun.

You Write Funny: The Process Panel. I am going to use first initials since I don’t know who is all right with being quoted, and it was a very personal-context panel. I do think it’s important for people to be exposed to different styles of work, though, because I have run into any number of people who have said that I introduced them to something like writing out of order and in some sense gave them “permission”–this is of course a nine-and-sixty ways sort of thing. If you are one of these writers and do not want to identify yourself in comments but feel that I have mistaken something you said, please let me know on e-mail, and I will correct it.

T needs silence to work. She thinks in freewriting. Her freewrites go into narrative gradually, changing tense and acquiring dialog and other narrative characteristics from previously being “talking” to herself in writing about the characters. She has a target last scene but works at a deliberate pace up to the end. She does not conceive of her characters as interactive and uses the “talking to herself” mode to bounce things off–any resistance is intrapersonal, not character dialog.

A also needs silence to work. She describes her method as organic and composting, going into notebooks and talking to herself therein also. She shoots down her own ideas and builds up better ones, although this behavior is more pronounced at the beginning. She almost always finds that when she gets to the end, the beginning is misaligned and must be rewritten. A’s characters stick around rattling around her head until the next lot take over.

L writes in coffeeshops to do the emotionally wrenching bits: the noise and distraction of people can be useful. L is a kinesthetic writer who uses a blown glass metaphor. L translates those blown glass shapes into a prose rhythm, which gives what’s needed for going forward, but then must go back and see what was foreshadowed earlier. This makes the prose style intrinsic to the substance of the book. The endings become more polished, more formal, and more informed thereby. L finds revising the fun bit and does not do outlines. L rarely writes short stories and does them in one draft. L’s characters’ known lives end with the book.

J gets a pointless feel from outlining, as though she’s already told the story at that point and does not feel any additional urge to do it more. She gets much faster towards the end of a book and often has to rewrite, which she said she enjoyed, but she does that on the go rather than in separate drafts. Her least favorite part about finishing books is not spending more time with these people. She knows what her characters are like at all ages up to their death, and they will sometimes argue or volunteer for books they are not already in.

D feels like the last 50-100 pages are like packing a suitcase for a trip while the cabbie honks outside–she works with a writing partner and gets him to do the outlines, and then strings cool/interesting things along them, knowing the gestalt in advance but not the details of the story. She does, however, know worldbuilding details, often with footnotes. She used to use 3×5 cards but has switched to Scrivener. She feels that short stories are more linear and have only room for one thing.

Towards a Farthing Party con report: Mad Art

Mad Art. So this panel was somewhat about outsider art, somewhat about art by the literally mentally ill, and somewhat about the cool things we would not expect from art but get anyway because we live in a very weird future. (Example of the last: Balinese bluegrass. Really.) There was a lot of discussion about obsessive art, the people who build and build without particular permission or reinforcement from external factors, often with tiny fractal details. Henry Darger, Leaf By Niggle, Mary Lamb, Elizabeth Hand’s Mortal Love, The Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke, and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain all came up on this panel. One panelist talked about Burning Man experiences, another about photography and another about pottery.

There was significant annoyance from the panel at the fact that children are mostly taught that they don’t know how to draw, that we’re taught a left brain/right brain dichotomy that actual neuropsychological research has more or less completely overturned, and that there is cultural support for the idea of an art vs. technology gulf which doesn’t exist. One panelist proposed that art is a normal property of being human, including horrible situations like the Haitian kids since the earthquake. This position was particularly opposed to the idea that art was entirely inborn/magical as opposed to substantially the result of work and practice.

I was a little uncomfortable with the discussion of autistic artists as though they were a separate category from persons present in the room, a “them” rather than part of an “us,” but the person doing so did not in any way seem to think that “they” were a bad, wrong, or inexplicable “them.” Also at least one autistic artist present was comfortable adding to this part of the discussion, relating to autism, hyperfocus, and art, noting that not all hyperfocus is monofocus, so the us/them was not maintained; good.

I didn’t go to the Cordwainer Smith panel due to having some time to help entertain a certain really great baby. So that’s up through Sunday morning.