I’ll be at Readercon this coming weekend!
Saturday, 10:00 AM: Intellectually Rigorous Fictional Data: Making Up Facts That Are True. Debra Doyle, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Margaret Ronald, Ken Schneyer, Harold Vedeler, Henry Wessells (leader).
How do you make up convincing fictional primary sources? No, not for purposes of seeking political office, but because you need to know the facts and how they underpin the world of your fiction and the lives of your characters. Imaginary books and letters are just the beginning, even if they never appear in the narrative. Which fictional data sources matter? How much is enough to make a narrative feel resilient and whole?
I’ve used a few of these in-narrative, and I certainly use them in creating the plot/world/characters. And I’ve got some pretty clear ideas on how they can work or flop. Of course, what really gets me interested is coming up with secondary and tertiary fictional sources…
Sunday, 1:30 PM: Reading: Margaret Ronald.
Margaret Ronald reads a new short story.
I’ve got a short story coming out in Apex later this summer, and it’s one of the shortest things I’ve written. I’ll probably go with that…although I have sold a very goofy short lately, so I might give a taste of that as well, time permitting.
I don’t know how present I’ll be for much of the con beyond this, since 1) the siren song of giant robots fighting kaiju calls me for Saturday afternoon and 2) I’m having to take it a bit easy just now, on account of being eight months pregnant.
Um. Yeah. I kind of forgot to mention that.
I’m currently burning through this novel draft so I can turn it in before Tiny Human makes an appearance. With any luck, I can have the draft done in about a week. (Last polish! Half done! Oh heaven.) And then…maybe I’ll get this short story turned around too before the sleep deprivation hits.
Or maybe I’ll just have to see what sleep deprivation does to my plotting.
A few updates for a Monday morning:
– I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but “Sunlight Society” has been reprinted in Rich Horton’s anthology Superheroes, out now! With stories by Peter S. Beagle, Kelly Link, Leah Bobet, Carol Emshwiller and more, the anthology is amazing, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
– “Serpent in the Gears” has been reprinted, this time as audio fiction in the Steampunk Specs compilation. Available both as audiobook and CD, the audio anthology includes some fantastic stories by steampunk masters, and my story as well.
– A new story will be out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies later this week: “A Family for Drakes,” which, though not explicitly set in the same industrial fantasy world, could certainly have some of the same hallmarks if you move back a few centuries. It’s a bit grim in places, though I think ultimately hopeful. It’s also a bit strange, in that I dreamed a scene in this story about ten or so years ago, and it’s only just now made it into a real story. Inspiration from dreams is a chancy thing — do it too often and you end up with the Tale of Missing Your Flight While Naked And Also Behind On Your Deadline — but now and then, something’s come through that way. I’ll say more about it when the story’s up, but that post may be a little delayed, because…
– I’m going to FogCon this coming weekend! Which, yes, means that I’ll be on the West Coast for about a week. It’s been far too long since I was in San Francisco. I’ll be with family for a lot of it, but if you’re at FogCon, come say hi! (Really. It’s my first time there, and I suspect I’m going to feel so very very lost.)
Writing-wise, I have one more round of revisions to do before I hand this draft over to BRAWL (biggest problem: make the ending understandable) and because of that “Detective in Urban Fantasy” panel at Boskone, I now find myself with a first-draft Hercule Poirot pastiche set in a semi-urban fantasyland. I don’t even know any more, man. Inspiration is nuts.
And off to Boskone next! Revisions are done, and with any luck by the end of Boskone I’ll have an idea whether it’s a book or a bunch of stuff strung together. (At this stage, the distinction is eluding me.)
Here’s what I’ll be doing at Boskone:
Friday, 8pm: Mythology in Science Fiction
Julia Rios (M), Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Margaret Ronald
How have myths and fables from our past affected SF writers’ development of fictitious off-world or future-world mythology? Are most of their myth systems just the old stuff dressed up with different names, or is anybody coming up with anything truly new? Does a mere hint of myth make an SF story a fantasy?
(Oh, I have thoughts on this. So many thoughts. Some of my favorite SF stories draw on myth as part of the underpinnings, and I’m a sucker for well-mixed fantastic and science-fictional elements. Yep, I’m getting my fantasy cooties all over your SF!)
Saturday, 1:30pm: Reading
(I think I’ll read something relatively light about dead bodies and mad science. What? Why are you looking at me like that?)
Saturday, 3pm: Magic on the Street: The Detective in Urban Fantasy
Margaret Ronald (M), Bob Kuhn, Ellen Asher, Dana Cameron, Toni L. P. Kelner
We’ve discussed cross-genre and mystery/fantasy. Now let’s turn the microscope on the sleuth in urban fantasy. Probably no Miss Marples here, but hard-boiled detectives, and certainly the half-dead and half-sidhe. Plus many of these dicks are dames. How else do these eldritch investigators compare to more mundane gumshoes, and to each other? And does magic spoil a reader’s chance of solving the mystery fair and square?
(I’m moderating this one, and in the grand tradition of moderators everywhere, I’m getting sidetracked by part of the panel description. Why aren’t there more Miss Marples in urban fantasy? Where’s my Hercule Poirot among the eldritch horrors? Don’t worry, I promise to talk about more than just this. It’s just bugging me right now.)
Sunday, 10am: SIAWOL: Steampunk Is A Way Of Life
Jim Frenkel (M), James Cambias, Margaret Ronald, Julia Rios
Steampunk fans don’t just read the stuff. We also rock the goggles — and the cosplay cons, and the Victoriana motifs for everything from our tablets to our tattoos. Does the lifestyle circle back to influence the writing? What’s changed since the start? What’s the current state of the field, and what further enthralling developments are even now in gear?
(I really don’t know too much about what’s out there beyond the literary side of steampunk. Advice, gentle readers?)
Sunday, 11am: The Spirit of the Place (B48)
Margaret Ronald (M), Sharon Lee, Steven Popkes, Darlene Marshall
In certain tales of the fantastic, scenery is so much a part of the fabric of the fiction that it practically becomes a character itself. Let’s talk about stories set in these unique locales. Don’t they contradict the modern fashion that says character and dialog are all, and scenery is at best a light decoration and at worst a distraction? In the best work, how is this effect justified — and accomplished?
(Is there really that “modern fashion” out there? I mean, I can think of a few SF and fantasy novels where the setting is not necessarily a focus, but there are many more where it’s absolutely integral to the plot. Have I missed a trend somewhere?)
After the con, I’ll probably be headed out shortly for some downtime; I took Arisia in very small doses, and I suspect I’ll need to curtail some of my Boskone time as well. And after that…more revisions, most likely.
Oh hey. I have an Arisia schedule. And apparently no sense of timing.
Saturday, 2:30pm: Portal: Beyond the Cake (Andy Hicks (m), Maddy Myers, Margaret Ronald, Carolyn VanEseltine, Brianna Wu)
How does a game that started out as a side project by some kids playing around with the Half Life 2 engine, become a geek culture phenomenon? Why does an abandoned laboratory ruled over by a passive-aggressive supercomputer resonate with us? Is it the perfect metaphor for life in 21st century America?
(I am so looking forward to this. I loved presenting my Portal paper at Readercon, and I’m very curious to see what we come up with. Also, I have opinions on this subject. Oh, do I have opinions.)
Saturday, 7:00pm: Reading: Hashway, Nurenberg, & Ronald
Authors Kelly Hashway, David Nurenberg, and Margaret Ronald will be reading selections from their works.
(I’m a little torn — do I read the Governess and the Lobster again, or do I try something new and unpublished about mad science? Or go with an older story?)
Sunday, 1:00pm: Keeping Track of the Action (Mary Catelli, Debra Doyle (m), Suzanne Palmer, Margaret Ronald)
Let’s say you’re writing a complicated plot with many characters, scenes in multiple places, and perhaps a convoluted time sequence. How do you keep track of it all? Spreadsheet? Story board? Or do you keep it all in your head? What if you have a pile of background research to keep track of for the technological or historical realism that you’ve researched? What tools keep it all organized for you?
(Since I’ve used methods that range from Scrivener to complicated POV charts to scraps of paper tucked into notebooks, I can speak a little bit on the usefulness of each. Spoiler: scraps of paper are not the way to go.)
I will likely only be attending Saturday and Sunday, since I’m hoping to claim tonight for some quiet time and revision. This draft has fewer flaws than I’d thought, but it’s also taking longer to revise. Bah.
Let me say this straight off: Readercon was delightful.
However, I went from Readercon to a lovely vacation and then smack into a personal clusterfuck when I got home, so I’ve had very little brainspace to think of putting together a con report or even remember that I have a blog in the first place. Things are better now, but I will not be sad to see the last of this July. Ugh.
In the meantime, I have more revisions to take care of — including the Portal paper that was very well received! — and stories to send out. And strangely enough, that sort of work is a balm for many aches.
Not much going on for me at Readercon — one reading and one short talk.
Friday July 13, 9:00 PM: Carrying a Gate through the Labyrinth: Portal and Greer Gilman’s “Girl, Implicated”.
Greer Gilman’s essay “Girl, Implicated: The Child in the Labyrinth in the Fantastic” posits an archetypal female journey in which “the solitary girl child in a labyrinth… charts her own way out of it, driven by her curiosity and courage.” A recent interactive take on this motif appears in the video game Portal and its sequel, in which a lone woman must find her way through a deserted testing facility while facing her own “genius or nemesis” in the form of the game’s main antagonist. Margaret Ronald will explore how Portal and Portal 2 propose not only a series of labyrinths-within-labyrinths but a new approach to escape by situating this narrative in a gameplay context. (This idea lodged in my head at Boskone and would not go away. It’s a little off the track for Readercon, but I think I’ve hit on something interesting. Also, oh crap why did I propose anything even pseudoacademic at Readercon I am going to be eaten alive aaaaaaa.)
Sunday July 15, 11:30 AM: Reading. Margaret Ronald. Margaret Ronald reads her short story “The Governess and the Lobster.” (Matron Jenkins on a Sunday morning. What more could you want?)
I’m planning on staying Friday night, leaving Saturday afternoon for some family time, and returning Sunday morning for the reading. I also intend to block out some time specifically for wandering through the dealers’ room and gazing longingly at the many, many books I cannot carry away with me.
This is the first Memorial Day weekend in a good long while that I haven’t been at Wiscon, and I can’t help feeling a little melancholy. I’d gotten very used to that moment of connection and thought and outright silliness. (And there’s a very materialistic part of me that misses the clothing swap, but since I hit the jackpot last year I really have no right to complain.) My thoughts are with everyone there; raise a glass for me.
In the meantime, I’m drowning my sorrows in Rock Band, cinnamon rolls, and hiking, not in that order. I also took a quick break from revision to write something new, and while I’m still too close to know whether I did a good job, it feels like a good story. Not least because I got to write several mad-science monologues.
Best part of revision recently: fixing a logistics problem and in the process making one character delightfully more sinister. No matter how well it’s justified or how true it is in-story, the line “this is for your own good” immediately makes the scene a little more unsettling.
Friday, 9pm: How Much Steam Is There in Steampunk?
Is steampunk destined to remain a distinct subgenre, or will its edges blur into the rest of alternate history? Why does it appeal to us? Are its appeals enduring aspects of the genre? Rosemary Kirstein (M), Margaret Ronald, Stephen Segal, Genevieve Valentine
I have a couple of quibbles with the assumption in the panel description that steampunk belongs with “the rest of alternate history.” I write steampunky stuff that is decidedly not alternate history, and I think the aesthetic as a whole is stronger than just one niche of a niche. However, I’ve also readily admitted that I lack much of the steampunk aesthetic, so it’s possible I’m just rationalizing my use of the relevant tropes. I’ll be interested to see what comes out of this panel.
Saturday, 2pm: The Heroine’s Path
Maureen Murdock’s 1990 study The Heroine’s Journey served as a complement (and sometimes corrective) to Joseph Campbell’s work on the Hero’s Journey. Both put deep store in stories drawn from world myth. But what do working genre writers actually do with these theories or materials? Are they present at the creation, or useful for analysis afterward? Do they affect your characters or their origins, relationships, arcs, or resolutions? Which mythic or theoretic elements have you actually incorporated? What path do — must — your own heroines tread? B.A. Chepaitis, Greer Gilman, Theodora Goss (M), Margaret Ronald, Phoebe Wray
It’s hard to say whether I consciously use these tropes in creation, but I certainly use them in revision, either as touchstone or warning. And while I do enjoy incorporating mythic elements into the story, whether they make it as deep as the story structure itself is another matter entirely.
Saturday, 5pm: Creating Worlds for Online Gaming
How do you start to create a world for online gaming? Is it harder to start a game from scratch, from a book, or from a movie? What’s different about worldbuilding for a narrative that’s meant to be played instead of read? Walter H. Hunt, Margaret Ronald, Melinda Snodgrass (M), Timothy P. Szczesuil, Brianna Spacekat Wu
I actually assigned myself homework for this panel, since I’m coming at it from the perspective of an end user rather than someone experienced in worldbuilding for games. So I played Bastion all weekend (wow), started watching a playthrough of Dark Souls (eek), and have been trying to figure out some of my thoughts on implicit versus explicit storytelling.
Saturday, 8pm: Artifactual: The Warehouse 13 Game
Inspired by Syfy TV’s popular Warehouse 13, this brand-new game show is an SFnal cross between “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Fictionary.” For each round, the MC comes up with a strange new happenstance, such as, “Reports say people have begun turning green.” From the TV show, we know that behind every odd occurrence is some strangely powerful object. So our panel of out-of-the-box thinkers compete to guess that artifact, such as, “It’s the Wicked Witch’s hat from The Wizard of Oz” or “It’s Larry Bird’s Celtics jersey.” Competitors are encouraged to embellish their guesses to the max; audience members clap hardest to get their favorite guess the win! Daniel Kimmel, Bob Kuhn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Margaret Ronald, Steven Sawicki
Oh boy. I’m much more familiar with Warehouse 23 than Warehouse 13, but for this game I suspect the distinction will be moot. This could go horribly wrong or horribly right. Either way, it’ll be fun to watch.
Sunday, 10:30am-10:55am: Reading: Margaret Ronald
I’m planning to read the lobster story, since it’ll be coming out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies sometime soon. And because it’s a really fun story to read aloud. This does, however, mean I have to rehearse it so that the best part of the story will fit within 20 minutes.
Sunday, 1pm: The Twilight of Twilight: Staking the Heart of Paranormal Romance?
Let’s look ahead to the November 2012 release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, the concluding flick to be made from Stephenie Meyer’s planet-bustingly successful series. How good are these books and movies? Does Twilight fandom serve as gateway fanaticism for similar stories? Or will the end of this crepuscular phenomenon take paranormal romance down with it? Debra Doyle (M), Margaret Ronald, Leah Wilson
Confession time: I have not read Twilight. But I think the mood it captures is not exclusive to paranormal romance, nor to certain strains of YA fiction. I think the id button that Twilight pushes is independent of the paranormal or vampy aspects of the story, and so I’m not sure that the end of Twilight will signal an end to paranormal romance as a whole.
That’s a lot of panels. I think come Sunday evening, I’m going to want to put my feet up and ignore everything for a while.
In the meantime, mmm, half-price candy.
Arisia was lovely, as usual. I met some new and interesting people, managed not to sound like a total idiot even late at night, and fangirled the Foglios. (My inner squealing fangirl is not very inner.)
And then there’s the revision posts. So here’s the thing: I started revisions last week, intending to give myself a couple of days’ cushion. I now have five days’ worth of posts.
I’m also just about halfway done with this revision.
I honestly did not expect it to go this quickly. This is the third draft, and while it’s not the last revision by any means (that’ll happen after I give this to BRAWL, so that I can incorporate their critiques) it’s still not a trivial revision. Either I’m getting better at this, or this draft really is that easy.
So I’ll start posting what I’ve got tomorrow, and we’ll see just how long this draft takes.
Revision updates will be coming shortly — I’m cheating and giving myself a few days’ worth of leeway. Yes, that means I won’t quite be revising in real time, unless the dates catch up to me.
In other news, I’ll be at Arisia this coming weekend, happily geeking out. I’m even on a few panels, but the timing is a bit…odd.
Saturday, 11:30pm: The Moral Aesthetics of Steampunk
Steampunk is frequently realized as an idealized, shiny version of the Victorian era, with quite a few of the nasty bits missing or obscured. The real Victorian age was a mix of great wealth and progress with poverty, workhouses, and more. What does it say about us when the latter are left out?James L. Cambias, April Grant (m), Israel Peskowitz, Margaret Ronald, JoSelle Vanderhooft
Sunday, 10:00pm: Consistent Magic Systems in Fantasy
Magic is mysterious and ancient, and its workings are often beyond the understanding of mere mortals, but that doesn’t mean that magic doesn’t have rules. Every fantasy saga has its own rules for magic, and its own explanations for how the magical arts work. Where does magic come from? Who can use magic, and how? Do regular non-magic users know it exists?Vikki Ciaffone (m), Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Joshua Palmatier, Margaret Ronald, David Sklar
Monday, 10:00am: Boston in SF/F
What genre books, movies, and TV shows have used Boston for a location? What characteristics make Boston a good setting for an SF/F story? Stephanie Clarkson, Christopher Davis (m), Ken Gale, Margaret Ronald
Yes, you read that right: two late-night panels, followed by an early Monday panel. I may not be at my best this Arisia. (This is what happens when I only glance at my panels when the preliminary program comes out; I read 11:30 and immediately thought 11:30am. Oh well, too late to argue now!)
Off to revise more, maybe fix the short story that BRAWL looked at last month, and figure out why one of the popular search terms leading to my blog is “the awkward moment when Neville Longbottom is suddenly the hot one.” Not that I’m arguing. I love me some Neville.
Readercon was delightful. These last couple of years have been really good — maybe I’m just acclimating to the con. Or maybe it was because I went out to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 Saturday evening with family. Neville Longbottom FTW.
Since then, it’s been hot and ugly. Every year, I try to tough it out without air conditioning; every year, I swear it’ll be the last. So far, I’ve only had to stick my head in the freezer once, but today might be my breaking point. Melting point? Vaporization point?
I’ve also been writing this week — a little less than I’d like, averaging only about 2K per day, but it’s a start. I can’t really do Anatomy of a Composition the same way I did Anatomy of a Revision, since it’s a longer process without nearly as much to show for it. (Never mind that it’s first-draft stuff and therefore absolutely terrible. I already know several scenes that are gonna have to go or at least be severely overhauled.) However, I liked blogging the Anatomy of a Revision posts, so I’ll try to do weekly composition updates.
So far this week, I’ve written pieces of the following scenes:
- the end of the dance
- a distraction that distracts no one
- that one incredibly awkward “we didn’t think this through” moment, which turned out just right
- and a really sweet moment a little while later, which currently seems so perfect that I suspect my “turn the id loose on this project” approach is clouding my vision. Well, the editor-mind can have it later.
These haven’t really been action-packed chapters — those come later — and so I’m a little worried about pacing right now. Stopping the action so that people can have long soulful talks is not the best way to keep your audience’s attention. (Although, come to think of it, it worked in Ghost in the Shell . . . or maybe it just worked for me in Ghost in the Shell.)
If I keep up this pace, I should be able to get through Big Exposition Chapter (I am not looking forward to this) and into the next phase of action sometime next week.
Well, a couple of weeks away from the internet has taught me a valuable lesson: I miss the internet. Even when I don’t have much to say.
Smaller revisions continue, but with an end in sight, and more compositions continue, though slower than I’d like. I’ve also been noodling around with a few more ideas that will probably require more research. Back to the library I go!
In the meantime, here’s my Readercon schedule:
10:30 AM Reading. Margaret Ronald. Ronald reads from a work not yet selected. (I’ll probably go with “Salvage,” a story that will be coming out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies later on. Derelict airships ahoy!)
2:30 PM Beneath Ceaseless Skies group reading. Scott H. Andrews, Michael J. DeLuca, Matthew Kressel, Margaret Ronald. Contributors to Beneath Ceaseless Skies read selections from their work. (Not sure which I’ll read from; depends on how much time we have.)
11:00 AM Kaffeeklatsch. John Crowley, Margaret Ronald. (11:00 should be late enough that I’ll be able to do more than mumble into my coffee. We’ll see.)
Well, a week after WisCon, and I’ve finally recovered. (New job and dogsitting took up a lot of my brain in the meantime. Why did I think it’d be a good idea to start a new job right after WisCon?) As usual, there wasn’t nearly enough time to talk to all the fantastic people, and yet I had a great time — hallway conversations on artistic integrity, crits over crepes, dancing like a loon and loving it, discussing the Holy Grail with a very patient medievalist, and so much more. Not even my very bad sleep decision (I’ve got a 6 AM flight? I have to get up at 3:30 to get there? Well, I might as well stay up till 2 AM anyway! ahahaha no) could dampen my enjoyment of the weekend. Although the shimmery, Barbie-pink dress I ended up with at the clothing swap may be one of those tangible regrets…please let there be no pictures.
Next up: things I learned from The Big Long Revision.
I’m at WisCon! Yaaaay!
I’m exhausted! …yay.
I’m not on any panels this year, but I am helping out with the Writer’s Workshop, and I will be reading as part of an eclectic little group on Saturday at 2:30! Yaaay!
I’m sure I’ll have something more to say later. Right now, I’ve made it to Madison, I have found a soft place to fall down, and there will be coffee tomorrow. Complicated thoughts are not easy to come by at the moment.
This is a little late in the game, but if you’re interested in checking out an auction for a really good cause, take a look at the Con or Bust auction, going on right now. Con or Bust helps fans of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions — starting with WisCon, and this year branching out into any SFF con requested.
I’ve offered a full set of the Evie books, signed and personalized however you like (though I may draw the line at anything involving “Angus” and “bloaters” in the same sentence), but there’s an incredible wealth of items up for auction. I mean, where else are you going to find the following at the same auction: handmade chocolate truffles, limited-edition promo Nikes, lesbian steampunk, unique and beautiful jewelry, a wealth of first editions, and a chance at godhood?
Bidding ends Sunday, March 6, so if you want to help out and/or find some really cool stuff, hurry up!
(Also, and unrelated to anything else: fisticuffs! Yay!)