Thursday, May 28, 2015

Comicpalooza 2015 and the Texas Flood

Part of being a good panelist is being a good listener. Here, K. J. Russell and I listen to K. S. O'Neill's opinions about the topic of our panel: Is Hard Science Fiction Dead? Everyone on the panel agreed that it is most definitely NOT dead. While this sort of hand-wringing title/topic can be annoying in articles and blog posts, it generated a fruitful conversation. We discussed how labels like "hard science fiction" can be difficult to pin down when they are used in ever-evolving book marketing strategies. Individual readers also have different tolerances for the amount of actual science in what they might call hard scifi. To see what I mean, check out TV Tropes' Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness

I tend to be pretty forgiving as far as what I can enjoy when reading science fiction. Whenever a writer is extrapolating from known facts there is going to be a parting of the ways between reality and what he or she imagines, and that's the fun of science fiction, right? As long as you tell me a good story and don't break any promises as far as scientific rigor, I'm along for the ride. A great contemporary example of a book that promises and delivers a scientifically faithful tale is Andy Weir's The Martian. Another excellent example is Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain, which is about what would happen to our society if we could make one tiny genetic change in some people.

Science itself is a big tent, some readers tend to think of hard science fiction in terms of what I would call engineering fiction, but I tend to seek out and enjoy books that feature biology, and yes, even the social sciences, which uses math-intensive game theory to hypothesize and test ideas about human behavior.

I'll write up my other panels more thoroughly soon. I'll just note that I also moderated the panel Discussing Dystopias with Raymond Feist, and got to sit next to the lovely Diana Dru Botsford on the panel, Star Trek: Evolution of a Franchise. She's written and produced for both Star Trek and Stargate SG -1 and had all sorts of amusing tales and fascinating insights.
I got to chat with Steve Bein, traveller, philosopher, and writer, and I  had a chance to spend some time with the lovely Stina Leicht, who will be this year's Toastmaster at Armadillocon. Go to her site to read about her latest projects and adventures (including getting back to Austin from Comicpalooza)!

By returning home Sunday evening instead of Monday, I dodged a bullet - and by bullet I mean the torrential rains and flooding that hit Central Texas on Monday.
Stevie Ray Vaughan walks on water during the 2015 Memorial Day Texas Flood

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My Panel Schedule for Houston’s Comicpalooza, May 22 – 25

My first time at Houston’s Comicpalooza and I’m going to be on a few panels. This comic con just started a few years ago at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, but has been growing by leaps and bounds. Their attendance last year was over 32 thousand! I’m super excited to check out the scene.

They have cosplay and gaming and comics and movie and TV events. This year they also have a brand new literature and writing track. So, if you’re going to be around Houston, TX for Memorial Day weekend, consider checking it out.

Here’s the link to the complete list of panels.

And here are the panels I’ll be on:

Discussing Dystopias: Fiction and Film
Friday, May 22 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Room 25 – 352C

What is it about the dreary futures of works such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Handmaid's Tale that captures our imagination? Come join the discussion on the popularity of dystopian novels and films.

Is Hard Science Fiction Dead?
Sunday, May 24 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Room 03 – 350B

Has the hard science fiction of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke gone the way of the dinosaur? Have modern physics; computer science and artificial intelligence become too difficult to predict for speculative authors? Which contemporary writers offer the best hope for the future of hard science fiction?

K. S. O'Neill, Rachael Acks, Rebecca Schwarz, K. J. Russell, and E. L. Russell

Star Trek: Evolution of a Sci-fi Franchise
Sunday, May 24 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Room 03 – 350B

How did a low-rated series from the 1960s become a sci-fi phenomenon with countless spinoffs? And what is it about Star Trek that accounts for its enormous popularity? Join the discussion as our panel shares their insights, favorite episodes and films.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop is just around the corner!

I have participated in the wonderful ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop for several years, last year I volunteered, and this year I’ll be sitting on the other side of the table as a pro! I’m so excited to be giving back to the Workshop, as it has been a staple of my progress as a writer.

ArmadilloCon has always been a writers’ convention, and through the years both the con and the workshop have hosted a variety of excellent writers. I’ve personally benefited from the advice and wisdom of writers such as, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lou Anders, Cat Rambo, Ian McDonald, and StinaLeicht. This year’s workshop pros will include Ken Liu and James Morrow, and Marshall Ryan Maresca.

But, the Workshop isn’t just about the big names. The pros contributing their time to the workshop represent today’s diversity in writing and publishing. These are men and women writing across a variety of styles, formats and genres. There are writers who are traditionally published, and writers who successfully self-publish, and everything in between.

The all-day workshop costs $79.50, which includes lunch and a full (3-day) Con membership.  The ratio of pros to workshop attendees is excellent (usually two pros per three to five attendees), so it’s a true small-group workshop experience.

The workshop isn’t only about collecting critiques on your brilliant work of genius. It’s participatory. Once you sign up and turn in your piece you will be placed in a group of fellow workshop attendees and receive your group-mates brilliant works of genius to read and critique.

If you are new to workshopping, learning to assess someone else’s work is an excellent way to develop your own writing. I’ve learned at least as much from putting together a coherent, constructive critique of someone else’s work as getting feedback on my own . Putting together your thoughts about your workshop mates stories can also take the edge off waiting to hear how your own piece went over. In the end you’ll go home with written and verbal critiques by the other writers in your group along with critiques by at least two of the attending workshop pros.

I enjoy group critiques. I regularly participate in online and in-person critique groups, but it is not for everyone. Some people do better with, say, a single beta reader, some people do just fine without any critique of their works-in-progress at all. The ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop is a great way to experience a group critique situation at a fraction of the cost of some of the big genre workshops like Viable Paradise, Odyssey, or Clarion.

So, dust off that story that isn’t quite working or get cracking on something brand new. The deadline to submit a short story or first chapter is June 15. The maximum word count is 5,000 words firm (i.e. they mean it). Go here to check out the specifics.

The Writers’ Workshop will be on Friday July 24th, ArmadilloCon 37 runs from July 24th through the 26th

Watch for my next post: Workshop Survival Guide…