Day Late, Dollar Short

I know I know… it’s been months, now.  And since Readercon, I’ve been to Dragon*Con and have given my presentation at the 2011 Rod Serling Conference.  But this unfinished post has been in my queue forever and my brain just won’t let me move on until I’ve finished this one.

It’s the proverbial dollar short and day late, and it’s pretty long.  Here goes…

I’m only gonna do highlights from this point on, ‘cos at this point, I’m just trying to get this down.

“I could show you my Nook…”

A panel that ended up engaging me a lot more than I’d anticipated, “I’ve Fallen (Behind) and I Can’t Get (Caught) Up” with Michael Dirda, Jennifer Pelland, Craig Gidney, Don D’Amassa, and Rick Wilber.

It’s a problem a lot of folks have, especially writers (at least for several with whom I’m acquainted): How does one possibly read everything there is to read?  Obviously, you can’t.  But I liked how the panel dissected the issue.  My favorite bit: being called filthy by Jennifer Pelland when I said, “I could show you my Nook…” 🙂

Honorable Mention

There were a couple of other panels that I attended and even took notes for.  My lack of write-up doesn’t mean I enjoyed them any less.  But for the sake of time, let’s just say that I really enjoyed “There’s No Home Like Place” and “Reconsidering Anthologies.”

A Face Made for Radio

In case you’re not hooked up with my other social media outlets, here’s my first-ever reading.  This is the first bit of my story “Combat Stress Reaction” in Crossed Genres.

It was a bit of a nerve-wracking prospect in itself, to say nothing about the prospect of following Camille Alexa and having Claude Lalumière in the audience.  But, I survived, and I can’t thank Bart and Kay and Camille and Claude enough!

The Land of the Lost

Speaking of Claude, I was enthralled by his Lost Myths show!

Wold Newton

And to think the person who gathered all these literary idols of mine on the same stage is the same guy who stopped just short of walking into Au Bon Pain to ask where the Panera was… 🙂

Oh, the person who adjusted the camera to capture the literary and literal height of John Kessel?  Yes… it was yours, truly.

“Step aside, Butch.”

I high-tail it out of this one panel and then Carrie (who has a better write-up of the time I’m glossing over now) taps me on the shoulder to tell me, “You know you just brushed past Neil Gaiman, right?”

Monty Haul

This is why I went to “I’ve Fallen (Behind) and I Can’t Get (Caught) Up.” And why I needed a chiropractic adjustment when I got back home.

“I am dressed as the woman of the opposite sex”

The line’s from the BritCom ‘Allo ‘Allo, which was on my mind.  Anyway… wow, I’m way, way behind on these.  Well, two weeks, actually, since ReaderCon.  I’m skipping ahead to Saturday for now.  I’ll come back to Friday night after a few posts.

My first panel that day was “Daughters of the Female Man” with Elizabeth Hand, Chris Moriarty, Barbara Krasnoff, Gwendolyn Clare, and Matt Cheney.

I’d gotten there 15 minutes late because I was in line getting Claude to autograph some books for me.  Again, them’s the breaks of the arrangement of con panels.

Here’s what I took away (directly or indirectly)…

  • Sorry, but I couldn’t help but pat myself on the back when shout-outs were given to Maureen McHugh and L. Timmel Duchamp, and folks in the audience were going, “Who?” and making the panelists repeat the names.
  • Discussed was, to my delight, another instance–a real live instance that didn’t take place back in the “Golden Age of Science Fiction”–where a speculative fiction writer was ahead of the curve.
  • A whole host of books I need to check out, which I tried to note for myself rather than, as one audience member sort of suggested, relying on the panelists to spoon-feed me an annotated bibliography.

And these are my notes…

 I make no guarantees that these will make sense. I make no guarantees against my faulty memory, sketchy hearing, or any kind of telepathic or machine-based manipulation of/interference with my senses. Anything I might’ve gotten wrong is purely unintentional.

Daughters of the Female Man
Hand, Moriarty, Krassnoff, Clare, Cheney

[15 minutes late]

GC: Dearth of female hard SF writers
* Better at: 2nd wave feminism (upper class whites) vs. PoC/lower class women. 3rd wave feminism tries to integrate race/class issues
**UK LeGuin was trying in the ’70s

MC: SHADOW MAN by Melissa Scott

EH: Discussioin @MFA program she saw. Poets, creative nonfic, fic, etc. re: spirituality and writing –> individual voices from other communities (e.g. Islamic, Native American), but not a lot of talk re: crossover to POV different from own. **Spec fic writer in audience raised this issue.** Rxn: different thing for “lit” writers to think about.

Do panelists have “moral responsibility” to tackle feminist issues?
*BK: part of being sf/f writer.
*GC: It’s a matter of realism. Would be uncomfortable to write stories non-relfective of ppl in real world.
** EH: are you appropriating? fear being accused of appropriating?
** Yes, danger of being accused. Should be more concerned about misrepresenting a minority than trying and being accused on the internet
* CM: cf. Virginia Wolfe. She was able to write about the full range of women’s experience.
** cf. Tiptree–reflects real complexity of world re: gender, orientation, etc.
** cf. Kage Baker, Lisa Moore, et al. — does not fit in “boxes.”
*BK: Need to write characters as INDIVIDUALS.
** “classifying is dangerous.” Otherwise, no longer human, let alone representative.
*CM: cf. Joanna Russ: “each generation of women writers has to reinvent the wheel”
** stuff is/was there, but the books went out of print. Hard to find Maureen McHugh’s books. Some stuff from Tiptree you still can’t find.

EH: re: reinventing the wheel–is it possible for woman writer to come up with something new?
* MC:
* GC: “final frontier” = gender neutrality
* EH: Delany’s TROUBLE ON TRITON one of the best depictions of society that’s incorporated gender, etc. in complex way

On CM’s pseudonym…
* CM: feedback from agents, et al.–like work, but urged different name. Big boxes: “cannot figure out how to stock it w/woman’s name on the cover”
* Most fan mail writers believe she’s male–often delighted to find she’s female!

Libraries/Bibliographies: Best way to keep those writers/books in circulation, ‘cos no one else is archiving.
*CM: access to university libraries
*BK: cf. Project Gutenberg

re: new/shocking–what about L. Timmel Duchamp, et al.
*EH: *HUGE* number of writers out there now, of every strip. So, these people need to be WRITTEN ABOUT. Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff is mediated in the Ivory Tower.
*MC: the secret feminist cabal (merrick)
*CM: Aqueduct Press
*EH: blog about it!

*BK: isn’t really “science” fiction, but it is out there. More than just “guys shooting at each other.”

Feeling Very Fuzzy

I really wished the panels “Surrealism and Strong Emotion” (with Caitlyn Kiernan, Michael Cisko, Peter Dubé, and John Lawson) and “Feeling Very Post-Slipstream” (Leah Bobet, Paul DiFilippo, Elizabeth Hand, Chris Brown, and F. Brett Cox) weren’t held as late in the day as they were on Friday.  Hey, them’s the breaks of a con, I know.

“Surrealism and Strong Emotion”
“Feeling Very Post-Slipstream”

I did make it to both panels and as you can see, I have the pictures to prove it.  But they were just a little too heady for me.  I’m not even going to post my notes–they’re too few and make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. Plus, I was still a little nervous as the time approached for the Broken Slate release/Crossed Genres reading party.

Hey, I don’t suppose anyone can point me to any write-ups?  I know about one for “Slipstream.”  Anyone do one for “Surrealism?”

Foreign Deviltry

I’ll just come out and say it: I come from a people who know a li’l sumpin’ sumpin’ about the Colonial Encounter, so yeah, I wanted to see this.  Not exactly sure what I expected, but what I didn’t want (and what I didn’t get, thankfully) from the panel “Complicating Colonial Encounters” with JoSelle Vanderhooft, Vandana Singh, Robert Redick, Craig Gidney, and Anil Menon was a simple list of writers and books and how they just failed, or a discourse on how Avatar sucked.  I can get those on any random sampling of blog posts in a given day.

I was a bit late getting there and I left during the Q&A ‘cos I was feeling a bit punchy and hungry by that point. Still, I managed to take away some cool stuff…

  • There’s a school of thought that says that science-fiction essentially came from the colonial encounter.  Think Kipling, Wells, etc.  I can see it when I think of Tarzan.
  • There were definite historical instances where, at least initially, the relationship between colonizer and the colonized was somewhat of a flirtatious love affair where both saw parts of the other that were exotic and something to be explored.  And even colonizers “going native.”
  • That there is more to the issue than just the obvious power differential.  The question was asked (by Redick, according to my notes), how can we complicate our understanding of the colonial encounter?

Speaking of notes…

Same as last time, I make no guarantees that these will make sense.   I make no guarantees against my faulty memory, sketchy hearing, or any kind of telepathic or machine-based manipulation of/interference with my senses.  Anything I might’ve gotten wrong is purely unintentional.

“Complicating Colonial Encounters”
Gidney, Menon, Redick, Singh, Vanderhooft

AM: moderator
CG: writer, wash dc., BET press, fantasy
RR: epic fantasy series
VS: short stories, sf/f, born/raised in India, intersection of colonialism and sf, antho “so long, dreaming” (NH?); collection THE WOMAN WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS A PLANET
JS: ed, LESBIAN STEAMPUNK STORIES–critique of steampunk colonial side

AM; standard narrative–two cultures encounter each other; one culture wiped out; ppl have panels.
*CG: e.g. AVATAR–tropes. 
** “native who knows”
** “natives are mystical, colonizers scientific”
** yet, he liked avatar
** tries to subvert “white savior”
*RR: ease with which he could’ve been/have been born into a position where he could be “inward-looking.” 
*VS: experiences w/colonialization–long after colonizers had left.

AM: gradual process of discovering “something is off.” true of science fiction studies in general: e.g. thesis that SF came FROM the colonial encounter. e.g. Kipling, Wells, etc.
* CG: subtext is there in beginning of sf/f e.g. Tarzan.
** fear of being colonized re: WAR OF THE WORLDS
** VS: WotW as a critique?  (probably)
* RR: what do we want to think of as working def. of colonialism? any form of APPROPRIATION from one ID group/cultural force of another one.
* VS: historically, there ARE examples in human history where people coexist.
* AM: British/Indian interaction = two-way exchange. i.e. voluntary
* CG: good appropriation vs. bad appropriation
* VS: what’s “voluntary?” being enticed?  OTOH, there is a “falling in love” e.g. British who “went native” in India
* JV: overriding narrative of power differential
* RR: How can we “complicate our understanding?”

AM; books that get it right/wrong. 
* AM: MAN IN HIGH CASTLE by PKD. (right)
* CG: XENOGENESIS series by O. Butler. Unclear–colonizers aren’t evil.  they’re beneficial!  But humans still don’t like it.
* VS: THE MOUNT. aliens colonize earth, and how revolution happens. THE TELLING by UK LeGuin.
* CG: THE SOLDIER’S SON… tries to subvert AVATAR, but doesn’t succeed.
* RR: BRIGHTNESS FALLS FROM THE AIR (Tiptree). Fails somewhat. Yet, a moving story.

AM: Moral dimension to colonialism
* AM: e.g. Skin darkening okay but skin lightening, bad. Taking a drug that makes you gay, okay; taking a drug that makes you straight, bad.
** accepting the colonizer’s ways

Know Your Limit

I knew before I got to Readercon that I was going to attend “Writing Within Constraints” with Scott Edelman, Elaine Isaak, Michael Aondo-verr Kombol, David Malki !, John Langan, and Madeleine Robins. 

I was anxious to go since Malki ! was moderating the panel.  He’s one of the editors of the Machine of Death anthology, which had a very narrow theme.  Having submitted a few stories to other, similarly tightly-themed anthologies, I wanted to see if the panel could provide any insights as to how I’d succeeded and failed.

A few ways I’d never looked at this issue before the panel…

  • The many ways we writers sometimes impose constraints on ourselves.  Sometimes, by avoiding the subconscious places we just won’t go.
  • Sometimes, repulsion to an idea can be a constraint.  Edelman gave an example off the top of his head based on his years working in comics in the ’70s: Metamorpho vs. Daredevil
  • Another thought from Edelman: Instead of writing “in the tradition of Frank Herbert,” try writing “in the tradition of you.”
  • It’s best to keep in mind that writing for an editor is not the same as writing for the reader.
  • I need to stop taking cool-sounding panel notes unless I can remember the f’ing context.

Speaking of panel notes…

Like last time, I make no guarantees that these will make sense.   I make no guarantees against my faulty memory, sketchy hearing, or any kind of telepathic or machine-based manipulation of/interference with my senses.  Anything I might’ve gotten wrong is purely unintentional.

“Writing Within Constraints”
Edelman, Isaak, J. Langan, Kombol, Malki !, Robins

DM!: wondermark, machine of death
SE: 80 shorts, editor
EI: 3 novels (BroadUniverse)
MK: nigeria; “I can tell you a lot about constraints when it comes to writing.”
JL: horror stories; finds constraints productive
MR: Daredevil tie-in;


JL: constraints of working w/in genre
* prose equivalent of poetic form
* can lead to insights you might not get otherwise
* conventions/traditions/etc. — can be interesting way to take creativity further
* stagnation, death, blah blah blah
* rather than running away, run TOWARD, and exploit it
* DM!–tension w/writers who want certain things?
** JL you’ll always be dealing w/reader expectations. goal: Intensely familiar and intensely new at the same time!

SE: even constraints have constraints
* wordcount
* comics (worked at Marvel in 70s)–writers //looked// for constraints and cracks where something can be snuck in
* anthos
* shared world

EI: writing in the chinks
* start w/timeline
* MR: Regency romances, happy endings–timelines and working in those constraints kept her interested.

DM! re: writers IMPOSING a constraint
* DM’s comics work: doesn’t have to start w/blank page unless he wants to; doesn’t have to write unless he wants to.
* MR: certain constraints more conducive
* DM: fan fiction–ppl who want to start w/something that’s given(?)
* MR: writers want to be “Man From UNCLE”
* JL: writing as imitation in the beginning; way to internalize conventions of narrative
* SE: repulsion could also be a constraint (wow, that sucks); “metamorpho meets daredevil”
* MK: constraints we’re not even aware of
** laid down in our subconscious
** places we don’t want to go

DM: writing for a themed anthology e.g. MoD (plot constraint)
* 75% of them go the same 3 ways–result of “narrative being ingrained” in a certain sense?
* challenge for writers to be come aware of that and *distinguish* themselves.
* SE: each antho has its own constraints
* EI: re: van helsing antho and bookstore and animal antho–some writers took ALL of elements in same story (10-20)

SE: e.g. Ray Bradbury who just made up titles and wrote story around them. (i.e. self-imposed constraints)

DM: advice for writers subbing to anthos, being creative & interesting as possible w/in constraints
* JL: read widely, know traditions of field in which you’re working. what are the trends? cook’s challenge: take simple ingredietns and use them well. [zombie penises]
* DM: Strange Horizon’s cliched plot list
** JL: list of challenges, to him
* MR: “anti-constraint” — completely reinventing the wheel
* EI: think of five ideas–the further you go, the more likely you’ll avoid the trends
* SE: “You WILL think of these stories.”


Tropes in the field = dealing w/classics — you’ll be judged accordingly(?)
* JL: (new takes) doesn’t matter if you’re a lousy writer

Very tight constraints and stories fit that thing. Plot, characters, etc. = they fail.
* DM: need a STORY to hang thematic element onto
* SE: “in the tradition of frank herbert” vs. “in the tradition of YOU”
* JL: “horror writer John Langan vs. John Langan, the horror writer”

Writing in other cultures you don’t belong to
* MR: hard to not get wrong and be cause of this year’s Race!Fail
* MK: difficult–so easy to see where ppl go wrong

Subverting tropes of genre, culture, etc. Is *audience* a constraint
* DM: expect audience has expectations–story he liked that another editor knew was cribbed some somewhere else.
* JL: SF becoming so self-aware, that there was no entry point for young readers = “flip side of things.”
* EI: TWO audiences: the editor and the readers. NOT the same thing. “conflicting loyalties”
* MR: “…also writing for the damn salesforce.” Problem w/crossed-genre writing: “what do you put on the spine of the book?”


“Sooner or later, it comes down to you and the paper.”

So, here’s how I’m going to do this: write about a panel I went to, with brief impressions and takeaways.

My first Friday ReaderCon panel was “What Writing Workshops Do and Don’t Offer” with Geoff Ryman, Barry Longyear, Kenneth Schneyer, Eileen Gunn, Leah Bobet, and Michael J. DeLuca (who I seem to have cut out of the picture–sorry).

The panel compared and contrasted different Milford-style workshops (Clarion, Odyssey, et al.), talked about some alternatives (Online Writing Workshop), and discussed which sorts of folks probably would or would not benefit from the Milford model.

What I learned that day (directly or indirectly):

  • I probably really do need a regular Milford-model ass-whipping for my writing to improve.
  • A better sense of some things I’d already kinda/sorta knew, namely the take-home benefits of a critique that go beyond “how to fix this story.”
  • My main take-away was a quote from Mr. Longyear (who confessed that although he’s taught at workshops which use the Milford model, the model itself probably wouldn’t have worked for him starting out) said, “Sooner or later, it comes down to you and the paper.”  Amen.

For the interested, here are my panel notes. 

I make no guarantees that these will make sense.  I make no guarantees against my faulty memory, sketchy hearing, or any kind of telepathic or machine-based manipulation of/interference with my senses.  Anything I might’ve gotten wrong is purely unintentional.

“What Writing Workshops Do & Don’t Offer”
Ryman, Longyear, Schneyer, Gunn, Bobet, DeLuca

attended clarion ’09 (mod)

his exp: no roundtable; free-form discussions. real winner = authority of convener.

THE WRITE STUFF (“everythin except disc & practice”).
Odyssey–“they act like adults.”
Other workshops–crit not constructive. “i think you’re a bitch!” ppl quit.
Felt he could not start out w/Milford method

1st experiences “disastrous.”
Clarion, silver lake, eugene,
“i am not a workshop junkie”

support staff for OWW
+ “very different” model than Milford
+ needed something you can do “at 3 a.m. in your underwear”

weightless, small beer, LCRW
exp: ego, not a lot of constructive crit., professor always came out on top
Writeshop in Cols, OH
Odyssey/neverending odyssey
rigidity! vs. “touchy-feely method”


+ circle
+ w/s 2-3 stories day (at workshops); 1 hr/story
+ [house rules] re: time, etc.
+ try to crit STORY not STORYTELLER
++ like vs. not like and WHY
+ e.g. clarion–you learn who you want to listen to and who you don’t
+ you tend to see something that *you* do
+ Professional Level:

GR re: instructors
+ stops things from going off rails
+ class might have “wrong end of the stick”
+ one-on-one if someone’s having trouble processing
+ pedogogical research: you *learn* through *critique*
+ value is NOT so much in the feedback
+ value is doing reading to best of your abililty to find out WHY THEY WORK
+ almost the main point of the workshop: READING!!!
+ students who are wrong…
++ can’t take criticism
++ people who don’t care what’s being said
+ terrifying to have people read your 2nd draft, if that.

ES: act of reading/critting 100+ stories => gives you some internal voices on what doesn’t work.

GR: worst thing for a writer is to take an english degree (“10 years to get over it.”

LB: disagreed–her exp: different kind of critical reading. Changes process. Thinking like a “Critic” = learning how car engines are made so you can make your own

ES: sense of community, trust, loyalty

Different than Milford

+One leader the whole six-weeks w/1 guest lecturer vs. clarion (1/week)
+ “further degree of rigiditiy
+ 1 wk on plot, 1 on character, etc.
+ probs(?) w/having 6 instructors who might disagree

+ “bill of particulars” on what you can/can’t start picking at

ES: odyssey pre-screens re: ability to take critique

EG: @clarion west–“never done creating a workshop” (people change).

+ who’s reading/who’s accepting students?
++ more people = more complicated = more MSs
+ accept 17 students; get 100 MSs
+ different people reading in different years
+ diverse group of people
+ [exogamous]??
+ “They’re not all adults.”
+ Milford = “subversive ways of doing things”

+ more “long term affair” unlike clarion/odyssey
++ can drop in and out
++ some have long-term process of learning
+ P2P!
+ “self-socializes”
+ EG: “false dichotomy”?
++ LB: not really

+ Codex, Cambridge SF workshop, online group w/clarion buddies–varying degrees of participation
+ more crits = more voices in your head!

+ students love online crit along w/1 F2F w/instructor

LB: OWW “runs on reputational economy”–just like the field

ES: re: chip delaney’s book on “the workshop addict”
+ ES’s age
+ shows up, well spoken, good critiques
+ TAKES SAME STORY to workshop after workshop, year after years
+ building up a “resume” of comments
+ GR: not at clarion
+ EG: group doesn’t reward that kind of behavior. CL & CL-W different re: amount of hand-holding done


+ Odyssey grad: discerning criticism
++ BL: “sooner or later, it comes down to you and the paper.”
+++ reviews “screw me up”
+++ awards made him froze ‘cos now “I have to write good stuff. I don’t write good stuff.”
+++ book: getting ppl to approach writing differently. Not “manufacturer” but as art.
++ LB: writing is discovering your own process

Workshops teach business of it?

++ GR:
+++ yes, just by virtue of the fact that people have experience with that
+++ professional meltdown–things changing
++ LB: agents blog now.

Focus on short-story writing at these workshops?
++ GR: has taught Milford style for novels. lasted two years. result==unfinished novels. There is an OVERLAP, but novels *are* different. Have complexity that short-story model won’t teach you
++ LB: Viable paradise does novels. Blue haven (invitational)
++ Taos Toolbox

“He held the Beast of the Apocalypse by its tail, the stupid kid!”

Okay, here is, my first in a line of ReaderCon blog snippets.  I figure rather than long posts about how I spent entire days, I’d do it panel by panel. 

First panel of my ReaderCon: Mike Allen’s “Speculative Poetry Workshop.”  My memory could be faulty, but it seemed a bit smaller than it did last year, which was a good thing.  Allen was pleased at the small size of the audience and pretty much got right to an exercise, after having us all introduce ourselves.  Also unlike last year, I was actually pleased with the piece I wrote for the exercise enough to read it aloud.  And while it sits with the rest of my Vogon poetry for right now, it may not stay there forever.

I also got to name check my favorite speculative poet (who likely doesn’t consider himself to be one), former Poet Laureate Charles Simic.  You don’t agree?  Check out the piece from which the title of this post is taken.

Next time: my first full panel and maybe my panel notes, too!  Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? 🙂

ReaderCon Shout-Outs

We played the pier on Venice beach
The crowd called out for more
Zappa and the Mothers next
We finished with a roar
Jimi was so kind to us
Had us on the tour
We got some education
Like we never got before

Chicago, “Scrapbook”

I promised myself I wasn’t going to put off blogging about ReaderCon for weeks like I did last year.  So, like Chicago did in this song, I’m gonna start with some shout-outs!

Bart and Kay — thanks for hosting the Broken Slate release party/Crossed Genres reading, and for giving me the thrill of my short writing career by letting me read “Combat Stress Reaction.”  And, Barbara, again, sorry for missing your reading–but I was glad to have met you a bit later.

Carrie — thanks for introducing me to, and letting me share food and drink with Ken Liu, Claude Lalumière and Camille Alexa!  Didn’t I tell you it was going to be a blast?!

Carrie, Claude and Camille, and [edited to add] Lucia — thanks for hanging at the Crossed Genres reading.  Camille, your story was awesome!

Ken — Great to meet you!!

Conni — thanks for letting me be +1 at [redacted].  Thanks for signing Retro Spec for me, and see you at Dragon*Con!

Eric — I have no choice but to bow down to someone who can get three writers I was too intimidated to approach for a second ReaderCon in a row (and others) to read for him on stage!  And not for the first time, either.

Calista — It’d just been too, too long! So great to catch up. 🙂

Next time: I came for the people, but I stayed for the panels!

ReaderCon or Bust!

After tomorrow, I will be in-between jobs.  And during that in-between time, I’ll be at one of my favorite places on earth, ReaderCon!  I’ll be at the July 15th release party for the novel Broken Slate by Kelly Jennings, which is brought to you by the fine folks at Crossed Genres.

The party will also feature readings by folks who’ve published stories in Crossed Genres, such as Camille Alexa, Barbara Krasnoff and, yes, yours truly

The price of admission is a tweet, blog post, or Facebook update about Broken Slate.  I’m five chapters in, myself, and I’m finding myself slowly riveted by the main character and his world.  So, if you’re there, click the link for details and come say hi.