Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Comicpalooza Retrospective

Yes, yes, there is one day left on Comicpalooza, but the last day of a 4-day con is usually much smaller scale. So many people do what I do and burn themselves out on the first two days of the con, then spend the third trudging around and accidentally buying things on the dealer floor (for me, this was every issue of Red 5's Neozoic except, of course, issue #1. Darn) that by the time day four rolls around, we're not even sure if we can make it to the convention center. I'm leaving myself open to taking tomorrow off because my last panel was today, because I haven't seen Days of Future Past yet, and because I have anthologies that need editing (I may have forgotten how to take days off).

First lesson from Comicpalooza: lines suck. I was able to evade a lot of lines by being a panelist, but I still wanted autographs from the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I had to stand in line for on two separate days. Still, worth it. I got a picture with J. August Richards (so did a lot of people) and Elizabeth Henstridge blessed my marriage by wishing us good luck, in ink, next to her signature. That's got to be at least twice as effective as the blood rites I'd been planning.

Myself, my fiancee, and Deathlok. Probably my favorite character. I geeked out a little.

Second lesson from Comicpalooza: Being on panels is fun, and I'm surprisingly okay at moderating them. Also, it's really encouraging to have someone come up to me after a panel and tell me that they thought it was awesome. As anxious as I was to moderate the Gender in Science Fiction panel, especially after witnessing the absolute disaster that was Denver Comic Con's Presentation of Women in Comic Books, it meant a lot to me that the panel went over so well that someone stopped me in the hall to say so. The thanks for that goes to the other panelists: D.L.Young, Antha Adkins, and Keri Bas who very strongly and rightfully disagreed with me on a few points. The panel was very energetic and I learned a lot from being part of it.

Another attendee spoke up bravely to say that they appreciated my choice of writing a gender-fluid character into the novel I'm working on, which is all the encouragement I need to renew my energy to do so. Themes of gender are important to me, and as a writer it's a powerful moment when my target audience tells me that it's important to them, too!

My co-panelist on the Plotting and Pacing Short Stories panel, David Sidebotham of Unfinished Creation, also made me look a lot smarter than I should have (which I need a lot of help with some days). When it comes to making a great panel happen, the others on the panel with me are my best resource.

Myself and David Sidebotham. Not pictured here: during the panel What Makes Monsters Terrifying, David became uncomfortably excited about monsters with pustules. It was adorable.

It was great running across friends and colleagues from as far away as Colorado, like Peter J. Wacks, whom I haven't seen since last year's DCC. Nothing like seeing how far a fellow writer has come since last meeting him, plus picking up a signed copy of his new epic fantasy and meeting his new coauthor.

While it can be tiring and difficult, this weekend has reminded me just how invaluable it is to do cons like Comicpalooza whenever I can. It's not just making the professional connections and speaking on panels, but about the living, breathing culture that spec fic is part of. I love my role in this culture, I love my readers, and I love events like this where all the best parts of the scene boil over.

I won't be at Denver Comic Con this year on account of getting married (which feels important to me), but I do plan on attending more cons and events throughout the year, beginning with a Sci-fi panel at the Barbara Bush Branch Library in July and including COSine in Colorado Springs at the end of January. I'll be growing between now and then and can't wait to have even more to share with the community.

Thanks to everyone I saw and met at Comicpalooza!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ready for Comicpalooza

I'm going to be hitting Comicpalooza this weekend with some of the authors from the Tides of Possibility science fiction anthology, and post cards with the cover art on them, and you can have one if you can find me. What panels can you see me on? Glad you asked!
  • What Makes Monsters Terrifying: Friday the 23rd at 1pm.
  • Gender in Science Fiction. Friday the 23rd at 4pm.
  • Plotting and Pacing a Short Story: Sunday at 10am. Bring coffee!
For those wondering, the anthology is still expected to go to print and ebook simultaneously sometime this fall. There should be a call for submissions for its sister anthology, the fantasy one, in a few weeks. Am I going to do more anthologies this year? You bet! I'm rolling some ideas around with my colleagues at Comicpalooza, so there should be news on even more upcoming publications sometime around the time I'm done collecting submissions for the fantasy anthology.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Tides of Possibility" now on Kickstarter

Around 6pm yesterday I pushed the 'launch' button on the Tides of Possibility's Kickstarter campaign, and a little less than 24 hours in it's more than halfway to it's funding goal. This gives me a lot of hope for the stretch goals we set out. You can probably imagine how much I'd love to add more writers to the project (the first stretch goal), not mention publish an entire anthology full of fantasy (the second goal).

I'm really looking forward to this next month and seeing what I can do with this. Even though I was pretty confident this Kickstarter would succeed, I also had a dissonant anxiety since it is the first I've ever run. If it goes as well as it looks like it will, I can definitely understand now why so many spec-fic publishers are making heavy use of it. It's letting me deliver the perfect pitch and sell a high-quality product, and that's just a lot of fun for people like us.

You can see the Kickstarter page here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Tides of Possibility

When I found out I was going to be editing the Houston Writer's Guild's science fiction anthology, it wasn't difficult for me to decide who I would contact to do the cover art. I've known dark fantasy artist and graphic novelist David Sidebotham for years, and his work is some of the most creative and visually dynamic art I've ever seen. Even so, I wasn't prepared for the incredible quality of work I would receive.

I gave David a small number of the stories that would be featured in the anthology and asked him to respond to the themes. Which stories? Read the anthology when it's out and take a guess. I'll never tell.

The piece of art David created for the anthology presents a fascinating mise-en-scène. The hard, warm light is almost angry, but also calm. Is it sunrise or sunset that illuminates the vast number of dark, ruined buildings? Of the two figures in the rubble, one is strong, unintimidated and watching. But the other is thin, almost skeletal, collapsed in the corner of the composition with his empty eye-sockets turned down. The image seems to bare a statement from the artist about to the stories in the anthology, the possibilities which certain authors explored. While one figure looks out, is aware, is strong, the other refuses to look, and seems to die.

The artwork is not just a cover for the anthology or a piece of marketing; it is one of the works that the anthology contains. David Sidebotham's illustration is the first work of speculative fiction I have the honor of displaying, a moment portrayed in a single image, a work of flash fiction if ever I've seen one before.

If there is interest, poster-sized prints of this artwork may go on sale. I would love to have one for the wall of my office.

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Craft: Three Big Lies Writers Tell Themselves About Writing Gendered Characters

The lead character of my book is female, and a mother besides. One of the book's primary supporting characters is also a woman. Again, a mother, though in this case a mother-to-be. In theory, a male perspective on the issues they experience will be distant and irrelevant, but in the same book that I tackle the powerful emotions and conflicts of motherhood, I also write a romantic male foil and a father character. These characters not only have gender, but their actions are steeped in a deep understanding of their gendered roles: those of mother and father, husband and wife.

Whether or not I did a good job representing these roles is for my readers and reviewers to say. But my willingness to do so and the bold disregard with which I dove into these roles is apparently an aberration. I've heard it said that men do not write proper female characters and women do not write proper male characters. I've attended critique groups in which a writer passes on the chance to render advice to a writer of the opposite gender because they "know" that men and women think differently. Consider this in light of the SFWA's recent drama concerning its treatment of female writers and characters, and the popular support for Lightspeed Magazine's Women Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter campaign.

A realistic depiction of protective armor which doubles as effective insulation
against the frigid winds of the frozen wastelands. And stuff.

There is a shortage of strong female characters in genre fiction. Lightspeed's Kickstarter demonstrates this is not because of a lack of interest in strong female characters, but instead a lack of opportunities for female writers.

I would challenge that it is also because male writers for some reason boast a series of nigh misogynistic assumptions about what it means to write a female character. In the same breath, I've noticed women feel unable to write realistic male characters. The latter problem isn't causing such dramatic issues, but surely every writer wants every character to work, don't they?

It's about time writers stopped lying to themselves about the nature of gender and allowed themselves to write good, solid characters, no matter their gender. If you can write two different characters of the same gender, then you can write two characters of opposite genders.