ConText26: Panels, Publishers, Parties and Photos!
Posted October 3, 2013on:
Warning: massive photo dump ahead.
Continuing my post from yesterday about the awesomeness of ConText26, on Saturday afternoon we went to a few more panels:
What Editors Want, with Faith Van Horne, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore, and Scott Sandridge. This was one of my favorite panels. They talked about common errors seen in manuscripts (such as not following submission guidelines, the story submitted doesn’t match the style of genre of the publication, bad grammar), the author-editor relationship, and how the anthology editor decides what order the stories should in be. Frustration with not being able to take great stories came up more than once, where an editor was putting together a themed anthology and had to reject an excellent story simply because it had nothing to do with the theme.
A big part of the discussion was What Do Editors Really Want?
- how did you put a different spin on the idea?
- how is your approach different to everyone else who has used the same device?
- originality is better than polish
- how is your character different? what do they care about? Why should the reader be interested in them?
- humor is a plus. Just make sure you are laughing because the author wrote it as a humor piece!
During the Q&A time I asked how they each got into editing, and what steps someone who is interested in that aspect of the business should take. The advice was to volunteer as a slush reader to get a taste for it.
Non-Human Characters, with Elizabeth Bear, Matthew Cook, Linda Robertson, Dave Creek, T. Lee Harris, and Scott Sandridge. Another excellent panel! Be the character an animal, alien, shapeshifter or humanoid who isn’t human, they can’t just be the classic Star Trek “dude in a rubber suit”, or the person with nose ridges and lots of ear piercings. The authors talked about their techniques for writing non-human characters, which included tossing a lot of questions out to the audience. What sensory experiences does your character have (maybe they depend on smell?)? just because we are base-10 doesn’t mean other creatures will be, especially if they don’t have 10 fingers. What about symbiotic relationships? If you are on an alien planet, the environment of that planet will affect everything about the creatures who live there, everything from their physiology to their economy to their moral culture.
When it came to successful non-human characters, C.J. Cherryh’s methane breathing aliens came up, and that she started with building the entire solar system, the environments on the planet, and evolved her aliens from the ground up. I thought that was SO cool! Jack Chalker’s Well World also came up, as did Peter Watts’ Blindsight vampires and Emma Bull’s fae as humanoid non-humans characters. Many of the authors said they see writing from the non-human point of view as a challenge. Success is secondary.
And then dinner. Or perhaps the worlds latest lunch. Missed the Weird Science panel. damnit!!! BUT, got to have delicious pizza at Pies ‘n Pints. Really, really good pizza crust. Like, really good.
Guest of Honor interviews – The Guests of Honor got to be interviewed by other guests. First, Mike Resnick interviewed Jack McDevitt. You could hear a pin drop in that room. No one was writing notes, no one was texting, no one was rummaging through their bag, everyone was trying to drink in every word they were saying. And then Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch took turns asking each other questions. Those two are just adorable together.
In the lull before the evening insanity (parties!) we played some Carcasonne. Someone had to teach me how to turn the flash on on my camera.
Some of us had liquid confidence, others changed into totally impractical but sooper tall shoes.
and Princess Leia was there!
I had a wonderful chat with another woman who was dressed to the nines, she gave me some great tips on some costuming questions I had.
Parties started early, like 7:30, and author readings and smaller panels were going until nearly 10pm which was a pain. I’d get chatting with someone at a party, and then realize “shit! I wanted to go to a reading that started 20 minutes ago!”
Then there was the Apex Books party. These guys went all out. First of all, the poster for the party had a scary looking clown on it. Part of the “find the party” stuff were bloody footprints on the floor. I felt so sorry for the clown they hired. I’m sure he was nice, I’m sure he was good at making balloon animals. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who took one look at said “omg, scary clown!”. I got to chat with a bunch of the folks at Apex, and dance with them. There was also fun with dry ice. We put it in plastic cups of wine and pretended we were witches. Epic Win.
If you have access to dry ice, I highly recommend bringing it to a party.
It was an evening of fun and funny conversation, great stories, and generally feeling like I’d found my tribe.
sometime in the middle of the night I stumbled back to my hotel room.
Sunday – Sunday morning I insisted on taking photos of people. And not a single person was hung over *cough cough*.
I attended two panels on Sunday morning:
How I Wrote My Novel in 3543 Easy Steps with Matt Betts and Marian Allen. They talked about how they get ideas for their stories, how they plot (or don’t), and working with publishers. Both of them are pantsers, Marian Allen said she usually starts the narrative before she knows what the plot with be, and often has to go back and rewrite large portions once the plot has made itself known. They both suggest outlining, but agreed that if the characters want to go someplace more interest, let them go there! Matt Betts said he started really paying attention to his favorite books – what worked in them? what didn’t work? why did he like them? And then he went and wrote the novel he most wanted to read. He even read in genres he didn’t usually read, to see how those authors hooked their readers. One of the images in Matt’s powerpoint presentation showed a block of marble and a chisel. Marian agreed that the first draft is the basic shape. the next edit you get the edges off. and then you add more details, and more details, and more details, and then polish it. She said she loves NaNoWriMo, because you don’t need to worry about editing, you just write and write and write. They both said it’s helpful to have beta readers who don’t usually read in the genre you’re writing, because they’ll catch things genre readers won’t.
Anthologies Help How? with David Burkhead, John Joseph Adams, Sarah Hans, Steven Saus, Scott Sandridge and Stephen Zimmer. For someone who didn’t read much short fiction until about a year ago, I sure did buy a lot of anthologies and go nuts for panels that focused on short fiction and editing. This was another one of my favorite panels. Many of the panelists were editors, so they talked about anthologies they had put together, and challenges they faced.
Sarah Hans had some very important things to say about “pinch hitting”. Two of the anthologies she was involved with – Sidekicks and Steamworld, she was surprised that so much of what came in, the author weren’t thinking that far outside the box, there just wasn’t that much diversity of ideas. So she would put out a call for a certain type of story, such as steampunk that takes place in a certain part of the world. Yes, the author would have to write to exactly what the editor needs, but by doing so that writer would have a better chance of getting into the anthology. Someone (I don’t remember who) said you need to think outside the box, and then outside that one, and then outside that one, and then outside that one, so you can give the anthologist something they’ve never seen before. An anthology may be themed, but it’s the anthologist’s job to be a curator – to find the best of within that theme, to find all the perspectives, all the different variations.
And then dear friends, it was time to get more pizza with friends, and hit the road. this isn’t my first rodeo, but ConText26 surpassed all my expectations. On the drive home, I finished listening to the audio of The Incrementalists, which spawned this depends-how-you-read-it-might-be-erotic blog post.
getting back to my mundane life on Monday was next to impossible. It’s so much more fun being my alter ego.
with ConText in the past, now it’s time to get ready for ConFusion in January. And you know what that means? COSPLAY!