Back from Context 27

I owe you two or three posts today, but you’re only going to get the one. The first one was a bit more on the pre-order for Things Don’t Go Smooth and the second was this week’s list of squees. (A third was going to be on how I write long form works, but hey… there’s only so much time in the day.) Instead, I turn to my summary on what happened at Context 27–because it’s fresh in my mind.

Having been to more science fiction and fantasy conventions now, I feel that there’s a marked difference between shows and what you can expect from them depending upon what you want to get out of the convention. I talked about this before, but I feel it’s important to note that yes, I do have a touch of social anxiety when it comes to meeting new people. I am terrible with first impressions, partly because I have a very big personality that I realize can/has steamrolled over others, but also because I’m sensitive to the mood of the room or I’m trying to be respectful of what the person I’m talking to is there to do. As I told one of my friends, I see the threads connecting folk, and I never want to feel like I’m imposing. This changes with time, yes, because as I get to make more friends who are comfortable around me it gets easier. (Which I think is true of anyone, really.) BUT, it’s also equally important that I have something to “do.” A media or gaming convention? No problem. But SF&F cons tend to have a slower pace due to their focus, which means I have to get “creative” with my time and make the most out of it while I’m there. Yes, absolutely, I can write or read, but that’s something I can do at home.

Context fits into my sweet spot because (though the hotel was probably designed by Loki) there were definitely Things To Do and it had a tight focus. I went in a day early to decompress and not be rushed; meandered over to this lovely place called Pies and Pints where I stamped “approved” on their pulled pork nachos and blueberry cider. Everyone in the general area was extremely friendly and happy to divulge their life’s story, from the Nigerian shuttle driver to the local pottery artist to the budding songwriter. It was lovely. For Day Two, registration began, I got to meet guests-of-honor Jonathan Maberry and Betsy Mitchell who were both fabulous. Then, I had a fun panel about the future of magazines with Brady Allen, crashed my friend Maurice Broaddus‘s workshop on Building Your Brand, had dinner with the amazingly talented Lucy Snyder and a heap of others, and started to get excited. As folks trickled in, I knew the guitars would too–courtesy of Lawrence Connolly, John Hornor Jacobs, and Geoffrey Girard. So we spent later Friday night in an impromptu jam, and it was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. I hope that this’ll become a regular thing, as there are loads of great musicians floating around!

Saturday was The Big Day with more panels, a signing, a reading with Janet Harriett, my Build-a-World game show, and parties. The most feedback I received about my panels was for the Writing for Media Tie-Ins with Tim Waggoner and Laura Resnick and the Build-a-World gameshow–which was a total hit! Congrats to John Hornor Jacobs, Ferrett Steinmetz, and Addie J King (e.g. Team Things Could Get Ugly) for their hair-raising six-point win over Team Responsible and Sober! Huzzah! Also on Saturday were shenanigans at the various parties. But, since what happens at Context stays at Context…

Sunday I slept in a touch, got to make my good-byes, and scrambled for the way home. Now, I am SURE I am missing something. Positive, even. (I’m also certain I am missing more someones, too… DARN IT ALL and HUGE apologies in advance!) But here’s the thing: the reason why I feel that this show is a good one to attend, is simply that there’s a strong emphasis on craft. If that’s the type of convention you want to attend? Then mark your calendar for next year’s show!

Thanks again to Steven Saus for inviting me!

Mo*Con and Writing the Other

Galactic Starry Space

Mo*Con is a gathering of writers and fans in Indianapolis that’s put together by my friend Maurice Broaddus. This year’s theme was writing the other. I had a wonderful time and was anxious to have the discussion about writing the other, because it directly impacts my original work. You see, this has always been important to me for many reasons, and I’ve struggled with the conversations that have been happening on the internet. There’s a lot of anger, hurt feelings, and strong opinions that come from many different perspectives in circulation, and few solutions. There are people who believe that I (meaning writers who share a similar background to myself), can’t and shouldn’t write characters who hail from different ethnic heritages or cultures. There are folks who think that I should step back, and just let a person of color write the story I want to write, and take a safer route.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments against writing the other. Too many. It’s forced me to freeze up on occasion, because what if I get it wrong. What if I piss somebody off. What if… And that anxiety that I have comes from a very personal, very challenging set of experiences that I have with the subject in general. Experiences that spur me to write about all different kinds of people, to spend the time on research and reading, to read and continue reading unique perspectives in storytelling, to pore through lots and lots of history books. Though all that may be true? None of that means anything because the most important thing — in fact the ONLY THING — that matters is how the other is reflected in the stories I write. All the research in the world doesn’t mean crap unless I’m applying that and, in the absence of telling stories, that’s what I do. Obsess and research and obsess some more.

What Mo*Con did for me, was to say: “Yes, write the other. But be considerate.” Okay, I’m pretty sure I have the considerate part down. “And, that includes thinking about your audience.” That little gem, which came from Chesya Burke, really nailed it for me. Who your audience is explains a LOT about the response. It isn’t just a story, mind, it’s a story that different people will identify with. This is what the internet has done. It’s highlighted that not all readers hail from the same demographic. If I am writing, and I picture my audience is mostly readers like myself, then I don’t have to worry necessarily about how an Italian-American woman will respond to a Jamaican character. I do, however, need to worry about how a Jamaican reader might react to seeing a character like her in my stories. To figure that out, it’s as simple as finding beta readers who can read those stories and tell me what I did right or wrong.

Avoiding stereotypes, to me, is just common sense because that’s the least I can do. But the idea that I shouldn’t write other and diverse characters because I don’t share someone’s cultural background is ludicrous. I am not afraid to write the other. I am afraid, however, to get it wrong — and guess what? I will. I will screw that up, just like I’ll screw something else up in my stories. Maybe I get a fact wrong or a translation or a character description. I’m not writing to be perfect, mind, I can never be that. Never. And I’m okay with that, really. I just don’t want to deeply offend anyone, but at the same time I’m not going out of my way to piss people off.

Having positive, supportive people around me does help, too, which is another reason I am deeply grateful for the Mo*Con experience. If anything, that’s quite possibly the most important thing to take away from this. It’s having the right people around me, to support my efforts and my writing, to not be so negative or dismissive. The internet can be a wondrous thing, but especially when it comes to topics like this? Comments (from both strangers and people you know) can introduce insecurity and more reasons not to write — and I think there’s quite enough of those, thank you. Instead, I seek reasons to say “YES!” starting with one story (and one reader) at a time.

    Mood: Blargh.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… Well, there was that one.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Snoring.
    In My Ears: Noise-cancelling headphones are glorious.
    Game Last Played: Ninjas versus Zombies
    Book Last Read: A book I put down. It suxx0red.
    Movie Last Viewed: Nine
    Latest Artistic Project: Art classes. SON OF A BISCUIT! That reminds me…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.

Back from the U.K.

Scribe Avatar

I’m a bit head-sniffly and doped up on all things Quil at the moment, but wanted to pop in and mention that I just got back from a two-week trip to the U.K. This trip had a lot of work-related elements to it; in addition to WorldCon in Brighton, I had a meeting in London that went really well. (More on that later.) It was our first jaunt over the pond and we both loved every minute of it. One thing in particular that I enjoyed was the sense of time. Hard to get that in the States since this country isn’t very old. That, combined with a lot of fairly recent (and hugely upsetting/sensitive) events comparatively-speaking, like the treatment of Native Americans, the Civil War, etc. Well, it was incredibly mind-blowing to have dinner at a friend’s house that was older than my state and drinks at a pub that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. I’ve always felt between worlds given my family background, but this trip reinforced that some in a different way.

One of the best sightseeing parts of our trip was the Tower of London for me. I met a raven named “Bran,” after the Celtic goddess Branwen, saw the crown jewels, and Roman ruins. I have pictures, but sadly the Firefly RPG and the rest of my writing takes precedence right now. We previewed the cover and launched a Firefly RPG corebook pre-order while I was overseas. I’ll write up a proper post about that when my head clears.

The worst part? DEFUNCT CURLING IRON OH MY STARS. I had Very Bad HairTM the whole trip. The double-decker buses are righteously scary. How do they stay upright? And massive chains of the same stores over and over again. (Reminded me of the ‘burbs in Chicago.) But other than that, truly no complaints. London is a fantastic city. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

P.S. Shame on the news for misinterpreting the beauty and light found in so many other countries.

Less Fear.

More Love.

P.P.S. Internet rage is overrated. Angry? Get offline…

    Mood: Head swirling. Look at all the pretty colors…
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I can has all the coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Snoring
    In My Ears: Electronical buzzings
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age II
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work
    Movie Last Viewed: THOR: A DARK WORLD
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Friends in Low Places
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

My CONvergence Schedule

CONvergence British Invasion

I will be attending CONvergence as a guest this year.

Here is my schedule, though you should note that the later the panels get… The more unfiltered I shall be… In part, I think this is a mad conspiracy to access my pure decorum-less state. The later it gets coupled with a serious caffeine addiction. Oh, that’s my Kryptonite. Sure, I start out all nice and well-mannered, but Midnight beckons and my fangs pop out all by their lonesome. It’s quite terrifying, actually. Sharp, pointy teeth.

On that note, I suppose I should say: “Come if you dare?”

Friday, July 5

Science Fiction as a Hopeful Future vs. a Cautionary Tale

Gaming in the ‘Verse

Signing – Joseph Scrimshaw/Monica Valentinelli

Writing a Book in Someone Else’s Universe

Saturday, July 6

Reading – Monica Valentinelli

Vampire Literature From Dracula to Edward Cullen

People Power! Cons And The “S” Word for Social

You're An Idiot, Starscream

Conventions really suck for anyone who’s either got a smaller readership or is going for the first time. They should be a great place to meet people, but I’ve seen a lot of “deer in headlights” folks wandering around with nobody to talk to. No, I’m not talking about that creep in the corner, either, and as much as I would love to say crowds are all filled with happy, shiny people — I’m a realist. You get a group of 1,000 people together, and it’s simply pure math. There will be that “one.” Just going to happen. But I don’t want to talk about “the one.” I’d much rather look at the 999 other folks!

I feel the “push to market oneself” is often a mistake. Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense to always network, network, network and push, push, push — especially if it’s early in your career. Even then, it really depends upon how others perceive you that makes a difference. Just because you show up at a con doesn’t make it automagical that you’ll get readers or fans of whatever it is you want to do.

I’ve given up on cons for the most part unless I can go and be a human being. It’s just not worth spending the time and energy going because I’m more productive writing my ass off instead. That’s not to say that I don’t go, but I have to pick and choose which cons I do go to.

When I’m having fun, being myself, then I can collect stories. See what folks are up to. Meet unusual people. I don’t worry about impressing people because that doesn’t matter to me. (It only becomes an issue whenever everybody says: “But, that was so-and-so… Why wouldn’t you bow and scrape?” I’m so far removed from whatever I’m “supposed” to be doing, because I’m focused on what I “am” doing.) As a writer, I’m more inclined to focus on the experience. If that changes? Where I have to worry about throngs of fans and whatnot? Well, then the experience is different. Then it turns into a scheduled performance due to “work” and that’s another thing entirely. Most cons are work for me, anyway, which means there’s a separation of Monica-me and Monica-workme.

Still, I feel that there’s ways to make conventions better, to highlight the best of what this community can do. Activities like:

  • Attend readings for writers you’ve never heard of.
  • If you see somebody who looks lost, ask them if they’re okay.
  • Bring games along and keep a slot open at your table.
  • Make it a goal to meet one new person.
  • Share a fan squee.

The thing is, the fans of today are the George R.R. Martins and Ursula Le Guins of tomorrow. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: You don’t know where someone will end up and people have long memories — especially in this industry. Plus, how boring is it to only go to see your existing favorites. There are so many awesome wondering experiences waiting to be had in fandom. Why wouldn’t you want to try something new?

Does that mean you should be a pushover? Gosh, no. I can be pretty acidic at times when my blood sugar is low or I haven’t slept enough (this accounts for a lot of my crabbiness at cons), but also if I’m tired of getting hit on or pissed on from above. (The “I’m better and more powerful than you.” superiority complex is part of what’s called “punching down” and it’s an abhorrent practice, in my opinion, but it does happen.)

But, I don’t go out of my way to be a bitch. I’ve been told often enough, even outside of cons: “You have such an unusual personality.” Translation: it’s a fight for me sometimes to meet new people and not feel like I’m starring in my own circus. You mean, I have my issues? Yeah, just like everybody else on the planet. (Unless you’re a megalomaniac!)

Still, for all these reasons and more… This is why I hate hearing about people who have bad experiences at cons, because for a community that’s so incredibly awesome, we only hear about the bad things. We’ve all got our shit to deal with, but there’s a lot of positivity that can come out of connecting with like-minded people and meeting new folks to expand our view of the world.

That’s where my interest lies. I’m much more interested in the connections we make. For me, those last a lot longer than the negativity, and I hope that’s true of most people. :-)

    Mood: I have curry on the brain.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Enough to keep me up all night.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Some steps and a fuck ton of laundry.
    In My Ears: Digging In The Dirt Peter Gabriel
    Game Last Played: Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Hellboy: the Fire Wolves by Tim Lebbon
    Movie Last Viewed: Pan’s Labyrinth
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology and for gaming, a fun Scion: Extras (Supplemental Yet Can Be Somewhat Useful On Occasion Scions)


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