hrj: (doll)

The schedule is out for Chessiecon in Timmonium MD (Thanksgiving weekend) and I have some great program items to participate in!

In addition to my reading, which will double as a release party for Mother of Souls, I'll be on a couple of panel discussions about topic near and dear to Alpennia. Combining Hard Science and Fantasy (or: High-Tech Magic) looks at how authors set up the underlying rules for fantastic or magical worlds. Silent Symphonies: Incorporating Music into Literature will discuss the challenge of describing music through text, when that music is a vital part of the story. (I can't wait for people to see how well I managed to describe magical operas in Mother of Souls.) It's Awesome, Well-Written, and Groundbreaking...But Do You Like It? This is a question that's been nibbling at me for the last several years: what do you do when all your friends describe a book as mind-blowingly fabulous and you think it's...merely very good? And I'll finish up on Sunday with Stupendous Bollocks, a game-show type format where we panelists get scored on how interesting our discussions about a topic are--whether they're true or not. If you think my research and documentation is fascinating, you should see what I can do when I don't let veracity stand in the way!

hrj: (doll)
Since I currently have to manually duplicate my blog content here on LJ, I'm going to save a bit of sanity and just post pointers to my blog.

Tuesday's Teaser for Mother of Souls

Wednesday's A Little Princess re-read discussion
hrj: (doll)
The final schedule for MidAmericon II, this year's Worldcon, is up and I've added my singing signing and kaffeeklatsch events to my posted schedule. Barring a delivery disaster, I'll have Alpennia badge ribbons to hand out, so make sure to find me and ask for one!

See typo correction. Given my history, a "singing" event might be misleading!
hrj: (doll)

My primary blog has moved, but feel free to comment in either place.

It's that time of the summer when I suddenly realize it's time to book my flight to Kansas City for this year's Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention). If you followed along with all my convention blogging last year, you may remember that Worldcon was the event that left me thinking, "This. This is what a successful convention experience can be. Remember this if you're ever feeling down or left out or marginalized in the SFF community." To be sure, every Worldcon is different: a different location, a different organizing committee, a different slice of the SFF community. But it helps to go in with the confidence that I pretty much know how this thing works and that it will work for me.

In addition to the programming, I'm planning to have some fun Alpennia swag to hand out. (Memo to self: in addition to booking flight, work on Alpennia swag!) And--following an approach that worked well last year--I'm making a list of "friends I haven't met in person yet" to contact about penciling in social plans.

Check out my panel schedule here. And if you're going to be there too, please let me know so we can make sure to bump into each other.

hrj: (doll)
Skipped a workout Monday morning because I wanted to get packed up and checked out before panels started. Went to a panel on "Bay Area's Separated Fandoms - Why?" which ended up being more of a "what" than a "why". We got something of a survey of the history of Bay Area fandom, and then a discussion of what the current significant thematic conventions are, and how various interests have moved and shifted. There was an acknowledgment that Bay Con, as an old-style "gen con" has tended to lose various segments of fandom to more focused events (especially ones also scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend!), in some cases leaving awkward gaps in the con experience, but in other cases simply acknowledging that those interests had been something of a separate con-within-a-con to begin with.

Next up, I was a panelist for a costuming discussion "make it accurate or make it pretty?" I thought it was a lively and nuanced discussion of how to balance the various possible costuming goals, with an understanding of venue, purpose, one's own role in the costumed function (e.g., staff vs. guest). Jean Martin was a fabulous moderator and my fellow panelists were all thoughtful, eloquent, and well-prepared.

Following that, I attended a panel on disability representation in genre that [ profile] katerit was on (though I was planning to go anyway). Very good discussion, despite being set up as something of a standard "Disability 101" topic. (And despite the occasional obliviously derailing efforts of an audience member who was nursing some grudge from the '70s about feminism and kept trying to find some equivalence between disability marginalization and was a bit hard to tell, given the level of incoherence. The panelists kept trying to politely re-direct. At one point I bluntly told him his question was way outside the scope of the panel.)

Finished up by having a leisurely lunch with [ profile] katerit and a friend from File 770. It was a good thing we had lots to chat about, because the coffee shop staff were scaled way back and in the end I had to go hunting for someone to get us our check. And then it was back home to check on the riotous growth of the tomatoes and cucumbers (Yay! Cucumber!), to check out the two book deliveries that had arrived while I was gone, and to actually manage to unpack fully and put the suitcase away (something I hadn't managed after the Kalamazoo trip).

It was a good con for book promotion: the bookseller in the dealers' room who carried the Alpennia books sold out of what he'd brought, and all sorts of people came up to me randomly to tell me how much they'd loved them. (Including some totally unscripted and unpaid shills in panel audiences who saved me from having to promote my own work. It's so much easier to focus on promoting the books by other people that I love when I can relax about my own books.)

The next convention this year will be Worldcon, and I need to get working on the swag I plan to bring for it. I have some ideas I think people will enjoy.
hrj: (doll)
Started the day off with a workout again. The elliptical in the hotel gym is just different enough in action from my usual machine that my calf muscles are sore! Obviously I need to change up my routine more often.

I was audience for a panel on "Truth in History" which discussed the importance of basing fiction on the multiplicity of historic truths (and not just oversimplified "official history" written by winners and conquerors)--not simply for ethical reasons, but because it makes for more varied and more interesting fiction. Also noted was the tendency of readers to learn their history from fictionalized versions, perhaps even more than from history texts. So the choices we make in writing versions of history can shape public understanding of that history, for good or ill.

I was a panelist for "Does that come in vanilla?" for which the panel description was: There is an inherent assumption that polyamory or homosexuality come paired with kink. Why is that and is it a stereotype worth debunking? Having dispensed with the simplistic question in the title, we had a spirited discussion of why people's images of marginalized sexualities tend to get bundled with specific communities, behaviors, or tastes, and how (or whether) outsiders' understandings can be broadened. But we also discussed bundled assumptions about sexuality within marginalized communities, and the purposes that these assumptions serve, but within the community and in negotiating the external image of the community. (If I recall correctly, I started my introduction by apologizing for all the academese I was going to use reflexively.)

I had a lovely spot of late lunch with [ profile] ritaxis getting beta-reader feedback from her, to supplement the written notes I'll be getting. Later had off-site dinner at a small, crowded but fabulous Thai place with Karen, Chaz, Brad Lyau, and Kitt Kerr.

After getting back to the hotel, I poked my head into the concert of a Snow White musical but I'm afraid I found it didn't catch my interest, so I fulfilled the pledge I'd made to myself to actually use the hotel pool and jacuzzi. It was hard to find congenial socializing after that -- a handful of room parties, but nothing really conducive to in-depth conversation. I hung out with lurkertype (from File770) the San Jose worldcon bid party for a while, then we swung by the My Little Pony party, who were said to have amusing thematic mixed drinks (which alas were WAY TOO SWEET). And so to bed, as Pepys would say.
hrj: (doll)
There's still something about the physical layout of the hotel that is just throwing me off balance. And whether it really is drifting cigarette smoke in the lobby and cafe areas or simply the ordinary dry hotel air, my lungs and sinuses have been vaguely unhappy all day. This contributed to just throwing in the towel after dinner and retreating to my room.

But I had a lovely long chat with Setzu over morning coffee. And the panels were enjoyable. I was audience for a "favorite villains" panel which included some interesting ways of looking at different flavors of "bad guy" and how they contribute to the story. After lunch I was on a panel on how to dress your characters (we turned it into a combination of issues with clothing authenticity in historic settings, and the narrative functions of clothing, as well as descriptive pitfalls). It suffered a bit from disorganization and lack of direction by the moderator, but I think the audience (who participated quite a bit) had a good time. Then I was on a rather small panel (with similarly small audience) on "genre ghettos". We talked a lot about niche marketing, how to find audiences for books that fall between cracks and how those audiences can help spread the word. Plus the ways in which reader and bookseller preconceptions about genre can hamper getting books in the hands of their intended audience.

After that I was feeling a bit peckish and after trying unsuccessfully to linger in places where I might pick up dinner partners (see previous comments about unsatisfactory layout & traffic issues), I settled for a lonely burger and then called it a day.
hrj: (doll)
I have decided that this weekend will also serve as being a relaxing holiday as well as a convention. My programming is nicely spread out across all four days, and none of it particularly early in the morning.

The one minor annoyance about the hotel layout for my intended plans is that there's really no good "casual hanging out space". The bar is a small space off the coffee shop with high-perch chairs. There's an open seating area with tables out in front of the coffee shop that is sometimes used for table service spill-over but other times is available for casual sitting, but it's very much tables-and-chairs, not lounge space. There's a cozy little lounge area with a fireplace on the other side of the lobby, but it's included in the space being used for registration and so isn't available for general use. The middle of the lobby has a central fixture with upholstered benches on four sides, which I suppose could serve the purpose, but it's right in the middle of the coming-and-going for hotel check-in. And there's also a minor annoyance in that all these lobby-adjacent spaces (the cafe spill-over, the lobby benches, etc.) seem to me to be getting a lot of air-drift from the smoking areas outside the front of the building. The hotel itself is smoke-free, but the designated smoking areas are in locations that seem to cause bleed-over into all the natural hanging out spaces. (I may be noticing it more than usual because my lungs are still recovering from the bug I brought back from Chicago.)

But enough about annoyances. My first panel, "Connections from the past and how we deal with them" was sparsely attended, partly from being the first time-slot of the event, partly because there were evidently some snafus at con reg that were backing people up. We started with just us four panelists talking to each other and ended with three audience members (one, a husband of a panelist). But we explored the stated topic and had a good time.

After that I explored the dealers room and art show and spend a fair amount of time wandering around figuring out where things were. But eventually what I wanted was to sit in some comfortable public space where I could watch people go by and spot people I wanted to talk to or meet. And I simply couldn't find any space that worked for it. In late afternoon, right after I'd tweeted something to that effect, I bumped into Kitt Kerr and Theresa Edgerton and joined them for another wander through the dealers room. And then they were similarly looking for a place to sit and chat so we found something reasonable in the corridor leading to the cafe, where there were comfy chairs but it wasn't quite so much in the smoke-drift patterns. Being in a traffic flow area did what it was supposed to, and we picked up Deborah J. Ross and Juliette Wade, and a passing visit from Setzu Uzume (one of the Tweeps I'd made a note to make sure to meet up with), and that led into having dinner with Deborah and Juliette+family, who are people I'd never really gotten to know previously so I felt quite socially successful.

The "meet the guests" social was quite low-key with a chairs-around-tables set-up and I first spent a bit of time standing looking around for some group I felt comfortable connecting with. Eventually I gave up and used my fall-back technique of picking a table at random and saying, "Hi, I don't know any of you, can I join you?" and since I ended up being the only person with a "guest" ribbon at that table, I also felt virtuous about fulfilling the "mixer" function.

A little later I as accosted by someone I know through File770 but who uses a different name face-to-face and so had to make the connection for me. She dragged me off to the San Jose worldcon bid party (for which I'm already a pre-supporter) to chat which rounded out the evening.

Too often when I have a leisurely schedule on weekends, it means I have trouble sleeping, but so far I seem to be getting plenty. My body doesn't quite understand the whole bit about not getting up on a work-day schedule, but I lazed a bit then went down to the hotel gym for some elliptical time. I swear that I will also take advantage of the pool and jacuzzi at some point. I brought a suit and dammit I'm going to use it.
hrj: (Alpennia w text)
I'll be enjoying hanging out with friends and fellow writers at BayCon this weekend. It's at a new venue this year (the San Mateo Marriott) and I'll be trying to add a bit of relaxing down-time by checking in Thursday after work. If you're going to be there, by all means find me to say "Hi!" and if you're there Thursday evening as well, by all means ping me for a meet-up. But even moreso, if you think I might have entertaining things to say on any of the following topics, check out the panels listed below.

I don't typically volunteer for costume-related panels because my costuming activities tend to be in other venues, but there was an interesting one on dealing with clothing in world-building, and another that was on a topic I've enjoyed discussing before (in SCA contexts) that revolves around compromise trade-offs depending on what your costuming goals are.

The panel on "marketing ghettos" is certainly likely to be lively, given how much work I do to climb over the walls of the various marketing categories I fall into. And I've ventured a little out of my comfort zone to plunge into the debate over why/whether non-normative sexualities have a knee-jerk association with "kink" (however one interprets that) in SFF contexts. (Hint: I can see both sides of the thesis and will cheerfully talk about both, although one can probably guess which side I fall on personally.)

And if you spot me sitting alone in the lobby of the coffee shop with my laptop, don't hesitate to introduce yourself! If I didn't want to talk to people, I'd be hiding in my room.


Connections From The Past and How We Deal With Them
Friday 13:00 - 14:30, Synergy 5

Hey, that creepy ex-boyfriend just found me on facebook. Wow! That beloved, long lost buddy is at an SCA event. Oh... you're THAT Sally! The good, the bad and the chew-your-own-leg off aspects of people from your past and how they shape your present. Is it good or bad that Facebook puts us back in contact with people we'd never have seen again?

Panelists: Colin Fisk (M), ElizaBeth Gilligan, Heather Rose Jones, Ja Shia


Costume in Fiction - Creating the total package
Saturday 14:30 - 16:00, Synergy 5

Your hero from another world isn't going to be wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt (most likely), nor will your altermate history ... come discuss the bare bones of costuming challenges as they are found by writers.

Panelists: ElizaBeth Gilligan (M), Heather Rose Jones, Denise Tanaka, Debbie Bretschneider

Marketing Ghettos
Saturday 16:00 - 17:30, Collaborate 2

Just what is the difference between Dark Fantasy and Horror Thriller? Modern Fantasy vs. Alternate History?

Panelists: Jay Hartlove (M), Heather Rose Jones, Kyle Aisteach


Does That Come In Vanilla?
Sunday 13:00 - 14:30, Synergy 4


There's an inherent assumption that polyamory or homosexuality come paired with kink. Why is that and is it a sterotype worth debunking?

Panelists: Lance Moore Mr. (M), Heather Rose Jones, Tory Parker, Jean Batt


Historical Costuming- Make it Perfect or Make it Pretty
Monday 11:30 - 13:00, Convene

Historical costuming frequently runs into a choice between modern aesthetics and precise historical accuracy. Panelists will cover a variety of views on finding the balance.

Panelists: Jean Martin (M), Ms Sandra Durbin, Stacy Ferguson, Heather Rose Jones, Jim Partridge, Fr John Blaker
hrj: (Alpennia w text)
It's always interesting to see what, among the convention programming, looks like a good enough fit that I should put in a request to participate. (Also a gamble to see whether programming decides I'd be among the best fit to put on what I select!)

I discovered last year that, although I can list "work in the biotech industry" among my potentially relevant skills, I don't actually enjoy ending up on science panels that much. And conversely, although I've done a lot of research and experimentation with historic costume, I don't really do convention-style costuming, so I generally don't pick those panels. But somehow two of the costume-related panels at BayCon looked like I might have something to say, and programming agreed.

I've also quickly gotten tired of "Women in X" and "Queer 101" panels, though I'll take them if there isn't a better fit for my writing interests. But once again, there were some non-generic panels in that area that I was placed on.

So, with that introduction, here is my programming schedule for BayCon 2016, Memorial Day weekend in San Jose. Make sure to say "hi" if you're there (or better yet, drop me a comment and let's arrange to intersect--which is much better for calming my anxiety about wandering around on the fringes with no one to talk to).


Connections From The Past and How We Deal With Them
13:00 - 14:30, Synergy 5 (San Mateo Marriott)

Hey, that creepy ex-boyfriend just found me on facebook. Wow! That beloved, long lost buddy is at an SCA event. Oh... you're THAT Sally! The good, the bad and the chew-your-own-leg off aspects of people from your past and how they shape your present. Is it good or bad that Facebook puts us back in contact with people we'd never have seen again?

Panel: Colin Fisk, ElizaBeth Gilligan, Heather Rose Jones, Irene Radford

[I imagine this will be one of those "amusing anecdotes" panels. I can definitely think of a few!]


Costume in Fiction - Creating the total package
14:30 - 16:00, Connect 1 (San Mateo Marriott)

Panel: ElizaBeth Gilligan, Heather Rose Jones, Denise Tanaka, Debbie Bretschneider

[No description given, but the panel title is pretty self-evident.]

​Marketing Ghettos
16:00 - 17:30, Collaborate 2 (San Mateo Marriott)

Just what is the difference between Dark Fantasy and Horror Thriller? Modern Fantasy vs. Alternate History?

Panel: Jay Hartlove (M), Heather Rose Jones, Kyle Aisteach, Irene Radford

[I imagine that, in addition to talking about how sub-genres get defined, we'll talk about the problems of being shoehorned or pigeonholed into them. Just ask me about the difficulties of everyone assuming I write romance, just because I"m published by a LesFic publisher!]


Does That Come In Vanilla?
13:00 - 14:30, Synergy 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

There's an inherent assumption that polyamory or homosexuality come paired with kink. Why is that and is it a sterotype worth debunking?

Panel: Lance Moore Mr. (M), Heather Rose Jones, Tory Parker

[I kind of hope we pick up a couple more panelists because this is the sort of topic that would benefit from a diversity of experience. As soon as I get contact information for my co-panelists, I think we need to talk about which experiences we bring to the topic so we can see about recruiting. It's probably no secret that I'm on the "Please debunk this!" side of the debate.]


Historical Costuming- Make it Perfect or Make it Pretty
11:30 - 13:00, Convene (San Mateo Marriott)

Historical costuming frequently runs into a choice between modern aesthetics and precise historical accuracy. Panelists will cover a variety of views on finding the balance.

Panel: Jean Martin (M), Ms Sandra Durbin, Stacy Ferguson, Heather Rose Jones, Jim Partridge, Fr John Blaker

[This is definitely a topic that speaks to my own costuming background--in fact, one I've done programming on before, though in an SCA context. I expect both a lively discussion and a lot of agreement.]
hrj: (doll)
Thursday I was still laboring under the Sinuses of Doom from whatever virus thingie I had at the beginning of the week, but fortunately by Friday morning my symptoms were reduced to a chafed spot under my nose.

Thursday I also managed to do something I've managed to just barely avoid several times in the past: I left work still wearing my computer glasses, with the bifocals still in the glasses case on my desk. (As opposed to the laptop/home-computer glasses, which have a slightly closer focal length than the work computer glasses, which were in the glasses case in my backpack.)

To some extent, my ability to not notice I'm still wearing the computer glasses speaks to my relative safety using them for driving. (Heck, I might even be able to pass a driving vision test using them, although reading unfamiliar street signs would be a problem.) But I dislike discovering I've been that inattentive. Also: I prefer to wear the bifocals at cons, since it makes it easier to recognize people at more than 8 feet away.

Since I'd volunteered to help with con suite set-up Friday morning, I figured I'd splurge on a room for Thursday evening as well (so I wouldn't have to juggle luggage while waiting for check-in time). So I got a chance to do some hanging with Karen & Chaz in the bar, as well as the opportunity to offer a night's hospitality to someone who had con errands Thursday evening but was trying to avoid picking up an extra night's cost.

My grand plan to be useful and on-the-spot as a local volunteer was stymied somewhat by delays in supply arrivals and trying to second-guess where to position myself to notice when said supplies arrived, but I was able to make myself at least a little useful, and I put in a three hour hostess shift on Saturday morning, as well as pitching a little on Sunday tear-down. So I fulfilled my goal of being an actual useful convention volunteer this year.

One thing I love about Fogcon is that the small size means I don't feel like I have to run myself ragged to get the full experience. I enjoyed several panels--interesting discussions on artificial intelligence, "perfect" languages, and other things. I wasn't on programming myself, this year, other than doing a group reading with [ profile] klwilliams and the delightful S.B. Divya whom I bumped into Friday morning so I could get to know her before the session. Also got to spend some quality time with [ profile] ritaxis and a friend of hers who had come all the way from the east coast, with whom I got to do some intense academic-takes-on-fannish-topics geeking over dinner Saturday.

I decided to be daring for my reading and do only work in progress, so I picked an excerpt from (the more revised parts of) Mother of Souls, and then read a fragment of a brand new in-progress attack short story, that has only recently informed me that it's titled "Expiration Date". (Concept: the muses are over-worked and have farmed out inspiration duties to other beings, specifically including a harpy.)

And, yeah, other fun things. But I'm kind of brain dead now. I did manage to get about 6 chapters of Mother of Souls edited during the convention, and now I should get back to entering the edits in the computer.
hrj: (doll)
With Chessiecon behind me and the year drawing to a close, it's time to reflect on my 2015 experiment of taking on as many varied conventions and book events as my vacation budget (which is smaller than my travel budget) would afford. And, in light of that reflection, to talk about next year's plans. (I've linked to the individual convention write-ups for details.)

FogCon (March) - In addition to being my most "local" con (ca. 10 miles!), this is a delightful small "thinky" literary SFF convention with a high enough proportion of people I feel comfortable approaching to give it a high probability of social enjoyment. Definitely a keeper.

Lone Star LesFic (April) - This one-day conference in Austin TX was very well run, but despite their focus on lesbian fiction, I wasn't the right demographic for their attendees. No plans to return.

BayCon (May) - I don't seem to have done a con report for this one. Local Bay Area gen-con. Generally enjoyable although the programming often seems a bit repetitive across the years. They've taken to doing "themes" each year and next year's is "It's All About Space" so I may skip it (as being less relevant to my interests both as a reader and writer) in favor of trying something new. (One of these years, I want to fill the Memorial Day convention slot with WisCon, but I think it will have to be some year when I skip Kalamazoo, which is on the schedule for 2016).

Westercon (July) - (Link is to the first day, the con report spans multiple entries.) Regional gen-con, though smaller than it feels like it ought to be. Enjoyable but not a must-do and it competes with two other 4th-of-July-weekend events that I like. Probably will skip in 2016 in favor of trying something new.

Rainbowcon (July) - (Link is to the first day's report of several.) Although the convention organizers worked very sincerely to expand this to a general LGBTQ convention, it has a ways to go to escape its roots as focused on M/M fiction. My evaluation is a bit mixed because, although I was on some delightful programming, met interesting people, and picked up a couple of social-media-friends that I hope to continue to get to know better, in the final analysis, the general membership was overwhelmingly indifferent to anything other than gay male stories (and in some cases actively dismissive or hostile). Changing this dynamic (if they choose to do so) will require much more proactive outreach to other demographics, not only in terms of authors/vendors but in terms of general membership. The convention is on hiatus for 2016 but unless there's a clear shift in direction I don't think it's for me in the future.

Golden Crown Literary Society (July) - (My overall write-up for this one is part of a round-up of "the convention year so far".) The premiere annual conference of the lesbian publishing industry. Odd as it may sound, I've concluded that I, my books, and my research interests are simply not in the target demographic for this conference. There's little interest in non-contemporary stories, the social dynamics are cliquish, and it's been a dead loss in terms of trying to get face time with my editor or publisher. And what it really comes down to is that attending this conference makes me unhappy. At this time I have no plans to return.

Worldcon (August) - Based on this year's experience, Worldcon is smack dab in the middle of my sweet spot for conventions. This is my tribe. At this point I have attending or pre-supporting memberships for every Worldcon through the end of the decade. 'Nuff said.

Gay Romance Northwest (September) - Of all the LGBTQ-related conventions I went to in 2015, this was the one I felt most comfortable at. It's quite small, both in terms of programming and attendance, but both the programming and attendees were nicely diverse (though the largest single demographic was still women who read or write m/m fiction). For me, it was possible to attend without taking any vacation days (due to convenient airline connections), so I might try it again in 2016 (though--selfishly--only if they'd be interested in putting me on programming).

Chessicon (November) - A small, laid-back convention with wide-ranging interests (especially given its size) that is more like a peculiar family reunion in many ways. For what it's worth, this convention is a habit with me and I see no reason to break that habit.

So out of 9 conventions, 3 on solidly on my "yes for 2016" list and one "maybe". At some point when I sit down and sketch out next year's vacation budgeting, I may think about adding one new event, just to branch out a little. As noted above, some time I'd like to get to WisCon, though probably not in 2016. Another small convention that's hit my radar is Sirens, which (based on report) is a very thinky-literary convention focusing on fantasy by women authors. But to some extent I'm going to spend 2016 recuperating from 2015 and trying to set aside some extra vacation days for 2017 when Worldcon will be in Finland and I want to be able to spend some time visiting and sightseeing as well. And you never know what might turn up unexpectedly. I'm quite a sucker for events that reach out and convince me that I'm part of their tribe and they'd love to have me.
hrj: (doll)
Chessiecon was satisfying as usual, perhaps even a few ranks above satisfying (with the exception of the hotel coffee shop which, as has become customary for this site, drastically under-schedules staffing for the convention weekend with the resulting effects on service).

My panels were uniformly enjoyable, even (or perhaps especially?) the "diversity or tokenism?" panel which could easily have been one of those uncomfortable Diversity 101 panels except for the energy and talents of my fellow panelists (and supremely skilled moderator, Carl Cipra). Also a stand-out was the "Women of Camelot" panel (despite having to bite my tongue a few times when commenters lost track of the dividing line between history and Misty Celtic Romanticism). Convenient coincidence got me onto an additional item on Sunday when there were two no-shows for the panel on authorial consistency and keeping track of one's own canon.

Of the programming for which I was audience, the standout was "Seanan MacGuire and Ursula Vernon have a chat (possibly about frogs)" which is now my Platonic ideal of GoH panels. Take two voluble and personable women with an affinity for unusual wildlife and let them loose to spin yarns. Frogs were definitely involved.

I had a chance to meet a couple of online acquaintances in person, sold a few books, signed a few of the same, and L and I had several enjoyable conversations over meals (despite said coffee shop staffing issues).

The Gaylactic Spectrum awards for novels published in 2013 and 2014 were announced and while Melissa Scott swept both awards (with a co-author for one of them), Daughter of Mystery did make the "recommended works" short-list for 2014. This is an award where it definitely is an honor just to make the short-list and I'm very proud to see my work there.
hrj: (doll)
Someone on Twitter asked me a few weeks ago just how it was I ended up making Chessiecon (formerly Darkovercon) a regular habit, given that it's a rather small, rather specialized convention on the opposite coast from my home. When I noted that it would take longer than a tweet to explain, it was suggested I might blog about it. And here I am, with a literary-community blog slot open to fill.

At this point, I have to do a little historic triangulation and guesswork to recall just when it was this whole thing started. I first met Judy Gerjuoy (the founder and permanent Con Chair of Darkovercon) at a Fantasy Worlds Festival in Berkeley. I know it was when I was living on 40th St Way [sic] in Oakland, which puts it in the very rough neighborhood of 1985 (+/-). Judy had come out to California for the convention and we ended up hanging out for a while at the con, and then since she was staying in town for a few more days, I invited her to my place for dinner. And the upshot of the whole thing was that she ended up encouraging me to make a return visit to Darkovercon with a promise to put me on programming.

That was rather a seductive offer because I wasn't really "anybody" in fandom -- just a fairly new musician/songwriter who had somehow found myself hanging out with the Greyhavens crowd in Berkeley. So I did. And you know? It was fun to go to a smallish convention where I knew the people who were running it, and I got sucked into working the convention, and I got a chance to do a little concert, and I knew a bunch of the author guests because at that time a whole bunch of the Greyhavens/Greenwalls crowd made Darkovercon a regular part of their convention circuit. Darkovercon had an established musical focus, which meant that the one bit of fan-ac I was doing at that point gave me a solid, objective way to contribute to programming. (Though I also did panels and learned to be a moderator by the sink-or-swim method.)

I'd have to do some research to figure out exactly which year that was, but it was when Darkovercon was still being held in Delaware. I think the last year that it was there. I had a good enough time that I went again, and again, and… well, it became a bit of a habit. In addition to knowing various of the Berkeley crowd, I started picking up more friends among the regular attendees, and in particular among the SCA crowd, of which there was significant overlap. (In time, this also included a special attraction for the SCA heraldic crowd, and there were heraldic friends from across the country that I saw most regularly at Darkovercon.) The con has always had a sort of "family reunion", although for the first several years it felt a bit like attending someone else's family reunion. There was always a group Thanksgiving dinner (at the hotel buffet) for the staff and guests who showed up early, and then I could be sure of being put to work assembling registration materials and whatever else Judy needed done.

There were variable additional attractions for attendance. After the con had moved to the Baltimore area, at a time when my older brother was teaching at Annapolis, I suggested that he come to the con so I could get a chance to see him as well…and the upshot of that was that he got latched onto by the local SCA heraldic establishment (including Judy) and got sucked into the SCA. So for the period when he was living in the area, it was also a chance for some family time.

When I was in grad school in the later '90s and early '00s, I cut back significantly on my attendance, not only because budgeting was tighter, but because I always seemed to come back from traveling to it with a horrible cold, and that meant coming directly back to Berkeley finals week sick. On the other hand, it was also during that period that I had my first professional fiction sales and had the fun of participating as an actual published author. After I got my degree and had a decent job again, I've defaulted to going every year. The one year I missed in the last decade was when my mother died just before the convention and I was with her instead. And then, in the last several years, I've expanded the trip to start with a visit with [ profile] abd07 in NYC and then driving down to go to the con together. And then in 2012, Darkovercon was where I got to announce the sale of my first novel, Daughter of Mystery, which had been confirmed just days before the convention.

The convention has gone through a number of shifts in flavor and focus over the years, most recently when Judy's death was followed by changing the name from Darkovercon to Chessiecon and a more formal recognition of some of those gradual shifts. It's possible that there might come a time when it's shifted enough that I'd reconsider my automatic inclusion of it on my schedule. But for those who might wonder how it is that I've settled into a habit of flying across the country on a major holiday weekend to attend a small local convention…well, perhaps the above helps explain it.
hrj: (doll)
Once again, I'll be spending Thanksgiving weekend at Chessiecon in the Baltimore MD area. The fabulous Seanan McGuire is writer guest of honor, and Ursula Vernon is artist GoH. (I've only met her online, so I hope I'll have a chance to meet her in person.)

If you plan to be there, be sure to bump into me to say Hi (and come to my programming, and bring or buy books to get signed and…and…and…) Here's my personal schedule (and the general schedule).


8-9pm (Greenspring I) - Women in Camelot

Our panelists discuss the role of women in the various Arthurian sources, both historical and modern.

Heather Dale, Cathy Hird (M), Lisa Padol, Kim Headlee, Heather Rose Jones

(I expect my specialty will be talking about some of the amazing queer Arthurian women I've been turning up for the Lesbian Historic Motif Project.)


12:30-1:30 (Greenspring I) - Diversity vs. Tokenism in SF/F

Diversity lies in opening ourselves to diverse stories and diverse cultures, not in requiring each story to be populated by diverse characters. On the other hand, a story intended to depict a diverse society that only shows certain elements does a disservice to the ideal of diversity. How do various authors demonstrate diversity, and where do their attempts to do so fail?

Heather Rose Jones, Carl Cipra (M), Cathy Hird, Intisar Khanani, Mary Fan

04:15 PM - 05:15 PM (Greenspring I) - Gaylactic Spectrum Awards

The Gaylactic Spectrum Awards honor outstanding works of science fiction, fantasy and horror which include significant positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender characters, themes, or issues. Join us as The Gaylactic Network presents the 2014/2015 awards.

Rob Gates, Carl Cipra

(Note: I'm not part of the programming here, but Daughter of Mystery was nominated for the Spectrum, so I'll definitely be in the audience biting my fingernails!)

6:45-8pm (Atrium) - General Autographing Session with many many guests

9:15-10:15pm (Greenspring I) - You Say "Mary Sue" Like it's a Bad Thing…

Whether the author is narrating their tale or the author is a main character in the story, what are the pitfalls, risks, and sheer fun possible from creating a Weird Waldo experience for your audience. What is a Mary Sue/Larry Stu, why are many authors sick of the phrase; how to avoid them, or why are authors no longer concerned with trying to avoid them?

Carl Cipra (M), Heather Rose Jones, Harrison Demchick, Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe


No programming, but you know, if you wanted to coax me to talk about the Alpennian stories, or you're sad that they weren't able to give me a reading slot and want to corner me and force me to read you something, or you want to hear more about the Lesbian Historic Motif Project, or you just want to chat…there are plenty of comfy chairs in the lobby and a decent coffee shop. Snag me if you see me at loose ends and I'm sure something can be arranged.
hrj: (doll)
This past weekend I popped up to Seattle on a no-vacation-days basis to take part in the Gay Romance Northwest Conference, held at the main library downtown. This is a relatively new event--just the third time it's been held, I believe--although the local organization sponsoring also does many smaller get-togethers.

Since I was willing to indulge myself with a room in the official conference hotel (just kitty-corner from the library and where the after-session vendor session was held) and a rental car, the logistics made it a fairly relaxing weekend. (The city being a nonstop fight away also helped.)

Due to my no-vacation plans, I wasn't able to attend the Friday evening readings. And due to the conference's decision not to compete with a popular "Banned Books" drag show in the evening, also sponsored by the library, the schedule was relatively compact: opening and closing plenary sessions in the main auditorium, and two sessions of panels (with a total of 7 different panels). This was followed by a 2-hour open-to-the-public vendor room with tables for all the attending authors as well as a couple of publishers/distributors.

I really enjoyed being on the panel "Writing a Historical, Fantasy, or Sci-Fi? Do your Research – And How!" We talked about the uses and purposes of research even beyond "getting things right", and fielded audience questions. When I mentioned after the session that I had business cards for the Lesbian Historic Motif Project they were all snapped up in a couple of minutes, so I'm hoping that translates into a little increased blog traffic.

For the second session, I attended the panel on "Changing Dynamics of Lesbian Romance". I confess I'd expected it to be a rehash of similar panels I've seen at GCLS that talk about what the hot new sub-genre or trope is, but instead the discussion was primarily about expanding the readership for the genre more broadly, and the interesting (and frustrating) differences in the general reception for lesbian romance as contrasted with gay romance. I tossed in a couple thoughts during the audience participation part (especially the larger general dynamics of differential reception of male and female protagonists in genre fiction), but I find it an interesting contrast with the (thoroughly applauded) remark I heard at GCLS that lesbian romance writers shouldn't look for a wider reception. (The implication being that trying for a more general readership would "dilute the lesbian brand" as it were.)

I sold one pair of books at the vendor session and handed out a lot of book cards, but it was a little disappointing to end up taking books home with me given that there were fewer than half a dozen authors with lesbian books (among almost 60 listed authors--though I don't know if all of them had tables) and there seemed to be plenty of readers claiming that they were eager to find more lesbian stories.

I skipped the banned books drag show (drag shows just Aren't My Thing) which turned out to be a good choice as the club where it was held was evidently completely packed and very noisy and the people I talked to later who attended said they could barely see the show at all. Instead I had a truly excellent meal in the restaurant of the Monaco Hotel (highly recommended! truffled potato croquettes! ham flights!) and then went upstairs to do some writing until the "after party" at a bar across the street. I guess most folks had either called it a night early or were burned out by the drag show because the after party was pretty much just six of us, most of whom had long drives home calling them away.

Sunday I had the opportunity to spend a long leisurely visit with some dear friends (Hi Eden & Bill!) who live in Ballard. My initial suggestion that we meet somewhere for brunch took a delicious turn when I mentioned looking for good pastries and they pointed out that literally two doors down from their house was the best pastry shop in the entire Seattle area. So we gorged on baked goods over the kitchen table and got well and thoroughly caught up.

My overall assessment of the conference:
* A well-structured and well-organized small event that should be a must-go for anyone in the greater Seattle area.
* If you are traveling further to get there, it makes sense as a general investment in visibility and networking, but the overall cost-benefit for sales is weak.
* Combine the trip with some sightseeing on Sunday for maximum enjoyment. (If you haven't been before, go to the Pike's Peak market right there downtown.)
* The general diversity of genders and orientations among both authors and readers was much broader than that at Rainbowcon (if still skewed to female writers/readers of m/m romance). I didn't have quite the same sensation of having accidentally wandered into an event where I didn't belong. This had been one of my concerns going in. Last year when I was deciding whether it might be worth a quick trip, I'd looked at the first GRNW conference and felt it looked very similar to the Rainbowcon dynamic. The feedback from last year was that it was definitely shifted. I think this is an event that's serious about all the letters of LGBTQIA and it would be well worth contributing to the breadth if you fall in one of the less-represented areas.


hrj: (Default)

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