Capclave 2014

A week has passed, and I’m still a little buzzed about Capclave. Our small-town convention returned to a relatively normal size after the great George RR Martin machine passed through last year. This year the guests were Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black and Genevieve Valentine.

Overall, this was a lovely conference. At no point did the panels flag or the panellists feel tacked on. Even at the end of Sunday, everyone’s energy and engagement remained high. I even dragged myself to a few parties and faked sociality. At the YA Author’s meet & greet, I learned there’s a new marketing term brewing: “New Adult.” New Adult is apparently edgy and real in the MTV without videos sense.

“Corrine is a troubled woman from a privileged background, torn between a forbidden love with her half brother Derek, and the man who may be her stepmother’s contract killer!”

New Adult – Telenovelas for the young.

I attended a lot of writing groups with Ruby, whom Lisa and I met at ReaderCon, and the crew from my local book club. (Due to presentational obligations, Lisa couldn’t join me this year. I tried to give her updates, though. And she kicked ass at the presentation, as she is wont to do). At no point in the writer’s panels did I feel the need to put down the pen, as I’d heard it all before.

The two best were Holly Will Fix it (though Paolo helped, too), and Online Tools for Writers. Bud Sparhawk and Jamie Todd Ruben did a great job discussing different tools, such as Scrivener and Evernote, for writers of both the architect and gardener persuasion. They also gave us all a copy of their power-point, with tonnes of important references.

It was at “Holly (and Paolo) Will Fix It” that I had a moment to pick these best-selling author’s brains regarding my elephant in the room: Ivre. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I’m spending November on breaking down Ivre and revising it.

I explained how I’d written it without chapter breaks, only scene breaks, etc. and they offered me some very good advice for how to review it. “Make sure the scene earns where it is” and, most important, “Don’t be intimidated by the draft.”

But the one panel which may have interesting consequences was “Whiter Shade of Pale.” Sherin Nicole hosted this 10pm on a Saturday panel with Day Al-Mohamed, Shahid Mahmud, Emmie Mears, and A.C. Wise. The first thing she asked: “How many of you have been to a diversity panel before?” And we all raised our hands. “OK, so we know the issues so how about this: what are we going to do about it?”

The discussion focused on diversity and access and reading in general as well. We talked about market pressures. Mahmud said there are at least 17 markets in the US skittish about buying books with people of color on the cover, unless they’re specifically marketed as niche fiction for those groups.

We shared issues and concerns. One young woman said she was the only black person in the entire plotting workshop. So to change it, we needed to get more people in, and more diverse folks, and folks interested at a younger age. Young readers are out there, but they’d rather head to an anime con or comic con than anything like CapClave.

My suggestions were, in bullet points:

    • Expand your view of Writer – Where are the comic writers? The game writers? The radio drama teams? Writing and storyteling is key to all these media. We need to bring them into fold.
    • Expand your view of SFF – Tie-in novelizations, young adult books and manga/comics still get a long look down the nose, even though they are often a gateway into deeper reading. Embrace it! For some, the Dragonlance books were their first exposure to the genre. Don’t push them, or authors who created those books, to the sidelines
    • Get your Library/School/Book club involved – Have an astronomer who’s the guest of honor? Let schools know, especially groups fostering STEM interest for women. Go to book clubs and reach out. See if any school reading groups can participate. And don’t forget libraries and their reading groups!
    • If you See Something, Say Something – If you see a bookstore heavily trending towards certain writers in their displays and promotions, say something. Be polite, but let them know there is an interest. More importantly, if you see someone doing a good job promoting a wide variety of authors, thank them! And vote with your dollars.
    • Bring Friends – Know someone who loves reading an author coming to a local con, but they don’t attend? Well, bring them along. Offer to get them a day pass so they can take a look.

I’m sure there are other suggestions out there, but just a few thoughts for me.

November looms!


She’s Gonna Dream Out Loud

The line is from an under-appreciated song by a band who’s seen better days. Waddling through rewrites, trying to get perspective on the gaggle of stories I have siting on my virtual desk, it’s important to remind myself of the stories I’d love to read:

  • I want a mecha story with a woman in the lead. Something like Zeta Gundam with Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck in the lead. Or Armored Trooper VOTOMS starring Jenett Goldstine’s Vasquez.
  • I want a massive, weird space epic which captures the feel of old Metal Hurlant artwork by Moebius & Druillet
  • I want a trope ripping D&D style fantasy… but actually, I have that now. Have you read Rat Queens?? Why not?
  • I want a story where the H.R. Giger style biomechanoid is the hero

I think we write from a lack. We feel like there’s a story out there we want to experience, but we haven’t found it yet. The frustration can bubble into a desire. But it’s an uphill fight to make the desire reality. After a bit, you feel… numb.

But you have to push on. You have to dream of the world you want to live in. Otherwise, how will it appear?