Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eyes Wide Open

Amen to this. Gabriel Morgan's new column in the News & Observer proclaims for the literary reader that "everything is going on" in speculative fiction. The article is an elegant appeal to the uninitiated, making points like this:

"Describe a subgenre of mimetic fiction, and there are speculative authors doing similar work. Do you prefer fiction that is heavily character-centered? Fiction that explores the human condition, that asks the big questions? Fiction that displays a sense of history, that draws connections between important things? How about fiction that explores what it means to be an American in the 21st century? Speculative authors are writing about all of these things. They, like Pablo Picasso, have every single one of the tools that a 'naturalist' (read: mimeticist) has to work with; but they, like Picasso, also have the freedom to abandon the appearance of reality when it suits their vision."

Naturally, I am excited to see where this column goes in the coming days.

The Picacio Elric

John Picacio has just posted the final cover illustration for the forthcoming Del Rey edition of Elric The Stealer of Souls.It looks good alongside The Metatemporal Detectivetoo, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Things Everyone Should Know

Ian McDonald's Hugo and Clarke nominated River of Gods is now out in trade paperback. It'll be in stores in early September, and is already listed as in stock at Amazon.com.

John Picacio makes his first podcast appearance here, interviewed by Chris Merle at Conestoga 11, where he was Artist Guest of Honor. It's a solid, detailed 38 minute interview, and well worth checking out.

Cheryl Morgan and Kevin Standlee have launched Science Fiction Awards Watch, and I'm flabbergasted at how fast this website has become indispensable to me. I had it open in a browser the whole time I was writing all the individual story introductions for Sideways in Crime this week. I'm going to use this site a LOT.

Joe Abercrombie's extraordinary fantasy debut The Blade Itself is also out. I just got my copies day before yesterday. Like River of Gods, its also on Amazon already. I also noticed that Blood, Blade & Thruster magazine posted this tremendous review. They introduce The Blade Itself in this manner: "Desperately in need of some genre fiction with character driven plot, plenty of violence, and strong anti-hero protagonists, but tired of waiting for George R. R. Martin to finish his epic Game of Thrones series?"

Friday, August 24, 2007

Amazon: Brasyl is One of the Best Books of the Year So Far

Amazon.com has just posted their Best Books of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems. This is a mid-year round up in anticipation of their annual Best of the Year list, and, in addition to categories of fiction, nonfiction, and books for children and teens, they selected 10 "hidden gems," books they say "don't fit easily into the usual categories or that were just too good to leave off our lists." And, in a category that includes both fiction and nonfiction (including books about photography, technology and meat), they chose Ian McDonald's Brasyl,of which they further say, "Ian McDonald is hardly a hidden gem to science fiction readers by now, but with Brasyl he has proven once again that he should be reckoned as one of the finest of all our novelists. Brasyl fractures the Brazil we know into past, present, and near future in a brilliantly frenetic and spellbinding stew and a dramatic tale of character and culture." (The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is also included.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bradbury, The New York Times, & Me

I'm quoted in The New York Times today, in an article by David Shaftel on Ray Bradbury called “Vintage Bradbury, Packaged Anew.” I'm also glad to see this quote from Bradbury himself on the importance of science fiction to science. “The arts and sciences are connected. Scientists have to have a metaphor. All scientists start with imagination.” Very good piece all round.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The 65th World Science Fiction Convention

So, here's my programming schedule for WorldCon:

Fri 1000 Sprawl Fiction
Participants: Ellen DATLOW, Gavin J. GRANT, Lou ANDERS, Yoshio KOBAYASHI
"Sprawl fiction" was coined to show how new writers, most in their thirties, are trying to expand our genre yet still loving its very core, straight SF. Terms like "new Weird", "interstitial", "strange fiction" or "new fabulist" don't cover the trend fully. It is a natural reflection of our urban society and probably heralds the new stage of our evolution; to the stars. We talk about why the new generation slipstream is not the fusion of literary fiction and SF/F.

Fri 1200 Remembering Robert Anton WILSON
Participants: Jack William BELL, Lou ANDERS, Yoshio KOBAYASHI
Remembering the golden days of the geeks.

Fri 1500 Pyr: Upcoming Books Slideshow
Participants: Lou ANDERS
A look at Pyr's upcoming schedule.

Sat 1000 What Editors Want From Artists
Participants: Bob EGGLETON, Jennie FARIES, John PICACIO, Karen HABER, Lou ANDERS
Is it realism? A particular color? Many editors return to the same artists again and again. What sets these paragons apart? Style? Originality? A distinctive look or varied approach? Reliable telepathy? (Oh, and must the artist read the story, or what?)

Sat 1100 Kaffeeklatsche
Participants: Lou ANDERS

Sat 1300 Autographs
Participants: Lou ANDERS

Sat 1400 SF Tribes? The New Communities in Internet Society.
Participants: Lou ANDERS, Mark L. VAN NAME, Yoshio KOBAYASHI
Our community has grown so big, we have many small cabals, each of which cares nothing for the others. Through the Internet, blogging and e-mails our ties are strengthened and old community values wear thin, as proved by Hurricane Katrina. Any connection there?

Add to that two awards ceremonies, and it looks like it's going to be a pretty busy two days. Two days? Yessir, this one's hit and run. Yes, I'm spending as much time in transit as I am at the con.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Meaney's Goth Noir Sci-Fantasy

Dear god, I can't wait for this. I started the manuscript of John Meaney's Bone Song last year, but since I wasn't in the running for it, I had to put it down for other work-related things. And since I'm big on buying in your home territory, I've resisted begging a copy off publishing friends in the UK and have been patiently/impatiently waiting for the US edition. February can't come soon enough. And isn't it gorgeous?

Also jealous that NethSpace has already read it all. They say "Think Dirty Harry in a city created by the bastard love-child of Jeff VanderMeer and China Mieville. The backdrop of a hardboiled crime plot cleverly disguises stories of human interaction, trust, mistrust, loyalty, morality, acceptance, and love while delivering a great mystery."

From the synopsis: Lieutenant Donal Riordan has been given the most bizarre of new cases. Four famous stage performers have died in recent months, thee of them in state capitals within Transifica, the fourth in far Zurinam. And now the idolised Diva, Maria deLivnova is coming to Tristopolis. Donal's boss is determined that nothing like this is ever to happen in his city. Donal is to have anything he needs as long the Diva lives. And so begins a dark investigation through a world where corpses give up their pyschic energy in the massive necrofulx generators that power the city, where gargoyles talk, where wraiths work in slavery, a world of the dead where corruption is alive. This is an extraordinary SF novel set in alternate universe quite unlike any imagined in SF before; a universe where magic and the supernatural and the undead are given a scientific rationale and horrifyingly plausible rationale. The novel's setting, Tristopolis, is the ultimate noir city; an immense baroque creation of haunted stone skyscrapers, black metal and city-wide catacombs. Its hero Donal Riordan is immensely likeable and easy to identify with. Even once he's dead.

I think this is going to be big.

Friday, August 17, 2007

You've Got, I've Got...

So, Jeff Vandermeer has a movie.
Martin Sketchley has a band.
Chris Roberson has a new book.
And I've got a provisional TOC.

The table of contents for Sideways in Crime: An Alternate Mystery Anthology, folks.
Here it is:

The People's Machine by Tobias S. Buckell
Running the Snake by Kage Baker
Via Vortex by John Meaney
The Blood of Peter Francisco by Paul Park
G-Men by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Adventure of the Southsea Trunk by Jack McDevitt
Sacrifice by Mary Rosenblum
Murder in Geektopia by Paul Di Filippo
Fate and The Fire-lance by Stephen Baxter
Chicago by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Worlds of Possibilities by Pat Cadigan
Conspiracies: A Very Condensed 937-Page Novel by Mike Resnick & Eric Flint
A Murder in Eddsford by SM Stirling
The Sultan's Emissary by Theodore Judson
Death on the Crosstime Express by Chris Roberson

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Robert Charles Wilson on Core SF

Dave Truesdale's latest Off On a Tangent Column for F&SF is an informative piece on the "2007 Campbell/Sturgeon Award Winners Presentations and Speeches." He explains the process for both awards, summarizes the winners acceptance speeches, and offers a short interview with Sturgeon Award Winner Robert Charles Wilson, whose "The Cartesian Theater" first appeared in my own anthology, FutureShocks.Wilson consistently articulates what makes SF unique in ways I can't help but quote. Here, he explains why "core" science fiction is valuable in itself, without partitioning it off (like some of the Mundane SF folks) or denigrating other forms of speculation.

"By 'core SF I mean science fiction that recognizes the long and interesting history of the genre, and is written from within that tradition or at least in a knowledgeable response to it. Modern science fiction (meaning SF since H. G. Wells) does something that seems to me unique: it brings the sensibility of literary realism to the subject matter of fantasy. It opens the window of the imagination without slamming the door on rationality, in other words. That constitutes a sort of 'artistic restraint,' I suppose, but any art form is created within such restraints and sometimes created by them. (We wouldn't have haiku if we did away with that pesky 17-syllable rule, for instance.) Wells-and all his heirs-invented a way to imaginatively explore the vast range of human questions that the scientific worldview invites, and they devised a rather clever set of tools for doing that. I don't hold any brief against fantasy, slipstream, quasi-mainstream, peripheral SF, or any other style or means of writing fiction-in fact I don't believe in any literary manifesto that extends beyond the reach of the writer's own pen. All I'm saying is that we've inherited something unique, valuable, and maybe even slightly fragile in the collective entity "modern science fiction" -and we ought to acknowledge it and treasure it."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News Worth Repeating

From a Press Release, as reported on the Solaris Books website:

Christian Dunn of Solaris Books is excited to announce the acquisition of world mass-market rights for INFOQUAKE by David Louis Edelman, in a high-profile deal with Pyr, the SF/F imprint of Prometheus Books.

• Barnes & Noble's SF Book of the Year for 2006
• John W. Campbe
ll Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel 2006

INFOQUAKE takes speculative fiction into alien territory: the corporate boardroom of the far future. It’s a stunning trip through the trenches of a technological war fought with product demos, press releases and sales pitches. INFOQUAKE is truly science fiction for the twenty-first century.

Natch, a master of bio/logics, the programming of the human body, has clawed his way to the top of the market using little more than his wits. His notoriety brings him to the attention of the owner of MultiReal, a mysterious new technology. Only by enlisting Natch’s devious mind can MultiReal be kept out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless armies. Meanwhile, hanging over everything is the specter of the infoquake, a lethal burst of energy that’s disrupting networks and threatening to send the world crashing back into the Dark Ages.

DAVID LOUIS EDELMAN said: “I’m ecstatic to see a new mass-market edition of Infoquake from Solaris. All authors want to see their books in front of a larger audience, as long as they don’t have to sacrifice their integrity to do it. With a massmarket edition through Solaris, my book is getting the best of both worlds: wider exposure and first-class treatment from guys who really care about science fiction.”

INFOQUAKE will be published by SOLARIS in both the UK and the US in Summer 2008, alongside the Pyr trade edition of MULTIREAL, the second book in the Jump 225 trilogy.

David Louis Edelman is a web designer, programmer and journalist. He lives with his wife Victoria near Washington, DC. Over the past ten years, Mr. Edelman has programmed websites for the U.S. Army and the FBI, taught software to the U.S. Congress and the World Bank, written articles for the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, and directed the marketing departments of biometric and e-commerce companies. Mr. Edelman was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1971 and grew up in Orange County, California. He received a B.A. in creative writing and journalism from The Johns Hopkins University in 1993. Visit www.infoquake.net for extracts, information and more.

Praise for INFOQUAKE:

"The love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge." - B&N Explorations

"This may be THE science fiction book of the year." - SFFWorld

"Bursting with invention and panache." - Publishers Weekly

"Like a more accessible Charles Stross." - Intergalactic Medicine Show

"A high-speed, high-spirited tale of capitalist skullduggery." - Asimov's

"Read this book, and then argue about it." - Kate Elliott

“So fresh and good I shamelessly stole an idea from it... Give him the Philip K. Dick award.” - Ian McDonald

For more information please contact BL Publishing on: solaris@blpublishing.com
or call George Mann on ++44 (0)115 - 900 4172

BL Publishing

Monday, August 13, 2007

Masters of Science Fiction: The Awakening

Having missed the premiere episode, I did catch ABC's Masters of Science Fiction this past weekend. "The Awakening", based on a story by Howard Fast, starts out with a downed helicopter in Iraq and quickly segues into a possibly angelic, definitely extraterrestrial visitation demanding that the world disarm or else. I didn't love-love it, but I've got to give it points for trying to do smart, literary SF, and I was impressed both with the cleverness of some of the dialogue and the headiness of some of the philosophical discussions tossed around between stars Terry O'Quinn and Elisabeth Röhm. In fact, it was a good deal smarter than I was expecting, and both my wife and I were impressed enough to keep watching (despite her laughing at the Hong Kong accent coming out of the mouth of the mainland Chinese leader).

An article in the Associated Press by Jerry Schwartz sums up our feelings pretty well when it says, speaking of the premiere episode "A Clean Escape," that "they talk in the way that people don't on television anymore. Words flow the way they did in the medium's early days." And it's that effort, to do something a cut above, that I have to respect. Though, thankfully, there seems to be a lot of quality to go around all of a sudden. And as "A Clean Escape" star Sam Waterston told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "There's an awful lot of science fiction entertainment now, so I don't know if it's as separate a genre as it used to be."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

OmegaCon: The Alpha Man of the Omega Con

As you may recall, last month I blogged about a new convention starting up next year in my neck of the woods. OmegaCon is set to debut March 14-16, 2008 at the Sheraton Birmingham.
I was excited to learn about plans for a major multi-track convention launching in the South, especially one with an apparent respect for the literary arm of science fiction and fantasy, and I said as much. At the time of that blog post, I had only just learned about the convention and had had no contact with any of its staff.

Since then, I've been in
email contact with Shaun Knopf, OmegaCon's President, as well as some of his senior staff. I've volunteered to be a participant on their literary and artistic programming, and they've been kind enough to let me sound off with copious advice delivered both through email and on their discussion forum. I'm rooting for these guys, though the scope of their schemes is certainly ambitious, to say the least. I'll admit to being skeptical, not of their sincerity, but of the potential of Birmingham, Alabama to support such a grand endeavor. And since Shaun and his team have been kind enough to take me up on a few guest suggestions, I asked him to indulge me once more and consent to an interview, in which I asked him some penetrating questions about their aims and their ability to meet their goals.

What is OmegaCon? How did the idea for it come about?

OmegaCon™ is a true Science Fiction/ Fantasy Convention. And while I don’t like to use the word convention because we are so much more, it is appropriate. A true description is that we are an Event of Events. Each and every track will be an event unto itself.

The idea for it came about 2 years ago while we were visiting other events. We had complained for years that it could be done better. We finally decided to put our money where our mouth is.

What is your own background? Tell us a little bit about Shaun Knopf. What do you do for a living, and what's your own specific background in the convention world? What is it that makes you the right person to be running this show as OmegaCon's president?

I have worked and directed Science Fiction/ Fantasy conventions for a little over 20 years. I started with a little local convention called ConTinuity back in the early 80’s. Me and a group of my friends won the gaming tournament hands down, and the sitting department head asked if I would be interested in running it the following year. I have been helping to run events of this nature every since. From small conventions with no more than a few hundred attending to the big boys that attract thousands.

I am a Microcomputer Specialist by trade and have been for almost as long, though most of my work now is consulting. I specialize in training for both regular and special needs individuals in a wide range of production programs.

I think the reason I am the right person for the job is a couple of things. One, and this is the most important reason, it is my dream. I have been attending and running these types of events for almost half my life, and I sit and watch as some things are done and it makes no sense to me. And judging from the response of the crowds they say the same thing. I knew with just a little extra effort and time they could have made something so much more. Isn’t the whole point of putting one of these events on to create something that makes the attendee say "wow?" The second reason is that the directors and department heads believe that I have the drive to make sure we succeed. LOL - I spend an insane amount of time working on this event and if there were more hours in the day I would probably spend more.

Why "OmegaCon?" Where did the name come from?

That one is simple. We have every intention for this event to be the final word in Science Fiction/ Fantasy Conventions. We felt the name should reflect that.

You've got some impressive authors lined up to attend - Mike Resnick, Eric Flint, David Drake, Alan Dean Foster, Ben Bova, David Weber, Sharrilyn Kenyon, Travis S. Taylor. There are several Hugo award winning authors and New York Times Best Sellers in that list. And for your artistic track, I see Todd Lockwood, Stephen Hickman, Brom. Right now, your literary track is the strongest of all your programming tracks, with your artistic track not far behind. And I know you have invitations out to several more interesting guests for these tracks. Is this unusual for a media con? Why the focus on science fiction books and artwork in favor of the Hollywood variety of SF&F?

We are not a media con. There are plenty of those out there. Now we will have some media stars joining us. And some dang good ones before all is said and done as well. We are a Science Fiction/ Fantasy event. (Ok, ok convention, that word just doesn’t seem to say it though.)

You didn’t mention that our Hard Science track has some of the greatest minds in the country joining us. One of them actually runs it. Our Paranormal track has the leaders in the field joining us there. Our Celtic track will have some of the foremost historians on Celtic history and some of the best authentic Celtic entertainment you will find anywhere short of Scotland, Ireland, or England.

We are working hard to make sure each and every track is an event unto itself. We will have some great media guests as well (only in the Science Fiction/ Fantasy field).

Tell me about your venue. What will the facilities for OmegaCon be like?

We are hosting this event at the Sheraton Civic Center, a lovely high quality hotel that will be sure to impress you. It also connects to the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center by a number of crosswalks. The total square footage we have access to is well over a million. We could host over 250,000 attendees and still have elbow room. Our dealers room is small at 14,000 square foot ( not too shabby for the first year), but the 2009 event it will be 48,000. We have access to the coliseum which seats about 14,000. We are presently in negotiations to bring the Highland Games to our event. Don’t drop your jaw and say "impossible;" it is very possible. We don’t do things in half measures; if we are going to do it we plan on doing it right the first time. We are in one of the best venues that any convention organizer could dream for. And at no point and time do you have to go outside during the event to reach everything. So weather will never be a factor in our event. And here’s even better news. The city of Birmingham has finally started moving forward in building up the whole area. We have a great entertainment district they are breaking ground on one block away. There are 2 more hotels being built and a renovation project 3 blocks away for a 4 star hotel. The best time for this to happen is right now.

[Note: Click here for a floor plan of the Sheraton Civic Center.]

A good convention stands on three legs: Good guests, a good facility, and an efficient, experienced operation behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly. We've already talked about your aforementioned roster of guests; your facility is tremendous - well in excess of your present needs with room to grow for years - so tell us about your organization. Who have you got helping you, and what steps are you taking to make sure your guests and attendees are all taken care of?

Our staff is made up of Professionals and veterans. Most department heads are professionals in the field they are heading. Hard Science is a scientist, Literary is an author, Art Expo is an artist, music track a musician. This is the way it should be. While fans are great to help in all areas and let me tell you they are vital in the overall operations, no one can make a better track than
the professionals that are in the industry. Our gaming track is run by a veteran that actually has more experience than I do with 25 years of experience. And every one of them gaming. Our Con suite is run by his wife who has as much experience as he. Our Celtic track is coordinated with the help of members of the ACA (Alabama Celtic Association). Who better? Your going to get a kick out of security, but I am keeping that a surprise.

As for the steps we are taking to insure the guests and attendees are properly taken care of: Again veterans making careful arrangements to insure that anything that might go wrong is covered. One of the worse areas of an event is usually registration (I know some of you people reading this know exactly what I mean). Sometimes, truth be told, a delay can’t be helped. Logistically there is no way around it. No matter how well you organize it. But there is a way to make the wait a bit more pleasant. We will be providing contests and prizes for those in line as well as live entertainment to make the wait pass fast. You may actually see a guest or two walking the lines saying hello.

I'm still intrigued by the fact that in addition to media, artistic and literary tracks, you have other offerings, like a paranormal track, a Celtic track, a music track, and a science track. What can you tell me about those?

Our Science Track, which in most events of this nature get little to no exposure, is hosting some of the greatest minds across the country. Leaders in anti-matter research and String Theory, some of the top research scientists at NASA will be joining us discussing the Mars mission and what is in store for the future. Your not going to find panels filled with just theoretical math, you will find panels designed by our department head that will spark the imagination. “Science Fact or Science Fantasy”, a panel made up of scientists and science fiction authors and some that are both. “Is there life out there and why they are not here yet”, chaired by the senior scientist at SETI. Trust me when I say this track will rock. How can it not? “Doc” Travis of Baen books and a scientist in his own right is our department head. He has some really great things in store.

Our Paranormal track is run by Deborah Collard of NAPS (North-Eastern Alabama Paranormal Society). She has some truly fascinating panels and workshops lined up for those who want to know more about those bumps and sounds in the night.

Our Celtic track is being organized by Barbara Bell of the ACA. She is doing a bang up job on getting us the best that the Celtic nation has to offer. You will truly be amazed. Music, historians, dancing and event a Whiskey Tasting Contest (yes, sorry age restrictions apply to that). We are even working on workshops to teach those who want how to do some of the dances.

We will be hosting around the clock live music in the OmegaCon™ Tavern. A dance floor is provided and dancing is encouraged. Tables will be provided to hang out and refreshments are available at the bar that will be located in the same room as well. Our musical department head Ryan Morrison (a tremendous musician in his own right) will be coordinating the bands. Trust me when I say this will be like NOTHING you have ever experienced before.

One of the criticisms routinely leveled at certain media cons is that they over-invite guests in an effort to bolster preregistration sales, then when the con arrives many of the expected guests have canceled for "personal reasons." You've got quite an impressive line up in your literary and artistic tracks - but given that you are also brand new (and with allowances for that as well), what assurances can you give fans that you can pull this off?

We have firm commitments by each and every one of the guests we have listed. I know what you mean by people “backing out” at the last minute. We have done all in our power to insure that is not the case with us. I have a large number of people pending even now. But I will not say a word about their appearing until I have a commitment in writing that they will appear. This is not a perfect world. Sometimes things do happen. Deaths in the family and such. But our guest list is as rock solid as a list can be. I have no intention of telling our attendees or possible attendees that we have someone coming and they not show. That reflects on me personally. I won’t accept that.

And just to get it on the record, my efforts are not to bolster preregistration. My efforts are to create the best event I possibly can. And I will continue to do that each and every year. We have a chance here to do something beyond anything this state, heck most states, have ever done. The timing is right. The people involved are right. Chances like this are rarer than a trustworthy politician. I will not fail in providing what people have been waiting so long for.

LOL - sorry about that. Like I said I am driven.

What demographic are you hoping to attract? Who do you see as the ideal audience member for this event?

The demographic for this event is basically the same for any event of this type, it is just that most times they are disappointed. 16-40, highly literate, intelligent individuals. 70 to 80% have an IQ of 120 plus. Most of them are eclectic but that is to be expected with high IQ’s. And I don’t want to hear any of that Alabama hick bull. You would be surprised how intelligent we are. And how many of us there are. Come join us you will see.

As you've noted, the City of Birmingham is going through a period of rapid growth, including a planned downtown renovation/entertainment district right across the street from OmegaCon's facilities. It's not the city I grew up in at all by any means. By way of example, my wife just spotted a piece in the New York Times that listed Birmingham as one of the best places to eat in America for gourmet dining. But I still have trouble seeing Birmingham hosting a convention with attendees in the four digits when we don't even have a genre bookstore. On the other hand, DragonCon - just 2 hours away in Atlanta - pulls in something like 40k - 50k people now. Can you pull from their audience, and what specific marketing campaigns are you excersizing to draw fans in both from inside and outside of the city and the state? How far away do you think you can pull attendees from?

The city is really behind us in this. Members of Operation New Birmingham are already working with us to make this the best it can be. I am extremely excited about the growth. Like I said the timing is perfect.

We have the facility. If we create it right they will come. We are already getting preregistrations from as far away as California. We will easily pull the Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville crowds. You just have to put on a good enough event to get their attention. And you have to get the word to them. To accomplish this we will be running a nationwide ad campaign starting in January 2008. This will include a television commercial that will air on the Sci-Fi Channel, G4, History Channel and various others. We have been running promotional events for the past year with plenty more happening before the event itself. A lot of people know about us already. A lot more will before we are through.

Related to my statement above about Birmingham's period of growth and development, what support are you getting from the city itself and from local businesses and industries?

I could not be happier with the response we have had. Just in the last two weeks I have been in almost constant meetings with the Birmingham city business leaders, and they are ALL behind us. I can’t go into some of the details until they are finalized but you would be amazed at what they are willing to do to support us. While I had hoped for a positive response I had no idea how much support they were willing to give. All the way to the city council and Mayor. LOL - you are going to be seeing a lot of us on television very soon.

What attendance numbers are you shooting for in your inaugural year? What is your best case scenario for success and what is your worst case scenario? 1,000 attendees is a poor showing for a media con, but is a very healthy turn-out for a regional literary con, so you could fail on ComicCon or DragonCon levels and still succeed as a valuable addition to that part of the convention circuit geared specifically towards the book-loving faction of fandom. What's the minimum numbers you'll count as successful in your first year, and where do you want OmegaCon to be in five years? In ten?

Some of that question is easy, some hard. We don’t have a true target number though we believe that 5-8000 is not an impossible goal for us even first year. We are looking to make Alabama part of the record books for first year attendance for this type of event. We have the tools to accomplish this. We have the fan base to support it. We just have to make it happen.

Best case scenario would be breaking 8k. Worse case would be 2k. If we hit between 3k and 4 we will be a success. But we don’t accept just success, just like we don’t believe in can't. Just more difficult. If we follow the plan we have laid out we should be able to approach DragonCon numbers in about 5 years. This is allowing for a standard growth rate. The reason we can attain those goals sooner than most is that we are not starting out as a relax-a-con. We are starting on the same level we want to keep going on. We are working to create an event that has attendees walking in saying “Wow” and walking out saying “Oh my God”. I want them with the mind set that they can not miss the next years event. You think some of the things we are doing now are big. Wait until you see what we have in store for two years down the road.

In ten years we should be leveling out in attendance. You will have some increase and decrease in attendance, but if you are doing the event right you should reach your peak about then. But with the growth the city has planned I think we will have the room for the jousting yard without a problem.

If the sky were the limit, who would be some of your ideal future guests at OmegaCon? Who would you really love to bring to Birmingham if you could have anybody?

Hummm, tough question there. What I want to bring is not a person really. I want to bring the Hugo’s to Birmingham. Same for the Art awards. And Science Fiction/ Fantasy independent film awards as well. I want every major publisher in the country vying to join with us bringing the best of the best in the field. I want the OmegaCon™ award to be the sought after award in the country in each and every track that we have.

Unfortunately I would want Heinlein to be here. I would have moved heaven and earth for that. It is my opinion his loss is one of the worse that the industry has known in a century. He was a hero of mine. A mind like no other I have known. But this is not to say there are not many others trying to fill his shoes, there are. And I look forward to meeting them all. Even those yet to be known yet.

The OmegaCon website is quite impressive. I see on your forum talk of independent film projects, a writing contest, podcasts, a host of related events and activities. Are you guys taking on too much right out of the gate? Also, and please forgive the directness of this question, but how much cushion do you have? Are you relying on preregistration sales to pull this off, or do you have enough operating capital to cover expenses and still put on the show if things don't catch in the first year? I want to see you guys succeed and go the distance, but you might have to go a year or two before people from outside the state see you can do it and commit to the travel. How well-planned is the OmegaCon business model?

No I don’t believe we are taking on too much. Like I said our staff are professionals and they know what they are doing. There is nothing we can't accomplish if we want it to happen. We have a great deal more support than you might think for each and every track we have.

Actually we are not depending at all on preregistration sales. Our event is fully paid for. The people putting this together, including me, put our money where our mouths are. And not in small amounts. It would probably make your hair stand up hearing how much.

OmegaCon™ is a corporation, we have investors that have put the up front money through stock purchases to make sure that we are fully funded to make this happen. This is not counting the sponsors that are jumping on board as well and also putting their money where their mouths are. Books-a-Million, Best Buy/Geek Squad and many more pending. We are well structured and driven. Those that join us as vendors and art exhibitors drop their jaws when they see how good our prices are. There is a reason for it. We know exactly where and how to make money while not gouging the public. Our registration prices are very reasonable and will remain so. We will give you all the bang for your buck. We are not looking to make a fortune; we are looking to make the best event ever.

Any final thoughts - anything further we should know about OmegaCon before we go?

You are going to be amazed at what we bring to you. From Fire Dancers to a live Sci-Fi play by a noted playwright. It will truly be everything you ever hoped for in an event of this nature. But to truly succeed you have to come. We can’t entertain you from your home (well maybe not much). This will be a 24 hour event that will keep you entertained the whole time you are there. Hundreds of prizes of all sorts in all the tracks including door prizes. This is one event you will not regret coming to. We look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Watch Me Boldly Go Nowhere

Richard Amirault has very kindly alerted me to the fact that a video he recorded of a panel I did at Boskone 44 is now online. The panel was called To Boldly Go: Ethic Issues in Star Trek Through the Years. I was on the panel because of my five years spent working on the magazine, Star Trek Monthly, a time during which I conducted hundreds of interviews with the Trek casts and production crews and spent a great deal of time in the production offices talking with the show's producers and writers. Also on the panel are Suford Lewis and David Gerrold (aka Mr. Tribble). David pretty much dominates the panel, and really he was who the audience was there to see, though I hope I do contribute some thoughts of value. (And hey, for a bit of comedy, watch my bemused exasperation as I'm pretty much dissed by the moderator before I've even begun to speak!) Anyway, the video is online here as a downloadable RealPlayer file, and, perhaps of greater use and interest, you can see the full list of recorded panels here at the Science Fiction Fandom site. And thanks Richard. I'd love to see more convention panels show up like this.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

R.I.P. John Gardner

Via SFScope, I see that John Gardner has died. I read a great many of his James Bond novels as a child. I was very fond of Licensed Renewed, and didn't understand why they didn't chose that for a film, though the series degenerated as it went on. Gardner's attempts to update Bond for the 80s seemed to take the edge off the character, even as I appreciated the fact that his James Bond was supposed to be Ian Fleming's version - the one who was born around 1920 and attended Eton in the early 30s, not the cinematic one. He made a few concessions to the films though, particularly in striking a compromise between the books lack of gadgets and the films absurdities by having Bond equip himself with real counter-intelligence devices, all "obtainable on either the open, or clandestine, markets." He went so far as to have Communication Control Systems, Ltd design the modifications for Bond's car, a Saab (not a choice of automobile that really worked for me as well as any of his three Bentleys.)

SFScope reports that Gardner told friends: "Unhappily, I feel I'm probably going to be remembered as the 'guy who took over from Fleming'. I'm very grateful to have been selected to keep Bond alive. But I'd much rather be remembered for my own work than I would for Bond." With that in mind, I'm very happy to report that it was his 1983 novel Flamingo that was my favorite. The story of Harry Byrd, a cafe owner in 1930s Shanghai, instilled me with a lifelong desire to visit that city that was only fulfilled a few years ago (and a desire to run a cafe in 1930 that's still unfulfilled.)

Meanwhile, it looks like Gardner's Bond novels are going to be de-canonized, with Sebastian Faulks' forthcoming Devil May Care taking place immediately after the Fleming series. I understand that the Faulks, the Fleming, and the new Charlie Higson Young James Bond series will form the official continuity now, and the focus on keeping Bond in the 30s and 60s makes me curious enough to want to read both the Faulks and the Higson. In the meanwhile, maybe someone like Hard Case Crime can put Gardner's other work back into print. And maybe Gardner can get his wish.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Quick Thoughts on Things Old and New

I saw the new Winnie the Pooh this weekend with my two year old. A part of me was horrified to see Tigger and Pooh in superhero costumes, to see A.A. Milne's work reworked in such banal and contemporary terms. But I realize that things do date, and worse, they drop off the radar entirely, and that my son certainly enjoys the new Pooh and he's the audience. So, is it better to create something lasting or to keep it pure and obscure?

Also, Fiona Avery transcribes a few words from a lecture by Timothy B. Shutt, PhD from Kenyon College, on "The Epic Today." Shutt talks about the cultural longing for epics and suggests their placement/consignment in fantasy worlds has to do with our deeply ironic, post-modern culture. He also asks if we aren't past the age of irony now. The comments on epics being about belief (not necessarily religious belief, but strongly held, unabashed beliefs in notions of honor, glory, morality) remind me of the new Doctor Who (particularly the third season closer). Doctor Who is very, very definitely about belief, and the character is shown to be fueled by belief in an almost divine sense, and thus, fits Shutt's definition of epic very nicely. I am also intrigued by his comments that we are past irony. They caused me to recall David Brin's reaction to critical dismissal of the film, The Postman. Though he allowed it wasn't a perfect adaptation of his novel, he felt that it was a shame that the hope and patriotism couldn't be taken at face value by a cynical media. I'd like to be past irony myself. Certainly, watching my two year old watch Winnie the Pooh, I'd like him to grow up in a world that allows itself to wonder without shame.

Update: Doh! Speaking of "the Epic Today," I forgot all about this.