Tuesday, August 30, 2011

AramdilloCon 33

This past weekend was ArmadilloCon 33, held August 26-28, 2011 Renaissance Hotel Austin, where it was my privilege to be the Editor Guest of Honor. I've been to ArmadilloCon once before in 2003 and to this hotel in 2006, and I love the con, the hotel, and the town and was eager to return to all three.

I came in early on Thursday, so that I'd be there for the fabulous dinner at Fonda San Miguel (opened in 1975, recognized as one of the finest Mexican restaurants in US, great food, fantastic atmosphere/decor), then it was up early for the Friday workshop workshop, run admirably by Stina Leicht.

I've taken dozens of play and script writing workshops, but never taken nor taught a prose writing workshop before. Thus, I had an educational blast. There was a great writing game run by Scott Lynch, after which I gave a presentation on Screenwriting. Then I sat in with Paolo Bacigalupi and Mark Finn's writing group. It was a day long (8:45am to 4:30ish) stretch, but very, very worth it.

Then it was off to opening ceremonies, where Toast Master Mark Finn truly rocked. And he justified the title "toast master" in a way I've never seen before. I'll say no more. But if you can watch his toast master speech below, you should:

Mark Finn's Opening Ceremonies, Part I:

Mark Finn's Opening Ceremonies, Part II:

Then Friday night, SF Signal's John DeNardo, Author Guest of Honor Paolo Bacigalupi, Artist Guest Vincent Villafranca and I headed to Z'Tejas for dinner. I spent a lot of time with those guys, as well as with Sara Felix, and their friendship really made this an incredible convention for me. On Saturday morning, my wife joined us, and Vincent's wife came in on Saturday night, and thus our group was complete.

On Saturday morning, Rick Klaw and Mark Finn conducted the "Editor Guest Interview," where they surprised me by SERVING MIMOSAS!! At 11 am. After I had gone for an hour swim and SKIPPED BREAKFAST. I had three or four. Which ended up making for a few slurred words at the Pyr Presentation two hours later, but nothing too bad. That evenings "Fannish Feud' was fantastic, despite Paolo's inability to realize that my drawing a giant X on his back was an attempt to cheat and give him the answer to "best comic book films of all time" not a vote of no confidence in his ability to get it right (as it apparently should have been).

Then that evening, Paolo, John, Vince, my wife and Sara Felix went first to dinner at Z'Tejas again and then to my suite so that they could sample the amazing Dark Truth Stout that Sara wondrously procured for me. Dark Truth has become my All Time Favorite Beer, so I am deeply, deeply in her debt. And even DeNardo, who isn't a Stout type of guy, had seconds.

Then it was off to the parties. Though not a very late night.

Sunday was a panel on Book Covers (always a favorite topic of mine) and the final panel of the day, "The Return of Sword & Sorcery" (a topic close to my heart). Afterwards my wife and I headed out to Austin's South Congress district, where we stopped by the Big Top Candy Store and had the incredible Tamago Yoko at the Snack Bar (leek, bacon & shrimp in a hashcake, topped with over-medium eggs with wasabi aioli & sriracha drizzle). And I dug on the chia cow.

Cab fares are apparently ridiculous in Austin, so we called Sara for a rescue and she took us to the County Line for the final meal with the guests and con runners. I'd been to the County Line years ago. It was a good meal with good people (and turtles in the river). Then home for a final Dark Truth Stout with Vincent and Sara, a short stop at the Dead Dog Party, and to bed.

Monday's flight home was the best ever thanks to the Austin airport, where we had BBQ at the Salt Lick and ice cream at Amy's Ice Creams. My wife had Mexican Vanilla and I had Guinness Ice Cream. Yes, Guinness Ice Cream.  The airport even has steampunk art. Why can't all airports be like this?

Thank you A. T. Campbell III, Stina Leicht, Sara Felix, Jennifer Juday, Karen Meschke, Willlie Siros, and everyone at ArmadilloCon for an incredible time. I hope I gave as good as I got, but that's a tall order. This was a wonderful four days with friends new and old. Great food, great drink. And Guinness Ice Cream. How is that not an awesome trip?

Staffer's Musings: Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Ed...

Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting EdgeThere's a nice review of my anthology Fast Forward 1 up on  Staffer's Musings,where they write:
"Haunting stories like Bacigalupi's Small Offerings and George Zebrowski's Settlements confront our ability to sustain humanity.  A Smaller Government by Pamela Sargent parodies the U.S. government, while Jesus Christ, Reanimator by Ken MacLeod takes on faith.  Vanity is a popular subject reflected in p dolce by Louise Marley and The Hour of the Sheep by Gene Wolfe.  There are very few failures in the anthology....Perhaps the most thought provoking work in the book is Anders' introduction which I have quoted from liberally.  He provides a thought provoking discussion about where the genre has been, is going, and will find itself in the years ahead.  It's well worth a read all on its own and can be read on-line in its entirety (here).  Anders was recently awarded a Hugo for his editing prowess and as far as I can tell from Fast Forward 1 and the dozens of other Pyr titles I've read, it is well deserved. ...In the mood for a science fiction anthology? Definitely pick this one up"

Monday, August 29, 2011

This is enormously flattering.

Also Anealio's best song ever, right?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This is a very cool book trailer...

Via SF Signal:

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Blackdog

Blackdog by K.V. Johansen
Cover Illustration: © Raymond Swanland
Design by Grace Continue M. Zilsberger

Long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, there were seven devils...

And long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, the seven devils, who had deceived and possessed seven of the greatest wizards of the world, were defeated and bound with the help of the Old Great Gods...

And perhaps some of the devils are free in the world, and perhaps some are working to free themselves still…

In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping the bloody conquest of a lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Possessed and nearly driven mad by the Blackdog, Holla-Sayan flees to the desert road, taking the powerless avatar with him.

Necromancy, treachery, massacres, rebellions, and gods dead or lost or mad follow hard on the their heels. But it is Attalissa herself who may be the Blackdog’s—and Holla-Sayan’s—doom.


"Johansen’s characters project believability, and her world is full of rich and vivid detail. High fantasy for lovers of mythology and of powerful beings in human form, this adult fantasy debut should appeal to fans of Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series.”

—Library Journal
“I’m hooked. The mix of magic, Tibetan-style religion, and Harold Lamb–style adventure is pretty addicting”

—James Enge
World Fantasy Award–nominated
Author of Blood of Ambrose
and The Wolf Age
“Interesting and absorbing; Blackdog takes as its heart, and its strength, a subject that most fantasy writers shy away from—the Gods themselves.”

—Tom Lloyd
Author of The Twilight Reign series

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention

Last weekend I attended Renovation, the 2011 World Science Fiction Convention. I had a good time.

Renovation, was held in Reno, Nevada, August 17-21, 2011, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center (RSCC). The Atlantis Casino Resort served as the headquarters/party hotel, though I stayed .6 miles away at the Peppermill Hotel Casino.

I was very impressed with the con organizers - particularly with their efforts to ramp up the Art Show and Art programming over recent years. For the first time, WorldCon took advantage of it's artist guest of honor (in this case the magnificent Boris Vallejo) and utilized the art in signage all over the convention center. Thursday was a designated "Art Night" and the overall quality of the art program - which included life drawing sessions and portfolio reviews - was tremendous. It was a personal honor to sit and review portfolios alongside Boris, incidentally. Something up there with swinging Moorcock's Stormbringer prototype around in a Texas parking lot a few years ago. And I was thrilled to see my friend Jon Schindehette take home the Chesley Award for Best Art Director. Especially since this was his first WorldCon (or possibly first in a very long while).

The hotel layout, or rather the hotel's nature, made for a difficult after hours. While all the staff were helpful and friendly, casinos don't make for the best con experiences. I told each of my ten meetings we'd get together "in the bar", assuming that, as always, there would be one bar that emerged as "the" bar where everyone hung. My first meeting emailed me day of the con to say "Lou, there's not one bar. There's ten." And we discovered that most of them closed early! Given the perfusion of small bars, and the distance between the two hotels, what resulted was a convention of small groups spread out between two locations, and I was sad not to even run into some folks, like my good friend TC McCarthy, who was there to promote his book Germline, but who I never saw. Others, like Heaven's Shadow co-author Michael Cassutt,  I saw briefly once and then not again. Or Howard Taylor (pictures above right at the autographing) who I talked to, but not nearly as much as I'd like to have.

But for everyone I missed, there were a dozen wonderful people I did get to see. This WorldCon really stood out for me overall as being about the quality of the conversations I had, whether it was a meeting with Tim Holman (Orbit), late night drinks with Irene Gallo, Gregory Manchess, and David Palumbo, or even later drinks with Saladin Ahmed, Pablo Defendini, Rajan Khanna,  and Charlie Jane Anders, or the conversations that occurred on panels. The whole event was one long, fun, stimulating conversation with friends. And such great panels this year too!

Though I really enjoyed my own panels, especially "Cover Art in the Age of e-Books," " The Comeback Genre: Sword & Sorcery," and "Book Cover Design: Using Cover Elements to their Best Advantage," by far the best programming I attended myself was The Unincorporated Man's Eytan Kollin's presentation on weaponry. I've seen weapon demonstration's before, but Eytan's program was specifically designed to improve the quality of combat writing in fantasy novelists by abusing them of certain common misconceptions and cluing them into a few relevant but little known facts. Eytan was a good teacher, mixing humor and live demonstrations into his discussions of hacking and slashing. I had to leave at the halfway mark to be interviewed by my good friend Shaun Farrell of Adventures in SciFi Publishing, so I hope I get to hear the full presentation some day.

Meeting Melinda Snodgrass for breakfast was another highlight of my trip. She and I were jurors for the Science Fiction Museum's Science Fiction Hall of Fame recently and felt we'd found kindred spirits there, so it was great to meet in the flesh. Friday's KaffeeKlatsch was also top knotch - those kind of intimate conversations with fans/readers/hopeful writers are becoming my favorite things to do at cons. Dinner with John & Traci Picacio, Paul Cornell, Bill Willingham, Lauren Beukes, and Lev Grossman was another highlight. Any any chance to see Ian McDonald is worth it, natch. And Ian in a kilt?

Of course, the biggest highlight was, um, WINNING THE BEST EDITOR - LONG FORM HUGO AWARD!!! Aiiiiiiyyeeeeeeeeee!!!!

This pretty much means that, despite problems with the venue, or missing seeing some friends, or whatever, Renovation has to go down in my book as the BEST. WORLDCON. EVAH.

Thank you all, every one of you, I had a marvelous time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, August 05, 2011

Something Greater

Blackdog"Something Greater--an Epic Discussion of Epic Fantasy, Part 2" by Jeremy L.C. Jones is up at Clarkesworld Magazine. This is a mammoth discussion of epic fantasy by those who write it, with comments from such notable names as James Barclay, Elizabeth Bear, Terry Brooks, Trudi Canavan, Rowena Cory Daniells, David Anthony Durham, Kate Elliott, Steven Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont, Lynn Flewelling, Ed Greenwood, Erin Hoffman, John Jarrold, N. K. Jemisin, K. V. Johansen, J. V. Jones, Paul Kearney, Juliet McKenna, Robin McKinley, Peter Orullian, Robert V. S. Redick, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Gaie Sebold, Michael A. Stackpole, Victoria Strauss, and Gav Thorpe. I'm honored to have a quote in the opening paragraphs of both part one and part two.