Thursday, September 24, 2009

Con*Stellation XXVIII: Vulpecula

Last weekend, I attended Con*Stellation XXVIII: Vulpecula, a small-but-sincere convention in Huntsville, Alabama. The Guest of Honor was David Weber, and the Artist Guest of Honor was my good friend (and frequent Pyr cover artist) John Picacio. Fan Guest of Honor was Gary Shelton and my pal Jack McDevitt was the Master of Ceremonies.

I say small-but-sincere because the convention drew maybe 250 people, which seemed large in comparison to when I was there two years ago, and is small enough to fit in a Holiday Inn Express with neither restaurant nor (gasp!) bar. However, what is lacking in size is made up for in enthusiasm and friendliness.

Furthermore, the con is also something of a well-kept secret for Baen book fans, with authors David Drake, Eric Flint, Sarah Hoyt, Travis S. Taylor and Baen-publisher Toni Weisskopf all in attendance. This alone, plus a few others like Tor's William Drinkard, made it a fairly large literary con guest-wise. And it was off to a great start when the very-generous Toni took fourteen of us out to lunch on the first day to Huntsville's Grill29, which is the best meal I've ever eaten in that town.

As to the con proper: Panels were standing room only - and standing room means about 60 people, which is pretty good by standards of even larger cons - and the dealers room, though small, surprised me by having a representative from Barnes & Noble with a large display of guests' books on hand. Day one, a guy called "Squid" (former Navy before you ask) saw Picacio's painting for World's End in the art show and said, "That better be in the dealers' room." It wasn't, but John quickly suggested we ask B&N to see if they could bring it in the next day. Rebecca from B&N brought in the whole trilogy, and, at our request, quite a few more Pyr books. All sold out pretty much immediately on being set out. (They already had Fast Forward 1 and Fast Forward 2 in good supply - but they came back over the weekend with Blood of Ambrose, The Quiet War, and all four Quantum Gravity books. ) So, a huge thanks to Rebecca!

And filed under pleasant surprise: Saturday, I got a text message from my friend Madelynn Martiniere, asking if I could drive up to Huntsville to meet her at Makers Local 256, a Hacker Space. Since I was already in town (unbeknownst to her), Picacio and I got the very generous Steve Sloan to drive us over Saturday night. Now, if you don't know what a Hacker Space is, Google it. I'm utterly fascinated, and I wish such a place existed when I was a teen, because watching someone disassemble a pinball machine while someone else pumped Frankenstein volts through a Jacob's Ladder sure beats the hell out of hanging around in the parking lot of Mr Gatti's Pizza trying to get college kids to buy us beer.

Now a con really is the people you hang with, isn't it? And this one was tremendous for being able to see my old friends (and new parents!) Tom & Pam Kanik, as well as to get to have a long conversation with Shane and Rachel Ivey (of Arc Dream Publishing). It was also great to see three members of the Inner Worlds Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reading and Discussion Group--the same three I saw recently at Dragon*Con--as well as to see the friends from previous Con*Stellations.

So... moved a ton of Pyr books in the dealers room, got to visit an amazing new cultural/social phenomenon, caught up with old friends, made new friends, saw Picacio move 12 of the 14 paintings he had for sale in the art show (many at auction!), talked up the book line to enthusiastic readers, and ate entirely too well. I'd call that a very successful con. Hopefully, I'll be able to attend next year. Now, if only we could get someone to build a bar in the lobby...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

io9 Book Club Selects The Quiet War for Inaugural Read

io9 have announced that they are starting a book club, and choosing as their first selection, Paul McAuley's Clarke award nominated The Quiet War,conveniently just out from Pyr this month. They write:
The Quiet War explores the tensions between two factions in the solar system. The Outers, who live on the outer planets and their moons, are post-humanists by default. They're reengineering their bodies and environments to make it possible for human societies to spread far beyond Earth. But the Earth governments of Greater Brazil want to stop the Outers' blasphemy against pure, untrammeled Nature. Of course, the real threat is the Outers' greater productivity, scientific innovation, and success as a society. A series of skirmishes escalate into a war, and that's when things get explosive. We picked this novel because it's packed with great ideas and fascinating science.
The book club will discuss the book online Thursday, October 8th, at which time io9 readers will be asked to provide questions for Paul McAuley for a special Q&A follow-up session. So if you were thinking of checking the novel out, now's a good time!

What Not To Do

When informed that an agent is required for manuscript submission, reply with an email that includes the phrase:

If you're looking for an author that mass produces meaningless insignificant pieces of tripe then you're absolutely correct, you're not ready to comprehend the wealth of thought provoking ideas embedded in my work.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Planet Of The Dead - Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

This says it far better than me. Really, if you've seen Planet of the Dead, you must watch this:

(Thanks, Colin!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead (spoilers)

Finally got around to seeing Planet of the Dead. I enjoyed it more than the last Russell T Davies episode, perhaps because he wrote less of it (it was co-written with Gareth Roberts) and perhaps because it's been long enough I was starting to miss David Tennant (and when I get like this, I can watch him do anything). Now, the idea that a bunch of animals flying rings around a planet can generate a wormhole is new levels of dumb, though I have to admit to liking the creatures themselves and their planet-hoping ways, and it's not like you watch Doctor Who for the science. I thought Michelle Ryan was passable, which is good considering I found her utterly unwatchable in The Bionic Woman.  I liked Captain Erisa Magombo a lot, and wouldn't mind seeing her back. I also like the fact that UNIT actually looks like a force in this new series, as opposed to three guys in a room. So overall I enjoyed it. 

But I have a few quibbles:
1. Why is it always the non-white character who is psychic? I think this borders on a stereotype and as such borders on offensive.
2. Very convenient of the aliens to go and get themselves eaten like that. Now we don't have to worry about what to do with them. 
3.  Captain Magombo was absolutely correct to try to shut the wormhole down. Seven lives verses the whole of planet earth. I'm not sure the Doctor was right to keep hanging up on her.
4. I am tired of people clapping for him. It's not a feel good ending when it's telegraphed.
5. Speaking of stereotypes, what's with the dweeb scientist? One of my very good friends is a very well-regarded theoretical physicist, and he looks like Casper Van Dien and was a babe magnet when we hung out in school. Shouldn't science fiction buck the stereotype?
6. How many damn potential spin-offs is RTD going to set up before he finally leaves? We already have the Doctor's daughter galavanting around the galaxy; I do not need a show about Lady Chistina de Souza and her magic bus.
7. Does he have to kiss everyone?

Moffat, you can't get here fast enough for me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This is Mutiny, Mr Christian!!

Mike Resnick's Starship: Mutiny, the first book in his Starship series, has just appeared for the Kindle. This is good, given that books 2 and 4 have been up a while. Also, before you say it, other ebook formats are coming soon!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Will Not Read Your F'ing Script

This piece in The Village Voice by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson is priceless.

I am so grateful that he spelled out a few things. He starts off with a many paragraph refusal--"I will not read your fucking script"--and then goes on to say, "At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick. But if you're interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who is the dick in this situation, please read on."

The full article is very well worth reading, but this point especially I'm glad he made:

"This needs to be clear--when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you're not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you're asking them to give you--gratis--the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours."

I think I'm going to bookmark this article.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009

This past Labor Day weekend was my very first time attending Dragon*Con as a publishing professional, and really my first "real" time at all. I say first "real" time because I went three years ago for a single day to see Jetse de Vries, who was there at the time with Interzone. I spent most of it with him at his table, watching the crowd pass him by for the guy next to him installing vampire teeth (at $60 a pair, using the same dental instrument and, seemingly, not bothering to clean it between applications). I left with the (mistaken) impression that it was a weird goth con with nothing to offer the book trade. I came back when Mike Resnick and others kept telling me that I had it wrong, and what's more, the percentage of people there aware of and interested in books was growing every year, both in the demographics of the attendees and among the organizers.

So I was there with a specific agenda, which was to see if it was a place that Pyr books needs to be in future.

So in that light: Forget the 30,000-40,000 plus attendees or whatever the head count ends up being. I was personally most impressed by the number of publishing professionals there. Authors like Kevin J Anderson, Michael Stackpole, Gene Wolfe, Walter Jon Williams, Eric Flint, John Ringo, Alan Dean Foster, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mike Resnick, Aleathea Kontis, Todd McCaffrey, Scott Sigler, Josepha Sherman, James Maxey, Catherine Asaro, Gail Z Martin, SM Stirling. And many more I didn't run into, such as Peter S Beagle, JF Lewis, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher Golden, Diana Gabaldon, Charlaine Harris, Cherie Priest, Susan Sizemore, CL Wilson, Janny Wurts, Timothy Zahn, and Lois McMaster Bujold. (I'm leaving people out too, but the sheer number of famous/award-winning/best-selling authors in this list makes it comparable to a major literary con already.)

Then there was the art show - in a HUGE and very HIGH CEILING-ED space, and featuring artists like Bob Eggleton, Don Maitz, Rick Sternbach, and William Stout.

And then the publishers that were there - Editors like Ginger Buchanan (Ace/Roc), Pablo Defendini (, Stacy Hague Hill (Tor), Paul Stevens (Tor), Jennifer Heddle (Pocket), Toni Weisskopf (Baen), Steven H Segal (Weird Tales), Jason M Watlz (Rogue Blades), and of course Yours Truly representing Pyr books.

As to how all these publishing folk were being received, I myself spoke on three panels and did one live podcast (thanks, Mur!). The smallest panel had over 60 people in the audience, the largest around 120, and the podcast was standing room only with about 60 people. What's more, they weren't the same people all weekend. And lots of people came up to me and shook my hand and told me how they really appreciated what I said on my panels.

Personal highlights were hanging out with Mike & Carol Resnick, Jennifer Heddle, Mur Lafferty, Madelynn Martiniere, Pablo Defendini, Stacy Hague-Hill, James Maxey, Jason M Waltz, Rich Sternbach. Was great to meet Scott Sigler and the folks from steampunk costumers Brute Force Studios. Really loved the Baen books party Friday night (and Toni Weisskopf is rapidly becoming one of my favorite people.) Also loved meeting the folks from the Inner Worlds book discussion group too.

My assessment: This feels very much like the place to be, and if it isn't yet, it's going to be soon. Probably very similar in vibe to the San Diego Comic Con when it was smaller, before Hollywood became the driving engine. The other thing I noticed at Dragon*Con verses Comic Con is that, though it has that crucial young demographic, there seems more interaction between the age groups. You saw children, teens, 20/30 somethings, parents with small children, and old folks, all hanging out together, rather than all there and then peeling off to hang separately. I liked that a lot. For the writer looking to do business as well as meet with fans, it's probably not there yet in the former category, but will be as more publishing professionals choose to attend in future. And in terms of the attitude of the con to publishing, both the organizers and the audience certainly communicated that they were interested in books in general and Yours Truly in specific. I felt appreciated, welcome, and productive. I felt something slightly different when the near-naked, 300 pound guy with a mohawk and fangs grabbed my ass on the elevator.

But hey, it was Dragon*Con, after all! At least some of my first impressions weren't mistaken.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lou Round the Web (Lou Con Smash)

Two items of possible interest:

My review of Neil Gaiman's Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?deluxe edition hardcover is up at The short of it: I wasn't sure if I liked it while reading it, but realized in retrospect that it moved me emotionally much more than I realized. Overall, positive. And it's utterly gorgeous.

Meanwhile, over at SF Signal, the latest Mind Meld asks the question, "What are the lessons that Comic-Con and Worldcon can learn from the other? Is there in fact a generational migration of professionals and fans that are choosing to attend large, catch-all media cons like SDCC instead of Worldcon, and if so, why?" Some very provocative responses.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Heading to DragonCon this weekend, my first time as a program participant. I'll be on the following panels:

Looking into the Crystal Ball

Time: Fri 05:30 pm
Location: Manila / Singapore / Hong Kong - Hyatt (Length: 1)

Description: Editors talk about trends and what they're looking for

How to Get Rejected

Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: Manila / Singapore / Hong Kong - Hyatt (Length: 1)

Description: A seriously humorous look at why manuscripts get rejected. The editors tell it all!

I'm looking forward, but mostly I'm looking to see how useful DragonCon is for Pyr and whether it needs to be an annual convention for us.