Dragon*Con Success on Day One

I set a modest goal for Dragon*Con this year: to buy and have signed two specific books. I achieved that goal yesterday, so the rest of the con will entail working at Jim Minz’s behest at the Baen road show, attending whatever-the-heck-I-want, and making some progress on the short story I’m writing.

The books I came in pursuit of were:

  • Shades of Milk and Honey, the first novel by Mary Robinette Kowal, one of my writing friends from the Codex writers group who also happens to be the winner of the John W. Campbell Award for the Best New Writer of science fiction and fantasy, and the current VP of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America … I was determined to buy it here because all the copies sold out too quickly for me to get one at NASFiC
  • Moonbase Crisis, the first volume of Rebecca Moesta & Kevin J. Anderson’s Star Challengers middle-grade SF series, which I talked up to whomever I could when I was still involved in the NC Aerospace Initiative

Both are now signed and safely stowed in the hotel room.

It remains to be seen whether I buy anything else here … the expression “kid with a credit card in a candy store” doesn’t begin to cover it.

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RavenCon Recap

(Another version of this recap is on the Feature page of my website.)

Last weekend’s trip to RavenCon went very well. The con was in a more spacious hotel this year, and as usual was superbly organized and the con staff was excellent. It felt good to be immersed in science fiction and fantasy again, even for a short time.

I was pretty busy during the con, as you can see from the list below:

  • Making the Science Fit the Story — This was an enjoyable panel with a surprisingly large audience, very well moderated by John Cmar and featuring the multiple Nebula Award nominee Bud Sparhawk.
  • Pitching Your Work and Writing a Query Letter — This was a mini workshop with Michael Kabongo and Kalayna Price, and it took a slightly different direction from the original intent. The three of us did, however, take the opportunity to drill into the participants what it takes to write a professional cover/query letter.
  • The Pen is Mightier Than The … — I called this panel the “Baen Books World Domination Panel”, since the panel opened with an entire slate of Baen people: authors Julie Cochrane and Steve White, plus me. Later we were joined by Barbara Friend Ish, publisher of Mercury Retrograde Press. I moderated this panel, which explored the selection and treatment of weapons in science fiction.
  • Will there be BBQ’s in Space? — This panel turned out to be much more interesting than we imagined it would. Julie Cochrane, Chuck Gannon, and Hugo Award nominee Lawrence M. Schoen were my fellow panelists, and we discussed cultural celebrations and how writers incorporate them into various types of science fiction stories.
  • What does the future hold for space travel? — For a 10 p.m. science panel, this one was well-attended and we had a lot of fun with it. Laura A. Burns moderated, and Chuck Gannon, John Cmar, and Butch Allen were the other panelists. We covered everything from the current state of affairs at NASA to some far-out propulsion possibilities, and Dr. Yoji Kondo provided some expert commentary from the audience. (Afterward, I talked for awhile with Dr. Kondo about our work at Edwards AFB, and about science fiction luminaries such as Dr. Robert L. Forward and Charles Sheffield.)
  • Blogging, Twittering, ___ings: Are They Productive Time or An Addiction? — I moderated this panel, which had the widest variety of people on it: Nebula Award-winning Baen author Catherine Asaro (sitting in for her keyboard accompanist Donald Wolcott), literary agent Michael Kabongo, and artists Chris Flick and Bryan Prindiville. We had quite a lively discussion, despite the fact that we outnumbered the audience (one of the dangers of a late-day Sunday panel).

In addition, I also attended a few panels, including “Not Your Mommy’s Star Trek, or is it?” and “The Rise of Young Adult Dystopias.” More important and more enjoyable, I enjoyed some long and fruitful discussions with Lawrence M. Schoen, Bud Sparhawk, and Amy Sturgis, and even made some time to work on a short story.

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RavenCon Panels Workshop

Yesterday I got my schedule for Ravencon, which is coming up in April in Richmond, Virginia.

I will be part of a workshop entitled “Pitching Your Work and Writing a Query Letter,” in which I expect I’ll share a horror story or two from the last few years of slush reading. In addition, I’ll be on five panels:

  • Making the Science Fit the Story
  • The Pen is Mightier Than The … (Moderator)
  • Will there be BBQ’s in Space?
  • What does the future hold for space travel?
  • Blogging, Twittering, —ings: Are They Productive Time or An Addiction? (Moderator)

Being the moderator of a panel about blogging, it seemed appropriate to post this on the blog.

Since I missed StellarCon last weekend, RavenCon will be my first con of the season. I had a lot of fun last year, except for the ill-fated trip to the restaurant-which-shall-not-be-named across the street. But the con is in a new hotel this year, so I think it’ll be even better! I look forward to seeing some old friends and making a few new ones.

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Zombie Haiku

Friday afternoon at Dragon*Con I went to “Princess Alethea’s Traveling Road Show,” in which my friends Alethea Kontis, Ada Milenkovich Brown, and James Maxey read some of their work. Before the show began, Alethea invited the audience to compose their own “Zombie Haiku” to share with everyone.

I had never written a haiku before, though I know the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. And I am not particularly a fan of the zombies, vampires, etc., that are all the rage these days. But, game for a challenge, I put one together. (I wrote it on the back of one of my business cards.)

My Zombie Haiku:

Delicious brains,
Still warm, though a little dry.
Need more blood. And salt.

For what it’s worth . . . .

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Brief RavenCon Wrap-Up

Had a good weekend in Richmond at RavenCon. All the panels I attended seemed to go well, the ones I was on also ran smoothly, and even the two I moderated. It helped that I had great panelists who had good things to say … it made it harder for me to mess things up.

The best part, of course, was seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I got to hang out with Edmund Schubert, James Maxey, Chuck Gannon, Bud Sparhawk, David B. Coe, Mike Kabongo, Hildy Silverman, Amy Sturgis, Misty Massey, Gail Z. Martin, Stuart Jaffe, Yoji Kondo, Larry Hodges, and lots of other people whose names I can’t remember this early in the morning.

At any rate, a splendid time was had by Gray. Kudos to Mike Pederson and all the organizers and volunteers for putting on a great con!

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Agent Hunt

No, I don’t mean to refer to Ethan Hunt from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

Tonight I started my hunt for an agent to represent my novel — a story of survival and sacrifice in the early days of the first lunar colony, tentatively titled* WALKING ON THE SEA OF CLOUDS.

Specifically, I sent out queries to five agents who have sterling reputations and accept electronic inquiries.

I’ll send more queries out, in batches, in the next few weeks, and I’ll post updates as I have them. Meanwhile, I need to finish getting ready to go to RavenCon.

*Tentatively because, if a publisher decides to take the book, they will decide the title based on what they think is most marketable. That, however, is far in the future.

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25 Years Ago, in Space

On August 30, 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-8. Astronauts Richard Truly, Daniel Brandenstein, Dale Gardner, Guion Bluford (first U.S. black man in space), and William Thornton made up the crew. The mission launched the Insat-1B satellite (a multipurpose satellite for India) and was the first shuttle launch in the dark and the first shuttle landing in the dark.

Other mission highlights (edited into bullet format),

– the nose of orbiter was held away from the sun for 14 hours to test the flight deck area in extreme cold
– the crew filmed performance of an experimental heat pipe mounted in the cargo bay
– the orbiter dropped to 139 miles altitude to perform tests on thin atomic oxygen to identify the cause of glow that surrounds parts of the orbiter at night
– the remote manipulator system was tested to evaluate joint reactions to higher loads
– six rats were flown in the Animal Enclosure Module to observe animal reactions in space
– testing was conducted between the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-I (TDRS-1) and the orbiter using a Ku-band antenna
– investigations continued on the Space Adaptation Syndrome


In other news, Dragon*Con is going fine. I got to visit with several of my writing friends at supper last night, and I’ll be leaving in a little while for Day 2 (featuring the ever-popular Baen slide show).

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Trinoc*coN Report

Today I made it to the last bit of Trinoc*coN, the local Raleigh-Durham SF&F convention.

I caught the tail end of a panel on whether Harry Potter is destined to become a literary classic (the panelists and audience were each about evenly split between “yes” and “maybe”), then was on a panel about the paranormal in fiction and nonfiction. We had an interesting discussion amongst ourselves until a few audience members straggled in … but such is the hazard of Sunday morning panels.

I moderated a panel on SF’s broken technological promises, which was okay … but I’m not a very good moderator. The panel was entitled “Where’s My Flying Car?” and one of the panelists took that rather literally — he brought a nice PowerPoint slideshow about flying cars, which we all enjoyed, but we spent so much time on actual flying cars that we didn’t get to discuss some of the broader promises SF has made.

The highlight was seeing Hank Davis and Laura Haywood-Cory, both from the main office of Baen Books. (Laura got me on the guest list in the first place.) Hank was on the “Flying Car” panel, and as the most widely read of all of us he kept us firmly anchored in the genre. Laura did a great job moderating the very enjoyable panel on Southern Fandom.

This year’s Trinoc*coN was a small affair, a “relaxacon” as it’s known — more laid back and less programming-intense than usual — but very well done and I was pleased to be invited to be a part of it. Kudos and thanks to all the organizers and volunteers!

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Back from the beach, off to a con

Just returned this afternoon, lightly sunburned and heavily fatigued, from a week in Myrtle Beach, and tomorrow I’ll head over to Trinoc*coN, a local SF&F convention. It’s a “relaxacon” this year, with minimal programming, but even so they got a big-name GOH in Catherine Asaro.

I’ll contribute the “minimal” to tomorrow’s programming: I’m on a panel on “The Paranormal in Fiction and Nonfiction” and I’ll moderate “Where’s My Flying Car?”, a panel on the failure of technology to live up to our more fantastic dreams.

For now, though, let’s see if we can add a few more words to the novel-in-progress. Best to any and all!

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YouTube, MeTube

I didn’t expect to make the cut (which may mean there wasn’t a cut), but there I am on the “videoblog” fantasy author Gail Z. Martin made at ConCarolinas. Here’s the YouTube link. I’m the last person she talked to that day, right after GOH Mike Resnick.

Surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say. And of course I didn’t take the opportunity to plug my web site. Ol’ dopey me.

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