My Ready, Steady, Flash Stories

July 4, 2015 in Cons, Surreal, Writing

I blame Lee Harris…

A couple months ago, Tor.com editor Lee Harris emailed to ask me to be on a game show panel at CONvergence 2015. It was called Ready, Steady, Flsah! and it involved a bunch of professional writers being given themes and five minutes to write a complete flash fiction piece. I was terrified, but agreed to give it a go. Today was the day with Carrie Patel, C. Robert Cargill, Paul Cornel, Melissa Olson, and me. The winner of a round got two points, the second place finisher got 1, the other players got zippo. I went in with the expectation of crashing and burning, but doing it with style. Here are my stories (as they were written, typos and all) and scores for the game. ETA: Carrie Patel has now posted her pieces as well.

1st round. Theme: Reanimation.

There once was a dragon named Fred
Who devored a unicorn undead
Each bit that he ate
He did munch and masticate
Until he finished the undying spread

Then when he finished
He felt dimineshed
Until the unicorn reborn
Came forth from the dragon’s own horn
Unicorn retruned from beyond and within

Score 0

2nd Round. Theme: Steampunk Romance.

A steampunk romance
All those fancy gears and wheels
Leather and lace- clothes at a fabulous pace
Bronze and brass I’ll take a pass
The real romance of steam comes from the mirror
I’m too pretty for anything that might muss my polish
I’ll keep my romance in the box with my goggles that only look inward

Score 0

3rd Round. Theme: Little People.

The little people that live in my head write all the stories that fall out of my fingers. Tragically, they work best in the hours of the night when sleeping is on my list. So, when dreaming is my agenda I too often find myself staring at the ceiling and wishing the little people in my head were diurnal rather than nocturnal in their focus and feelings. As a writer my insomnia is my bread and butter. I cannot ask the little people to let me sleep…most of the time.

Score 1 (!)

4th Round. The audience came up with the theme on this: Uncle Sam’s Day Off, and they also supplied us with a word to be used in the story: Cocaine.

Cocaine! Uncle Sam’s favorite firework. There was nothing that the dirty old man liked to do more on the 4th than kick back with his feet up on South America and snort a line that lit his head up like the bombs he exported on his days on.

Score 2 (wiktory!)

I tied for 2nd overall with Paul Cornell at 3 points each. Carrie Patel, the victor had 4.

Hanny and the Voorwerp Comic (reblogging)

February 9, 2015 in Cons, Reblogging Project, Science, Writing

So, in addition to the new fantasy series I had started writing for Ace—Fallen Blade—I was working on a project for Galaxy Zoo and the Hubble Space Telescope with my astronomer friend Dr. Pamela Gay and a number of other fantastic folks back summer 2010. The project was a comic illustrating an amazingly nifty discovery in astronomy called Hanny’s Voorwerp. It’s all kinds of cool: scientific, artistic, literary, collaborative, and really worth checking out. For the broad stroke details you can look below but I’ll blog about the experience in some detail in the coming days as we get closer to the official launch.

2015 update: This below is from Pamela’s launch announcement (I’ve swapped in images from later in the project because they’re cooler, though, of course, you can follow the link at the bottom to my original post on the Wyrdsmiths blog where the other images appear): 
“This past Monday, at about 8pm Central (GMT -4), a Voorwerpish webcomic was delivered to Sips Comics for printing. Tuesday morning we got the page proofs, and now, one by one, they are being made into full color reality.
Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.06.17 PM
We could say a lot of things right now: We could tell you about playing round robin with the script, digitally passing it from person to person under the guidance of Kelly, sometimes into the wee hours of the night. We could tell you about watching the art come to life; transforming from line drawings to fully rendered pages in the hand of our artists Elea and Chris. We could tell you how many pencil tips were broken, and how many digital files grew so big our computers crawled.

We could talk a lot, but instead, let us invite you to join us for the World Premier and share with you a few images.

You’re Invited to a World Premier

 

    • Time: 3 September, 10pm Eastern (GMT -5)

 

 

    • In Person: At Dragon*Con
      Crystal Ballroom
      Hilton Atlanta
      255 Courtland Street NE
      Atlanta, GA

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.07.34 PM
Come meet the artists, hear a brief talk by Bill, and generally revel in the Voorwerp’s awesomeness.

And come dressed as a Voorwerp for a chance to win a prize for best costume!

See you in Atlanta?

Pamela, Hanny, Bill, Kelly, Elea and Chris

Oh, and let me also give a big old thank you to CONvergence for hosting the Hanny and the Voorwerp workshop this past July where much of the initial writing for this project happened.”

2014 edited to add this image from the comic below which depicts many of the people involved in its creation, including yours truly—topish row, left. Also, this link to download a PDF of the comic for free.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.08.12 PM

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog August 21 2010, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

June 2010 Con Stuff Reblog

January 8, 2015 in Cons, Reblogging Project

WisCon 2010 Report

This is going to be disjointed, but then so is my typical con experience.

Our WisCon vacation started with the trip down on Friday. Breakfast with the usual suspects (Ben, Steph, Sara, James) here before caravaning to Madison. We put a WisCon 2010 banner in the back window of the Smart car but didn’t get any waves for it until we were within a few blocks of the hotel. Parked next to a Mini in the ramp because the Smart makes it look huge.

Bumped into my (one and only) cousin Liz in the lobby. She gave me a shark finger puppet. Laura got a mouse.

Got registered and checked in then went to the gathering. Laura dug through the ARC pile while I chatted with Michael Damien Thomas and a rotating cast of other young writers.

Then we (the usual suspects plus J. Simon) headed for dinner at the Irish Pub on the capital square to celebrate James’ new job, CIO of UMn Morris. He got the call on the way down. Lovely fish and chips with a glass of Dalwhinnie, also a fair bit of Sara’s Irish stew. Nom.

Crashed hard and early, nothing like a small hole in your neck and big doses of antibiotics three times a day to knock you over.

Saturday was Panels Day for me.

Started the day off with a morning juvenalia panel in which Mary Robinette Kowal, the legendary Carol Emshwiller and I read from some of our earliest works by way of showing the world that everybody sucked at some point. It was good fun, though I have to note that none of what we read was too awful and some of mine are even up on the web + part II and III. We also got a very brief personal puppet interpretation of one of Mary’s stories (written at age nine), which rocked.

After that we settled in for a hallway party for a bit. Most WisCons Laura and I can be found hanging out in the second floor hall a good bit of the time during the day as we’re there to see old friends and new and most pass by at some point.

My next panel was a field guide to editors, which was populated mostly by professional and well regarded editors, plus Pat Rothfuss and I who are both primarily writers at this point. On one level I felt far more underqualified for this panel than any other I’ve been on in years. On another I think it was probably good to have a couple of folks who mostly write to talk about the other end. Best moment: Pat doing a little cautionary (don’t do this when you meet an editor) improv piece from the point of view of a desperate writer that ended in him clutching John Jospeh Adams’ arm and saying “you smell so good…like New York.”

Then more hall party and a lovely Indian dinner with J. and the usual suspects.

Finally it was off to the Tor party where I chatted with a number of folks. Best moment: after chatting with Jim Frenkel senior editor at Tor and my one time agent about my new series, he blinked a couple of times and said “You just can’t do anything simple, can you?” Guilty as charged.

Sunday started off with more hall party, this time playing with a non-uniform bouncy ball which is both a great physics toy and a good way to start conversations. We’ve made quite a few friends over the years playing with bouncy balls in the hallways of conventions of the sf and physics varieties.

Then I handed over twenty years of accumulated rejections to my archivist, the lovely and talented Lynne Thomas. It was actually quite hard to do, probably because I paid for those in blood. I am going to get copies of them all and have them bound though, so that’s something.

Eventually went out for dinner with Mary Robinette Kowal, the Thomases, and the Monettes. Lovely Indian food again, and much good conversation.

Rounded off the night with an impromptu room party, which included my laughing and snorting Glenlivet into my sinuses, and some really spiffy trifle from the Governor’s club desert buffet.

At the point that broke up it was time to crash and burn which meant that I didn’t make it to Eleanor’s launch party for which I feel a bit guilty. OTOH, I don’t think I’d have made it down even without the room party. I was really beat this WisCon and the only reason I lasted as long as I did was I was able to be social from the comfort of my own bed.

Monday was goodbyes and the sign-out where, as with last year, I sat with John Joseph Adams and Alex Bledsoe which was a lot fun. They’re both good conversationalists and we’re collectively not too far apart in how much we sign. Most amusing moment Pat Rothfuss coming up and (entirely facetiously) shrieking “Kelly McCullough! Squeeeeee!” while putting his hands against one cheek. Very nicely done. Pat’s sense of the silly is at least as strong as mine, which makes him a lot of fun to hang out with.

Finally, home to collapse, with bad traffic adding an hour to the trip.

Congratulations to Dr. Berg! Long time friend and one-time assistant to my one-time agent, Tracy Berg, has just successfully defended her Ph.D and there was much hanging out and rejoicing with Dr. Berg, which included some fabulous 15 year cheddar and her joining us for Indian food on Saturday.

Kelly’s CONvergence 2010 Schedule

Here’s my official schedule for CONvergence. I’m told I’m doing something with closing ceremonies as well, though that’s not on here.

The Voorwerp workshops should be interesting. As part of a Hubble Space Telescope Education and Outreach project we’re going to try to cooperatively write a webcomic. I’m covering the writing side of the workshop. My friend, Dr. Pamela Gay, is doing the astronomy side of the thing as well as having landed the grant in the first place and running the whole show.

Friday July 2

2:00 PM Hanny’s Voorwerp I (Connies Quantum Sandbox)

Workshop: Hanny finds the Voorwerp and goes to wise astronomers to seek knowledge, but is told she has found something new and magical, and is sent to discover the true nature of the object. Join our band of writers and illustrators as we chronicle Hanny’s journey. For details on the project see: http://hannysvoorwerp.zooniverse.org/

Kelly McCullough, Pamela Gay

7:00 PM Writing Contest Reception (Atrium 8)

Reception: Meet the winners of the GPS writing contest to talk about the contest and their work.

Attending artists (not the winners): Hilary Moon Murphy, Charlotte Nickerson, Jodie Gustafson, Kelly McCullough

Saturday July 3

11:00 AM Hanny’s Voorwerp II (Connies Quantum Sandbox)

Workshop: Hanny finds the Voorwerp and goes to wise astronomers to seek knowledge, but is told she has found something new and magical, and is sent to discover the true nature of the object. Join our band of writers and illustrators as we chronicle Hanny’s journey. For details on the project see: http://hannysvoorwerp.zooniverse.org/
Kelly McCullough, Pamela Gay

12:30 PM Lois McMaster Bujold and Kelly McCullough Signing (Autograph Table)

Signing: Former Guests of Honor Lois McMaster Bujold and Kelly McCullough will be available to sign their work.

Lois McMaster Bujold and Kelly McCullough

2:00 PM Evolution of Common Themes (Bloomington)

Panel: How do you reinvent something that has been done to death in a way that is interesting without seeming forced? Vampires, werewolves, androids, zombies and sentient computers that want to rule the world.

MontiLee Stormer, Michael D. Thomas, Matthew Davis, Kelly McCullough

Sunday July 4

11:00 AM Hanny’s Voorwerp III (Connies Quantum Sandbox)

Workshop: Hanny finds the Voorwerp and goes to wise astronomers to seek knowledge, but is told she has found something new and magical, and is sent to discover the true nature of the object. Join our band of writers and illustrators as we chronicle Hanny’s journey. For details on the project see: http://hannysvoorwerp.zooniverse.org/

Kelly McCullough, Pamela Gay

12:30 PM Can’t-Put-It-Down Pacing (Vista Suite)

Panel: What distinguishes the book you can’t put down from an interesting character story or a stylistic triumph? Is it the same for everyone?

David Oppegaard, Hilary Moon Murphy, Matthew Davis, Kelly McCullough

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog June 3 and 27 2010, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

A Part, Yet Apart

November 11, 2014 in About Kelly, Cons, Musings, Professionalism, Publishing, Reblogging Project

So, I’ve been thinking about the science fiction convention experience and wondering if I’m alone in my relationship with cons or whether it’s something more general to writers attempting to make their way up the pro ladder. Because, as a professional genre writer I find that I feel both a part of the convention community and apart from it.

It has not always been this way for me. I am a 3rd generation fan, my mother and grandmother were part of the effort to save the original Star Trek series and somewhere around here I have a typewritten note from the series producers thanking them for their efforts, along with a black and white publicity photo. OTOH, they were not convention going fans. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I first went to a convention, the old MiniCon, when it was huge.

I had a blast. And for about a decade I went to MiniCon every year. Then, for various reasons I stopped going. It was about the same time that I got really serious about my writing and decided to make a career of it, but the two events were largely unrelated. Then for maybe 6-8 years I didn’t attend a con. I finally started going to conventions again in my early 30s with WisCon, which I first went to for the combined allure of a writer heavy convention and a feminist/academic convention. Since my wife is an academic who does research on women in science from within the physics department she now chairs, it made for a great twofer.

Because WisCon is much more professional and academically oriented than MiniCon was, it took me a number of years to notice how my relationship with conventions had changed. It wasn’t until I started going to MarsCon and CONvergence in the Twin Cities that it really hit home.

I used to go to cons as a fan/actor and make costume/clothes changes every couple of hours. I never went to panels. I always went to parties. I wanted to make a certain kind of splash and I often did. I certainly gave the concom people reason to roll their eyes at me on occasion, like when I was playing in the pool in 30 pounds of chainmail or sliding down the steel slope between the escalators. I felt completely immersed in the experience and as though I was surrounded by my people.

When I returned to the convention scene I did so in professional clothes (I even wore a suit coat from time to time, though I draw the line at ties). I attended and was on tons of panels, mostly about writing. I rarely went to parties. I went out of my way to not stress out the concom folks. I was shooting for a very different kind of splash.

Now, some of that is simply that I did an enormous amount of growing up between the two phases of my convention-going, but a lot of it had to do with my changed relationship to the genre. I no longer saw the creators of the various f&sf media as people apart from me, people whose job it was to entertain me. I had come to think of them as my peers and, in ever growing numbers, my friends. Andre Norton was no longer ANDRE NORTON! She was someone I shared an agent with. Instead of seeing NEIL GAIMAN, I see someone I’ve had tea with. The concom was no longer a mysterious entity whose radar it was best to keep off of. Rather, the people running the convention are long time friends and  acquaintances.

At the same time I’ve grown closer to the people making things run at conventions and the creators of the field, I’ve grown more distant from the general population of fans. That’s partially because you interact differently with someone who is a fan of yours than you do with someone with whom your primary point of commonality is a shared fandom of someone else, and partially because knowing more creators and more about the process makes me much more reluctant to indulge in some of the more nasty sorts of criticism I once might have made. It’s not so much that I don’t have strong opinions about whether I like something or not as that I’m much more reluctant to think of my taste as being the same thing as good taste or to claim that there is one true standard of quality. Again, a lot of that is simply growing up, but not all of it.

So, while I find that I go to many more conventions than I used to and that I still love the experience I have in some ways stepped out of my old role as a part of the clan and into a new one that holds me at least a little bit apart from the clan. It’s role that I am proud to have assumed, but it is not always a comfortable one.

(Originally published on the SFNovelists blog Aug 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

CONvergence 2009 GoH Report

November 4, 2014 in About Kelly, Cons, Events/Appearaces, Musings, Reblogging Project, Surreal

CONvergence 2009 day 1 (W) Kelly’s Con Report

I’m going to break my con report across multiple days because it was a really experience dense con for me. 2014 edited to add: I have compiled it back into one post for the reblogging project.
Packing and the drive in

Getting everything we needed for GoHing at a 4 day convention into the Smart was a fun challenge. It was also really cool to drive the brand new micro-car in to the convention. It was the last time I was allowed to drive for the weekend as both Laura and I were concerned that I would be too distracted once things got going.

Arrival

Laura and I arrived on Wednesday evening and were met by Mandy Temple who gave us our room keys in the club floors of the north tower. We unloaded and grabbed some snacks at the club lounge then checked the room out–pausing periodically to look down at the Smart and squee. After unpacking we headed down to the pre-con reception.

Reception

The reception was a big informal event with snacks and drinks and fabulous cake.

I met up with my guest liaisons there, Lisa and Jenn who had signed up for the task of making sure I made it to all my programming and generally catering to my every whim as a GoH, tasks at which they excelled. I also met liaisons Anton and Megan, and Mandy’s husband Mark. I met several of the others as well but the six named here are the ones who primarily took care of Laura and I. The liaison corps is incredible and we were pretty much treated like royalty for the duration of our stay with the con, though I am perhaps a bit too midwestern to revel in it as much as I should have.

Other points of note:

This is when I got my amazing custom designed badge and signed a poster with the same Mel/Connie art as the badge for the chai drink recipe they asked me to concoct for Cof2e2 (the con’s coffee house). I called my drink the Tickled Goblin: chai, milk, chocolate, and whipped cream. I also chatted with a young fan named Jon who was quite excited to meet the author of a book he very much liked.

I was already pretty dazed by everything as I was introduced to Chris Jones (who did the amazing badge art) and Jon Olsen (who was involved in THACO) as well as several more con-com folks. I also re-met Peter Verrant and Michael Lee. After that I sat around with Laura and Pat Rothfuss and chatted with an ever-changing circle of people, many of them old friends, including Tim, Pat, Karl, Jody, Angie, Ed, and several more folks whose names are currently escaping me–have I mentioned that I’m really bad at names? After a while the reception wound down and Mandy escorted us back up to our room to make sure we were comfortable.

Post-reception

We chatted very briefly with Mandy as she dropped off a big bag of snacks and soda (they’d asked me for a list several days before) and my master schedule, which included several non-public events like the GoH group photo shoot and my interview time and location. I also handed off the items I’d brought for the charity auction: a copy of the Weird Tales that debuted my first story (the original WebMage short), a limited edition promotional paperback that ACE put out with a number of authors’ first chapters entitled “Urban Noir,” and a custom license plate (Womp Rat) from a Hyundai I’d owned back in 2001–a Hyundai’s not much bigger than 2 meters….

After that, Laura and I collapsed in a happy heap and went to sleep.

CONvergence 2009 day 2 (Th) Kelly’s Con Report

Pre-Panel

Started the morning with breakfast at the Original Pancake House with Mandy, Mark, Megan, Laura and returning GoH Brian Keene who I’d never met before–great guy. OPH can do most of their pancakes and waffles gluten free which made them a great fit for Laura. Wonderful food and good company.

Afterward we headed back and wandered around the con for a bit, catching up with numerous friends, and people-watching–which latter is one of the great joys of CONvergence. I didn’t have anything scheduled until five, and was pretty much free to roam until then, so we did.

Panel

My first panel was at five “Going from a Poor Unpublished Author to a Poor Published Author” with fellow GoH Pat Rothfuss. It was pretty much the Pat and Kelly show and a fun panel since I like Pat (having previously guested with him at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival) and we play off each other well. The focus was mostly on how you get from writing to getting paid for writing, and surrounding subtopics.

Opening Ceremony

My next event was Opening Ceremonies scheduled for seven, where I would have the arduous task of standing up and waving to the crowd when they introduced me. Yay, very hard to blow standing up and waving, right?

The plan was to head over about ten minutes before the event began and meet my liaisons for an escort down to the front row. At a quarter to seven we were standing on the bridge-side balcony overlooking the pool. At the time I noted that we needed to get moving in about four minutes, since we didn’t have far to go. Five minutes later, my liaison Jenn, magically appeared to let us know it was time to escort us over to the main stage. Let me note that I hadn’t seen either of my liaisons in over an hour, nor noticed anyone else from the liaison corps. Yet, in the very instant that I was in danger of being a minute late, Jenn appeared. I will happily recommend any of the CONvergence liaisons for Secret Service duty should they want.

So, then we get into the back of the main stage and find out that the previous event is running a little long. I took that as a sign that I had a moment to duck off to the men’s room and did so. When I came back I discovered that from the back Jenn and Laura are very nearly twins (see my pictures below). I managed (only just) not to wrap my arms around the wrong redhead and we waited two more minutes before heading down to our seating.

Okay, you remember that I noted that all I had to do was stand up and wave at the right moment? Well, I blew it by standing up way too early and then being stuck there for some time when the very on top of it techies hit me with a spotlight through my whole intro. Everyone else, perhaps learning from my mistakes, got it right, standing briefly at the end of their intros. Sigh.

BTW, I normally skip opening ceremonies at conventions for a variety of reasons, but these were fabulous–fast, funny, and soon over. Several of the other GoH with much more experience at this whole routine told me that these were the best they’d ever seen.

Dinner

After the ceremonies we headed out for dinner. We being me, Laura, fellow GoHs Pat Rothfuss and Dwayne McDuffie, Dwayne’s fiancee Charlotte Fullerton (who writes for a number of television shows), Anton, Megan, and fellow Wyrdsmith Sean Murphy (who is also my brother-in-law). Over the next 2-1/2 hours we had a wide-ranging discussion about art, politics, religion, and all those things you talk about with smart opinionated people. 2014 Editing to add that this dinner stands out in my memory five years later as one of the great dinner conversations of my life, and I am so happy that I got the chance to meet and really talk with Dwayne McDuffie before death stole him from all of us way too early. Every time I think about that loss I cry.

And then to bed.

Since Friday was going to be my longest day of the convention Laura and I headed to bed pretty much right after dinner.

CONvergence 2009 day 3 (Fri) Kelly’s Con Report

Breakfast

We had breakfast at the OPH again, this time with Dwayne, Charlotte, Anton, and Anton’s friend Tom. Laura had banana pancakes, and I had basted eggs and country bacon, yum. More cool conversation. Dwayne, like Laura is a physicist, and Charlotte told an amazingly cool story about meeting Jim Henson when she was a kid and how he helped her start down the path to becoming a TV writer.

Programming!

I was highly scheduled on Friday with no passing time between my first three events, which meant I was a little late to my reading. If not for the efficiency of my liaison Jenn, I’d have been a lot late, and probably never have found the photo shoot.

12:30 PM: Beta Reading: Relying on the Honesty of Friends (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Elise Matthesen, M. K. Melin, Kathy Sullivan

This was a fun panel with a lot of useful advice on how to give and receive critique.

1:00 PM: GoH group photo shoot.

We got a tour of the back passages of the hotel on our way to this event, which was in a section of ballroom seemingly cut off from everything but the catering entrance. We were all pretty punchy for the session and got some great silly shots including one with Joel Hodgson punching me in the jaw and another recreating the shooting of Jack Ruby–did I mention we were really punchy? The final, official, version has Dwayne and I and a couple of others holding Joel horizontally in the air in front of the rest of the group. Dwayne’s taking most of the weight with me getting much of the rest. There was also a really great group shot with us and all of the liaisons. Afterward we signed copies of our badges and a number of tee-shirts as prizes for various awards and charity purposes. As a side note, we also signed a set of the group shots on Saturday for similar purposes.

2:00 PM: Kelly McCullough GOH Reading

I was about 8 minutes late to my own reading, and then it took a couple more minutes to get started as the con was giving Inkheart tees away to people who showed up in an unannounced prize. I read from SpellCrash, the forthcoming final book in the WebMage series and it seemed to go over well. I was still mighty punchy though, so I did more humorous and editorial asides than I might have otherwise. Also, being late meant I was forced to end with my protagonists falling through space, instead of at the rest point I’d hoped to get to a couple of pages later. After the reading, one of the people from the MNPoly room party stopped by to invite us to stop by and see the life-size mural they’d done of my Furies as part of their Greek gods theme–punchy as I was this didn’t fully register but I did jot down the room number and promise to drop by.

3:30 PM: Inserting Humor Into Your Writing
(Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Brian Keene, M. K. Melin, S.D. Hintz, Jerrod Balzer, Patrick Rothfuss

I think there were actually even more of us there because of one or two late additions, and the room was packed. The panel went all right due to handing over the moderation to Pat, who isn’t afraid to be a hard-ass moderator, but it was a little unfocused as usually happens with large panels.

Before the panel, my liaisons stopped by to make sure I got fed, and somewhere in here is when I started leaning on them for stuff that I just didn’t have the time to do. I asked Jenn to fetch me some caffeine, and either she or Lisa kept showing up with diet coke when I needed it thereafter and Megan offered to run grab me some egg rolls from the con-suite which sounded lovely, so she sprinted off to fetch them. Have I mentioned how very taken care of I felt at this con? Thank you all!

Afterward another of the MNPoly folks stopped by to let me know about the mural. She also noted that she was cross-playing as Raven from my books. At this point the idea of a mural and someone dressing as one my characters seemed cool, but still didn’t really sink in due to the intensity of my schedule thus far.

That’s also when the folks from the House of Toast stopped by and got me to come up with a toast recipe–which I wrote on the paper plate they handed me and then signed, promising to try to stop by their party later.

5:00 PM: Why Writers Should Archive
(Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Meredith Gillies, Elise Matthesen, Lynne Thomas

Another fun one. Lynne, who archives my stuff, graciously consented to be the moderator. In addition to being a fine moderator, she is both articulate and funny. So are Meredith, who I had never met before, and Elise. That’s really all you need for a good panel, but this one also had the fact that all of us are passionate on the topic going for it. Oh, and props. Meredith had brought some copies of items from her collection (she runs the giant bat cave under the U of Mn) and I had hauled along a box of manuscripts that I needed to pass off to Lynne.

Intermission

In which I slipped my handlers’ leash and went to dinner with friends from out of state. Okay, that’s not completely true. I asked my liaisons nicely what I needed to do if I was going to go off grid for a bit and let them know where I was going and that I would be back after dinner. Laura and I then went to dinner at the Good Earth with our friends Tom Foster (who was Laura’s office mate in grad-school) and Pamela Gay (who is a big name astronomy podcaster among the many science outreach hats she wears).

Furies…OMFFSM!

So, after dinner we stopped back at the room, dropped some stuff off and then headed for the parties. We did stop in at House of Toast briefly in here, but they were really packed and we ended up getting distracted by something shiny and wandering off before we got any toast 🙁 We also stopped at COF2E2 and I had a Tickled Goblin which was actually quite yummy.

Then we went to MNPoly and there were my Furies and Jess in Raven garb, and I pretty much stripped all the remaining gears on my mental transmission. The red carpet treatment and all the attention I was getting had already made this both a fabulous and surreal weekend and led to midwestern me losing a steadily increasing number of gear teeth–going further and further into a sort of state of shock–but the mural and crossplay just completely blew my mind. I was really stunned and humbled and it wasn’t until we came back a bit later with Lynne and Michael Thomas, and Michael made some comment about how cool it was that I had someone cosplaying my main character and life-size fan art that it actually sank in. WOW, just WOW.

Later, (~10:30) as I was standing on the bridge-side balcony people-watching and trying to process the whole experience, Brian Keene came along with a couple of bottles of really smooth bourbon and sent one of his liaison’s off to find a cup for me–Laura can’t drink it because of possible gluten issues (2014 ETA: new research has shown bourbon is fine for celiacs, so YAY SCIENCE!). His timing couldn’t have been better, because A) I was still kind of shocky, and B) I had agreed to do a bit for villification tennis at 11:00 that included me taking a stage kick to the groin and I hadn’t done stage-combat or any kind of show in years, which meant that, C) a little loosening up was called for. The bourbon definitely loosened me up.

11:00 PM Vilification Tennis Main Stage

Having never been to a Vilification Tennis match before I didn’t really know what to expect beyond having a vague idea that two sides would be hurling (often unprintable) insults at each other. This despite the fact that VT and I had overlapped at the Ren Fest by a year or two.

The intro delivered by Tim Wick who is the VT referee was both very funny and quite offensive. That’s the point, and it was strongly suggested that if you could be offended now was the time to leave. After the initial part of the intro Tim wandered up to the front of the audience and introduced and picked on me, well us really, Tim, myself, and our old friend Karl who wasn’t there. Tim and I have known each other since we were 6 and have been friends since we were 9 and Tim killed my very first D&D character, so there was a fairly rich vein to tap in terms of growing up geek together. Not, as Tim pointed out, that either of us has moved out of geekdom.

Apparently being a middle-aged balding science fiction author who is married to a physicist doesn’t make me one of the cool kids. Who knew?

My bit in VT was a sort of half-time interlude in the shape of a family-feudesque gameshow, played for laughs not points. We got quite a few. I also got a mock “kick in the junk,” a knee actually, but kick was the phrasing in the question. Apparently I haven’t forgotten how to make it look real, since I got a number of very concerned sounding “are you okays?” from the other players. Oh, and I also got rug burn on my knees–from a different bit about which I can only say: “Khaaaaan!”

Then it was over and very late and time for me to go to bed.

CONvergence 2009 day 4 (Sat) Kelly’s Con Report

Getting going

As some of you may recall I ended Friday in a case of complete gearstrippage due to all the cool stuff that had happened. Thus I began Saturday in a sort of advanced state of shock exacerbated by knowing what my first panel was going to be. More on which, later.

I had an earlyish panel, so we didn’t have time to got for breakfast and I just asked my liaison if she could grab a couple of sausage and egg biscuity things from Burger King for me and some yogurt for Laura and bring them by the room. I found asking for this remarkably hard to do, despite the fact that that’s one of the reasons they assign us liaisons.

I’m not that into me

So, my first panel on Saturday was one that I had very mixed feelings about beforehand:

11:00 AM: The Works of Kelly McCullough (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Eric Heideman (mod), David Lenander (mod)

The reason for this is that I’m just not that into me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a very healthy ego and I love to be the center of attention–I am a former actor after all. But at the same time, one of the joys of writing for me has turned out to be the time I spend alone sunk into make-believe worlds. Over the 18 years I’ve been writing, my extrovert/introvert balance has shifted from 90/10 to something more like 50/50. Beyond that, I feel like I haven’t really got a large enough published body of work to make for much of a discussion.

Maybe in five years if all the books now under submission are published*(next paragraph) there will be something to be said about my body of work. But now…I was more than a little worried about this panel. Needlessly, it turns out. David and Eric were fabulous at making me feel comfortable and making comments and asking questions that really made for a good discussion. Further, I had a great, interested, audience that included quite a few people who had beta read for me at one point or another and who could talk about my work in ways that never would have occurred to me. That said, this panel took a lot out of me, both in terms of worry beforehand and hard mental work during.

*which would bring me to 25 across 9 series when the proposal books are added in 2014 ETA currently at 1o across 2 series with two more scheduled, one in a new area of genre entirely and as many as four more that may be out over the next year independently—still not that into me, but at least there’d be something to talk about.

Which is why it was great that my next panel was:

12:30 PM: Meet the Wyrdsmiths (Description: Kelly McCullough, Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, Sean M. Murphy, Doug Hulick

where I could sit back and let my fellow Wyrdsmiths carry most of the load. I’ve done four or five of these panels now, and they’re always an enormous amount of fun, in part because I know going in that the panel will go well. There are any number of ways a panel can fail: bad group dynamics, bad moderator, lone wolf panel hijacker, insufficient material, no audience interest…. With the Wyrdsmiths I know that 1-4 aren’t going to be an issue and that thus far the audience has been amused by “The Wyrdsmiths Variety Hour.” Even more than that though is that I know going in that I will be on a panel with friends who share my passion for writing.

In which I “volunteer” to moderate

After the Wyrdsmiths panel I had my third back–to-back programming item of the day.

2:00 PM: Genre Blender (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Jeannie Holmes, Matthew Davis, S.D. Hintz, Dana Baird, Jerrod Balzer

When I arrived at this panel I was intercepted by my liaisons bearing diet coke and asking what I wanted them to bring me for lunch. Lunch? That’s a great idea. What are you having? Pizza? w00t! Me too. Can you tell I was getting used to having minions?

Since I hadn’t really had much previous interaction with the other folks on this panel I asked the “who wants to be the moderator?” question, which is essentially an invitation for everyone else to say “You!” which they did. I was okay with that for a number of reasons. 1) I’m pretty good in the moderator’s chair. 2) I would often rather moderate than hand the gavel to an unknown quantity. 3) The moderator doesn’t have to talk as much as everybody else if the panel is of any reasonable size.

So how did the panel go? Funny you should ask. I have almost no memory of this panel beyond the opening. I know that it went fairly well despite being somewhat low energy, beyond that…. No idea. Several days of being on had put me in a sort of fugue state where audience response was of more interest to my processing centers than precise tracking of what the hell I was saying or other higher cognition functions.

Then my pizza arrived! It turns out that the blurring was from lack of food as much as anything, and eating helped me recover enough for:

3:30 PM: Kelly McCullough Signing

I headed for the table where I was supposed be signing, pizza in hand (actually I ate at the table in the passing time between events).

our narrator (me) pauses and blinks because…there were people waiting in line to have their books signed, twenty minutes ahead of time.

Now that may not seems unusual to the people reading this, but this is the first time I’ve ever had a signing go like that. Usually I get to a bookstore about ten minutes early, get set up, and maybe one person arrives just at the opening. Then people trickle through, or if I’m reading, there are people waiting when things start, having arrived at most ten minutes early, and most of the rest show up in the first five minutes. I don’t know how many books I signed because I was too busy signing and chatting with my readers to keep track (another first), but Laura and my liaisons tell me that I had 20+ people, which is more than double my next largest pure signing event and bigger even than most of my reading/signings. Again, stunned and humbled.

Time for a liedown

This is the point at which Laura, in consultation with Jenn and Lisa decided it was time for me to go have some down time, which was a really good idea. Then, since we had five conflicting invites to dinner, mostly from people we get to see rarely, we had Jenn and Lisa scare us up some take-out and went back to our room, inviting our various dinner invitors to come back and hang out with us. 2-1/2 hours of not being on as GoH was just what the doctor ordered. I loved the whole CONvergence experience and would sign up to be a returning GoH in a heartbeat, but it was really nice to spend some time just chilling with old friends. Plus, there were fireworks. Our room had a great view of at least two sets.

After that we headed out to the parties, MNPoly (since several of the gang hadn’t yet seen the Furies) and Skepchicks, because that’s where a number of our friends were hanging out. Not too long after that Laura turned into a pumpkin and I had to take her back to the room, where I almost immediately conked. As it turns out, our timing was perfect, as a medical emergency resulted in a half hour lockdown of the entire wing of parties we had just left, which would have resulted in me falling asleep in a corner of the skepchicks room.

BTW: This programming event never happened. I swear.

11:30 PM: Guest of Honor Cage Match (Panelist(s): Patrick Rothfuss, Kelly McCullough, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Brian Keene, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Dwayne McDuffie

CONvergence 2009 day 5 (Sun) Kelly’s Con Report

DAY 5

Yes, really, Day 5–this was a very long, very cool con.

We started the day off by hitting Perkins for breakfast with Anton who happened to be the first liaison we bumped into: “Hi Anton.” “Would you like to go out for breakfast?” “Yes.” “Let’s go.” Everyone should have liaisons.

After breakfast we made our way back to the convention and crafted a scavenger hunt for Jenn. No, really. Laura was doing some kids’ science programming and she needed 2 toilet paper rolls, a stack of 3×5 note cards, a cup of peanut M&Ms, a foam plate, and a couple of other things. So I called Jenn and asked if she was up for finding a list of strange items for Laura’s event, and not only was she up for it, she seemed pretty happy to have an actual challenge as part of her liaising. It took her just under half an hour.

While Laura was teaching science to the kidlets, I wandered off for a chat with my friend Karl, who I do not get to see very often, the exigencies of life and schedule being what they are. In the process I ended up providing another old friend with the final square on his nerd bingo card: “published science fiction author,” and having my picture taken with a very polite young fan (young being a relative term which I now apply to anyone under the apparent age of about 25).

Back at the kids programming room Karl got sucked into helping rearrange furniture and I bumped into the fan who picked up my old license plate and the copy of Weird Tales at the auction, and we chatted for a bit. Turns out he grew up a mile or two from where I’m now living. Then Laura was done and we were off to my interview.

Interview, for a con?

Yep. CONvergence does a video-taped interview with every GoH, usually as late as possible in the con so that they’ve had a chance to experience a good chunk of the con. I suspect it also helps to give the interviewer and interviewee some common ground beyond the GoH’s work. That latter wasn’t a problem with my interview since it was done by Tim Wick who (as was mentioned earlier) I have known since I was 6.

It was actually a lot of fun as Tim and I have crossed each others’ paths with varying degrees of contact on and off for 35 years now and it’s interesting to talk about the parallels and divergences. For example he got out of theater as a primary career in part for the same reasons I did–falling in love and realizing that theater and real relationships make for a really really hard mix to manage.

Apparently some of the notes we struck hit home for our camerawomen as well (another theater refugee) who said she had a real hard time not laughing so loud as to be heard on camera several times. I’m not sure if any portion of the interview will be available anywhere other than the CONvergence 2009 DVD, but if it is and you’re still curious about my rug-burned knees story, there’s a close up of the injury and an explanation in the interview.

Bigger picture

The other thing the interview did for me was to help put the whole weekend in perspective since career perspective was part of the flow of conversation. The biggest component of that in regards to GoHing is, in retrospect, getting a sense of how much the work I do matters to readers. As much as I may make light of what I do, telling stories is important. It’s important enough that good stories change peoples lives. That’s why we have fandoms and cons and why people like me get the amazing opportunities we do to connect with readers, both through our work and through things like being invited to be a Guest of Honor at a convention or to read and sign our books.

At a big multi-media con like CONvergence my part of that is only a tiny sliver of what draws in fans, but it’s still important and that’s very very cool. It’s stunning and humbling as well. Enough so that if this writing thing ever takes off to the degree that Laura and I can afford that getaway place in Scotland, we’re naming it “Flabbergasted.”

Final panel

After the interview I needed to head off to my final major piece of programming:

3:30 PM: The Twin Cities School (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Hilary Moon Murphy, Michael Merriam, Ruth Berman

In which we talked about the Twin Cities writing scene: Whether there’s a distinct regional voice (no). Its history (deep and long). How you can be a part of it (write something). Why it’s so strong (incredible fan support has a huge amount to do with it). Etc. This was a fun, hopeful, panel to close out the con.

Jerry Pournelle was wrong

My next event was closing ceremonies where I was supposed to get up and say something about my experiences at the con when I was introduced. Here is approximately what I said:

“Jerry Pournelle was wrong. I’m a Writers of the Future winner, an event where they treat you amazingly well. So well in fact, that Jerry Pournelle told a bunch of us: ‘Enjoy this experience as much as you can, really soak it up because you will never ever in your writing careers be treated this well again.’ Jerry Pournelle was wrong. At CONvergence I was treated not just as well as I was treated at Writers of the Future. I was treated better. I’ve had an incredible experience here this weekend. Thank you all so much.”

Other random notes from closing ceremonies: I got a tribble. So did Laura. They were on all the GoH seats as well as scattered throughout the main stage seating. I got to see Dwayne hit a near life size picture of Wolverine with a cream pie, and Brian hit himself with another. Like opening ceremonies, these were handled expeditiously and professionally. I now know the ASL sign for ball–translated from the chanting of the crowd demanding the return of the beach balls we’d been batting around.

Dinner

After closing ceremonies we went to Khan’s Mongolian Barbecue. “We” being the GoH’s and spouses, all or most of the liaisons, and some substantial chunk of the concom–something like 40 people in all. Dwayne had at least three fortune cookies because he couldn’t get an actual fortune, just platitudes. In fact, with two exceptions all we got were platitudes and only one of those exceptions was a fortune. The best non-conversation/company thing about Khan’s was the incredible care they took with Laura’s food, scrubbing out a separate cooker and having the manager cook her meal himself to make sure her food didn’t get contaminated with gluten from the house sauce. On her second go-round the manager went so far as to take her food away from her before she could eat it and to personally fill a new bowl and cook it for her because he realized that the cook he’d assigned the task had made a mistake with the sauce. Incredible service.

Dead dog

With our return to the hotel we headed for what had been con-suite and sat around with Brian, Jenn, and Lisa for a bit, noshing, chatting and drinking more of Brian’s bourbon. Since we were pretty beat, we decided to call it quits sooner rather than later and were actually about to head back to our room when Anton showed up and “very subtly*” suggested he’d really like it if we stayed around for just a bit longer. Then he went off and made a quick call. Okay, at this point we kind of guessed something was up, but even so I was totally stunned when Perrin showed up with a big blue box and handed me a beautiful glass award/sculpture thingie commemorating my stint as a GoH.

One of things about this con that I have to note here was the capacity of the people involved, both at the concom level and in terms of fans for surprising and delighting me. Every time I thought to myself, “well, that’s it, I’m so blown away that I can’t be blown any further” along would come someone or something else to make me that much more happily astonished.

Now, as you will remember, Laura and I had been on our way to bed before the trophies arrived. But of course we had to stay for Brian’s presentation. And then Dwayne and Charlotte showed up so we stayed for that (Pat was in his room asleep at this point but came out later after we had left). And then Perrin insisted that, if I was going to make happy sounds about Brian’s bourbon, I really ought to try some of the single-malt he was carrying for comparison and I would have been a very ungracious GoH to refuse that, right? But some hours later we finally did head for bed, where I did not pack before sleeping, which will amaze and shock those who know me well.

And then it was Monday and time to return to the real world, where I do not have liaisons eager to make sure that I get fed and caffeinated on a reasonable schedule, nor people lining up to get me to sign their books, or invite me to parties displaying murals of my characters.

Alas.

And, yes, of course, I’m going back next year.

PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN

CONvergence 2009 (photo) post

Here are a few photos from my camera for con.

We got our new Smart car the day before the con

IMG_2284
The car from our room

IMG_2297

My badges…OMFFSM Chris Jones drew a
Connie/Melchior hybrid badge for me!

IMG_2325

Did I mention OMFFSM? This rocks!

IMG_2326

My schedule is on the kiosks…coooool…eeep.

IMG_2302

Vilification tennis, in which
I get rug burn on my knees

IMG_2307

OMFFSM it’s a life-size mural of my Furies!
Created by the folks at the MNPoly party
They also had someone (Jess Karels)
who was cross-playing Ravirn

IMG_2313

A really cool raven mask—nothing
to do with my books, just cool

IMG_2315

One of these women is my wife, one is one
of my guest liaisons. I managed not to grab
the wrong redhead during the convention,
but it was close a couple of times
My mother-in-law had the same problem

IMG_2309

From the front the resemblance isn’t
_quite_ as strong, but wow

IMG_2308

Finally, this was a complete surprise
and I was pretty much speechless
(not a normal condition for me, btw)

IMG_2322

And that’s just skimming the visual surface. It was an incredible weekend.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog in multiple parts on July seventh, ninth, tenth, twelfth, fourteenth, and fifteenth, 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

CONvergence Con Report 2008

October 25, 2013 in Cons, Reblogging Project

I had a good, if occasionally surreal, con–but then isn’t that the way they always work?

I normally commute back and forth to CONvergence (it’s only an hour away) but I’m co-literary-GOH with Pat Rothfuss next year, and Laura and I thought we should go for a more immersive experience in preparation. We stayed at the Sofitel, which is the hotel next door to the con and a lovely hotel in the European mode. Next year we’ll be in the con hotel, but I suspect that we’ll go back to the Sofitel the year after (unless we’re in Scotland for the summer, keep your fingers crossed on that one).

We spent most of Friday hanging out with archivist extraordinaire Lynne Thomas and her charming husband Michael who is another of the writer clan. Lynne and I were on two panels together that evening and we all had a lovely dinner between the two with Lars Pearson and Christa Dickson of Mad Norwegian Press. As an aside, Lynne archives my papers at NIU along with those of Jack McDevitt, E. E. Knight, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, Caroline Stevermer, and Tobias Buckell, among others. She is on a mission to save the archives of as many f&sf authors as humanly possible, a mission I very much support.

The first of those panels was Care and Feeding of Your Home Library (Paula Fleming, Jenni Klumpp, Kelly McCullough, Juanita Nesbitt, Lynne Thomas) which was a great deal of fun, and at which I learned several new things about the storing of books. New to me was the idea of transporting and storing boxed books spine down so that the pages are pressed into the glue for however long they’re stored. More familiar was the discussion of avoiding big temperature swings, extreme temperatures, too much moisture, etc. I talked up Delicious Library as a wonderful cataloging tool, and Jenni had good things to say about Librarything.com. Lynne tried to convince us all that it was okay to throw away books in bad condition. She’s right, but I don’t think she had much success on that front.

After the panel a bunch of the audience headed for the front of the room–which I am quite used to–and a bunch of them were carrying my books–which I am not so used to. It was my first ever fan swarm and very cool if somewhat disconcerting.

Then dinner.

Followed by the Dr. Who season 4 panel (Michael Lee, Steven Manfred, Kelly McCullough, Lynne Thomas, Michael Zecca). I did not say much but had a good time. The original panel description suggested that there would be more discussion of seasons 1-3 then we ended up with, and since I live beyond the edges of cable land and don’t bit torrent I was not as up to date as I really needed to be. Also, I am discovering that I am not great on fan panels. I am a fan, a third generation fan, no less, but I don’t keep the necessary information at my fingertips in the same way that my fellow panelists seem to. The sole exception being LOTR stuff which is written into my bones.

Afterward we went on for general hanging out and social with a variety of folks.

Saturday:

Started off the day by hopping in the car and driving around till we found a nice little hole-in-the-wall kind of cafe where we had a lovely breakfast. I should say that Laura drove, as it was morning and Laura prefers not to have me operate any kind of heavy machinery much before 10:00 since I wake up very slowly. I had a big old omelet–I find that when I am at conventions I crave mass quantities of protein in a way that I do not in normal life. When we got back we noodled around for a bit and then I went off to do a panel while Laura cross-stitched in the atrium.

The panel was Writing Business: Cover letters, manuscripts, and rejections (Roy C. Booth, Kelly McCullough, Michael Merriam, Adam Stemple, Anna Waltz) and it was held at Krushenko’s, the literary venue that Eric Heideman (editor of TOTU, SMOF, and all around good guy, has been running for years). The panel had a good mix of folks Anna and Michael are much more up to date on the short markets these days then I am. Roy has published a jillion plays and does comic and movie work, though he can only talk about the latter in a general way because of NDAs. Adam, in addition to being an actively publishing novelist, is Jane Yolen’s son and probably has absorbed more publishing knowledge through simple osmosis than most of us do in actively working in the business.

It was a great deal of fun as it was a good articulate crew with a sense of humor and we had a large audience to keep feeding us questions. I’ve been in writers groups with Anna and have known and been friends with her for about ten years. Michael and I have been on quite a few panels together as well as sharing a reading time a few years back and I enjoy his company. I’ve likewise done quite a few panels with Roy though I don’t know him as well. I’d never met Adam before, which is surprising because we both lived in the same city for years and for a lot of that moved in circles with a good deal of overlap–Ren Faires for me and Irish Music for Adam. I hope I get a chance to talk with him more at some later date.

After the panel I found Laura and we were going to wander around looking for something to do but got preempted by bumping into our old and very dear friend Tesla (yes that’s her real name) who we hadn’t managed to actually get together with for about six years–there are definite disadvantages to living out on the edge of nowhere. We hung out with Tesla for several hours, accumulating and spinning off other folks at a pretty steady clip, some mutual friends, some that knew us or Tesla but not the other. One of those latter made for a great introduction moment. An obvious con-runner (con-com perhaps?) showed up, gave Tesla a big hug and joined the conversation as so often happens in these situations. After a bit, Tesla pauses and says, “I don’t know if you’ve all been introduced. Ishmael, this is Laura McCullough and her husband Kelly.” At which point both Ishamael and I did giant double takes. He because I’m one of next year’s GOHs for CONvergence. I because Ishmael is one of those people I’ve been hearing about for years from multiple sources but had never actually met (he’s another TC area SMOF). Handshakes and grins were exchanged and then we all got back to a lovely chat.

At some point Tesla had to go do music things and Laura and I needed food. That happened and Laura and I eventually ended up back at the atrium where we worked on a puzzle and hung out a series of folks including writer/editor Catherine Lundoff, a friend of many years standing, and poet/editor Rebecca Marjesdatter. If you’re getting the impression that a lot of hanging out in halls and corners was happening you’re perfectly right. Laura and I found out years ago that not only do we have more fun that way at conventions of both the sf and physics variety, but we both get more work done at hallway meeting than almost anywhere else.

Somewhere in there we also wandered back to our car to pick up an old manuscript of mine and a folder full of readings and talks, all of which we then delivered to my archivist Lynne Thomas–have I mentioned that I love how my writing clutter turns into her buried treasure? One moment it’s a mess, the next: “Presto-chango,” and it’s potentially valuable historical documents. I love my job.

More hanging out and then I went off to my next panel: Urban Fantasy (Kenneth Hite, Kelly McCullough, Michael Merriam, Juanita Nesbitt, Adam Stemple, Jody Wurl) This one was 11:00-11:59 p.m. and way past my bedtime, but too much fun to give up. This was another good group. Jody and I have been friends for something like 25 years and Kenneth Hite was one of this year’s thundering herd of GOHs and both fun and funny. Juanita I’d met at my library panel the previous day and she’s very sweet. A good time was had by all and my books got a great unsolicited plug from an audience member who had all three to be signed for a friend. Best of all, neither of the standard Urban Fantasy flame wars got started. One of those is the one that tries to draw an arbitrary line between the urban fantasy that gets marketed as fantasy and the urban fantasy that gets marketed as paranormal romance. The other is the one that pretends urban fantasy hasn’t exploded as a genre by ignoring everything published in the field in the last ten years. So, yay panel!

We even all agreed that the current round (last twenty years or so) was kicked off in 1987, the year which saw the publishing of Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Eleanor Arnason’s Daughter of the Bear King–both fantasies set in the Twin Cities. I wanted to put Tim Powers’ Last Call closer to that time then it was. I was thinking only a year or two behind in ’88 or ’89 but Kenneth Hite didn’t think so and he was right. Last Call was ’92.

After the panel and the inevitable post-panel chat, Laura and I went face down for the night. I should also mention that I picked up a copy of Michael Merriam’s self-published short story collection at that point and that if you get the opportunity you should too. They’re all stories that have been previously published in various professional venues. Michael got tired of answering the question “Where can I find your stories?” with a laundry list of publications that might or might not be currently available–the eternal problem of short fiction. I’m quite looking forward to reading it as I really enjoy Michael’s work.

Sunday was a much briefer day for us. Checked out. Had Breakfast. Did a reading (good attendance). Said some goodbyes. Headed for home.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog July 8th and 9th 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)