Archive for Conventions and Fandom

Heading Off to Balticon 49


This Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the family and I will be at Balticon, Maryland’s largest science fiction convention, and one of the bigger regional cons on the East Coast. We haven’t gone to a convention as a family in a couple of years, due to health concerns and other worries, so this is a bit of a milestone for us. Balticon has always been one of my kids’ favorites, due to their terrific kids’ programming.

Here’s the programming I’m scheduled for, in case you’ll be able to join us:

Saturday, May 23

11:00 AM Readings: Andrew Fox, Elektra Hammond, Larry Hodges (Chesapeake)

I’ll be reading a selection from Fat White Vampire Otaku.

Sunday, May 24

12:00 PM Putting a Pretty Face on Small Press (Parlor)
Scott E Pond (M), Andrew Fox, Gail Z. Martin, Alex Shvartsman, Patrick Thomas

Covers, often the bane of small press publishers. How do you put out a nice looking book without breaking the bank? What do you need to know when designing those covers and selecting cover art? What pitfalls should you watch out for that could mean the difference between looking pro and not.

2:00 PM Starting your own Small Press (Pimlico)
Dave Robison (M), Andrew Fox, Gary L Lester, Alex Shvartsman

Taxes, registration, a company name… there are so many things to consider before you even start. Learn some of the things you should be aware of before you take that plunge into the publishing mogul pool.

9:00 PM Mom and Dad Let Me Watch WHAT? (Chase)
Katie Bryski, Andrew Fox, Nate Nelson, THE JOHN VAUGHAN

Phasers a-blazing, starships exploding, steamy alien/elven love, and vicious clowns. Come out to discuss our earliest experiences with science fiction, fantasy, and horror–and they’ve shaped us as writers today.

11:00 AM SF/F Mysteries (Chase)
Sarah Pinsker (M), Andrew Fox, John L French

From Bester’s The Demolished Man to Jo Walton’s Farthing and Chris Moriarty’s Spin State. Robot detectives and vampire detectives and android detectives. Parlor mysteries and space station mysteries. The tools of the trade in the past (Sherlock Holmes’ very Victorian method of deduction) and the future (AI, bugs, drones).

At-the-door registration rates are:
Adult Child (6-12)
Full Weekend $65 $33
Friday $32 $16
Saturday $45 $23
Sunday $40 $20
Sunday/Monday $50 $25
Monday $17 $8

For more information, go to the Balticon homepage.

I hope to run into some of you there! It’s always a good show.

Will Be At Capclave on Sunday, 10/12/14

Capclave Dodo: "Where reading is not extinct"

Capclave Dodo: “Where reading is not extinct”

After this past year of personal tsuris, I’m easing myself back into convention appearances with a one-day stop at Capclave, the Washington Science Fiction Association’s annual convention, “where reading is not extinct.” I’m scheduled for only one event, a half-hour reading on Sunday at 4 PM, the tail-end of the convention. I’ll read an excerpt from Fat White Vampire Otaku. If you’re planning to be at Capclave, I’d sure appreciate your staying until the “bitter end” to hear me read; getting attendees for a reading is always a challenge (unless you’re the GOH, and even then it can be a challenge), and the challenge is quadrupled when your reading is the last bit of programming on the convention’s final day.

The primary accomplishment I’d like to walk away from Capclave with this year is reconnecting with friends whom I haven’t seen in a year, or making new friends. I’d especially enjoy connecting with a circle of friends in the Northern Virginia area, since Dara and I (I, especially) have found it a bit difficult to establish new social ties in the five years we’ve been up here.

Here’s the info on attending Capclave:

Location: Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg,
620 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877

Membership cost: $60 (a special rate of $25 is available for Active Military, dependents of Active Military, and students)

Guests of Honor:
Paolo Bacigalupi
Holly Black
Genevieve Valentine

“Capclave is a small relaxed literary convention with a program that usually focuses on the short fiction form. Our Guests of Honor and other notable authors, editors, artists, and fans of the short fiction form will explore the creation and enjoyment of short fantasy and science fiction genre stories.

“Past Capclaves have hosted discussions with authors and fans; readings by authors; a dealer’s room with books, magazines, artwork, crafts, and other science fiction and fantasy related items; exhibits by artists; space science presentations from NASA; a hospitality suite; room parties; interesting conversations with other fans and professionals; and a relaxed atmosphere for visiting old friends and meeting new friends.”

Recent Article Linked to by SF Signal and Locus Online

The science fiction website SF Signal has linked to my recent article, “The New Immortality of Authors and Books,” on its Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Links Page for 4/17/14.

SF Signal is a marvelous science fiction, fantasy, and horror website, winner of the 2012-13 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. The site currently has over 866 pages of content. Current contents include a podcast interview with author Daniel Price, a link to the Functional Nerds podcast, and a link to the new trailer for the upcoming film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, which, if it is anywhere as good as X-Men: First Class was, should be one terrific movie.

The article has also been linked to by Locus Online, “The Website of The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field” (Locus Magazine has won the Hugo Award for Best Semi-Pro Magazine I think 33 times; they should just call it the Locus Award, but then again, there already exists a Locus Award, so forget that). Locus Online is the best online source for the most recent news in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror fields, and they also include lots of book and movie reviews and author retrospectives. Edited by Mark Kelly, it is invariably a fantastic read, and is worth visiting on a weekly basis. My article was linked to in the Blinks section on the left hand side of the web page for 4/17/14.

Here’s a link to the original article, “The New Immortality of Authors and Books.”

Japanese Fan Site for Fat White Vampire Blues

Fat White Vampire Blues, Japanese cover

Way, waaaaaaaaaay back in those olden days of 2003, Fat White Vampire Blues was published in a very smart-looking edition (trade paperback with slip cover and built-in bookmark) in Japan, in Japanese. I exchanged several emails with my Japanese translator, who was incredibly sweet and polite and wanted me to explain some New Orleans local lingo so he could properly translate it. I received in the mail a small advance payment (which I greatly appreciated) and a copy of the incredibly neat-o edition of my book (which I think I appreciated even more). Then I never heard another word from that Japanese publisher. They opted not to translate and print Bride of the Fat White Vampire, so I assumed the first Jules Duchon/Fat White Vampire book had dropped like a stone into the pond of the Japanese market and hardly created so much as a ripple.

Well, it must’ve created at least something of a ripple, because I just stumbled across a Japanese fan site dedicated to Fat White Vampire Blues. If you are a fan of Jules Duchon and the series, you should go to this link, even if you don’t read Japanese, because the accompanying photos are so perfectly selected. This Japanese fan has assembled a small portfolio of fat New Orleans culture. Below is a sample: an obese cab driver waiting for his next fare.

Fat cab driver from Japanese FWVB website

Now, if I could just get that Japanese publisher interested in the next Jules Duchon book, which features a trio of Japanese super-heroes (Fat White Vampire Otaku, due out next month, May, 2014), maybe I could be big in Japan!

Updates on My List of Upcoming Appearances

Unfortunately, I have had to severely truncate my list of upcoming appearances, due to my son Levi’s health situation. At present, I am unable to leave Dara, my wife, alone with Levi and his brothers for any extended period of time (such as the full weekend nearly all science fiction conventions take up). However, I expect to go to at least a day or two of CapClave 2014 in Rockville, Maryland in mid-October, since Rockville is only a ninety minute drive from my house and I can “commute.”

My updated list of planned and past convention and readings appearances can be found here.

Visiting Levi

Levi with his pair of Heinlein juveniles

Levi with his pair of Heinlein juveniles

It isn’t easy to visit one’s child in a psychiatric facility. Especially when one has only recently emerged from such a facility oneself. Especially when the child in question is ten years old, and is fully aware of what has happened to him, and what may still happen to him.

I hope most of you will never experience this sort of event. But I also hope that, if you ever do, this brief post will make its immanence seem less ghastly and more hopeful than it would otherwise.

Levi’s facility is located in Falls Church, about an hour’s (confusing) drive from our home. Dara made a commitment to Levi when he was admitted this past Tuesday that she would not allow a single day to pass when either she, me, or another loving friend or relative would visit him during each scheduled visiting session. Thus far, she has kept her promise. Saturday was my first opportunity to join her on a visit to my son.

A friend of ours was kind enough to take in our two younger boys for a sleep-over with her grandchild, allowing Dara and me to have a night to ourselves, a luxury we haven’t enjoyed in many months. Despite our first destination, Dara dressed up for a special date, picking out an outfit much more attractive and sexy than might be expected for a visit to a psychiatric facility. She served as my guide; Fairfax County can be bewilderingly confusing, especially during the heavily trafficked holiday shopping hours.

The facility was neat, uncluttered, and well-organized. We were required to leave all our possessions, save car keys and one form of photo ID, in our automobile. We carried in a bag of short sleeve shirts and short pants for Levi, because due to the unseasonable warmth, the ward had been hot. I also packed him my yellow smiley-face stress ball I’d received during my own recent hospitalization. I wanted Levi to have something personal and tactile of mine, so that he could squeeze it in his fist and remember that I am there with him in spirit, if not in body. My own father did something similar for me when I was about Levi’s age and had been missing him terribly, our only meetings being our scheduled weekly Sundays together and furtive lunch rendezvous at my school. My father gave me a pair of his cuff links, which I stored in a clear pill bottle and hid atop the wooden slots which held up my upper bunk, so that it would always be right above my head. I kept those cuff links for years. They always reminded me of my father’s presence in my life.

Levi introduced us to his two roommates, both of whom he said he liked very much. Unusually, all three boys shared a passion for origami, so Levi had been “loaning out” much of his origami papers. Dara promised to bring him more on her next visit. Levi showed off several origami boats he had made, and he spoke proudly of having started reading a Fritz Leiber short story from a collection I had Dara bring him called The World Turned Upside Down, a collection of stories chosen by Jim Baen and David Drake as the stories which had had the biggest impacts upon their childhoods. During the past couple of months, Levi had developed a voracious appetite for science fiction, and to my delight, the authors he gravitated to were all “old school”– Asimov, Jack Williamson, Heinlein, A. E. van Vogt, and Edmund Hamilton. My oldest son was blossoming into what old-timers would call a TrueFan.

Dara and I accompanied Levi into an empty activities room so we could have some private discussion. Whatever new medication he had been placed on had made him jumpy and hyper, but he was alert, talkative, and very happy to have us both there. He explained that he had been assigned his own nutritionist to help him keep kosher, that all of the staff were friendly, that he had made some new friends, and that he looked forward to art therapy, music therapy, and popcorn movie nights. His one fear was that his psychiatrist had told him he would not be released from the hospital until he had gone five days straight without a crying fit. Levi feared this would mean he would never be discharged. I explained to him that, no matter what his doctor might have told him (in an effort to scare him away from his fits), the insurance company would never allow him to remain hospitalized longer than two weeks.

Levi enjoyed squeezing the stress ball. I asked him if he’d been thinking at all about Grandpa Frank, my mother’s father, who had invented “Grandpa Frank’s Magical Back Rub.” He said he would need to begin thinking about Grandpa Frank. I asked him to sit in a chair so that I could give him one of those magical back rubs and back scratches. He really enjoyed this. I asked him if he remembered that G-d was always with him, whether he was in the hospital or not. He said he had remembered this and thought of it often. He said he was looking forward to additional visits with Dara tomorrow, when she would be accompanied first by Levi’s older sister Natalie and later by his younger brother Asher. Levi thought he had gone two days straight without a crying fit, and he was proud of this. Dara and I were allowed to stay for one hour.

Levi and me at RavenCon in Richmond, VA

Levi and me at RavenCon in Richmond, VA

After leaving the facility, Dara and I indulged in our first date we’d had together in months, a special dinner at the Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant. Eating delicious vegetarian food together, talking and laughing about the past, even past incidents involving visits to psychiatric hospitals, we were reminded of why we love each other so much and why we have remained such a strong couple, one which pulls together in times of adversity, rather than pulling apart. I made a commitment that we would schedule at least two nights per month as date nights, no matter how much we would end up spending on baby sitters. After dinner, we stopped by Ross and Barnes and Noble to buy a newborn gift for our wonderful neighbor Larry’s new grandson, winter vacation activity gifts for Asher and Judah, and a new box of origami papers for Levi. I felt remarkably calm, placid, and filled with a sense of general well-being.

As often happens with me, I experienced my delayed emotional reaction to the visit the following morning. I awoke already in tears, bitterly missing my Grandpa Frank, my first best friend, who had been taken away from me by heart disease when I’d been five years old. I mourned his absence because I knew that if he could, he would be an enormous help and comfort to Levi. I consoled myself by reminding myself that I had made Grandpa Frank a presence in Levi’s life, even though Levi had never met his great-grandfather. Levi showed much wisdom at his next meeting with Dara when he requested that my father, his Grandpa Dick, call him at the hospital right after visiting hours ended. He wanted to tell Grandpa Dick about his roommates, his new friends, and his sense that he had been making progress in the hospital.

So my oldest son and I, who already share so much (a love of old-time science fiction writers, a strong interest in history and travel, and many symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, which had gone undiagnosed during my childhood), now shared something new — a stay in an inpatient psychiatric facility. But just as my six-day stay allowed me to make tremendous strides towards a resumption of emotional equilibrium and mental health, so am I confident that the same will prove true for my oldest son. He says his stay thus far has been “like a hotel for kids.” He approaches his challenges with at least as much courage as I was able to muster. And so he makes me proud… not at all ashamed.

Notes on Capclave 2013

Capclave Dodo: "Where reading is not extinct"

Capclave Dodo: “Where reading is not extinct”

What an enjoyable convention! Many thanks to Bill Lawhorn, the Capclave committee, and all the volunteers. This year I got to attend all three days (a minor benefit of the federal furlough). I met some wonderful new friends. A few of my personal highlights:

Allen Wold’s Writer’s Workshop — This was my second turn assisting Allen with his frequently offered workshop. We had a large turnout this time – eighteen participants. We four reviewers (including Allen’s daughter, Darcy, who intends to take over management of the workshop when her father retires… “two years after he’s dead”) heard a lot of strong story beginnings, all composed “on the fly” in the first fifteen minutes of the workshop. Following the two sessions, I had a chance to have very enjoyable chats with participants Ron Jones, Chris Addotta, and Jennifer Delare (who recently returned to the U.S. after having spent eighteen years living and teaching in Italy). I had a terrific time, learned a few things myself, and would be very happy to continue assisting Allen.

Are Prose Superheroes Still Novel? — This was just a fun topic and a fun panel. Any discussion in which I get to bring up Robert Mayer’s Superfolks and Michael Bishop’s Count Geiger’s Blues is a darned good discussion, I’d say!

Name Drop and Quote Panel — The easiest job of moderating I’ve ever had. Didn’t have to say a word. As soon as we sat down, Scott Edelman and Steve Stiles started swapping stories about working in the Bronze Age Marvel Bullpen with Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Sal Brodsky; Michael Swanwick kicked in with tales of being a “young gun” among the old pros at the science fiction conventions of the early 1980s; and Steve told us all about his first and only orgy during the Swinging Seventies (the story not at all what you’d expect).

Fire On Iron Reading — I had an audience! Not a big audience, but an attentive and appreciative one. It’s always good to have an audience (not always a given at a fiction reading)! I read the Mikithi summoning scene; very vivid, lots of drama and action. Also lots of fun to read aloud.

Miscellaneous Smilies — It was great to meet Clarkesworld editor Kate Baker’s young daughters and to see them having such a wonderful time at the convention… fun kids! I hope they get to meet my boys at one of the Virginia conventions coming up this winter. I just loved getting to know Betsy Riley and to share two discussion panels with her (both of which I moderated), “Blood in Southern Waters” and “Self Publishing and You;” she is a real hoot! I’d like to pick up one of her books and see how well it reflects her lively personality. Alethia Kontis, thanks for reminding me that I have my own Harlan Ellison story to tell on some future panel devoted to funny Harlan stories! Barbara deBary-Kesner, thanks for sharing a wonderful but bizarro conversation with me – yakking it up about the federal acquisitions process in the con suite of a science fiction convention, rather than talking up sci-fi interests in the lunch room of a federal workplace! The world turned upside-down!

Heading to Capclave in Maryland This Weekend

Capclave Dodo: "Where reading is not extinct"

Capclave Dodo: “Where reading is not extinct”

This is where I’ll be hanging my hat this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…

Capclave 2013: Where Reading is Not Extinct

Location: Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg,
620 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877

At the Door Rates:
Friday: $25
Saturday: $50 ($20 for students, active military, and active military dependents)
Sunday: $20
(A special whole-weekend rate of $30 is available for Active Military, dependants of Active Military, and Students; or $20 for Saturday alone)

Here’s my schedule of activities:

Friday, October 11

Are Prose Superheroes Still Novel?
7:00 pm – 7:55 pm
Panelists: Day Al-Mohamed, Matt Betts, Andrew Fox, James Maxey (M), Sherin Nicole
Although more frequent now, why are there so few costumed superheroes in prose? Do fancy costumes just work better in visual media? Or does urban fantasy featuring people with paranormal abilities satisfy the need?

(This panel sounds pretty darned interesting; I haven’t seen this subject come up as a discussion topic before. One of my favorite novels is Robert Meyer’s wonderful Superfolks, the book which helped to inspire Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and all the revisionist superhero stories of the 1980s through today.)

Perishing Publishers
8:00 pm – 8:55 pm
Panelists: Jennifer Barnes, Andrew Fox, James Maxey, Ian Randal Strock (M), K. Ceres Wright
Do authors still need publishers in the kickstarter/ebook age? What are the success rates of these projects? Are publishers consolidating themselves to irrelevancy? Is there still a stigma to self-published novels?

(I’m scheduled for several panels discussing author-publishing/self-publishing/independent publishing during Capclave. Given that Dara and I have just gotten MonstraCity Press off the ground, it’s a timely subject for me… although I don’t have much in the way of extensive experience to share just yet.)

Saturday, October 12

Writer’s Workshop
11:00 am – 1:55 pm
Panelists: David Bartell, Andrew Fox, Allen Wold (M), Darcy Wold
Allen Wold will lead a panel of authors in a hands on workshop. Learn many skills as you work on a short story. All you need is a pen and paper.
Session will be for 3 hours on Saturday from 11am to 2pm and for those interested, a 1 hour follow-up on Sunday at 9am.

(Alan’s writing workshops are wonderful. This’ll be the second time I’m helping to facilitate one. A good time is had by all, and much learning takes place.)

Blood in Southern Waters
6:00 pm – 6:55 pm
Panelists: Meriah Lysistrata Crawford, Andrew Fox (M), Sherin Nicole, Betsy A. Riley
Is it something in the water, but why are there so many vampires in the South? From Anne Rice to Charlaine Harris to L.J. Smith it seems all vampires that don’t sparkle live in the South. Why?

(If there’s one panel I’m scheduled into at almost every con I attend, it’s this one. But having just finished my third Fat White Vampire book, Fat White Vampire Otaku, I’ve got something new to share.)

Mass Signing

7:30 pm – 8:25 pm
Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Catherine Asaro, Eric Bakutis, Philippa Ballantine, Matt Betts, Matt Bishop, Neil Clarke, Tom Doyle, Andrew Fox, Charles E. Gannon, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Laura Anne Gilman, John G. Hemry, Alma Katsu, Annette Klause, John Edward Lawson, Dina Leacock, Edward M. Lerner, Marianne Mancusi, George R.R. Martin, James Maxey, Heidi Ruby Miller, Jason Jack Miller,James Morrow, Diana Peterfreund, Patrick Scaffido, Lawrence M. Schoen, Jon Skovron, Alan Smale,Michelle D. Sonnier, Bud Sparhawk, Janine Spendlove, Michael Swanwick, Michael A. Ventrella, Jean Marie Ward, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Steven H. Wilson, Leona Wisoker, K. Ceres Wright
The Saturday evening mass autographing session.

Name Drop and Quote Panel
10:00 pm – 10:55 pm
Panelists: Scott Edelman, Andrew Fox (M), Steve Stiles, Ian Randal Strock, Michael Swanwick
Nothing but bragging rights here as the panelists drop names and share quotes as they discuss the best experiences, novels, stories, and conventions they have ever seen. Or not.

(My best convention experience ever was ConDFW III in February, 2004, when I had coffee with Robert Sheckley and got to meet my dear friend and childhood idol, Barry Malzberg, for the first time.)

Sunday, October 13

Writer’s Workshop Follow-up

9:00 am – 9:55 am
Panelists: David Bartell, Andrew Fox, Allen Wold, Darcy Wold
Allen Wold will lead a panel of authors in a hands on workshop. Learn many skills as you work on a short story. All you need is a pen and paper.
Session will be for 3 hours on Saturday from 11am to 2pm and for those interested, a 1 hour follow-up on Sunday at 9am.

Self Publishing and You / DIY Publishing
12:00 pm – 12:55 pm
Panelists: Jennifer Barnes, Andrew Fox (M), Jason Jack Miller, Betsy A. Riley, Steven H. Wilson
Self publishing offers authors new opportunities, but also pitfalls. Is self publishing right for you? Should readers consider self-published books? Do genre and author experience matter?

Reading: Andrew Fox
1:30 pm – 1:55 pm
Panelists: Andrew Fox
I’ll be reading a selection from my newest book from MonstraCity Press, the steampunk Civil War suspense novel, Fire on Iron.

Hope to see some of you there!

Heading Off to MystiCon 2013

Another month, another Virginia-based science fiction convention (they seem to come hot-and-heavy in the winter months). This weekend, Levi, Asher and I are heading south/south-west to Roanoke. MystiCon has a tradition of strong programming for kids (a big plus in my household), and they also offer the quirky but undoubtedly fascinating (especially to my sons) attraction of a video gaming room featuring working home video game consoles dating from the 1980s to the present, a kind of hands-on museum of home video gaming. We’ll be at the convention from late Saturday morning to con closing on Sunday afternoon. Here’s some basic information on MystiCon:

Mysticon 2013, February 22-24
Holiday Inn – Tanglewood, 4468 Starkey Road, SW, Roanoke, VA 24018
Full weekend registration: $45
Friday only: $25
Saturday only: $30
Sunday only: $20
Kids Aged 9-12: $20
Special Guests: Orson Scott Card (author); Peter Davison (media); Larry Elmore (artist)

And here’s my schedule for the weekend (for in-between times, check for me and my boys in the dealers’ room, the kids’ programming, or the con suite, most likely):

Saturday, February 23

World Building – “Can I Cook Or Can’t I”
Boardroom 1 (50 min) 3:00-4:00 PM
The creators of some of the most fantastic and out‐of‐this
world settings discuss the creative process.
Peter Prellwitz (M), Andrew Fox, Misty Massey, Charles
Matheny, Jason Oliveira, John Watts

Spooky Ghost and Horror Stories
Rm 533 (50 min) 11:00 PM-Midnight
Readings from several of our paranormal and horror authors.
Andrew Fox, Pamela Kinney, KT Pinto
(I’ll read a brief selection from The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity)

Sunday, February 24

Andrew Fox & Misty Massey Guest Signing
Signing Table (50 min) 11:00 AM-Noon

Building Post-Apocalyptic and Steampunk Vehicles
Boardroom 1 (50 min) Noon-1:00 PM
Dreaming of driving your very own Steampunk Time Machine
into the sunset? Or would you prefer racing in the dusty
aftermath of the apocalypse? Join our panelists for a look at
how you too can make your dream car set sail.
Emmy Jackson (M), Brian Brindle, Andrew Fox, David Lee

“Hook, Line and Sinker” How to Begin and End A Story
Ballroom E (50 min) 1:00-2:00 PM
Join our panelists as they discuss how to create a captivating
beginning that lures readers in and an ending that satisfies.
Peter Prellwitz (M), Betty Cross, Glenda Finkelstein, Andrew
Fox, Tera Fulbright, Zachary Steele

I hope to see lots of our friends there (and that we make some new ones, too)!

Heading Off to MarsCon 2013

For the third year in a row, I’ll be heading down to Williamsburg, Virginia for MarsCon. Unfortunately, this year, unlike last, I won’t have my family with me. One by one, the boys have been dropping with various varieties of the winter crud. It’s a real shame, because MarsCon features one of the best tracks of family/children-friendly programming that I’ve ever encountered. And the boys were tremendously looking forward to it (and to the indoor swimming pool at our hotel). (Whoops! Not so fast! See update at the bottom of this post.) I’m not in the best of shape myself, with my wheezing and sneezing, but it looks as though I will drag myself to the con, anyway, because (a) I don’t like backing out on commitments, and (b) I booked my hotel room through Priceline, and my booking is non-refundable. So, if I’m paying whether I go or whether I stay home in bed, I might as well go stay in bed at the Clarion and drag my carcass over to the con as needed.

Here’s the general info on the con:

MarsCon 2013
Crowne Plaza Williamsburg at Ft Magruder
6945 Pocahontas Trail. Williamsburg, VA 23185
(hotel is currently sold out; if you want to go, check with the Clarion down the road, where I’ll be staying)
Writer Guest of Honor: David B. Coe (very nice guy!)
At the Door Registration Rates for the Weekend:
Adult – $45.00
Children (6-12rs Old) – $22.00
Children (1-5 yrs old) – Free with adult
Student/Military Rate:
This year MarsCon will offer a discount to Students and Active Military, for a Saturday Only! pass, of $25.00. ID must be presented.

For anyone interesting in where I’ll be at the con, here’s my schedule:

Friday, January 18, 2013

They Rise Again! Discussing Reborn Monsters like Vampires, Zombies, Mummies & Frankenstein
8 PM – General Longstreet’s
Tony Ruggiero (M), Tim Liebe, Andrew Fox
Undead monsters are doubly appropriate to our theme of rebirth: they’ve been reborn from the dead, and every few years their popularity is born again. Our panel of experts will examine as many classic and current favorites from fiction, film, and elsewhere as their hour of time will allow. Come prepared to share the undead that are unforgettable to you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Writing 101 Workshop
11 AM-1 PM – Abraham Lincoln
Allen Wold, David B. Coe, Darcy Wold, Danny Birt, and Andrew Fox
Hundreds of writers have benefitted from Allen Wold’s instruction at MarsCon in the years that he has led our writing workshop. Sharpen up your pencil or charge up the laptop’s battery and come ready to write and take constructive criticism from Allen and his team of successful writers.

Guest Authors Reading
4 PM – Stuart’s Redoubt
Steve White (M), Marina Sergeyeva, Will McIntosh, Andrew Fox, Barbara Friend Ish
It’s a second hour of MarsCon’s fantastic writer guests featured in eight minute sets. This is your chance to see what’s forthcoming from these creative talents, get an autograph, or see which writer’s works you’ll want to seek out for your next read.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Post with the Most: Starting a Blog
10 AM – General Early’s
David Coe/D. B. Jackson (M), Tamora Pierce, Andrew Fox
Think you’ve got something to say? Perhaps blogging is for you. And who better to learn about it from than three of MarsCon’s best authors, including two Guests of Honor. They’ll explore both the mechanics of starting a blog, hints for finding readers, and advice for crafting the best of posts. Get up and get motivated with this excellent session.

Updating a Classic Group Write: Authors Re-imagine a Classic Scenario Live
Noon – General Hooker’s
Danny Birt (M), Stephen Simmons, Andrew Fox, Patrick Vanner
Four great writers will create a new version of a classic story with help from suggestions from the audience regarding the story to revise, the characters, the setting, and the some of the conflicts and plot elements. With your help, they’ll spin a new tale from familiar straw. Come and get insight into the creative process at work and enjoy a great story at the same time.

Remembering Ray: a Bradbury Memorial Hour
2 PM – Stuart’s Redoubt
Andrew Fox (M), Diana Bastine, Lyn C.A. Gardner, Mary and Terry Gray
We lost one of the all-time greats last year, that grand old man of science fiction and fantasy, Ray Bradbury. The panelists will each discuss the influence Bradbury had on their writing or fandom and offer appreciations of some of his great works such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Then they’ll open up the floor for your remembrances of Ray. Think about when you first encountered this giant or what you took away from one of his masterworks and come prepared to share.

UPDATE: No sooner than ten minutes after I posted this, my wife called to report that the boys are (a) devastated at her announcement that they won’t be going to MarsCon, and (b) insisting that they’re all feeling better. And (b) appears (at least according to Dara) to not be complete BS. So, now it appears I will have the full family in tow, after all. Much happiness ensues! I only hope their recoveries can last through the full weekend.

Heading Off to Capclave

Capclave Dodo: “Where reading is not extinct”

This Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be attending my local(ish) science fiction convention, Capclave. Capclave is a personal favorite because of its literary-focused programming and its abundance of books dealers. Here are the details:

Capclave 2012
October 12-14, 2012
Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg,
620 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, Maryland
$60: All Weekend
$20: Friday
$40: Saturday
$20: Sunday
Special Pricing for Students, Active Military, and Active Military dependents: Saturday $20 / All weekend $25

And here’s my schedule:

Saturday, October 13

Unsung Author: Robert Sheckley (10 AM, Bethesda Room)
Panelists: Michael Dirda (M), Tom Doyle, Andrew Fox
Robert Sheckley. He was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. SFWA awarded him the 2001 Author Emeritus award. Learn more about his career and writings.

Reading (1:30 PM to 1:55 PM, Room 254)
I’ll read a brief selection from my new middle grades book, The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity

Young, Adult, or Both? (4 PM, Salons A&B)
Panelists: Andrew Fox, Ron Garner, Victoria Janssen (M), Morgan Keyes, Diana Peterfreund
How does a YA differ from a children’s book or an adult book? How is the pacing, characterization, and language different or the same? Are there things you can do in one and not the other? Are these distinctions needed? And what about series like Harry Potter in which the children grow up?

RIP Bookstores or Not Dead Yet? (6 PM, Rockville/Potomac Rooms)
Panelists: Andrew Fox, Katie Hartlove (M), Michael D. Pederson, Steve Stiles
With the growth of Amazon online, the demise of Borders, and the rapid adoption of ebooks, does the traditional bookstores have a future? What is the role of bookstores in the age of instantly downloadable ebooks and Amazon Prime? Can we do anything to save the bookstore?

Mass Signing (7:30 PM, Salons A&B)
Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Eric Choi, Brenda Clough, David Louis Edelman, Andrew Fox, Ron Garner, Morgan Keyes, Dave Klecha, Jonah Knight, Yoji Kondo (Eric Kotani), Dina Leacock, Edward M. Lerner, Craig Alan Loewen, James Maxey, Mike McPhail, James Morrow, Diana Peterfreund, Lawrence M. Schoen, Darrell Schweitzer, Alan Smale, Bud Sparhawk, Jean Marie Ward, Lawrence Watt-Evans
This is the mass signing held before the presentation of the WSFA Small Press Award.

Sunday, October 14

WWI comeback (11 AM, Bethesda Room)
Panelists: Tad Daley J.D., Ph.D., Andrew Fox, John G. Hemry, Victoria Janssen (M), Jean Marie Ward
It has been nearly a hundred years since the War to end all wars, is this a setting that still has potential? Will the movie “War Horse” and the tv show “Downton Abbey” spark a new interest in fiction set during World War One?

The Bradbury Effect (3 PM, Frederick Room)
Panelists: Roger MacBride Allen, Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen, Andrew Fox (M)
How Ray Bradbury affected authors through his writing and contacts.

I’m really looking forward to the Bob Sheckley and Ray Bradbury panels. Hope to see some of you there!

Baltimore Book Festival Appearances

This coming Sunday, September 30, 2012, I’ll be signing books and speaking on several discussion panels at the 17th annual Baltimore Book Festival. Here are the details:

Festival Dates: September 28-30, 2012

Hours: Friday & Saturday: 12-8pm; Sunday: 12-7pm

Location: Baltimore, Maryland, in historic and picturesque Mount Vernon Place

Attendance: 55,000+ festival-goers over the weekend

Admission: Absolutely FREE and open to the public.

Description: The festival features 200+ author appearances and book signings; 75+ exhibitors and booksellers; non-stop readings and panel discussions on eight stages; cooking demos by celebrity chefs; poetry readings and workshops; panel discussions; walking tours; hands-on projects for kids; live music; and a delicious variety of food, beer and wine.

Here’s my schedule (all times listed for Sunday, 9/30; all panel discussions will take place at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Stage):

Noon to 1pm: I’ll be signing books in the Authors Tent

2pm: Vice Squad with Blasters
Can we predict the bad behavior in science fiction? See what scenarios our authors come up with for future misbehavior. Panelists include: Bud Sparhawk, Brenda Clough and Andrew Fox.

3pm: Readings with SFWA Authors
Come listen to SFWA authors read from their work, engage them in Q&A, and win great prizes! Panelists include: Cat Rambo, Raul Kanakai, Sarah Beth Durst, Andrew J. Fox and Brandie Tarvin.

6pm: Movies and Reading
Has the popularity of movie adaptations improved or dumbed down the written word? What about books that were turned into movies; is the union of Hollywood and literature for better or for worse? Panelists include: Andrew Fox, Walter Greatshell and Brenda Clough.

I hope some of my friends and readers will be able to come to the Festival. This will be my first year attending, and this is also SFWA’s first year as an official sponsor/partner of the Festival. Let’s hope for good weather, as this is an entirely outdoor/tented event. No thunderstorms, please!

Balticon Great for Kids

Ladies of DC Comics unite! Catwoman and Death welcome you to Balticon

I’ve been wanting to post these photos from Balticon for the past couple of weeks but just haven’t gotten around to it (until today). One aspect of Balticon that I truly appreciated (and enjoyed) was the welcoming face the convention put on for children. Not only did they have children’s activities, but they had well-planned, fun children’s activities (rather than tossing the kids and their parents into a room with a carton of Legos, a box of Oreos, and a jug of red punch and hoping they will somehow entertain themselves).

Levi, Judah, Asher, and a friend pose with Booster Gold and Supergirl

There are a few entertainers my kids especially enjoyed. Leigh “Supergirl” Alexander (and her faithful sidekick, Booster Gold) did a marvelous job of showing a whole roomful of kids all about “Moving in Outer Space.” This was a combination of fantasy role playing and gentle exercise that kept my boys enthralled for a full fifty minutes. I was especially grateful for how Leigh gracefully coped with my youngest son’s continual commentary about what type of outer-space monster he had turned into. She didn’t shut him down, but she didn’t let him distract her from the other ten kids, either. Now that’s talent!

Levi and Asher show off their visions of outer space

Heather Dale, the con’s Filking Guest of Honor, and her partner Ben Deschamps put on a marvelous musical concert for the kids. Mark MacDicken looked every inch the medieval magical wizard during his “Flabbergast the Wizard Magic Show” and managed to make my boys laugh a good bit (I was very bummed about having to miss his show myself, but I had a panel I needed to participate in). Mark also led a “Make-and-Take Steampunk Goggles” activity and helped kids and parents make steampunk goggles out of recycled toilet paper cardboard rolls and other household leftovers. Very cool! A special thanks to Mark for heading up two activities that my kids loved.

Judah preens with picture of galaxy

I wish I could’ve been present to see artist Charlene Taylor D’Alessio lead my boys through her “Astronomical Drawing” activity (Dara was there with them). She showed my three kids how to use oil pastels on black paper to create their own nebulae and solar systems. They were so proud! After my last Saturday panel, I met up with my family in the hotel lobby, and Asher was showing off his “universe drawing” to every adult who walked by. I felt great for him, especially since he has only recently begun to develop some confidence when making artwork.

To sum up, my family and I owe a tremendous thanks to the organizers of Balticon and to all the wonderful volunteers who helped entertain and educate my kids. All your efforts really mean a whole lot to us. You made us feel welcome as an entire family. That is so important for the future of fandom. I can guarantee that, thanks to conventions such as Balticon, my sons will look back on their childhood journeys to science fiction conventions with very warm memories. I hope they will choose to stay involved and that, someday, they will take their own children to conventions not yet born!

Books, Books, Books!

My big book haul from Balticon

Ah, books, books! Can’t get enough of ‘em. Running out of room for them, of course, but I’ve never let that stop me before.

One of the appealing aspects of Balticon (and there were many) was the large number and variety of new and used books dealers in the dealers’ room. I picked up some real finds. Looks like I’ve got my reading all lined up for the long, hot summer.

My most unusual and rare find was Far Future Calling, a collection of short fiction by Olaf Stapledon, edited by Sam Moskowitz, featuring a seventy page biography of the writer written by Moskowitz. I hadn’t even known this volume existed. I’m a sucker for any Moskowitz-written nonfiction about science fiction or fantasy, and this volume will make a handsome companion to another book I picked up earlier this year in San Francisco, a collection of Stapledon’s non-fiction and less well-known fiction put out by Syracuse University Press.

I also found a pair of older paperbacks by Theodore Sturgeon, a late-1950s paperback of his short stories put out in an unusually compact format, Aliens 4 (notice how petite it is next to the standard-size mass market paperbacks flanking it), as well as his notable vampire novel, Some of Your Blood, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for years now. Interestingly, the cover of this late-1960s edition advertises the book as Sturgeon’s first “straight crime novel.” Yet I’ve always seen it described as vampire fiction. Perhaps it is about a non-supernatural vampire, like the protagonist of one of George Romero’s early horror films, Martin (1976)?

I was very pleased to find a beautifully designed first edition paperback of Avram Davidson’s initial collection of stories, Or All the Seas With Oysters. Davidson’s short fiction has always been held in high regard, but thus far I’ve only sampled it in small doses. So I’m looking forward to delving into this collection of his early work. I’m also looking forward to diving into a huge collection of Alan Moore’s Supreme stories, Supreme: The Story of the Year. I’ve been perusing that book in stores for a long time now, but have never gone ahead and bought it because of its high price (for a trade paperback). But I finally found a very reasonably priced used copy, so now it is mine, all mine. I have no attachment for the character of Supreme or for Supreme’s world, but what Moore has done with this series of stories is very similar to what he did with Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? — i.e., present a loving, nuanced, affectionate, and very funny tribute to the Superman stories of the Silver Age. Great stuff! The “Silver Age Suprema” stories (which are actually Silver Age Supergirl stories) are worth the price of admission all by themselves. I found a copy of Barry N. Malzberg’s final science fiction novel, The Remaking of Sigmund Freud and bought it even though I had a duplicate at home; but I couldn’t pass up a Malzberg book for a buck, and I can always give my second copy away as a gift (or offer it as a prize for a lucky reader of this website, once I come up with a suitable contest).

Philip Jose Farmer's two "pornos" from the late 1960s

The last book I purchased at Balticon was Philip Jose Farmer’s Traitor to the Living, his third and final novel featuring protagonist Herald Childe, a private eye who sticks his nose into matters cosmic and otherworldly. Traitor to the Living was a departure from the first two books in the series in that it was not sexually explicit. The first two, Image of the Beast and Blown, were written for Essex House, a short-lived, Los Angeles-based publisher of “literary erotica” (or high-toned smut). Apparently, neither of these two novels (nor others from authors such as Charles Bukowski) was well received by the “spank the monkey” readership, because Essex House did not stay in business for very long. Whatever their failings as pornography (thus far, I have gotten around to reading Image of the Beast, and while it is intermittently titillating, it would not be my first choice for nocturnal emissions stimuli), the books must be regarded as minor classics of the erotic horror genre, precursors to the entire sub-industry of paranormal romance. I bought my copies from Awesome Books, a British mail-order firm which maintains an inventory of over two million used books and which offers free shipping to the U.S. when at least two titles are purchased (a great deal, even if one’s order typically takes three weeks to arrive). I’ve recently become a regular customer of theirs, since it is great fun to be able to shop British editions which aren’t typically found in American used book shops, as well as books by British authors who aren’t well published in the States, such as Christopher Priest. The Image of the Beast and Blown, for example, despite being set in Los Angeles, are peppered with British usages in the editions I bought, such as “kerb” for “curb,” “funny house” for “fun house,” and “chutey chute” for… well, I’m not certain what Farmer’s original word choice would have been (chute slide, perhaps?).

All four of Moorcock's Cornelius novels

I’ve also bought a good bit of non-pornographic Philip Jose Farmer from Awesome Books, including The Book of Philip Jose Farmer, Venus on the Half-Shell (written under the pseudonym Kilgore Trout… subject of an upcoming review), and A Feast Unknown (which apparently features a semi-pornographic apocalyptic battle between Farmer’s versions of Tarzan and Doc Savage, something which I’m sure only makes whatever sense it does in the original prose, not any pale summation). Some of the books I’m most looking forward to delving into are the Cornelius Quartet novels of Michael Moorcock, who in the mid-1960s boldly strode through the doorways Philip Jose Farmer had begun flinging open a decade earlier. I recently watched Antonioni’s paean to Swinging London, Blow-Up, and it whetted my appetite for Moorcock’s science fictional version of the London of the late 1960s.

Watch this space for many reviews to come!

Poof! Instant Story (Almost)

Story prompting items from The Mysterious Bag o' Stuff

This past weekend, my family and I attended our first Balticon. We all had a terrific time; this convention goes high on our list of “not to be missed” cons (a more detailed tale of our adventures will follow in the next day or two). My first event of the weekend, at 2 pm on Saturday, was moderating a panel/writing event called “A Cthulhu Out of the Hat.” Here is the description from the program booklet:

A Cthulhu Out of the Hat
Writing Prompts for the Deranged, panelists and audience write
science fiction stories based on the items pulled out of a hat.
Panelists will read their stories at the end, audience members
will share their resulting stories at 11 PM on Sunday (Salon B).
(M): Andrew Fox, (S): Larry A. Reclusado, Gabe Fremuth, Cindy
Young-Turner, Hildy Silverman, Brandon (Brand) Gamblin

The ground rules laid out for me looked pretty sketchy – did the stories need to center around the worlds of H. P. Lovecraft, or could they be any sort of SF or fantasy? Where did the objects come from, the audience or the moderator? How many objects would each participant have to choose from?

Well, that was okay; I never mind making up my own rules. Before the gang and I left our house Saturday morning to head for Baltimore, I grabbed a Food Lion plastic bag and scooped five handfuls of the boys’ toys (and pieces of toys) from our living room table (which has become an extension of their toy box). I decided I’d have each participant (including me) choose three objects at random, then spend twenty-five minutes writing a science fiction or fantasy story featuring at least two of the three items. I’d invite audience members to write stories either utilizing any of the trios of items selected by the panelists or mixing and matching from any of the items pulled out of the bag.

Even though I didn’t require it, the majority of the panelists and participating audience members opted to give their stories a Lovecraftian tint. Three of my fellow panelists completed their stories within the twenty-five minute time limit and presented their stories; the fourth managed to reach his final line a few minutes before we had to vacate the premises, so he had just enough time to read it out loud.

I was the tortoise among this pack of hares. I still had about a third of my story to write at the time I sounded the buzzer and the first panelist began reading aloud, so I cannot claim to have written the following story in twenty-five minutes (forty minutes is closer to the truth). My three objects were: a quart-sized Ziplock bag with the number 9 written on it with magic marker; a small plastic flute; and a pair of plastic construction disks that fitted together sort of like a snowflake.


The Bag of Nine

Simon Pasquali, apprentice mage, had reached the day of his graduation. His Mage Superior, Master Onion – spelled like the vegetable, but pronounced On-YONE – handed him the Bag of Power. This bag contained nine potential magic talismans, one of which would have to serve Simon as his primary source of power for the remainder of his magical career.

“Choose wisely, apprentice,” Master Onion said. “You may only choose one item, and you may not go back on your choice. I am not permitted to tell you beforehand what abilities each of these objects may give you. In fact, I myself do not fully know. Some of them may grant awesome power which you will be able to use to serve humanity well. Others may corrupt your soul and urge you toward evil. Still others may offer you little whatsoever in the way of magical resources. However, know this – there is one object of power in this bag of nine which will allow you to properly and safely use all and each of the other eight. Choosing this talisman will permit you to become the mightiest mage of us all.”

Simon felt a trembling which reached all the way from his jaw through the pit of his stomach and down to the soles of his feet. He knew the next sixty or seventy years of his life depended upon the choice he would make today.

The first object he drew forth from the bag was an ordinary-looking coin. The second was a magnifying glass. The third was a tiny toy flute. The fourth was a dagger with a hilt of finely engraved gold. The fifth was a wheel of six inches in diameter, pierced by an axle made of iron. The sixth was a dragonfly caught in a chunk of amber. The seventh was a hat made of plain, rough cloth. The eighth was a marble made of glass which contained a double helix made from a mysterious substance which Simon could not identify. And the final potential talisman, the ninth, was a snowflake which did not melt.

Simon spread these nine objects before him on the Table of Choosing. Which to select? It seemed easiest to rule out certain items first. The coin – wouldn’t unlimited wealth, if that was what this promised, corrupt him? The same for the dagger – it promised to draw him into a life of ceaseless violence. The dragonfly in amber frightened him; its magic might cause the dragonfly to escape the amber and grow to tremendous size, perhaps to devour him.

The other objects seemed less obviously threatening, and offered potential magicks of great appeal or practicality. The unmelting snowflake seemed to offer the promise of control of the weather. The wheel might enable him to travel effortlessly. He could think of no possible downside to the hat – at the least, it would protect him from the elements, and it might even offer the ability to change his appearance or identity. The magnifying glass would ensure he would never be without a fire, and it might expand a small, meager meal, all that he could afford, into a banquet whenever his stomach demanded.

The marble fascinated him. But he had no notion what the double helix contained within it might mean. And the flute? It was a child’s toy.

“Choose, apprentice,” Master Onion commanded.

As if drawn by a powerful will not its own, his hand lingered above the marble.

“Choose!” Master Onion thundered.

Suddenly afraid of being overpowered by a force he neither understood nor felt a sympathy for, Simon pulled his hand away from the marble and grabbed the flute.

Master Onion looked upon his former apprentice pityingly. “Now you are apprentice no longer,” he said. “You have chosen the one tool you will depend upon for the remainder of your life. The talisman you have chosen is lacking in native power, but it is a seductive companion, one which will make great demands on your time and patience.”

“The marble would have given me command of all the talismans, wouldn’t it have?” Simon asked.

“Yes, it would have,” the Master said.

“Then I am glad I did not select it,” Simon said. “One man should not hold so much concentrated power.”

“I must tell you now,” Master Onion said, “the flute holds very little magic of its own. Any magic which flows forth from it will have to come from you.”

“I will learn to play it,” Simon answered, feeling his confidence grow. “A man who can make music is a man who can earn friends through the gift of pleasure. And a man who can make friends that way exercises the most potent magic of all.”

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