So on Saturday, the first panel I went to was about small press publishing. Moderated by one of the editors at Locus Magazine. Seriously. “Small Press.”
There was a very fascinating gentleman from Israel named Ron Yaniv who publishes original SF work in Hebrew, and also translates things from English. He was useful to listen to, as he had original ideas about building a brand, communicating yourself to your real and potential audience, what sorts of things work and what don’t. I don’t read Hebrew, but he would have been someone I followed up with after the panel if I did.
The rest of the panel was a waste of my morning. The gentleman from Locus basically stated that going Indie Publishing through Amazon was functionally equivalent to a vanity press as far as he was concerned. And the definition of important versus unimportant publishers hinged on having a Manhattan office.
Seriously, I considered walking to the front of the room and peeing on the guy, just so he had no doubts what my position was, but he had his head so firmly up his ass he still might not have even noticed.
Part of the reason I get my back up with these people is their undying devotion to the idea that you can only be successful on NY terms. You have to earn your SFWA bones with “reputable” magazines and publishers to be considered anything greater than dog shit with them. It has been a conversation I have had more than once.
And more than one person has asked me why I haven’t joined the Science Fiction Writers of America. Cat Rambo is doing amazing things reforming the organization into someplace where I possibly won’t get insulted by the majority of the membership. In another few years. When pressed, I remind them that I was a best-selling Indie author before I was actually eligible to join their little club.
I have still had to deal with too many long-standing members who could be politely described as assholes in their private conversations when I “identified” myself as an indie. I suspect Cat will have to simply offer up about a dozen to a score of human sacrifices on the front lawn in order to move the organization to someplace I would consider “accessible.” But Groucho Marx covered this topic.
I wish her luck.
Later, I attended a panel on archaeology in SF, and what things writers get right and wrong. All four of the panelists were working archaeologists before becoming writers, and one still was. It was fascinating hearing them talk about their field, and how it could have implications for futurism. That was the first panel all weekend where I’ve actually taken notes. My Fairchild series, while it does not have aliens and the need for xeno-archaeology yet, I could see needing to interview an archaeologist for a story, as they pursue some topic.
After that, a panel on political world-building in SF. Again, taking notes. I knew the name Ken Liu, and something of his reputation for smarts, especially after his Hugo last year, but I had never encountered him. He was leaned back, looking kinda bored and “why am I here?” and then it came time for him to say something.
He leaned forward in his chair, dropped his weight onto his toes, and turned on the charm. It was like he hit the room with a searchlight. And then he proceeded to get arcane on how democracy and bureaucracy were technologies in SF, and how to understand and detail them in your writing in a way that is powerful and compelling.
I can see why he won his second Hugo a couple of hours later. He was simply an amazing speaker, particularly in his ability to take something that could be phenomenally boring, and make it interesting and useful. And I learned a lot from him.
Next to Ken was Ada Palmer, a historian by training who Fabulous Publisher Babe™ absolutely adores, both as a person and a writer. I had never heard of her before yesterday. She held her own with Ken Liu and was just as compelling about building up a world in layers (think pearls) by addressing how the politics used to work, and how they changed, and what odd little bits got left over and stuck around in the present tense of your work and your world.
Like I said, I took copious notes.
The last panel of the day was on Yaoi and Yuri, which is shorthand for m/m and f/f themes in Japanese Manga. Didn’t understand anything about the topic, but Lyda Morehouse was moderating, so I figured it would be fun. It was. One lesbian who reads, by her own admission, like a twelve-year-old boy looking for boobs, robots, and explosions. One demi-/bi-sexual woman. One other who never specified. All three panelists extremely smart women. Two of them librarians. All of them experts on the topic, having a very introductory bit on the what, followed by a quick tour of their favorites, and then a long Q&A on the why. Learned a lot. Expanded my literary horizons. Giggled a whole bunch.
Spent the evening trying to talk one of Fabulous Publisher Babe’s friends into Indie. He’s firmly wedded to TradPub, but even he can see the writing on the wall. That model is dying. I talked about it yesterday in my post. They have not replaced the current generation, and don’t “get” it.
And I made my choice early on for Fortune over Fame. I plan to build myself up to a comfortable mid-list lifestyle, all the while flying under the radar of the ijits in New York.
And then, last night, the Hugo awards. The last few years have been dominated by a group of racist, sexist dinosaurs who are deeply wounded that females and minorities have the audacity to commit speculative fiction, which they feel should be exclusively a white male prerogative.
If you haven’t see the results this morning, all three of the fiction categories were won by women last night (including Naomi!!!!!!). Two of those women are black. It was utterly awesome for the future of the field.
Got a lovely quote forwarded into my facebook feed this morning that made me giggle
“It’s hard being a straight white guy in 2016. Everything was always supposed to be all about us 100% of the time and now it’s down to like, 98%.”
It’s sad, but that’s been the case in the past. It is slowly changing, as the useless mouth-pieces die off and get replaced by people who aren’t assholes.
One last story: I am smiling about a mile wide today, because I met a unicorn this week. I talked about Cerece Rennie Murphy yesterday, and her panel on Afrofuturism. Fabulous Publisher Babe and I were seated almost directly in front of her, third row, during the panel, so maybe fifteen feet away from Cerece. Apparently, we were smiling and nodding at the right moments as she talked.
I saw her yesterday and went up to thank her for such a wonderful and useful panel. She recognized me and my sweetie, and she thanked us for helping her get over her nerves as she was surrounded by a potentially hostile crowd. We both got hugs.
So in addition to being an amazingly-smart, capable black woman writing science fiction, she’s also really, really nice and friendly. I need to go buy some of her books so I can write up reviews for everyone.
Going home in a few hours. Made some lovely friends. Learned a bunch. Considering going to San Jose in 2018, because I can take a train down. Recovering tomorrow, and then back to work.
shade and sweet water,