Thursday, June 18, 2015

Campbell Recap and ApolloCon Schedule

Okay, y'all know the drill by now. I tell you how rocking-awesome the thing I just did was, and then how eyeball-explodingly excited I am about the thing I'm fixing to do, and follow it up with some generalized warm fuzzies.  Then we smoke a cigarette, roll over, and go to sleep.

Well, I hope it was good for you, cuz there is going to be a pantload more of all of the above over the next few weeks.  And the reason I'm three days late in writing this is because a weekend of relentless academical edutainment at the Campbell Conference (bookended by 500-mile drives from Texas to Kansas) has absolutely knocked me out.

See, a few months back, I successfully creeped on this fine gentleman here:

It's a good thing I didn't know he was the Eleventeenth Doctor,
or I'd never have had the guts to try it.
That's Dr. Robert Maslen, professor of literature and director of the new post-graduate fantasy program at the University of Glasgow.  He read my first book and liked it (and said so on Facebook!), and when I mailed him the second one, he liked that too - well enough to invite me to speak at the U of G this November (how rad is that?!) and to ask whether I would be at the Campbell Conference in June.

"Will I?!" I scoffed, while furtively googling "Campbell Conference."

Well, Google told me that it's where the Campbell Award is given every year.  But now that I've been, let me assure you: it is way, way more than that.

This year, it's where professors from universities all over the country (and beyond!) gather to present on what their institutions are doing to promote the study of science fiction, and to apply it for all kinds of cross-disciplinary purposes.  Video games, linguistics, neurocognition, climate science, you name it. (And I'm talking serious real-world stuff, too. For example, Arizona State has environmental science students in its Phoenix 2050 program write science fiction stories to present their ideas for how their city could solve its water and sustainability problems.  How rad is that?)

It's where everyone (from college students to elite grandmasters) is deeply excited to be there, and people take eager, copious notes on all of the above.

Look at all those notepads!
It's where you go to hear authors whose work you never knew you desperately needed to devour.

This is a terrible picture of the human splendor that is Cat Webb, but it beautifully illustrates the subtle yet pervasive stranglehold of coffee in writer culture
It's where you can get a personalized library tour of all manner of one-of-a-kind historical treasures – 

including this vintage rejection letter - click to embiggen!
 - and enjoy a private screening of the world's most amazing $5,000 movie, with personal commentary and salad-bowl space-helmet demonstrations from the executive producer himself –

- and be caught in compromising positions with an 8-foot-tall silver-age robot –

I'm not telling you who that is, but suffice to say that she is my new everything
- and enjoy a Sunday-afternoon salon with fifty of your new favorite people (and one phenomenal smorgasbord) -

This is like, half of the dessert spread.  HALF.
- and sit out on the porch all afternoon and long into the night, eating pizza and watching the fireflies come out.  

This is Steven Gould, who is currently novelizing the Avatar movies,
and Laura J. Mixon, who is currently provoking raging, barely-controlled shoe-lust
And that's not even the half of it, but I'll stop there, because telling the rest would take as long as living it.  Here's the relevant part: this genre of ours is fun, but it's not JUST for fun.  It's vital and important in ways I never imagined, and there is no greater way to internalize that than to surround yourself with people who have spent their lives studying, advocating, and celebrating it.  They're living my dream, and even though I feel like the smallest puppy in the pile, I can't tell you what a thrill it was to get to run with the big dogs.

The biggest dog of them all: Chris McKitterick, Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction,
nominations director for the Sturgeon Award, Campbell juror, and buttoned-down stick-in-the-mud.

And I'm still running, too – all the way down to Houston for ApolloCon.  Super excited about this one, and super nervous – it's my first time actually running a writers' workshop (though I have, of course, recruited a veritable justice league of wonderful people to help me out), and I'm really looking forward to it.  The con organizers have been tremendously generous in scheduling me, too – just look at this fabulous lineup!

ApolloCon Schedule

Friday the 19th
5:30PM – Azalea 4 – Reading

"Do you believe in interspecies dating?" Saddle up for a cowboys-and-fishmen romp from renowned 'rural fantasy' author Tex Thompson!

8:00PM – Pecan – Smtk'Royani and Bob: The Do's and Don'ts of Naming

It's one of the great unspoken rules of sci-fi and fantasy: don't let your characters' names make the reader wonder whether your cat walked over the keyboard. Still, you might not want to call your alien buffalo-squids Dick and Jane, either. How can you create inventive, original, internally-consistent names, and what are some of the best (and worst!) examples in popular fiction?

Saturday the 20th

9:00AM – Azalea 4 – Writers Workshop

1:00PM – Azalea 6 – Best of the West: Westerns in Sci Fi and Fantasy

These days, the Western is the genre equivalent of peanut butter: not often served on its own, and yet it seems to go with just about everything.  Why is the Western so appealing and adaptable, and what are the best examples of great Western fusion?

4:00PM – Pecan – Fantasy Food

From Elvish lembas to still-squirming Klingon gagh, the cuisine of science fiction and fantasy is a legend unto itself. But how do you invent a memorable, believable otherworldly meal, and what is it about these fictional feasts that captures our imagination?  Bring your Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans and join us as we dish!

Sunday the 21st

10:00AM – Cottonwood – Up to Your Elbows in Worldbuilding (<--workshop! Eee!)

Does your lore bore you? Is your history predictable, your timeline flatlined, or your map a mess? Don't suffer in silence!  Whether you're a novelist, game designer, dungeon master, comic writer, or just a lover of fantastic lands and alien worlds, we can help you craft otherworldly realms that your audience will want to explore for years to come. Bring your burning questions and come ready to write!

12:00PM – Cypress – Lost in Translation: Language Barriers in SFF

As everyone knows, Universal Translators and Babelfish come standard-issue with almost any otherworldly adventure.  Still, from the "Darmok and Jalad" episode of Star Trek to Daenerys Targaryen's first tentative words of Dothraki, it's clear that language-learning – and language barriers! – offers a wealth of untapped dramatic potential.  Come learn how you can use translation and translator-characters in your fiction (even without being a multilingual mastermind) and join us as we celebrate some of the most epic miscommunications in sci-fi and fantasy history!

2:00PM – Azalea 6 – Qa'Pla to You Too, Buddy!

From "Nanu Nanu" to "Valar Morghulis", geekdom has always spoken a language of its own.  Where does our love for constructed languages come from, what distinguishes a true conlang from a random collection of syllables - and which are the best of the best?

Standard operating procedure, people: if you're going to be there, track me down - and if I don't make it back, tell my cat that I died doing what I loved. (The part about subsuming myself into the Great Link of writers and fandom, I mean - not the part about going to Houston in June.)


  1. ConLang geekery with Tex Thompson on Sunday. AWESOME.

    1. Yeah! We're going to have to construct a language just to express how awesome it will be - see you there!

  2. I really wish I could go to this - your stuff alone is going to be AWESOME! You are inspiring me to consider taking up writing again, and I haven't even thought of that in 8 years. Remember it's nor only your cat who wants you to return from Houston

    1. Aw, DB, I wish you could BE there - it is always more fun with a road-buddy! (Never fear: I will bring the party to you! But don't wait on me to start writing - it's never too late to pick it back up again!)