My RavenCon 14 Schedule!


RavenCon 14 starts in less than two weeks (April 5-7)! I’m very happy to be appearing at this convention not just as a programming guest, but also having helped put together the first Science Track at this con, which will be in Room G the whole weekend.

I will be live-tooting (still haven’t quite gotten used to that term) on Mastodon as @quantumcowboy in the Wandering Shop instance. (If you are unfamiliar with Mastodon, the site JoinMastodon has a great introduction.) Expect the usual rolling commentary and photos on Masto, and (ideally) daily summaries here on the blog. See you in Williamsburg!

Friday

  • 5 pm – 7 pm (Private, Optional) Meet and Greet for Guests / Green Room
  • 7 pm (Opening Ceremony) Large Auditorium
  • 8 pm (Panel) Space Does Not Work That Way / Room G: A discussion of the most commonly used incorrect space and spaceflight tropes in science fiction, and where they go wrong. What are some alternatives? How could real constraints spur new creativity?

Saturday

  • 2 pm (Panel) Going to Mars to Colonize It / Room G: A long-standing dream within science-fiction and science fact alike is to not only explore Mars, but to go there to stay. The panel will discuss various governmental and private ambitions for settling on the red planet in real life, as well as discuss how science fiction has played a role in shaping how we view our planetary neighbor.
  • 3 pm (Panel)  What Are the New Questions Science Fiction Should be Asking? / Room G: SF in particular is meant to be a forward-looking genre. What questions should contemporary SFF writers be asking that they are not? Which sciences are being overlooked, even in Hard-SF? What imminent issues are not yet being sufficiently addressed?
  • 7:25 – 7:50 pm (Reading) Room 4
  • 10 pm (Panel)  How Can Science Fiction Inform Science Policy? / Room G / Moderator: From ET to GATTACA to Star Trek, science fiction stories foster reflection on a range of social and technical issues. Scifi has long been a source of thought experiments and inspiration for current and aspiring scientists and engineers, but how should these stories influence the work of politicians, social leaders and activists? This panel will discuss the increasingly influential role of scifi in policy-making and activism, and ways your fandom can help shape the world around us. Come discuss scifi stories that influenced you, societal implications of upcoming technologies, and visions for a better future.
  • 11 pm (Workshop/Presentation) Ask a (Mad) Scientist/ Room G:
    Our science guests answer audience questions on science and science fiction. Always a favorite at RavenCon!

Sunday

  • 11 am (Panel) National Novel Writing Month / Room 8: Our NaNoWriMo veterans share their experiences with the annual writing exercise and offer tips that will help you start and finish your NaNoWriMo novel.

Recap of MarsCon 2019, Saturday

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series MarsCon 2019

Most of my Saturday at the con was taken up by meetings for RavenCon programming (in particular the new Science Track, for which I am very excited!). However I did get a chance to browse the dealer floor, the art room, and attend a couple of panels.

In How Does One Write Near-Future Science Fiction?, panelists Patrick Dugan, Jason T. Graves, Drew A. Avera, and Gray Rinehart were moderated by Jim Beall. Unfortunately, though Jim was quite well prepared (a wonderful thing in a moderator), the authors on the panel did not seem to be well-suited for the panel topic, as most did not seem to have a lot of stories set in the near future themselves. However, most were writers of Hard Science Fiction (which is not necessarily the same thing). This mismatch is hardly the fault of the panelists, but perhaps Programming can take a note for future cons.

Though the panel did not spend much time actually answering the question posed in its title, I did walk away with several nuggets of useful information. One suggested way of avoiding the pitfall of having certain readers get too caught up in the numbers or “realness” of the story elements as if they are meant to be predictions is to a) generally avoid numbers all together if possible, and b) stick to explication only where you actually have expertise or knowledge based on research, leaving the rest implied. We discussed the questions of whether near-term science fiction has to also be hard science fiction to be good/enjoyable (not necessarily, and Neuromancer was offered as a counter-example), and also if near-term science fiction needs to attempt to predict the future to be useful (generally no).

I later attended The Big World of Small Press and Indie Publishing, featuring Michael Thomson, Leslie Heath, Melissa McArthur, Kacey Ezell, and moderated by Chris Kennedy. The panelists were all in some fashion indie or small press authors and/or publishers, with a good bit of diversity in how it was implemented (full-time, part-time, completely indie, traditional + indie, etc). All generally agreed that the major benefits to small press and indie publishing were: much more rapid turnaround at all points of the publication timeline (editing, feedback, cover selection, proof, release, etc), a much greater degree of control and input by the author at all points in the process, a more personal connection with everyone involved, and generally a larger percentage of the overall pie. The two major downsides being that mass exposure is much less likely or perhaps impossible, and that the author is expected and required to take on more (or complete) personal responsibility for the product at every step of the process.

The panelists listed the following mistakes they have made in the past that future indie or small press authors should avoid

  • Series sell the most, and waiting too long to continue a series can kill its inherent momentum.
  • Always read a contract, or even better, get a lawyer to look over it (it’s probably cheaper than you think).
  • Don’t forget about pre-marketing, and make sure to do the work to build up a community around a work before releasing it.

Further big news from the con, though it was not particularly con-related… I found out that I got in to the advanced fiction studio at The Muse Writing Center in Norfolk that I applied to last week! I’ll be starting that on February 4th, and I’m looking forward to focusing on my sequel to Red Soil.