WhimsyCon is fast approaching! Steampunk aficionados from all around are dusting off their bowlers, drinking tea, polishing their goggles, and wondering if a dram of the Green Fairy is in order for these tempestuous times.
I’ll be there, opening the convention on Friday night with a musical performance on the Main Events stage from 5:30 to 6:20. I’ll also be on literary panels throughout the con, so please check my schedule below for anything you might want to attend.
I’m really excited to announce two pieces of news. First, I received an informal acceptance notice from Itty Bitty Writing Space, an upcoming Kickstarter anthology of flash fiction edited by Jason Brick. The Kickstarter opens on January 29th, and this is Jason’s third Kickstarter flash anthology. Both of his prior anthologies funded successfully, so I’m optimistic that my story “Jalopy Racer” has found a good home.
“Jalopy Racer” is one of those stories that just needed to come out. It doesn’t really have a genre, unless you count it as adventure fiction, I guess. It’s inspired by my dad’s tales of being a stock car racer in southern New Mexico in the 1950s, and it basically told itself. I’m glad it has found a home in IBWS. I find it interesting that two of my last three fiction sales (“Chesterfield Gray” and “Jalopy Racer”) were inspired by family members, and neither are science fiction, my first love in writing. I guess that just goes to show that the words decide on their own what path they will take.
The other piece of news is music-related, and I’ve been bouncing off the walls waiting to share it. Thanks to the efforts of my friend Wulf Moon, I will be performing music at the Superstars writing seminar in Colorado Springs on Game Night next month! This is a private event, and only people who are Superstars participants will be able to attend, but if it goes well, there’s a chance it may become a regular event in the future. Moon and I plan to perform some songs together and I’ll do some solo performing, in a sort of filk/folk mix. I’ll bring lyric sheets for those who want to sing along, too. My thanks to Moon and Chris Mandeville for making this happen!
When I look back at 2018, I have a generally good feeling. A couple of difficult personal events happened toward the end of the year, but overall, it was a good year, and a year of firsts for me. Let’s dig in.
We’ll get the rough stuff out of the way first. November was definitely the most challenging month, with a storage unit fire early and the passing of a longtime pet near the end.
About half my possessions were in the storage unit, and most burned up or were damaged beyond repair from fire and water, including a number of family heirlooms. Every few days, I think about something that I haven’t seen for a while, and realize I’ll probably never see it again. That stings a little, but it’s actually fairly easy to acknowledge that feeling and move on, since there’s no chance of recovering anything. As time goes on and the fire becomes more distant, it’s actually becoming something of a positive, because some of the items in that storage unit triggered painful memories, and resolving them through fire seems appropriate.
Sophia came to live with me and my ex-wife in 2004 (I think.) She was just a kitten, barely weaned. We named her after the goddess of wisdom, but it wasn’t long before we realized she was more oblivious than wise. Life happened to Sophia; she was more of an observer than an active participant in the world, it seemed. She loved shoes (especially leather) and strings, and was content to simply be in the presence of her humans, with minimal petting, unless she requested it. Her markings were exquisite; she was the most beautiful pet I’ve ever known, and I miss her.
Firsts and Successes
While 2018 had some challenges, it was also a year of artistic progress and firsts for me. I sold my first short story, a drabble called “To Be Human,” to Martian Magazine. That sale completed the hat trick of publishing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for me, and I still owe myself a nice bottle of scotch whisky for doing that. I’ve decided that when I can afford it, I’ll probably buy an eighteen year old bottle of The Macallan, and only drink from it when I make a writing sale.
At the end of the year, I also sold my first poem to Star*Line, the official journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. My hope is that it won’t be the last. In other poetry-related news, I was honored to host the Colorado version of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the SFPA at both Westercon 71/MALCon 6 and MileHiCon 50. At Westercon, the legendary Connie Willis joined us for the reading, and we read poetry from vintage Star*Line journals that were owned by the late Ed Bryant.
I also quietly launched a solo geeky music act, with performances at both Wester/MAL and the inaugural WhimsyCon. Seth Phillips, of Zero Day Exploits, invited me to play at his May the Fourth Star Wars party at Großen Bart Brewery, and I made a couple of appearances at open mics in 2018.
In September, I started a second job with the Inquisitr website as a writer. I wrote 42 articles for them, then transitioned to the weekend copy editing team. I’m enjoying the job and the extra income; it’s allowing me to get more musical gear so I can put on better shows.
Though 2018 is now done, it laid the groundwork for me to have more opportunities in 2019. Late in the year, I applied to an exclusive writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy authors called Futurescapes, which takes place annually in the mountains of Utah. To my surprise, I was accepted! The workshop takes place in April, and the resident writers this year are Ted Chiang, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Fran Wilde. The workshop also features editors and agents, and assigns one professional from each category to every participant. I intend to focus on my partial novel, Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation, at the workshop; the sample writing I submitted to qualify is the prologue from that novel.
There is more music on the horizon, with WhimsyCon already inviting me to play music there again this year. (Hopefully MALCon will do the same, but that may be dependent on how well I do at WhimsyCon, because they are run by the same people.) I am also planning to participate in an informal music session in Colorado Springs next month, adjunct to the Superstars writing workshop.
I hope to be able to participate in the newly renamed Denver Pop Culture Con (formerly Denver Comic Con), but at this point, that’s not something over which I have control. Hopefully some friends will invite me to be on their panels, like last year. (Hint, hint, friends. 😉 )
I also hope to continue participating in MALCon and MileHiCon in 2019. I’ve been a panelist at those cons consistently, so hopefully that won’t change.
Finally, I have been invited to submit work for an upcoming publication with a post-apocalyptic theme, and I’m working on a story for that.
My goals for 2019 are simple:
Publish at least two short stories
Publish at least two poems
Perform at open mics more often
Drum up some music gigs
Write and perform at least two new songs
Complete Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation after attending Futurescapes
That’s probably plenty, especially that last one. The prospect of writing a novel scares me (which is why it’s not done yet), but it’s my hope that Futurescapes will knock that fear out of me or transform it into motivational energy.
Happy 2019 to all of you! May this be the best year of the decade for all of us.
Fifty years is a long time. MileHiCon, Colorado’s premier literary science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention turns 50 this year, and the organizers have pulled out all the stops.
For the golden anniversary, organizers invited all surviving prior guests of honor to return, an impressive list of writers, artists, and fans. As of 10/15/2018, the following names are confirmed to be appearing:
I will be moderating a couple of special events at this con, namely a 40th Anniversary SFPA / MileHiCon 50 poetry panel and, like last year, a panel remembering Edward W. Bryant, Jr. and his legacy. Publisher Jean-Philippe Gervais will be on hand to discuss and announce his seven year work in progress, the Complete Works of Edward W. Bryant, 1968-2018, a three volume compendium of Ed’s writing, authorized by Ed himself before he passed in early 2017.
Friday, October 19, 2018 2pm — Tips on Being an Awesome Panelist (Wind River B) — A discussion ranging from how to improve your chances of becoming a panelist at MHC to ways to prepare to wow the audience. With Wil McCarthy (Moderator), Carrie Vaughn, Goth Hobbit, Meg Ward, Stace Johnson.
3pm — Roundtable: Finding Your Tribe (Bristlecone/Other) — Fandom, a subset of fandom (anime, gaming) or something completely different … how do (or did) you find your tribe? With Nonir Amacitia, Stace Johnson (Moderator).
Saturday, October 20, 2018 1pm — MHC Poetry Slam & 40th Anniversary SFPA Celebration (Mesa Verde A) — Celebrating 50 years of MHC and 40 years of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Bring genre poetry to share — whether your own or some Rhysling winners penned by others that you love. All attendees will receive a theme-appropriate gift (while supplies last.) With Carina Bissett, JD Harrison, David Lee Summers, Stace Johnson (Moderator).
Sunday, October 21, 2018 11am — Ed Bryant’s Memory and Legacy (Mesa Verde C) — Friends of Ed, including the editor of the Bryant retrospective anthology, share memories and discuss the status of some projects related to Ed. With Jean-Philippe Gervais, John Stith, Stace Johnson (Moderator).
2pm — Bye Bye Net Neutrality (Wind River A) — What are the real-world effects of the FCC ruling, and what are the best and worst-case scenarios of what will happen? With Tim Anderson, Arlen Feldman (Moderator), Goth Hobbit, Stace Johnson.
My first Denver Comic Con as a panelist has come and gone, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Thanks to the efforts of superwoman Shannon Lawrence, I was able to participate in five panels over the three days of the convention. Here are some personal highlights.
I picked up this beautiful piece of artwork by Chaz Kemp, one of my favorite local artists. Nearly every aspect of this piece has personal meaning to me, and I’m honored to own it.
“Insight” by Chaz Kemp
I also stopped by the VisiColors booth and picked up some very cute stickers for my girlfriend.
I was lucky enough to get in the front row for Frank Miller’s Q&A session, though I couldn’t afford an autograph. Miller is by far my favorite comic book writer thanks to his incredible “Born Again” run in Daredevil. His economy of language and ability to tell a gripping story in so few words is inspirational to me. It’s no secret to people who have known me for a while that even though I haven’t collected comics for a long time, Daredevil is my favorite superhero, and seeing the man behind The Man Without Fear speak is a bucket list item I can now check off.
Comic book legend Frank Miller
Also, after fighting my way through the throngs of people in the exhibitor hall, I finally found Connie Willis‘s signing table and she signed my personal copy of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. I’m honored to have a story in the same book as her, especially since it’s my first fiction sale. (I also got a free copy of Crosstalk, which she also personalized for me!)
Connie Willis personalization on the Prologue page of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence
Artistic Growth and Exposure
After fighting through a writing slump in recent months, I feel like I’m finally moving again. With another recent sale to Martian Magazine (to be published online the week of July 23rd), I’m feeling motivated again, and event submitted a piece of flash fiction to Postcard Poems and Prose from my phone while at Comic Con. There’s a lot of my dad in that story, so it’s fitting that I submitted it over Father’s Day weekend, and I hope it does well in their “Clutch” contest.
I attended a panel on geeky songwriting (“I Sing and I Know Things”) featuring my friends Losing Lara and Seth Phillips, and Lara was kind enough to give me a shoutout about my upcoming Westercon 71 / MALCon 6 concert on Sunday, July 8th at 2 PM. Watch this space for a more detailed announcement about that con appearance, coming soon.
Seth Phillips, Will Plumb, and Losing Lara
Big Audiences without Anxiety
I’ve been participating on panels at SF conventions for over 15 years, and I’ve helped organize them as far back as 1987. But Denver Comic Con is an order of magnitude larger than any other convention where I’ve appeared, so the panel attendees were an order of magnitude larger, as well. Here’s a shot of the audience for my final panel, on “Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology.” DeAnna Knippling did a masterful job moderating the panel, and the time flew by.
Audience for “Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology”
Even better, when I saw the size of the line before the panel and the number of people streaming in, I barely got nervous at all. The only time this introvert’s social anxiety really kicked in was when I was trying to thread my way through the exhibit hall during its busiest times. For me, that’s a major win.
My life has become very busy lately, between convention appearances, musical gigs, stories published, and everyday work and relationships. Add to that the fact that I’m currently displaced from the room I rent and living out of boxes because the owners of my home are renovating the basement where I live, and I would normally be freaking out. But I’ve realized that I’ve changed a lot in the last couple of years, and the positive changes are mostly due to things I have put in place myself. I told a colleague last September that I really wanted to focus on my writing and music, and good things are coming from that. Even the displacement has had positive effects; it has disrupted my normal routine enough that I’ve broken out of some habits that were taking too much of my time and reducing the quality of my sleep.
However, there have also been some challenges because of these positive changes. I’ve had to erect some boundaries in order to stay on track and not get behind. One of these is in the area of computer consulting. I’ve done consulting on the side for years, but I’ve never done it with a monetary focus; it’s always been about helping people resolve problems inexpensively. But if I want to keep up the momentum on my creative endeavors, I can’t accept any new clients, and I have to be judicious about helping existing clients. That means I’ve had to say “No” to some people who have wanted my help recently, and that’s a new — and difficult — thing for me.
Sometimes I wish I could clone myself so that I could have WriterStace, PoetStace, MusicStace, FriendStace, and ConsultingStace for various tasks. When it comes down to it, though, MeStace is my default setting; I don’t need to create him, and he takes precedent over all others, perhaps for the first time in my life.