On the Shoulders of Giants

I have many things to be thankful for this year. My life is going well in many regards, and this fall has been fantastic, mostly because of one big piece of news. On November 24th, the book containing my first fiction sale came out: Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. This completes the hat trick of selling fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, so I can finally cross that item off my bucket list.

I could not have picked a better market for my first story sale. EBSoI is a tribute anthology to one of my mentors, Edward W. Bryant, Jr., whom I’ve mentioned on this site dozens of times. My story, “Chesterfield Gray” (which I’ve also mentioned on here numerous times), is in fine company, because stories by Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kevin J. Anderson, Mario Acevedo, Bruce Holland Rogers, and Ed Bryant himself appear in the volume, as well as work by more than a dozen other writers and friends. I’m honored to have my work share the same pages as these giants of the industry. Thank you to Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay, Editors of the anthology, for inviting me to submit my work and ultimately including me.

But those aren’t the only giants upon whose shoulders my story stands. In addition to passing through two of Ed’s writing groups, “Chesterfield Gray” was also critiqued in Melanie Tem’s writing group and by my first mentor, Leonard “Red” Bird. It’s thrilling to me that all three of the people whom I have considered mentors weighed in on the story at one time or another, and that it was ultimately deemed of high enough quality to be included in the anthology.

So, Melanie, Red, and Ed: This one’s for all of you.

MileHiCon Schedule and Publication Announcement (Updated)

MileHiCon is just around the corner again. This year marks the 49th occurrence of this magnificent convention, and the first year where Ed Bryant’s presence will be more of a memory than a staple. A number of events are planned to remember MileHiCon’s favorite toastmaster, and I will be involved with several of them.

Of those events, the one I’m most looking forward to is a selection of readings from the upcoming Ed Bryant anthology tribute, Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, due out in November. My story “Chesterfield Gray”, which I’ve referenced in this blog multiple times, is in that anthology, and I’ll be reading a selection from it. My story is in esteemed company; several pro-level and best-selling authors are also in the book, including Connie Willis, Kevin J. Anderson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Mario Acevedo, Lucy Taylor, Gary Jonas, … the list goes on. In the end, I think this will be a fantastic tribute to our mutual friend Ed. Thanks to Chuck Anderson and Jim Lemay at Mad Cow Press for all their hard work in putting this tribute together.

My MileHiCon 49 appearance schedule is below. As usual, MileHiCon is being held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center location. The dates are October 27-29, 2017.

Friday, October 27, 2017
I won’t be on any panels on Friday this year, but I will be attending the con, so catch me if you want to say hi!

Saturday, October 28, 2017
1pm — Roundtable: How Can Creativity Transfer? (Bristlecone) — A discussion about how creativity can bridge or transfer between mediums and genres. I’ll be moderating this one, with panel participants Boom Baumgartner, R. Alan Brooks, Kirsten Imani Kasai, et. al.

6pm — Iron Hack (Mesa Verde B) — UPDATED — I learned what this panel is about, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. From the description: “Our fearless contestants–given four ingredients by the Audience: a person/occupation, a thing, a place, and a time period–will then write a piece of Flash fiction. Results will be read and winner chosen by audience acclaim.” I’ll be moderating this panel, too, with panel participants Chris Barili, Nathan Beauchamp, Greg Hyde, and Author Guest of Honor Jane Lindskold. (Gulp! I’m going up against Jane Lindskold in a flash fiction contest?!)

9pm — SF Poetry Slam (Avistrum Academy, 12th Floor) — It sounds like this year’s poetry panel is more of a competition than a reading, as it has been in past years. We can either prepare a poem beginning with the line “In a hundred years” or compete in an improv “slam” format. Tim Anderson will be leading this panel, and I’ll be participating with Jane Bigelow, Rob S. Rice, and others.

11pm — Group Reading & Discussion: The Ed Bryant Anthology (Avistrum Academy, 12th Floor) — Traditionally, Ed Bryant used to hold a late night reading at MileHiCon. This year, in honor of that tradition, Mad Cow Press will be presenting readings from several of the authors in the forthcoming anthology Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. I will be reading from my story in the volume, “Chesterfield Gray”.

Sunday, October 29, 2017
1pm — Southwest Regional Authors (Wind River A) — What impact or flavor does the Southwest give to fiction written here, or by authors who live here? I’m honored to be on this panel with Paolo Bacigalupi, Robin D. Owens, and Aaron Michael Ritchey, moderated by Dana Bell.

3pm — Ed Bryant Remembered (Mesa Verde B) — A panel for all to talk about memories of Ed, similar to the remembrance that was held for him earlier this year at the Mercury Cafe. This is an opportunity for those who couldn’t attend the remembrance to tell their stories and listen to others’ stories about how Ed affected their lives. A memory book will be launched here, curated by Deena Larsen, and other projects involving Ed’s work will be covered, like Jean-Philippe Gervais’ massive three volume compendium of Ed’s collected works. I’ll be coordinating the speaking at this event, and a number of people are expected to attend, including Cynthia Felice, Greg Hyde, Ronnie Seagren, John Stith, and many more.

MALCon 2017 Panel Schedule

Myths & Legends Con 2017 hits the Ramada in Northglenn, CO on Friday,  August 4th, and wraps up on Sunday, August, 6th. Here is my official MALCon panel schedule. The room names are in parentheses.

Friday, August 4, 2017
5:00 PM: Unsung Villainesses and Heriones of Fandom (Serenity)
Bryan Fields, Tonya L. De Marco, Stace Johnson
Starting with Professor McGonagall, who are some of the great unsung heroines and villainesses of fandom?.

10:00 PM: Building and Cultivating Your Creative Community (Helms Deep)
Melanie Unruh, Sarin Tatroe (Sariochan Arts), Veronica Calisto, Stace Johnson
How do you find people with shared creative energies to build community that inspires and helps you grow as an artist, author, musician, crafter, etc? Learn how others have found and built safe, creative communities with a spirit of helping one another thrive.

—- —- —-

Saturday, August 5, 2017
2:00 PM: Wish You Were There: Worldbuilding (The Shire)
Amalie Howard, Sean Patrick Fannon, Veronica Calisto, Stace Johnson
There are two kinds of worldbuilding: the kind that describes the story’s world, and the kind that makes you wish you were there. Authors discuss the difference, and offer tips and techniques to help you bring your own fictional worlds to life.

4:00 PM: Serenity vs. Firefly: The Audience Quiz Bowl Game (Helms Deep)
Ana MacDonel, Pam Walker, Stace Johnson
Do you know more about Serenity and Firefly than your friends? Now is your chance to find out how much you know in this family-friendly and fun game where deep knowledge is pitted against recall speed.

6:00 PM: Verse in the ‘Verse: Poetry and the Firefly Universe (Kings Landing)
Stace Johnson, Bryan Fields
Readings of fan poetry, impromptu Firefly poetry, and any poetry based on Firefly topics. Bring your material to share or provide prompts to the panelists.

7:00 PM: Relationship, Sexual, and Gender Diversity in Fandoms (Helms Deep)
Catherine Winters, Layman Kingsford, Veronica Calisto, Stace Johnson
Sometimes representation of diverse relationships styles, sexualities, and genders is overt in fandoms, and other times they are fan created. What are some examples of non-cis/heterosexual/monoamorous relationships we see and are these characters authentic and fairly represented?

9:00 PM: Epic Rap Battles of Literature! (Helms Deep)
Jason Henry Evans, Thomas A. Fowler, Stace Johnson
Two teams go head to head in a rap battle where the topics are Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, Lord of the Rings, and more. Fight!

—- —- —-

Sunday, August 6, 2017
10:00 AM: Polyamory and Non-monogamy in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Terre d’Ange)
Jacqueline Koyanagi, Vivian Caethe, Stace Johnson
Panelists will review SFF genre fiction throughout the decades with non-monogamous and polyamorous themes and how they have influenced current lifestyle trends.

11:00 AM: Lord of the Rings: Myth or Mythopoetic (Helms Deep)
Aaron Michael Ritchey, Andrew Hallam, Stace Johnson
Tolkien’s works are often referred to as modern myth, but are actually mythopoetic. Our panelists explain the difference and how Tolkien fits into each.

MileHiCon 46

It’s that time of year again! MileHiCon 46 is just around the corner, taking place from October 24th through the 26th, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, 7800 E. Tufts Ave., Denver, CO  80237. Here’s my panel schedule:

Saturday, October 25, 2014, 4 pm
Poetry Fantastique — Mesa Verde A

I will be moderating the poetry panel this year, as David Lee Summers won’t be able to make it to the convention. I will do my best, and with a panel including Laura Deal, Gail Barton, and the energetic Dr. Rob S. Rice, it should be an easy job.

Sunday, October 26, 2014, 11:00 am
Dark Net/Net Neutrality — Wind River A

This is a tech panel about current Internet privacy trends moderated by Arlen Feldman, with panelists Margaret Alia Denny, Deena Larsen, Marc MacYoung, and yours truly.

Sunday, October 26, 2014, 4:00 pm
Privacy, Facebook, and Other Social Media — Wind River B

In a similar vein, this is another tech panel focusing on privacy rights in relation to Facebook and other social media platforms. Arlen Feldman is again the moderator (sorry, Arlen, you only get one link), with panelists John Barnes, Kronda Seibert, the mysterious T. Simpson, and myself.

I hope to see some of you there!

 

On the Death of Ray Bradbury

When NPR first announced their “This I Believe” series, I jumped at the chance to show the world why an early introduction to science fiction was essential to my creative development. My essay wasn’t picked for broadcast, but it is archived on their site, along with all the others that didn’t make the cut.

With the passing today of Ray Bradbury, I’ve decided to reprint that essay on my website, because Bradbury and Heinlein were my primary introductions to science fiction.  Bradbury was especially important to me because my favorite form of writing is the short story, and he was a master of that form.

 

I don’t remember which one I saw first. It was either Bradbury’s R is for Rocket or Heinlein’s Red Planet, but the sequence doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I took them both home from the public library and read them, sitting on my brown beanbag throne, flanked by tidy bookshelves like Centurion guards. In that space I discovered the alternate worlds of “A Sound of Thunder”, “The Foghorn” and Willis, the Martian roundhead, and I was hooked on science fiction.

Later, I stalked the arid dunes of Arrakis with blue-eyed Paul Atreides and cried when I learned that Ellison’s Jeffty was still five, and had never lost his Captain Midnight Decoder Ring. Science fiction crossed over into fantasy and I found myself lost in Mordor with Frodo and Sam, then combing the treasure room of Atuan with Ged, seeking to restore the ring of Erreth-Akbe, and with it, worldly balance. And Thomas Covenant, unwilling tutor that he was, reminded me that the real world was of prime importance, and that I was lucky to be in it.

When Dungeons and Dragons came along in the late 1970s, my friends and I were naturally hooked, and spent every Sunday afternoon in the library’s basement conference room, crawling through each other’s imaginations, solving puzzles and laughing at our own absurdity, bundles of creativity wrapped in cloaks of innocence.

Now, I’m nearing middle age. The marathon D&D sessions have morphed into occasional afternoon strategy games with the same lifelong friends. Books (when they aren’t in boxes) don’t come off the shelves nearly enough, and I seem to need more sleep than I ever did when I was younger. But the sparks of creativity and imagination that burst into life with Bradbury’s Rocket still smolder. Occasionally one will ignite and float skyward with the completion of a poem or short story. A flurry might crackle and spit into being while I play guitar with my band. More sparks glow when I read a sonnet to the woman I love, asking her to marry me beside a high country lake.

I believe that creativity is vital to the soul. It connects us to others in ways we don’t expect or understand. It builds self-confidence and teaches us to find solutions to problems no one can predict. It helps us to explore other worlds, mindsets, and cultural ideas. And in the visual and musical arts, creativity helps us express that which has no words.

If not for the sparks of wonder that I found in the Bradburys and Heinleins of the world, I might never have known what it’s like to feel the joys of creativity and imagination. I might have never learned to play guitar, or to appreciate the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I might have never gazed at the Milky Way above timberline and wondered who else was Out There.

And, worst of all, I might never have known the importance of Captain Midnight Decoder Rings.

Originally appeared on NPR’s “This I Believe” website, dated June 14, 2005

Godspeed, Ray Bradbury. Enjoy your train ride to the afterlife, because I know you won’t take a plane.