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.
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.
On July 23, 2018, Martian Magazine published my piece entitled “To Be Human,” along with an author spotlight about me. Martian publishes drabbles (100 word short stories) exclusively, so it’s right up my alley. I’m in good company, too, with authors like Lou J. Berger and Steve Rasnic Tem also making sales to that market. Working with editor Eric Fomley was a good experience; he even worked with me to resolve a misunderstanding about my submission, for which I’m grateful.
“To Be Human” has always been microfiction, but it has both grown and shrunk over the years. The names and genders of the characters have changed, as did the nature of the relationship between them. I originally wrote it in 2005; the first version was about 500 words and written for a different magazine, which rejected it. I tried a couple of other markets, unsuccessfully, and then shelved it.
In 2010, I revised it and sent it to a different magazine for a flash fiction submission call. This time, I got a more personal rejection and compliments on it, but it was still rejected. A couple of months later, I tried the original market again, since I had revised the story, but they still didn’t want it. Back on the shelf it went.
In 2016, I revised it up to about 1,000 words and sent it to a flash fiction contest. Same story; the editors liked it, but it didn’t win. In 2017, I tried again, this time for an anthology with very specific requirements that fit the story well, but apparently it didn’t fit the editor’s needs as well as I thought. Back on the shelf, permanently this time. If half a dozen markets didn’t like it, I figured there must be something wrong with it, and I should stop wasting time on it.
Then, in June of this year, I heard about Martian Magazine’s call for submissions, shortly before the end of their submission period. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to come up with something, so I looked through the archives in my Google Drive (my “shelf”) and found “To Be Human.” It was still in its heavyweight 1,000 word form, but I’m pretty good at revising to reduce word count, so I figured I’d give it a shot. (Revision is actually my favorite part of writing. It’s creating the content in the first place that slows me down.)
It wasn’t easy to cull 90% of the story and still keep the core intact, but it was fun. It was similar to revising poetry, actually, with my brain performing mental gymnastics to find just the right word, or to figure out how to change the context so I could use fewer words. In the end, the story is very tight, and I’m proud of it.
So far, my favorite interaction with readers is this one, from Twitter user Marc Criley: