You kinda have to keep it up. 😛
The good news, I’ve been so deep into some creative projects that I’ve had to let Ye Olde Blog slide for a while. Apologies to readers! More interviews and cool stuff coming soon!
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At Readercon in Boston this past July, at a Codex Writers’ Group lunch, I was introduced to Cat Rambo. Cat Rambo’s stories have been described as “works of urban mythopoeia”, a mashup of mythology and urban fantasy. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a Tarot card reader, professions which, she claims, both involve a certain combination of technical knowledge and willingness to go with the flow. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons, plus several anthologies and Year’s Best collections. On top of all that, she’s the managing editor at Fantasy Magazine. Despite her editing, writers group, and authoring efforts, she managed to find some time to talk to yours truly about the writing life.
I ran into a pleasant British gentleman at the book launch party for Peter Straub’s American Fantastic Tales. He introduced himself as Tony Richards. Tony is a long-time author of horror and dark fantasy stories, these days numbering over a hundred short stories, novellas, and novels, with a career spanning thirty years. His debut novel, The Harvest Bride, first appeared in 1987 and was nominated for a Stoker award. In addition to being a darn fine writer, he’s a great guy to share a conversation with over cocktails. Read on!
I hadn’t been sitting at the bar in the Fairmont Hotel at the World Fantasy Convention, nursing a Bombay Sapphire and tonic, when this dame slides onto the stool next to me. But a second glance proved this to be no dame, but a lady looking as if she had stepped out of a 1940s noir film. I wondered if she was packing heat in that little clutch. Wearing a vintage ensemble complete with white gloves, Gail Carriger made a striking first impression, and the conversation quickly went interesting places, her book that just came out, her career as an archaeologist, time spent in South American Inca ruins and elsewhere, and the book launch party she was throwing on the Saturday evening of the convention. Her first novel, Soulless, came out in September from Orbit. The book launch party proved to be the smash hit of the convention, complete with Victorian and steampunk costumes, a variety of homemade adult beverages, and fabulous food the likes of which one only hears about in books. Treacle tart or Scotch egg anyone?
At the Mass Book Signing at the World Fantasy Convention on the Eve of Halloween, I had the good fortune to share a table with James Van Pelt. He’s been selling short stories for 20 years, with nearly a hundred published to date, including appearances in Asimov’s, Analog, and Year’s Best Science Fiction, and being nominated for the Nebula in 2004. We discussed writing as a career and how even well-established authors experience bolts of fan-ness in the presence of so many other accomplished professionals. Jim maintains a teaching career as well, and the speculative fiction community can applaud him for treating science fiction and fantasy as literature, and teaching it in the classroom along with the established mainstream “canon.”
Major conventions like the World Science Fiction Convention and the World Fantasy Convention are the still the best way to meet authors whose work you’ve known and respected for a long time. At World Fantasy two weeks ago, yours truly had the great fortune to meet at least a metric ton of such folks, so herewith is the first of many interviews with other World Fantasy attendees. I first encountered David Drake’s work back in the 1980s with his military science fiction Hammer’s Slammers series, plus reading Ranks of Bronze, a book about Roman Legionnaires taken to serve as interstellar mercenaries. David Drake sat on a panel at WFC to discuss the conciliatory nature (or not so) of fantasy fiction, and yours truly caught up with him in the hallway while he was beset by fans. He was kind enough to take some time then to discuss an interview and now for taking the time from a busy schedule to share his experiences with the writing life.
Day Three of the World Fantasy Convention for me was punctuated by a spasm of fanboyishness.
I was walking through the lobby of the hotel, noticing that there were an inordinate number of tuxedos and evening gowns milling about when I noticed a woman standing nearby. A couple of double-takes later, I realized that it was Amber Benson, author of Death’s Daughter and interviewee around these parts. And, oh yeah, she played the good witch Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not to mention being involved in numerous other creative endeavors.
So, like a Nebraskan Spotted Geekmoth to a flame, I introduced myself, thanked her for the interview, and we chatted for a few minutes. She was quite gracious as I tried to keep my internal geek from vibrating. Accompanying her was Adam Busch, who also appeared on Buffy as Warren, one of a trio of nerdy villians who attempt to take over Sunnydale through technology and magic.
Aside from the short explosion of geekery, the day was filled with stimulating conversations with writers at various stages along their career paths. WFC could be described a four-day-long cocktail party punctuated by business meetings and panels, where business of the industry is done, where connections are renewed, and where one can meet any number of new friends among the spec-fic tribe.
WFC is all about the books, the literature of the weird and fantastic. My Pile of Books to Be Read has increased by 36 books, as of this writing, and there might be still a few more. The poor sod who shleps this bag onto the airplane will be cursing my name.
The second day of World Fantasy proved to be just as full of pleasant surprises and meetings as the first.
Among the highlights:
Attending Jay Lake’s Guerilla Cheese Party, at which everyone was treated to the musical stylings of Ken Scholes with his guitar and harmonica. Who says writers can’t be multitalented? I think the pinnacle of that performance was likely Ken’s rendition of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” sang as if in duet by Queen Elizabeth II and Bob Dylan. When someone asked him how he had worked out whose voice sings which lines, he replied, “The voices just take over when they think they should.”
Attending a panel on the canonical works of American Fantastic Literature, chaired by Peter Straub (one of my all-time favorite authors) and also including S. T. Joshi, the premier Lovecraft scholar and a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge on literature of the weird. I was delighted to meet Peter Straub at the book launch party for Library of America’s omnibus anthology American Fantastic Tales. At the same party, I also encountered British author Tony Richards, and New York author Ellen Kushner.
Taking part in the mass book signing Friday evening, whereat I shared a table with James Van Pelt, Gail Carriger, and Ken Scholes. I had some great conversations with some fascinating people, and I even sold a copy of my book. Mission accomplished.
The air is thick with authors that I have read and loved. Upon meeting Peter Straub, I could not restrain the fanboy in me. I read Ghost Story back when I was in high school, and it totally blew me away. Even authors further down the path than I am can’t turn off the fan in them. And thank god for that.
What will Saturday and Sunday bring, one can only wonder.
After attending the World Science Fiction Convention last year, not to mention lots of other events over the years, I had a pretty good idea what to expect from a convention like this, but I was surprised at how condensed and homey this convention is, in the heart of downtown San Jose.
First of all, the venue here is palatial and compact. Everything takes place within the hotel, unlike World Con last year where the convention venue sprawled over hundreds of square miles and numerous events were scattered all over downtown Denver. World Fantasy ’09? All in one place, in one building, surrounded by tons of things to see and do and eat on the ‘outside.’
One thing that is a bit disappointing is that there do not seem to be nearly as many panels as I would have expected. There are dozens of author readings but not nearly as much programming.
When the time of my reading came around, I was delighted to not have to read to an empty room. I would call 8-10 attendees a modest success for my first reading at a major convention.
One comes to an event like this expecting to find authors and editors thick on the ground, and that is indeed the case. Quite without trying, I met several individuals just by being around: archaeologist and author Gail Carriger, looking as if she had stepped directly out of the 1940s (and pulling it off in spectacular fashion. When I asked her why, she replied, “Because science fiction fans and people in the industry need to dress better.” I couldn’t agree more.), author and podcaster Michael Stackpole, who I encountered at the panel on the potentially catastrophic and utterly mind-boggling Google Book Settlement (for any creative entity that owns intellectual property, this is not hyperbole, and I’ll address this more in a future post), author Catherine Cheek, who introduced herself to me having reviewed Heart of the Ronin for Adventures in Scifi Publishing, author Ken Scholes, who I interviewed last year after having met at World Con, ran into my buddy Jay Lake, author, Omaha Beach comber, and Toastmaster for the convention, encountered John Helfers, whom I met at World Con last year and who edited Heart of the Ronin for Five Star Books, Ann Vandermeer, editor-in-chief of Weird Tales magazine (probably the single market that will give me the biggest thrill when I get a story in there), with whom I had a pleasant conversation, and her husband Jeff Vandermeer, author and eminent editor in his own right.
Over absinthe and wine, under the glowering eyes of a stuffed raven near the door, (World Fantasy this year is commemorating Poe’s 200th birthday), amidst roomfuls of authors, editors, and fans, let us ne’er hear the raven say (dare I say it?), “Nevermore.”
Here’s some exciting news (at least for me ;). I’ll be doing a reading at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, CA, next week. The convention runs from Thursday, October 29, to Sunday, November 1.
Friday, October 30, at 9:00 p.m.
I will also be participating in the Group Booksigning on Friday evening at 8:30.
So if you’re attending WFC this year, look me up!
Continuing a tradition of encountering really interesting people at conventions, I met author Chloe Neill this summer at OSFest, the Omaha Science Fiction Education Society’s annual sci-fi convention. Although she’s not a katana-wielding vampire badass like the main character in her Chicagoland Vampire series, she perhaps could be with some training. Neill grew up in Arkansas (maintains a touch of the accent) and now makes her home in Nebraska, where she recently launched her pro writing career with her first novel Some Girls Bite, out this year from Penguin. She managed to wrangle us some interview time in the midst of a heavy writing and travel schedule.