Capclave 2013

Capclave 2013 I had a great time attending Capclave 2013, which was held this past weekend in Gaithersburg, MD (at apparently the world’s oldest Hilton Hotel). The image to the left is a dodo, Capclave’s “mascot,” which is usually accompanied by the tagline: “Where reading is not extinct.”

According to the WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association – the group the runs the convention) folks that I talked to, the presence of George R.R. Martin at the con more than doubled the expected attendance from 400 people to about 850 people, including a lot of Saturday walk-ins. Nevertheless, it never felt crowded to me…unless you were one of the people waiting in line for a George R.R. Martin signing, where his line wrapped around the interior of the hotel.

One of the funnier moments of the convention occurred Saturday night when George R.R. Martin, the Guest of Honor, accepted his gift from the con for being a guest. He mentioned a real-world project that aims to resurrect extinct species using reconstituted DNA. He noted that the mastodon was first on the list, but that the dodo was in the top ten — this drew some laughter from the crowd. Then he said, “Screw the dodo, let’s bring back the dire wolf.” This got a huge wave of laughter from the crowd, since everyone knows that the dire wolf features prominently in his novel, “The Game of Thrones,” as well as subsequent volumes in the series (plus the TV series).

I was only able to attend the convention on Saturday and Sunday. Since the convention was (relatively) local for me, I ended up driving to it each day. So I spent a good amount of time commuting through pouring rain.

Anyway, I spent most of my time at the convention in workshops. I’ll have separate posts about the workshops, since I have some good notes that I think might prove useful for other writers.

The workshops were obviously a highlight for me. More than one person told me they viewed Capclave as a “writer’s con” more than a “fan con.” I attended the following workshops:

  • Allen Wold’s Writer’s Workshop (2 sessions, totaling 3 hours)
    — David Bartell, Andrew Fox, Allen Wold and Darcy Wold

  • Area 52 Military Science Fiction – Getting it Right (2 sessions, totaling 4 hours)
    — Ron Garner, Brian Shaw and Janine Spendlove (all active or former Marines)

  • Creating Your Ebook (1 session, 2 hours)
    — Neil Clarke, Hugo-winning editor of Clarkesworld magazine
    — (2013/11/06) Some of his CSS from the session is now up on his blog

Plus, I attended some conventional panels that were also useful to writers, including:

  • Online Writing Tools
    — Jaime Todd Rubin and Bud Sparhawk

  • Aircraft Carriers in Space!
    — Christopher Weuve

  • Self-Publishing and You / DIY Publishing
    — Jennifer Barnes, Andrew Fox, Jason Jack Miller, Betsy A. Riley and Steve H. Wilson

I also ended up having my picture taken with John G. Hemry, author of the Lost Fleet series, and Carolyn Ives Gilman, author of award-nominated novelettes like Arkfall (which I got her to sign) and last year’s The Ice Owl. I promised both of them that the picture would end up on my blog, and so they both will by the end of this week.

Overall, an excellent convention. I had a great time, got to work on my writing skills in a workshop, absorbed a ton of useful information for writers, bought some excellent books, and met some sterling people. Plus, the Philcon and Kansas City parties were very welcoming, and the Dark Quest Book Launch was a lot of fun, too.

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Balticon 47 SF Convention

Balticon Science Fiction ConventionI’ll be going to the Balticon 47 science fiction convention next weekend. It’s being held in Hunt Valley, MD, which is close enough for me to drive in each day. I’ll be there for about half of Saturday and all day on Sunday.

I’m looking forward to it. Balticon was the first science fiction convention I ever went to, back in 1983. That was Balticon 17, I believe. In all this time, I think I’ve only been to three of them, and it’s been years since I last attended one of their conventions.

This time is a little different, though. As far as I’m concerned, I’m going as a professional. Now, I don’t have any officially published works yet (although I have some free short stories online), so my resume as a writer is sketchy at best (at least my resume as a public speaker is considerably better), and I’m not on any panels. But, that doesn’t matter to me. I’ll be at the convention to learn, to meet people, network, and promote myself. I particularly want to meet contacts in the Baltimore and Washington DC areas who are writers, editors, publishers, promoters, etc.

At the 2012 World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon for short, I managed to get pictures of myself with Neil Gaiman and Hugh Howey. I’d like to manage some photos like that at Balticon as well. These are always great for the blog, and I still get kind of a thrill out them myself, both getting the photos and meeting the authors.

Now, for my dilemma. I’ve prepared a new short story called “Goodbye, My Darling.” I’ll be premiering a 5 – 7 minute speech based upon this short story at Ashburn Toastmasters on this coming Wednesday. At Balticon, there are several “Open Readings” scheduled, in which writers sign up to do a reading of up to 10 minutes. I’ve got a story memorized, and modified to be a public speech, that I can deliver in 7 minutes. Do I have the guts to actually present this story at Balticon?

Complicating matters slightly, I’ve also got a non-SF-related speech on Tuesday, in front of a crowd of 5 – 70 people (I get to follow the main event, New York Times best-selling writer, Ric Edelman). So, if I present at the convention, it will be my third speech of the week.

Realistically, I expect the Balticon audience to be friendly and enthusiastic. It’s also likely that some of the readings will be pretty dry, since interpretive reading is actually a fairly difficult endeavor. Ideally, I’d like to come on stage with a dynamic, well-paced and well-practiced speech after several of those dry readings. My inclination is “Full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes.”

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