I attended the 2012 World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon as it’s usually known, in Chicago. It was held at the end of August and extended into early September. At Worldcons, authors are on display. It’s their chance to hobnob with fellow professionals, do some wheeling and dealing, and, perhaps most importantly, connect with the fans who buy science fiction and fantasy books. Impress enough fans, and you might just kick-start enough word-of-mouth about your books/stories to propel your career to the next level.
I thought I’d blog about my winners at the Worldcon, the writers who hit my radar screen in positive ways.
For the 2012 Worldcon, the four writers that were my biggest winners were:
- Hugh Howey
- Seanan McGuire
- Jo Walton
- Kij Johnson
Hugh Howey: I saw Hugh Howey on my first day at the conference. He was participating in a panel called “To Indie or Not Indie,” which basically turned into a debate between several indie-published writers and a more traditionally published writer of a military SF series (Mike Moscoe, who writes as Mike Shepherd). Having successfully sold a number of indie books previously, Hugh was starting to have what looked like some break-out success with a book called “Wool.” It had even been optioned by Ridley Scott, the director of such famous SF films as Alien and Bladerunner.
I ended up having dinner with Hugh and a bunch of his fans at a meet-up that he’d scheduled online earlier with his fans. I had a great time, and Hugh even bought dinner for everybody (something I certainly wasn’t expecting). The next day, I had no trouble plopping $20 down for the trade paperback of Hugh’s novel, “Wool,” which had been recommended to me by all of his fans as “his best book.”
When I subsequently had a chance to read the book, I was pleased to discover that it was, in fact, a very good book. Equally interesting, it had been indie-published in five parts, some of which even featured different viewpoint characters, all of which slotted together nicely to form one highly coherent novel with numerous plot twists and surprises. The novel that I bought was, in fact, an omnibus of those five original stories.
Since Worldcon, I’ve had a chance to publish a review of Hugh’s book on this site, as well as mention him in several blog entries. “Wool” has indeed become Hugh’s break-out book; he recently signed a lucrative deal with traditional publishing to augment the indie sales of his novel, and is currently indie-publishing a prequel to “Wool.” I feel like I’ve helped discover one of the field’s up-and-coming writers.
Seanan McGuire: I discovered Seanan McGuire because of her pseudonymously published “Newflesh” trilogy, a horror series that takes place twenty years after the human race has successfully survived a devastating zombie plague. Under the pseudonym of Mira Grant, her second novel in the series, “Deadline,” was nominated for the 2012 Hugo award for Best Novel.
I soon learned that the first novel in the trilogy, “Feed,” had likewise been nominated for a Hugo award the previous year, and that the concluding novel, “Blackout,” had just been published. Oh, and her related novella, “Countdown,” about how the zombie plague began and propagated, had also been nominated for a Hugo for Best Novella.
Before the end of the conference, I owned the entire “Newsflesh” trilogy, and even had them signed by Seanan McGuire. She also publishes fantasy under her own name, most notably the October Daye series, so I bought some of those books as well. Since the convention, I’ve been gradually buying all of her books. She’s a multi-talented writer with a wicked sense of humor that often comes through in her writing. She’s now pretty much on my must-buy list.
Jo Walton: Jo Walton’s “Among Others” was nominated for, and won, the Hugo award for Best Novel. It also won the Best Novel Nebula award as well, making it one of only seven novels to accomplish this feat.
It’s an odd, but strangely mesmerizing, coming-of-age story featuring magic and the discovery of science fiction by a traumatized teen-age girl. It may not be for everybody, but I thought it was a carefully crafted gem of a novel. Jo Walton may never be the type of writer who hones in on the SF bestseller list, but she’s certainly willing to push the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy to attempt something new. She’s a brave, unflinching writer who deserves more readers.
Since reading “Among Others,” I have begun picking up all of her other books. “Farthing” was equally delightful, albeit in much different ways, and “Tooth and Claw,” a semi-Victorian story featuring dragons, is next up in the queue.
Kij Johnson: Kij Johnson authored the novella, “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” which I thought was easily the best novella of the year (and it did, in fact, win the Best Novella Hugo). I’ve been advising all of my friends to read this story. I think it’s a legitimate classic. Since then, I’ve begun reading other stories that she has available online. To my knowledge, she has not yet written any novels.
While these were the four writers who dominated my attention the most at Worldcon 2012, they weren’t the only ones that I noticed:
Jack McDevitt was impressive on panels; he’s a gracious panelist, as well as a consummate craftsman as a writer. I’ve been gradually working my way through all of his novels, most lately with “Eternity Road.”
Neil Gaiman was very nice to talk to in person, and even let me get a photograph with him. I already own most of his works (both graphic novels and novels), which is the only reason why he’s not one of my “winners” this year.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s Hugo-nominated novelette, “Kiss Me Twice,” was excellent. I checked out her web site, and it turns out that she’s written two novels: “Shades of Milk and Honey” and “Glamour in Glass.” Both have been well received by critics, and look interesting to me, so they’re both on my “to buy” list.
Carolyn Ives Gilman’s Hugo-nominated novella, “The Ice Owl,” was very good. Accordingly, she’s on my watch list, and I’ll be checking out more of her stories.
B. A. Chepaitis was impressive on a panel about storytelling, as well as one on screenwriting; I have since picked up one of her books second-hand to “try her out.”
Lyda Morehouse and I had a surprisingly witty exchange during a long and crowded elevator ride; I was left thinking that if she writes nearly as well as she speaks off-the-cuff, she might be worth checking out.
I accidentally discovered Laura Mixon’s new book, “Up Against It,” written under the pseudonym of M. J. Locke. Her best book yet, and set in one of my favorite venues, the Asteroid Belt.
It was also nice to discover that the influential “Bordertown” series is alive and well.
Writers, don’t discount the impact of the Worldcon. I, like many other readers, vote with my wallet. If you can get my attention in a favorable way, I will spend money on you. And if I like what I find, you may very well become part of my own personal SF subscription, as did my own personal top four winners from Worldcon 2012.