Fran Wilde at WSFA

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran WildeFran Wilde, the author of the acclaimed novel Updraft and its upcoming sequel, Cloudbound, visited the regular “First Friday” meeting of the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) on August 5th. She came down from Philadelphia to talk to the group, of which I’m a member, and to read from her new novella, The Jewel and Her Lapidary, which was just published by Tor.

She spoke for a while about herself, her background and what it was like to be a relatively newly published author. She mentioned that some of her inspiration for “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” came from her own experiences working in a jewelry shop, although she confided that she didn’t get to work with dangerous, magical jewels like the ones in her story. She was friendly and engaging, welcomed questions from the audience and even had a few giveaways.

All in all, a fun time.

Her new novella is about two young women, one the last surviving member of the ruling family of a valley defended by magical jewels and the other magically bound to obey her. Toss in a heartless betrayal and a ruthless invasion, and you have all of the elements of an engaging story.

By the way, Fran Wilde took the following picture of the whole WSFA crew. That’s me in the front row…

Fran Wilde Reading at WSFA  Photo Credit: Fran Wilde

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Proud New Member of WSFA

WSFA - Washington Science Fiction AssociationOn Friday, January 3rd, I officially became a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). This non-profit organization was founded in 1947. Here’s their official description:

The Washington Science Fiction Association is the oldest science fiction club in the greater Washington area. Its members are interested in all types of science fiction and fantasy literature as well as related areas such as fantasy and science fiction films, television, costuming, gaming, filking, convention-running, etc. WSFA meets the first and third Fridays of every month at approximately 9:00 pm. Non-members are encouraged to attend. Club meetings include a brief business meeting, after which the group gathers informally over light refreshments to talk about just about anything including (on occasion) science fiction literature and media.

Although they don’t explicitly state this in their official description, the organization’s true purpose is to promote science fiction and fantasy literature within the greater Washington DC metropolitan area. To this end, they annually organize and run Capclave, a very nice regional conference. They’ve also hosted, or had members participate in hosting, some of the big, roving conferences. Notably, WSFA has hosted the World Fantasy Convention, most recently in 2003, and they’ll be hosting it again in November 2014. Some of the organization’s members are also currently putting together a bid to bring the World Science Fiction Convention, my favorite convention, to Washington DC in 2017.

Put simply, I think the organization does good work.

But I’m a writer. Why am I interested in joining the organization? Well, let me list some of my reasons below:

  1. Promote SF Literature: I love science fiction, but there’s a vast difference between SF in literature and SF in media. Frankly, the SF literature is far more sophisticated than most of the SF that’s coming out of Hollywood. I’d like to help make sure that our SF books aren’t forsaken for their media counterparts.

  2. Reduce the Graying of SF Fandom: There’s an effect known as “the graying of SF fandom,” in which the average age of SF fans is rising. Prospective younger fans are often lured away by other technologies like games, movies and television. Or worse, they’re not even introduced to SF in any meaningful way. I’d like to help ensure that younger readers are introduced to our “literature of ideas” so that we can bring newer, younger fans into the fold.

  3. Networking: I’m writing professionally now and, frankly, I’m hampered in some ways because I don’t know people in the SF field. I need to know editors, cover artists, fellow writers, etc., in order to be successful at what I’m trying to accomplish as a writer.

  4. Expanding My Fan Base: I write SF and Fantasy. WSFA members read SF and fantasy. By attending meetings, I’m associating with people who might reasonably want to read the things that I write. They are also well positioned to foster great word-of-mouth regarding my stories. However, there’s a careful balance that I need to maintain here since WSFA doesn’t exist to promote individual writers. Joining the organization requires a certain integrity of intent, i.e. – a commitment to help the organization accomplish its goals. Accordingly, I’ve adopted a deliberately low profile when it comes to promoting my own work.

  5. Entertainment: I know more about science fiction than all of my friends. Period. I’ve seen more SF movies, read more SF books, know more about SF history, and I’m more familiar with SF/Fantasy memes. I’m constantly recommending books to other people (“Oh, you like zombies? Try Feed by Mira Grant, aka Seanan McGuire”), loaning DVD’s to friends (“You should see the indie SF movie, Cube“), or explaining SF concepts like the Singularity. Conventions and WSFA meetings are the only places where I can go and meet other people like me.

I’ve been attending WSFA meetings since September 2013. As a writer, how has associating with WSFA been beneficial to me so far? Well, it’s done a lot of things for me already, more than I had envisioned when I first began attending meetings.

  • Scored low-cost tickets to Capclave 2013.

  • Received advice to sign up for the Writers Track at Capclave 2013. I did this, and it proved to be excellent advice.

  • Met an editor at one of the meetings. Got some advice on venues that might buy some of my short fiction. Have periodically had other members tell me about various anthologies that were looking for submissions.

  • Provided advice to the organization that plans to bring a science fiction museum to Washington DC.

  • Got to see a live reading of a new story by Jamie Todd Rubin, an up and coming writer from this area.

  • Have heard some really awesome stories about fandom and the writing community. As a result, I have a new appreciation for lime jello.

Overall, I’m proud to be part of WSFA. I expect to have a lot of fun thanks to the organization. I also expect to do some worthwhile work promoting the “literature of ideas” that I love so much.

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Watching the Moon Launch with WSFA

WSFA - Washington Science Fiction AssociationI had an interesting Friday night. I’ve lived in the Washington metropolitan area since 1987, when I first came here for a job. There’s a science fiction organization in the area called the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA), which I’ve known about for a long time, but I’d never attended a meeting because, for me, they’re on inconvenient nights in inconvenient places (the first and third Friday of the month, in Arlington and Maryland respectively).

However, as I embark seriously on an SF writing career, I really need to become familiar with the local SF clubs, conventions, etc. So, I decided to attend my first meeting yesterday. I secured the appropriate “kitchen pass” from my wife so that I could 1) go to the meeting, and 2) move our regularly scheduled “Friday Date Night” to Saturday instead.

As SF clubs go, WSFA is reasonably influential. They’re one of the oldest SF associations, formed in 1947 and meeting continuously since then. From the 1950’s to 1997, the organization ran a convention called Disclave; I attended a couple of those events back in the early 90’s. A few years passed without a convention, and then they started up Capclave in 2001, which I was already planning to attend (it’s on October 11 – 13 this year). They’ve also hosted the Worldcon twice, which is my favorite convention, and they hosted the World Fantasy Convention last year.

I showed up at the meeting, which was held at the residence of Sam and Judy Scheiner. I had a great time talking to a very nice group of people who love SF the way I do and, in some cases, know even more than I do about it. During the business portion of the meeting, of course, most of the discussion centered around the logistics for running Capclave in just a little over a month.

I also admitted, in public, to the group that I was trying to become an SF writer. That was … surprisingly daunting. Fortunately, folks were very encouraging.

Some other benefits to the meeting…someone brought a box of ARC’s (Advance Reader Copies) that were left over from Worldcon, and I managed to find a new book that sounded interesting (The Hidden Worlds, by Kristin Landon). Free books, always a good thing.

LADEE Moon LaunchLater we all trooped outside to a nearby park to watch the LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) launch, which was happening on Wallops Island just off the Virginia coast at 11:27 PM, near its more famous cousin, Chincoteague. A key player in the launch was a company called Orbital, which has its headquarters near my house. Ken Kremer, a science writer, has a lot more information about the launch in his article on the Universe Today web site, if you want to learn more about it.

We couldn’t see much of the launch. It was partially obscured by trees, and the rocket never got very high from our vantage point as it headed eastward from the launch site. Nevertheless, it was surprisingly thrilling to watch the moving speck in the sky and know that it was a moon launch, and not just a plane flying by.

Overall, I had a good time. I met some fellow SF fans, and had some good, spirited SF discussions. I learned more about Capclave, got a free book, watched a rocket launch, and scored a reduced-cost ticket to Capclave from someone who bought their ticket long ago but won’t be able to attend. I call that a pretty good night.

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