Science Fiction Harder

Why ponies? I have no idea, but that’s their theme.

Excitement! Early tomorrow morning I’ll be making my way to SeaTec for a flight to Detroit. It’s been too long, three years, since the last time I made my way to ConFusion.

I still don’t have a ride from the airport to the hotel, but unless someone volunteers I’ll likely just grab an Uber or Lyft. If you’re at the convention make sure to ask me for a giveaway code. I’ve just purchased 20 copies of The Doomsday Chronicles that I’ll be giving away while roaming the halls. I’ll also have a stack of Big Red Buckles to hand out.

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Confusion 2017 Schedule

Below is my current panel schedule for ConFusion 2017 in Detroit, MI which takes place in a little over a week.

Topic Description Day Time Room Panel

If You Liked ‘The Martian’…

Hard science fiction is serious business. Hard science fiction done well can be big business, as exhibited by Andy Weir’s mega-hit The Martian. What other hard science fictions stories are out there in The Martian’s shadow? And what about their science is so engaging?

Friday

5:00 PM

Interlochen

Karen Burnham, Martin L. Shoemaker, Matthew Alan Thyer, Andrew Zimmerman Jones

I Believe I Can Fly

Those lyrics, popularized by R. Kelly in the film Space Jam, highlight something each and every one of us dreams of €”being able to soar in the heavens. Greek myth, superhero stories, and many genre books tap into this fantasy. What about the concept of flight is so appealing? How are today €™s books reimagining the trope and where else can we go with it?

Friday

6:00 PM

Keweenaw

Elizabeth Shack (M), David John Baker, Mary G. Thompson, Matthew Alan Thyer, Ken Schrader

From Fanfic to Profic

Many of science fiction and fantasy’s authors have come out of fandom. What’s the transition like? Why do so many talented writers stay in fanfic? What does writer with professional aspirations get out of fic?

Saturday

10:00 AM

Manitou

Kate Elliott (M), Matthew Alan Thyer, Dira Lewis, Geoff Gander, Angela Carina Barry

It Takes an Intergalactic Village

Finding and surrounding your life with positive influences that will help your kids become productive, insightful, and best of all nerd-class citizens.

Saturday

12:00 PM

Keweenaw

Karen Burnham, Matthew Alan Thyer, Vanessa Ricci-Thode, Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Reading: Matthew Alan Thyer, Ken Schrader, Martin L. Shoemaker

Authors read from current or forthcoming works

Saturday

3:00 PM

Petoskey

Matthew Alan Thyer, Ken Schrader, Martin L. Shoemaker

Autograph Session (4 PM)

Come meet your favorite authors, artists and musicians and have them sign things! (Please limit your signing requests to 3 items per person.)

Saturday

4:00 PM

St. Clair

Matthew Alan Thyer, Dyrk Ashton, Angela Carina Barry, Mishell Baker, Brandon Black, Elly Blake, Gail Carriger,Suzanne Church, Michael Cieslak, Lesley Conner, Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka, Kate Elliott, Amal El-Mohtar, Janet Harriett, Christian Klaver, Mur Lafferty, Jeffrey Alan Love, Mark Oshiro, Dustin Patrick, Cherie Priest, Adam Rakunas, Jason Sanford, Michael J. Underwood, Brigitte Winter

Citizen Scientist: Biomechanical Engineer

The current state of the art in cybernetic body parts, plus a look into the future.

Sunday

10:00 AM

Isle Royale

Daniel Dugan (M), Martin L. Shoemaker, Matthew Alan Thyer

It’s been a while since I’ve seen many of you, since 2014 to be exact, and I’m very much looking forward to spending time with you over this SFF enriched weekend. If you can’t find me at these locations during the convention, hint hint, peek into the bar.

ConFusion

To: All my ConFusion Friends
From: Me

Wish I could be there this year STOP
Have a great time STOP
Take many pictures and post them on the internets STOP
Don’t buy the hotel scotch, it’s much too expensive STOP

END MESSAGE

News

First, the good news. This weekend I received a letter from the DetCon1 Programming folks and I quickly shot off a reply. I’m headed, once again, to Detroit, Michigan for a summer convention.

I don’t know what it is about that part of the world, but man you “Yoopers” sure have a thing for SFF. I’m not complaining. Not even a little bit. In fact, I’m sort of ecstatic to visit Michigan in the middle of the summer. I’ll get to hang out with the mucky-mucks for a couple of days. Meet new friends and share with colleagues. I’m currently planning on driving so if you’re interested you’ll get to experience my overlander first hand.

Yesterday I nailed down my reservation at the hotel, and there is even the possibility that my beautiful and talented wife might join me on this excursion into intense geekery.  And for that I am even more excited than I have the words to express. I might have to bump up the reservation and get a room with a view.

In other news I have lined up a couple more author interviews for FROM THE INDIE SIDE. Be excited, you’re going to get buckets of new author blood really soon. Peter Cawdron is due this upcoming Friday. Followed by Ernie Lindsey, Susan May, and Mel Hearse.

In the mean time, if you’re looking for something to read you won’t be disappointed with this anthology. The diversity of voices and tales means that you can pick and chose what you’d rather read based on your mood in the moment. And, even though it is thicker than a Chilton’s Auto Repair manual, it won’t break your budget at $4.99 (kindle price).

While you’re supporting independent authors you should give me a try. I’ve just put out a short story of my own which is turning into something of a series. ON THE LEFT FOOT: A TALE OF THE LONG EARTH is only $0.99 on Amazon and it will transport you from that dull, slightly musty bus seat into an otherworldly back country filled with the rich scents of waking pine trees and fresh trout.

Also, last weekend I added another couple of thousand words to the next in the “sports in space” series UP SLOPE. It is on target for spring release and I’m pretty happy with how the story is coming along. You don’t need to read the first in the series to understand the story, but if you gave THE BIG RED BUCKLE a gander you would not be disappointed.

Next up, this morning I was browsing through your many, many Facebook posts when I came across a real gem from Jacqueline Carey, who is a formidable presence in the the world of wordsmiths to say the least, and she has something really poignant to say about our professional organization.

I don’t mean to imply that the blame for all that ails SFWA lies with its most senior members.  I’m sure it doesn’t, but I can only speak to what I’ve observed, which is that there’s an undeniable generational push-back against changing mores that’s a significant part of the problem.  I don’t want SFWA to lose its identity or its sense of history, but if it’s going to remain relevant, it needs to adapt.  Honor the past, but celebrate the present and look toward the future, too.

I can thank my wife Tess for getting me hooked on Carey’s Kusiel series, late night readings from Kushiel’s Dart were something of a treat back in the early days of our relationship. It is sexy stuff, but with careful and complete construction, deep plots that make it difficult to sleep (even though you have work in the morning).

At ConFusion I had only the briefest of encounters with Carey, but her opinion, and the action (or inaction) she is willing to undertake in order to achieve a clear and unmistakable expression, is admirable. And she has done a wonderful job of laying out all the things SFWA might be missing its maddening rush to cling to BS and drama.

I mean… seriously?  The publishing industry is undergoing seismic changes, changes that affect every single author in (and out of) the genre.  E-book pricing and royalty rates, the antitrust lawsuit, DRM, the rise of indie publishing, Amazon’s slow-burning bid for a monopoly, dwindling brick-and-mortar stores, the commodification of fan fiction, promotion in the age of social networking, the Google Books lawsuit, the consolidation of the Big Six into the Big Five, etc.  There’s a lot to talk about!  And yet when it comes to SFWA, it seems all the oxygen in the room was—and still is—being sucked up by a discussion that has no business taking place in this day and age.

When I first started to accumulate rejection letters one of my primary motivations to be a writer was SFWA membership. I wanted to be included in the group and run along side others doing the same thing. In my past life as an engineer I belonged to a variety of professional organizations, and for the most part, this was a useful and even necessary requirement for inclusion within the network of people working in the field. They kept me appraised of the major currents in my industry and helped me make good decisions that ultimately made me a better engineer.

The realization that SFWA membership might be beyond my reach, even with the growing collection of SFF bearing my name, gave me pause. I started to ask myself, “What could I get out of this relationship if I take the time to jump through their hoops?” The answer that I reached basically amounted to not much that I couldn’t find on my own. I’ve got KBoardsGoodreads, and conventions for community, inspiration, and to keep me appraised of what is and isn’t happening in the writing world. The organization’s Writer Beware blog tends to be far behind the 8-ball when it comes to breaking news and new predatory practices that harm creatives, and its contributors spend at least half their time tooting their own horn. The organization has become, in many respects, just a breading ground for drama and discontent.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to extend some kudos to Jacqueline Carey, I think she is doing a good thing and I hope the best for her and wish her luck. Yes, she has lost her nomination privileges for the Nebula, but her opinions are already well respected. I’d happily read anything she recommended, her cogent and considered opinion has lot more weight than an award.

And finally, I wanted to take a moment to pass along the announcement that Michael J. Sullivan‘s next book is available for pre-order. And if you order now, you’ll get a pile of extras and bonus stuff … early. This is a series I’ve had on my W2R list for a while and Mr. Sullivan is an excellent dude.

So, I will round out today’s news and announcements with one more place for you to spend your hard earned dough on books. Click on through to this announcement for all the details and goodies.

After Action Report: Legendary ConFusion

Saladine Ahmed and Howard A. Jones together

I have not yet left Detroit, but it is important to get some of this information down quickly to avoid the danger of losing these lessons. Over all Legendary ConFusion was a very good experience for me. It has been both illustrative, outlining a number of concepts I need to grasp before I can expect to grow my reader base or improve my work, and entertaining, providing me a bevy of new friends and peers.

Brian McCellen and Sam Sykes Horn Brothers

Diversity

I attended a kaffeeklatsch with the convention’s Honored Fan, Mark Bernstein on Saturday. The topics of conversation went all over the place, and I sold a couple of paperbacks, but Mark said something that I felt was really important near the end of the conversation.

He was talking about the lack of diversity he has seen in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy community. And he insisted that the only way to increase diversity, of any type, was to “recognize privileged where it is taken for granted.”

That, right there, my friends is a very powerful idea. Those few words are pushing my envelope and I’m reaching for ways to integrate.

John Scalzi got a visit from the Jam Fairy

“Secret Human Systems”

Tess and I talked this morning before I headed down for coffee at the hotel restaurant. I am predisposed; think somewhat outgoing, interested, and potentially overly-enthusiastic. I really enjoy making new friends. And I know my laugh can be tad bit overbearing.

That’s my social molecular structure, and as I tumble around in this convention suspension searching for others to exchange electrons with I am reminded that my particular molecular structure is not always going to be compatible with everyone else’s.

The realization that I fit in, but not everywhere or with everyone, even at my age still sometimes takes a little time to digest. Understanding that every time a group of people get together there will be chemistry is a concept I’m going to take away from this convention.

That said, I’ve made some really good connections this weekend. They are connections I hope  reinforce with additional mixing and perhaps some distillation. And perhaps the happiest news in this chemical metaphor is that knowledge that the asshole molecules tend to precipitate out over time.

Wesley Chu and Your’s Truly

Panels

Something I did not know. Turns out most conventions actually need panelists. They take volunteers. Happily.

For an Indie, here is an excellent tool to improve your exposure. Beyond the reddit AMA question session, I did not sit on any panels this time around, but my eyes are opened and I know that for future conventions that I plan to attend I will put my name out there.

I will also bring along paper copies of my book so that attendees can associate the visage with the cover. So watch out future conventions, I’m going to volunteer.

Free Books

I had a great conversation this afternoon with a group of authors. We were talking about technique, awards, and a fair number of “job” related topics, when the topic of freebies came up. In case you are unaware of what this means it is, often but not always, Indie authors who write and then give away free copies of their work in order to generate sales later. The idea is that the author will gain attention, move up the sales lists, get more eyes-on for future releases, and, if lucky, leverage some small quantity of words to sell many more.

I don’t recall who pointed this out, but it was an astute observation. One that I feel needs some repeating. The idea was the discovery that many GroupOn merchants have made. That customers follow the discounts, not the vendor.

“Free” books aren’t actually free. There are imprint costs, editing, covers, and many more requirements that must be addressed before the work can even be entered into the market. And this does not consider the labor of the author involved. For an author recuperate these costs the accounting must include the origination and distribution costs of the original against the revenue generated by the second and subsequent books. Payback in this case takes time and many, many more unit sales.

I don’t disagree, sometimes this ploy works. The author gives away book X, gains some readers, and then publishes book Y with much better sales numbers. But this description is a very narrow view of what is a much larger problem. It does not consider the implications to the market of all the authors who copy-cat this marketing ploy and are ultimately unsuccessful. It does not consider how the market might be influenced by the cultivation of a particular subset of readers/consumers that now expect only-free reads. It fails to consider the implications impacting the quality of the works involved, the often poor impression those works leave with their readers, and the pressures this kind of market puts on all authors regardless of their participation in this ploy.

The ramifications to this Indie are pretty clear. Offering free books, even for a limited period of time, cheapens every one’s work. Authors should see this as a social signal. By offering free books (not ARCs or demo reads, but free or perma-free books after publication) you are saying to your peers that you don’t give two shits about their work. When you make the decision to give your work away you’re also telling them that you’re willing to break their business, and ultimately the market we all coexist within, to gain some small advantage.

Amy Sundberg and Some Guy at ConFusion

Holy Poo Sticks!

Oh Poop!

So the last time I attended a scifi convention was in the early 90’s. I went with a bunch of friends, coming down from the little mountain town where I attended college, and we carpooled in a VW bus that blew a spark plug out of the block somewhere on the backside of Kenosha Pass (IIRC).  Ostensibly I went there to play games, and I had a great time.

But I just signed up for my first Convention in more than twenty years. I’m going to attend Legendary ConFusion in Detroit. There are a couple of authors going that I’d really like to meet face-to-face and I’m also hoping that to get some learn’in.

Last night, laying in bed with a strained back, I realized how little I actually know about this business. I feel like a blind sword fighter, constantly stabbing in the dark. You know you have struck meat when you feel that squishy, yielding flesh under your blade, but most of the time you just end up sending your cutlass uselessly zipping through the air.

There are a number of symposium that I want to attend, but in particular, Tobias Buckell is sitting on this panel.

Becoming a working writer with Tobias Buckell

12pm Sunday – Rotunda
In this intimate Q&A Tobias talks openly about strategies, tips, and what it took to make it out of hobby and into career, as well as answers questions readers might have about his work)

So not only has it been a long time since I’ve been to a Con, but it was under much different circumstances. I feel that the stakes are higher this go around and the intent is certainly to learn the ropes of this business a little better (or to stick with my earlier metaphor, lift the veil).

In the mean time, I’ve got the pre-trip-with-a-purpose jitters. It helps that my first good review came in on Amazon yesterday. But the pucker-factor needle is still hitting “oh poop” tick way over on the far side of the gauge.

The Big Red Buckle, for those with an interest in Colonial-Mars-genre science fiction, or paragliding, or just about anyone else with a pulse and an imagination, is a compelling page -turner. Well beyond short story length, more of a lean and taut novella, it’s a great late-evening read that still won’t take all night. Thyer’s characters, even those whose physical characteristics differ from birth in Mars’ low gravity, are ultimately human at heart. I look forward to more from this author!

I guess now I need an appearance page. I’m going to bring a couple of print copies of The Big Red Buckle along with me. If you’re going to be there, let me know, I’d love to meet some new faces and other writers.