So I read Cedar Sanderson’s lovely piece entitled “To Thine Own Self Be True”, and I found that I agreed with much of what she had to say. I, too, have zero tolerance for those who would sexually abuse others, particularly children. Actions like that are intolerable, and have no place in society, any society.
Furthermore, I join her in rejecting the idea that you have to be part of some clique or club in order to be successful in science fiction and/or fantasy. I think success is largely a matter for self-definition. Success for one author may mean winning a Hugo. For another it may mean buying a mountain. For a third, it may mean finally publishing the story they’ve had rattling around in their head for twenty years. Success is personal, and it’s honestly none of my business. But I do know that unless you decide that being feted at WorldCon or any other con is your definition of success… it’s not.
That all being said, I did disagree with two of her major points. Attending a con may not be necessary to your success, but if your definition of success includes networking with others in the industry and perhaps signing with a publisher, then attendance at cons can certainly be very helpful.
Understand me, writers. First, we have to do the work. Write the story first. Make it good. Make it great. This all comes after that first, crucial piece. Write a good story. Then worry about the rest of whatever “success” means.
Okay, back to cons. I will tell you that every “break” or advancement I’ve had in my own fledgling writing career has come about because of my attendance at a convention. I sold my first poem at a convention. I met my mentor and my writing partner (two different people) at Dragon Con. I was offered my first book contract at Liberty Con. I was offered my second book contract at Raven Con. I met both of my publishers at cons, as well as all but one of my coauthors, and every editor of every anthology in which I’ve participated.
Just like any business, writing and publishing includes a networking component. And I have found that cons are the perfect venue for networking and making connections that can really help to move a writer’s career along.
Once the story is good.
That part comes first, remember. But, to be honest, cons have helped me with that part too. My favorite con experiences inevitably revolve around sitting with a group of friends, staying up wayyyy too late over beverages, chatting and brainstorming and coming up with ideas that may go somewhere, or may not, but certainly spark the creative part of my brain. And that’s totally separate from the hours of really quality programing focusing on the technical craft of writing that is available with a con membership. For the price of a few con badges, one can essentially get a master’s class in writing, if one goes to the right panels.
So yes, con attendance isn’t mandatory for success (whatever that means) as a writer, but I honestly, truly believe that it can help. So, if you’re flirting with the idea of trying out a local SF/Fantasy con, I say give it a whirl. Have an open mind, go with the intent to have fun and learn something, take reasonable precautions for your own safety, and see what happens.
The second point of Cedar’s that I wish to address is that of a publisher. Now, again, let me state for the record that I have nothing but respect for authors ballsy enough to self-publish their work and take on the responsibility of doing it all themselves. Mad respect, ladies and gents, my hat’s off to you.
That route is not for me. I don’t have the time, energy, know-how, money, or marketing chops to go it alone. I want a publisher to give me feedback, support, direction for things like marketing and cover design, etc. I would rather pay for professional editing than go without it, but I’m happy to let my publisher foot the bill in exchange for a cut. 😊 If you’re like me, and not really feeling up to going it alone, I’m happy to report that there are good publishers out there. Publishers for whom you’re not just a number. Publishers who will support you and your book, who will help to market you using every trick they know, and who will take the time and effort to help you develop as a writer.
For the record, I write for Baen Books and Chris Kennedy Publishing. Toni Weisskopf and her staff, and Chris Kennedy (who is his own staff!) are phenomenal people, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences from both companies. But they’re not alone! There are good people working in both small and large press publishing houses. There are probably some jerks as well… but that’s life. My point is that if you, as an author, do your due diligence in determining if you want to enter into a relationship with a publisher, you may find one who is exactly what you’re looking for. They’re not all “gatekeepers.”
So, I guess I’m still a fan. I enjoy the community of those who enjoy the same nerdy pursuits I enjoy. I love the feeling of walking into the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend and knowing that I’ve come home to my people. I love knowing that some of the best in the business have my back, and will work their tails off to ensure that as many people see my work as possible. As Cedar said, be true to yourself, keep your integrity, but that doesn’t mean that you always have to go it alone. Fandom can still be a good thing. We, your fellow fans, are still here to be your nerdy cheerleaders, and to help you reach your definition of success.
Whatever that may be.
For more information about Kacey and her books, check out her Amazon Author Page. Or check out her new novel, Minds of Men (The Psyche of War, Book 1).
Evelyn Adamsen grew up knowing she had to hide her psychic abilities, lest she be labeled a witch. However, when the U.S. Army Air Corps came calling in 1943, looking for psychic women to help their beleaguered bomber force, Evelyn answered, hoping to use her powers to integrate the bomber crews and save American lives.
She was extremely successful at it…until her aircraft got shot down.
Now, Evelyn is on the run in Occupied Europe, with a special unit of German Fallschirmjager and an enemy psychic on her heels. Worse, Evelyn learns that using her psychic powers functions as a strobe that highlights her to the enemy.
As the enemy psychic closes in, Evelyn is faced with a dilemma in her struggle to escape—how can she make it back to England when the only talent she has will expose her if she uses it?
Thanks for your take on Cons and writing. 🙂 I think it also depends on what kind of Con you have available (or pick to attend): pop-culture con or a more bookish con. (Realizing that some, like DragonCon, have tracks that focus more one way than the other.)
This is very true. And some cons are obviously more suited toward writer development (Like LTUE, which Cedar mentioned below) vs. networking and party time (Like Dragon, or Liberty, even.)
But I’m still an advocate of checking out your local con and seeing what it has to offer. If nothing else, you can decide if you want to go again or not! 🙂
There’s a thread running through all this that connect to larger, darker events.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of a small number of bi-polar zealots, there are now, effectively, two “fandoms.” There’s the WorldCon/tradpub SJWs, and there’s… everybody else.
Now, I’m not much for socializing. I’m no longer a joiner. I pretty much joined everything I’m going to, thanks.
If there’s a -professional- author’s convention out there where I can benefit from a little -professional- schmoozing, where I’m not required to send out all the correct virtue signals to identify my membership in the tribe, that would be okay. It would be work, but when you work you get paid, so I’d be happy.
Unfortunately signs of life on that front are not good. Most “author’s conventions” and workshops I am aware of are primarily devoted to Trump Hatred. People apparently find establishing their anti-Trump cred to be far more important than anything else.
And this is Canada, I hasten to add. An acquaintance of mine attended a famous mystery author’s salon in Europe and was treated to the same experience. An entire week of relentless virtue signaling and tirades. By the attendees, not the author.
That’s why I like MGC. We don’t have that here. ~:D
Libertycon in Chattanooga TN is about as close as you can get. About 1/8 of the attendees (everyone pays their way, even staff) are authors and/or publishers. However, the attendance is limited to 750 people (sells out 3 months before the con, usually), and many of the attendees are of a libertarian bent (which terrifies a number of SJWs). You can several of the MGC writers there.
If you can make it to Utah, LTUE is a writer’s symposium, not a con. It’s amazing, based not only on my single attendance, but on what I see of the quality of guests and work that come out of it every year. It’s the only event I’ve attended as a writer that left me feeling like I had learned stuff afterwards. Most cons have shallow panels that are fun, but not meaty – which is as it should be, they aren’t targeted for working pros.
Sometimes you get something anti Trump from me here.
Other times I remember that I’d originally meant not to drag obnoxious politics in here.
I’m almost surprised to hear that the US President is the subject of such informed and interested discussion overseas. It seems like it would be analogous to me having an opinion on Mexico’s President.
Nieto is a truly horrible human being, unlike Fox^1. For the Mexican people’s heinous and unforgivable act of electing him, we should start at the border and go south, burning and killing^2.
Actually, I do have a meaningful opinion on the Mexican Presidency. The President of Mexico should be a US national appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the US Senate. Likewise the Prime Minister of Canada^3.
1. Borrowing from the left’s principle of only praising dead conservatives, I am insinuating that I somehow am informed of some difference between Fox and Nieto.
2. Okay, maybe my advocacy of depopulating a strip of northern Mexico postdates Nieto’s election. But pretty much nothing any President of Mexico could have actually done would have changed that, as it was heavily influenced by US domestic politics. Mexico is a very screwed up place, the drug trade forces the mess, and the US isn’t willing to do the things we would probably need to do to really address the drug trade.
3. I have a lot of opinions on how other countries should be run. Weakly held opinions I’m not that committed to implementing. The US is important to me. Other countries are mainly really important to me as far as they are problems for the American population. Figure out the level of force needed to make them not problems, use it, move on. I’ve got RL to live, and bad fanfic to write.
Your third footnote deeply disappoints me. Speaking as a Canadian that is. Was ready to cheer the idea of yours until you said you had no real plans. *pout*
Think of how screwed you guys would have been if it’d been the case during the Obama administration. He was very complete about finding the worst possible person for every position. Your incumbent or worse. Trump’s been rather slow at filling appointments. He might’ve left your incumbent in place.
Hate it when you make sense.
By the above I don’t mean to imply some huge love of Trump. Many here will recall I was not a big fan.
Merely that indifference on the subject is Not Tolerated in artistic/writerly circles that I am aware of. To the extent that any seminar, salon or convention will have 10% writing about how bad Trump is, and 90% people vying with each other to vomit forth the most acidic denunciation of Trump.
In Canada, forsooth. Or in my friend’s case it was Tuscany. They’re in fricking Tuscany and the retarded Writers In Training couldn’t do anything else but take up seminar time complaining about Trump.
Now, as to your notion that “The Prime Minister of Canada should be a US national appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the US Senate.”
I was briefly feeling a bit Canadian there, meaning the red tunnel was closing in my vision while my skin turned dark green. But then I realized Canada would have been better off with Hillary Rodham Clinton than the Spawn of Trudeau. You literally could not make it worse.
Indeed, we would be much farther ahead with a three legged mule for Prime Minister.
Trudeau Jr. is really that bad?
Yes, he really is. Imagine Obama, only -stupid-. That’s what we have.
I’ll have to make a note to myself to read that article later.
b3b (because today is up to the standard c4c)
It is good to know you can still enjoy fandom despite the problems. I would hate to have to give up on it because of a few fools.
I’d quibble with one thing. About using a publisher because they’re not all gate keepers. I’m not arguing some aren’t. I’m arguing the big ones and some few slightly smaller ones ARE. The major houses, penguin/macmillian and their ‘imprints’ ARE rutting assholes. I’ve butted heads with editors and sent nasty grams calling into question the parentage of the recipients along with their lack of qualifications for their current jobs…of vice freakin company presidents of publishing houses with the way a certain author was treated. Those who have known me long enough know of what I speak. Kacey has gone with two smaller independent houses[for varying definitions of small where my beloved Baen is concerned] in this I think she’ll do fine. But never doubt that the big houses are tottering piles of fetid sewage that need to be torched with a frickin flamethrower
I won’t use his name here, because I don’t have his permission to do so, but I will say that a friend of mine has a contract with a “big” publishing house and while he acknowledges a general left-lean to their politics, he is complimentary about the support he’s received and the “family atmosphere” (his words) he’s experienced there.
I don’t pretend to say that they’re all sunshine and roses. But I don’t think that they’re universally staffed by jerks, either. At least, anecdotal evidence from my friend and a few others would suggest that they’re not.
OK, neck up above the parapet. I’ve been going to SF conventions on and off for 42 years, though over the last 25 years less, because it costs money, and well, I consider conventions an expensive luxury.
Also, caveat, apart from San Jose in 2002, all my cons have been in Britain, and British fandom is not American fandom. Saying that, caveat, some things are the same.
My experience is that a convention over here varies in tone according to the committee. Some committees have people who are good organizers, others do not. Some cons announce things that make me “go no way Jose,” and I don’t give them money.
The problem, for definitions of problem, is that fannish conventions are run by amateurs who do it because they’re fans. The upside is, they are fans who run things because they’re passionate about conventions.
It can be hard for an outsider to parse all the stuff I’ve described above, because fandom is a clique. It’s also a clique that will welcome new people who fit, which is pretty much the definition of a clique. But, the important bit of what I’m about to write, society has changed over the 80 plus years that fandom has been running worldcons. As a result, its greatest creation is now also its greatest failure, because worldcons have failed to adapt to the changing landscape.
IMNSHO, this occurred, IIRC, when the 1984 LA con set the precedent of capping attendance. At that point the worldcon stopped growing. The unintended consequence of that is now apparent. In their defence, growing larger would have meant a sea change in the running of the worldcon; namely having to become a professional organization, with all that entails. I can understand perfectly well why that wasn’t something to be entered into lightly.
BTW: not my monkey, not my circus.
Conventions vary in tone, size, and almost everything else you can think of. An Eastercon — the UK annual national convention — is very different from a US Worldcon (and a UK Worldcon is a mingling of the traditions of both cultures). A Dragoncon is literally a thousand times bigger than Midwestcon. And Mike Resnick, the GoH of this year’s Libertycon, is usually at both.
I don’t think the 1984 LAcon cap was what stopped the increasing size of the Worldcon, although that was probably the largest Worldcon ever held. I think that the decisions made by the attending membership of the Worldcon (who are all able to vote on the Constitution under which it’s run) to continue to move it from place to place (unlike the cons that have grown larger, like Dragoncon, or SDCC) have stopped the growth. As has the informal decision to continue following the tradition of “everybody pays”, and “no paid employees” means there’s a practical limit on growth, since unpaid volunteers could not possibly run an 80,000 person convention like Dragoncon.
So the Worldcon essentially stopped growing in size. A US Worldcon is likely to have about 5000 in attendance. A Canadian one is likely to be a bit smaller. An Australian one is likely to be about a third or so of that size. And it’s hard to know about a UK/European Worldcon, since those had been smaller than US ones — but the 2014 London one was the second largest ever, and we don’t have final figures reported yet for the 2017 Helsinki one. We may get a better idea in another two years, after the 2019 Dublin Worldcon.
Conventions are all different. There may be some that fit your interests, whatever they may be. And, if you’re going to find it interesting / worthwhile, it’s a great way to spend a weekend.
Point of order: Except for a very small contingent, DragonCon *is* run by unpaid volunteer staff. Everyone from the Track Directors on down is a volunteer.
I think Kacey is exactly right, there are lots of opportunities for networking and finding collaborators/editors at the right convention. It depends on meeting the right people mostly and getting to know them. Socializing might be difficult for some people but I’ve found socializing over shared enthusiasms is pretty easy for even the most introverted.
Our local con (When Words Collide in Calgary) tries very hard and has a specific policy in place to try to restrict it from becoming a political wank fest. Not that that’s always worked, not that some on the committee wouldn’t like to see that change (while at the same time, bizarrely, claiming that a lack of explicit politics IS explicit politics), and there is certainly a lot of insults at any conservative of note that happens to be in the news at the time (this comes mainly from attendees and, quite frankly, I don’t want to see the committee try to curtail that even if I find it annoying), but overall we sincerely try to bring in and welcome a variety of viewpoints. There are difficulties, certainly but overall it seems to have worked well. (Apologies for the lack of specificity but as I am a member of the committee and have done the poster art since the inception it would be unethical for me to reveal more).
That socializing, that networking, those opportunities, that attending a convention brings are there, and important to new and emerging writers. Which is why the shenanigans involved in certain conventions concern me so greatly. Only those explicitly, and loudly, on the left or those on the right that keep quiet or are so above board with their actions that they are beyond reproach can attend without worry. That is not most people, for example I like to tell jokes and speak indiscreetly as I find those are both good strategies to learn from people and get them to loosen up, but I know the line is a lot more defined for me as a known conservative than it would be for someone spouting communist claptrap. The chilling effect of what happened at Sasquan World Con (I thank the Lord I couldn’t justify the cost of attending that insanity as my wife was on maternity), combined with the chilling effect of unpersoning Del Arroz, means that those not explicitly left of center know that they must watch themselves, must speak less freely, must watch their words, must be less of who they are, while at that convention and (apparently) on the internet before the convention. Can one socialize well when watching your words? Being reserved? On guard? Or is that distance likely to hold you back? Make you seem less friendly? Make you less likely to make the connections that are the main benefit of attending those conventions?
I would argue that yes, it does. You cannot connect with people as well when they’re being close to honest and you’re holding back.
That’s why I don’t hold back. I am who I am, I speak the way I speak, I don’t apologize for my jokes, and if that leads to me being banned at some point (seems unlikely but if the state of conventions continues down the path it’s been on the last few years it is at least possible), then I’ve decided that doesn’t matter. Why? Because if I hold myself back and pretend to be something I’m not then I can’t make those connections anyway. And if by being myself I’m not allowed at the conventions I can’t make those connections either. The only possible way forward (for me) is to be honest and take the risk of being myself.
Y’know; a moderate, socially liberal, fiscal conservative. Which is apparently a ‘risk’ these days. Yet being an open communist calling for the extermination of white males gets you put on a dozen panels at some cons.