Memorial Day weekend marked the passing of the 47th iteration of Balticon a Science Fiction and Fantasy convention hosted by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. I was only able to attend on Sunday, but needless to say, it was AWESOME! And I was so tired afterward. I think I’ll just write everything that I did in one massive post that will just go on and on. Really there’s no better way to do it. Here we go:
The Morning & Double Dragon Publishing
I woke up Sunday around 8am or so and the first order of business was . . . breakfast duh! Then get ready, then drive to Hunt Valley, then park, then go to Balticon! So I finally arrive at around 10am, pay for admission, and then get/look at the schedule . . .
Holy Molly! This con is intense. Literally, there are 11 different panels going on as I stand there interpreting the schedule and its only 10am. Also, I can hear somebody in the background heatedly discussing the merits of Klingon and why it is superior to Latin as a lingua franca.I’m starting to get worried. I like Star Wars a lot and have seen the most recent Star Trek movie (which was awesome! KAAAHHNN!!!), but I couldn’t tell you anything about designing believable airships or Poptop Chainmail (both of which were names of panels).
Yes, I was feeling a little bit out of my depths. I started heading for the door. That’s when I hear someone hawking their wares: “You like Rum?”
It’s only ten in the morning but . . . I do like rum. It turns out, I’ve just passed the Belmont room (not anywhere close to the door) which is hosting a few authors from Double Dragon Publishing. I enter cautiously but am soon enveloped by the friendliness of the atmosphere. The room is bright and warm. There’s a few people standing around a table talking politely over coffee. There’s donuts too!
The rum comment had to do with a pirate anthology one of Double Dragon’s authors was promoting. The title, Rum and Rune stones, is apparently a set of tales set upon the high seas that will send shivers (me timbers) down your spine. Here, this is from their page on Amazon:
“We are, we are Pirates! Pirates and magic. Tall ships and dark rum intermingle with spells and romance in this collection of short stories of nautical derring-do guaranteed to send chills and thrills down your spine. Join the crew, and push off to worlds unknown. Just be warned…thar be pirates in them thar waters.”
I liked the author’s pitch a little better but after all . . . Who doesn’t want to read about Pirates? Anyway, I inquire more and am fortunate enough to encounter Michael A. Ventrella and Peter W. Prellwitz (who’s awesome! Met up with him again later. Great guy). Ventrella is there pushing a fantasy anthology, Tales of Fortannis: A Bard’s Eye View, and the sequel titled A Bard in the Hand. I get the impression that both titles are supposed to be humorous and provide a selection of short stories that will satire some of the more ridiculous aspects of fantasy literature (I haven’t read em yet though; I could be wrong).
Prellwitz was there promoting some of his titles as well as encouraging any writers (Seemed like there were a lot of writers/authors at the con) to send submissions to Double Dragon. I took samples of two of his titles, the first being Shards: Book 1, a military sci-fi thriller, and Horizons, a sci-fi noir. After reading the samples, both look great but I’m more excited about Horizons (although apparently Shards is the one that’s been selling better). However, after an hour of talking, donuts, and coffee, the clock struck 11 and it was time to move on to the next event.
Joe Haldeman reading
Yes, Joe Haldeman attended Balticon this year. I saw him give a reading from an up coming release entitled “Work for Hire”. It’s about a retired military sniper who becomes an author after the war. I won’t lie, it seemed pretty gruesome. However, after doing the reading, ‘Jack’ as they called him (‘they’ being his publishers, editors and so forth that attended the con), started to go into some more detail about his life as a writer, his method etc. All pretty interesting stuff. Apparently, Joe writes all of his stories long hand in a notebook type thing and then types the pieces up after he’s finished. He was an engineer in Vietnam (which is probably why he writes so much about war; write what you know), which I didn’t know but it makes sense.
I think perhaps the most interesting part of his discussion was when he started talking psychology. Something to do with the affect of killing on the mind is directly proportional to the distance at which the act is committed. If you kill someone with your bare hands, you’re going to be a lot more distraught about it than say . . . with one of those fancy drones flying around the Middle East. Kind of interesting. The main character in “Work for Hire” is a sniper so I imagine that he isn’t too broken up about his 16 confirmed kills. But he’s an author too. We get to see the work that he writes and interestingly enough its all face-to-face killings. Some of them quite gruesome (well at least the two chapters he read from).
I’ve been wanting to read Haldeman for a long time. Maybe when “Work for Hire” comes out (I think he said December?) that will be a good excuse to start. They certainly had enough of his books on sale at the con. I was looking for The Forever War but couldn’t seem to find it. I hear that’s the one to start with. Anyway, another hour has gone by and it’s time to go to the next panel.
This next panel wasn’t actually part of the con. It was held a block away at Chipotle and sadly I was the only one in attendance. It was called . . . LUNCH!! and it was delicious.
Oh podcasts . . . ye of lax momentum
The next two panels I attended were on Podcasts. The first was called Talk to Me: How to Conduct Podcast Interviews, and it was super insightful. The members of the panel were Hugh J. O’Donnel , Thomas Gideon of The Command Line, Christopher Lester, Alex White & Stephen Granade of Disasterpiece Theatre (these two were super funny; I’m definitely going to start following their work) and Tim Dodge from If My Thought-Dreams Could Be Seen & The Geek Side of Life was the moderator.
There weren’t a lot of audience members so it was super easy to ask questions and each of the members gave thoughtful responses. I’m pretty sure that I will attempt to do a podcast interview as some point on this blog and hopefully these guys’ helpful hints and tips will guide me to a successful interview! We’ll see.
After that, I need only remain in my chair to attend Jake Bible We Hardly Knew Ye: The Current State of Podcast Fiction. This panel was pretty interesting as well but for different reasons. It was more of a ‘state of the art’ type discussion as in what is the state of the art of podcasts. Apparently this guy Jake Bible (I was able to find two of his links. Looks like the Podcasts are here and his blog is here) had a pretty great following and did some pretty great podcasts and decided to give it all up. Apparently the moment had past. Podcasts were no longer a ‘Thing’. The panel seemed to think otherwise and discussed a lot of seemingly cool ways to carry on podcasting tradition while still moving towards innovation etc. This one was a little over my head as I’ve never really gotten into podcasting previously. The panelists were:
- Alicia Goranson of The Mask of Inanna
- Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing & Princess Scientist Archives
- Nobilis Reed of Nobilis Erotica (wish I would have chatted with this guy. I feel like you have to be a personality to do this kind of work)
- Collin Earl led the discussion.
Phew! Time to take a break and chat up some authors in the dealers room.
After the break, I attended a panel entitled Editors’ Q&A. It was moderated by Neal Levin and the panelists included: Trisha J. Wooldridge, Damien Walters Grintalis, Darrell C. Schweitzer and Scott H. Andrews. Scott Andrews was the only name on the list I recognized. He is Editor-and-Chief for an online fantasy magazine: Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s a great read and their cover art is always amazing. If you don’t already know it, please GO READ IT NOW!
This panel was very interesting for me because of its audience. All writers. Well, pretty much all writers. Of course writers always seem to think there is some big secret to getting published. Maybe a handshake or a card or something. They talked about numbers (how many stories do I have to write before one will get published? etc.) and networking strategies and on and on they went.
Turns out there’s no secret.
It’s a pretty subjective business. Right place, right time and your work has to be good. That’s all there is to it (I make myself laugh at the thought of all that being simple). As I consider it now, it seems to me it’s really the publishers who have the tougher job. Writers just need to write but the publishers are the ones who need to anticipate demand, markets, numbers (how much of this type of story, how much of that etc), when to publish a story. If it’s a magazine, how do you get the stories to fit. Is one story really good but too long? Maybe do it and another long story in a special issue. Do you have another long story? Are they similar in content? It all seemed like quite a headache (but certainly a headache I think I would enjoy having). In conclusion, the panel seem to say: “Writers, just keep writing and don’t worry so much about getting published. Let us worry about publishing you.”
Ok. The final stretch. Just two more panels to get through and they’re both in the same room and about the same topic . . . mostly. The first was called Social Media Promotion and the second was WordPress 101. The first session was pretty interesting. Very helpful. The second . . .
Not so much.
It got super technical, super fast. PHP servers and different hosting websites. I’ve been surfing around the blogosphere for a little while now and everything out there seems to point to the same idiom: “Content is King”. Create good content and it will be successful. This seemed to be the general theme of the social media panel but it certainly did not cross over to the WordPress Panel. Honestly, I’m not sure I remember much about that panel. It all flew right over my head and I seemed to be one of the audience members who was keeping up the best. Sad story. Anyway, I think it would be cool if they did a class instead of a panel. Maybe have several across the 4 days of the convention with a curriculum. That way you could leave feeling like you had something tangible to go home and use. Just a thought.
The second hour was nearly a complete waste; however, during the first, I met an author named D.H. Aire (here is his book The Highmage’s Plight) who told me about the Blogger Book Fair. It’s a blogging event (see the ad I posted for them) in which bloggers ‘host’ authors on their blogs in different ways. I’m doing two reviews and hopefully some interviews which will be super fun. More to come on that later though.
Well, I think that about sums up my entire Balticon Experience. I’m about to hit two thousand words for this post so it’s time to get to the short and sweet of it. I met a lot of really cool people and was exposed to some really great work. It is always nice to attend conventions because you really get to participate in a community that is way larger than just the typical relationship of author and reader etc. Also, it’s a great time for networking and I learned a hell of a lot about things I know I would never have been exposed to otherwise. 100% worth the price of admission (which I thought was pretty steep at first).
Finally, the more I consider it, I suppose Klingon could be more useful than Latin as a lingua franca. There are certainly a lot of Trekkies out there. As many as there are Catholics? Well I suppose that remains to be seen.