I get a kick out of science fiction conventions.
I mention this because I’ve just come from a packed weekend in Melbourne, where I attended Continuum X along with my eldest kid, Jake. Unfortunately for him, Jake has inherited the full raft of writer genes: he loves storytelling, he has the knack for narrative, and he has the memory that goes with it.
My feelings on the matter are simple: if you can avoid being a writer, you probably should. It doesn’t pay, and it’s a hard bloody slog. But if you’re one of those who simply can’t put it aside – why, then, you’d better figure out how to do the best you can at it. You might earn some beer money, anyway.
Jake’s in the “can’t quit” category, near as I can tell. It’s a bit early yet, but when you’ve got a kid of ten or so who will spend whole weekends churning out five or six thousand words — a kid who regards finishing two chapters of his novel MS as worthy recreation — I figure there’s pretty good evidence. Anyway, he likes reading speculative fiction, and he loves the conversations that happen at SF conventions, so every now and again I bring him along.
He seems to make a decent impression, which is always comforting. At this particular convention, Jack Dann was running one of his workshops on professional writer-type behaviour. I checked with Jack to see if it was okay to send a youngster. Jack was a bit concerned young Jake might be taken aback by the swearing involved…. but Jake managed to convince him otherwise without being too rude.
Conventions are interesting on a lot of levels. Personally, I enjoy them because they’re the only times I get to see a herd of my more peculiar friends all in one go. I’d love to hang out with these people — the speculative fiction crowd (you know who you all are!) — on a daily basis, but the world’s just not that kind, I’m afraid. My peers (and those far above me in talent!) are scattered all over Australia. Once or twice a year, we get together, drink, swap stories, make jokes, laugh a whole lot… and then we go home again, and sit down behind the computer screen. So it goes, said a better writer than I.
But it was Jack Dann himself, in a panel on “getting out of the slushpile” who observed the value that conventions have for writers at a multitude of levels. If you’re up there with Sean Williams — it’s a chance to touch base with your core audience, the people who care enough about your work to organise a whole damned convention for that sort of thing. If you’re lower on the food chain, you catch up with other writers and with publishers, editors and agents, and you learn from each other, and you make connections within the industry and with the fans and the readers.
And if you’re “just a fan”?
No such thing. Books aren’t worth a damn if they’re not being read. I have tremendous respect for the people who put these conventions together. There’s a metric buttload of work involved, and a whole lot of logistical chaos and horror, and nobody draws a paycheque for it. The fan-driven conventions happen because people care enough to make them happen, and to me that’s amazing. So you’ll never hear me call anyone “just a fan”. It’s true: not everyone can write well. But it’s reading as makes the words come to life, and without readers all those of us who live by the pen are nothing.
And speaking of writing stuff: they launched an anthology at Continuum X. (Actually, they launched a few books. But I happened to be involved with this particular one.) And here’s a picture:
Or at least, there ought to be. Why isn’t there a picture? All I’ve got is a blue bar up there on the right, announcing “100%” One hundred percent of what? That’s a very comforting “one hundred percent” bar, but it’s not a patch on the cover image I was hoping for.
Anyway, the anthology is from Peggy Bright Books and it’s called Use Only As Directed. The table of contents is full of exciting folks, as well as yours truly. I can’t find a link to it on Amazon yet, but hey – it was only launched four days ago. I’m sure it’ll bob up soon.
Here’s the TOC — or at least, I hope so.
‘Large Friendly Letters’ — Stephen Dedman
‘The Eighth Day’ — Dirk Flinthart
‘Never More’ — Dave Freer
‘The Climbing Tree’ — Michelle Goldsmith
‘The Kind Neighbours of Hell’ — Alex Isle
‘Fetch Me Down My Gun’ — Lyn McConchie
‘Yard’ — Claire McKenna
‘Dellinger’ — Charlotte Nash
‘Mister Lucky’ — Ian Nichols
‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’ — Leife Shallcross
‘Always Falling Up’ — Grant Stone
‘Uncle Darwin’s Bazooka’ — Douglas A Van Belle
‘Future Perfect’ — Janeen Webb
‘Home Sick’ — M Darusha Wehm
There! Doesn’t that look tempting? Dive in!