Archive for the ‘ Convolution ’ Category

On Convolution 2016

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I mentioned this on Twitter, but now I’m making it official: I am once again a guest at Con-Volution! I’m very pleased to be joining the convention again. My panel schedule is as follows:

Friday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Classic Scary Stories: Shelley, Poe, and Others

Looking back on some of the classics of literary monster-makers and scary storytellers

Saturday, 12:0opm – 1:30pm: BOF: Marvel Universe

There’s SO much to love about the Marvel Universe, both in Comics, and in Cinematics — so come join other fans to chat about what you think has been done well, could have been done differently — and even better — what’s next! (I’ll be moderating this birds of a feather meetup; I’ll be the one in the Avengers t-shirt. You know, the one.)

Saturday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Building a Better Monster: The Nuts and Bolts of Monster Physiology

It may seem like the more tentacles and claws, the scarier the monster, but when it comes to writing a monster worth its scales, sometimes less is more. Or is it? We’ll discuss!

Sunday, 12:00pm – 1:30pm: How Far is Too Far? Introducing Change to Established Characters

Just three words: Captain. America. Hydra. When does an evolving, long-time character get driven too far off its original basis, and is that a good thing, or ultimately bad, no matter what?

Sunday, 2:00pm – 3:30pm: We Love the Scare

Discussing the need for horror in pop culture, modern media, and fiction. Why it works for us, and why we need to keep it working.

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In and around all that, I’ll be attending some of the other programming (I’m not only a panelist at Con-Volution, I’m also a member!), and I’ll be around and available to chat as much as anxiety allows. I’ll probably also camp out in the gaming room for some Sentinels of the Multiverse at some juncture, though I’m going to have to schedule that on the fly. If you’re looking to see me, I’m going to be most available on Saturday; I am commuting to and from the con this year, so it’s very likely that on Friday and Sunday I will be leaving soon after my panels, probably after having dinner with friends and performing some of the (pleasant) duties that come with being a convention guest.

Also, my now-usual disclaimer: I suffer from society anxiety. I’m medicated for it, but it does mean that sometimes, talking to people is very difficult for me, and it is likely to be even harder after a day of public speaking and answering questions. I won’t blow anyone off, and I encourage people to talk to me, but if I need to make a hasty exit, I am not being trite when I say it’s me, not you.

I hope to see you there!

On Success (Convolution Post The Third)

I’m back from Convolution 2015, and trying to face the real world.

Convolution was not my first fandom-focused convention; that honor goes to BayCon. But it was the first one I made a point of becoming a regular at, and the first one I have felt this level of commitment to; the one year I had to miss it (due to the timing of our honeymoon) I honestly felt like I was somehow letting down a friend. After that year, and the discovery of the theme for this year — “FANDOM: LEGION,” and the celebration of diversity and inclusivity in fandom — I decided it was time to make the offer and see if I could take the next step: would they be willing to have me as a guest?

“I think you’d be a great fit!” I was informed by the staff member who contacted me. And then the whirlwind began.

Impostor syndrome hit literally immediately. I’m not qualified to be on panels. I’m not qualified to talk about anything to people. I’m not qualified to moderate a panel of experts, which I was going to be allowed to do. And I certainly do not even belong in the same room as the Guests of Honor, especially Brianna Wu, with whom I would be discussing the Women of Marvel. Jesus Christ, I tell myself, what have I gotten into?

But backing out was not an option; if I did that, I’d never know if my impostor syndrome was right or not, and that alone is enough to get me out the door. So I did my research. I put together my notes. I read some works by the authors I’d be on panels with. I contacted my friends and colleagues Leslie and Sara to get their thoughts on how to shot web re: panels. I did all the groundwork I could and prayed that it would be pay off.

tl;dr: Being on panels is fun, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has something they feel they can be on a panel about.

Convolution was a great con for me; it was a working con, for sure, with me passing out business cards and making awkward small talk and also that thing where I was on panels about things for 3 or so hours every day. But for all that it was a refreshing working con, and a reminder that doing what I love and being around people doing what they love is exactly the kind of work that doesn’t feel like working for me.

My greatest hits for this con:

The Women of Marvel panel, my first professional panel ever, and a total barn-burner of a way to start. The moderator (Carrie Sessarego) later told me she was worried that I was made uncomfortable by being the only man on the panel, and therefore the one the other panelists addressed when discussing the male domination of our culture. No; that was exactly what I wanted from being the only man on that panel. Plus I got to talk about Ms. Marvel, and who doesn’t love that?

The “Developing a Writing Practice” panel, the first panel I’ve ever moderated. I had a little trouble keeping a steady hand on this one, and I definitely had to walk back something I said about MFAs (short version: they are useful for learn how to write from a mechanical and framework standpoint, but never trust one that tells you how to write). The panelists were animated and engaged and the audience seemed to learn something, and I got some contacts out of it, and really it was just a huge success and I am so glad.

The Modern Boogeymen panel, with my friends and colleagues Matt​ and Kendra Pecan (whose web presence I do not have at hand at the moment)​. I learned a lot hearing them talk about their areas of boogeyman expertise, and I learned a lot from the audience, and it was one of the most engaged, interested, excited audiences I have seen at a panel in the history of ever. I need to read more Brothers Grimm to keep up with Kendra, and long-time followers of mine know that’s not a statement I make lightly. Also, obligatory: Watch It Follows.

The “I’m A Bad Fan” panel with Leslie​. It was a small audience, being one of the unfortunate post-checkout-time panels on the last day of the con; but it was an engaged audience, and one that seemed happy and relieved to be addressing the subject. I am officially borrowing panelist Brad Lyau’s phrase “the adult at the table” to describe the behavior I want to see from myself and other fans going forward. (Example: “So what if that person is just here to cosplay? Be the adult at the table and welcome them for being enthusiastic about something!”) Also: I totally didn’t freak out when an audience member told me they don’t like Superman. The table, I adulted it.

Giving my first live reading and getting actual applause from the other authors there. I feel like maybe there really is a writing community out there now, and like I really could be a part of it.

Giving out my business cards and having the other guests actually contact me. I’ve got some irons in the fire I didn’t a day ago, and some publishers to possibly submit to, and some potential new friends and colleagues to add to my list. Again: maybe I really can be a part of this whole big wonderful thing.

Having friends who can make sure “Sentinels of the Multiverse​ and chill” is an option for my evenings, after I’ve finished attending/being on panels and need to screw my head back on the right way.

The “Writing Fight Scenes That Aren’t Wack” workshop with Guest of Honor Balogun Ojetade, and not only learning volumes from him about pacing and physics and flow, but getting to be the hands-on demonstration of a take-down, and more importantly, getting a little applause for my practice fight scene we wrote at the end of the panel. Now I get to say the writer of The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman showed me exactly how he’d kick my ass.

And most importantly: Getting to do all of the above with my wife, the person I always want with me on every adventure I take. Love is so cool, everyone.

Special thanks here to go to Suzie Rodriguez, the staffer whom I dealt with most directly over the course of the con. She was friendly and helpful and made sure I figured out how to do the guest thing with a minimum of difficulty. I would likely have been a mess by Friday night if it hadn’t been for her encouragement.

In summary: Convolution is wonderful; being a guest is great; and I hope I get to do it again, and again, for many years to come.

Thanks, Convolution! See you next year!

On Panels (Convolution Post the Second)

I’ll get right to the point here:

Convolution 2015 is next week, and you should totally come out and listen to me and all the other awesome guests speak about the things they love!

Here’s my schedule; this is final, pending any emergency changes.

Friday, 3:30pm: Women of Marvel; I’ll be discussing the female-presenting characters of Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe with my fellow guests Sumiko Saulson, Linda Kay Silva, and Ms Brianna Wu; our moderator is Carrie Sessarego.

Saturday, 1:00pm: Modern Boogeymen. I’ll be sitting with a few like-minded guests and discussing the monsters and myths that we have created in our modern era, from urban legends to creepypasta. I’m on this panel with Kendra Pecan and Bryan Thao Worra; our moderator is my good friend Matt Marovich.

Saturday, 2:30pm: Developing a Writing Practice. I’ll be moderating this panel, meant to help people start, develop, and refine their personal writing practice — the ways they keep themselves writing and honing their craft. My guests on this panel are J. L. Doty, Emerian Rich, and Linda Kay Silva.

Sunday, 11:30am: I will be reading some of my short fiction in the Wine Room, along with Dario Ciriello and M Christian.

Sunday, 1pm: I’m A Bad Fan. I’m moderating this panel; we’ll be discussing the phenomenon of “bad” and “good” fans, and the idea that there are certain opinions fans of a given work are expected to hold in order to be “real” fans. My guests on this panel are Leslie Light and Bradford Lyau.

For those hoping to see me outside of these panels, I may be looking to decompress with some board games in the evenings on Friday and Saturday; if that sounds good to you, you can look for me in the Atrium. I make no promises about being there; this is my first convention as a guest, and managing my anxiety may require I go decompress in my room as much as at a gaming table. (Also managing my diabetes means I may be running to and from my room to grab snacks a fair amount.) But I do hope to get a chance to meet a few of my readers out there in the wild; if you get a chance to say Hi, please consider this permission to do so. If I am on my way somewhere, I will be up front about it (and may invite you to walk and talk with me if I have the time).

You can get a membership for Convolution here; rates go up tomorrow, so consider grabbing them tonight.

I am looking forward to seeing you all there! Let’s go talk about some stories.

On Being Prepared (Convolution Post the First)

So, I had a few arguments today. Some of you may have seen them.

I am proud of myself for standing up for diversity; I am not necessarily proud of the all-caps rant I went on on a friend’s thread. I feel kind of bad about that. Not because I don’t think the people there didn’t need to be stood up to; but because I really don’t like losing my cool. I am not one of the voices that needs to be raised right now.

But this is a post about my first appearance as a guest at a con. I’m appearing at Convolution 2015, and I’m so excited and also so scared. Scared because the con chair has specifically said this year is going to be about talking about issues of inclusion and equality in fandom, and this is the very issue that I tend to get angry about, because…Jesus Christ, is it important to me people all get a fair shake in this world, and in fictional worlds.

So, I am nervous about my ability to stand up to this conversation, especially if I start seeing some of the arguments I dealt with today that made me pop off. But I want to represent my cause better — not just for the cause, but because I think a reasoned argument might help turn some people who are on the fence about diversity, and that should be a goal of mine. (I won’t claim it should be a goal of everybody’s; but since I am one of the most privileged people I know, I think trying to help bring other privileged people around is a good use of my time.) In the interest of calming my nerves, I’m collating some good stock responses and useful data to help support my efforts toward sane, logical arguments about diversity, equality, inclusivity, feminism, intersectionality, etc. If anyone wants to help me out with some of their favorites, I would really, really appreciate it. I’ll keep them here, in this post, ready for anyone who needs it to access.

Note: the intent is not to develop “snappy rejoinders”; the intent is to help people using the list to remain logical and to have useful data and time-tested arguments to use as anchors in difficult conversations about social justice.

Note the Second: Poking holes in arguments is not an appreciated input here. If you disagree with the cause of social justice, um…I’m not sure how you get here…but I’m also not interested in having that argument here, right now. I am happy to engage with you later in some other context.

Ones where I don’t have a really solid argument yet are blank and presented as things I could use help with. Let the grand experiment begin.

(When referring to a fantasy/sci-fi piece) “Diversity in this instance is not historically accurate”: Neither are the fantastic elements of the story. It is OK to give underrepresented people representation in a story that is already diverging from reality.; Bonus: It’s not historically accurate to not have ANY people of color; there were black people in Elizabethan England, there were Chinese and Japanese people in 1940s New York, etc. etc. Homosexuality has been a thing for millennia. There is no reason not to have some of that stuff in some scenes.

It’s just fiction, it doesn’t matter”: What we tell each other in our stories absolutely matters. Everyone deserves to be able to see themselves in stories, and also see other people in stories; it helps humanize them through the characters. Martin Luther King wanted Nichelle Nichols to stay on Star Trek for a reason. Christians worked pagan symbolism (Pan) into the “evil” characters of their religion (the Devil) for a reason.

“What I say about a fictional character doesn’t matter”: 

“We’re/you’re being too sensitive”:

“This is too much diversity”: How can something be too diverse? Why is it a bad thing if we want to see a wider variety of people in our media? How is that preventing people from enjoying it or taking away from anyone?

“Adding diverse characters would be tokenism”:

“Adding diverse characters prevents the story from being fun”/”Why can’t we just let this be fun?”: How is it not fun to read about characters who are not white men? Yes, you have to stretch to identify with them if you are white and/or a man, but that’s what POCs/LGBT characters/women have been doing this whole time, and they seem to be doing alright.

“Replacing a character with someone of a different race/gender is wrong”: Why is it wrong for a story to be about someone different? Why can’t a woman be Thor, or a black guy be Captain America, or Starbuck be a woman, or whatever? There’s nothing inherent to any of those characters (given the fact Asgardians are not actually directly the myths they inspired in the Marvel canon) that prevents them from being something else. Women can pilot ships, black dudes can lead, and women can kick ass. Requirements fulfilled.

I’m sure there are more, and I’d love your help with it all. Thanks in advance!

On Convolution 2014

Alright, I’m back in the real world again. Time to talk about the period where I wasn’t.

This was the second year of Convolution for me, and it was really an excellent time. I arrived at con start on Friday, after an embarrassing sidebar where I forgot my directions from Caltrain to the hotel at home and thus wound up walking about twice as far as intended. We were scheduled alongside a couple of more traditional conventions (medical technology and networking technology, it looked like from my vantage point), but despite that I found it easy to track down which rooms we were in, after a little Magellanic wandering (which netted me a conversation with a friend I wasn’t expecting to see until late in the day, so, bonus!). Thus began a weekend of indulgence, superheroes, writing, laughter, a little more indulgence, and finally figuring out what the heck the Klingons were shouting from their party room.

I went to four panels this con, all of them save one panels on professional writing. I learned a bit about showing versus telling, and/or my attitudes about same; I learned about ways to promote myself and build my brand; and I learned about editing myself and a few things about my process and critical structure that might just be lacking. The panelists were universally informative, professional, and just the right amount of casual, and most importantly, funny.

Speaking of funny – I have told you to subscribe to Your Book is Why Daddy Drinks, right? If I haven’t, you absolutely should. They do a live recording at Convolution every year (well, both years, but it’s a definite continuing trend), and this year was transcendentally funny. I mean, lock the doors to the main hall, try not to slam into each other while flailing around screaming and laughing funny. Matt and Tyler are a couple of hilarious dudes and you should support them in whatever way you can. I’m hoping to crowbar my way into a second guest appearance soon and perhaps ride their coattails into Internet fame.

Besides the panels, the people were great. When I was not in panels, I was at the open gaming room, checking out new games and playing old ones. (By “old ones” I really mean Sentinels of the Multiverse.) I picked up a copy of Battlestar Galacticawhich I look forward to trying; and I tried Blood Bowl Team Manager, which I look forward to buying. And all the while I got to spend time with amazing, intelligent, talented, wonderful people. I’m really impressed with the incredible people I have in my life and I am so grateful to be living it.

I could complain about some minor issues with the con – scheduling conflicts, mostly, and one or two encounters with people who were probably not having the best of days – but overall, I thought it was really a great con that was just having the issues that cons sometimes have. If I had to complain about anyone this weekend, it’d be myself. I was not at my professional best – which is not to say that I was at all rude, but that I was feeling really detached. I had some wardrobe issues (I cannot figure out where a few articles of clothing are) that led to enhanced shyness of the “I don’t want to be seen like this” variety, and I was feeling ill and out of it a lot of the weekend, we hope due to allergies (a problem exacerbated by a foot injury somewhere around Friday night). As a result I did not do as much professional networking as I could and would have liked to do, and I feel bad about those missed opportunities. For next year I am going to get myself some “con clothes” to wear, something a little nicer than my day-to-day, and try to remember that I need to take better care of myself in the days leading up to the con and make sure I’m well for the event itself. (That last bit is not always entirely up to me, but I can be on my best behavior at least and prepare myself mentally for the con.) The good news is that this means I might be slowly coming out of a phase of bad body image, so, there’s that; and also, I may have managed a couple networking opportunities accidentally via panel attendance and some conversations here and there, so it wasn’t a total loss on that front. Here’s hoping next year is much better on all fronts.

And now, it’s time to sleep off this cough and attempt to make it to work tomorrow. tl;dr: Go to Convolution 2014. You really, really won’t regret it.

On Convolution 2012 (Again)

Here I am, back in the real world.

You may have noticed I did not post a Progress Thursday last week. Honestly, that was partially an oversight due to needing to have laser-like focus at my day job and so not being attentive to my writing career; but it was also me saving up a little excess blogging pressure to use on this post, wherein I discuss my attendance at the first-ever iteration of Convolution.

(For those who need the overarching details of Convolution, go here.)

Friday was my usual working-stiff con Friday; we rushed up there after we finished our day jobs, checked in to the hotel, hauled in our stuff, and went and grabbed some dinner with friends before settling in to whatever late-night Friday stuff we might decide to do. This time around it was a little different, in that the friend I was off with for dinner was a local budding game designer who was at the con doing a demo of his new miniatures game (he’s working on building the web site, once that’s up I’ll give you all contact info). Further proof that my friends and I are growing up, in our particular way. Once that was done I mostly spent Friday playing Cards Against Humanity with the head of the con’s gaming department, her boyfriend, some of our good friends, and a whole hell of a lot of people on staff and off. I swear, we dragged a good portion of the staff bigwigs into that game at one point; I think we were the after-hours gaming for most of that night.

Then, Saturday/technically Sunday, there was the live taping of Your Book is Why Daddy Drinks. Matt and Other Tyler nailed it out of the park, once again, with their guests also contributing to their usual mix of snarky, explicit, erudite, and drunk. I highly recommend the episode once it’s available on their site – I’m curious to see how much of the latter-middle part of the podcast gets left on the cutting-room floor, as the booze was flowing at the flow rate that is just past “free” and slightly before “Biblical.” The ‘cast ended a lot later than expected, on everyone’s part, so Sonya and I didn’t get back to our hotel room until about 2:30.

Saturday was waking up early with that kid-on-Christmas feeling, the idea that something amazing is happening that you can’t quite hear and if you don’t get up right now you’re going to miss it. I did the hygiene thing and the breakfast thing, checked my messages, and headed on down to the con floor to attend some panels. I had planned on four, but I wound up only doing three; my mental note to myself is that I just cannot shotgun panels like I was planning to and really need to leave some portion of my evenings open for dinner and decompression with friends (possibly also drinking).

The first panel of the day was about fairy tales, and was excellent, with a lot of good discussion; at the end of it I got a chance to say hello briefly to my oft-times editor, Jennifer Brozek, who is seriously just a wonderful human being and took a minute to let me awkwardly thank her for her multifaceted help getting my as-yet-budding writing career started. I cannot articulate how lucky I am to work with editors like her.

The second panel of the day was about urban fantasy, which I exited with a lot of good thoughts in my head and also a great book recommendation I need to jump on right away. It was really excellent and I left feeling all intellectually warm and fuzzy.

Third one up was Publicity for Writers, which was…invaluable. Jennifer made another appearance at this one, along with Jaym Gates; the pair of them both informed me, helped steer me away from a couple of cliffs I was teetering on, and made me feel like maybe I had half a clue how this whole business is supposed to work, though it was embarrassing to admit that I forgot my business cards and showed up in super-casual wear after they spent time telling us we need to not do either of those things. You’ll be seeing me changing a few things as I implement their advice over the next couple of weeks; I won’t specifically say what it is because it’s done out of a genuine desire to connect better with my readers and potential colleagues, and I don’t want it to seem like anyone is an item on a checklist.

After that, it was slightly overpriced dinner at the hotel sports bar, then games for the rest of the evening. Contrary to my original plan, I was coaxed into unboxing Sentinels of the Multiverse. I will spare my writing-blog readers the details, but say that we triumphed against some ugly odds. We also played We Didn’t Playtest This At All, which is an excellent palate cleanser between more cerebral games and/or a method of driving obnoxious, rules-obsessed players away from your gaming table. I am a little sad I didn’t try more new games, but then, I was really busy with panels instead and I host a monthly board game night, so it’s not as though there aren’t other vectors for exposure.

Thanks to a particularly hardy villain in Sentinels-land, I did not get to bed until around 2:00AM (the first one, not the second one) on Sunday. I did my best to sleep in, but once more, I just plain couldn’t.  Too excited. So it was a big breakfast, and a shower, and into my formal black t-shirt and Batman hat for a trip down to the gaming room and my semi-official demo of Sentinels of the Multiverse.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. Getting there and only having one person waiting was somehow worse (but I put up signs! Colorful ones!). But then another person came by; and another person; and another…and then I had more than fit into the game. People asked to watch, and the players I had seemed like they had fun. We played three games in a row, ramping up the difficulty each time, until on the third run, we had to stop the game not because we had very definitely lost but because we couldn’t finish before the gaming room closed. When I had a player pull up the ongoing Kickstarter for the game’s third expansion,

That sort of ended my Convolution experience; I was fried and did not have any spoons left with which to go to the Feedback panel, so a couple friends and I decided to do our own private dead-dog party at a burger joint near the hotel. Meat was eaten, discussion was had, and through the medium of political discussion mixed with talking about the con and Dexter, we eased our way into heading home, setting our things on the living room floor, and zoning out in preparation for work.

I cannot stress how great this con was. In addition to having good panels, it had good structure; it was clear the staff had prepared the con well and were working with a professional hotel staff that was used to conventions. And more than that, it had good people. The atmosphere was very fun, casual, welcoming, and respectful. I am absolutely going to go next year, and I’m so very grateful to the con’s board of directors for making such a superlative con happen and making it accessible to me. It was my first con with Sonya (the first of many), and to have it go so well will be a bright, shining memory for both of us. I can’t wait to do it again.

And now…real life.

On Convolution 2012

In case you all did not know, I will be at Convolution 2012, here in the Bay Area. I’m not on any panels (I feel I’m too far below the radar right now), but I will be wearing my gamer hat as I demo, as promised, Sentinels of the Multiverse in the gaming room. And while that’s awesome, I will stop just short of sounding like a commercial and say that my little contribution is utterly eclipsed by the legion of awesome things they have going on during the con.

Everything you could hope to know about the con is on their website; in specific I can tell you that I’ll be there all three days, beginning Friday evening and ending shortly after my Sentinels demo on Sunday afternoon.  I’m easy to stop, being huge, and you can identify me by my con badge with my Twitter handle on it.  If you come around and you see me, please do feel free to say hi, it would be great to meet the folks visiting my blag.  But really, even if you don’t say hi to me, you should check out the con; the people running it are excellent folks with a real devotion to fandom, and I want this first year of the con to be a success.

I hope to see you there!

On Superheroes, Part the Second

I will keep this brief, for my lunch breaks are short and full of terrors.

I, through the power of Asking and the incredible kindness and generosity of the con’s Head of Gaming and the folks at Greater than Games, will be running game demos of Sentinels of the Multiverse at the inaugural session of Convolution!

I’m really very excited about this. The staff for Convolution includes several friends of mine, their guest list and programming look awesome, and the whole thing seems overall like it’ll be a really positive thing for the Bay Area. And having a chance to show up and demo something I love as much as Sentinels instead of “just” checking out the programming and doing some networking just makes it that much better.

The info for the con and the hotel is in that link up there. tl;dr: It’s in Burlingame (near San Francisco, California for out-of-towners) from November 2nd to November 4th. I’ll say more about the subject closer to the actual date of the convention, but for now, if you’re going to be there or have some free time that weekend, come by and say hi and maybe play a little Sentinels with me!

And now…I lunch.