Except for the chilly wet weather (Richmond had much better in my absence), this was a terrific conference.Â As usual, I went to lots of the readings.Â Kij Johnson’s “Spar” stood out as an absolutely phenomenal short story.Â It appeared in the October 2009 issue of Clarkesworld, one of the best of the online zines.Â Kathy Goonan read from a novel in progress, This Shared Dream.Â Tom De Haven read from both my favorite novel of his, It’s Superman, and a companion section from his extended essay about the Man of Steel, Our Hero.Â Other standout readings included an unpublished story by Andy Duncan (whose performance skills are unrivalled), an excerpt from Donkey, a novel in progress by Nalo Hopkinson, and an excerpt from Joe Haldeman’s Earthbound.Â Nalo’s luncheon address as the guest of honorâ€””A Reluctant Ambassador From the Planet of Midnight”â€”was also something of a remarkable fictional performance.Â A special treat for me was meeting and hearing the work of Bernando Fernandez (“Bef”) and Pepe Rojo, two Mexican sf writers in attendance.Â We found we had a lot to talk about.Â Libby Greenway’s paper on Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer was terrific, but even better was that Rivera came for a screening of the film, and I was able to talk to him briefly.Â All this helped persuade me to use Sleep Dealer in the sf class this summer instead of District 9, which will already get plenty of attention without my assistance. The best academic paper I heard was on Lost (I told you this is a cool conference).Â Elizabeth Berkebile McManus’s “Protecting the Island: Interior and Exterior Space in Lost” provided an excellent perspective for viewing the enigmatic series.Â Finally, not wanting to attend a conference without making a fool of myself, I volunteered to be in Timothy J. Anderson’s short play.Â I swam around the auditorium with my fellow thespians in a drug-addled state (in the script).Â I had several compliments on my swimming-without-water technique.Â The other two plays, by Jeanne Beckwith (who also directed Tim’s play) were hilarious.Â Andy Duncan and Brett Cox were bickering Martian astronauts, and John Kessel, Sydney Duncan, Kij Johnson, and Jim Kelly were a riot in “The Last Detective Story.”Â The theme for next year’s conference is The Fantastic Ridiculous.Â I can’t miss that!
Tomorrow I head for Orlando for my favorite convention, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, held every spring at the Airport Marriott.Â It’s a scholarly conference that invites several of us writers to attend and generally lower the level of the discussion.Â The poolside conversations are a delightful blend of gossip and literary criticism.Â My reading is the very first time slot, so I can kick back and relax the rest of the time. Nalo Hopkinson is one of the guests of honor, and I’ve always liked her work.Â This year’s topic is Race and the Fantastic. I’ll let you know what we decide.
Â WRIR, 97.3 in Richmond, one of our favorite radio stations, was in attendance at Fountain Bookstore the other night for one of the Richmond Noir readings.Â Check it out:Â “Richmond Gets to Tell its Own Dark Story.”Â Don’t miss the audio clip, and be sure to wait for the end where I give it my best Texas for the first paragraph of “Texas Beach.”Â A big thanks to Kelly Justice of Fountain and Caroline Jackson of WRIR for their support of local writers.
I’ve always wanted to use the word extravaganza in a post, and this is the event for it.Â Richmond Noir Editors Tom De Haven, Brian Castleberry, and Andrew Blossom will all be there, and I’ll be reading, but wait, wait, there’s more.Â X.C. Atkins, Clay McLeod Chapman, David L. Robbins and Howard Owen will also be reading, but wait yet again, there’s even more. Musical Guests, The Scott Burton Trio, will be performing, and Ward from Chop Suey Books will be selling books, and people will be eating and drinking and generally having a great time, and then…Â Well I’m sure there’s more, but that’s up to you how you end the evening, but whatever else you do, come to New York Deli tomorrow night, March 4th, 8:30 pm.Â Later on, I understand, there karaoke for those who totally lose their minds.
This Thursday, February 18th at 6:30 pm, Howard Owen, Dean King, Meagan Saunders, Anne Thomas Soffee, and I will read selections from Richmond Noir at Fountain Books, 1312 E. Cary.Â Even if I weren’t reading, I’d recommend this event.Â I’m particularly looking forward to Anne’s story.Â She’s a former student, a marvelous writer and reader, and hilariously funny.Â I can’t take credit for any of those skills, but I’m a fan anyway.Â Our esteemed editors Tom De Haven, Brian Castleberry, and Andrew Blossom will be thereâ€”among the best editors I’ve enjoyed working with.Â Their comments made my story significantly better.Â Please come.Â If you buy a book, we’ll all sign itâ€”that’s 8 signatures for the price of one!
Tomorrow at noon I hope to see everyone brave the cold for the first Richmond Noir event at the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street.Â There’s parking, or if you don’t want to drive, tons of buses stop right out front.Â I’ll be reading with Meagan Saunders, Laura Browder, and Dean King.Â Trust me, folks, this will be a varied and interesting reading.Â Editors Tom De Haven, Andrew Blossom, and Brian Castleberry will also be on hand to answer your many noir questions.Â See you there!
In other good news, my story in Richmond Noir, “Texas Beach,” will represent the collection in the March issue of Richmond Magazine.Â The editors of Richmond Noir have set up a slew of events to promote the book.Â Check here for a complete list and frequent updates.Â The first event will be Thursday February 11th at noon at the Virginia State Library.Â I’ll be reading with Laura Browder, Dean King, and Meagan Saunders.Â Able editors Tom De Haven, Brian Castleberry, and Andrew Blossom will also be there.Â The collection is terrific, by the way.Â I’m proud to be included.
I had a good time as usual, though attendance seemed light, probably because of weather.Â The Morrows were snowed in and couldn’t make it.Â The Villain panel devolved into a dumb discussion of Hitler and other real world villains without sufficient attention to literary ones.Â Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s was an excellent Editor Guest of Honor.Â The high point for me was hearing a beautiful short story “Waiting for Jakie” read by Barbara Krasnoff.Â I was the only one there (except Jim Freund her partner).Â I don’t know why readings aren’t better attended.Â I also had one attendee at my reading, and she was an excellent audience, but her name has slipped my porous memory.Â The best panel I served on was definitely the multiple perspectives topic, with lots of good advice and specifics for writers interested in point of view.Â It was at 10 pm, however, so the audience was about the size of the panel.Â SF conventions with my post-heart attack diet are a challenge.Â There was only one thing on the Hilton menu I could eat, and of course sugar and fat were on offer for free everywhere.
Capclave is a terrific little con I’ve been going to for the last few years.Â The emphasis is on reading.Â The Guest of Honor this year is Harry Turtledove.Â Also in attendance will be James Morrow and Michael Swanwick to name just a few.Â The convention hotel is right on the red line, so it couldn’t be easier to get to from anywhere in the DC area.Â There’s a great mix of panels and readings, and aspiring writers take note, several fiction editors in attendance.Â I’ll be around most of the time.
My scheduled activities:
Friday 7 pm Modern ClassicsÂ (Lenny Bailes (m), Dennis Danvers, Doug Fratz, Peter Heck, George H. Scithers) What makes a book a classic? Everyone in SF still reads Dune, Foundation, Starship Troopers? What other recent books, since the 80s, do you think will someday be held up with these as a classic? why would you say this is a classic?
Saturday 1 pm Book Signing
Saturday 8 pm The Villain (Diane Arrelle (m), Dennis Danvers, C. Alan Loewen, James Morrow, Michael Swanwick) Is he an evil s.o.b. or just misguided?Â How do you write your antagonists?Â Can anyone be all bad? Would a benevolent Hitler be believable?
Saturday 10 pm Books with Multiple Personality Disorder (Larry Hodges (m), Mattie Brahen, Dennis Danvers, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Michael Swanwick) How many characters, how many different points of view can you fit in a novel and make it work? What do you do to make the voices different? Â How much repetition of the same scene from different POVs? How do you keep the reader from being frustrated when you change from one to the other?
Sunday 11 am ReadingÂ Please come.
If you haven’t heard the sad news, Creatures ‘n Crooks in Carytown will be closing at the end of the month.Â A big farewell event is planned.Â I wouldn’t miss it, and neither should you.Â This town is blessed with many fine booksellers like Ward at Chop Suey and Kelly at Fountain Books, but Lelia at CnC has a special place in my heart, and there’s not too many Republicans I’m not related to you can say that about.Â Drop by and give her a big hug.Â This is also one of your last chances to pet one of the best shop cats in Richmondâ€”Hamilton.Â There will be oodles of writers there mingling and being writerly, serious bargains on books, frivolity, refreshment, trained seals, and a working holo-deck.Â Please come.Â Saturday, 1-4 pm Creatures ‘n Crooks in Carytown Court (NE corner next to Subway).Â Here’s a more complete story on the event.