Gearing Up for Keycon

I can usually only manage one con a year, and last year I hit When Words Collide in Calgary, but this year I’m broke, so hometown con again this year.

The good news is I’ve been emailing back and forth with the programming committee, pushing for more serious writing related programming. There was some talk of not wanting to get too technical and have the panels end up not being of interest to non-writers.  I pointed out that the two need not be mutually exclusive, one can have the fluff panels and fan panels for non writers, and the nitty gritty technical panels for the writers. I also mentioned that there have been complaints about there not being enough serious writing panels in previous years, as well as the amount of positive feedback programming committees have received in years when they have had a good amount of serious writing panels. They were easily convinced and literary paneling this year is looking fantastic.

So, the panels I will be on:

Religion and SF & F with Lindsay Kitson, Sherry Peters and Daria Patrie: From Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality to David Webber’s Honor Harrington Series, from Michael Carpenter in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files to Bobby Dollar in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and many more novels, religion has played a key part in SF&F literature. What part does religion have in the world building process? How has religion been used as a central theme or as an allegory in SF&F? How are religions portrayed? Should writers and readers alike be concerned about cultural appropriation when some religions are used in a book?

Alternative Aviation in Science Fiction with Timothy Gwyn: From Autogyros to Zeppelins: a catalogue of unusual aircraft past, present and future. A look at the strengths and weaknesses of each, plus how much technology is needed to build them, and how well they fit into different sub-genres of SF. Examples from noteworthy fiction, and how they played a role in plot or worldbuilding. Do you need air transportation in the age of steam, or on an alien world? Alternative aviation may hold the answers you’re looking for. Remember: getting there is half the fun! (I’m not so much on this panel, as manning the projector and heckling.)

How to Edit Your Own Work, and Why You Need an Editor with Lindsay Kitson, J. Boone Dryden, Diane Walton and Daria Patrie: The trick to writing is re-writing. Our panelists will share a few tips on editing your own work, and will go over what an editor will do with your work. Also, is the editor always right? What happens if you disagree with your editor?

Point of View with Gerald Brandt, Melinda Friesen, Lindsay Kitson, and Daria Patrie: What writing point of view is most often found in SF&F literature and why? How does point of view change the narrative or style of the story? Is it more difficult to write a certain point of view?

Women in Speculative Fiction with Kelley Armstrong, Tamsen McDonough, Lindsay Kitson, and Van Kunder: Join our panelists as they explore how female characters have been portrayed in books and on film in the past and present, and how women have been involved in their respective fields over time. Is Speculative Fiction on the leading edge of equality? Or is there still a long way to go?

Critique Group Survival with Lindsay Kitson and Daria Patrie: So you’re ready to share what you’ve written with others and get feedback on it. How do you find a critique group? How do you know if you’ve got a good one? How do critiquing meetings go, and how to you contribute effectively? And when is it time to move on to a different group? Bonus content: How to start your own critique group!

Aviation and Believable Airships and Aircraft in Science Fiction with Timothy Gwyn and Lindsay Kitson:. An interactive session with two pilots who are also writers. Lindsay Kitson and Timothy Gwyn tackle the credible and incredible in aviation fact and fiction. Learn how getting aviation right can enhance your story. Some pointers on how to keep it real with aircraft and airship scenes that actually work. (This one’s going to be fun, and there will be at least one signed pre-release copy of Tim’s book, Avians, as a prize for whoever gets the most questions right!)

The timetable is tentative and incomplete so far, but this is the earliest I recall them ever  having it available before the con, so that bodes well for how organized they are this year. What they have so far can be viewed here. Looking over it, I can see some other panels already that I’d like to hit.

Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

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Report on Keycon 29

I had a great time this year at Keycon. I had my awesome aviator goggles, and blue/purple bangs and I made the most of it. Apparently goggles and dyed bangs are enough to convince people at the con that my jeans and a t-shirt constitute a costume. People asked me what character I was dressed up to be, so I told them I was an airship pirate.

This year might have been a little ad-hoc, but I realize that was because multiple con organizers, including one of the con chairs, had to step down for various reasons beyond their control. Those stepping in did their best to pull it together last minute.

It was great to see the hospitality floor full this year. Lots of suites serving food and drink – alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with the suites done up beautifully. With more of the suites open late in the evening, there was less crowding in the hallways, especially during the dead dog on Sunday night.

Programming was also improved, IMHO, this year, there was less trying to figure out which of two or three panels I wanted to attend – they seemed to have been more careful to schedule writing related panels so that they didn’t compete with one another, and I got to attend everything I wanted to.

The guests of honour of course were interesting, especially Jonathan Mayberry. He could just keep talking and he had so many interesting things to ramble on about, that when he asked if anyone had any questions, people just wanted him to keep going on whatever he wanted to talk about.

Author Idol was disappointingly poorly attended – there were about seven people in a massive room, and two submissions, mine and a friend’s. I suspect that was largely due to the lack of notice – I only heard about it a few days before the con, and had to scramble to get a synopsis ready and critiqued. On the other hand, the editor and author on the judging panel both very much liked the synopsis and thought it was well put together. The editor, Ellen Smith of Champagne Books said she would likely request the manuscript based on it.

So it was pretty cool that Ellen Smith was also in on my panel on how to write a query letter and synopsis. That was fairly well attended, fifteen people or so, lots of questions and conversation. I was nervous, but not as bad as I might have been – it was lovely to have Ellen there with me.

Outside of official Keycon activities, I also got to hang out with Chadwick Ginther, who has an Urban Fantasy coming out in September, and get to know him a bit better, along with a bunch of other fellow authors over supper at Moxies on Saturday night, including Erika Holt, Marie Bilodeau, Sherry Peters, Eileen Bell, Gerald Brandt, and Robert J. Sawyer. Great conversation made it easier to overcome my Aspergers Syndrome tendency to be the quiet one in a group. In fact, I did a lot of fighting the Aspergers Syndrome over the weekend, reminding myself that hiding away in a corner and not saying hi to new acquaintances when I see them is not how Lindsay makes friends. I still expect rejection, in the back of my mind, and it’s hard to overcome years of assuming that people don’t like me and trying to protect myself from being hurt by not trying. And it was worth every bit of fighting it.

So, overall, I had an awesome weekend, and I very much look forward to next year, when I expect things will be much better prepared. I know the people running it next year, and they have done a great job in the past. Thanks to all to Con staff who put things together this year, and I’ll see you all again in 2013!