Tag Archives: conventions

Your Regularly Scheduled Program

7 Sep

It’s been over five weeks since I’ve posted anything new here at Bundoran Press’ blog — so I guess it’s time to return to a more regular schedule. I’m not sure if I can maintain a weekly post here while still doing my daily posts at 10 Minutes of Words and striving to blog monthly over on Hayden’s Hubris but we’ll start today and see where that takes us.

August was a busy month personally but I did manage to complete some publishing work while roaming across Canada and parts of Europe.

I’ve been working on the final edits to M. Darusha Wehm’s novel, Children of Arkadia. They should have been done today but I still have a few more chapters to go. The book is slated for release in the spring — probably launched at Ad Astra in early April — but I hope to have it pretty well ready to go by late October so I can spend a good five months pre-marketing it. There’s not a ton of cash in the advertising budget but sometimes effort over time can be just as effective. No spoilers yet but it’s in the vein of a dystopic utopia with space stations, artificial intelligences and love.

I’ve also completed the first editorial suggestions for our other spring release, the second volume of Alison Sinclair’s Plague Confederacy series. Contagion: Eyre looks to be even more exciting than the first book. It’s already in pretty good shape and, if I put my nose to the grindstone, I’m sure I can have it ready to go by the end of November, giving me four months to push for reviews and pre-release publicity. Everything in the publishing business is about building buzz.

I also managed to sit down with Edward Willett while we were both at When Words Collide (WWC) in Calgary and had a good conversation about where we need to go with the first draft of his new space opera, Falcon’s Egg — a follow-up to Right to Know, which SFRevu called ‘wildly entertaining.’ We have a longer lead time for this book, as it is slated for release in August of 2015. I’m hoping to get it near completion by the end of March.

Also at WWC, the launch of Al Onia’s Javenny was a great success. We sold so many books that I had to get Al to give back his author’s copies when we ran out. (Don’t worry; I mailed him some more on my return to Ottawa).

I had a presence as both author and publisher at LonCon III, where I sat on several panels and met many old and new friends in the field. On Sunday, we had a small book reception where we were able to introduce a couple of dozen people to our product line. We certainly had fun if nothing else comes of it.

In eight more days (September 15), submissions open for our new anthology, Second Contacts, which I will be editing with Michael Rimar. You can see the listing on Ralan.com and Duotrope and read the full guidelines on our web-site. We will be receiving stories until January 15th with a view to releasing the book in October of next year. In the meantime, I’m reading a few solicited submissions for novels for release in 2016. More to follow.

Publishing continues to be challenging for everyone. I had a number of conversations with publishers, editors and writers that brought that home this summer. Being visible, delivering the product to readers, finding the optimal price point to maximize incomes for creators and meet the needs of the bottom line are challenges that all publishers — large, small and self-publishers alike — face. Not everyone succeeds in overcoming them and I’ve heard rumours of some further consolidations in the field. However, I’ve also heard some interesting ideas for innovative solutions to our problems, too, so I remain optimistic. More on that later.

Still, it was no fun to come home to the news that Quebec-based Lebonfon Printing is closing their doors at the end of October. They’ve been a major force in Canadian printing for a number of years and were our printer for most of the books published in the last two years. Marquis, also in Quebec, is acquiring some of their assets. I’ve dealt with Marquis before so I’m not worried about any loss of quality. But with one fewer company in an already narrow field, I suspect prices may rise — not something that makes me happy.

On that note, I’d like to direct your attention to our new fund raising campaign on Patreon. For as little as a dollar a month (or, better yet, the cost of a latte a month), you can help make sure that Bundoran will continue to publish quality science fiction into the future. We’re passing out a few nifty benefits, too. So please take a look and consider contributing. And don’t worry: you’ll hear more about this in the coming months.

Publishing News and Notes

Resolve by Neil Godbout is a finalist for Best YA Novel in the Canadian SF Aurora Awards. Bundoran partner, Mike Rimar, was nominated in the short story category. Voting has now ended and the winners will be announced at VCon in Vancouver the first weekend of October.

Angry Robot books closes two of its imprints.

You think it took a long time for your novel to be published? Margaret Atwood has to wait 100 years.

 

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At SFContario

28 Nov

Well, I’m not there yet but I will be at SFContario tomorrow until Sunday. Besides the Bundoran Press party on Friday night (look for the signs in the hotel), I’ll be taking part in the following panels:

Gardenview Sat. 11:00 AM Science And Politics

In 1964 Adlai Stevenson wrote that Science and Technology are a magic wand that gives us what we desire. The federal government regards science as a one stop shop for industry and a quick source of products for the market. Is it possible for politicians to understand the workings and care about the importance of scientific research and its search for knowledge?

Courtyard Sat. 1:00 PM Myth in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Nordic, Celtic, and Arabic myths have been used frequently in sf and fantasy. Many authors have written stories set in universes based on old myths and religions. To what extent do the myths and the stories based on them have something to tell people of today about the human condition?

Courtyard Sat. 4:00 PM SFContario Idol:

Attendees bring in the first page of their manuscript. A presenter from SFContario will read out the manuscript (anonymously) until a majority of our panel of judges ‘buzz’ the story to a stop. Discussion ensues on why they stopped it, what didn’t work, and what did work. A great exercise in story openings that will provide immediate valuable feedback to the writers.

 

I’ll be busy trying to finish edits for the next two Bundoran books in any downtime I have — but you’ll probably see me around from time to time. All work and no play and all that.

But no blog this Sunday.

But too keep you happy and busy, here’s a truly fascinating story.

Now why don’t you stop shopping at Black Friday stores and buy a few books here.

My Can-Con schedule and other thoughts of the day

29 Sep

Can-Con

Perhaps not of huge interest to those outside the Ottawa area, but it’s of interest to me. As Editor Guest of Honour at Can-Con: The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, I have a pretty full schedule next weekend. I thought I’d share it with you.

On Friday night, I’ll be attending and speaking briefly at the Opening Ceremonies. I don’t expect to replicate the wide-ranging and, some say, amusing, talk of last year but never fear: Robert J. Sawyer, the author guest, is always informative and entertaining. I look forward as well to hearing what Mark Robinson, Science GOH, and other special guests have to say. After the opening, I’ll drop in to the Aurora Pin Ceremony to congratulate nominees for this year’s Aurora Awards. Then, it’s off to the Chizine party for a drink or two.

Saturday starts early with the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association AGM at 9.  I’ll have to leave early as I am on a panel at 10 with Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory on Book Pitches: how to do them or, more likely, how not to. From 11 to12, Rob Sawyer and I will interview each other in what may be the highlight of the Con. Rob and I have been friends for going on twenty years so we have some stories to share. We won’t be baring all (no-one could possibly want to see that) but it should be fun and maybe occasionally surprising. I get a nice long break after that – though I will be dropping in to hear readings from Bundoran Press writers, Tom Barlow and Neil Godbout at 3 p.m. Right after that I’ll be taking book pitches (sign up at registration). I’m in the market to buy one or two novels this fall – maybe it will be yours. Saturday ends in a big way with our room party from 9 p.m. on to celebrate the launch of I’ll Meet You Yesterday by Tom Barlow.

Sunday I’ll be at the Aurora Awards Banquet from 11 to 1 p.m. I’m the MC for the event and, as a special treat, get to award a lifetime achievement Aurora to Robert J. Sawyer. There are eleven more trophies to hand out, culminating in Best Novel which comes with a $500 Cheque from SF Canada. I go straight from the ceremonies to a panel on plotting mysteries with Violette Malan, Rob Sawyer and Tom Barlow and finish off the day with The State of Publishing Today with Sawyer, Malan, Sean Moreland and David Hartwell, senior editor with TOR Books.

Of course, anytime I’m not at the panels mentioned above, you can probably find me at the Bundoran Press table in the Dealers’ Room.

Diversity

There was a considerable tempest in the twitterverse this past week when successful Canadian novelist, David Gilmour, (Governor General Award winner and Giller Award nominee), made some rather outrageous statements about his love of ‘manly-men heterosexual’ writers and his general disdain of any who didn’t fit that category – specifically women and Chinese writers. He also said there were no Canadian writers he loved, which I guess means he never reads his own books. If he wasn’t an instructor of first and third year students at University of Toronto, I doubt if his comments would have attracted much attention, but he is and they did. Some of the reaction was, perhaps, as over the top as his own stupid remarks, but others found the right combination of mockery, correction and disapproval that the comments deserved. Gilmour himself claimed he was joking and, besides, distracted and, oh yeah, being picked on. You would think a manly-man would be better at taking responsibility for his words and deeds.

Every writer – every reader – has writers and books they particularly admire. There is nothing wrong with that. Anyone who likes all books equally has no discrimination; no taste. However, some people’s tastes are more limited than others. Gilmour apparently is only interested in reading books by people like him – that is, middle aged white men. That’s what he’s passionate about. I might suggest it is less passion than narcissism; gazing endlessly in the pool to see your own reflection.

Still, I’ve read and admired some of the same writers – Fitzgerald and Chekov, for example – and have my own favorites, some of whom certainly qualify as ‘manly-men.’ Everyone knows I’m gaga for Papa (Hemingway for the non-aficionados). There are lots of male writers I admire – though they are not universally white and middle-aged. But I can and have gotten plenty passionate, curious, moved, enraged, engaged, lost in, thrilled by any good story, by any good writer – and those certainly aren’t limited to white males, dead or otherwise. I can’t imagine reading to see myself reflected feature for feature, experience for experience, emotion for emotion. I read to discover – both new things about the world and new things about myself. Personally, I learn more by reading books that challenge my world view, that propose alternative ways to think and feel, that present a different culture, life experience. Is that always fun, self-affirming; a good time had by all? No – but it makes me a better writer and a better person. Everyone should read a good book they hate at least once a year. Then they should try to explain why it’s a good book to someone else. If you can’t – then maybe you need to question whether you really have anything of value to say in your own writing.

Travel Writing

One of the first things you learn in writing class is: write what you know. It’s a useful place to start but a lousy place to finish. Clearly it leads you into the trap of only writing (and reading) what you personally experience. Since most of us don’t know nearly as much as we think, it would lead to a lot of books about growing up in suburbia or working as a barista while composing the Great Canadian Novel. (Yes, I know, there are a lot of those, but how many do you need to read to get the gist?) Obviously, for genre writers particularly, this maxim quickly gets turned into: write what you can learn and understand. Otherwise, mystery novels would only be written by violent psychopaths and space operas by alien visitors who have actually flown through space.

One of the great sources of inspiration for me and for many writers is travel. It doesn’t necessarily mean going to Paris or the African savannah. Walk through an unfamiliar neighbourhood in your own city – or even a familiar one, trying to see it with the eyes of a stranger. I recently read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Much of it takes place in a small area of rural Sussex – a few roads and fields, gardens and hedgerows. You can feel that Gaiman trod those very paths – day and night, seeing them with both familiar and strange eyes. When he steps off the path into worlds of wonder, it still feels real, the way things out of the corner of your eye seem both real and wondrous at the same time.

Travelling is not tourism and vice versa. Wherever you go, you have to look with your eyes and your imagination; see the space both as citizen and foreigner. Living in a new place can be tremendously educational and inspirational but so can trying to see with fresh eyes the place you know so well you don’t look at it anymore. To write what you know, you first have to forget you know it.

Okay – time for a walk. Right after I scrub the toilet (as my wife, Elizabeth, says it’s all well and good to be a great literary figure, but the bathrooms still need to be cleaned).

Image

Sarcasm

18 Sep

Sarcasm

My Author GOH speech at Can-Con last year. Come out this year and see me as editor GOH (with Robert J. Sawyer as Author GOH)

I’m Not Dead Yet

8 Sep

WorldCon is over for another year. Some people are happy – Hugo winners for example ; some are not. Madelaine Ashby questions whether WorldCon and the people who go there have missed the demographic boat, noting quite accurately that WorldCon seems older and more white and male than other fan-based events, such as DragonCon. We’ll skip over for a minute that DragonCon and FanExpo and ComicCon are not fan-based but commercial operations directed towards corporate profits. It is true that WorldCon is not as diverse as, say, the average downtown neighbourhood. Some people say that WorldCon – and cons in general – are bastions of misogyny, homo- and transphobia, racism. Others, such as Cherryl Morgan, who would know better than me, (an aging white straight male), disagree.

I might be more appalled if I hadn’t heard this before. I went to my first WorldCon in 1983. One of the best attended panels was one called “The Graying of Fandom.” At the time my hair was still dark but I knew grey hair was on the horizon. I listened as people bemoaned the fact that ‘young people’ were no longer interested and engaged in science fiction. The solutions: more diverse programming such as movie previews and discussions, expanded costuming (cosplay anyone?) and music. Comic books weren’t high on the list but “graphic novels” were making an impact. Anime and Manga were nothing but rumours and really only began to impinge on North American audiences in the last 15 years (yes, I know there are always early adopters but that’s not my point).  There was no question that non-white writers (and fans) were few and far between. Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler were the exceptions that made the rule.

There were, even then, worries about the lack of female fans – though less so about the lack of female writers (5 of the previous Best Novel Hugos had gone to women writers). There wasn’t a lot of talk about ‘sexual harassment’ or worse though everyone knew there were certain well-known male writers young women should be careful not to be alone with. You have to remember that these were the days when universities had just stopped turning a blind eye to professors sleeping with their students. The Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were nearly a decade in the future.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then – both as a society and as fans of science fiction. Despite that, there are still reports of ‘people behaving badly.’ People take offence – even when it’s not offered.  That happens and will continue to happen, because people aren’t perfect. Put them in a crowd with a drink in their hands and their imperfections come to the fore. This is no excuse. If you behave like an idiot in certain situations – like when you drink – then it is incumbent on you to avoid those situations. If you just generally behave like an idiot – or, in fact, a criminal (unwanted sexual touching is a crime folks) – then expect to be treated like one. Conventions can’t stop bad behavior – but they can put in place mechanisms to limit it and deal with it appropriately – in a fair and transparent manner – when it happens. No cover-ups; no kangaroo courts.

Anyway, that’s not what I started out talking about.

Is WorldCon a thing of the past? Will it, must it change? Should it do more to attract a younger, more diverse crowd? Should it go away? Who cares what you (or I) think anyway?

WorldCon exists (has existed for more than 70 years) because people are devoted to organizing it and people are keen to go to it. As long as that is true, nothing anyone says will stop it from happening. It may be that the demographic is narrower (or just different) than that which goes to ComicCon but so what? The demographic of people that go to live theatre is different (and narrower) than those who go to movies. Should we close the theatres? WorldCon focuses on books and writers; it therefore appeals to different people than those interested in movies and movie stars or comics and cosplay, for that matter. There is cross-over – people who like it all – but maybe not as much as we might think or hope. But the lines are not drawn on gender, race, sexual orientation, cultural background, or nationality but INTEREST.

Maybe we should have a YA Hugo to show we care more what young people read. In Canada, we have a Best YA novel award in the Auroras (our national version of the Hugo). I’m not sure it has increased youth interest in SF. In fact, I voted against creating the category – though now that it’s here, I’m happy to point out that Dissolve by Neil Godbout, published by Bundoran Press is a nominee this year. In 2001, a Harry Potter novel won the Hugo; in 2009, Cory Doctorow’s YA book, Little Brother, was a finalist. Somehow I think that shows more respect for YA writers than putting them in their own category – like a children’s table at an adult dinner party.

And what about all those old writers? Why aren’t younger ones getting more (or all of the attention)? I recall what my friend, two time Governor General Award winner for drama, Sharon Pollock, growled when the Canada Council announced special grants for young writers: “What are old ones supposed to do? Die?” By the way, the Canada Council defined young writers as those under 40. Not surprising since the average for selling a first novel seems likely to be somewhere around 36. So for those novelists in their twenties who are complaining about all those old guys – maybe you’re just old before your time. In any case, in 20 or 30 years, I’m sure you’ll have an answer for the next generation of geniuses clamouring for you to get out of the way.

As for seeking a broader audience for SF, it’s a great idea but it’s not as simple as one might think. The collective creative wisdom of writers and readers (and, I trust, editors and publishers) will solve the problem. The arrival on the scene of such fabulous writers as N.K Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed – along with many other ‘not old white guys’ writing short stories – will expand the base. It won’t attract all those kids who go to Fan Expo to catch a glimpse of an aging film star – but it will attract people who like books who never considered that SFF had anything to say to them. After all, how many black teenagers considered golf as a sport before Tiger Woods burst on the scene? Their successes – like his – will make a whole new range of readers see science fiction, and science fiction conventions, as a place they want to be.

Adventures in Publishing, part 9

27 Aug

Date line: August 27, 2063: Parts 1 to 8 were tragically lost in a mysterious fire in 2034: this episode survived because it was stored in a copper tube

<charred bit> … early to make my 7 a.m. load-in at Fan Expo 2013. Needed to keep expenses down so I booked a cheap motel in Scarborough. I was surprised to find a king sized bed in the room until the steady stream of traffic made it clear this was a ‘come and go’ establishment. My only companion was the spider I found under the sheets. Maybe he was there to keep down the bedbugs. Decided to sleep in my clothes inside the folded over coverlet so no part of me touched the bleached and slightly tattered sheets. Left the noisy air conditioner on all night to mask the sounds of cat romance outside the window – at least I hope it was cats. Getting up at 6 a.m. was never easier. At least the tub was clean and the shower worked.

Fascinating drive into downtown Toronto past many detours for closed streets. ‘Head for the lake,’ my instincts demanded and I hit Lakeshore Blvd in time to catch my first ever look at the Beaches. But who plays beach volleyball so early in the day?

Got to the convention centre at 7 a.m. exactly and headed down the ramp to unload only to be stopped halfway down by two large trucks coming out. I had to reverse my course. I don’t like backing up at the best of times but UPHILL! ON A CURVED RAMP! IN A RENTAL CAR! AT 7 A.M.! WITHOUT COFFEE! I didn’t hit a wall and I’m sure that pedestrian will recover.

Unloaded 10 boxes of books and left two in the car. As it turned out, should have done the opposite. Got to my hotel and they let me check in at 8:30 though I had to trade down to a queen size bed. I resisted the urge to crawl into it.

Worked the table alone until my wife arrived from Alberta at 6 p.m. It was lonely work – though I did get to chat with the good people at Chizine who were across the aisle.

Left at nine, thinking ‘Thursday is always for browsers.’ To bed, to sleep, up again for breakfast and the show. At least we had three people working the table (thanks Erryl) so I got to wander the hall a bit, chat with friends and see some fabulous exhibits and costumes. Finished at 7, thinking, ‘People like to browse on Fridays, too.’ Supper at Keg and lots of wine. Good thing my wife and I both have day jobs.

Saturday: 4 people on the table (Thanks, Mike!) so Liz could take a break and nurse her cold. The best costumes of the show: some so good they weren’t even there. Took photos, talked with friends. Never did get to the north building where all the celebrities were. Darn! I wanted to Hassle the Hoff! Ate Pizza and Ice Cream for the third day in a row. Don’t let people tell you I don’t know how to have fun. Supper with a bunch of the author crowd at the Overdraft. Seems like a good place for publishers to hang out if you catch my drift. Heard a tragic story about a bulldog that drowned in a pool.

Sunday – up early to load out most of our stuff in anticipation of an early departure. Sold more than any other day. Still didn’t pay for the table. Add in the hotel, the car rental, the food, the gas, the incidentals, the cost of the books… One person said it was good exposure. I replied that for what I spent I could have taken out an ad in the book section of the Globe and Mail. That’s exposure.

Still, I had some fun. Seeing the sights, making new friends. Got pitched a couple of books that sound interesting – we’ll see when they send in actual chapters. Glad I did it; doubt I’ll do it again. Certainly not next year, because I’ve already planned an August trip to England. There, I’ll… <rest is burned beyond recognition>