My WisCon 41 (Somewhat Tired and Rambling) Recap

Fire She-Ra Avatar

Before I talk about WisCon 41, I wanted to address a few administrivia-related bits. First, a shout-out to Michael Matheson. Michael’s short story “Until There is Only Hunger”, which appeared in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, was longlisted for the 2017 Sunburst Awards. Huzzah! Second, if you’re in the mood for clicking around the internet, check out the Ropecon 2017 Guests of Honour page as well. And, lastly, if you’re expected a Make Art Not War 2017 check-in, I’m postponing that until tomorrow so I can announce June’s theme and do my month-end recap.

Most of my WisCon 41 recap will be general, rather than specific, because I had so many conversations with several talented individuals that I lost track of the awesome. I plan on featuring some folks for upcoming installments of my Friendly Friday posts, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy checking out their work.

First things first: I know that the backlash I experienced as a result from my withdrawal as a GOH from OdysseyCon was a concern for many people for a number of reasons. In that regard, I felt that WisCon 41 staff went out of their way to ensure that I was okay and was not harassed in any way shape or form. Staff was apprised of the situation, con safety volunteers were clearly visible, and all checked in on me from time to time. Several friends and attendees did as well, and I felt the people I’d never met before who approached me were very respectful. Attending WisCon turned out to be a good experience for me, because it definitely lessened my anxiety prior to my summer conventions. I was asked: “Would I ever go back to Odyssey Con?” At this time, my answer is: “I don’t know.” While I won’t go into the private exchange, I did send an e-mail on April 12th to Odyssey Con that has not been answered to address what has happened and (hopefully) prevent such mistakes in the future.

On What Being an Attending Creator Means

As a result of this, however, my thoughts on what it means to be a creator at a convention are turning out to be more complicated than I expected. My experiences with celebrity guests (e.g. authors/artists/actors, etc. who are paid to be at an event, either through the studio, publisher, or via the convention) has always been to regard those occurrences as work. This is why many celebrities (or their representatives) sign a contract that clearly spells out what’s required of them. While I do not regard myself as a celebrity, I have attended conventions either with or on behalf of publishers. I also have a teeny, tiny amount of fame that I actively maintain to publish more and engage with fans, so in my mind I’m a micro-celebrity. Regardless, the word “celebrity” is definitely a type of job in my mind, and even if creators like myself touch upon an aspect of this role in our careers it still should be considered work.

This is where my feelings tend to be more complex. Not only are so, so, so many of us are untrained to deal with being in the public eye and all that it entails, both positive and problematic, many creators aren’t paid to perform that work nor does everyone regard it as such. Some creators attend conventions to have fun and, because they’re having a good time, don’t think of it as a job. Like many, I often pay to attend conventions out of pocket, and I have to make a decision whether or not that money will be well spent. Unfortunately, it’s only when an appearance turns sour that missed details suddenly become more important. Why didn’t a con, for example, think to ask a creator if they had an issue with a stalker, preemptively ban/have processes in place to deal with someone who’s been reported multiple times over, or plan downtime so creators aren’t on six panels in one day? I think, here, the answer is that perhaps some volunteer-run cons don’t regard what they do as work, and wind up underestimating what it takes to put on a good show.

Whether you’re a volunteer or not, planning a convention is definitely requires lot of labor, and often conventions are formulated as a business entity or LLC to accommodate the financials and business decisions attached. So, in my mind, there was never a question that conventions were, in fact, work; it’s true that I’ve struggled with what my role as a participant or attendee was over the years, because varying degrees of professionalism are often present at conventions and it can be hard to know where you fit or find people to hang with. As a guest, however? That, to me, is not just an honorific, but a specific role that comes with expectations attached for both parties. Perhaps treating guests and panelists through a contractual lens, similar to how some celebrities deal with conventions, might be one approach to address concerns ahead of time? I’m honestly not sure.

The other thing I realized, is that my life as a creator has gotten considerably harder since 2014. The last couple of years have absolutely been challenging both privately and professionally. I do not get paid to be harassed; I get paid to write and deliver on time. “Just get offline” doesn’t cover damages caused by less PR/engagement given my current visibility, picking up the pieces after getting doxed, making sure social accounts are locked down, and the toll it takes on you emotionally. That time spent is the hidden cost of harassment; it becomes all that much harder to network, find work, remain enthusiastic, and fulfill obligations. This, being a creator, is my job and it’s one where I only earn money if I complete my obligations on time in a quality folks expect. Right now, work is all I can think about.

“Just get offline” is not a solution, and neither is “find another job.” This is my job, I love it dearly, and I’m not abandoning the tools I need to utilize in my career. I would really appreciate it, however, if being harassed wasn’t an expectation or a baseline threat. And, if it is going to be this way both now and in the future, then let’s talk solutions. Let’s talk about training and mentorship to help others through this so they’re prepared if and when something happens to them. Let’s remind ourselves that all creators are working, and being treated well shouldn’t matter whether we’re super-famous or not, and our jobs/livelihoods are at risk. Lastly, let’s continue to find ways to have fun with the fans who do appreciate and actively support us, too. Isn’t that why we’re here?

An Emotional Convention

Shifting gears… (Hey, I did warn you this post was going to be long and rambling.) WisCon 41 took on a special meaning this year given its emphasis on feminism, building communities, literature, and fandom. The death of Carrie Fischer and the loss of long-time attendees, when coupled with the rise in racist attacks and totalitarianism, is a lot to process through one-on-one conversations and panels. It was needed, and it was often emotional. I also spent a lot of time touching base with peers and friends, and heard their stories and news, both good and bad. Now, I feel like I’m a bit hungover–but in a good way.

I want to emphasize the word “stories” here again, and not just because there are so many authors at this convention who hailed from a diverse range of backgrounds. I believe that everyone has a story to tell, and WisCon reinforces that in many ways. Time and time again, the themes that propagated through the panels and discussions that I had was the importance of being open to failure, that representation is additive and not subtractive, that protesting and standing up for what’s right has costs associated with that and not everyone can participate or voice their frustration in the same way. Often, especially online, there’s a pressure to be right, to be heard, to know everything there is to know about everything–but that’s impossible. We cannot know what it’s like to fill the shoes of everyone else, because the ability to research is not a replacement for the necessity of experience. Sometimes, the only way to learn is to listen. Other times, we may not be able to internalize what it’s like to have a different identity–and that’s okay.

Sometimes, the idea that not everything is ours to take can feel a bit limiting. I don’t agree at all. By recognizing what stories aren’t ours to tell, we can focus on what makes each of us unique as individuals and sharpen our own voices. This makes our writing better! (Oh, I’m not perfect and I feel like I’m always learning. To me, that’s all part of the gig.) What WisCon 41 reinforced for me, however, is that sometimes listening is an act not only of compassion, but of empathy and a willingness to step aside and hear someone else’s story. There is a lot of power in the ability to listen, and I have to wonder if we’re afraid of what we’ll hear.

Mind you, I’m no sage. I don’t know what the future will hold, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. What we can learn from, however, is the experiences of those who have come before. So much static history is lost, and remains undocumented or fragmented. Shows like this are important so we can listen to living bits of history, and remember that we are not alone in our daily lives, in our struggles, in our fandoms. That rich fabric of intersecting narratives, when coupled with the many talented authors, editors, and artists present at this convention, gives me hope. That’s a pretty damn cool feeling to walk away with, and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

Lastly, I want to give one final shout-out to how amazing the guests of honor, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Amal El-Mohtar, are. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out their work, please do so. There is nothing more fabulous than being able to congratulate them on their success, and I’m certain both will continue to be icons in their fields. They are incredible, lovely people, and I wish them well. Huzzah!

Mood: ALL THE TO-DO LISTS
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: More than I needed, but less than I care to admit.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Silence. (Seriously, noise-cancelling headphones are the bomb.)
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: La Belle et la Bete.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




More on Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

Upside Down Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Cover

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling features several authors and essayists, including Maurice Broaddus, Nisi Shawl, and Victor Raymond who are all in town for WisCon 41 this weekend. I thought this would be a perfect time to bring up this collection of short stories and essays again, and post the full Table of Contents for the X-page book. You may recall that I wrote about the anthology for Scalzi’s The Big Idea, and that the concept for the collection came from some serious discussions about tropes and cliches.

Challenging what we think about tropes and cliches can be both fun and uncomfortable, and that has shown in the reviews, like the starred review of Upside Down we received from Publisher’s Weekly. I quote: “When the stories are shocking, they demonstrate how thoroughly these narrative conventions have become embedded in our psyches.” This, by itself, was one of the reasons why I wanted to put together this collection.

I know I’m a smart-ass, but I try to operate from the mindset that I don’t know everything, that I am always learning, to prevent cynicism and bitterness from taking over. Editing Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling taught me that my lessons in life will never be over, and that isn’t something to fear–but to celebrate. Everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes the best thing we can do as writers and readers is to truly listen to that tale to understand our differences and what we have in common with one another. I’m very proud of the collection, and am so pleased to have worked with such fine and excellent individuals.

If you’re interested in this collection, the anthology is available in digital and print wherever books are sold. You can find Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling on Amazon.com, DriveThruFiction.com, and many other bookstores, too!

Table of Contents

Introduction. JERRY GORDON

SECTION I: INVERTING THE TROPE

On Loving Bad Boys: A Villanelle. VALYA DUDYCZ LUPESCU
Single, Singularity. JOHN HORNOR JACOBS
Lazzrus. NISI SHAWL
Seeking Truth. ELSA SJUNNESON-HENRY
Thwock. MICHELLE MUENZLER
Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place? MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD
Chosen. ANTON STROUT
The White Dragon. ALYSSA WONG
Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone. HARALAMBI MARKOV
Burning Bright. SHANNA GERMAIN
Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint). ALETHEA KONTIS
Requiem for a Manic Pixie Dream. KATY HARRAD & GREG STOLZE
The Refrigerator in the Girlfriend. ADAM-TROY CASTRO
The First Blood of Poppy Dupree. DELILAH S. DAWSON
Red Light. SARA M. HARVEY
Until There Is Only Hunger. MICHAEL MATHESON
Super Duper Fly. MAURICE BROADDUS
Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini. KAT RICHARDSON
Swan Song. MICHELLE LYONS-MCFARLAND
Those Who Leave. MICHAEL CHOI
Nouns of Nouns: A Mini Epic. ALEX SHVARTSMAN
Excess Light. RAHUL KANAKIA
The Origin of Terror. SUNIL PATEL
The Tangled Web. FERRETT STEINMETZ
Hamsa, Hamsa, Hamsa, Tfu, Tfu, Tfu. ALISA SCHREIBMAN
Real Women Are Dangerous. RATI MEHROTRA

SECTION II: DISCUSSING THE TROPES

I’m Pretty Sure I’ve Read This Before… PATRICK HESTER
Fractured Souls. LUCY A. SNYDER
Into the Labyrinth: The Heroine’s Journey. A.C. WISE
Escaping the Hall of Mirrors. VICTOR RAYMOND
Tropes as Erasers: A Transgender Perspective. KEFFY R.M. KEHRLI

SECTION III: DEFINING THE TROPES

Afterword. MONICA VALENTINELLI & JAYM GATES
Trope Definitions/Index of Tropes.

SECTION IV: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND
ADDITIONAL BIOS

Friendly Friday: Prisma Visions Tarot and James R Eads

The Magician | Prisma Visions Tarot | James R Eads

One of the things that I love about tarot cards, is that there are so many different ways to represent the images in a deck. I collect them and, of all the decks I have, one of the most unusual and beautiful is the Prisma Visions tarot designed by James R Eads.

The Major Arcana image of The Magician doesn’t do this deck justice. James is known for playing with light, and his style really shines through in a tarot deck. What’s really cool about the Prisma Visions tarot, besides the silver edging and the lovely box, is that each suit has also been illustrated as a panoramic piece. To see all four suits illustrated in their entirety, James offers full-size panoramic prints. I have a smaller print of the Ace of Swords, and I love the quality and theme he uses to breathe magical life into the suits.

In addition to the Prisma Visions tarot, which is the second deck he’s designed, James also offers prints and stickers of his illustrations as well. If you dig his art, you’re not alone! James also creates beautiful posters for bands and other gigs, too. He has a lovely portfolio, and I’m glad I have a little piece of his talented works.

If you’re interested in this artist, visit the official website of James R Eads or follow James R Eads on Tumblr.

Mood: Convention Fevah!
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: There’s really no point counting while at a convention.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Hustle and Bustle
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: X-Men Days of Future Past.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




MANW Check-In Week 21: Using Silence to Reboot

Make Art Not War 2017

Running at a million miles an hour this week, but I wanted to drop in with a quick tip about a way to reboot if you’re stuck. In a word: silence. I know that it may seem mundane or stupid or even boring, but silence for five minutes can make a world of difference. For me, it wasn’t the silence that was the issue, it was discovering what “noise” meant. Noise. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the news, text messages, Skype, etc. That, when combined with everything going on during the day, that adds up.

Though it’s typed information, words you read can still translate into noise that gets into your brain space. Sometimes, in order for ideas to percolate, you need the freedom to think. That, unfortunately, is a luxury artists don’t always have. Between day jobs and families and pets and… Well, you know how busy your life can get and how that can interfere with your ability to think!

To reboot, I recommend intentionally recreating a space where your mind has the chance to rest. I go for walks, and don’t bring my phone with me. Other times, I use noise-cancelling headphones and sit in total silence for five minutes. You’d be surprised how short periods of silence can help calm you down, give your brain a break, and allow your creativity to blossom. Next time you’re feeling stressed out and can’t find the inspiration to make art, give it a try!

Mood: In the swamp
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Oh, if I only only counted…
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Whiny cats
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: X-Men Days of Future Past.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Script Excerpt from Last Man Zombie Standing Comic

Last Zombie Standing | Unfashioned Creatures: A Frankenstein Anthology

Today’s excerpt is something fun! I wanted to share with you the first few pages of my script for Last Man Zombie Standing.

Did you know that I’m a fan of Vincent Price? I feel the iconic actor really brought a lot to horror, and there’s a lot to be said for the beauty of black-and-white television. I wrote the script with a few easter eggs built in; writing it was a little challenging, in the sense that I had to communicate my vision not knowing the artist. I’ve never met Josie Pi Grant, but I think she did a brilliant job breathing life into the undead imagery I had in mind.

If you’re interested in this comic, you can pick up a copy of Last Man Zombie Standing on DriveThruComics.com. Or, you can pick up a copy of Unfashioned Creatures, A Frankenstein Anthology from Red Stylo Media’s website.

Here’s the first page straight from my script!

Last Man Zombie Standing

PAGE 1

PANEL 1: The first image is a close-up of piles of newspapers lying on the edge of a lab table. The date is March 8, 1964. The headlines read: “U.S. Scientists Blamed For Outbreak.” “Millions Undead.” “Human Cloning A Disaster.” “Apocalypse Now!” Here, the title of the comic may be superimposed on the left hand side of the image in a gory, stylized font.

Silent Panel

PANEL 2:
In this image, we see we’re inside a science lab; the room is in total disarray. Piles of books and newspapers are stacked haphazardly on the floor. Tubes hang down from the ceiling. There are lab benches piled high with bottles of different shapes and colors. The light source is directed toward the right corner. The windows have been boarded up. There are mousetraps scattered across the floor, ashtrays filled with cigarette butts, and empty bags of airport peanuts. Mary Tyler Moore and other models adorn the walls; their pictures have been ripped out of magazines and taped up for decoration.

1 Dr. Powell (off screen from right): Dare I?

PANEL 3: We see DOCTOR POWELL leaning toward a coffin-shaped glass tube filled with an electric blue fluid. The tube sits at a 45 degree angle. Inside the propped tube, lies the body of Doctor Powell’s clone, 000138, but we can’t tell who the man is yet, just that he’s male. Doctor Powell is a tall, spindly man with high cheekbones, heavy brows, and a thin moustache. He is wearing a traditional white lab coat, shiny black shoes, and tweed pants. His clothes are worn and threadbare. A ballpoint pen hangs over his ear. His hair is graying at the temples and he looks malnourished. He still wears his beat up name tag and there is an old metal flashlight sticking out of his pocket. He also wears a broken watch. On his right hand, between the thumb and forefinger, is a series of digits: 000137.

2 Dr. Powell: Why, there’s no telling what the two of us could do. Build armies! Clone Eve! Find the cure!

PANEL 4: Here, see a close up of “Dr. Powell” in the tank and our suspicions are confirmed: this clone is Dr. Powell. He is not as malnourished as the scientist is, and he is clean-shaven, but the resemblance is clear.

3 Dr. Powell: Or should I say: “Just the one of us?” Yes… That’s right…

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