ReaderCon 21, or The Super Secret Party That Everyone Knows About

There is a certain timelessness to conventions.  And as such they do not translate well into a linear narrative.  Perhaps that’s because a large portion of the time we are talking about ideas, things, places, events outside ourselves and often outside our universe.  Coming back home after that is like traveling near the speed of light and returning to a changed world.  Except the world hasn’t changed.  We have.

Readercon 21 started off somewhat humbly.  Several of my friends who have accompanied me before couldn’t make it, and this time around I knew a larger portion of the attendees than ever before.  My first thought upon arriving was that the convention didn’t feel real.  I tried to explain this to a few folks, and they kept reminding me that it was still Friday and it takes some time for things to warm up.  And warm up they did.

The first panel I attended, one of the annual short-fiction summaries, name-checked two friends of mine as talented up-and-comers: Genevieve Valentine and Alaya Dawn Johnson.  It was nice to hear their work getting recognized.  Later, Scott H. Andrews hosted a Beneath Ceaseless Skies reading, where I read a section from “The Suffering Gallery,” a short story appearing in BCS this fall.  I also heard Michael J. DeLuca, Margaret Ronald, Tom Croshill (which I later found out was his first reading), and several other talented fantasists.  People seemed to like my excerpt.  In fact, people seemed to like all the stories, which is a credit to Scott’s editorial eye.

Later, I participated on a panel about the bright future of SF magazines, which had as a launching point the question of how to make SF magazines more culturally inclusive.  Liz Gorinsky did a great job keeping us on topic, and we heard well-thought-out comments by panelists Neil Clarke, K. Tempest Bradford, and pinch-hitter Michal J. DeLuca, who was there for Gavin Grant.  Compared to last year’s somewhat sullen first panel on the future of SF magazines, this one felt much more positive, and we all agreed the short fiction market is in a renaissance.  These things go in cycles, and we are presently on an upswing.

Kate Baker (known for her podcasts at Clarkesworld Magazine, writing under Kathryn E. Baker) was in the audience, and she was shyly waving at me until I suddenly realized who she was.  She did a wonderful podcast of my story “The History Within Us” and also has her first published story in Sybil’s Garage No. 7.  I ran over and hugged her, which I realized immediately following might have been a little too forward considering we had only met for the first time.  I hope she forgives my exuberance.

At the Meet the Prose party I chatted with a lot of lovely people, including Mary Rodgers, whom I met in New York a few weeks back, and I got to taste a Brooklyn Stout from Scott H. Andrews, who had smuggled in a growler into the hall.

I had a nice conversation with Jacob Weisman and Bernie Goodman from Tachyon Publications about Jewish-themed fiction (I’m writing a novel partly based on Jewish myths).  And they also gave me excellent publishing advice.  By the time everyone moved toward the bar, it was 1 a.m., and they were closing.  Exhausted, I ducked off to my bedroom.

Saturday, I was free of panels, and so attended things sparsely.  But I did attend Alaya Dawn Johnson’s reading from her novel Moonshine.  I also attended Part II of the future of SF magazines and also found the panelists to be forward-thinking and positive.  The general consensus was that the short fiction future is a good one.

I attended the Rhysling Awards (two poems from Sybil’s Garage No. 6 were nominated in the short-form category).  We didn’t win, but I heard several fabulous poems, especially a sung one from Amal El-Mohtar.  I offered to record a classical guitar accompaniment to it, which she seemed excited about.

All of this felt like a prelude to Saturday night.  We had been planning to throw a room party for a while, and the intention was to tell a few people, but not the entire con.  After all, it was a small room, and we didn’t reserve a suite or a room on the party floor.  Well, the word got out.  We knew this when a gentleman showed up first to the party whom no one knew.  “Where did you hear of this party?” we asked him.  He named another person no one in the room had told.  That’s when we knew things might get…crowded.

The lovely Kristin Janz bartended, making specialty cocktails such as Aviations and Margaritas.  The room quickly got hot and loud and sometimes raucous, but I punctuated the noise with readings from the new issue of Sybil’s Garage No. 7.  Kathryn E. Baker, Tom Croshill, E.C. Myers, and Amal El-Mohtar all got up on the bed and read at various points in the night.  And all were grand.  More than one person told me these readings were the best they’d heard at the con.  At one point even Peter Straub showed up to our party, but when I somewhat awkwardly re-introduced myself to him and praised his latest novel, he told me he was going to “mingle on” and left the party.  Oh, well.

I popped in to a party Mike Allen threw upstairs, and there was treated to a fabulous performance of theatrical poetry (I unfortunately don’t recall the name of the woman he read with, but she [edit, thanks Amal!] Claire Cooney was great too.)  It is so wonderful to be surrounded by creative people.  At times like these, there are no other places I’d rather be.

At around 4:30 a.m. the last stragglers left the party.  But I could not sleep, and so wandered down into the lobby to hang with Liz Gorinsky and Benjamin Rosenbaum.  At one point the hotel called security on her because Ben had stacked pillow cushions upon her.  I kid you not.

The sun was coming up.  I had another day and another panel to attend.  And so at some point I wandered off to bed.  I think it was 6 a.m.

Three hours later, miraculously, I was up.  The shower, which the night before was full of beer, had one remaining.  Not bad, I thought.  I made it in time to see the metaphysical hard SF panel, which was highly entertaining if not a bit over my head a times.  Mr. Ben Rosenbaum, you are super smart, but can you slow down sometimes to let us non PhDs grasp an inkling of what you are saying?  I’m tongue in cheek of course.  I thought Ben and the other panelists were fabulous.  I can sometimes forget how many smart people come to ReaderCon.  It’s staggering.

I hosted a Sybil’s Garage kaffeeklatsch, of which the lovely JoSelle Vanderhooft attended, and we spoke in depth about where to take Sybil’s Garage and Senses Five Press.  Mercurio D. Rivera and Devin Poore, editors of Sybil’s Garage, sat in on the conversation.

There was also more mingling.  And carnivorous plants.  Oh, and I sold nineteen copies of Sybil’s Garage No. 7.  A good omen, or I should say is a sibylline signal of future sales.

Some other highlights, not necessarily in any order:

  • Talking with Sean Wallace of Prime Books about anthologies
  • Finding out I share a TOC with Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and Peter Beagle (The People of the Book, Prime Books, Dec 2010)
  • Finding out Gordon Van Gelder and I are distant cousins
  • Seeing Kelly Link for literally ten seconds
  • Swimming in the pool in the rain
  • Going out for Korean BBQ and finding out all of the NY people were already dining there
  • Hanging out with Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi of Chi Zine Press
  • Talking e-books with Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine
  • Seeing Blake Charlton transformed into The Last Cakebender (see photos)
  • Jeremy Lassen suggesting dirigibles are the new vampires

The surreality of the opening hours evaporated away by the end of the weekend.  The conference had most definitely become real.  The wave function collapsed.  Now I’m left with the typical post-con blues, missing the conversations and the stimulation.  But I’m also rejuvenated by the weekend, brimming with creative energy, and I’m looking forward to starting several new projects soon.

Thanks to all who attended for a great weekend.  And thanks to the organizers for putting this convention together.  You can see some of my photos here.

Some (Good) Things

I spent a fun Fourth of July weekend relaxing after a somewhat harrowing experience getting Sybil’s Garage ready for Readercon*.  On Monday, I spent the evening at Devin J. Poore’s house where we watched the fireworks from his rooftop deck.  Got to catch up with some old friends there too, which was nice.  Here’s what the fireworks over the Hudson looked like:

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Jones Beach with my cousin.  We arrived at 3pm, and the temperature was still well in the 90s.  We stayed until the sun set.  It was quite beautiful. I took a photo.  Then I stopped by my folks’ house for a bit, and they promptly fed us.  Then my dad showed us his giant tomato garden (organic varieties, them all.)

So after a day in the sun and a few nights of little sleep I was somewhat cranky today.  And then Mercurio D. Rivera delighted me with news that my story “Saving Diego” has received an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection. My story originally appeared in Interzone #221.

Mercurio was also name-checked in the opening comments, specifically about his whimsical SF story “Dear Annabehls.”  Alaya Dawn Johnson also received an honorable mention for her story “The Yeast of Eire.”  Congrats to fellow Altered Fluidians for the mentions.

* I’ve had nightmares about the production of Sybil’s Garage.  In the latest, I received the proofs, and they were horribly wrong.  The cover was pitch dark and the images were duplicated all across the pages kaleidoscopically.  While I was looking at the mistakes, a bottle of Listerine on the stove caught fire, and I inhaled toxic fumes, which made me cough up blood.  “Never mind!” my dream self said, “There’s no time for doctors.  I’ll just open the windows, get some air, and then get back to working on Sybil’s.  I only have three days to go!”  Or some such.  Can you tell I’m stressed?  😉

Altered Fluid reads at NYRSF Reading Series, June 1st

Altered Fluid members N.K. Jemisin, Eugene Myers, and Devin Poore will be reading at the NYRSF reading series this coming Tuesday, June 1st, held at the SOHO Gallery for Digital Art at 6:30pm. Full information, directions, and bios are available at here.

New York Review of Science Fiction Readings presents

An Evening with Altered Fluid’s N. K. Jemisin, E.C. Myers & Devin Poore

Tuesday, June 1st — Doors open 6:30 PM
SoHo Gallery for Digital Art
138 Sullivan Street (directions and links below)
$5 suggested donation

Our original hope and intent was to hold some kind of Gala for the finale of our 20th Anniversary Season, but those plans will have to be postponed. Instead, we’re going to plan a Gala for early next season. But I’m sure you won’t be let down by the fabulous line-up we have in store for you this Tuesday, June 1st.

In the past we have featured members of such writers groups as Tabula Rasa. This time, coming in to cap our season are three members of Altered Fluid.

Altered Fluid is a speculative fiction writers’ group based in Manhattan. Its members have been meeting since 2001 to workshop their short stories and novels of science fiction, horror, fantasy and slipstream. Its ranks include some of the rising stars in the genre and Fluidians have been nominated for this year’s Nebula Award, Hugo Award and Campbell Award, respectively.

N. K. Jemisin is a Brooklyn writer of short stories and novels. Her first novel, THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, is out now from Orbit Books, and she is hard at work on the third novel of this trilogy. Her short stories have been published in Postscripts, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Baen’s Universe, Escape Pod and Podcastle. One of those short stories, “Non-Zero Probabilities,” has been nominated for this year’s Hugo and Nebula awards, as well as the StorySouth Million Writers Top Ten. Her Web site is at http://nkjemisin.com

E.C. Myers: Since attending Clarion West and joining Altered Fluid in 2005, E.C. Myers has sold short stories to various magazines and anthologies, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Blood Sisters: Lesbian Vampire Tales, Loving the Undead, and Shimmer Magazine. He’s currently finishing his fourth young adult novel, blogs about Star Trek for Tor.com, edits the Clarion West alumni newsletter, co-moderates the GothamLit listserv for speculative fiction events in New York, and wastes time on the Internet when he should be writing or sleeping. He also has a day job as a digital media manager, but the less said about that the better. His Web site is at http://ecmyers.com.

Devin Poore left the wilds of Indiana at the age of 18 for Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club, otherwise known as the U.S. Navy. After six years of working on and utilizing shipboard anti-aircraft missile systems, he left the Navy and, following several twists and turns, settled in the New York City area. Devin’s non-fiction and fiction has appeared in Sybil’s Garage, where he is now an associate editor. When he isn’t writing short stories and novels that deal with everything from vampires to magic to the Civil War, he makes his living as a computer consultant, and builds highly detailed models of ships most people have never heard of. He currently resides in Hoboken, NJ, with his wonderfully talented fiancée, dancer and choreographer Kristen Mangione.

Other members of Altered Fluid include:
* Saladin Ahmed
* Paul M. Berger
* K. Tempest Bradford
* Kristine Dikeman
* Alaya Dawn Johnson
* Rajan Khanna
* Matthew Kressel
* Mercurio D. Rivera
* Greer Woodward (satellite member)

The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series is celebrating its 20th season of providing performances from some of the best writers in science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, etc. The series usually takes place the first Tuesday of every month, but maintains flexibility in time and place, so be sure to stay in touch through the mailing list and the Web.

Admission is by a $5 donation. If circumstances make this a hardship, let us know and we will accommodate you.

Jim Freund is Producer and Executive Curator of The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings. He has been involved in producing radio programs of and about literary sf/f since 1967. His long-running live radio program, “Hour of the Wolf,” broadcasts and streams every Saturday morning from 5:00 to 7:00. Past shows are available “‘on-demand” for about 6 months after broadcast. (Check http://hourwolf.com for details.)

The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art (http://sohodigart.com) is dedicated to re-establishing SoHo as an international center for the development of new artistic forms, concepts and ideas. A screens-instead-of-canvases approach allows a wide selection of art from around the world which would otherwise never make it to the City. The SGDA is availible for private gatherings and events of all kinds. For bookings call (800) 420-5590 or visit http://sohogallerynyc.com

WHEN:
Tuesday, 6/1
Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7

WHERE:
The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art
138 Sullivan Street (between Houston & Prince St.)
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=138+Sullivan+St.+New+York+NY+10012

HOW:

By Subway
6, C, E to Spring St.; A, B D or F to West 4th; 1 train to Houston St; or R, W to Prince St.
There are many convenient bus lines that come within a couple of blocks of the gallery. Use the link above for an interactive transit map.

LINKS:
http://hourwolf.com/nyrsf
http://nyrsf.com

Interzone 2009 Readers’ Poll, Part Deux

Interzone 228I just received my new issue of Interzone, and inside are the results of the 2009 Readers’ Poll.  My story, as I’ve mentioned earlier, was voted the 5th most popular story.  And I was happy to read this comment from Bob Lawson about my story “Saving Diego” :

“Throughout the period of [issues] 220-225 there has been much to enjoy.  My top three stories are, as they say, in no particular order, ‘Bone Island’ (225), ‘Saving Diego’ (221), and ‘Lady of the White-Spired City’ (222), with ‘Microcosmos’ (222) demanding to know why it’s not been included.  The most memorable issue was the outstanding 221.”

That was very nice to hear, especially since #221 also contained stories by Paul Berger and Alaya Dawn Johnson, my Altered Fluid mates (and ranked #6 and #10 respectively in the poll).

2009 Interzone Readers’ Poll

The 2009 Interzone Readers’ Poll has been announced, and I’m very happy to announce that my story “Saving Deigo” was voted #5.  Paul Berger’s “Home Again” tied for sixth place, and Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Far and Deep” tied for tenth.  Jason Sanford came in with the win for his excellent story “Sublimation Angels.”  Interzone is one of the best-looking and has some of the best content of any genre magazine publishing today, and I’m super proud to be on that list with several of my fellow Altered Fluidians.

Speaking of Fluidians, last night we attended Alaya’s book release party for her forthcoming novel Moonshine.  We decked ourselves out in 20s attire and danced to live jazz.  We even saw a dance performance by the banana-belted and talented Kristen Mangione.  I expect today to see lots of pictures from the night.