Continuum X – Natcon 2014 – Melbourne – #Con10

The weirdest thing is, I want to write this blog. I usually find blogging hard, but after a weekend of hanging out with our speculative fiction community, there are things I want to say. With headings.

 

Thank you to the Committee

Wow, you folks! What a great convention. Thank you for all the time you put in to making it happen. It was awesome! The panel sessions were so interesting. Great work.

 

The Community

It’s not news to me, but I’m freshly in awe of the dedication, generosity, creativity, skilfulness, knowledge and humility of the group who has built and continues to build speculative fiction in Australia. I mean writers, editors, publishers, agents, fans, writers’ organisations, people who create, manage and judge awards, the organisers of conventions… and everyone else who supports our genre. I really appreciate their dedication.

 

My Book Haul

My haul. I missed including my postcard book of Italian masterpieces.
My haul. I missed including my postcard book of Italian masterpieces.

 

I love books! Some are for the chidlets, some are for me. Some are for me but I can pass them off as being for the chidlets. Not all of these are from the convention, some are from the art gallery, too…

Way to go, Australian independent press and bookshops, for giving Australian writers an avenue for publication. Say you’re reading this and the idea of small press is new to you, I really encourage you to check out some of these books, most of which are published by small press. Just Google the authors or editors and titles and you’ll find links.

 

Galatic Chat’s Ditmar Award for Best Fan Production

Narelle Harris and George Ivanoff were awesome hosts for the Ditmar and Chronos awards! They were hilarious. It was wonderful to see writers and artists rewarded for their work.

When Galactic Chat won its section, I was in shock. Am still in shock. I feel really lucky to work with Sean Wright, David McDonald, Alex Pierce, Mark Webb and Sarah Lee Parker. And while interviews can make me nervous, I love doing them. It seems bizarre to share an award for doing something so much fun. But thank you to those who nominated us and voted for us. Wow!

Wouldn't want to meet these two in a dark alley! They'd read you prose and poetry and quiz you about your writing...
Wouldn’t want to meet these two in a dark alley! They’d read you prose and poetry and quiz you about your writing. (Sean Wright.)

 

My Reading with Satima Flavell

Satima Flavell read from her new book The Dagger of Dresnia, published by Satalyte Publishing. The abstract she read was beautifully written and intriguing – I would describe it but I don’t want to ruin the passage, so I will only say it is about princesses and Elf kings. It was so enjoyable to listen to; I highly recommend it.

Satima Flavell read from the Dagger of Dresnia and I read from Blood on the Ice. We chatted. Very nice!
Satima Flavell read from the Dagger of Dresnia and I read from Blood on the Ice. We chatted. Very nice!

Satima’s work and my work are about as different as can be, and I think that was a wonderful contrast. I read from my story “Blood on the Ice” which is coming out in Subtropical Suspense, to be published by Black Beacon Books in July. This story is best described a YA lesbian romance thriller. The audience and Satima really seemed hooked, which was wonderful.

 

Panels I spoke on

I love talking on panels although it makes me nervous and I worry that I’ll have a brain-stall. However these three topics are all things I’m passionate about, and I loved contributing ideas and questions to them and hearing the other panellists speak.

 

Social Media

Our experiences and use of social media were quite different and seemed to be affected by many factors including our personality (how forthright or open we were comfortable in being) and how people had reacted to our past posts.

 

Photos in the action are a huge part of social media for me. That's Satima in the corner, and Nalini Haynes was on my other side.
Photos in the action are a huge part of social media for me. That’s Satima Flavell, Jim C. Hines and Alan Baxter, and Nalini Haynes was on my other side.

 

I like using social media creatively, trying out various apps like Vine and tweeting the results. I like it when it’s used to host conversations and strengthen relationships within the writing, publishing and reading community — to close geographical distances. We took a panel selfie and an audience shot and tweeted them.

 

I asked permission to take and tweet this photo at the social media panel.
I asked permission to take and tweet this photo at the social media panel. Most of my friends are happy to have photos taken and shared, but I try to remind myself not everyone feels that way. Hello audience!

 

We seemed to agree that if we tweeted or blogged something that was offensive, and someone called us on it and explained why we were wrong, we would apologise and amend what we’d said. We also felt it was important to engage respectfully on differences, but if someone trolled us we would block them.

 

Gender Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction

This was the third of the Triptych panels (which looked at gender and sexual identity in speculative fiction). The first two discussed the Moving Beyond the Gender Binary and Othered Sexuality (pic below). This panel was about stereotypes — why they exist and what we can do as consumers and writers.

My general thoughts are that we need to seek out (and create) stories with more diverse characters (of various sizes and abilities and ages and life stages and genders and sexualities) doing a range of things and celebrating a range of traits. Stephanie Lai compiled reading lists to go on the Continuum Website so check them out.

Lots of research is needed to write beyond what you know, and I’m keen to try it. I don’t think it’s enough for me to write strong female characters — what about trans characters and fat characters and asexual characters. People seem to want more a more diverse representation, even if big publishers or producers resist these risks. To do difference well, you need to do a lot of research, and talk to people who identify similarly to the characters you are trying to write. However, when a culture tells us not to appropriate their people and stories, I believe we need to respect that.

 

Discussing sexuality in speculative fiction, including assumptions and not making them
Discussing Othered Sexuality in speculative fiction, including assumptions and not making them. This was the second Triptych panel with Stephanie Lai, Lauren Mitchell, Mary Borsellino, Stacey Larner and Amanda Pillar.

 

Horror Gothic and Wild Wild Weird

This was a great panel which I was lucky enough to moderate. David Witteveen, Jane Routely, Lucy Sussex, Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung discussed various aspects of these genres, sharing their passion and extensive knowledge, and the complications of writing dark fiction, such as when people like a character you’ve created but you hate. They also talked about developing their own style through reading authors they loved, and researching topics which triggered them to write a certain story a certain way. The sensory richness of gothic writing was also discussed.

 

Panels and Speeches I loved listening to

So many! Live slushpile was fantastic, as the editors talked about what was important in a story. Sue Brystinzski, Cat Sparks, Dirk Flinthart, Amanda Pillar and Jack Dann discussed deciding factors on whether a story is in or out, and Cat read a wonderful first paragraph by Clair McKenna.

Ambelin Kwaymullina’s guest of honour speech was impressive. Her message was one I have heard before – do not appropriate indigenous material and people for your stories, because if you don’t originate within that culture your perception of it is probably wrong. It is worse to steal and/or misrepresent than omit.

I want to engage respectfully with Indigenous Australian culture and if that is as a reader or listener, then fine.

Ambelin spoke of the importance of process to indigenous cultures and how they fostered diverse life in the land. I would love to learn more from her, so I’ve asked her for a Galactic Chat Interview.

 

Ambelin and Jim.
Guests of Honour Ambelin Kwaymullina  and Jim C. Hines.

 

Interactive storytelling panel.
Jodi Cleghorn on the Interactive Storytelling panel.
There are many different types of interactive stories, from games to multiple path stories, to collections where the authors respond to each other to create a woven body of work.
There are many different types of interactive stories, from games to multiple path stories, to collections where the authors respond to each other to create a woven body of work.

  

Interactive storytelling panel.
Interactive storytelling panel. George Ivanoff is so funny. And that book he is holding sounds very interesting.

Overall

Overall, it was the best convention so far, for me. I achieved the right balance between seriousness and silliness. Heaps of both! It was lovely to see so many Queensland friends there including my roommates Jodi Cleghorn and Stacey Larner.

There are lots of people I missed having a good talk with! Sad. But it was great to see people again and get to know them better, and to make new friends, and buy new books.

 

A lovely way to start the day, with Kathleen Jennings and a coffee cocktail!
A lovely way to start the day, with Kathleen Jennings and a coffee cocktail! (Sorry you are so shadowy, Kathleen. In fact, blanket apology to everyone for my dodgy photos :))

 

My roommates: the Furies.
My roommates: the Furies.
At the bar. I spent a lot of time at the bar. The Wine glasses were enormous.
Ben Payne and Stacey Larner at the bar. The wines were enormous and the coffees way too small.
Stacey Larner and Jodi Cleghorn
Stacey Larner and Jodi Cleghorn. Pretty things!
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