My favorite FenCon panel

“Researching the Science in Science Fiction” was probably my favorite panel at FenCon this year. The panel was moderated by William Ledbetter and included Science GoH Marianne Dyson, fellow authors Kristi Hudson (not pictured) and Patrice Sarath (not pictured). Photo credit: C. Stuart Hardwick.

While all the panels were great, I really enjoy discussing the craft of writing. For a sci-fi writer, that often means research. Sometimes it means going down the research rabbit-hole and getting lost. We discussed our own experiences, i.e. how we approach it, as well as the best methods.

Doing research may sound easy. Google is your friend, right? Problem is that everything correct is on the internet; along with everything that is incorrect. The search for facts can be as muddied as the search for truth.

As a writer one must know when to stop. Research is a great way to procrastinate and still pretend that you’re “writing.” Research can also be the death-knell for your premise, your idea, and your story. So how do you handle the story-slayer? Do you write around it? Do you pull out your handwavium and unobtainium? Do you just ignore it? (Think about the sounds that spaceships in Star Wars make in the vacuum of space where sound cannot travel).

Lots of factors come into play, depending on what kind of story you’re writing. There is more rigor in a hard SF story than a soft SF one. Consistency becomes a challenge, as well as knowing how much of your research to include. After all, you did all that work. Hours and hours. Weeks and months and years. The longer you spent toiling away in the research salt-mines, the more you want to include. But that’s not necessarily the best thing for your story.

Only about 10% of what I learn via research makes its way into my stories, even the hard SF ones. It has to be absolutely vital to the story, but more importantly, it has to be something that the viewpoint character knows. I think that including things the viewpoint character cannot possibly know is one of the worst mistakes I see consistently across all genres, not just sci-fi.

Number two would be the dreaded, tension-less, “As you know, Bob” exposition via dialogue. Number three is straight up exposition, usually via author voice. We hashed out some of the best strategies for avoiding not just research pitfalls, but best practices when it comes to incorporating that research into our stories.

I’m hoping FenCon will continue to offer this panel at upcoming conventions, and if you’re an aspiring writer, I hope you’ll attend. I certainly learned a lot from my fellow panelists.

FenCon XV Schedule

I can’t believe it’s just a few days away, but FenCon XV starts this Friday.

I will be reading from “Bellona’s Gift,” (Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation, edited by Tom Kratman, August 2019). It’s a half hour slot and the opening scene is about half that, so I will also be talking about what it’s like to get to play in someone else’s universe and the origins of this story. The reading starts at 4:30pm in the Pecan Room. Hope to see you there.

The rest of my schedule is:

Before Their Time: Technologies that didn’t make it (yet)
Saturday  1:00 PM  Irving Lecture Hall  
Researching the Science in Science Fiction
Sunday  10:00 AM  Irving Lecture Hall  
Outlander Season 3 – Voyages in Time and Space
Sunday  11:00 AM  Trinity VI  
2050 & Beyond: Four Futures
Sunday  2:00 PM  Irving Lecture Hall

I’m also looking forward to meeting Larry Niven, the guest of honor and getting him to sign Fallen Angels. I remember reading Fallen Angels shortly after it came out. I was working on my physics degree. I was also taking astrophysics at the time (it was my minor). His book had such a profound influence on me (even though at the time I was not part of what one would call “fandom”) that it has stayed with me to this day. Time has proven his mockery of radical environmentalism. It has proven the ignorance of journalists. I can’t wait to meet him. [Note to self: Don’t fangirl. Don’t fangirl. Don’t fangirl.]

FenCon XV

Well, it’s official. I’m very excited to announce that I will be attending FenCon XV. Schedule forthcoming, and many thanks to William Ledbetter, the science track director, for the invitation. I’m also working on getting a new publication out in early September just in time for this event.

What is FenCon? Who’ll be there? Why should I go?

Answers below. Hope to see you there!

It’s Alive!


Join us September 21-23, 2018 at the Westin DFW Airpport. See the hotel link for reservations and directions.

2018 marks 200 years since the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. Join us as we celebrate 200 years of classic and modern SF! Of course, we’ll have panel programming, concerts, hands-on workshops, and more! All the good stuff that makes FenCon theTexas destination convention!

Oh, and did we mention SCIENCE? You can’t put the “S” in “SF” without it! Oh you could try, but would it be as much fun as FenCon?

Advance memberships are on sale now!

FenCon XV Guests of Honor


 

Guest of Honor: Larry Niven
Music Guest of Honor: Marian Call
Fen Guests of Honor: Aislinn Burrows and Carmen Bryan
Artist Guest of Honor: Travis Lewis
Science Guest of Honor: Marianne Dyson
Special Workshop Guest: Martha Wells
Toastmaster: Timothy Griffin

 

A great essay by Kacey Ezell on writing and success

So I read Cedar Sanderson’s lovely piece entitled “To Thine Own Self Be True”, and I found that I agreed with much of what she had to say. I, too, have zero tolerance for those who would sexually abuse others, particularly children. Actions like that are intolerable, and have no place in society, any society.

Furthermore, I join her in rejecting the idea that you have to be part of some clique or club in order to be successful in science fiction and/or fantasy.  I think success is largely a matter for self-definition.  Success for one author may mean winning a Hugo.  For another it may mean buying a mountain.  For a third, it may mean finally publishing the story they’ve had rattling around in their head for twenty years.  Success is personal, and it’s honestly none of my business.  But I do know that unless you decide that being feted at WorldCon or any other con is your definition of success… it’s not.

That all being said, I did disagree with two of her major points.  Attending a con may not be necessary to your success, but if your definition of success includes networking with others in the industry and perhaps signing with a publisher, then attendance at cons can certainly be very helpful.

Read the rest here.