Wednesday, August 17, 2016

World Con 2016

Today was the first day of World (SF) Con 2016. The World con moves around from year to year. This year, it’s being held in Kansas City and is called MidAmeriCon 2. (Kansas City held its first World Con – MidAmeriCon – back in the ‘70s.)
The cheapest time to buy a membership is right after the vote that determines where the World con will be held TWO years from now. The votes happen at World con, so the members of this year’s convention get to decide what city will host the convention in 2 years. Of course, their choices are limited to those cities who have figured out how and where they would have the convention.
Worldcon 2017 will be in Helsinki. We didn’t buy memberships to that one, because we seldom follow the con outside the US. When the worldcon is held somewhere other than North America, there is a North AmeriCon held that year. That location for 2017 will be chosen at this worldcon. We might go to that, depending where it is. The choices are San Jose and New Orleans.
World cons last for 5 days. They used to be held over Labor Day weekend, but that made it difficult for parents to attend, because the school year was just beginning. So they have migrated to mid-August. North Americons are typically 4 days long.
Worldcons generally have a few thousand people. When they are held in large cities – like LA – they might have 8,000 attendees. So much larger than the 200 attendees at the first, held in New York in 1939.
Other conventions are larger; Dragoncon in Atlanta, Nebcon in Omaha are just 2. But worldcons are big enough to be daunting, especially to shy or introverted people. The dealer’s room is large, the art show amazing, the costume contest can be over the top. And the panels! LOTS of panels, on all sorts of subjects. As usual, I find 2-3 panels I want to attend, all at the same time, and probably at opposite ends of the convention center. It can be tough to choose which one I will actually go to.
Sooner or later, we run across friends at worldcon. Some are people we know from smaller conventions. Others we only run across at worldcon (or North AmeriCon). In either case, we take some time to chat and catch up.
If you’ve never been to a worldcon, a description really can’t do them justice. I suggest you save up your money - tickets can be $250 for 5 days at the door, and the surrounding hotels are high-end brands. If the WorldCon is close enough for you to drive, you could save some money finding a cheaper hotel further away. But you will have to pay to park somewhere near the convention each day. And don’t forget to have money on hand for food; WorldCons provide snacks (chips, veggies, crackers) and soda at certain times of the day, but not anything that could be considered ‘real food.’
Despite the expense, they can be fun and informative. However, they are not a comicon, an anime con, or a media con. They are a literary convention. They are aimed mostly at science fiction & fantasy readers. When we walked through the dealer’s room today, we saw 4-5 tables selling t-shirts, and at least twice that many selling books.

So if you don’t read, this probably isn’t the convention for you.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Not Exactly Writing

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know our house has been under renovation for two months. They were supposed to be done this past Sunday, Aug 7. I decided I’d better get busy with the outside work that we didn’t contract for them to do.
 Our lawn has lots of deep shade, so we have large swaths where nothing grows. Oh, an occasional weed might stick its head up, but not many. All summer, my husband and I argued whether we could get any grass to grow in these places. One of the workers recently suggested we cover these naked spots with mulch, which we thought was a great idea.
 So I measured these bare spots to figure out how much mulch we need, including in the front yard. Putting mulch in the one bare spot in front would provide a more ‘uniform’ look as a whole. As I measured, I couldn’t help but notice the terraces where bushes had once lived. “I’ve got to pull these weeds, too! They make the place look so… sloppy.” And that led my eyes to the house foundation, where the paint was cracked and peeling.
 So the chore of putting down mulch suddenly became the chore of ‘pulling weeds, scraping the foundation, painting the foundation, and putting down mulch.’ And in some areas, I also get to ‘find’ the sidewalk because dirt and grass have grown over the edges.
 I know a writer who puts out a newsletter every week. And it seems like almost every week, whatever chore she’s done could be compared to writing; whether she weeded her garden, fed the chickens, adopted a dog or played Guitar Hero with her son, it always bore a striking resemblance to writing.
 So as I’ve been doing this yardwork, I’ve wondered how it would compare to writing, if I were to adopt her perspective. And actually, I think it bears more resemblance to RE-writing. Once I have my rough draft, and I’m ready to make it ‘the best it can be’, I follow similar steps to this yard work. Let me explain:
 Weeding – Weeds make your garden or lawn look jumbled and keep your eyes from understanding what you are looking at. For me, draft 2 is when I go back and put in every explanation, every adjective and adverb and description I think a reader might need or want. Adding in all these things is different than pulling out weeds, but pulling weeds allows the reader’s eyes and mind to see what you intended for them to envision, and that’s what I’m trying to do with draft 2.
 Scraping the foundation – Scraping off loose paint lets you get down to a solid surface so that the final result is pleasing to the eye. In draft 3, I look at every word, phrase, sentence and paragraph with one thought in my mind; ‘Do I really need this? If yes, is there any way to shorten it without warping what I’m trying to say?’ Kind of like scraping off the paint that doesn’t want to adhere any more. I’m getting my story down to the basic core – the foundation.
 Painting & mulching – A coat of paint on a house’s foundation and some mulch can make the whole yard look prettier, cared for and cohesive. I call my 4th draft ‘making it pretty’. I check the grammar and punctuation, my use of pronouns, keep an eye out to make sure I haven’t overused some word or phrase.
 And finding the sidewalk? I prefer a clean, broad sidewalk, rather than one with dirt and grass covering half of it. In writing, this does not take yet another rewrite; it is incorporated into all my rewriting efforts. I try to find tired clich├ęs (dirt & grass) and replace them with what I hope are new phrases that will get the thought across to the reader (more sidewalk.)
 No, I won’t say the 9 very hot hours I spent last week doing this yardwork was the same as if I’d spent those 9 hours writing. I will say that if you use some imagination, you can find similarities between them. And, since most of this yardwork is fairly mindless, I did get some thinking done about the next scene I needed to write.