Friday, March 29, 2013

Millennicon 27: Adventures of a Horror Dork in Sci-Fi land

No Sci-Fi convention is complete without a Tardis
As I write this, Horrorhound Cincinnati is going on about 5 miles from me. While some greats are there, like Sergio Stivaletti, Tom Di Zarn and Charles Band, I am not. Why, you ask, would a dork of horror such as yourself miss such an illustrious gathering? Simply put, I spent all my money at Millenicon and I couldn’t be happier.

If you don’t already know, Millenicon is a Speculative Fiction convention run by the Miami Valley Fandom For Literacy(MVFL), a non profit dedicated to promoting the study of science through writing and reading. Even if you aren’t a dork, you have to admit that goal is awesome. Granted, the bulk of the focus in panels and activities are on Science fiction, but there is enough horror on tap to keep a bloodhound like me interested. Besides, it’s always good to expand your horizons.

Janet Harriet, Senior Editor for Apex Publications

As a broad statement, I always enjoy that fact that Millenicon draws enough people to be interesting, but doesn’t get so crowded as to be claustrophobic. It’s social and fun, but intimate enough to be comfortable. That intimacy is always the real draw for me, and what has spoiled me compared to other, larger Cons. I get incredibly excited about meeting the creators of the art that shapes my life and I get to actually meet them here. Mike Resnick and Tim Waggoner don’t charge $20 for an autograph and they’ll spend time chatting with me like an actual person. It feels like the gathering of a community instead of another machine designed to strip you of your cash. It feels like home. Also, I always appreciate that they have enough panels on tap to keep me busy, but not so much as to spread the audience too thin.

Matt Betts, Sally Ike, Sarah Hans and a guy whose name I don't remember educating me on the vagaries of Steampunk.

Speaking of panels, there were some doozies this year. Being a dork, I got really into the Art and Science of Editing (who doesn’t want to know how sausage is made, right?). Janet Harriet and Jason Sizemore (editor and owner of Apex Publishing, respectively), Sarah Hans (author and editor of Sidekicks!) and Tom Huber (author) discussed the different types of editorial jobs, what editors expect when receiving submitted work (hint: read their submission guidelines) and scams to look out for. There was also a highly interesting round table discussion about how to address the lack of diversity at Sci-Fi and fanish cons where some honest to goodness plans took root. I had a blast talking about the need for horror as a genre, defending gore and violence like a knight covered in spleen and other fleshy bits and arguing for being a nit-picking bastard of a reviewer as a panelist. However, the most bizarre and entertaining portion was a small gathering of absolutely filthy minded, mostly female, individuals talking about inserting all manner of limb and implement into a wide variety of orifices during the Slashfic Madlibs panel.

filthy, filthy minds on these ladies

But everybody knows the real fun comes at night, after the booths and panels have closed down and all us crazy people retreat to the rooms. I spent a while hanging out with members of a Sci-Fi society from Columbus, chatting about everything we could think of, except science fiction. They were good people. Then I traveled over to the Sidekicks! release party where Steven Saus (owner of Alliteration Ink) and Sarah Hans (editor of the anthology) hosted far too many people crammed into far too small of a room, talking way too loud and drinking too much beer and liquor. In other words: fun was had into the wee hours of the night. Also, I had the opportunity to introduce these ingrates to the wonders of Grippos BBQ chips in the big ass box.

Steven Saus and I arguing horror the next morning.

End quote: Millenicon is about the people and the community and the art we all love, not the dealer’s floor. Even if I did buy enough books to keep my ass busy for a good long while.

Favorite quotes of the weekend:

The Victorians were REALLY high.” –Sarah Hans

Aristotle was an idiot!” –Jay Thomas, Chemistry and Physics teacher

Amazon reviewers are twits and losers.”- David Drake

find out more here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I am a Passive, Ball-less Dick.

This weekend, I attended Millennicon and generally had a wonderful time. This is in no way unusual; as it is a great convention that general pulls in some marvelous and astoundingly interesting people. Even better, I was given the opportunity to take part in a couple of panels. As previously stated, there was much rejoicing.

However, that is not what I wish to discuss today (look to the forthcoming full Con report for that). Instead, I wish to take a moment to discuss something disconcerting that occurred that in no way reflects poorly upon the convention as a whole but does not say the best of things about two people: myself and David Drake.

One of the panels I was on (The Devil’s in the Details, discussing the importance of getting fine points correct in fiction) featured Mr. Drake, along with several other fine authors, editors and publishers. Eric Flint was positing that any futuristic, high technology science fiction story with a feudal society strikes him as implausible when Drake said the following: Saudi Arabians can steal a plane and fly it into the twin towers, but they could never build one. He then referred to them as camel drivers with oil and gold (please note that I have not used quotation marks because I did not record the conversation and may not have quoted him exactly. I welcome any corrections if you happened to have been there).

I was taken aback by this broad and blatantly racist (or, at the very least, Nationalist) statement. The audience and other panelists seemed a bit off-put as well, as evidenced by the absolute silence that dropped upon us all. However, none of us said anything. The “us” is important here, because I sure as hell didn’t speak up.

I’d like to say that I kept my silence out of deference to a senior author (he is MUCH more successful and has written many more books than I, after all). I’d like to say that I sealed my lips because he is a Vietnam vet and deserves some fucking respect for that. I’d like to say that I understand the generational gap that allows for grouping an entire country together under the umbrella of the acts of a few people, even if I don’t agree with it.

I would also be completely full of shit were I to say any of that.

The truth is that I was confused and confounded and uncomfortable and just sat there like a dumb fool for no good reason. I should have called bullshit. I should have asked just what the fuck it was that he was saying and why he would believe, let alone actually speak aloud, such a profoundly ignorant statement. Bill Burr makes a much better argument for why we should do this than I can.

If I said something, maybe other people would have said something and we would have been able to reinforce that there are some things you just don’t get to say in public.

Hell, maybe I heard him wrong (my ears do kind of suck). Maybe he was meaning something entirely different than what came out of his face (I have had enough of those moments myself). Maybe he had a remarkably well reasoned and edifying explanation that would have pointed me out as the reactionary unwashed hippie that I never knew I was.

If I said something, maybe that all would have been cleared up.

But I didn’t say anything. I sat there silent and squirming until someone else moved the discussion in a different direction and we all acted like nothing had occurred. Obviously, I can’t judge anyone else in the room. I’m not better than them and possibly worse. If nothing else, David had the guts to express his views where I did not.

Meanwhile, I‘ve found myself to be much more of a passive, ball-less dick than I wish to admit.