So, this post is horribly late, mostly because I slept through three alarms, and then had to make it to place with access. I shall post then go back home to pack/clean/other fun stuff.
It’s been a very tiring process, I’m dying to sit down and write, but every time I sit down I fall asleep.
Anyway – for those hoping to see me at Cosine, I won’t be there. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – I did. It got me out of lifting heavy things, even if I might go to sleep on some panels – but we must get this house ready for sale before I go have surgery on the 16th, and we’re dealing with 12 years of not very rational accumulation.
(Is accumulation ever rational? Yes. Most of our book collection, for ex. Is rational. The problem is when we moved to this house Dan was suffering from untreated apnea, and I couldn’t sleep because of the noise (I can’t use earplugs. I have very short ear canals. I also can’t sleep without him in bed. You see my dilemma?) so we packed in a zombified state. (It could be argued we bought the house in a zombified state, since it was clear from the first it didn’t fit what we need to do in it. Like having an area for my office that worked.) So we moved a LOT of er… carp. A lot of it. After we moved I got tired of opening boxes and staring at contents that made no sense, not only in association but in having been brought over at all. I finally either gave up and stored the boxes, or the stuff got unpacked and randomly distributed (which is worse.) On top of that, the fact the house never fit us means that there are bizarre things in places that LOGICALLY they have no business in, like manuscripts in my embroidery area, or craft books in my research shelves. There’s also the fact the last 12 years have been very busy and full of change. When we moved here the boys were pre-teens. Their interests have changed immensely. Ours too, if not as fast. There are things picked up to try a hobby I never had time to try out; there’s stuff picked up for the kids that should have been discarded years ago, but we were busy so it ended up in basement or attic. It’s a mess.)
We’ve made arrangements not to be here when we work. (I’m not being coy. All will be explained eventually. There are reasons not to be too explicit. Trust me.) This is so the house can be shown without interrupting my work/kids studying, etc. This is where I’m remoting from. Meanwhile there is stuff (work related) to be moved there. Stuff to be stored. House to be cleaned, painted, polished.
Don’t ask if I’m overdoing it. If I don’t overdo it, it won’t get done. I intend to sleep for two weeks after surgery.)
So, I hoped to make it to at least two or three panels, but Dan says no, because he can’t take me over and besides we need the car. (Hey we all wanted to start an exercise program, right?)
Back to cons – I hoped to go, but the truth is the panels I was in were rather a puzzle.
Look, I’m not going to diss con organizers. They do hard work, unpaid. I organized a con (not sf/f) once and it can drive you nuts.
The problem is this: because of my issues with moving/staging and health and writing, I am the worst of guests. I never answer the “do you have ideas?” and “what panels would you like to be on?”
I used to, I did, before life got so crazy. And I grant you that trying to dig out of the last two years of nothing makes my life particularly crazy, but at this point con organizers should assume that if you are a working/professional writer you’re not going to have time, on a random Tuesday, to go peruse their list of panels and tell them what you want on. We’re most of us, at this point, dual writers, with writing only a part of our duties and all of them time consuming. At any rate, if it’s a largish con, you won’t have any idea if your editor will want to take you out and when.
I understand but despise the tendency of con panel organizers to favor those authors who are Johnny on the spot with answers to “What panels do you want to be on” and “which panels would you like to see?”
This is probably because I end up most of the time, in the panel on coffee on alternate worlds, straight across from the masquerade, but there is a point to it, nonetheless. As in, if you favor the authors who answer fast, you’re going to favor a lot of the newbies and never has beens, because those are the only people who have the time to answer.
OTOH even as it annoys me, I realize there is no reason for con organizers even locally to have my bio by heart (none of the local huns organize cons) and to realize how ridiculous it is NOT to put me on the panel on invented languages. If you’ve never heard me (i.e. if you’re new) you will have no idea Sarah Hoyt isn’t white bread middle class American with perhaps an English degree. You certainly won’t know all my early training was in linguistics.
The problem though is that the result are poorly staffed panels that end up giving a poor experience to the watcher. One of the worst blunders is putting an old pro in with six rank newbies. Either the pro takes over of the newbies decide to prove their better and shut the pro down. Both are a bad show. Then there’s putting someone who broke in 15 years ago in the “how to break in panel.” (No, not this con. This con’s choices were … odd, not bad, precisely. And no, that’s not why I’m not attending.) The industry changes so fast it’s not actually any use for the person to be there. Or say the fact that for ten years after my Shakespeare books were out of print I was ONLY put in the Shakespeare panel. (It’s not that I don’t like Shakespeare. It’s that when I was writing mostly urban fantasy and mystery, this was bloody useless to me.)
My ‘favorite’ panel, however, (and a panel on panel disasters should be a perennial at every con, because it’s ever new) was when I went to my second (?) mile hi as a pro and asked to be put on the dragon panel. I was after all writing Draw One In The Dark and I have a “thing” for dragons anyway.
So… the panel starts, and I keep trying to pull it to fiction, because the other people want to talk about “real dragon sightings” and the cover up on the existence of dragons, and I was supposed to moderate. Ten minutes in, I realize to my horror not only do these people believe dragons are real but SO DO THE AUDIENCE. I shut up. Went to my mental happy place. Had a little nap.
This was an example of doing everything right (I’d picked that panel, so had the other people) and it all going South.
I’ve been giving all this some thought while carrying boxes, so pardon me if the following is irrational or at least has sore arm muscles… I mean… well…
First, what are cons for? For the organizers, a successful con attracts a lot of fans who have great fun and get to interact with their favorite writers. Therefore writers are a necessary evil, and you certainly don’t have time to carefully read and parse their biographies, much less look up their oeuvre.
For writers, cons are for publicity. No. That’s about it. It used to be about interacting with fans, but now we have the internet. Which also helps with publicity. Getting face to face with favored fans is fun, but not essential.
Now if the balancing act of “fun con” and “publicity” is right then it’s worth for the author to burn writing time to go, and it’s worth for the con to have the writer there.
But this should be done with minimal effort.
Lunacon when I attended had a guest questionnaire. (Okay, they also wanted you to choose panels, but it was okay, as they had a checklist on line and didn’t require me to deal with PDF which my machine is apparently allergic to.)
It occurs to me that a well-designed guest questionnaire could save both sides grief and – to boot—make it a more fun con.
Thus a guest questionnaire would go something like this:
What are you? (Author/artist/fan.)
How long have you been (whatever.)
(That part is important, because even if the stupid writer asks to be on the dragon panel, if all the other panelists are cryptozoologists, this probably won’t end well. At least you can go back and say “the situation is this. Are you sure?”)
Then an area for writers:
What is your education background, if any?
What do you write, mostly?
What work would you particularly like to promote? What genre/subgenre/setting?
What are your hobbies?
Best friends in field-
People you’d rather not be on a panel with? You don’t have to tell us why and we won’t tell.
Topics you’ll cut us if we put you on?
Do you wish to be on funny panels or not?
Do you have any panel suggestions?
What panels are you sick and tired of being on?
Those questions will allow you to distribute panelists the best you can. Again, this con was not that bad, and it’s a good thing the topics were a little off, since I’d have to not go anyway, but to me (because I know me. They don’t) it was bizarre that I was put on a “reading classics” panel (my classics are different from everyone else) but not on the invented language panels before it. It was even odder that neither Dan nor I were on the epublishing panel, but Dan was on a panel on female main characters (not that he has anything against them. He often writes them, even. Just not in novels.) A questionnaire like the one above would make things easier. Con organizers, just remember, all writers are lazy and flakey, so make the questionnaire interactive online. If we have to open things and save things on our computers it will all go paws up.
Okay, and now it’s back to the salt boxing, cleaning, fixing mines. YAY. Not.
Ya’ll be good and continue NOT painting the blog purple. Your restraint is appreciated.