I am posting on two topics from my visit to Ottawa. This entry is about the Conference for Canadian Content in Speculative Fiction. If you are looking for the food, see the previous entry.
I said hi to a lot of old friends, and met some amazing new ones. I cannot say enough about how warm and helpful I find the people at Can*Con. This was my third visit. Each one has been a positive experience, and even though my needs have changed now that I’ve found a publisher for my novel, I’ve always come away with something great.
I couldn’t make it to any of the workshops this year. There was a limit to how many days off work I could manage, so I had to fly in on Friday and miss the midday stuff.
For the first time, I stayed at the host hotel.Conveniently, our room in the Novotel was on the third floor, just down the hallway from two of the con suites.
Registration was slick this year. My flight got me to the hotel hours before registration opened, but the volunteers already setting up the desk. When they formally opened, registration was fast and fun. This year, the organizers did something brilliant: they grafted a role-playing game onto the name tags. This wasn’t just cute, it served a Higher Purpose: guests gained experience points for meeting people, stopping in at the dealer room, attending panels, and going to readings.
Let’s just focus on that last one for a moment, for selfish reasons. Lots of famous authors can tell you they’ve done a reading with only one or two listeners. In a world saturated with entertainments, the humble reading can be a tough sell. Can*Con used a three-pronged strategy to increase attendance: game points, raffle tickets, and multiple readers. The raffle tickets were to win books at the Daw author reading, which was in prime time and featured some well-known authors. The multiple reader concept was also a great idea, because readings should not last an hour. Putting together three authors who share common ground is a good way to offer brevity and variety, both appealing traits.
Despite some opening-night delays in finding our room, the Young Adult oriented readings I did with Timothy Carter and Ada Hoffmann were well attended. I got to go first, and I’m pretty extroverted for an author; breaking the ice was easy and fun for me. My book isn’t out yet– Five Rivers have scheduled the release of Avians for next August– so I started with the back-cover blurb, then read the first scene. I took a couple of questions, and then offered to read half the next scene, up to the part that always makes me cry. If you think readings are dry, pedantic affairs, you might be in for a shock. Tim Carter offered laughs to follow my tears, reading from his book The Five Demons You Meet in Hell, about a bully that gets what he deserves. Ada Hoffmann finished us up with her short story “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library,” bringing a sense of wonder and a moving twist at the end. I think we made a great team, and the audience seemed to enjoy the mix. It was a personal plus for me that my editor, Robert Runté, was there, and I was gratified that people asked me questions in the hallway after the reading. “What kind of name is Rajeet Bjornsen?” someone wanted to know, so I got to explain that on Celadon, boys take their fathers surname and a given name chosen by their mothers, while girls do the opposite. It’s my world: I get to play fair!
Friday night was the Bundoran Press party. Some great readings from a few of the authors in their new anthology, Lazarus Risen, featuring stories that speculate about the potential to extend human lifespans, and also an intriguing snippet from Stars Like Cold Fire, a novel by Brent Nichols. Plus, you know, beer and book talk.