Prose & Cons: Can-Con 2017

Less than a week to go before Can-Con. I think this is my fourth visit to Ottawa. I’m looking forward to morning walks along the canal, seeing my Ottawa friends, and perhaps some fall colours.

I have a light schedule at Can-Con this year: I’m taking a workshop on Friday, doing a reading on Saturday, and joining a panel on Sunday. (See the convention’s full program here.) That’ll leave time for meals! We know some nice restaurants, and we’ve made some reservations already.

Friday: We fly in late Friday morning, so I couldn’t make the noon workshops. The second batch are at 2:30, and that includes Nailing Your Beginning with James Alan Gardner, which I’ve signed up for. I need this; I suck at beginnings. I’ve been more or less stalled on my WIP’s opening for months. As it’s a sequel, I thought it would be easy, but I’m finding it hard because this time around, no-one will be explaining stuff to the main character, which may leave readers struggling or confused. Maybe I should have her explain things to someone else…

After that, registration, opening ceremonies, perhaps a panel, and then dinner out with Caroline.

Saturday: Lots of cool panels and readings to attend, and I’m scheduled to do my own reading from Avians at noon. Guess I better rummage around and select a scene or two. Su J. Sokol and Ryan McFadden are the other readers in the room for that hour, so that should be a fun session. I’m likely to be too busy for a proper lunch date, so I’ll probably just grab something in the lobby bar and get back to the con. I’ll sacrifice some of the early evening sessions to make time for a nice dinner, though, and then I want to be back for a later panel and the Bundoran Press party.

Sunday: we have breakfast plans, and I’ll have an easy morning sipping coffee at the con, then in the afternoon, I’m sitting on the Leveling Up Your Writing with Formal Courses panel with Curtis C. Chen, Suzanne Church, Leah MacLean-Evans,  and Kelly Robson (moderator). I think that means I’ll be representing the more affordable end of the education spectrum compared to full six week Odyssey or Clarion resident courses or a university Master of Fine Arts program. I took an Odyssey online course one winter, and got a lot out of it.

We don’t fly home until Monday, so we’ll have all Sunday evening for a leisurely supper.

Prose & Cons: Can*Con 2016, Saturday

Saturday I had no scheduled commitments, so I was free to hit the dealer room, attend panels and chat in hallways. I started with Weird and Different Sensory Perceptions in Animals, moderated by Julie Czerneda. There were other panels I liked at the same time, but I chose the animal science one for the implications about aliens and their possible senses. Scientist/authors Agnes Cadieux, Madona Skaff, Max Turner and Nina Munteanu were all entertaining.

After that, I went to two fantasy reading sessions. Leah Bobet was paired up with K.V. Johansen. I wanted to meet Leah, because she was on the panel I was going to moderate on Sunday. Besides, her Inheritance of Ashes just won the YA Aurora, and I wanted to hear a little of it in the author’s voice. I found it very moving. After that, I stayed put for readings by Gabrielle Harbowy and Fanny Darling because I like them, and Lesley Donaldson, who I was curious about. Fun all around.

Then science again, a panel called The First Great Terraforming Project: Earth, moderated by Ed Willett, with panellists Alyx Dellamonica, Katrina Guy, Nina Munteanu and Alison Sinclair. I took a fine workshop with Nina last year, and I wanted to see Alyx because she won the English Novel Aurora for Daughter of No Nation, a book I very much enjoyed. The panel looked at how the Dust Bowl was a man-made disaster, and what we can learn about undoing that kind of damage. We can change things if we try.

Next up was the Daw author reading, the one with the raffle. Tanya Huff, Violette Malan, Julie Czernada and Ed Willett all share not only a publisher, but also an agent. Laugh-out-loud stories about their interactions with her. Also, swag! I won the last book package, a set of books in the Confederation Series by Tanya Huff, the Author Guest of Honour. It was a generous set: three hardcovers and a trade paperback. Good thing I brought a big half-empty suitcase.

Took a lunch break even though I had highlighted three panels in the next time slot. Sacrifices must be made. Also, I needed to take that heavy stack of books back to my room.

After lunch, back for some more readings. The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide 2017 is the third in a series from Dreaming Robot, a press I approve of because a) they have good science fiction for young readers and b) they publish some of my friends. They were next on my list of places to query when I was offered a contract by Five Rivers. Angeline Woon went first, with a story from the 2016 book. I was fascinated, and thrilled to discover when I got home that my Kickstarter contribution gets me all three books in the series. Brandon Crilly is a long-time friend from Can*Con. We’ve shared anxious minutes as we waited to pitch the same publishers, and wished each other luck. He has a story coming in the 2017 Adventure Guide. Eric Choi, the convention’s Science Guest of Honour is in it too. He’s an aerospace engineer, and his story is about helicopter medevacs on Mars. I am eager to read the entire story because of my love of Alternative Aviation generally, and Sky-Fi in particular.

Squeezed in a quick RPG battle with Brandon, which I won by the skin of my teeth, then I stayed in the room as it turned over for Eric’s kaffeeklatsch. Science! We heard about his day job working with satellites, and I got to ask a question or two about Martian helicopter design, and we exchanged business cards because of our shared love of strange flying machines.

I started the evening with another Coffee Chat: How to Make an Anthology. Unfortunately, Gabrielle Harbowy wasn’t feeling well, and had to skip the session. Lucas Law filled in, joining Julie Czernada and Eric Choi. Lucas was a co-editor, with Susan Forest, of Strangers Among Us, which is generating very positive talk. Disclosure: I know several of the authors. I had no idea how anthologies were designed, so this session was pretty cool. The editors have a plan, and you should read an anthology from start to finish, in order.

Next I went to a panel on Authors Selling Books at Conventions moderated by Robin Riopelle. Jay Odjick colourfully illustrated the concept that the author is the brand, while the books are just the merchandise. Benoit Chartier had tips on how to evaluate different cons, and Pat Flewwelling talked about how the Myth Hawkers travelling bookstore offers a solution for indie authors and small presses that cannot miss everything else to staff a book table for three days.

Ended the day at the Can*Con party and talked about flying with fellow pilot Roger Czerneda. His father set the record for the longest non-stop flight in a plane with four piston engines: Hawaii to North Bay in an Argosy. The record will likely stand, because they don’t make planes like that any more. My uncle Leonard flew a Supermarine Walrus in the years leading up to World War Two. They don’t make planes like that any more, either.


My Can*Con 2016 Schedule

The final schedule for this year’s speculative fiction convention in Ottawa is out, and there are no last-minute changes that affect me.

I’m doing a reading at 8:00 Friday evening with two other authors: Tim Carter, who writes what he calls Far Fetched Fiction for young adults and Ada Hoffman, who will be reading her flash fiction, “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library”. Then I plan to spend some time at the Bundoran Press party.

Saturday I have no particular commitments, so I’ll be floating around, taking in some of the sciencier panels and a few readings. The Chi-Zine party is Saturday night.

Sunday’s schedule is short but tight. At 11:00 I have a Blue Pencil session with Ed Willett, and one with Susan Forest, then I have to dash downstairs, because…

At noon, I’m moderating a panel called Amazing Books in the Different Sub-Genres of SF. The panellists are Leah Bobet, who just won the Best Young Adult Novel Aurora for An Inheritance of Ashes; Lisa Toohey, who self-publishes and has a short story in Brave New Girls*; Jonathan Crowe, whose fanzine Ecdysis was short-listed for an Aurora in the Best Fan Publication category; and Amal El-Mohtar, who reviews Spec Fic books for National Public Radio and magazines like Lightspeed. I looked to see what Amal said about some of my favourite books, and she agrees with me about them- but does a way better job of explaining why.

The panel’s going to be a hoot, and I bet it’s going to savage my book budget.

*a book that I bought, read, and enjoyed at last year’s Can*Con.