Barfleet Party!

Barfleet is the coolest new thing I discovered at Chicon7.  As you can probably guess, Barfleet is a organization based on the Star Trek universe.  They travel from convention to convention and throw parties.

If you don’t know anything about these types of conventions, there’s unofficial competition for throwing the best theme party.  If you want to be known for throwing a great room party (not just during the convention but at other conventions), you need at least the following elements:

  • A Large Room Suite-Room for people to mingle and dance.
  • Great Dance Music-The better parties have a DJ and club lighting.
  • Food-Not an absolute necessity but some snacks are nice.
  • Alcohol-An absolute must.  Some parties have a pay bar, some have a free bar.  The drinks should be named in keeping with your theme.
  • Theme Decorations-Something common that most science fiction fans would know.  The more accurate and outrageous, the better.  The people hosting the party should be in costume.

Barfleet won, hands down.  They had a professional DJ, club-style lighting and sound system.  There was someone carding people at the door.  They had a full bar setup.  The Star Trek decorations were really nice and backlit.  They even had three guys working security (in old school Star Trek security uniforms).  It should be noted that in my experience, the science fiction crowd is generally well-behaved.  If there’s a problem, it’s usually someone who isn’t part of the convention that decided to crash the party.  Free alcohol and free food can draw out some of your less pleasant individuals if they find out about it.  You can check for the convention badge, but sometimes people still manage to sneak in.

One thing I didn’t see until I got inside the suite was a sign banning picture taking.  I could understand that.  Some costumes can be very revealing.  Just because you’re wearing it to a convention party, doesn’t mean you want your photo all over the internet (think the Princess Lea outfit).  Unfortunately I had already shot some video with DeMarcus’ flip camera.  It’s so small that none of their security people saw me do it.  I had such a good time at the party that when I left, I wanted to make sure I could go to the next one on Saturday night.  In case someone saw me shooting the video, I wanted them to know I was deleting the footage.  I went back to the security guys and had them watch me delete each file.  They were really nice about it and thanked me for honoring their policy.

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Science Fiction Origami

Went back to the room and DeMarcus was chillin’ and grading papers.  He went to the panel titled “SF Origami”.  I don’t understand how someone who is such a clumsy pig can do such delicate work.  He’s always excelled at origami.  The above is his Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek.  Below is his dragon head.

I fleshed out my notes for this blog while he graded papers more papers.  Later we walked to Giordano’s, but it was packed (the same as every time we passed it).  We ended up at Houlihan’s instead.  The server said the weirdest thing to me when I finished eating.  She asked me if I was done and when I nodded my head she said “Good Job!” like I was 3 years old.  DeMarcus of course found this hilarious.

Beyond The First Two Pages

There wasn’t a lot in the way of concrete advice from this panel.  It was mostly discussion of works I’ve already read and so I neglected to list as many examples as I should have.

There must be a hook.  The hook can pull back to something mundane, but if you don’t have it, the editor move to the next manuscript.

“Give yourself permission to write a *****y first draft.”

Head hopping can sap tension, so be careful when switching perspectives.

Recommended Reading:

The Basics of Character Building

Dialog is action and action is character.  You can figure who the character is just be figuring out what this character wants.  Consider a characters professional goals, personal goals and unconscious goals.

People will follow a character without having a lot of details regarding how they look.

You can construct a  scene based on your own experiences even if the character is doing something you’ve never done.  Find something similar, break down each action and transfer that to the scene.

Examine what the character thinks of themselves, what they think others thinks about them.

Try flipping character demographics to see how it effects your writing.

It’s not cheating to peruse baby name sites and books for character names.

Recommended Readings:

Creating Plots

Develop your plotting skills by analyzing the plots of books you like.  One suggested author was Nora Roberts.

A scene should do as many things as possible.  A scene needs to advance the plot, build the world and develop characters all at the same time.

You have to have balance between ramping up the action and quiet moments where the characters interact.

Consider having your character do the worst thing possible as a plot device.

Utilize first readers for feedback.  A member of the audience raised her hand and stated that one of the draft readers in her literary group (who also happens to be a personal friend), really has one opinion of her manuscript and her editor has another.   She’s afraid of alienating her friend by not taking her advice.  The panelist informed her that she needed to get a new friend.  The panelist further stated that you always do what the editor says if you want to get your work published.  It’s the editor that’s putting your work in front of the publisher and therefore getting you paid.  So go for the money!

When presenting a mystery, make sure that you give your readers clues rather than coming out of left field with something.

Formulas are your friend.  Don’t eschew them because they work.  Teasers then act 1, act 2 and act 3.

Recommended Reading:

Game of Thrones Guy!!!

DeMarcus met this guy at the breakfast buffet omelet line.  He works on the Game of Thrones comic book!  He said George RR Martin was eating dinner in the hotel restaurant  last night and we missed him!!!  He also said that Mr. Martin was totally approachable (A lot of good that does me, we missed him!).

I didn’t know there was a Game of Thrones comic.  I checked the website and perused the creator’s list.  There are a ton of names I recognized.  If you don’t know the name, click on a creator’s picture to view their bio.  You’ll probably recognize their work.

Dystopias – Have They Changed Over Time?

This panel started with a discussion of utopias and dystopias and the conclusion was drawn that it was a matter of perspective.  It was a good thing the subject was interesting because I was tired by then.  Even on vacation, my brain shuts off at 5:00 p. m.

The next discussion was about how dystopias come about.  Is it through the actions of a power-hungry few or through systemic problems in government?  This led to our current society and what signs there could be that America is becoming a dystopia.  One novel that I’ve heard mentioned several times in common room and hallway discussions was The Handmaid’s Tale.  You could literally see a shiver pass through the women in the audience (including myself) when this book was mentioned.  It seems natural that The Handmaid’s Tale would be discussed a lot considering our current political climate.  I’ve also heard it mentioned on some of political podcasts I listen to.

There was a debate regarding why stories about dystopias sell (The Hunger Games) and if it’s just a trend like the vampire or zombie craze.  One of the panelist was an editor who stated that publishers are looking for the next big thing and are no longer interested in purchasing dystopian works.  She was adamant that stories of this type have reached then end of their current popularity cycle.  The authors on the panel (and I) disagreed.  It was hinted at that the current political climate is breeding a form of general dissatisfaction that readers see reflected in dystopian literature (In true science fiction convention goer fashion, no one named any political party or group to avoid offending people.)  In my opinion, whether or not dystopian novels will continue to sell depends on the audience.  General readers may very well be opening wide for the next trend the publishing houses feed them.  Speculative fiction readers, on the other hand, are not exactly known for following a trends.

Dystopian novels make for depressing reading and often end badly.  Reading any of the following novels back to back is strongly discouraged!!!

A sub-genre of Chinese literature called “Scar” was also discussed.  These are stories that came out of China’s cultural revolution.  You can find books about scar literature, but the literature itself is difficult to find or hasn’t been translated.  Readers can find a collection of introductory works called The Wounded: New Stories of the Cultural Revolution, 77-78.

Docent Tour – Online Heinlein Archives

A docent did a presentation of the Robert A. Heinlein online library.  I tried to hang in there, but the room was freezing and I had to leave.

I can’t imagine that you don’t know who Robert A. Heinlein was, but in case you don’t, I suggest you look him up on Wikipedia.  The Heinlein family has been generous and gracious in making his work available and the library is their latest gift to his legions of worldwide fans.

For me personally, Heinlein was my first exposure to “serious” science fiction.  He was a master world-builder who could realistically perceive how a type of technology could change a whole society.  He addressed issues of race, sex and religion in ways that I had never been exposed to before. I assume this is why his non-fiction works were so dead-on in predicting how our society would change.  When he died in 1988, I felt a deep sense of loss as if I had known him personally.

The first Heinlein novel I read was Friday, followed quickly by Stranger In A Strange Land.

A couple of the movies made from his books include Starship Troopers and The Puppet Masters.

Heinlein is the author of my all time favorite quote:

A HUMAN BEING SHOULD BE ABLE TO: Change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance an account, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, teach children, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. SPECIALIZATION IS FOR INSECTS.

Mike Resnick Readings

Attended a live reading by author and convention guest of honor, Mike Resnick.  He read three short stories and then talked about current projects.

Recommended Readings

Current Projects

  • Old Mars
  • The Doctor and The Dinosaurs
  • The Gods of Sagitarrius
  • Dog In The Manger
  • The Trojan Colt