October 18th, 2009

Ultraman

CapClave 2009

I spent a long day at CapClave yesterday, taking part in three panels, reading one of my stories aloud, and just schmoozing and hanging out with friends. You wouldn't know it by my camera, though. I only snapped a couple of pictures, and none had me in them. Guess I was too busy having a good time. So you've just have to take my word for it that I was there.

I consider CapClave to be a local con, so I didn't spend the night. But it's really only semi-local now that we live in West Virginia—it takes about about an hour and 45 minutes to get to the hotel. Because of that, I tend to only spend a single day there (same with Balticon). So I arrived in Rockville around 9:30 in the morning, and left around 11:30 in the evening.

My first panel, which started at 10:00 a.m., was titled "Character Management," and we attacked the issue of whether writers control their characters or if characters ever go off on their own. My co-conspirators were Allen Wold, Brenda Clough, Virginia DeMarce, Larry Hodges, and Tom Mccabe.

My opinion? My characters are slaves to my themes, to the thoughts and emotions I want implanted in your head by the time you finish my stories. So if my characters won't behave, I have to alter them until they can believably walk the paths I need while remaining living, breathing people.

Perhaps it's apocryphal, but I once read that Isaac Bashevis Singer, when asked whether his characters ever took over his stories, responded with bafflement—"But ... they're just puppets!" I don't go quite that far ... but I come close. Sure, I want my readers to care about my characters, but if those characters don't fulfill my themes—they're outta there!

As soon as my panel was over, I ran off to Tom Doyle's reading of his as-yet-unpublished story "The Noise Man." We didn't get to hear all of the story, since he only had a 30-minute slot, but I liked what I heard. And the fact that I want to find out how the story ends mean that it worked.

I had a 90-minute break before my second panel, and had planned to head for lunch with the Newtons. Since Charlie was caught up listening to a panel on SIGMA, Karen and I headed off on our own. Because the rains were so torrential we'd have needed an ark to go outside, we stuck to the hotel restaurant, where we caught up on our writing, electronic publishing, and the upcoming World Fantasy Con in San Jose.

At 1:00 p.m., I joined with Larry Hodges, John Joseph Adams, John Betancourt, Tad Daley, and Shelia Williams to talk about how we got started in the field, and what we learned from our experiences that we wanted to share with new writers. A lot of what I had to say dealt with temperament, that is, dealing with the rejection, understanding that you're in it for the long haul, and so on. Doing the panel reminded me that I need to create a YouTube video of the presentation I gave at the Montreal Worldcon on "How to Survive a Critique of Your Writing."

At 3:30, I read my short story "Tell Me Like You Done Before," which will be out in December in the Steve Jones anthology The Dead That Walk. Well, actually, I didn't get to read all of it. The previous reader didn't stop reading until 3:35, and didn't pack up and yield the room until several minutes after that, which means I had to rip out the middle of the story to make sure that the audience didn't walk away from my reading without an ending. I think they managed to get the gist though. But for those who were there, if you want to see what you missed, go buy a copy now.

At 5:30, I was interviewed by Mike Zipser for an upcoming episode of FastForward, while Kathi Overton ran the three cameras. I'll let you all know when the episode goes live.

At 10:00 p.m., the latest I've ever done a panel at CapClave, I discussed "Works I Didn't Write" with Alan Smale, Diane Arrelle, and Lawrence Watt-Evans. I talked about some of those abandoned works back in November 2007.

And that's about as much time as I can steal from working on SCI FI Wire to give to a CapClave report. There just aren't enough hours in the day, I'm afraid.

And I still haven't written up Edgar Allan Poe's funeral!