Flights of Foundry 2023

I am both grateful and exhausted after spending the weekend at Flights of Foundry, the online convention hosted by Dreamforge. Volunteering behind the scenes was one of the highlights of my 2022, and this year was no different.

Participating in a truly international convention is a unique experience, with programming literally 24 hours a day. That makes the usual con FOMO even more intense (I try to not even look at the schedule for the middle of the night, because I refuse to feel guilty about being asleep at 4am), but it also means getting a diverse range of perspectives. And you can always catch up on the Discord chat over breakfast in the morning! And the FOMO is somewhat mitigated by the knowledge that most panels are recorded, and will eventually be released.

As an awkward duckling, I often have trouble finding my footing in a new space, which is where volunteering comes in handy. It not only gives a sense of purpose, but a built-in little community in the con-ops channel. And let me tell you, the people who run this convention are the nicest, funniest, most hard-working folks. The co-runners, Jessica and Cislyn, work miracles, and really all of the volunteers are amazing people.

This continues to be the year that I dip my toes into the water of paneling. I was on exactly one panel at Flights of Foundry 2023, but it was a doozy! I got to talk about Transfolk in SFF with the likes of Sarah Gailey (a guest of honor!), C.A.P. Ward, and Natalia Theodoridou. I think I managed to conceal my intimidation, and even made a coherent contribution to the conversation. All three were generous, insightful panelists, and I am so grateful to have had for the opportunity to talk with them.

All in all, the weekend has left me inspired and invigorated, if exhausted. My thanks to all the panelists, volunteers, and attendees for a wonderful time!


The Return of Con Season

The year is 2023. The place is Boston, MA.

For the first time since 2020, BOTH of our winter conventions (Arisia and Boskone) have happened in person.

I expected to feel ambivalent. I expected to feel somewhat cheated of a normal con experience. I expected to feel stressed out and anxious about the COVID risks. To my surprise and delight, none of that came to pass.

A white author in a tweed cap reads from a book, whose title is obscured
That’s me, at the Broad Universe reading. Photo by Randee Dawn

Arisia was an absolute delight. I helped run the Broad Universe table in the dealer’s room! I was on a panel! I ran a fiber arts circle! I participated in the Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading! It’s always such a joy to hear snippets of everyone else’s writing. I loved being able to spend time with my fellow Broads again. That has long been the highlight of my convention experiences, and it felt so good to sink back into community.

Beyond all of that, this Arisia was very special to me – it’s the first convention where I’ve had books to sell! When Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse came out in April 2020, I couldn’t wait to get to Readercon in July to show off my very first publication in a physical anthology. But we all know how 2020 went – my wait turned out to be a teensy bit longer than expected. By the time that Broad Universe was able to to host a table again, I had a second story out, in Modern Magic.

Having physical books to sell at the convention was every bit as gratifying as I had imagined.

Boskone was much more low-key for me. I wasn’t able to attend the whole weekend, so I went for a single day, just as a participant. But that single day was lovely. I brought along a friend who had never been to the con before, and very much enjoyed showing her around, and I still managed to hang out with the Broads, even though I wasn’t officially at the table.

Overall, I am very pleased with how well Boston’s winter conventions have bounced back. Arisia was smaller and quieter than in past years, but that was okay. After being isolated for so long, I don’t know that I would have been able to cope with the level of chaos from past years! And Boskone felt normal to me.

I have missed community so much these last few years, and getting back to these conventions filled a well that had been drained almost dry. I am so very, very grateful to the organizers and volunteers who made these events possible. And next year, I’ll definitely plan ahead to fully attend both! In the meantime, I’ll be counting down the days until Readercon.

New Anthology Alert: Modern Magic!

Book cover of Modern Magic showing a white woman in a bathing suit from behind. She is holding a pendant in her hands

Exciting news, my friends! There’s a new anthology out, with a story by yours truly! Modern Magic is a collection of tales about folks stumbling on a bit of magic in worlds otherwise identical to our own. As a huge fan of contemporary fantasy, I couldn’t resist the lure of that theme, and can you really blame me?

My story, “Melting Snow,” is about a man deep in grief. When he finds a magical trinket among his late wife’s things, it gives him a convenient way to avoid his feelings. This is probably the least dialogue heavy story that I’ve written to date, which let me stretch my writing muscles in new ways. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

As a note for my fellow writers, Knight Writing Press was lovely to work with. Sam Knight kept us thoroughly in the loop about developments with the anthology, and was impressively responsive to email. It’s worth checking out the list of open calls for upcoming anthologies.

I’m thrilled to have another story out there, and just in time for the holiday season. I hope you’ll check it out!

Virtual Boskone and Me

Conventions are a the highlight of the typical year. The panels! The book recommendations! The community! Of course, all that changed early in 2020. I know a lot of conventions have gone virtual, but I’ve been hesitant to try that out. I wish the cons all the best – truly! – but I thought I would find the experience more draining than fulfilling. So I abstained.

Until Boskone this past weekend. I don’t know if it was because Boskone 2020 was my last in-person event (of any kind!) before the pandemic struck, or if it was hearing my friends in Broad Universe talk about the Rapid Fire Reading they were planning, but I decided to finally dive in and try a virtual convention. (I realize that I am absurdly late to the party here, and that everyone else has already swum in these waters for close to a year now)

How did it go, you ask?

It was okay. I want to emphasize that the Boskone volunteers and organizers did an AMAZING job. There were remarkably few Zoom snafus, the website worked exactly as intended, and they put together a solid collection of panels and readings. But I missed seeing people in person. I missed running into someone in the hall, and striking up a conversation after an interesting panel. I think all of that is inevitable.

But there are silver linings. The ability to record panels means that I am able to go back and catch some of the ones that I missed, and that’s nice. I had to miss the end of a really fantastic discussion in order to get to the Broad Universe RFR, and I’m thrilled that I was able to jump back in the next morning!

Highlights of the weekend:

  • Mur Lafferty interviewed NESFA press guest Ursula Vernon. I enjoy both of these authors, and their repartie (they are besties) was an absolute delight.
  • Self-Defining Success as a Creator with D.B. Jackson, Karen Heuler, Zig Zag Claybourne, and Scott Edelman was wonderfully raw. It was powerful to hear authors talk about their insecurities and disappointments so candidly. It made the advice that they offered all the more poignant, because I knew that it was hard-won.
  • (Sub)Urban Fantasy, with Brenda Clough, Fran Wilde, Karen Heuler, Brad Abraham, and Gillian Redfearn was a balm to my soul, talking about about a lot of themes and trends close to my heart. It also gave me some new thoughts about my current WIP that have been quite helpful in rounding out the themes!
  • The Representation of LGBTQ+ in Popular Culture, with Julia Rios, John Chu, Gillian Daniels, Jennifer Williams, and Sara Megibow was a fantastic way to end the week-end, and let me add some great new titles to my TBR list

Broad Universe’s Rapid Fire Reading was, of course, delightful. Broad Universe is my home base at local conventions. I love working at the table, helping to sell my friend’s books, even when I didn’t have anything of my own to sell. And the Rapid Fire Reading is always a highlight – a group of Broads each get to read for about five minutes. It was the closest I came to embracing my community at Boskone this year, and I am deeply grateful for that experience.

Will I go to any other virtual cons?

I don’t know. I suspect I’m going to have to play it by ear. This weekend left me feeling more drained that renewed, but it was still good to get a sip of what I’ve been missing, even if I wanted a deeper draught.

Gargoyles, 25 Years Later

Rewatching a beloved show from childhood feels perilous. So many things look truly awful with the benefit of maturity and shifting social and political awareness, and that can tarnish my memories of the cherished show/movie/book. So it was a relief to rewatch Gargoyles and find it (almost) as good as I remembered!

For those who were not previously aware of it, Gargoyles aired on the Disney channel in the mid-90’s. It told the story of a clan of gargoyles, frozen in stone and then re-awakened in Manhattan. It was noted at the time for being surprisingly dark (especially for a Disney property), and for it’s complex, intertwining plots and Shakespearean references.

By the time that I had access to it in high school (aka, when Disney got bundled into our cable package), it was already in reruns, and I was never able to watch the episodes in order, forced to rely upon the extensive recaps to keep me from drowning in confusion. Watching all of the episodes – in the order that they were originally aired – has been a bit of a novelty.

The first season is fine. It sets up the characters and the main conflicts, and you can amuse yourself playing “spot the Star Trek voice actor” during the slow parts (Two of the main villains are voiced by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, and it became a bit of a running gag on Gargoyles that most of the cast of Next Generation shows up somewhere). But once that groundwork is laid, the story really picks up in season 2, when the writers are able to start weaving disparate threads together, building depth and complexity. Then, they start telling some interesting stories about guilt and revenge, forgiveness and finding peace. It’s also where the Shakespeare references start really building up, with a lot of “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” woven into the mythology.

The cultural sensitivity is not always up to my current standards, but it’s also not terrible. There is diversity among the human characters (for instance, Eliza Mazda, the gargoyle’s only human friend for most of the series, is a biracial woman with a Black mother and a Navajo father). During a lengthy plotline in which a selection of the main cast goes on an extended world tour, most of the depictions of other cultures are complimentary, and reasonably well-rounded within the confines a 22 minute long episode. One or two episodes made me cringe, but not many.

I had a lot of fun revisiting this old friend. I think we all imprint on certain books, movies, and TV shows when we’re kids, for good or ill. When you’re young, and you find something that reflects a piece of your heart back at you for the first time, it makes an impression. Gargoyles was definitely one of those shows for me. The complexity and depth of the plots, the dark tone, the references to Shakespeare and mythology, they all spoke to me.

I don’t know that Gargoyles would stand out from the crowd today. We live in a bit of a golden age of television, and shows like Avatar: the Last Airbender, Steven Universe, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are all probably telling more interesting stories. If you never watched Gargoyles, it might not impress you anymore. But if you have fond memories of Goliath, Eliza, and the Manhattan Clan, then you can safely recapture that joy.