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.

Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

When this pandemic first broke out, and everything shut down, I noticed that creative people I knew were all coping in one of two ways. Either their creativity completely shut down, squashed by the constant panic of not knowing what was going to happen, or else they clung to their creative pursuits like someone clings to a life raft in the open ocean.

Six months in, I don’t think much has changed.

I remain somewhere in the middle. Some days I can not wrangle the muse, but there have always been some days when I just can’t get myself to sit down and write. Sometimes my brain is just full of bees, or I’m too sad to write; that’s not anything new.

But neither has my productivity increased. Thanks to some communities I’m part of (shout to Cat Rambo’s Discord and Zoom calls!) I’ve continued plugging away at a more or less steady rate. Since the pandemic started, I have finished a draft of novella, written one short story (which I am now in the process of revising), and written and revised one flash story (which I am about to start submitting to magazines).

Sometimes it’s frustrating. I want to have something massive to show for this time, like my friends who have written entire books, or knit multiple sweaters. But we’re all coping with uncertain times in our own ways. I don’t think we can judge one way as objectively better than another. Even if you’re healthy and financially stable (which I have the good fortune to be), there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear and isolation. As long as you get out the other side in tact and don’t hurt anybody else in the process, then that’s a win.

I don’t think it serves any of us to compare our creative output, or our coping skills. There’s a lot of talk in the writing community about “butt in chair,” about the need to treat it like any other task and not wait for the fickle muse to show up and grace us with their presence. And I think that is true of every creative activity that is important to you, whether that’s writing or music or art or knitting. If you want to make progress, you have to put in the time.

At the same time, creativity is not always a faucet that flows on command. Everybody is different, but most of us need some measure of safety, security and rest, or the flow slows to trickle or stops altogether. To some extent, it is our responsibility to figure out ways to give ourselves those things, even when the wider world is not conducive, but that’s not always possible.

Productivity is never entirely under our personal control, but I think that is especially true right now. Whether the creative impulse is the only thing keeping you afloat (because it’s the only place you have control), or if that has dried up altogether, it’s not really up to you. So try not to blame yourself if it’s not going the way you would prefer. If you need to refill the well, maybe take some time off to read or walk or bake or dream or do whatever it is that brings you comfort. Just don’t beat yourself up about it, okay? I know it’s tempting, but it’ll just keep you stuck longer. And you – the person who you are – are more important than how much you can get gone. Be kind to yourself.