theferrett: (Meazel)

So Jaym Gates linked to this piece – The Ten Commandments Of Flirting, Or: How Not To Be Creepy At Atheist Conventions.  She said, “I want to include these rules in every con packet EVER. These rules aren’t just for atheist conventions.”  So of course, I clicked, because I really don’t want to be That Guy, and was pleasantly happy to realize that (I think) I follow all of them.

This quote on respecting people’s time stuck out, however:

“If you want to tell someone else an anecdote, make it short and get right to the point.”

As someone who tells a lot of stories, I realized that there are certain tales I just don’t tell at conventions.  I’ve learned that my more involved tales (like this little doozy) won’t work, because con space really doesn’t allow a story of over a minute; people are coming and going and interrupting to say hello to old friends, and other folks are wanting their space to share, and if there’s a lot of setup then you basically have to arm-wrestle the table into listening to you.

It’s not like a dinner, where if you say, “This one takes a bit,” you can get some room for a five-minute monologue.  As people’s attentions wander, you’ll get a third of the way through the story and get to the first punchline, and people will think you’re done.  So if you’re committed, you have to either wave someone to shut up, or start up again after they tell their story, both of which are kind of dickish.

No big deal.  I just tell short stories.  And in the hullabaloo, sometimes I don’t even finish those.  It’s cool.  I’m there to listen to other people, not to spout my old tales to other people.

But it’s a little weird to realize that subconsciously, I’ve not only got enough stories to tell, but I have marked many of them as space-appropriate.  This one’s a good con story.  This one’s a good one to tell sitting in my living room.  This one’s a good one to tell in a crowd of four to six people.  I can think of a story and instantly know what social milieu I think it fits into, which is an odd thing to realize about how much I think about stories.

Then again, I’ve sat at the con when That Guy keeps going, “No, no, you gotta listen, and then – get this – this happened.”  And at a con, no tale is amusing enough to be worth hijacking an entire table’s worth of people for ten minutes.  Just trust me on that.


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Whenever I saw the Oscar losers saying “It’s an honor to be nominated,” I always envisioned gritted teeth and gut-roiling fury.  I mean, you just had your chance at the brass ring, and you came that close!  How could you be cheerful?

Yet I was grinning like a damn fool when I lost to Geoff Ryman.  As were all the other losers I talked to.  We had our pins, and our certificates, and our name immortalized in history, and the experience of being catapulted onto a much larger stage.

Who the hell could be upset?  There’s now one word that’s guaranteed to be in our obituary, and that word is “Nebula.”  We’ve made it.

It’s cool.

And it’s a weird bond; I spent the weekend hanging with my fellow nominees Jake Kerr, Rachel Swirsky, Katherine Sparrow, and Geoff Ryman – and there wasn’t an ounce of competition in there. It felt like an odd sort of club, one that contained only six people in the whole world, a once-in-a-lifetime bond: 2012 Novelette Nebula Nominee.  No one else will ever know what this is like.  We did lunch, we chatted in bars, we appeared on panels, we discussed our chances, and not once was there a bit of snark or anger.

(I met other nominee Charlie Jane Anders briefly after the ceremony, who seemed absolutely wonderful, but alas we got no time to hang and chill.  I hope to rectify this at a future event.)

I felt blessed to be in the company of such beautiful people.  I’d have been happy for any of them to have won.  And the man I was rooting the most for, my wonderful and compassionate
Clarion teacher Geoff Ryman, who had me sobbing on the airplane on the way to Clarion because his book Was is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read?  Well, he won.  And when he walked back to his seat, I leapt out of mine to shake his hand and grin and pump the fist for him.  Because if there’s a man who possesses a cool grace and an ability to write straight to the vulnerable centers of the heart, it’s Geoff.

The weekend itself was a helter-skelter of events, and I’ll probably be posting anecdotes for the rest of the week, but here’s the ones I remember in a sleepy Monday muddle.

This Is The Panel That Never Ends…. It Just Goes On And On, My Friends….
Yes, there’s the irony of a panel on pacing going forty minutes overtime.  But there was no panel following us – and when you have such a fascinating topic as “How to get the rhythm of a story right,” and such fascinating panelists as Tom Crosshill, Rachel Swirsky, and Nancy Fulda (Nebula nominees all!), moderated by the vivacious radio host and Big Damn Author Ellen Kushner, you get a ton of feedback.

This panel was so good the audience didn’t leave.  It was like Writing 301, a bunch of advanced techniques we all used to figure out how to get the pacing of a story right – and our approaches were all so different, there was a lot of varying discussion as to how to nail it.  So we talked, and talked, and when at 2:15 we finally called the panel to a halt, half the audience walked up and kept the ball rolling.  Rachel Swirsky had to leave, but thankfully noted childrens’ author R.J. Anderson took her place, and next thing you know we had a long discussion on how to handle critiques.

It was really amazing.  My friend Ruby took a video of the “official” panel on her smartphone, and I hope it’s usable.  I’d love for you to see it.

Meet My Signing Buddy, Franny
The author signing was a first for me, since as an author of short stories I’ve never had anything I could expect anyone to sign.  You can buy books in the dealers’ room…. but if you want me to sign your copy of Asimov’s, you need to remember to bring it with you.  And frankly, I’m not that big.

But thankfully, Nancy Fulda created a Nebula Awards Weekend book with one of my stories in it, and so people could buy a book to sign.  So I sat at a small table.

Next to me was someone I didn’t know, so we introduced ourselves, and it was a woman called Franny Billingsley – who was remarkably fun to talk to!  She was a children’s author but it was her first sci-fi con, so I explained what this “Clarion workshop” was and she told me about what YA conventions were like, and it was a remarkably warm way of passing the time.

Even better, since I knew more people here, when they came to see me, I could go, “And do you know Franny?” and then all of us got into a discussion together.  So by the time I went to wander the floor and get my book signed, I left a merry discussion of writers.

Which was oddly convivial.  For now and forevermore, Franny will be my book-signing buddy, the two of us at the table as readers sporadically came up, book in hand, to ask for signatures.

And only later did I discover that Franny was so modest she didn’t even note that she was up, you know, for the National Book Award.

What a wonderful person.

The Night Before
There was a Nebula nominees reception the night before, where we were to be honored.  I didn’t quite know what that meant, but hey!  This would only happen once.  So I went.

What they didn’t tell us (which was a shame, because several of the nominees – including Charlie Jane – had wandered off) was that the reception was where John Scalzi would present you with your official Nebula nominee certificate and your pin, and then you’d be taken off for photos.

That’s when it became real.

Up until then, a part of my mind had been going, “Oh, no, this will be a mistake, they’ll probably take it away from you.”  But as I walked up to the podium and Scalzi handed me the blue folder with the silver stars, I opened it up and saw my name.  This was no dream.  This was my life, my blessed life.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

The Night Of
So for the Nebulas, I had to dress up.  And my lovely wife Gini helped me into my monkey suit:

Me at Nebulas!

Note the Nebula pin – which is a lot thinner and more losable than I’d have thought – and my Star Wars tie.  I kept telling people all evening that it was my TIE fighter.

Nobody laughed.

My wife, however, looked fucking stellar.  She kept joking that her job at the Nebulas was to be my arm candy, and oh boy was she:

My Nebula arm candy, Gini.

When I got there, I was happily surprised to see Neil Gaiman, who was a last-minute addition.  And Neil, who’d been with me during my reformatary stages at Clarion, drew me into a warm hug that went on for longer than I thought and said, “Bubbeleh!”  He’s surprisingly, endearingly, proud of me.

When he said “Bubbeleh,” it felt like I was being welcomed to the next level.  That all of this hard work I’ve put into writing – the hours wandering in the garden figuring out the next scene, the endless rejections, the workshops and cons I travelled to – had finally paid off.  And that was a lovely thing to see.

Some pros told me, serenely, “You’ll be back.”  I don’t share their confidence.  For me, I struck lightning once.  But the fact that I made it once is enough, and that won’t stop me.  Because you know what real writing fucking is?

Jon Walter Williams held a three-hour intensive lecture on plotting and structure.  And when I looked around the room of twenty people, at least four of us had been nominated for a Nebula.  Here we were, being given one of the biggest honors in the field… and all of us had said, “No, there’s so much more work to do.”

That’s how you get to a Nebula.  I got here.  You can, too.  Because Neil told me, “You just need to write.”  And that’s what I did.

Now you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I will be attending the Nebula Awards this weekend, where I will be the happiest loser in the world.  When they say it’s an honor just to be nominated… boy, they’re not kidding.

In any case, if you happen to be in Washington DC this weekend and would like to see a weasel, there are several places at which you can catch me:

I’ll be at the Mass Autograph Signing from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., signing copies of my latest book.  What’s that, Ferrett? you ask.  You don’t have a book yet, you exclaim.  Oh, but I do, thanks to fellow nominee Nancy Fulda, who has created the Awards Weekend Collector’s Edition, which features works by eleven authors who will be at the Nebula weekend.  I’ll have it, I can sign it, and if you’re quite lucky you can get a full run and have all eleven authors put their name on it.

(My story in there is “As Below, So Above,” my generational tale told from the perspective of the monsters in a mad scientist’s moat.  Read it in advance, and I’ll even draw a squid for you.)

(And while you’re at it, read Nancy’s Nebula- and Hugo-nominated story “Movement,” a tale of future autism that is a fascinating exercise in tone.  I nominated it, and am glad to see my tastes vindicated.)

(And while you’re extra at-it, note that I am currently in search of an agent for my book, so if you’re interested… call me!)

At 1:00 on Saturday, I’ll be on the “Watch That Step!” panel with Tom Crosshill, Nancy Fulda, Ellen Kushner, and Rachel Swirsky, where I’ll be discussing pacing in stories.  This oughtta be interesting, because my pacing is usually pretty reflexive – you kind of develop a sense of fast and slow after writing blog entries for, I dunno, a decade.  So discussions will be had.

And if you feel like hanging out and you’re a press type, I’ll be available for interviews at 3:00 on Friday.  I suspect strongly I’ll be hanging out in an empty room twiddling my thumbs, but should a reporter show up I will perk up nicely and answer all available questions on squids and space stations that I can.

Also, if we’ve met before, feel free to text me – or email me at to get my phone number so we can coordinate drinks.  We shall see what happens.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

1)  My reading at World Fantasy went much better than I’d expected.  I read to a pretty good-sized crowd – as witness this photo I took a couple of minutes before I started (even more people showed up after this):

My World Fantasy Reading

I gave a pretty emotional performance of “‘Run,’ Bakri Says,” which is in itself a pretty intense story.  I got what seemed like a really long wave of applause afterwards, so long that I had to thank people three times before it stopped, and afterwards Gini said that someone told her that she had to keep remembering to breathe.

I mean, pretty much everyone who showed up knew me on some level, which is the way it works when you’re starting your career, but I think that reading converted a couple of folks from friends into fans, which is nice.

The best part, however, was when Keffy took me aside after the performance and said, “I hope you realize how much I hate you in this moment.”  Keffy and I are Clarion-brothers, and intensely loving-competitive, and we a) do everything we can to help each other out, and b) seethe with envy over the other’s talents.  His hatred was the sign I’d written a good story.

2)  Speaking of Clarion, we had a rather monstrous reunion of my 2008 class, with thirteen of the eighteen students converging on San Diego, and two teachers.  Of course I didn’t get nearly enough time catching up with everybody, but that would require another six weeks.

Still, I did room with my Clarion-sister Dana, who I miss more than Internet-hearts can say, and had a luxuriously long dinner with my teacher Nalo Hopkinson, who has a YA book coming out that you all really ought to read.

My favorite Clarion moment was, however, courtesy of Neil Gaiman, who we didn’t expect to see much at World Fantasy, him being the guest of honor and all.  And we didn’t, really.  But at around 11 o’clock on Saturday night, he ran into me and Emily Jiang and said, “This has been crazy, but I do want to catch up with all of you – can we get together tomorrow morning for breakfast?”  And we said yes, and set a time and a place.

He took half a step away, then paused.  “You’ll tell the others, won’t you?”

Now, the thing you need to understand was that at Clarion, we were a hive-mind.  Tell one student, “We’re going to the beach tonight” and the information transparently disseminated throughout the group so that within an hour, everyone understood.  There was no explicit mechanism that made this happen; we were just all committed to getting the word out.  It was something teachers got actively used to, telling Monica there was a 4:00 lecture and having it just get around.

Neil’s pause was that moment of, “Oh, wait, perhaps I shouldn’t assume that telling Emily and Ferrett will automatically inform everyone else.”  But no.  As it turns out, I texted everyone who I had their number, who alerted the people they were partying with, and Emily did her social butterfly thing, and an hour later every Clarion 2008 member knew about tomorrow’s get-together.

Three years later, we’re still networked.  Go 2008.

3)  Yes, I also met Amanda Palmer briefly.  No, I doubt she’d remember me.  Yes, she’s actually much prettier in real life.

4)  Gini was also there, which made Clarion feel more complete.

See, my Clarionmates obviously heard a lot about Gini, because I do tend to go on about my awesome wife… but they’ve never met her.  And I realized at World Fantasy Con that to a very real extent, you can’t know me all the way unless you’ve met Gini.

So having them meet Gini was a relief to me, a sense of closure.  And it was delightful when many of them came up to me afterwards and said, “She really is that awesome.”  Damn straight.  But it feels like they’re fully engaged with me now, which is a little odd.

Unfortunately, that sense of completeness made the con a little harder for Gini.  Normally, I try to shepherd Gini through new places, but I kept seeing her talking with people who I knew liked me, and went, “Oh, well, if they like me, they’ll like Gini” and would wander off as I talked to other people.  All the while forgetting that a) Gini had just met these people and felt the low strain of making new friends, and b) forgetting that if I wandered off, Gini might have to wander around and make even newer friends once this current conversation ended.

Fortunately, Gini is charming and vivacious and swanned quite nicely through the con, but around midnight on Saturday I realized that hey, maybe I shouldn’t have this assumption of me === her.  Silly weasels.

5)  I got a secret beer at World Fantasy, because I’d had a story published at the fantasy fiction podcast PodCastle.  The beer?

In addition, I apparently got name-checked on a panel for that story as an example of “sympathetic monsters done right.”  Apparently people like monsters who unashamedly eat humans.

6)  I finished my next-to-final draft of my novel while at World Fantasy, because I’m a tireless git who writes for at least an hour a day, even at conventions.  Next up: send to trusted beta readers, get do final draft and 10% Solutionize, and start seeing if 2012 can become The Year I Sell A Novel.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’ll be attending WorldCon in Reno next week, and – as with every convention I attend solo – I’m terrified.

See, if my wife is there, she makes me look good by making the introductions, shoving me into crowds, and otherwise serving as the social lubricant in my sticky New England gears.  But if I’m alone, I seize up.

I have a real issue with bothering people I don’t know that well – “that well” as defined by “would be considered damn near best friends under any circumstances” – and I’m convinced they never remember me, so even at a convention where I “know” a lot of people I often wind up sitting in the corner, waiting to be recognized.  It usually doesn’t end well.

Once invited into the circle, I’m friendly and gregarious, which is in some ways more of a problem; since they’ve seen me merrily chatting away with people earlier in the day, they assume my isolation must be me, purposely wanting some down time.  No, what’s happened is that I’ve become separated from the people I knew, and am alone again, stalking a social experience.  So I sit in the corner making puppydog eyes at everyone who walks by, and then there I am, feeling like the biggest loser in the world.

This happens at every convention.  Every damn one.  Even the really good cons have these moments of “Lord, you are a sad and asocial little bugger, aren’t you?”

So.  If you’re attending Reno WorldCon, let me know now!  I’d love to see you.  We’ll exchange cell phone numbers, text a little, hopefully hook up for a meal.  And if you should see me at WorldCon and I’m sitting alone, feel free to sit down and talk to me – remind me of your name, I’m great with faces but often get lost between people’s three or four online identities – and I will be cheerful.

I love people.  I’m just not convinced they love me.


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.


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