Sorry it took so long for me to get my thoughts down about this. There was a lot to process. If you want my on-the-spot reporting from Readercon, please see LTIL’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/LandThatILoveNovel. What follows is some far more serious introspection.
I’m not exactly new to sci-fi conventions. I’ve been a regular at I-Con for at least 10 years, sometimes as a program participant, other times not. Now that I have a book to sell, I made it a point this year to attend Lunacon and Balticon as also. Balticon was a lot like I-Con, except smaller. And better organized. Lunacon was more focused on the literary end of sci-fi, but there was still a lot of room for watching movies, wearing costumes and buying overpriced crap in the dealers’ room.
Readercon was all about books. So refreshing! It had programming, but in much the same way that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel had a plot. That’s not what you showed up for. I have a friend who met, hung out with, had drinks with, went to after-hours parties with and texted-across-the-same-room with hundreds of convention goers, program participants, event organizers, guests of honor and assorted hangers-on and — to the best of my knowledge — didn’t attend a single panel discussion. She got what it was about:
If you get a chance to pass a bottle around with half a dozen of your favorite genre writers, what the fuck do you care what they think about the metaphysical philosophy of Olaf Stapeldon?
Readercon was an awareness-building event for me. Not only was I exposed to some authors whose works are sure to entertain me and inform my development as a writer, I also gained some perspective into my development as a writer. I think I have as much innate talent as most of the writers there, but that can only take one so far. I need to spend more reading, gaining exposure to a wider range of forms, styles and voices. And I definitely have to do a shitload more writing!
I’ve been writing according to my crit group schedule. Once a month, I need to pound out about 8,000 words. It only takes me about two or three seatings to do that. Which means that I spend four weeks a month screwing around when I should be writing. Yes, I’ve got my professional career. Yes, I’ve got my side job. And a family. And a house. And I’m going up against hip, twenty-something scenesters without any responsibilities to anyone but themselves and who have made the decision to work at low-stress jobs that give them more time to write. For five bucks — the price of round-trip subway fare — they can in half an hour be anywhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn where an up-and-coming author will be giving a reading or an influential editor will be holding court. This gives them a face-time advantage over anybody from the suburbs.
I don’t say this with any ill will, although I will cop to some jealousy. They made decisions that were right for them. If I had made the same choices when I was their age, I’d probably be a happier man today.
And it’s not an excuse for my current status as a poser. People who live in Ohio and Colorado and places even further removed from Midtown have been honored guests at cons throughout the Northeast. I’m just in Nassau Fucking County. My lack of success is strictly a factor of my lack of trying.
That ends now.
Eight thousand words a month? I should be doing that every week. I should be finished with a first draft of Mighty Mighty by the end of Labor Day weekend, well begun on my post-apocalyptic YA that an agent gave a nibble about (more on that some other time if anything real comes of it), and have a short story submitted to a pro-market magazine or anthology.
Three fellow members or former members of my crit group, LI_SciFi, were at Readercon. Two of them rode back home with me (as well as a couple other travelers whom we were all pleased to meet). Since then, the group has been having a discussion of where we go from here. As much as we’d like to grow our ranks, we recently had to decline the application of a prospective member because the chapter he submitted to us wasn’t very good. I don’t believe it’s all that worse than what any of us was writing six years ago when LI_SciFi was founded, but we’ve clearly moved beyond that. We’ve got a bunch of novels written, some in print. One of our members, Ken Altabef, has a novelet in the current F&SF issue (his second appearance there). So we’re all thinking about what we need to do to bring our writing careers up to the next level. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the discussion, but we agree broadly that a) we need to get more stuff in print and b) we need raise our profile in the literary circles.
It’s great to have such a group as this that is like-minded and mutually supportive. Watch out, Genre. The grown-ups from Long Island are packing up the minivan, pulling onto the westbound Belt Parkway and sliding over to the passing lane.