Con*Stellation XXXI: Perseus

This year I dove into Con*Stellation, spending more than twenty hours there over the course of the weekend. I went to many panels, attended the art auction, nibbled on cashews at the Friday night reception, and hung out in the dealer’s room with my fellow Trek club friend Laura.  Here are my favorite moments from Con*Stellation XXXI: Perseus!


The Science Fiction Writers and Cake Appreciation Society Reading

First up on Friday was the reading by members of the Science Fiction Writers and Cake Appreciation Society. Last year one of the stories was bought by an editor of a pro magazine.

This year was my first time taking part in the reading. I read snippets from “Sister Winter,” my week 6 Clarion West story. I was afraid that reading short snippets from a long piece, instead of an entire really short piece, would work badly, but a few of the other writers told me afterwards that they had really enjoyed my story. So I was really glad I had decided to read that one. 

The organizer of my local sf writing group is Lin Cochran, who is also a Clarion West alum.(She attended the first two Clarion Wests – so cool!) She read her story that appears in the recent anthology of Alabama authors, Summer Gothicand it was lovely.

Lin Cochran reading from Summer Gothic
Louise Herring-Jones read a witty and hilarious excerpt of “slug porn” that has me wanting to try some humor writing. It worked so well as a piece to read aloud to a group. She’s also a wonderful convention friend – waving you to sit up front with her at panels and making sure you’ve met everyone in the conversation circle. Louise had some extra copies of Mirror Shards 2 on hand, so I bought one from her to get a better feel for what sf anthologies feel like. I think I’ll make it one of my writing goals this year to submit to a themed anthology. 

Panel: “Non-Traditional Routes to Publication”

Late on Friday evening I went to a panel on self-publishing. A lot of the conversation centered on e-publishing, including perils and format limitations. Images seem to be especially tricky, and are better left out unless printing a specialty coffee table book where people expect to pay higher prices. Createspace seems to be the go-to place for print self-publishing.

Two of the panelists were L.R. Barrett-Durham and Grady Glover, authors of the Fear and Trust series. They are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and were always ready to hang out and talk about writing and how to publicize your work. But the biggest tip they had to give me wasn’t anything they said – it was about how to be really friendly to (sometimes shy) strangers.

L.R. Barrett and Grady Glover
Photograph by Laura of SF Collectibles


Filk Concert: Cat Faber

Cat Faber

On Saturday I went to a mid-day filk concert by Cat Faber. She has such a wonderful stage presence, and I loved listening to her songs. I wish the concert could have been outside; her lyrics are the kind that make me want to stare up into leaf canopies and daydream.

My favorite songs she performed were “If the Last Spaceship Leaves On Time” and one about a mouse finding a giant chocolate bar and pretending to be magnanimous when he offers the leftover almonds to his friends (after having consumed the entire chocolate bar by himself).

Usually music doesn’t make me think of story writing. Literary readings help dredge up solutions to my story problems, but music mostly helps me block out background noise. But Cat’s songs had me spinning fantasy yarns in my head from the start. I think I might try listening to her CD when I have writer’s block to transition into the feeling of storytelling.

Filk Concert: Marc Gunn – Firefly Drinking Songs

Marc performed several awesome Firefly inspired songs, and it was easy to see that he’s a real fan of the show. My favorite song was “Freedom Costs”, an anthem for the independence fighters.

All of the songs he performed were amazing, lilty and soulful at the same time. He took the time to speak out the chorus with the audience before the sing-a-longs, encouraging us to join in.

Con*Stellation is a very intimate con, so taking pictures or videos of people on a panel feels like walking up to someone and taking a picture in their face. But there are tons of good fan videos of Marc performing at DragonCon on Youtube, so check him out.


Autograph Session

I almost didn’t go back to Con*Stellation on Friday, but I’m very glad I did. I had spent around ten hours on Friday and Saturday at the convention, and by Sunday morning I was really tired. But I drank some coffee and that made me feel more like heading out.

When I arrived at the con everyone in the lobby was gathered around the television, watching Felix Baumgartner’s dive to earth. When he landed, he knelt on the ground and everyone cheered. It was so cool to watch this moment surrounded by science fiction fans, writers, and NASA scientists. I hope there are more universal cheering moments in our near future.

Felix kneeling after his record jump

At the autograph session I got to sit down and talk with David B. Coe/ D.B. Jackson. That’s one of the best things about a small con – there wasn’t any huge table between us and a line behind me hurrying me up. I just sat across from him at a small two-person table.  I’m really excited about reading his new book, Thieftaker, and diving into his epic fantasy as well. 
Jackson was a really wonderful literary guest of honor, and was very warm and enthusiastic when I spoke with him for a few minutes after he signed my books. Somehow we wound up talking about Alaska, and a trip he had taken to Denali. 
I have lots of notes scribbled in my notebook from Jackson’s panels, but one of my favorites is one I had heard from another person a while back, but hearing it this time it clicked.
One of the panels Jackson was on was an interview, and Eric Flint asked Jackson why he chose to write about Boston during this era. He answered that there is a parallel between the setting and the main character – the character is the embodiment of the city. It is something I’m going to keep in mind while I’m working on my novel. 
Con*Stellation XXI was a great con, and I’m so thankful it takes place in Huntsville. It gave me a great chance to reconnect with my local writing group and to also meet professional writers both in person and by introducing me to their work. I hope it lives on for many years to come. 

6 thoughts on “Con*Stellation XXXI: Perseus

  1. I was just thinking about the anthology thing. I've got a story in mind to submit for a themed anth later this year (and there's Secret Histories – you're in that, right? That counts a themed anthology). I think the cool thing about being in an anthology is that it's sort of like your story gets to go to Clarion West. You know, all of these other cool stories are there, and they kind of like some of the same things, but take totally different approaches, and they'll all get to hang out and mingle and stuff, and have anthology in-jokes. I guess there's no T-shirt, but there is a book cover.

  2. Thank you for your kind words about Con*Stellation XXXI. I chaired this year's con, but the thanks for making it happen go to (1) the committee and staff that put in hundreds of hours organizing and running it, and (2) the guests for their great accessibility during the convention. I'll be sure to pass along a link to your blog during the “postmortem” discussion we'll have at the NASFA club meeting ( this weekend. — Mike Kennedy

  3. Aw, thanks Alisa! THIS is the year – the year we both go to the same convention and hang out together and have a wonderful time. I will do my best to make it so. 🙂

  4. Ah! You're right – Secret Histories is totally an anthology. 🙂 I like the idea of a totable Clarion West where my characters can hang out with other characters. The sister elementals hanging out with Turtlor, Gabe traveling in your paper boat. 🙂

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